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 corporation 1660-1; in the freemen 1670-?89

Number of voters:

44 in 1660-1; c.90 in 1670


 William Thompson
 WILLIAM THOMPSON vice Legard, on petition, 21 June 1660
25 July 1660JOHN LEGARD vice Robinson, discharged from sitting Hugh Cholmley
16 Nov. 1670SIR PHILIP MONCKTON vice Crosland, deceased
 ?Robert Wharton
 [Francis] Thompson
16 Feb. 1689WILLIAM THOMPSON vice Harbord, chose to sit for Launceston

Main Article

Evidence was given to the elections committee in 1736 that the franchise at Scarborough had changed in 1670. Previously it had been confined to the corporation, which under the charter of 1632 consisted of two bailiffs (who acted as returning officers), two coroners, four chamberlains, and 36 common councilmen. The principal interest was held by William Thompson, whose family had long served on the corporation, and acquired property in the town. But the decision to establish a permanent garrison at Scarborough, and the purchase of the castle site from Thompson for this purpose, established a government interest in the borough, which was exercised by the governor.1

Scarborough’s favourite son in 1660 was undoubtedly John Lawson, who had risen from humble parentage in the town to act as second-in-command of the fleet under Edward Montagu I. A republican and an Anabaptist, he was to show himself ‘as officious, poor man, as any spaniel’ in his anxiety to keep his place once the Restoration seemed inevitable. His duties with the fleet precluded his attendance at the general election, but he gave his interest to Luke Robinson, another supple revolutionary, and John Legard, who had helped to seize York from the military regime. They were opposed by Thompson, who was probably beyond the scope of the Long Parliament ordinance, though his father had been fined as a passive Royalist. The Royalists were naturally chiefly concerned to oust Robinson, who had been employed by the Rump to spy on General George Monck; but in fact the contest was between Legard and Thompson for the second seat. Precisely what happened is not altogether clear; but it seems that immediately after Thompson had been successful on the poll, some of his supporters were persuaded to sign a formal revocation of their votes, and the bailiffs accordingly returned Legard. Thompson presumably petitioned, but the elections committee did not report till after the Restoration. Meanwhile Robinson had announced his conversion to royalism with a tearful penitence so edifying that the Commons did no more than discharge him from sitting. On 21 June a new writ was ordered to fill the vacancy, and Edward Tumor reported that ‘Mr William Thompson had a greater number of voices than Mr Legard, who is returned’. The House declared him duly elected, and sent for the bailiffs in custody for a false return. On 11 July they produced the ‘revocation’, and were released. For Robinson’s seat, the Duke of York recommended (Sir) Hugh Cholmley, whose father had sat for the borough in five Parliaments, and commanded the royalist garrison during the Civil War, and the Cavalier Sir Thomas Gower canvassed the borough; but Legard was successful at the by-election.2

Although Lawson’s obsequiousness had the desired effect, the gallant admiral is unlikely to have played any part in the 1661 election. Thompson was re-elected, accompanied by the governor, Sir Jordan Crosland, an old Cavalier who presumably kept his Roman Catholic wife out of the garrison. On Crosland’s death in 1670, Humphrey Wharton applied to the corporation on behalf of his son Robert, but found them pre-engaged by the new governor Sir Thomas Slingsby for another Cavalier, Sir Philip Monckton. Many years later contradictory evidence was given to the elections committee about this election. On the one hand it was said that Monckton was the only candidate, on the other that 80 or 100 freemen went to the poll, and this is confirmed by the indentures, which, unlike all the others in the period, mention the ‘commonalty’ as well as the ‘burgesses’. It was also alleged that the freemen continued to vote for a great many years and that at least one of the exclusion elections was contested; but Monckton was buried only four days after the first of them, Slingsby was content to sit for Knaresborough, his family borough, and Thompson and his son Francis represented Scarborough in all three Parliaments. The younger Thompson voted for the bill, but his father abstained. So secure was the family interest that in 1681 the election was deferred until the result at Worcester was known, in case one of the seats should be required for Sir Francis Winnington.3

Scarborough produced no loyal addresses during the Tory reaction. In June 1684 quo warranto proceedings were commenced, and the corporation reluctantly surrendered their charter. The new corporation, consisting of a mayor, 12 aldermen, and 31 common councilmen, was dominated by the local gentry. They congratulated James II on his accession ‘despite the utmost malice that the devil could invent’, and promised to elect Members opposed to those who had promoted Exclusion. The corporation duly returned two Tory gentlemen, Slingsby and William Osbaldeston, one of the new aldermen, to James II’s Parliament. The election was contested, probably by Francis Thompson, who attempted to challenge the rights of the re-modelled corporation by polling the freemen, but the mayor ordered them to be arrested for causing a riot. A petition ‘from the major part of the burgesses and inhabitants’ was presented to the House complaining of the mayor’s conduct, but no action was taken. In November 1687 the mayor, recorder, six aldermen and two common councilmen were removed by order-in-council, and in the following spring another alderman and 23 common councilmen were displaced. Thus remodelled, the corporation produced an address thanking the King for his Declaration of Indulgence, and promising ‘to send two Members to serve in Parliament who should vote against the Test and Penal Laws’. The mayor, a Roman Catholic, caned the vicar for refusing to read the Declaration in church, and was himself tossed in a blanket by order of Capt. William Wolseley, subsequently famous for his victory over the Irish Jacobites at Newtown Butler. The royal electoral agents reported in September 1688 that Scarborough would choose Thomas Coundon of Willerby ‘and who else your Majesty shall appoint’. Coundon, who came from a minor gentry family in the East Riding, was serving as a captain in the Earl of Huntingdon’s Foot, and presumably nominated the second court candidate, Huntingdon’s cousin and second-in-command, Ferdinando Hastings, not an inspired choice since he went over to William of Orange at the Revolution. Sunderland ordered them both to stand, but the Thompson interest regained control on the restoration of the old charter, and the new corporation fled in panic at the news of the Dutch invasion. Father and son were returned unopposed at the abortive election in December, but in the following month William Thompson stood down to provide a seat for William Harbord. The return was made by the bailiffs in the name of some 84 persons ‘whose names are under-written, being the major part of the burgesses of the said borough, to whom the choosing of Members for Parliament ... according to the ancient laws and customs of right doth belong’. There was no contest, ‘but all joined with the greatest unanimity, being so lately delivered from a Popish mayor’, and William Thompson gave one of the innkeepers two guineas, ‘and bid him make the freemen merry’. When Harbord chose to sit for Launceston Thompson joined his son in the Convention on the vote of ‘the major part of the burgesses’.4

Authors: P. A. Bolton / Paula Watson


  • 1. Northern Hist. iii. 82-83; J. B. Baker, Scarborough, 45; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 1600.
  • 2. Pepys Diary, 26 May 1660; HMC 5th Rep. 199; Adm. 2/1745, f. 2; CJ, viii. 70, 86.
  • 3. Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, vi. app. 2; HMC 5th Rep. 197; CJ, xxii. 694-5; True Prot. Merc. 26 Feb. 1681.
  • 4. Baker, 204-5, 208; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 93; 1687-8, pp. 268, 275, 302, 323; London Gazette, 9 Mar. 1685, 21 May 1688; CJ, ix. 719; xxii. 693, 695; PC2/72/543, 640, 652; J. Schofield, Guide to Scarborough, 65-67; Ellis Corresp. ii. 169, 212, 225; VCH E. Riding, ii. 334.