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:

over 3,000 in 1705


 Thomas Foley I
10 Apr. 1661SIR JOHN PAKINGTON, 2nd Bt.
8 Apr. 1685SIR JOHN PAKINGTON, 3rd Bt.
 Thomas Foley II
15 Jan. 1689SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, Bt.

Main Article

Much of the political history of Worcestershire in this period can be told in terms of the rivalry between the royalist Sandys and Pakington families, on the one hand, and on the other the Presbyterian Foleys, who had recently acquired a fortune in the iron industry, and even more recently invested it in land. But as prominent Cavaliers neither Samuel Sandys nor his brother-in-law Sir John Pakington could contest the general election of 1660 under the Long Parliament ordinance. Henry Bromley and John Talbot were both ‘arrant Cavaliers by generation and education’, but the former had been appointed to the commission of the peace under the Protectorate, and the latter, though an active royalist conspirator, might be held to have shown his good affection to Parliament by standing in 1659. Richard Baxter and other Presbyterian divines canvassed on behalf of Thomas Foley, and Edward Harley came over from Herefordshire ‘to compose the differences’, no doubt by persuading one of the royalist candidates to withdraw. Great play was made of the insolent behaviour of the soldiers, and Foley was defeated.1

By 1661 royalist sentiment was running so high that all the four candidates were strong Anglicans, though it was suspected, however absurdly, that the septuagenarian Sir Ralph Clare was influenced by his neighbour, Baxter. His colleague, Sir Henry Lyttelton, had been a royalist conspirator. Talbot, whose purse may have been unequal to another contest, found a borough seat for himself in Yorkshire, and Bromley never stood again. Nevertheless the election inspired considerable excitement. The sheriff was forced to adjourn it to the fields outside Worcester, where Clare and Lyttelton declined in favour of Pakington and Sandys.2

At the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament Sandys expressed a wish to retreat to Droitwich, but this would have placed Henry Coventry in jeopardy, and he was persuaded to stand for the county again, though neither Lyttelton nor Sir Francis Russell could be induced to join him. It is not clear whether Pakington stood, though he signed the indenture. But there may have been a contest, since the election was again adjourned into the fields. Sandys was returned with Foley’s son, an exclusionist. John Swinfen was told that in the autumn election of 1679 a second court candidate appeared in the person of Edward Dineley of Charlton, but he was ‘put by’ in favour of the sitting Members without a contest:

There was a very numerous appearance on both sides, but I believe had they gone to the poll Mr Foley would have had many the most voices, though the gentry did their utmost for the colonel [Sandys].

Sandys would only stand again in 1681 if assured of an unopposed return. Desperate at the prospect of losing the second seat to the exclusionists, Lord Windsor, the lord lieutenant, and Lord Coventry offered not to oppose Foley if he would undertake to stand down at the next election. When this failed they called a gentry meeting and asked for a subscription for ‘gallant old Sam’ to cover the expenses of a poll.

Some gentlemen began to reflect smartly on the project and said it was dangerous. Then they asked who should be put up, and could not agree. My lord [Windsor] then said, ‘Mr Foley must stand and nobody will oppose him’. Mr Foley recommended to them Mr Bridges Nanfan, and they will be the men nemine contradicente.

Although Nanfan was barely of sufficient status for a knight of the shire, the prediction of Swinden’s correspondent proved correct. An election ballad celebrated the triumph of the country candidates over the two peers, Windsor (who had voted for the acquittal of Lord Stafford) and Coventry:

A Nanfan, a Foley, a Nanfan, a Foley

Shall have our votes solely,

Two Englishmen trusty and true,

’Gainst all court designers

And country underminers,

‘Not Guilty’ and Coventry blue.3

Windsor, created Earl of Plymouth in 1682, was determined that the ‘ill men’ who had sat at Oxford should not be re-elected to James II’s Parliament. As recorder of Worcester he was able to offer Nanfan a seat there, and for the county he proposed Pakington’s heir and James Pytts, who as MP for Leominster had voted against exclusion. Foley threatened ‘to oppose all’ but without success. In September 1688, however, the King’s electoral agents expected him to be chosen with another Whig, Sir James Rushout, who had acquired an estate in the county as recently as 1683, and they were duly returned to the Convention.4

Author: Edward Rowlands


  • 1. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 642, 644, 672; HMC Laing, i. 311.
  • 2. Townshend’s Diary (Worcs. Rec. Soc), ii. 292; W. Hughes, Grand Abridgement (1663), 2316.
  • 3. Bath mss, Coventry pprs. 19, ff. 150, 152; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 174; Add. 29910, ff. 150, 172; Vis. Worcs. ed. Metcalfe, 42; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 302; Bagford Ballads ed. Ebsworth, 1000; Jones, First Whigs, 162.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1685, p. 23.