Castle Rising


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 burgage holders

Number of Qualified Electors:

about 601

Number of voters:



30 Apr. 1701HON. ROBERT CECIL  vice Howard, deceased
1 Dec. 1701RICHARD JONES, Earl of Ranelagh [I]
2 Feb. 1702WILLIAM CAVENDISH,  Mq. of Hartington, vice Ranelagh, chose to sit for West Looe
29 May 1705HON. WILLIAM FEILDING vice Clayton, chose to sit for London
11 Dec. 1710HORATIO WALPOLE I vice Walpole, chose to sit for King’s Lynn
22 Apr. 1713WALPOLE re-elected after appointment to office

Main Article

Castle Rising had been a pocket borough of the Duke of Norfolk, who as lord of the manor controlled most of the burgages. However, the Duke was in financial difficulties and the two Members he returned in 1690, both of them Whigs, each coveted it for themselves: Hon. Sir Robert Howard of Ashtead in Surrey, a kinsman of Norfolk and one who advised him on money matters, wished to buy him out, while Robert Walpole I of Houghton, a considerable local squire who acted as a kind of ‘superior agent or commissioner’ for the Duke’s Norfolk property, was from about 1690 onwards building up a separate interest, acquiring burgages not under the control of the lord of the manor. For a time Howard was frustrated in his desire to buy the manor by the refusal of Norfolk’s estranged wife to give up the interest in the property vested in her by her marriage settlement, but eventually she and the Duke came to an agreement, and in May 1695 Thomas Howard of Ashtead, Sir Robert’s son and heir, was able to make the purchase. Meanwhile, Robert Walpole I, adding his own acquisitions to the holdings of his relations and followers, and augmenting their combined strength by ‘dividing of the burgages’, had established an interest of about 25 votes, which alarmed Howard’s agents and provoked the new lord of the manor to reply in kind. The ensuing competition for burgages raised their price from between £20 and £30 each to near £300. As the 1695 election approached, Howard and Walpole jockeyed for supremacy. Howard announced his intention of putting up a candidate or candidates as early as August 1695, an action which, his agents told him, frightened the other side into using ‘all their arts and industry to defeat you’. Walpole offered to share the representation, by the return of both outgoing Members. Then, when Howard failed to answer him, some of Walpole’s supporters made a strong attempt to secure the election of one of their side as mayor. Since the mayor was the returning officer at the parliamentary election, ‘they thought it the best expedient to support themselves . . . hoping by that means to get him [Walpole] returned if they were outvoted’. Walpole later excused this involvement in a municipal election by explaining to Howard that he had been acting only in self-defence, Howard’s own choice for the mayoralty having declared that ‘if I was duly elected [to Parliament] he would not return me’. Walpole’s advantage in being on the spot was balanced by Howard’s narrow majority among the voters and by the industry of Howard’s agents, the most diligent of whom, Matthew Bolton, the rector of Castle Rising, sent the lord of the manor a full account of the proceedings. According to Bolton, ‘Colonel Walpole’s friends’, having first persuaded one of Howard’s side to desert and to stand for mayor, procured a writ against the rector himself, who had a key role in the nomination of candidates in the mayoral election, to prevent his attendance. But, by smuggling himself and the Howard candidate into the church, where the election for mayor took place, and hiding in the steeple, Bolton evaded the bailiffs until the arrival of Walpole, who forbade the tactic. Then, ‘a little before they were to go to elect’, a ‘letter of accommodation’ was received from Howard about the parliamentary election which Walpole greeted joyfully, though not all his party were of the same mind. Bolton was still suspicious of them, and would not acquiesce in the proposal that Walpole’s candidate be chosen mayor, as he explained to Howard:

we durst not hazard your honour’s interest in his hands, for though Colonel Walpole has received your honour’s desires for to join his interest with yours for Sir Robert, and he hath ordered Mr Cufaude to let you know that he doth readily agree with you and that you need not trouble your friends to come down, for those that vote for him shall vote for Sir Robert, and though I do really believe Colonel Walpole to be very sincere and hearty in what he saith, yet in my foolish opinion it is not safe for you to venture it so, but to send all your friends down, for first it will confirm your friends’ votes and render them unquestionable afterwards, if any dispute should arise about a future election, and then, if any [of] the colonel’s discontented party should prove ungovernable and take the advantage of our weakness to set up a burgess out of themselves contrary to the desires and interests of Colonel Walpole, by the appearance of your friends, if any such thought or contrivance should be, they would be prevented and defeated, and besides, the view of your strength now may be a check to any person that may undertake to rival your interest hereafter.

‘The great difference’ having been made up, Howard and Walpole were returned, thereby inaugurating an election compact between the two interests that was to last until the borough was disfranchised under the Great Reform Act.2

Although Howard and Walpole had come to an understanding, there was still some tension between them. Matters were in general carried on politely between the principals; less so by their supporters. In 1696 Walpole tried to enforce an arrangement he claimed to have made with one of Howard’s agents, Matthew Cufaude, by which in return for withdrawing in 1695 the Walpole candidate was to have been chosen mayor the following year. Cufaude’s position was delicate: as well as being receiver-general of rents for the Howard property at Castle Rising he was cousin to Walpole and served as a clerk in the office of Walpole’s son-in-law (Sir) Charles Turner* at King’s Lynn. Howard having objected to Walpole’s man on personal grounds, Walpole ‘and his friends’, reported Matthew Bolton, ‘upon more mature thought were not willing to disoblige your honour by contesting for a mayor and prohibited their burgers’ [burgage holders] appearance, and as they thought it not safe to set up against Dodding [the Howard candidate], so they were resolved not to be for him’. There was, however, some last-minute opposition, in which Cufaude was involved, and Dodding was only narrowly defeated. Howard had reason to think that Cufaude was also deceiving him over his rents, and probably dismissed him not long afterwards. There was a further outbreak of bad feeling in 1699, Walpole writing to Howard as follows after the latter had made known his wish to have Dodding re-elected mayor:

as I have always agreed to anything you have thought fit to have done in the borough, so I must readily comply with your present desires. I have only to say, if you had pleased to have been now as free with me as you have formerly been upon the like occasion, you should have found the same readiness to serve you. I hope you have no reason to question my integrity, either to yourself or the government, but since you left the country the freedom Mr Dighton [Howard’s Ashtead agent] has taken of telling several persons, I have not of late behaved myself to you as I ought to have done, and that you had declared, you should not like anybody that kept a good correspondence with me, makes me take this occasion to acquaint you with it, because I am confident, he had no such authority from you to say any such thing, and to assure you, as I am very easy in the many promises you have made me of your interest, so my honour is equally engaged to you.

A visit to Houghton by Howard was necessary to restore harmony, and presumably while there he promised his future support to Walpole’s son Robert II, who aspired to succeed his ailing father in the borough, for when Robert Walpole the elder died, in November 1700, the son immediately reminded Howard of ‘that confidence in me, which you were pleased to express’ and sought his assistance to put up. The young Walpole promised to honour his father’s ‘obligations’ and always to ‘make it my business to preserve a good correspondence betwixt the families by a joint interest’ at Rising. Howard seemed pleased to agree, replying:

as yours came to me, I had writ one . . . for your father, to let him know I was pretty well informed the present Parliament would be dissolved, and to bid him look about him. Pray therefore be very careful to hinder any tricks, when it draws near the time that the writs are out, agree with Hillman [evidently Cufaude’s successor] if my votes must appear, though I hope there may be no more occasion than last time.

Walpole was entirely confident. ‘Since you are pleased to join interests’, he wrote, ‘there is so little reason for any apprehensions in Rising, that I cannot believe anybody can entertain the least thoughts of appearing there but ourselves’. His confidence was justified.3

Soon after the general election of January 1701 Howard died, leaving an only son and heir aged 14. Walpole saw an opportunity and suggested that his uncle Horatio Walpole I might stand, but his father’s friends and connexions counselled against challenging the Howards, nor did Uncle Horatio wish to do so, and when Thomas Howard’s widow, Lady Diana, wrote to inform Robert Walpole that she was recommending Hon. Robert Cecil, ‘a relation of Mr Howard’s and a fit person to serve the borough’, and that she expected his support, he did not disappoint her. Just to make sure, however, she sent down her agent from Ashtead with some 14 voters. Cecil was ‘unanimously chosen’, though Walpole’s supporters looked askance at ‘Mr Dighton and his 14’. There was a ‘full appearance of burgage holders, about 50’, and entertainment, with ‘meat enough, and plenty of wine’ at a cost to the Howards of about £20. Having tried the temperature of the water, Walpole subsequently kept to the election compact, at first with an almost exaggerated punctiliousness, and there was never again the hint of a contest in this period. Walpole was rewarded in February 1702 when Lady Diana nominated the young Lord Hartington, for whom Walpole had ‘the greatest honour’, after her first choice Lord Ranelagh, not a man he at all approved of, had opted for another seat. At Hartington’s election ‘there was not any of the Surrey men come down’ and ‘the grand alliance [was] strictly observed’.4

In the general election of 1702 Walpole’s Tory uncle Horatio, who had some interest of his own at Castle Rising, said that he would now like to stand, and Walpole was advised, ‘to avoid any opposition with your uncle’, to let him in and be returned himself for King’s Lynn. Hearing that there was some ‘competition’ for Lady Diana’s nomination between Ranelagh and Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt., neither of whom was sure of his election elsewhere, Robert Walpole wrote to let her know, ‘if my inclination, and the opinion of all the gentlemen near the borough can render either more acceptable to your Ladyship’, that the choice of Littleton would be ‘a greater pleasure to us’ than that of someone ‘who has no merit there but your Ladyship’s bare recommendation’. Littleton was accordingly recommended, and returned. Although unable or unwilling to displace his uncle, Walpole was now in a stronger position vis-à-vis the Howard interest, which following her son’s death in 1702 Lady Diana enjoyed in her own right. In 1705 she remarried, not long after the election, at which she had returned her late husband’s friend, Sir Robert Clayton. Clayton choosing to sit for London instead, she had then nominated in his place her husband-to-be, Hon. William Feilding. The following year, informed from Castle Rising that Robert Walpole’s candidate for mayor, who ‘for several late years’ had held that office alternately with a Howard man, was ‘a scandal to the corporation’, she proposed to set up someone else, but when Walpole protested she probably backed down. Her supporters considered that Walpole, while he owned no more than six acres in the borough, none the less could now command about 30 votes there, which gave him marginally the stronger interest. There was a rumour in 1708 that Lady Diana would again oppose Walpole’s mayoral candidate but it came to nothing, and in 1713 Walpole was able to exclude his uncle from the parliamentary representation in favour of his own brother Horatio II, a Whig.5

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Blomefield’s Norf. Supp. ed. Ingleby, 33.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1700–2, pp. 568–9; Blomefield’s Norf. Supp. 32–37; Add. 29566, f. 44; Arundel Castle Archs. ed. Steer, ii. 81; J. H. Plumb, Walpole, i. 57–58; Norf. RO, Howard (Castle Rising) mss, Christopher Dighton to Thomas Howard, 13 June 1695, Bolton and Matthew Cufaude to same, 9 Aug. 1695, Robert Walpole I to same, 30 Aug. [1696]; Camb. Univ. Lib. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Edmund Hamond to Robert Walpole II, 7 Apr. 1701.
  • 3. Howard (Castle Rising) mss, Robert Walpole I to Thomas Howard, 30 Aug., 11 Sept. [1696], 15 Sept. 1699, Bolton to same, 19 Oct. 1696, Lionel Herne to same, 12 Mar. 1697[–8], Robert Walpole II to same, 20 Nov., 2 Dec. 1700; J. H. Plumb, Men and Places, 145; Blomefield’s Norf. Supp. 35, 38–39; Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Howard to Robert Walpole II, 25 Nov. 1700.
  • 4. Chicago Univ. Lib. Walpole mss, Horatio I to Robert Walpole II, 4, 20 Apr. 1701, James Hoste† to same, 30 Apr. [1701]; Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, Edmund Hamond to Robert Walpole, 7, 21 Apr. 1701, Charles Turner to same, 9 Apr. 1701, Lady Diana Howard to same, 17, 21 Apr. 1701, John Wrott to same, 1 May 1701, 4 Feb. 1702, Hoste to same, 2 Feb. 1702; Blomefield’s Norf. Supp. 42–3; Howard (Castle Rising) mss, Robert Walpole II to Lady Diana, 17 Nov. 1701, 11 Jan. 1701[–2].
  • 5. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss, John Turner* to [Robert Walpole II], 8 May 1702, 19 Feb. 1705, Lady Diana Feilding to same, 3 Oct. 1706; Howard (Castle Rising) mss, Robert Walpole II to Lady Diana, 3 June 1702, 16 Sept. 1706, Thomas Wilkinson to same, 2 Sept. 1706, 27 Sept., 28 Oct. 1708, E. Smith to same, 30 Aug. 1708; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 331.