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:

about 250 in 1710


3 Feb. 1674WALTER CHETWYND vice Milward, deceased
12 Jan. 1689PHILIP FOLEY

Main Article

No polls are known to have been required at Stafford in this period. In 1682 the mayor wrote that ‘it has been usual here on all elections of Parliament men to accept for one such person as the high steward of the borough recommended’. As a Royalist, however, Sir Orlando Bridgeman, who had been elected high steward in 1646, was in no position to exercise his powers at the general election of 1660, and Stafford was represented in the Convention by the Cromwellian Sir Charles Wolseley and the Presbyterian John Swinfen. Nor is there any evidence that Bridgeman made a recommendation in 1661. William Chetwynd, ironmaster of Rugeley, nine miles from Stafford, and Robert Milward, the recorder, were returned. Neither had taken any part in the Civil Wars, though Milward clearly had royalist sympathies. On his death in 1674 he was succeeded by Walter Chetwynd, cousin of the sitting Member and head of the family.1

In 1677 the Duke of Monmouth was elected high steward, possibly on the recommendation of his servant Charles Chetwynd, and he firmly exercised his power of nomination to the Exclusion Parliaments on behalf of his close friend and supporter, Sir Thomas Armstrong. Wolseley hoped to be returned at the first election of 1679. It was reported that ‘his resolution at last was that he would not oppose the Duke, but if his friend would choose him he would accept it; that is, in plain English, he would stand’. William Chetwynd retired in dudgeon, but his cousin held his ground, and three weeks before the election Wolseley stood down. There was a revolt before the next election. A meeting of the gentry, summoned to nominate Members for the county, opposed Armstrong’s reelection, both as a stranger and a radical, and Walter Chetwynd was admonished for supporting him. A boycott of the town was threatened, but on 26 July Thomas Thynne I wrote to Lord Halifax: ‘Armstrong will be at Stafford again, and I think Sir Charles Wolseley’s brother, who assures me he will be true to the Government’. Walter Chetwynd, however, preferred Sir Thomas Wilbraham to the nonconformist Wolseleys, and he was returned with Armstrong. Before the 1681 election Lady Wilbraham reported that Chetwynd, Armstrong ‘and others’intended to stand, together with an undistinguished country gentleman, Edwin Skrymsher; but that her husband had ‘no mind to attend at Oxford or to contend at Stafford’. But there was no contest and Armstrong was again returned with the dissenter Skrymsher.2

In 1681 the Tory mayor persuaded the corporation to send a loyal address to the King approving the dissolution of Parliament, and Walter Chetwynd wrote to Sir Leoline Jenkins on 25 Sept. 1682:

Though the mayor and aldermen of Stafford are (most of them) truly loyal, yet the inferior burgesses so far out-number them that my old fellow-Member Sir Thomas Armstrong may with reason expect to carry the election there against any opposition.

The mayor (who was also Chetwynd’s surgeon) took a rather different view:

I have the last three years observed the mobile here more stained with and bold in disloyal expressions than formerly, for which reason I have made or caused to be made 50 or more loyal gentlemen of worthy quality of our country and parts adjacent burgesses, whereby they are qualified, as I suppose, to vote at elections of Members and are also of weight and interest to prevail against the numerous dependent lesser-rate men here.

I have no longer than to the 23rd to stay in the mayoralty and have more than once or twice moved my brethren to make a voluntary surrender of our charter, wherein I can prevail no farther than that they’ll obey the least command from his Majesty to that purpose. I am so grievously sensible of the unsoundness of the major part of the common council here that I may too truly say they stink for want of amputation.

After this professional flourish, he admitted that the reluctance of the corporation to surrender their charter was chiefly due to fear of ‘charges in procuring a new one’, and concluded that so long as Monmouth remained high steward the people would ‘dote’ on the custom of nomination. In the event, the charter was not attacked; the corporation sent loyal addresses abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot, and in 1683 Lord Ferrers was appointed high steward in place of Monmouth. For James II’s Parliament he recommended Walter Chetwynd and another Tory, Rowland Okeover, who were returned unopposed. It was only after the election that Stafford received its new charter in which Lord Ferrers was reappointed high steward. In February 1688 he was dismissed by order-in-council, and the Roman Catholic Lord Aston was put in. In the same purge the deputy steward, three aldermen, four capital burgesses and one of the serjeants were removed. In May the recorder, four aldermen and five capital burgesses were purged. No court candidates were recommended for Stafford in 1688, though a good election was expected. Skrymsher and Henry Bagot were mentioned as possible candidates for the Convention Parliament, but in fact Philip Foley, a Whig, and John Chetwynd, a Tory, were returned.3

Authors: A. M. Mimardière / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1682, p. 456; J. L. Cherry, Stafford, 52.
  • 2. Ward thesis, 185-90, 196-9; CSP Dom. 1677-8, p. 33; 1679-80, pp. 84, 96; 1680-1, p. 687; Spencer mss; Jones, First Whigs, 104-5; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 27, ff. 21-22, Powell to Thynne, 12 Feb. 1681; Add. 29910, f. 245.
  • 3. London Gazette, 5 Dec. 1681, 20 July 1682, 6 Sept. 1683; CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 426, 428, 456, 473; 1685, p. 192; PC 2/72 651, 672, 673; Ward, 200.