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:

about 3,000 in 1705


19 Apr. 1660SIR JOHN PELHAM, Bt.
c. Apr. 1661SIR JOHN PELHAM, Bt.
19 Dec. 1667SIR WILLIAM MORLEY vice Ashburnham, discharged from sitting
6 Feb. 1679SIR JOHN PELHAM, Bt.
21 Aug. 1679SIR JOHN PELHAM, Bt.
 (Sir) John Fagg I
26 Mar. 1685(SIR) HENRY GORING I
17 Jan. 1689SIR JOHN PELHAM, Bt.

Main Article

By the 17th century the convention of returning one Member from West and one from East Sussex was well established, and for most of the period it was represented by a Member of one of the principal families in each division. The county court at which elections were held met alternately at Lewes and at Chichester, although this did not necessarily mean that elections were held alternately in each town. East Sussex had supported Parliament in the Civil War whereas the west was predominantly royalist. Hence the Member from West Sussex was usually a court supporter, whereas his colleague from the east of the county tended to align himself with the country party. In five of the seven Parliaments this was Sir John Pelham, who was said to have ‘more interest in his county than any other person of his time’, and ‘by his hospitality, moderation and other exemplary virtues’ to have gained universal esteem. At the general election of 1660 he was returned with Henry Goring, who had avoided commitment in the Civil War, at the cost of £505. Both Members accepted the Restoration, and it is not known whether there was any opposition. In 1661 Goring stepped down to a borough seat, and Pelham shared a charge of £395 for the county election with the courtier John Ashburnham. Thus during the Clarendon administration Sussex was represented by two knights of the shire from the east. The balance, however, was redressed when Ashburnham was replaced by Sir William Morley at a by-election in 1667.1

At the first general election of 1679 Morley stood down in favour of his step-son John Lewknor, who was still some weeks short of his majority. There may have been a contest, since ‘a great bustle’ was reported. Pelham’s expenses at Chichester (where the election was held) and at Arundel amounted to £198 10s. In August, however, Lewknor, as an opponent of exclusion, had to retreat to his family borough of Midhurst, and Sir John Fagg, the most prominent of the West Sussex exclusionists, came forward in his place. A newcomer to county society, he was unacceptable as a colleague to Pelham, who put up his half-brother Sir Nicholas for the second seat and carried it. It was doubtless easier to return two eastern candidates at Lewes, where the August election was held, and Sir John Pelham’s expenses, presumably a double bill, amounted to only £253 4s. No other county in the period was represented by two members of the same family, and nemesis was at hand. In 1681 the Pelham interest was swept aside, and Fagg was returned with Sir William Thomas, a moderate country candidate from East Sussex. An exclusionist address was offered, though not without dissent, and accepted by the successful candidates, who pledged themselves ‘to be incessant in their endeavours for the unity of his Majesty’s Protestant subjects’ and ‘to serve justice on the execrable villains who received pensions in the late long [i.e. Cavalier] Parliament’.2

Thomas was too moderate for the dissenters, who in September 1681 named Fagg and James Butler as their candidates. Neither went to the poll in 1685, when Goring regained the county seat, accompanied by an East Sussex Tory, Sir Thomas Dyke. The bishop of Chichester wrote:

There had certainly been a great opposition, had not my interest in this my diocese with the clergy, and theirs upon my account with the freeholders of their parishes made my number so great that the Whig party did lay down their resolutions, so that both Sir Henry Goring and Sir Thomas Dyke said they were very sensible that my interest did their work for them, and withal that it was now visible that the bishop and his interest was able to turn the scale and make whom they pleased Members of Parliament at such elections in the county.

James II’s electoral agents reported in September 1688 that Pelham and Thomas were expected to be elected for the county. ‘They are reputed moderate men, but have not declared themselves as to the Test.’ There was no way of withstanding their interest except by Fagg’s joining with John Spence of South Malling. Spence’s son had previously married Fagg’s daughter, and may now have controlled the Presbyterian Morley interest in the east of the county through his third marriage to the daughter of Sir John Trevor. But at the general election of 1689 Pelham and Thomas, both moderate Whigs and both from East Sussex, were returned ‘unanimously and freely with one common assent and consent’.3

Author: B. M. Crook


  • 1. Horsfield, Suss. ii. app. 23; Add. 33148, f. 106; 33151, f. 1.
  • 2. Devonshire mss 1/C; Add. 33148, ff. 204, 207; Sidney Diary, i. 117; A. F. W. Papillon, Papillon Mems. 160-1; Prot. Oxf. Intell. 10 Mar. 1681.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 473; Bodl. Tanner 31, f. 4; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 440-1; J. Comber, Suss. Gen. Lewes, 277.