Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of Qualified Electors:

rising from 260 in 1689 to 482 in 17261

Number of voters:

rising from at least 180 in 1695 to at least 253 in 1713


4 Nov. 1695HON. RALPH GREY151
 Sir Francis Blake103
15 Jan. 1701HON. RALPH GREY 
2 Dec. 1701SAMUEL OGLE 
9 Feb. 1702JONATHAN HUTCHINSON vice Blake, chose to sit for Northumberland 
25 July 1702SAMUEL OGLE 
18 May 1705SAMUEL OGLE 
12 May 1708SAMUEL OGLE161
 Sir Francis Blake1102
22 Dec. 1711RICHARD HAMPDEN vice Hutchinson, deceased130
 William Orde773
4 Sept. 1713RICHARD HAMPDEN196
 Grey Neville1514

Main Article

Though the Evans list claimed that there were 1,100 Dissenting ‘hearers’ at Berwick it was silent on the number of Dissenting voters in the borough. Contemporaries, however, were in no doubt as to the influence of Nonconformity in the town: in 1695 it was asserted that elections there were chiefly in the hands of ‘Presb[yterians] and Dissenters’, while in 1710 another observer claimed that Berwick was ‘riveted in fanaticism’. At least four of Berwick’s seven Members in this period were either Dissenters or had family links to Nonconformity. The strength of this interest in the corporation had been evident since the Restoration, and was considered an almost constant problem until the Revolution. The appointment as recorder in 1689 of Samuel Ogle, son of the rector ejected in 1662, was both a clear demonstration and a strengthening of the Dissenting interest. The reasons for the strength of Nonconformity in the borough are unclear, but it seems likely that proximity to Scotland and the Presbyterian sympathies of the Greys of Warke, one of the leading local families, were important factors. The Greys had wielded considerable influence at Berwick during the Restoration period and continued to do so after the Revolution, but the significant interest enjoyed by the Catholic lords Widdrington during the reigns of Charles II and James II was lost when the 3rd Lord Widdrington fled to the Continent at the Revolution. The collapse of the Widdrington interest may account for the weakness of Toryism at Berwick, and the strength of Whiggery in the borough is demonstrated by Hon. William Kerr’s desire to prevent news reaching Berwick in 1711 of his voting on the Tory side on a disputed election case for fear ‘my corporation would be angry at me for it’. The borough’s proximity to Scotland and concerns as to the loyalty of the neighbouring gentry nevertheless led the government to pay close attention to reports emanating from Berwick of disaffection, and to strengthen the town’s garrison at such times as the passage of the Scottish act of security in 1703 and the invasion scare of 1708. The other notable interest at Berwick in this period was that of the government, which stemmed from the borough’s status as a garrison town and port, but Court influence should not be overstated. The port’s customs and excise officials do not appear to have been utilized in any systematic manner by the government, and, though candidates thought the support of the town’s governor to be worth obtaining, there is little evidence of a candidate standing solely on the governor’s interest in this period. Indeed, the lack of barracks until 1711 and the consequent inconvenience to Berwick’s inhabitants in accommodating troops and obtaining arrears for quartering may well have been an irritant to the local population that lessened the governor’s interest.5

In 1690 two Whigs, Samuel Ogle and Sir Francis Blake, owner of the nearby Ford Castle, were returned unopposed, but five years later Blake was replaced, following a contested election, by Hon. Ralph Grey, brother of the Presbyterian Lord Grey of Warke. Blake petitioned against Ogle’s return, his claim that his majority of those ‘duly qualified to vote’ had been overturned by the actions of the mayor, Ogle’s brother-in-law, being referred on 25 Nov. 1695 to the elections committee. The report on 9 Mar. 1696 revealed that Blake’s case against Ogle rested on the contention that four of the latter’s voters had been sworn in as freemen six days after the teste of the writ, and that though a further three of Ogle’s voters were freemen they had not been sworn prior to the election. The two examples Blake cited of the House overturning an election due to the creation of voters after the teste of the writ were, however, countered by Ogle with two cases where the Commons had allowed such voters. The committee resolved that Ogle had been duly elected, and, without a division, the Commons agreed with this conclusion. The departure of Grey in the spring of 1698 to take up his new post of governor of Barbados led in the autumn to the unchallenged return of Blake and Ogle, and in the two elections of 1701 Ogle was returned unchallenged, first with Grey and then Blake. Blake, however, opted to sit for the county and in February 1702 was replaced by Jonathan Hutchinson, a Newcastle merchant and Nonconformist.

Hutchinson and Ogle were returned unopposed in 1702 and again in 1705, the suggestion in February 1705 that Edmund Maine*, governor of Berwick, was ‘in earnest setting up for that town’ apparently coming to nothing. A challenge to Hutchinson and Ogle was again contemplated in 1708, on this occasion by Blake. The outgoing Members had begun canvassing against the next election as early as December 1707, when Blake was urged to begin his applications. His supporters advised him to pay particular attention to redeem Maine’s promise to support him at the forthcoming election, and encouraged Blake that ‘several burgesses’ were said to ‘incline for a third person’ if ‘he appear in time’. Blake’s agent claimed at the end of December to have ‘one hundred voices certain, and within 10 or 12 of Hutchinson’, but this forecast proved to be unduly optimistic. In May 1708 Blake was comfortably defeated at the poll, and the decision of nearly half of the voters to vote for both Ogle and Hutchinson suggests that their common Dissenting sympathies had led them to form a joint interest. Canvassing was also intense in 1710, but did not lead to a poll. Hutchinson had begun soliciting votes by June 1710, and at the beginning of this month was joined in the lists by William Kerr, brother of the Duke of Roxburghe. Because of Kerr’s absence serving abroad his kinsman Sir William Kerr* and Roxburghe’s agent visited the borough to create an interest. The agent, though fearing that the Tory William Orde and the Scot Sir Andrew Hume* intended to offer their services, was confident of Kerr’s success. His optimism was rooted in Berwick’s desire to ‘have a North Briton for one of their Members’, and that the borough was keen that Kerr’s ‘interest . . . at Court . . . will be employed for the service at Berwick’. He claimed that Ogle, whose duties as an Irish revenue commissioner had led him to spend an increasing amount of time in Dublin, had ‘lost his interest’ but that although Hutchinson was keen to join Kerr it would be wiser for Kerr to stand alone, Kerr’s supporters being divided on their preference for the second seat. Roxburghe’s agent also claimed that Governor Maine had abandoned ideas of standing and thought this decision soundly based, Maine ‘being a Tory, and Berwick being entirely Whiggish’. The veracity of this latter judgment is suggested by the report of August that Berwick’s corporation had prepared an address condemning London’s Sacheverell riots as the work of ‘the implacable and restless enemies of the late happy Revolution’, and expressing ‘our utmost abhorrence and detestation of all anti-Revolution, arbitrary and enslaving principles’, though the same report claimed that the borough ‘could find none so hardy as to present it to the Queen’. Kerr’s managers were diligent in their campaign, spending over £400 to curry favour among the freemen, and his prospects were enhanced by the apparent failure of Orde and Hume to put up. The forecast that Maine had withdrawn was premature however, and the support he received from Thomas Forster II* suggested that the interest of the county’s Tory gentry was to be added to that of the governor. At the beginning of September William Dobyns, the lieutenant-governor, prepared a memorial stating that success at Berwick would require a purge of the port’s customs and excise officials, a promise to build barracks for the garrison and ‘good laws’ to encourage the borough’s fishing industry. However, Dobyns was uncertain if even these measures would secure electoral success, given the extensive treating already undertaken by Kerr and Hutchinson and the borough’s political inclinations. His concern proved accurate and in the middle of September Maine wrote to Robert Harley* that he had decided not to contest Berwick, having ‘been ill used by the Presbyterians of this place’. Maine’s withdrawal and the decision of Ogle to leave the Commons and focus his energies on retaining his office led to the unchallenged return of Kerr and Hutchinson. The Whig dominance of the borough continued at the by-election caused by Hutchinson’s death in 1711, when the Buckinghamshire Whig Richard Hampden II convincingly defeated Orde for the vacant seat. Hampden probably owed his seat to the support of his friend Henry Grey*, who in 1706 had inherited Northumberland property from the Greys of Warke, and in 1713 Hampden stood on a joint interest with Grey’s brother Grey Neville* against Orde. Though Hampden topped the poll, Neville was pipped for second place by Orde. A newsletter claimed that Orde’s success was in large part due to the ‘67 single voices’ he polled, and claimed that ‘the interest of the Whigs, which has always prevailed in that town, declines apace’. In 1714, however, Orde complained to the Earl of Oxford (as Harley had become) of the ill-treatment he had received at the previous year’s election from those who ‘owes their bread to the government’, claiming that this had forced him to spend £1,500 on his election.6

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. J. Scott, NHist. Berwick-upon-Tweed, 289.
  • 2. Northumb. RO (Morpeth), Delaval (Hastings) mss 650/C/30, poll bk. [1708], misdated [1698] in HMC 10th Rep. VI, 187; Scott, 380.
  • 3. Evening Post, 27–29 Dec. 1711.
  • 4. Daily Courant, 10 Sept. 1713.
  • 5. Bodl. Carte 228, f. 123; Add. 70278, memorial of Dobyns, 4 Sept. 1710; 61631, ff. 40–47; 61652, f. 50; 61609, ff. 86, 88–89; Scott, 221–2, 364–5; Calamy Revised ed. Matthew, 372; L. Gooch, The Desperate Faction? 10, 17–18; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 90, 554; 1690–1, p. 67; 1691–2, p. 284; 1697, pp. 190–1, 192; 1703–4, pp. 96, 537; HMC Portland, iv. 70, 482; F. Sheldon, Hist. Berwick-upon-Tweed, 235–6; Roxburghe mss at Floors Castle bdle. 749, Kerr to his mother, 25 Jan. 1710[–11]; Northumb. RO (Berwick), Berwick bor. recs. guild letter bk. 69/1, ff. 118–21.
  • 6. Northumb. RO (Newcastle), Black Gate Deeds B25/IV/94, Joseph Barnes to Sir Francis Blake 25 Feb. 1704[–5]; 99, Robert Blake to same, [16 Dec. 1707], 16, 17, 30 Dec. 1707, 3 Jan. 1707[–8], John Johnson jnr. to same, 21 Dec. 1707; 101, John Johnson snr. and junr. and George Watson to [same], 17 Dec. 1707; SRO, Ogilvy of Inverquharity mss GD205/33/3/10/42, William Jamisone to (Sir) William Bennet*, 6 June 1710; Add. 70421, newsletter 5 Aug. 1710; 70278, memorial of Dobyns, 4 Sept. 1710; 70202, Maine to [Harley], 13 Sept. 1710; 70203, Orde to Oxford, 23 Apr. 1714; Roxburghe mss bdle. 791, Kerr to mother, 26 June N.S. 1710; bdle. 762, same to same, 30 June, 5 July N.S. 1710; bdle. 1074, same to same, 11, [18], Aug. 1710; bdle. 193, acct. of election expenses; HMC Portland, iv. 598; v. 334; SRO, Eglinton mss GD3/5/893, Montrose to Hugh Montgomerie*, 25 Aug. 1713.