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:


Number of voters:

at least 278 in 1710


19 Feb. 1690SIR JOHN BROWNLOW, Bt. 
 John Thorold 
30 Oct. 1695SIR JOHN BROWNLOW, Bt. 
18 Dec. 1697SIR JOHN THOROLD, Bt. vice Brownlow, deceased 
 John Newton 
27 July 1698SIR JOHN THOROLD, Bt. 
29 Nov. 1701SIR WILLIAM ELLYS, Bt.c.200
 Sir John Newton, Bt.1001
18 July 1702SIR WILLIAM ELLYS, Bt. 
14 May 1705JOHN MANNERS, Mq. of Granby 
7 May 1708JOHN MANNERS, Mq. of Granby 
6 Oct. 1710SIR WILLIAM ELLYS, Bt.205
 JOHN MANNERS, Mq. of Granby176
 Sir John Thorold, Bt.1752
 THOROLD vice Granby, on petition, 11 Jan. 1711 
31 Aug. 1713SIR JOHN BROWNLOW, Bt. 

Main Article

A small market town situated on the Great North Road, Grantham’s franchise was restricted to its freemen, and influence over the corporation, consisting of an alderman, 12 senior comburgesses and 12 junior comburgesses, who elected the freemen, was therefore a priority for would-be representatives of the borough. During this period three interests predominated; that of the 9th Earl of Rutland (John Manners†), of Belvoir Castle only seven miles distant, and, moreover, recorder of the borough; the Brownlows of Belton; and the Ellyses of Nocton. All three families had Whig sympathies.

In 1690 Sir John Brownlow, 3rd Bt., a Country Whig, was returned with Sir William Ellys, 2nd Bt., another Country Whig, the latter not without some trouble as he was opposed by John Thorold, who had represented Grantham in 1685, and would ‘have lost it had it not been for Sir John Brownlow’. Both Brownlow and Ellys maintained their interest in the borough with charitable gifts; the former making the corporation a loan of £400 and giving some £75 to employ the poor, while the latter’s frequent contributions included an interest-free loan to the corporation of £100 and £75 to employ the poor, as well as £25 to cast one of the church bells and £36 for repairs to the church. The same two held the seats in 1695 and Ellys continued to sit in every Parliament until 1713.3

Brownlow died in 1697, and as his brother and heir, William, had a seat elsewhere and his nephew, the future Sir John Brownlow, 5th Bt., was a minor, a contest developed between Sir John Thorold, 4th Bt., and John Newton. Thorold, whose politics were at this point unclear, was a nephew of the 1685 Member and lived at Marston, about five miles from Grantham, while Newton was the eldest son of Sir John Newton, 2nd Bt.†, of Haydor, six miles from Grantham, who had represented the borough from 1660 to 1681. Newton was encouraged by Ellys, but his servant thought he was not forthcoming enough and appealed to Newton’s father for assistance. Newton himself wrote to his father that ‘tho’ I am not in a state of despair, I find little gratitude in many of these which you had particularly obliged whilst you lived amongst them’. Thorold was successful and a petition against his return, alleging bribery and the polling of strangers not entitled to vote, presented by some of Newton’s supporters on 5 Jan. 1698, was withdrawn shortly afterwards.4

Thorold held the seat in 1698 with Ellys, but his declaration in April 1700 that he would stand for the county at the next election immediately prompted political manoeuvring on behalf of Newton (now Sir John, 3rd Bt.). At first, Newton’s camp hoped for the support of both Rutland and Ellys but it was soon apparent that the latter had hopes for his son Richard. Newton was informed that Ellys ‘puts in very strongly for his son, sparing neither for charge nor trouble’ and was urged to get Rutland’s interest, ‘which if done, your case will be like the Pope, infallible’. Newton, however, refused to declare himself a candidate, thinking such electioneering before a dissolution had been announced premature: ‘to begin an expense before there is a colourable pretence is in my opinion the purchasing a reversionary title at too dear a sale’. At the end of May Newton decided he would not stand. To Ellys’ disappointment Rutland disapproved of his aspirations and put forward his own younger son, Hon. Thomas Baptist Manners. In deference to Rutland, Ellys did not stand and Manners was returned unopposed.5

However, Manners does not seem to have taken to parliamentary life and information that he would not renew his candidacy in the second election of 1701 encouraged Newton’s agents again to exhort him to action and they quickly moved to secure Rutland’s support in order to ‘prevent any pre-engagements’. Newton wavered but his expectations of Rutland’s favour persuaded him to stand, though he held little hope of success. To an unnamed correspondent he wrote, ‘when I reflect with what difficulty Mr Manners obtained his point and what turns you and I have seen you must pardon me if I tell you I have not the vanity to believe I shall succeed so well’. A Mr De Ligne, no doubt a member of the prominent family of Harlaxton, Lincolnshire, also offered his candidacy, but, ‘the Belvoir interest being against him’, he was not viewed as a threat by the Newton camp, and withdrew before the poll. Ellys’ friends, on the other hand, had been very active and ‘it is to be supposed they will contest it to the utmost’. To counteract Ellys, Newton’s supporters had ‘walked the town according to the new mode (which you hate) of burgessing, but by it we have got you a considerable majority’. Newton himself refused to appear as ‘it would at best be no more than ceremony, the Act of Parliament absolutely forbidding all expense after the teste of the writ’. Some five days before the election this absence was calculated to have cost him at least 20 votes and in the end he finished bottom of the poll by about 50 votes, a result his friends blamed on his absence, his scruples, and ‘the extraordinary methods of those that opposed you’. Both Ellyses continued to sit in 1702, although Rutland’s continued influence in the county was acknowledged when Grantham’s loyal address on Anne’s accession was presented by Hon. Thomas Baptist Manners and Richard Ellys, and in 1704 it was not one of the Ellys family but Rutland’s eldest son, John Manners, Marquess of Granby, who presented the borough’s address of congratulation on Blenheim.6

In 1705 Granby, as strong a Whig as his father, having been defeated at Leicestershire in 1702, prudently removed to the safer seat at Grantham. Sir William Ellys proved his usefulness to the corporation when a fire in Grantham on 1 July 1707 burnt down 17 houses and other buildings, causing damage of more than £3,000. The consequent petition to the crown requesting permission to make collections thoughout Lincolnshire to repair the damage was presented by Ellys to his friend, Secretary of State Robert Harley*, and Ellys was rewarded with an unchallenged return in the next two elections. Granby continued to represent Grantham until the upsurge in Tory fortunes in 1710 brought Thorold, now a High Tory, back to contest the second seat against him. On 15 Sept., Granby was advised that his supporters could not put off a court of aldermen for more than ten or 12 days and that he should make sure of the loyalty of the man nominated as the next alderman, or failing that, that they should nominate their own candidate. It was thought that if all those who were in their interest were made free it would be about 50, 30 or 40 of whom would expect to be paid for their trouble. The growth in the number of voters, by about 150 since 1701, reflected the increased political conflict between the parties at this election. Granby was returned by one vote but Thorold petitioned, his counsel claiming that the right of election lay in the freemen not receiving alms or charity, whereas three of Granby’s voters were in receipt of alms. The committee accepted this interpretation, whereupon Granby’s counsel admitted that in view of this ruling Thorold had the majority. The committee declared Thorold duly elected and the House agreed on 11 Jan. 1711, although in fact Granby was no longer eligible to sit, since the previous day he had succeeded to his father’s dukedom. Appropriately, Thorold presented the borough’s Tory address of thanks for the peace in May 1713, Ellys’ absence perhaps indicating political dissent. Ellys finally stood down in 1713, possibly on the grounds of his advancing age, and the Whig interest transferred to Sir John Brownlow, 5th Bt., nephew of the 3rd Bt. Thorold, by now drifting away from the Tories, held the second seat. Both men sat for Grantham until the end of the reign whereupon the town came under different influences, although both the Manners and Brownlow families retained their interests well into the 18th century.7

Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne


  • 1. Lincs. AO, Monson mss, 7/14/96, Robert Fysher to Sir John Newton, 3rd Bt., 29 Nov. 1701.
  • 2. Post Boy, 14–17 Oct. 1710.
  • 3. Monson mss 7/12/66, William Jackson to Sir John Newton, 2nd Bt., 12 Mar. 89[–90]; W. Marrat, Grantham, 23–24.
  • 4. Monson mss 7/12/94, John Flick to Sir John Newton, 2nd Bt., 29 Aug. 1697; 7/14/88, John Newton to same, 4 Sept. 1697.
  • 5. Monson mss 7/12/102–3, Robert Fysher to Sir John Newton, 3rd Bt., 15, 22 Apr. 1700; 7/14/90–91, Newton to [?], 23 May 1700, same to H. Solomon, 30 May 1700; Rutland mss at Belvoir Castle, Ellys to Rutland, 17 Apr. 1700; Glos. RO, Newton mss D1844/c/10, H. Solomon et al. to Newton, 18 May 1700.
  • 6. Monson mss 7/14/89, [?] to [?], n.d.; 7/12/106–7, 109, Fysher to Newton, 15 Sept., 18, 24 Nov. 1701; 7/14/93–96, Newton to [?], 18, 22 Nov. 1701, same to Rutland, 22 Nov. 1701, Fysher to Newton, 29 Nov. 1701; E. Turnor, Grantham, 111–13; London Gazette, 2–6 Apr. 1702, 7–11 Dec. 1704.
  • 7. London Gazette, 23–26 May 1713; Add. 70197, Ellys to Harley, 11 Aug. 1707; 70267 misc. 42, Grantham petition; Rutland mss, James Garner to Granby, 15 Sept. 1710.