Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 6,000


 Sir William Doyley 
 Sir John Hobart, Bt. 
1 Apr. 1661THOMAS RICHARDSON, Baron Cramond 
17 Feb. 1673SIR JOHN HOBART, Bt. vice Hare, deceased 
10 May 1675SIR ROBERT KEMP, Bt. vice Cramond deceased 
 Sir Neville Catelyn 
 Sir John Hobart, Bt.17331
  Election declared void, 21 Apr. 1679 
5 May 1679SIR JOHN HOBART, Bt.3417
 Sir Christopher Calthorpe3174
 William Windham28982
25 Aug. 1679SIR JOHN HOBART, Bt.3357
 Sir Neville Catelyn2549
 Sir Christopher Calthorpe25173
7 Feb. 1681SIR JOHN HOBART, Bt. 
 Sir Jacob Astley, Bt. 
 Sir Thomas Hare, Bt. 
30 Mar. 1685SIR THOMAS HARE, Bt.3496
 Sir Henry Hobart, Bt.672
 Sir John Holland, Bt.4944
14 Jan. 1689SIR WILLIAM COOK, Bt.1995
 Sir Jacob Astley, Bt.1670
 Sir Roger Potts, Bt.11535

Main Article

The general election of 1660 was principally a trial of strength between the two knights of the shire in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, Sir Horatio Townshend, a key figure in royalist conspiracy, and Sir William Doyley, an opportunist who was equally ready to return to his former allegiance. Townshend was partnered by Lord Cramond, whose father had died in a parliamentary prison early in the Civil War. Cramond drew his strength from the active support of the Coke interest and ‘all the gentlemen towards Lynn’, and their joint cavalcade, an essential feature of electioneering both in county and city, outnumbered Doyley’s by three to one. The fourth candidate, Sir John Hobart, a Presbyterian but an ardent Cromwellian who had been nominated to the ‘Other House’, kept a low profile. Although Doyley succeeded in attracting two thousand votes, he was defeated, and sat for the rest of his life as a borough Member. A gentry meeting was held before the general election of 1661, at which Townshend, who was to receive a peerage in the coronation honours and the lord lieutenancy later in the year, recommended Cramond for re-election with his own brother-in-law Sir Ralph Hare, who had sat for the county in the first and second Protectorate Parliaments. Hobart was not considered, but Sir John Holland, a moderate and rational politician, would have been a strong candidate with those who had supported Parliament in the first Civil War. But he had a safe borough seat on the Howard interest, and refused to oppose the nominees of the gentry, who were returned without a contest.6

On Hare’s death in 1672 the political complexion of Norfolk had so far altered that Townshend put up Hobart, who was heartily loathed by the Cavalier gentry and clergy despite his protestations of loyalty and conformity. There was talk of a Howard candidate; but with the head of the family, the 5th Duke of Norfolk, an incurable lunatic and his heir a Roman Catholic, a county seat was out of their reach. The rumour by itself was sufficient for the nonconformists ‘to bustle and muster their people’ for Hobart, who was returned unopposed. Although Townshend was careful to nominate a less controversial candidate in the person of Sir Robert Kemp to succeed Cramond in 1675, this was the last uncontested election of the period. Kemp, a churchman of royalist family, was nevertheless supported by ‘all the godly party, whether Presbyterians, Independents, or Quakers’, and by ‘the greater part of the Roman Catholics (for fear, as is supposed of sequestration)’. Holland mustered the Howard tenantry on his behalf. Against him stood ‘much against his own will and inclinations’ Sir Neville Catelyn, son of a royalist Member of the Long Parliament, with the support of ‘most of those persons (whether of the clergy or laity) that are right for the Church of England’. On the day of the poll, according to an obviously partial account, Norwich was ‘filled with a great number which the power and terrors, industry and art of the lord lieutenant, etc., had drawn and driven thither to vote for Sir Robert Kemp’. Catelyn’s first setback was the seizure by Townshend of the King’s Head, intended for his headquarters. His imposing cavalcade of 4,000 horse was thus ‘necessitated to go to the White Swan, which is on the backside of the butchers’ shambles ... very incommodiously situated’ for Castle Hill, the usual venue for the county elections. After a view of the rival processions the sheriff, a soap-boiler of French origin, who acquitted himself well in the circumstances, decided that a poll would be necessary, and an agreement on procedure was reached orally and reduced to writing by Hobart. According to Catelyn’s adherents, who did not sign the return, he omitted a vital clause designed to eliminate double voting, and many of them were left unpolled. But there can have been little substance in these complaints, for no petition was lodged against Kemp’s return. Townshend’s dismissal from the lieutenancy was due, not to the misuse of his powers on this occasion, but to his persistent attack on the interest of Robert Coke, Lord Treasurer Danby’s son-in-law, at King’s Lynn. Indeed his successor, Lord Yarmouth (Robert Paston), had instructed his dependants, whatever their inclinations, to vote for Kemp.7

Yarmouth had long seen court favour as the solution to his financial difficulties, and he applied Townshend’s methods with at least equal severity to secure his position. Resignations and dismissals removed the principal figures in the rival faction from county office. ‘A ferocious personal antagonism between the leaders’, and the survival among the rank and file of the old enmities of the Interregnum, prepared the way for the exceptionally sharp political warfare that characterized Norfolk politics for the remainder of the period, though the exclusion elections at least were dominated by issues, not interests. On 31 Jan. 1679 (Sir) Joseph Williamson wrote to Yarmouth: ‘I find the inclination of the country to be most for Sir Christopher Calthorpe and Sir Neville Catelyn, which agrees with my judgment, and I hope all my friends will industriously join with me therein’. Yarmouth had feared a conjunction of Hobart and Holland, whose influence on the Howard tenants had been decisive in the previous election, but a week later he was able to reply:

I morally secure myself I shall send up Sir Christopher Calthorpe and Sir Neville Catelyn, men that will not meddle with ministers of state. I am afraid we shall not have a poll for it, for I have been a little bold in my declaration. I had rather lose my life than have men triumphing in a House of Commons that sang a psalm about the Worcester Cross when the King was driven into that distress by his rebels, and that have never in one vote testified any repentance.

With the active support of Bishop Sparrow, of the sheriff (a nephew of Christopher Jay) and of the unscrupulous under-sheriff Verdon, Yarmouth had some grounds for complacency. Holland and Kemp did not stand, and even Hobart wrote: ‘To oppose an interest set up by the civil and military government of the country is called faction by some, inconsiderate by others, and very improbable of success by most’. Nevertheless he both stood the poll against the court candidates and petitioned against their return. He alleged improper pressure by the lord lieutenant and misconduct by Verdon, who, with a thousand of his voters unpolled, ‘violently took the poll-book away, and drew his sword in defence of it’. The marshalling of the witnesses was entrusted to Townshend’s brother-in-law, William Windham of Felbrigg, while in the Commons the Hon. William Russell and William Harbord ensured priority for the Norfolk case. The court party tried to delay proceedings on the grounds that Calthorpe was ill with smallpox; but it was resolved to hear the petition at the bar of the House. When Yarmouth’s letter in support of Calthorpe and Catelyn was produced, it was ‘construed as a threatening letter, and set the House in such a heat that they had like to have been presently dismissed’. Verdon was sent for in custody for electoral misdemeanours and Lady Yarmouth’s chaplain, Dr John Hildyard, for contempt. But too many of the country party took an extended lunch-hour on 21 Apr. and they failed by five votes to resolve that Hobart had been elected, and a by-election became necessary. Sir Thomas Browne, Norwich’s most distinguished resident, wrote to his son: ‘There is like to be very great endeavouring for the places, which will still keep open divisions which were too wide before, and make it a country of Guelphs and Ghibellines’. Townshend persuaded Windham to stand with Hobart, writing: ‘Our Norfolk world shall know that whoever pretends friendship to me must appear for you’. To avoid another contest Holland proposed that Windham and Catelyn should stand down. But each party had good hopes of carrying both seats, and this reasonable compromise was rejected, though the four candidates ‘set down rules and agreed upon articles for their regular and quiet proceedings’. On the day of the by-election Dr Robert Brady brought over 18 or 19 Cambridge scholars who were freeholders in Norfolk, and his pupil Sir Thomas Hare was said to have mustered 400 votes for the court candidates. The figures bear out Browne’s comments. ‘I never observed so great a number of people who came to give their voices’, he wrote to his son, adding: ‘but all was civilly carried at the hill, and I do not hear of any rude or unhandsome carriage’. Only hock and sherry were on tap, the electorate abstaining on principle from heady French beverages. With over 6,000 votes cast, and less than 500 separating Hobart at the top of the poll from Windham at the foot, the result could not be declared until 11 p.m., when it was announced that the successful court candidate was Catelyn, not Calthorpe. Few people of quality signed the indenture, but the Members

were carried on chairs about the Market Place after eleven o’clock with trumpets and torches, candles being lighted at windows, and the Market Place full of people. ... There was a strange consumption of beer and bread and cakes, and abundance of people slept in the Market Place and lay like flocks of sheep in or about the Cross.

Wyndham withstood strong pressure from his partner to petition against Catelyn, but the sheriff delayed the indenture to give the Court time to organize petitions against Hobart. On 24 May Lord Huntingtower (Lionel Tollemache) introduced a petition from ‘several freeholders of the county of Norfolk’, alleging that several hundreds of Hobart’s voters were unqualified, while another complained that the publication of the Commons resolutions on the general election case constituted intimidation. Both were dismissed on technicalities.8

Only Hobart of the four candidates involved in this strenuous and expensive affair was willing to stand again. His new partner, Sir Peter Gleane, was an honourable but indigent churchman and Cavalier, whose expenses, apart from a new ‘pad nag’ for the cavalcade, had to be guaranteed by Townshend. A subscription list was started for the country candidates, which showed ‘how scant they are of gentry, when at their great meeting they are forced to come to attorneys and solicitors and hosiers before they came to the number of 22’. The difficulties of the court party were even greater; though Yarmouth constrained Calthorpe and Catelyn to fight again, they clearly had no stomach for the contest. On the initiative of Sir Philip Wodehouse subscriptions were invited from the gentry ‘so that the King’s loyal subjects might not be discouraged from offering their service at a time when the fanatics think their interest so great that they may safely venture to act bare-faced to the ruin of church and state’. Their campaign was slow to start, and Yarmouth sought to delay the election by detaining the writ, only to earn a severe rebuke from the lord chancellor (Heneage Finch). A visit to Norwich, during which he entertained splendidly the principal gentry at the King’s Head, ‘revived the spirits’ of his supporters, who ‘had begun to despair’. But they could not rival Hobart’s organization in the capable hands of his man of business, Dr John Collinges, who also ministered to a large Presbyterian conventicle in the city. Accommodation was taken and paid for in various inns for 775 voters, and others were lodged in private houses. The harvest season, it was claimed, lost the court party many votes, since their chief strength lay in distant Marshland. Hobart’s success was assured, and the real contest was only for the junior seat. On the day before the poll Catelyn’s nerve broke, and he withdrew himself from the city because ‘the rabble did asperse him with being popishly affected’. Gleane defeated him by 753 votes, with Calthorpe a little further behind. A petition against Verdon was presented to the second Exclusion Parliament, and a committee set up under George England to examine it; but he eluded them. In 1681 the court party selected two more vigorous candidates in the persons of Hare, who had been thought too young before, and Sir Jacob Astley. They were supported, according to Bishop Sparrow, by ‘the body of the gentry and clergy’, whereas Hobart, who was again partnered by Gleane, had ‘about five gentlemen and as many clergy for him’. ‘It is like to be a hard canvass’, wrote one accustomed to feeling the pulse of the electorate, ‘the people, for aught I can perceive, being still of the same mind.’ But, aided by the winter weather and the withdrawal of Townshend into neutrality, the court candidates were not far from pulling off a sensational success. Hobart headed Astley by no more than 98 votes, while Gleane ‘had like to have lost it by the great and tempestuous wind which was on last Sunday night and held the greatest part of Monday, which was the election day’. With a margin of 16 or 17 votes over Astley, and Hare not far in the rear, he owed his success to the Yarmouth men, who ‘came to Norwich, either by boat or horse, the day before, to the number of 300, for Sir John and Sir Peter’, and a handful of resolute fishermen who defied the storm on foot.9

It is clear that the tide had begun to turn in Norfolk against exclusion. On 28 Nov. 1681 one of the cathedral clergy wrote: ‘The gentlemen of the county, and my Lord Townshend with them, are resolved not to make choice of Sir John Hobart and Sir William [sic] Gleane to be any more knights of the shire, or of any other that shall be against the expedient the King proposed’. According to a report in the State Papers dated 2 Feb. 1682:

About Christmas last a project was set on foot for reconciling the two parties by choosing for the next Parliament such men as neither party should justly mislike. The persons pitched on were Mr [Robert] Long and Capt. [Sir William] Cook. The latter has been always accounted one of the loyal party and the former of the other, but neither violent.

This initiative failed owing to the intransigence of Hobart, who denounced Long, one of the country candidates for Norwich in 1679, as a deserter. Both Yarmouth and Hobart died soon afterwards, and the new lord lieutenant, the 7th Duke of Norfolk, an Anglican convert, set himself to heal the dissensions in the county. In 1685 Hare and Astley were approved at a gentry meeting. Hobart’s heir, Sir Henry, allied himself with the octogenarian Holland to oppose them; but the Whig supporters were either grievously wronged or stayed away from the poll in droves, more probably the latter, since the indenture was attested by Kemp and Windham, and there was no petition. It is notable that the court candidates scarcely improved on the votes cast for Catelyn and Calthorpe in May 1679. In April 1688 the royal electoral agents reported that in Norfolk

there will be proposed Sir Henry Hobart who is right by inclination (Dr Collinges, who is his chaplain, hath engaged for him) and Mr Windham, of whom the dissenters (that are numerous) and others have a good opinion. Besides, it is supposed that he is under your Majesty’s power, and that it is his interest to be right. These have the great interest of the county.

By September they had given up hope of Windham, writing: ‘the proposing of another person is left to the care of Dr Collinges and Sir Henry Hobart’. At the general election of 1689 Hobart was partnered by Sir Roger Potts of Mannington, grandson of Sir John Potts. Long had died before the Revolution, and Hare was too good a constitutionalist to stand; the Tory candidates were Cook and Astley. The turnout was low, but this was to be expected in midwinter. Cook headed the poll, 200 ahead of Hobart (who had insured himself by standing also for Thetford). Astley was only 128 votes behind, while Potts finished a bad last.10

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. HMC 6th Rep. 390.
  • 2. Works of Sir Thomas Browne ed. Wilkin, i. 241.
  • 3. Add. 36988, f. 149.
  • 4. Hist. of Parl. Trust, W. W. Bean, 'List of Polls'.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 639-40; Norf. Arch. xxx. 131-2, 138; Browne, i. 8.
  • 7. HMC 6th Rep. 371-2; HMC Townshend, 27-28; Add. 28621, f. 39; Blomefield, Norf. iii. 414.
  • 8. Durham Univ. Jnl. n.s. xv. 13-21; xxii. 53-56; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 59, 75; HMC 12th Rep. IX, 182-4; Add. 27447, ff. 399, 423; Ketton-Cremer (Felbrigg) mss (ex inf. Prof. J. R. Jones), Hobart to Windham, 28 Jan., 27 Mar., 21 May 1679, Holland to Windham, 26 Apr. 1679; CJ, ix. 566, 578, 599-600, 620, 631; Browne, i. 236, 238, 240-1.
  • 9. Add. 36988, ff. 143-51; 27447, f. 421; 37911, f. 12; 41654, ff. 31-32; J. R. Jones, First Whigs, 96-97; Browne, i. 303-4; Norf. Arch. xlvii. 374-5; HMC Townshend, 29; CJ, ix. 662, 678; Bodl. Tanner 30, f. 230; Ketton-Cremer mss, Hobart to Windham, 20 Jan., 8 Mar. 1681; Mason, Norf. 369.
  • 10. Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 120; CSP Dom. 1682, p. 56; HMC 11th Rep. VII, 106; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 313, 314.