Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in freeholders, copyholders and leaseholders for three years
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
134 in 1714
|24 Feb. 1690||EDMUND RICHMOND WEBB|
|23 Oct. 1695||CHARLES FOX||61|
|EDMUND RICHMOND WEBB||50|
|Joseph Haskins Stiles||151|
|25 July 1698||CHARLES FOX|
|Joseph Haskins Stiles|
|26 Jan. 1699||SIR STEPHEN FOX vice Fox, chose to sit for Salisbury|
|7 Jan. 1701||EDMUND DUNCH|
|SIR STEPHEN FOX|
|22 Nov. 1701||EDMUND DUNCH|
|SIR STEPHEN FOX|
|18 July 1702||THOMAS RICHMOND WEBB||82|
|Sir George Hanger||15|
|12 May 1705||EDMUND DUNCH||112|
|Thomas Richmond Webb||48|
|6 May 1708||EDMUND DUNCH|
|3 Dec. 1708||DUNCH re-elected after appointment to office|
|7 Oct. 1710||EDMUND DUNCH||109|
|Sir George Hanger||63|
|28 Aug. 1713||SIR THOMAS READE, Bt.|
|Thomas Richmond Webb||35|
|1 June 1714||SAMUEL ROBINSON vice Gore, chose to sit for Colchester||36|
A small market town, Cricklade attracted candidates mainly from among the neighbouring gentry, in Gloucestershire as well as Wiltshire, but also from time to time, and especially towards the latter end of this period, some Londoners with local associations. A peculiar franchise made the borough resistant to lengthy domination by any of the surrounding territorial interests, though at first it appeared as if the Foxes and Webbs, who had predominated before 1690, would be able to maintain their ascendancy, the former through the wealth of Sir Stephen Fox and his ownership of the manor of Water Eaton nearby, the latter also by virtue of the relative propinquity of their estate, bolstered by their connexions with the most important family within the town itself, the Maskelynes. The outgoing Members, Charles Fox and Edmund Richmond Webb, were twice re-elected, the second time by a substantial majority over their challenger, Joseph Haskins Stiles*, a wealthy City figure with a Wiltshire wife. On this latter occasion, it seems, they required the assistance of the bailiff, for Stiles’s supporters claimed in a petition that the bailiff had given less than a day’s notice of the election ‘with design to surprise them’ and to prevent them preparing the various deeds and other documentation that would be necessary to prove voting rights if challenged. It was true that Stiles had left the town on the very morning of the poll as a protest, and refused to take any further part, but the evidence regarded as decisive by the committee and the House was that no less than eight of the petitioners had been able, notwithstanding the short notice, to cast their votes. The petition was adjudged ‘vexatious, frivolous and groundless’. In 1698 Webb withdrew, perhaps because the borough was becoming too costly for him, and Fox was joined in another victory over Stiles by Edward Pleydell, whose family’s standing interest had recently been increased by a custodiam grant of lands in Cricklade parish. This election put paid to Stiles’s participation, and Fox, who transferred to Salisbury, was replaced at a by-election by his father without any opposition. Sir Stephen Fox was returned again at both elections in 1701, his campaign being run for him and his expenses paid, to the tune of over £260 in January 1701, by Charles, who seems to have been responsible for the management of the family interest in the borough. Sir Stephen’s partner in these two uncontested affairs was Edmund Dunch, a staunch Whig and an associate of Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*). This relationship has led to speculation that Wharton himself may have enjoyed an interest at Cricklade but it is more likely that Dunch was beholden to no one but himself for his election and that his own estate at Down Ampney was the basis of his influence.7
Sir Stephen Fox was able to present Cricklade’s distinctively Tory address of congratulation on Queen Anne’s accession, but he did not stand at the general election. His biographer’s suggestion, that this departure marks the onset of a decline in the Fox interest in the town, is not borne out by the evidence of subsequent elections. Sir Stephen’s advanced age represents a more plausible explanation. The principal candidates in 1702 were Dunch, Samuel Barker of Fairford, a Whig squire, the Turkey merchant Sir George Hanger, who also kept a Gloucestershire seat, and Thomas Richmond Webb, heir to his father Edmund and probably the only Tory in the field. Webb topped the poll, with Barker pushing Dunch into third place, a Tory success which may well have owed something to Charles Fox. In 1705, however, it was Dunch who was returned with Barker, and Webb who was defeated. Barker’s death at about the time of the next election opened a door for James Vernon I’s* son James Vernon II, who in later life blithely recalled his candidature ‘for a borough I scarce knew by name’. He stood, he wrote, on Barker’s interest, ‘which was the Whig interest, recommended by his [Barker] father-in-law (Herbert [sic]) a rich upholsterer in Bartlemy Close’. The opposition came from ‘Mr Goddard, a Wiltshire gentleman, upon the Tory interest, but . . . supported by Mr Dunch’. Vernon gave as the explanation for Dunch’s behaviour his kinship by marriage with the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), and further light may be shed by the fact that to begin with Goddard was acting as a stalking-horse for Henry St. John II*, then in pursuit of a parliamentary seat, who could well have enlisted Marlborough’s help in his search. St. John never took over as the Tory candidate, for, as he told Robert Harley*, Goddard’s prospects were not good enough:
Mr Long is now with me, and the account he gives me is that . . . the two former [Dunch and Vernon] have engaged all the votes but 50, which are 30 short of the number necessary, so that if the latter [Goddard] should resign to me still it is impossible for me to succeed. Mr Long and another gentleman of my friends have talked with the bailiff and others whom they can trust, and you may depend on this as a true state of the matter.
Goddard it was, therefore, who bore the Tory standard to defeat.8
The 1710 election was another three-handed affair, Samuel Robinson, a Londoner but a cousin of Samuel Barker, being ‘set up by Sir Stephen Fox’ to contest second place behind Dunch, whose own interest was perfectly secure. Vernon’s hopes of re-election seem to have suffered in a quarrel with his local sponsors, and in July 1710 Charles Fox’s agent was reporting that
all the chief inhabitants are really for your friend and are desirous to know who your friend is and I would desire your honour to send me word in the next post, for they are desirous that you would send one of your friends, for they are out of heart because you have not sent me word all this while, for if you do send one pretty quickly your honour need not fear but your friend will have it, but if your honour delays the time I cannot tell how it will be . . . If your honour do not fear your money we do not fear the election.
Later he added, ‘if your honour think fitting, your person will be very much accepted of here with your friend’, and the indications are that Fox followed this advice to the neglect of his own election at Salisbury. Vernon, after his friends had for a while ‘opposed very furiously’ the Fox interest, withdrew, leaving Sir George Hanger as the third man. He would appear to have joined with Dunch, since his supporters gave their second votes to Dunch over Robinson in the ratio of around four to one; and while only a handful of Robinson’s votes were ‘plumpers’, another four did throw a vote away on the non-candidates Fox and Maskelyne rather than cast it for Dunch or Hanger. In a petition presented on 5 Dec. 1710 but never reported, Hanger ascribed his defeat to the corruption of the bailiffs, but he seems to have acknowledged that it was also a demonstration of the weakness of his own interest, for he now abandoned the borough. Robinson’s success in 1710, and the promising political situation generally, emboldened the Foxes to put up two candidates in 1713, Robinson himself and William Gore, another Tory, who was connected with the Fox family by marriage. Only Gore was elected, however. In the absence of Dunch the two Whig candidates were Sir Thomas Reade, 4th Bt., and Henry Poole, both gentlemen with interests of their own and both no doubt assisted by Dunch and his friends. Reade, who carried the greater political weight, was returned. This election saw the last of the Webbs at Cricklade, Thomas Richmond Webb mounting a desperate candidature which ended in the humiliation of three votes. Robinson’s petition against Reade was withdrawn, presumably on the assumption, quite justified, that Gore would be successful in his petition at Colchester and would thus be able to create another opportunity at Cricklade. At about the same time 13 inhabitants of Cricklade approached the Gloucestershire Whig Matthew Ducie Moreton* to stand for ‘a vacancy we are like to have here’. They were confident that ‘it will be in our power to choose you if you think well of it’, especially since ‘here is nobody like to be set up by the Tories but Robinson, who cannot be chosen here’. Why, in their view, Robinson could not be chosen is unclear: certainly, if nothing else, the death of Charles Fox the previous September had deprived the Tories of leadership. Moreton received further encouragement from Lord Wharton, who assured him:
I know your personal interest there is such, that you cannot fail, if you will give yourself the trouble of offering your service; and you may certainly depend upon the assistance of all your friends . . . My divine at Malmesbury (Mr Hanley) knows two or three votes, who are influenced by Mr Evans of Malmesbury, which (upon the least word from you) he will secure. I have forgot their names.
Heartening as this enthusiasm was, and it extended to Wharton ‘writing to Cricklade’ himself, Moreton was in receipt of more informed advice, which painted a very different picture of Robinson’s chances. Far from being incapable of winning the by-election, Robinson had obtained an ‘understanding’ with Reade. According to Edmund Bray*, who reported to Moreton ‘what passed between Robinson and Sir Thomas Reade when I was present’, Reade had committed himself not to support ‘you or any other Whig that shall stand’, unless ‘Robinson should be dropped by his friends’, an exceedingly remote possibility:
he [Robinson] is so secure of the returning officer that I can’t think there will be any opposition. At present the committee of elections are more partial than ever I knew ’em, and sure an honest man must have a very vexatious time of ’t, to appeal to so bribed a court.
This assessment proved accurate, at least as far as the bailiff, John Lane, was concerned. Robinson’s eventual opponent, Edmund Warnford of Sevenhampton, alleged in his petition that notwithstanding Lane’s partiality he had won more than a 60-vote majority but even then the Tory had been returned, the bailiff having ‘declared, before the election, that if Mr Robinson had but five votes he would return him’. As for the second part of Bray’s prediction, insufficient time remained this session for the election committee to bear him out.9
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Bean’s notebks.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Add. 51319, ff. 197–8.
- 5. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 212.
- 6. Bean’s notebks.
- 7. Wood, Life and Times, ii. 411; Materials Hist. Cricklade ed. Thomson, 152; VCH Wilts. v. 223; C. Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth, 166, 273–4; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 567; Dorset RO, Fox-Strangways mss, Cricklade election expenses, [Jan. 1701]; J. Carswell, Old Cause, 74, 90; R. Walcott, Pol. Early 18th Cent. 40.
- 8. London Gazette, 6–9 Apr. 1702; Clay, 317–18; Vis. Glos. ed. Fenwick and Metcalfe, 88; Add. 40794, ff. 2–3; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 7; HMC Bath, i. 190.
- 9. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(7), p. 4; Fox-Strangways mss, Richard Painter to Charles Fox, 15, 22 July 1710, William Lewis to Fox, 30 Sept. 1710; Add. 51319, ff. 197–8; 51324, f. 25; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 212; Glos. RO, Ducie mss, Chris. Sanders et al. to Moreton, 17 Apr. 1714, Wharton to same, 24, 29 Apr. 1714, Bray to same, 2 May 1714; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 320.