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 paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 250 in 1695


c. Apr. 1660JOHN HATCHER
  Double return of Wingfield and Weaver. WINGFIELD declared elected, 9 May 1660
 ?John Hatcher
 ?Hon. Peregrine Bertie I
21 Oct. 1665HON. PEREGRINE BERTIE I vice Stafford, deceased
27 Feb. 1677HON. HENRY NOEL vice Montagu, appointed to office
 John Hatcher
4 Feb. 1678HON. CHARLES BERTIE vice Noel, deceased
12 Feb. 1679SIR RICHARD CUST, Bt.
1 Sept. 1679SIR RICHARD CUST, Bt.
12 Feb. 1681SIR RICHARD CUST, Bt.
 Sir Pury Cust

Main Article

The principal interest at Stamford lay with the Cecil earls of Exeter, whose vast Elizabethan mansion at Burleigh dominated the town. They owned much property in the borough, including the feefarm rent and the advowsons of five parish churches. Their tenure of the recordership was interrupted by the Interregnum, but normally gave them considerable influence over the corporation, which in turn controlled the freeman roll. This period was marked by a determined attack on the borough by the 3rd Earl of Lindsey, aided first by the Presbyterian Hatchers and then by his brother-in-law Lord Campden. In 1678 and 1685 his brothers briefly occupied both seats, but by 1688 he had apparently agreed to divide the borough with Lord Exeter. The Montagus of Boughton and the Earl of Stamford were also supposed to have interests in the borough, and with this abundance of aristocratic patrons it is scarcely surprising that four out of the nine Members elected in this period should have been younger sons of peers. The corporation rather pathetically insisted that the utmost harmony prevailed in the council chamber, and even after the hardest-fought election claimed ‘the unanimous assent and consent of the commonalty’.1

At the general election of 1660 the Burleigh interest was doubtless behind Francis Wingfield, a local lawyer who was akin to the Cecils. John Hatcher was elected to the senior seat, but Wingfield was involved in a double return with his republican fellow-townsman John Weaver, who had sat for the borough since 1645. On 9 May Edward Turnor reported from the elections committee that Wingfield was duly chosen, and the House resolved that he ought to sit. He probably preferred being ‘a great card ... in these parts’ to the obscurity of the back benches at Westminster, and in 1661 the Burleigh candidate was probably the Royalist, William Stafford. He was partnered by the Hon. William Montagu, a lawyer who had an estate in the neighbourhood. Lord Wharton seems to have thought that (Sir) Christopher Clapham had regained the seat that he had held 1659. But it is more probable that the election was contested by the strange coalition of Hatcher with Peregrine Bertie from the ultra-royalist family at Grimsthorpe. A petition was lodged on the grounds that those freemen who were not rated to church and poor had been denied the vote; but the House found in favour of the narrower franchise. On Stafford’s death four years later Bertie succeeded to the seat. The mayor carefully, and perhaps ironically, set out his father’s qualifications on the indenture, describing the new Member as ‘second son to the Rt. Hon. Montagu, Earl of Lindsey, lord great chamberlain of England, lord lieutenant of the county of Lincoln, and a Privy Councillor’.2

The elevation of Montagu to judicial office as chief baron of the Exchequer in 1676 during the long recess produced the hottest contest of the period. This time the Cecil interest went to Hatcher. On 20 Apr. Wingfield advised him also to secure Lord Stamford’s interest, and (Sir) Thomas Meres undertook to write ‘very pathetically to Anchitell Grey’. He would also obtain letters of recommendation from the prominent London nonconformists, Jekyll, Owen and Bates, if desired. Lindsey on his side put up Lord Campden’s son Henry Noel. On 14 Sept. it was reported:

Lord Campden has furiously treated the town of Stamford, and not only that town but 400 foreigners came in to the treat, and Lord Lindsey with 80 of his company. It’s thought it cost him £1,000, and he treats on still. Lord Lindsey invited the town to his house, and treated them nobly. Lord Exeter, I hear, was not well pleased at this; it seems he intended the burgess’s place for another.

Dismayed at his opponents’ lavishness, and strongly advised by his father to desist, Hatcher sought for an excuse to withdraw with dignity. On 7 Nov. he wrote to (Sir) Joseph Williamson:

My request is now to you, not as formerly to keep me off from being sheriff, but on the contrary to promote my being on. ... Having been engaged at Stamford for a burgessship there which I find will be very chargeable, I could, being made sheriff, give over the prosecution of it with a salvo honore.

Three days later he was pricked sheriff of Lincolnshire, and presumably declared that the office was incompatible with standing for any borough within his jurisdiction. Another blow befell Exeter in December, when the corporation replaced him as recorder by Campden. He protested to the King, but Henry Coventry replied that he could not refuse to confirm the appointment. ‘As for the election of a burgess, his Majesty will by no means meddle in that, or in the least violate the privileges of the town, but leave it to their election and the judgment of the House of Commons.’ The new country candidate was William Thursby, a Northamptonshire lawyer who had married into the Brownlow family. His hint to the mayor, that he would do well to qualify himself for his office by taking the sacra mental test, did not help his cause. On the first day of the session, 16 Feb. 1677, a new writ was ordered. Eight days later Camden wrote to Lindsey’s brother-in-law, Lord Treasurer Danby: ‘I am confident we have about 60 votes more than Lord Exeter has for Thursby’. Another writer commented shrewdly: ‘The Burleigh family may be weary of Thursby, or be weary of the charge’. The country candidate himself began to perceive that ‘he could not support Lord Exeter’s interest in Stamford’, and offered it back to Hatcher. Casting his constitutional scruples aside, the sheriff accepted, though he realized that he had little hope of overhauling Noel unless he could defer the election. Campden complained of his ‘frivolous excuses’ for his delay in opening the writ:

He absolutely refuseth the precept, and sets up for himself, declaring he stands for burgess of Stamford; and some few make it their business to cry all over the town their new idol: ‘A Hatcher; a Hatcher!’ They think my lord of Lindsey’s occasions will call him back, and, my illness being such, they hope to have the game to themselves.

‘The animosities are so great I wish there be no mischief done at the election at Stamford’, wrote Montagu anxiously. On 27 Feb. the Commons resolved to order Hatcher to proceed with the poll, but in fact he did so on the same day. The mayor declared Noel elected, and Hatcher’s petition, introduced by Sir John Trevor on behalf of Exeter’s son John Cecil, was rejected on the very constitutional grounds that he had suggested himself.3

Noel did not survive his success for long, and on his death later in the year Bertie’s brother Charles, who was secretary of the Treasury, determined to contest the seat. His recent purchase of Uffington, two miles from the town, gave him a personal interest in the borough. On 25 Sept. he wrote to Sir Richard Cust, who had taken up residence in Stamford:

I am heartily sorry to hear of my poor cousin Harry’s death, because it is like to occasion a fresh and perhaps great dispute upon a new election, wherein I perceive I am invited to be a principal actor. I cannot but retain a most particular sense of those good inclinations which you and many of your corporation have expressed in my favour upon this occasion, but at the same time I am under great difficulty how I shall render myself capable to receive your favours; for on the one hand, as I am not ignorant of the usual necessary expenses upon such occasions, so on the other hand I have just cause to fear the ill consequences which may attend it by the late order of the House of Commons, which having settled limits of all expenses previous to the election, makes the exceeding of those limits a just ground to render such elections void.

A new writ was authorized on 28 Jan. 1678, and on the following day Bertie wrote again to Cust: ‘I hope now to be quickly with you. ... The writ is issued, and I have sent down my servant with it to put the election in as much forwardness as may be.’ On his arrival Bertie found himself compelled to forswear support for Sir William Killigrew and his drainage project. But the Cecil interest was thrown into disarray by the death of the 4th Earl on 1 Feb., and with rumours abroad of a quo warranto intended against the Stamford corporation it was clearly no time to offend the Court. Charles Bertie was returned unopposed, and for the last ten months of the Cavalier Parliament Stamford was represented by the two brothers.4

But the Exclusion crisis reversed the situation. The new Earl of Exeter nominated William Hyde, a kinsman who shared his artistic tastes, and Cust (in Lord Lindsey’s words) ‘quitted Grimsthorpe for Burleigh’. He was convinced that the election could not be carried for both brothers, especially since they were ‘not so grateful to the town as formerly’, and agreed to stand jointly with Hyde. An appeal to lay down in Charles Bertie’s favour was rejected because ‘some other will be cried up if I desist; and it is not in my power to turn over votes, nay, knowing the temper of this people, ’tis almost impossible’. It was reported on 15 Feb. 1679 that ‘the two Berties, finding themselves too weak at Stamford came thence on Tuesday last, and the next day ... two friends of Lord Exeter were chosen’. Cust voted for exclusion and Hyde abstained, but they were both re-elected to the second and third Exclusion Parliaments.5

Stamford produced loyal addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament and abhorring the Rye House Plot, but could not save its charter. The replacement of February 1685 reserved to the crown the usual power to remove officials. Exeter, who had succeeded Campden as recorder, gave way to Lindsey, while the two Berties were nominated as aldermen. A few months later they were elected to James II’s Parliament, not to the entire satisfaction of the mayor, who ignored their Lincolnshire homes and affected to regard them as a couple of Cockney carpet-baggers. In January 1688 Lindsey reported:

The corporation of Stamford ... have been and will continue steady in their loyalty, [and] firm to the Church of England. Very few dissenters in the borough. [They] choose their Parliament men by prescription, and it is thought they will choose Mr William Hyde and Mr Charles Bertie.

This sop to the Burleigh interest was rejected by the regulators, who substituted for Hyde Sir Henry Heron, a staunch Anglican of ‘the old Cavalier principles’, and Killigrew’s partner. Sunderland was apparently unable to decide between these conflicting recommendations, and in September he put forward Bertie’s name only. The court candidate commented ironically after the Revolution: ‘For my own part I am obliged to my Lord Sunderland for recommending me to Stamford, which has entirely lost my interest in that corporation, and I cannot blame them for their jealousy’. Bertie exaggerated, since he was returned with Hyde to the Convention, but he did have to overcome the opposition of Cust’s son, Sir Pury. Cust’s agent prepared a petition, claiming that ‘thirty voters were shut up till they had promised to vote for Mr Bertie’. During the election campaign Cust himself had been called rebel ‘for appearing in arms with the Prince of Orange in defence of the Protestant religion’, and his house had been attacked. The mayor had shown partiality in accepting and refusing votes, and closed the poll without Cust’s consent. But the petition was never presented.6

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. J. Drakard, Hist. Stamford, 104; Reps. Assoc. Architect. Socs. xxiii. 137, 139; Add. 29557, f. 91.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 18, 292; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 394; Reps. Assoc. Architect. Socs. xxiii. 135.
  • 3. Reps. Assoc. Architect. Socs. xxiii. 137-41; HMC 7th Rep. 493; CSP Dom. 1676-7, pp. 406, 473, 491; Vis. Northants. (Harl. Soc. lxxxvii), 218; CJ, ix. 384, 389, 407; Eg. 3330, f. 77; HMC Buccleuch, i. 325; C. Holmes, 17th Cent. Lincs. 240-1; Grey, v. 314-18.
  • 4. Lady E. C. Cust, Cust Fam. Recs. i. 220, 228-9; HMC 7th Rep. 470; CSP Dom. 1677-8, pp. 201-2.
  • 5. Cust, 233-7; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 13; J. R. Jones, The First Whigs, 41; Holmes, 243.
  • 6. London Gazette, 8 Aug. 1681, 10 Sept. 1683; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 376; 1685, p. 39; 1687-9, p. 275; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 146, 147; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 456; Cust, 359, 399.