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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 235 in 1690


28 Feb. 1690John Michel 
 Stephen Evance160
 John Manley149
25 Oct. 1695Sir Stephen Evance 
 Nicholas Carey 
 John Manley 
22 Dec. 1697Peter Battiscombe vice Carey, deceased 
 John Manley 
4 Aug. 1698Peter Battiscombe 
 Alexander Pitfield 
10 Jan. 1701Alexander Pitfield 
 William Gulston 
26 Nov. 1701Alexander Pitfield 
 William Gulston 
20 July 1702Alexander Pitfield 
 Richard Bingham 
14 May 1705Alexander Pitfield 
 Thomas Strangways 
10 May 1708Thomas Strangways 
 William Coventry 
12 Oct. 1710Thomas Strangways 
 William Coventry 
29 Aug. 1713William Coventry 
 John Hoskins Gifford 

Main Article

There was no controlling interest at Bridport although some influence was exercised by the Strangways family of Melbury Sampford, strong Tories in whom the high stewardship of the borough was virtually hereditary. Thomas Strangways I sat for the county throughout the period until his death in 1713, and his son (Thomas II) was not of age until the 1705 election. Consequently the Strangways took little part in Bridport elections during William’s reign. Their absence may account for the number of Whigs with Dissenting connexions, and the number of wealthy outsiders, particularly London bankers, who represented Bridport.1

In 1690 three Whigs stood: John Michel I, a Dorset landowner, who had represented the borough in 1681, Stephen Evance, a wealthy London banker, and John Manley†, who had represented the borough in 1689 and had land nearby. Manley, who was no match for Evance financially, was defeated and petitioned against the banker on 24 Mar. 1690. He was backed by a second petition, presented on the same day, from a number of inhabitants who claimed that the bailiff had polled several unqualified voters for Evance. Both petitions were referred and no action was taken that session. Manley renewed his in the following October and this time the committee did report, confirming Evance’s election. The House agreed on 22 Dec. The 1695 election was contested. Manley and Evance both stood and the third candidate was another wealthy London banker and Whig, Nicholas Carey. Defeated by the two richer men, Manley petitioned against Carey’s return, but no action was taken. His last attempt to secure a seat came in the 1697 by-election caused by Carey’s death. His opponent was a local landowner and Country Whig, Peter Battiscombe. Defeated as usual, Manley was soon afterwards imprisoned for debt. Presumably his desire to escape this fate was the reason behind his three ill-fated attempts to obtain a seat, which he could clearly not afford. In 1698 Battiscombe was joined by yet another Londoner, Alexander Pitfield of Hoxton, Middlesex, whose family had strong links with Bridport. In December 1700 William Gulston, a London lawyer, was reported to be ‘gone down to Bridport to try his fortune there where only he, Pitfield and Manley stand’. In the event, John Manley*, who had succeeded his father in 1699, did not contest the seat, leaving Gulston and Pitfield to be returned, as they were again in November 1701. In February 1702 Gulston brought in a bill to clear and repair Bridport’s harbour and port, which was defeated at the 1st reading on 19 Feb. During the debate, Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., ‘reflected severely’ upon Gulston and Pitfield ‘as being elected there by indirect means’, presumably a reference to bribery.2

In 1702 Pitfield was again returned but, probably because of the changed political climate at the start of Anne’s reign, the second seat went for the first time to a Tory, Richard Bingham, a local squire. This shift towards having one Member from the Tory gentry continued in 1705, when Thomas Strangways II, now of age, and shortly afterwards elected recorder, was returned and held the seat until 1713, when he transferred to the county, vacated by his father’s death. His place at Bridport was taken by John Hoskins Gifford, another Tory country gentleman. The second seat continued to be held by Whig outsiders: Pitfield in 1705 and William Coventry, for the remaining three elections.3

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 8; Parlty. Hist. vi. 253.
  • 2. Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF 3110, John Freke to Edward Clarke I*, 24 Dec. 1700; Cocks Diary, 220.
  • 3. Dorset RO, Bridport mss B3/H1, p. 559.