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:

4,480 in 1673


9 Apr. 1660SIR HENRY FELTON, Bt. 
8 Apr. 1661SIR HENRY FELTON, Bt. 
24 Feb. 1673SIR SAMUEL BARNARDISTON, Bt. vice North, deceased2,278
 LIONEL TOLLEMACHE, Lord Huntingtower2,202
  Double return. BARNARDISTON declared elected, 19 Feb. 1674 
17 Feb. 1679SIR GERVASE ELWES, Bt. 
 Lionel Tollemache, Lord Huntingtower 
1 Sept. 1679SIR WILLIAM SPRING, Bt. 
6 Apr. 1685SIR ROBERT BROKE, Bt. 
14 Jan. 1689SIR JOHN CORDELL, Bt. 
 Sir Samuel Barnardiston, Bt. 

Main Article

Few counties had been so strongly parliamentarian during the Civil War as Suffolk. Yet in 1673 a strong court candidate was defeated by a mere 76 votes, and after the Revolution the county returned two Tories to the Convention. The process began with the dominance of Sir Henry Felton at the general elections of 1660 and 1661. He avoided involvement in the Civil War, though he represented the county under the Protectorate, and by 1659 he had become an active Royalist. His colleague, Henry North of the Mildenhall family, had also sat for Suffolk in 1656, and was probably less enthusiastic about the Restoration, though he did accept a baronetcy. Consequently he made an excellent running-mate for Felton, and no opposition to their combined interest was possible.1

North killed himself on 29 Aug. 1671, but with Parliament in recess no by-election was possible for 18 months, and both parties had time to organize by purchasing freeholds and mustering non-residents. The country interest was first in the field with Sir Samuel Barnardiston, a younger son of the dominant puritan family, who had made a fortune in trade and acquired an estate in East Suffolk in 1662. On 7 Oct. Sir Charles Lyttelton, on garrison duty at Landguard, wrote that he would ‘infallibly’ carry it ‘though he be a Presbyter, and the gentlemen most against him’. The court candidate was Lord Huntingtower, whose excellent personal qualities and general respectability were somewhat obscured by his position as Lauderdale’s step-son. The Duke of York, in one of his last acts before retiring into the political wilderness, wrote to Lord Hereford on his behalf. The government intelligencer at Yarmouth feared that some mischief might arise from the zeal of the ‘favourers’ on either side, and he noted that the nonconformists ‘really or under colour purchase so much in the county of Suffolk as may make them capable of being electors’. On 25 Feb. 1673 Silas Taylor reported from Harwich:

The engagement was very high in the county, making all the voices that had interest in election, although they lived out of the county. The gentry were for Lord Huntingtower, and the commonalty for Sir Samuel. The last news from some who came thence last night is that the country appearance was very great, most on horseback. About ten yesterday morning, the writ being read, the competitors in chairs were carried on men’s shoulders about the Cross and Market Place at Ipswich. Betwixt eleven and twelve (because it was alleged that several not qualified appeared and gave their voices) the poll was desired, which presently began, and so they continued when they came away in the evening, and believe it may continue these two days longer.

One of Barnardiston’s supporters, Sir Philip Skippon, wrote in his diary:

In the morning many of the friends of each party went out to meet and bring in the competitors. Sir Samuel came at the head of about 2,000 horse and did much outnumber the other in freeholders as did evidently appear by the greater cry and crowd on Sir Samuel’s side when each competitor was carried round the market cross. The body of the Suffolk gentlemen made all the interest they could possibly for the Lord Huntingtower, by threats, promises, etc., yet the generality of the freeholders came in against them, having several persons of quality on their side.

He added that Soame, the sheriff, who had promised

all fair carriage, forgot an equal behaviour, and let the Lord Huntingtower poll his men an hour before Sir Samuel could have his clerks ... and books delivered. Sir Samuel was polling three hours after the Lord Huntingtower had done, and some hundred that were ready to give him their votes were hindered by the sheriff dissolving the election at night, contrary both to his promise and the equity of the thing. Notwithstanding all this design to put by Sir Samuel, the Lord Huntingtower had but 2,202 and Sir Samuel 2,278. Many of the lord’s party that were written down were not resident in the country; and Sir Samuel was not suffered to have any non-residents. It pleased God there was no disorder among the multitude, though it was feared by reason of great provocations given to Sir Samuel and his friends, five or six hundred of which were seamen; but Sir Samuel and the gentlemen of his side made it their endeavour to have all rudeness in words and action passed by.

But another eye-witness complained that he had never known ‘so much incivility and affrontedness (not to mention worse things)’ at an election. According to Roger North, Huntingtower

had all the gentry of the county, all the Church and loyal people entirely. The other had as entirely all the dissenters, sectaries and factious people of all sorts, who were generally manufacturers, traders, and rabble. The election was looked upon as a trial of strength of parties, and both sides mustered all their forces; but the latter had the adjunct of the non-voting mob, who made more noise and stir than all the rest. ... There came down upon the sheriff and the Lord Huntingtower’s party a disorderly rout of seamen and all sorts of rude rabble, with great sticks and clubs, making a fearful noise, using violence to all that stood in their way and knocking many down, as could not be checked by any means of authority or persuasion.... They made all the voters and attendants upon the poll at the Lord Huntingtower’s tent scour off as fast as they could; and it became impossible to continue the poll any longer, though many attended to have their names taken; and so all broke up in confusion.

Barnardiston had a narrow lead at this point, and his supporters demanded that he should be returned, while the court party proposed an adjournment to another venue. Eventually Soame, a kinsman of Barnardiston’s, decided to make a double return and leave the decision to the Commons. Both candidates petitioned, and ‘a very considerable part of the magistracy and gentry’ of Suffolk attended the elections committee on Huntingtower’s behalf. But no decision could be reached in the remainder of this session, nor in the short autumn session that followed. On 19 Feb. 1674, however, Sir Thomas Meres reported from the elections committee in Barnardiston’s favour. The House divided, with Felton telling against the report, but it was accepted by 147 votes to 141. Barnardiston followed up his success by bringing an action against Soame for a false and malicious return. (Sir) Matthew Hale awarded him £1,000 damages, but the verdict was reversed on appeal.2

At the first general election of 1679 Barnardiston and another exclusionist, Sir Gervase Elwes, defeated Huntingtower. ‘The election is commonly at Ipswich’, wrote Sir Thomas Browne with all the smug superiority of a Norwich resident, ‘where the seamen and watermen are very rude and boisterous, and take in with the country party, as they call it.’ In the autumn Elwes exchanged seats with Sir William Spring, who also favoured exclusion. The sitting Members were ‘unanimously’ re-elected in 1681, when Skippon on behalf of the freeholders presented them with an address instructing them to prosecute the Popish Plot, to insist on the exclusion of all Popish successors, to ‘endeavour the frequent meetings of Parliament’, and to promote ‘union among all his Majesty’s Protestant subjects by pursuing those several good bills which were before the last Parliament’. Shortly after the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament with all these aims unattained, the Whig lord lieutenant, the 3rd Earl of Suffolk, was dismissed, and in 1684 Barnardiston was sent to prison until he should pay a fine of £10,000 for scandalum magnatum.3

At the general election of 1685 two Tories were returned for Suffolk, North’s son (the second baronet) and Sir Robert Broke. In April 1688 the royal electoral agents reported:

They generally incline to choose Sir Samuel Barnardiston and Sir Thomas Barnardiston or Sir Henry Felton. The Churchmen are most forward, and the dissenters concur with them, as knowing Sir Samuel is right, out of principle, for liberty, and suppose the other will be so, either out of inclination or Sir Samuel’s influence. We are informed that Sir Henry will go right, though he be an infirm man, and answered wrong to the Lord Dover.

Barnardiston was released in June, and three months later a further report was made on Suffolk:

They have pitched upon Sir Samuel Barnardiston and Sir Philip Skippon. Great endeavours have been used to withstand Sir Samuel’s interest, and a rumour spread that he was let forth [as] a serve-a-turn. Sir Henry Felton made an interest to be chosen.

Felton stood for Ipswich at the general election of 1689, and Skippon withdrew to Dunwich. Two inexperienced Tories, Sir John Cordell and Sir John Rous, were ‘duly and regularly elected by the majority of voices of the freeholders’. Barnardiston petitioned, but soon abandoned the case to stand for Ipswich at a by-election and to pursue (equally unsuccessfully) his vendetta against Soame’s widow.4

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Add. 32324, f. 53.
  • 2. Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 70-71; Adm. 2/1746, f. 134v; CSP Dom. 1672-3, pp. 597, 608; 1673, p. 54; Norf. Arch. xxii. 178-9; North, Examen, 516-17; CJ, ix. 260, 261, 284, 291, 312; State Trials, vi. 1070.
  • 3. Works of Sir Thomas Browne ed. Wilkin, i. 231; Prot. Dom. Intell. 18 Feb. 1681; CSP Dom. 1683-4, p. 392.
  • 4. Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 225-6, 246; Luttrell, i. 534; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 276; CJ, x. 13.