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 276 in 1701; at least 404 in 1713


 Richard Farington 
 John Braman 
29 Oct. 1695RICHARD JONES, Earl of Ranelagh [I] 
 John Braman 
 Richard Farington 
 Richard Jones, Earl of Ranelagh [I] 
7 Jan. 1701SIR THOMAS MAY 
24 Nov. 1701JOHN MILLER222
 Sir Richard Farington, Bt.1341
16 July 1702JOHN MILLER 
 John Miller 
26 Nov. 1705THOMAS ONSLOW vice Elson, deceased 
 Sir Thomas Littleton, Bt. 
 Thomas Carr 
 John Elson 
31 Aug. 1713WILLIAM ELSON II239
 Sir John Miller, Bt.175
 Sir Richard Farington, Bt.1642

Main Article

Chichester had held a charter since the 12th century, although the charter in force in this period was that imposed by James II in 1685: it defined the corporation as consisting of a mayor, recorder and some eight aldermen and 40 common councilmen. There was no controlling interest at Chichester but the corporation, which was largely Tory dominated, had some influence in parliamentary elections, partly through its control over the election of the mayor, who acted as the returning officer. Two peers with large neighbouring estates could also exert considerable influence: the 6th Duke of Somerset, who was seated at Petworth, some 14 miles away and who was also the borough’s high steward; and the 3rd Lord Grey of Warke (Earl of Tankerville from 1695), who owned the Uppark estate in Sussex.3

In 1690 the two outgoing Members both stood for re-election: Sir Thomas Miller, a local man, who was leader of the Tory group on the council and Thomas May of Lavant, two miles from Chichester, another Tory whose brother Richard May was the town’s recorder. They were opposed by two Whigs, Richard Farington, a local man who had sat for the borough in 1681, and whose father had also represented it in 1660 and 1679 and Major John Braman, the stepfather of Farington’s first wife, also a local man. Farington had inherited a considerable amount of property in Chichester and stood on his own interest, although he and Braman probably enjoyed the support of Lord Grey since all three had espoused Monmouth’s cause in 1685. May and Miller were successful and Farington and Braman both presented petitions alleging bribery and ‘ill practices’ but, although the petitions were renewed in the next two sessions, they were never reported. In the next election, Miller and May stood down and Farington and Braman were opposed by William Elson I, a Tory member of the common council, whose seat at Oving was just over two miles away, and a courtier, the Earl of Ranelagh. Being without a seat in 1695, Ranelagh had persuaded Somerset to put him up for Chichester. Ranelagh wrote to the Duke of Shrewsbury on 25 Oct. that:

the Duke of Somerset, being high steward of the city of Chichester, hath lately recommended me to them for one of their representatives . . . His grace . . . gives me great hopes his recommendation will succeed, I having joined forces with one Mr Elson, a rich inhabitant there . . . Being not able, for want of health, to go down thither myself, I have sent two or three drinking proxies to manage my pretence . . . The opposition I am like to meet with will arise from my Lord Tankerville, who sets up Major Braman and one Farington against us . . . I am, therefore, advised to do all I can to pacify his lordship before the election comes on.

He asked Shrewsbury to lay the matter before the King and

If he be willing I should persist in my pretence there, your grace will then, it may be, think it necessary to write a word or two, either in the King’s name or your own, to the opposing lord that he may be more merciful to a brother Privy Councillor.

Shrewsbury replied that the King had delayed making a decision until it was too late to write the desired letter. All Shrewsbury could get from William was a letter to the Earl of Bath, recommending Ranelagh to his attention if he failed at Chichester. Although John Freke had assured Robert Harley* that Farington and Braman stood the best chance, in fact Ranelagh and Elson were returned, partly as a result of the support of the bishop of Chichester and the cathedral clergy. Robert Middleton, the vicar of Cuckfield, wrote to his brother-in-law:

Lord Ranelagh and Mr Elson are returned, but I am assured by some of the townsmen I was in company with at Chichester, that the election will be disputed in Parliament, not only because ’twas carried by the votes of the clergy of the Close, whose right to vote is much questioned there, . . . but also because of a riot committed by Mr Elson’s party on Major Braman’s and Mr Farington’s in which Mr Elson is said to be in person, and because of his and his party’s great tampering and threatening honest tradesmen (great treats also being made) to increase his party, and lessen the other. And this, I have heard from divers, has made a mighty feud in the town, the effects of which among neighbours are said to be deplorable.

In fact only Braman presented a petition against Elson, and it was never heard. Ranelagh reckoned the election had cost him £500.4

For the 1698 election Somerset and Tankerville buried their differences and worked together. At Chichester, they seem to have agreed to support Ranelagh and Farington. Tankerville persuaded Braman to stand down, but the situation was complicated by the appearance of another candidate, John Miller, the son of Sir Thomas Miller and a moderate Tory. Tankerville wrote to Somerset:

Your grace may see that Major Braman is entirely at your disposal and that the greatest difficulty he apprehends is from the extraordinary temper of Sir Richard Farington, for whom I can answer nothing but that he is not to be answered for, and yet the management of that worthy knight, I fear, must be my province.

Tankerville failed to persuade Farington to join with Ranelagh and it soon emerged that in fact Farington was standing with Miller. Farington and Miller’s partnership might have been predicted as in 1697 Farington’s son had married Miller’s daughter, and Farington appears to have calculated that his chances of success were rather better with Miller than Ranelagh. On 21 July Tankerville informed Somerset that Miller and Farington’s

interest was not to be shook at this time, the election being so near; as great a mortification as this may be to your grace or me, it must be submitted to now, since there is no remedy, as must also the unfair treatment you have met with from Captain Miller, till there be a proper season to resent it and then I hope your grace will make him sensible of his folly (I might call it worse) in not paying you that duty and respect which he promised under his hand. Had your grace and I been one week sooner in the county, I am well assured Chichester would have been better served with representatives than will be chosen on Saturday and that I will make a demonstration to your grace when I have the honour to wait on you, and will propose such a method to you of commanding that city for the future that in all elections to come it shall be at your disposal.

As expected, Ranelagh lost the election but did not bother to petition, Somerset having secured his return at Marlborough.5

In the first 1701 election two Tories were returned, apparently unchallenged: Thomas May, now knighted, and Elson. Elson stood again in November 1701 and before the election he attempted to enlist the support of John Lewknor* of nearby West Dean, writing to him on 23 Nov. that he required him to influence the vote of one ‘Alderman Smith’ which he believed was in Lewknor’s power. May was replaced by John Miller, but it is unclear whether he was standing with Elson against his erstwhile partner Farington, who in this election was the defeated candidate. At the accession of Anne in 1702 the Tory zeal of the corporation was demonstrated in a series of spectacular ceremonies to celebrate the Queen’s coronation for which Elson provided free wine, and Miller and Elson were returned in an uncontested general election that year. Elson and Miller again stood in 1705, but the Duke of Richmond, who had bought the nearby Goodwood House and manor in 1697, put up Sir Thomas Littleton, 3rd Bt., treasurer of the navy and a Whig. Richmond had turned Catholic under James II, but reverted to the Anglican church in 1692 and now supported the Whigs. Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*) wrote to the Duchess of Marlborough on 12 May:

Littleton has thrown out Miller at Chichester. The Duke of Richmond set up Littleton and he was so transported with joy for his victory, that he writ a short account of his success upon an open piece of paper and sent it as the news of Blenheim came to your grace.

After his victory, the Whig newspaper, the Post Man, reported that Littleton ‘was waited on by above 150 of his electors on horseback as far as Midhurst, ten miles from Chichester, where he was entertained by them, and his grace the Duke of Richmond accompanied him as far as Guildford’. On Elson’s death later in 1705 his seat was taken, with Somerset’s support, by Thomas Onslow, son and heir of Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt.*6

Before the next election the local Whigs and Tories, in an attempt to prevent further expensive contests and to curtail the influence of the neighbouring aristocracy, negotiated an agreement to share the representation of the borough both in Parliament and on the corporation. In an unusually formal arrangement, 11 articles were drawn up ‘for maintaining and preserving the peace of the city of Chichester’ and signed for the Whigs by Sir Richard and John Farington and for the Tories by Thomas Carr of Chichester, a kinsman of the Elsons and (Sir) John Miller, (2nd Bt.), who had succeeded to the baronetcy in 1705 and in February 1707 had married William Elson I’s sister. In the document it was agreed that the Faringtons, on behalf of one party, and Miller and Carr for the other, ‘shall, during the lives of the said parties, recommend one candidate for each party, to stand at the future elections of Members of Parliament, to be chosen for the said city by the consent of both parties’, and that neither of the said parties shall recommend or make the interest for any person to be a Member of Parliament for the said city, that shall be recommended by any peer of this realm unless it be with the mutual consent of both parties. If a Member died before the dissolution, the party ‘on whose behalf such member was chosen, shall have the liberty of recommending another to be chosen in his place, by consent of both parties’. They further agreed to take turns nominating the officers of the corporation, from the mayor and bailiff down to the churchwardens; to nominate one ‘burgess’ apiece to be added to the corporation every year; and, when new freemen were made, the two parties would nominate an equal number. In accordance with the spirit of the agreement, Farington and Carr, who was mayor that year, stood in the 1708 election, but Richmond, who was not a party to the agreement, insisted on putting up Littleton again. His interest could not prevail, however, and Littleton was defeated. Both Littleton and a number of local inhabitants presented petitions against Farington, and although they were ordered to be heard at the bar on 24 Mar. 1709, no further action was taken.7

By the 1710 election Miller’s connexion with the Elsons had ended with the death of his wife and his remarriage. He stood against the Elson interest, represented by Carr and John Elson, a nephew of William Elson I, who appear to have been the corporation’s choice. The fourth candidate was Farington, who probably stood with Miller, and these two were successful. A petition from Carr and Elson and several Chichester inhabitants was presented but not heard in this session. It was renewed a year later and reported on 13 Mar. 1712, when counsel for the petitioners urged that the election be declared void, claiming that

the petitioners were surprised for want of notice of the election, and that neither of them, nor any on their behalf, appearing at the election, the mayor, without making the usual proclamation for the voters to come in, declared there was no poll, and returned the sitting Members, upon four or five members only without taking the votes of many others, some of which were at the election and the rest coming to it.

Since it was established that the election had been held on Tuesday 3 Oct., and that notice of it had been given on the previous Friday, the committee resolved that legal notice had been given and upheld the return of the sitting Members. The House endorsed their resolution. The identity of the parties to the petition suggests that the Elson interest may have gained the upper hand in the corporation. Although the petition failed, the corporation showed its determination to be rid of Farington and Miller by not only selecting two candidates to run against them at the next election, William Elson II, the Tory son of William Elson I, and Hon. James Brudenell, a Whig and Richmond’s brother-in-law, but in the meantime choosing these two ‘loyal gentlemen’ to present the borough’s address of thanks for the peace, ‘instead of their present Members’. At the 1713 election these two stood in partnership against the sitting Members, thus providing the unusual spectacle, for this election, of one Whig–Tory partnership opposing another. After their defeat, Farington and Miller petitioned, accusing the sitting Members and their agents of bribery and intimidation, claiming that the ‘mayor and his officers did threaten several public house keepers with pulling down their signs, and to take away their licences, if they voted for the petitioners’, but the petition went unreported and Elson and Brudenell remained in their seats until the end of the period.8

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Hants RO, Knight mss, box 29/bdle. k, Chichester poll 21 Oct. 1701.
  • 2. Post Boy, 1–3 Sept. 1713.
  • 3. A. Hay, Chichester, 579–601.
  • 4. Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; 40771, ff. 75, 83; Suss. Arch. Colls. cvi. 154; Harvard Univ. Baker Lib. Kress coll. LRO ii. 2, Ranelagh to William Blathwayt*, 26 May 1696 (Horwitz trans.).
  • 5. Egremont mss at Petworth House, Tankerville to Somerset, 20, 21 July 1698 (Horwitz trans.); CSP. Dom. 1698, p. 368.
  • 6. Knight mss, box 24/5, Elson to Lewknor, 23 Nov. 1701; Suss. Arch. Colls. xxxiv. 188–90; D. Hunn, Goodwood, 28–29, 32; London Gazette, 2–6 Apr. 1702; Post Man, 21–23 May 1702; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 104.
  • 7. Speck, 57–58; Bodl. William Bromley’s Parlty. Pprs. ii. 119; Hay, 571.
  • 8. Post Boy, 30 May–2 June 1713.