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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

55 in 1689


25 Apr. 1660SIR WALTER ERLE 
1 Apr. 1661JOHN MORTON 
  Double return of Fitzjames and Constantine. FITZJAMES declared elected, 15 June 1661 
7 Nov. 1670THOMAS TRENCHARD I vice Fitzjames, deceased 
3 Feb. 1673GEORGE COOPER vice Trenchard, deceased 
 Thomas Strangways 
  Election declared void, 6 Feb. 1673 
18 Aug. 1679THOMAS CHAFIN 
17 Feb. 1681THOMAS CHAFIN 
17 Mar. 1685THOMAS CHAFIN 
  Double return of Napier and Chafin. NAPIER declared elected, 9 Feb. 1689 

Main Article

Poole was a proud and prosperous little port in the 17th century, exporting pipe-clay and playing an important role in the Newfoundland fishery. But it was not, and never had been, large enough to justify its status as a separate county. This had been procured in 1568 by the efforts of Sir Henry Ashley of Wimborne St. Giles, and the family continued to claim one seat for themselves for at least a century. George Cooper, younger son of the Ashley heiress, represented Poole in the Convention, together with Sir Walter Erle, and there is little doubt that Sir John Fitzjames, who had been put forward by Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper in 1659, stood for the borough on the same interest in 1661. John Morton was returned unopposed, and Fitzjames had a majority of the total vote, but the resident freemen apparently preferred their recorder William Constantine, who had represented them in the Long Parliament. The election committee found that nonresidents were equally entitled to vote, and declared Fitzjames elected. Poole’s record as a parliamentary stronghold in the Civil War had not been forgotten, and on 28 Feb. 1662 the Privy Council ordered its defences to be demolished.1

Constantine was removed from office under the Corporations Act, but he does not seem to have abandoned hope of regaining his seat, either by recommending himself to the Court through Lord Ashley (as Ashley Cooper had now become), or by denouncing to their constituents Fitzjames and his colleague Sir John Morton for failing to reduce taxation. The creation of no less than 24 freemen from among the local gentry in 1660-2 and the new charter of 1668 (the first to mention ‘capital burgesses’) were both probably designed to undercut Constantine’s potential support. He was knighted, rather surprisingly, in 1668, but died two years later, too soon to contest the by-election on the death of Fitzjames. Ashley proposed his 18-year-old son Anthony Ashley to fill the vacancy, but a new influence in the borough thwarted his plans. This was Samuel Hardy, the minister of Poole. Though a nonconformist, Hardy was able to officiate there for many years because the town, as a peculiar, was not subject to the usual ecclesiastical discipline, and local juries would not convict him. Until his call from the Poole congregation in 1667, Hardy had been chaplain to the Trenchard family, and he now presented Thomas Trenchard I to the electors as ‘a fitter man’, and carried the day. Aghast at their own temerity in thus defying their patron, then at the height of his power as minister of the crown, the electors seized the opportunity of Trenchard’s early death just over a year later to reconcile themselves with him by accepting his nomination. Sir John Turberville of Bere Regis received no encouragement to stand, but when Giles Strangways proposed his second son Thomas, the freemen were obliged to offend one of two great men. Ashley (now Earl of Shaftesbury and Lord Chancellor) held the trump card; he was able to produce the writ at a time to suit himself and to secure the return of George Cooper. However, the issue of writs during a recess of Parliament was declared (somewhat dubiously) to be illegal, a new election was ordered, and Cooper, as part of an electoral bargain, agreed to stand down in favour of Thomas Strangways. Probably this episode was not without repercussions on Poole’s extraordinarily chequered municipal career. Its charter was forfeited after a quo warranto in 1675, only to be restored three years later.2

On Strangways’s nomination in January 1679 he recommended as his successor Thomas Chafin, while Morton was rather surprisingly replaced by Henry Trenchard, a member of the Green Ribbon Club. Both voted for the first exclusion bill, though their paths subsequently diverged. Nevertheless, with Morton finding a safe seat at Weymouth, they were re-elected to the second and third Exclusion Parliaments, probably without a contest. In 1682 Hardy was at last brought to book by a special commission, and the corporation promised to elect loyal Members, though they were also reported to be laying up a fighting fund in defence of their charter. By October 1683, however, it had been surrendered, and a temporary commission was appointed to administer the borough, with John Wyndham as mayor. The local Tories, headed by William Ettrick, demanded the suppression of the town’s county status, which had ensured the return of ‘true Protestant juries’ and secured for so long Hardy’s immunity. Benjamin Skutt, a London Tory, whose family were the principal Newfoundland merchants in the town, hoped to secure Trenchard’s seat for himself by obtaining an acceptable new charter. But the freemen refused it, though on the accession of James II they promised that their representatives in the next Parliament, Ettrick and Chafin, would ‘comply with whatever shall be offered for better settling the revenue on the crown’. James’s courtship of the dissenters produced at the second attempt a charter for Poole on 15 Sept. 1688, transforming it for parliamentary purposes into a corporation borough, with an electorate of 19. Trenchard came in as recorder, and with James Gould II was proposed as court candidate.3

The new charter was hastily withdrawn in the panic of the Dutch invasion. Sir Nathaniel Napier claimed the credit for the restoration of the old charter, but while this may have impressed the ‘capital burgesses’, the ratepayers as a whole remained loyal to Chafin. Thomas Erle, grandson of the 1660 Member, doubtless gave his interest to his cousin Trenchard, who was un opposed, and to Chafin, his right-hand man in the East Dorset militia, who was involved in a double return with Napier. The elections committee found that the franchise lay with all the inhabitants paying scot and lot, but their recommendation was reversed by the House, and the representation of Poole accordingly reverted to one Whig and one Tory.4

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. J. Sydenham, Hist. Poole, 181, 202; Poole archives; Northumberland (Alnwick) mss 552, f. 68; CJ, viii. 251, 272; Keeler, Long Parl. 140-1; PC2/52/562.
  • 2. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 32, 36; CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 544-5; 1671, p. 586; 1671-2, p. 83; 1672-3, pp. 510-11, 572; Grey, i. 94-95; D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 451; Dering, 109-10; Merewether and Stephens, Hist. Boroughs, 1702-3.
  • 3. Dorset RO, D124, Strangways to Poole corp., 29 Jan. 1679; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 316; July-Sept. 1683, p. 431; 1683-4, pp. 215, 235-6; 1687-9, ff. 259, 290-1; Hutchins, i. 56: Luttrell, i. 283; Sydenham, 205, 208, 209; Prot. Dom. Intell. 22 Feb. 1681; London Gazette, 11 Oct. 1683, 5 Mar. 1685; Prot. Dom. Intell. 22 Feb. 1681; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 150; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 242.
  • 4. CJ, x. 13, 24; Churchill, Coll. Cambridge, Erle-Drax mss, Chafin to Erle, 13 Dec. 1688.