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 inhabitant householders

Number of voters:

25,000 in 1679


 Sir Thomas Clarges
 Thomas Elliot
27 Feb. 1679(SIR) STEPHEN FOX
 Sir Philip Matthews
 Sir William Waller II
 Sir William Waller II
 Sir John Cutler, Bt.
 Sir Philip Matthews
 WALLER vice Wythens, on petition 15 Nov. 1680
 [Richard] Tufton
 Sir Gilbert Gerard, Bt.
 Sir William Dolben
 Sir Roger Langley
 Charles Bonython
 Sir Philip Matthews
 Sir Walter Clarges, Bt.
 James Dewey

Main Article

The city of Westminster, as the administrative capital of the kingdom, the principal residence of the sovereign, and the usual venue of Parliament, enjoyed a peculiar status. The dean of Westminster appointed a high steward, who for most of the period was the loyal Duke of Ormonde, and together they nominated the corporation, consisting of 12 ‘burgesses’ and 12 assistants, and the high bailiff, who acted as returning officer. The high steward also appointed a deputy for judicial purposes. The royal Household and the government officials gave the crown a useful interest; but rapid development, not only in the West End, but in less salubrious areas like Clare Market, vastly increased the size of the electorate in this period, till it stood second only to the county of Yorkshire.1

Neither the dean nor the King was in any position to influence the general election of 1660. Westminster chose Gilbert Gerard, whose father had just been restored as chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and Thomas Clarges, long a resident in humbler circumstances, who was brother-in-law to the man of the hour, George Monck. Both were Royalists; but Gerard’s father, a Presbyterian, lost office at the Restoration, and he never stood again. For the 1661 election the Duke of York recommended Thomas Elliot, a groom of the bedchamber and a native of Westminster. Clarges, who had been appointed commissary of musters, stood again, and Sir Philip Warwick, the lord treasurer’s secretary, was clearly the government candidate. He too was a local man, his father having been organist at the Abbey. He was opposed by Sir Richard Everard, the son of a prominent Essex Presbyterian, who had taken up residence only recently after his marriage.

Sir Philip Warwick and Sir Richard Everard, having much the greater number, were declared burgesses upon the view by the bailiff of Westminster. After demand of the poll on behalf of Sir Thomas Clarges, Sir William Playters and Sir William Pulteney had appointed five clerks to take the poll, and stayed above half an hour to take it; and none came to pursue it.

Clarges petitioned, but Job Charlton reported from the elections committee in favour of the sitting Members, and the House agreed.2

Warwick retired on the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, and Everard’s financial circumstances precluded him from standing again. Clarges too was deterred by the expense, despite his successful building operations, but fortunately found a cheaper constituency. The front runner in the early stages was probably the court brewer Michael Arnold, but he seems to have desisted in favour of the courtier (Sir) Stephen Fox, who joined forces with Pulteney, the chief developer of Soho. The country candidates were Sir William Waller, who had alienated his father’s estate and was living in Strutton Ground, and the Cromwellian diplomat Sir Philip Meadows, who like Everard had acquired property in Westminster by marriage; he ‘set up so late and treated so little that most thought it impudent’, but during his short campaign he built up a great party. Waller was arrested for debt on the eve of the poll, but seems to have been released. On 20 Feb. 1679 it was reported:

The poll began to-day and may last three days more, the electors being 25,000 in number. The cry and number of suffrages on Sir William Waller’s side this day was much the greatest number.

On 25 Feb. the bailiff Essex Strode ‘took away the books though they had not done polling’, and two days later declared the court candidates elected. ‘’Tis said that one book of 700 voices of Sir William Waller’s side was artificially mislaid and lost by the officers trusted’. The country candidates and ‘several of the inhabitants’ petitioned on the grounds of ‘undue practices used by the bailiff’; but the case was never reported from the elections committee. Fox had the disagreeable experience during the parliamentary inquiry into corruption of finding himself obliged to indicate to the House the Members of the Cavalier Parliament to whom he had made payments ‘for secret service’. He did not stand for re-election in the autumn; but Pulteney went over to the Opposition and became a prominent exclusionist. Waller and Matthews also stood again, and the court candidates were Sir John Cutler, another developer, and Ormonde’s deputy steward Francis Wythens. On 10 Sept. it was reported:

Sir William Waller had much the greater appearance, and next to him Pulteney, who promised to join with Sir William Waller, but when he came into the field excused himself; and, the poll being desired, two o’clock was appointed. But they could not agree till almost night, Waller demanding that each should have a particular clerk, which after much dispute was agreed on, and the poll began this morning at eight o’clock. Most of Waller’s men give their voices for none but him, and are most of them of St. Martin’s le Grand and the new market, and servants of my Lord Clare [Gilbert Holles]. ’Tis thought he will carry it because his men for the most part poll singly.

The poll continued for eight days, and about 12,000 people voted. Pulteney was returned with Wythens, who carried it over Waller by 150 votes, after the King’s servants were brought over from Windsor to vote for him. Early in 1680 a petition from Westminster calling for the sitting of Parliament was countered by an abhorring address from the grand jury presented by Wythens. After the meeting of Parliament, the House of Commons expelled Wythens as an Abhorrer, and seated Waller by disallowing the votes of the ‘King’s menial servants’ at the election. In 1681 an opposition journalist wrote that Pulteney and Waller

partly through their own generous inclinations and pro-pensions to union for the general good, and partly by the interposition of judicious and discreet persons, who plainly say that the former separation of two such worthy patriots had begot much ill blood, were induced to unite and join their interest.

At the gates of Westminster Hall, the usual polling place for winter elections, they were accompanied by 3,000 supporters. After the bailiff had read the precept Richard Tufton, a cousin of the loyalist earls of Thanet, demanded a poll. His family had resided in Tothill Street for three generations, and had done much to develop the area; but his support was ‘almost invisible’, consisting of

half a score of horse and double the number of foot followers, and some will not stick to say that one-half of his body were [not] house-keepers, and such as might have made the majority of the electors at Old Sarum.

As the law-courts were in session the poll took place in Bridewell. Tufton gave up after only 20 of his supporters had been polled, and the new high bailiff (who had replaced Strode) proclaimed Pulteney and Waller elected, whereupon they were presented with an address urging them to continue the investigation of the Popish Plot (in which Waller was thought to have distinguished himself) and to support exclusion. Tufton was rewarded for his efforts on behalf of the court with a knighthood, but died soon afterwards.3

Richard Newman, a Westminster j.p. long asso ciated with the Holles family, was ‘not without hopes of being Member for Westminster’ in 1685. But the Whig candidates were Sir William Dolben, who had been removed from the judicial bench for opposing the quo warranto against London, and (Sir) Gilbert Gerard II, a distant cousin of the 1660 MP, who had inherited from his father-in-law Bishop Cosin not only a house in Pall Mall but a mysterious ‘black box’ alleged to contain proofs of the Duke of Monmouth’s legitimacy. They were opposed by Arnold and Charles Bonython, who had succeeded Wythens as steward of the court. At the hustings ‘some people got a black box and carried it upon a pole, crying: "No black box! no excluder!?, etc. to which ’tis reported a reply was made: "No Peter pence men!?’. The point of the rejoinder is obscure, since it is clear that neither of the Tory candidates showed any leanings towards Rome. They were successful after a poll. Arnold was the most reluctant of the jurymen to acquit ‘the seven golden candlesticks or pillars of our Church’, as a Whig newspaper described the bishops. He never stood again, though his foreman, Sir Roger Langley, was regarded as the likely runner-up in 1689. Bonython also stood unsuccessfully, probably with Clarges’s son, Sir Walter Clarges. The radical candidates were Matthews and James Dewey, whose father had sat for Dorset under the Protectorate. All were defeated by the Whigs Pulteney, ‘an experienced Parliament man’, and the Hon. Philip Howard, described as ‘an eminent Protestant sufferer’. The election was presumably close, for Pulteney’s son was so enraged at Bonython’s refusal to desist that he ‘offered several times to strike with his cane’ and even drew his pistol, but ‘was prevented by some of his own party’.4

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. W. H. Manchee, Westminster City Fathers, 5-6, 18; Particular Acct. of the Procs. at Old Bailey, 17-18 Oct. 1681.
  • 2. Parl. Intell. 2 Apr. 1660; Adm. 2/1745, f. 33; CJ, viii. 280.
  • 3. J. R. Jones, The First Whigs, 42, 168; Epistolary Curiosities of the Herbert Fam. ed. Warner, i. 105; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 13; Mexborough mss, Goodricke to Reresby, 21 Feb. 1679; CJ, ix. 571, 572; Add. 28930, f. 142; 29557, f. 114; Bodl. Carte 228, if. 105, 147; Dom. Intell. 12, 16, 23 Sept. 1679; Luttrell, i. 41; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 246; HMC 7th Rep. 475; Faithful Acct. of Election of Pulteney and Waller, 10 Feb. 1681; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 345; R. Pocock, Mems. Tufton Fam. 44.
  • 4. Epistolary Curiosities, i. 126; DNB; HMC Astley, 61; Orange Gazette, 7 Jan. 1689; Carte 40, f. 506.