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

Number of voters:



14 July 1660ROGER COLMAN vice Bampfield, chose to sit for Exeter
19 Nov. 1660HENRY NEWTE vice Colman, deceased
6 Apr. 1664HENRY FORD vice Stucley, deceased
21 Nov. 1673SAMUEL FOOTE vice Carew, deceased
 Sir Hugh Acland, Bt.
15 Feb. 1679SAMUEL FOOTE
20 Aug. 1679SAMUEL FOOTE
23 Feb. 1681SAMUEL FOOTE
28 Mar. 1685SIR HUGH ACLAND, Bt.
 Henry Blagdon
14 Jan. 1689SAMUEL FOOTE

Main Article

Tiverton was the most considerable industrial town in 17th century Devon, remarkable for its numerous charities and benefactions. Its representatives were all resident in the county, and even country gentlemen like Sir Thomas Stucley and Henry Ford showed themselves aware of the economic concerns of their constituents. There was no dominant territorial interest, though the Colmans, a minor gentry family, owned a small fraction of the manor and resided within the borough. Presbyterianism was evidently strong. The franchise was in the corporation, consisting under James I’s charter of the mayor, recorder, town clerk, 12 ‘capital burgesses’ or aldermen, and 12 assistants. This body, which had been thoroughly purged under the major-generals, returned two prominent opponents of the monarchy at the general election of 1660, Robert Shapcote and Thomas Bampfield. Both were lawyers. When the latter chose to sit for Exeter, he was replaced by Roger Colman, who died before much could be ascertained about his politics. Before the second by-election, there was a complaint, doubtless directed at Shapcote, that the writ had miscarried, followed almost immediately by the return of yet another lawyer, Henry Newte, who had been dismissed from the town clerkship during the Protectorate as an Anglican and a Royalist.1

The Members returned at the general election of 1661, Stucley and Thomas Carew, however, belonged to local gentry families. On Stucley’s death Ford, a professional politician, who had stood unsuccessfully for two Cornish boroughs, was returned. Carew, however, was succeeded in 1673 by a local merchant, Samuel Foote, who defeated the court candidate, Sir Hugh Acland, despite letters sent into the borough by 18 great men. Acland’s petition was not referred to the elections committee until 17 Oct. 1675. One of his witnesses was given parliamentary protection against arrest, but no report was made. The sitting Members were re-elected to the three Exclusion Parliaments, though Foote voted for the bill and Ford against it. There may have been a contest in 1681 when the indenture bore only the 14 signatures of ‘the greater part of the burgesses and assistants’, but the identity of the unsuccessful candidate is unknown.2

A quo warranto against the corporation on the grounds of failure to enforce the laws against recusancy, presumably Protestant rather than Catholic, had been considered as early as July 1680; but an address thanking the King for his declaration on the dissolution of Parliament in 1681, though lukewarm in tone, may have staved off proceedings for a time. At the request of the corporation, market-day was changed from Monday to Tuesday to avoid profanation of the Lord’s day, and in 1683 the clothiers in the borough were incorporated ‘for the better putting the laws into execution against such as make cloths and stuffs deceitfully’. The new charter to the borough of 20 Nov. 1684 contained the usual clause for the removal of office-holders by order-in-council, and nominated the Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck) as recorder. Foote retained his seat on the corporation, but he was joined by Acland and several other country gentlemen. The corporation loyally congratulated James II on his accession and elected Acland with another new alderman, Colman’s son William, to his Parliament. The charter mayor, Henry Blagdon, presumably also stood, since he merely witnessed the indenture, having previously appointed a deputy to make the return. A local chronicler suggests that ‘the potwallers of the borough’ took part in this election, but the indenture mentions only capital burgesses and assistants as usual.3

At the first purge of the corporation in 1687 the mayor, seven aldermen (including both sitting Members), five assistants, and the town clerk were removed. On 22 Jan. 1688 orders followed for the removal of Albemarle and his deputy, and of Foote and two more aldermen. The corporation, ‘obstinately disobeying the royal mandate’, were dissolved, and in April the King’s electoral agents reported that the charter was being renewed. The new corporation, they wrote, would choose the veteran Bampfield and a certain Richard Prouse, both supporters of the King’s ecclesiastical policy. But in June they included Tiverton among the populous towns which were ‘in great disorder and distraction about their new regulations’, and the management of the borough was transferred to the high churchman John Beare. When the new charter was issued it nominated Beare’s closest associate Roger Pomeroy as mayor and the Roman Catholic zealot Sir John Southcote as alderman. Presumably new court candidates were also approved, but their identity is not known, and it is unlikely that they went to the poll in 1689, when Colman, who had rallied early to William of Orange, was returned with Foote ‘according to ancient usage as directed’.4

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. W. G. Hoskins, Devon, 449; M. Durnsford, Hist. Mems. Tiverton, 365, 368, 371, 412; CJ, viii. 186.
  • 2. Grey, iv. 238; CJ, ix. 358, 366.
  • 3. PC2/69/35; London Gazette, 10 Nov. 1681, 26 Feb. 1685; CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 453, 502; Jan.-June 1683, p. 207; 1683-4, p. 246; SP44/335/233; Durnsford, 193-4, 197.
  • 4. PC2/72/ 535, 582; Pub. Occurrences, 28 Feb. 1688; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 381; (1883), 233, 242; CSP Dom. 1687-9, 223.