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

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 3,618 in Feb. 1701


11 Mar. 1690CHARLES GERARD, Visct. Brandon 
6 Feb. 1694SIR RALPH ASSHETON Bt. vice Brandon, called to the Upper House 
4 Feb. 1701HON. JAMES STANLEY3151
 Hon. Fitton Gerard18531
11 Jan. 1703RICHARD ASSHETON  vice Stanley, called to the Upper House 
18 Apr. 1704RICHARD FLEETWOOD vice Bold, deceased 
 Sir Roger Bradshaigh  Bt.293
 William Farrington2362
22 Sept. 1713JOHN BLAND 

Main Article

The extensive remodelling of Lancashire’s bench and the county’s corporations by James II and his agents created bitter divisions in the county, and these were exacerbated in 1689 when Lord Brandon was appointed lord lieutenant in the place of William Stanley, 9th Earl of Derby, who had refused this place when he was denied the lord lieutenancy of Cheshire. Brandon had previously supported James II’s Catholicizing policies, and, though he repudiated this support for James, Brandon’s appointment as lord lieutenant was resented by the Tory squires who dominated the county’s gentry, so that the new lord lieutenant was forced to try to establish an alternative political power base among the small numbers of Whig gentry, and the county’s more numerous Dissenters. The bitterness between Brandon and his Tory opponents, led with faltering conviction by Derby, dominated the county’s politics in the 1690s, but this conflict was expressed more in borough elections, allegations of Jacobite plotting, and the composition of the county’s bench than in county elections. Lancashire politics were also complicated by the presence of significant minorities of Dissenters, thought to number 18,000 in 1718 including 1,328 freeholders, and Catholics, estimated by one modern historian to number between 16,000 and 18,000 in 1700. The presence of large, non-Anglican populations contributed to political disquiet, with disputes occurring over the interpretation of the Toleration Act, the possession of Anglican chapels of ease by Dissenting congregations, and the Jacobite inclinations of the county’s Catholic population. The effect of religious disputes upon county elections was, however, intermittent, so that in this period Lancashire elections revolved around the relationship between the interests of the Stanleys, the Tory gentry and, until 1701, the Gerards. In the 1690s Lancashire’s elections were, on the whole, uneventful, the Gerard and Stanley interests sharing the county’s representation, with the Tory gentry’s acquiescence gained by their loyalty to the Stanley interest and the 9th Earl’s indeterminate political allegiance. However, once the 9th Earl and his brother, the Junto Whig James, quarrelled, this arrangement dissolved, and the Tory gentry asserted their right to share the county’s representation. As Anne’s reign progressed, the Stanley interest, now managed by James who had become the 10th Earl of Derby, came increasingly into conflict with the Tory gentry who, aided by the Duke of Hamilton (after he had inherited lands in the county in 1698), became unwilling to assent to the return of a Whig on the Stanley interest. This conflict culminated in the defeat of the Stanleys and the return of two Tories in 1713.3

The general election of 1690 saw Lord Brandon and James Stanley being returned with ‘none opposing them’, despite rumours that Thomas Preston* intended to stand. The peaceful nature of this election was repeated four years later at the by-election caused by Brandon’s succession as 2nd Earl of Macclesfield. In a moment of unanimity untypical of the county’s general political state at this time, Sir Ralph Assheton, 2nd Bt., was asked to stand for the shire ‘by Col[onel] [James] Stanley and the rest of our Lancashire Memb[e]rs’. The support in Lancashire for the return of Assheton was indicated by the ‘general rejoicing’ at the news of his candidature, so that the intended opposition of Sir Thomas Stanley, 4th Bt.*, and Preston’s recorder John Warren was soon abandoned and Assheton returned unopposed.4

In stark contrast to the unanimity evident at this election, the allegations of a Jacobite conspiracy in Lancashire in the summer provoked bitter controversy and demonstrated that the peaceful nature of Lancashire county elections was not a true reflection of the county’s political condition. Claims that a Jacobite plot was being hatched in Lancashire had first been made in 1690, the county’s proximity to Ireland and its own large Catholic minority granting them a certain credence, and though such a conspiracy was afoot among a number of Catholic gentry in the early 1690s, the allegations levelled in 1694, while containing elements of the genuine plot, were merely a fabrication designed to protect a group of perjurers who had been falsely swearing against north-west Catholics in commissions of superstitious uses. The allegations nevertheless led to the arrest of six Anglicans and two Catholics in Lancashire and Cheshire, and their subsequent prosecution became a national cause célèbre. Lancashire Tories made strenuous efforts to disprove the allegations, two of them infiltrating the witnesses to discover the nature of the charges against the prisoners, while Roger Kenyon* and Peter Shakerley* gathered evidence discrediting the chief witness John Lunt as a footpad, a perjurer and a bigamist. Lancashire’s Whigs, particularly Macclesfield, became equally committed to the successful prosecution of the accused, and Thomas Norris* expressed the hope that if it was possible to ‘fairly convict a number [of the accused], especially of the Protestants, it will be in our power to choose (even in this county) much better Members of Parliament in case of a dissolution’. These hopes were dashed in October when the prisoners were acquitted in trials at Manchester and Chester, but when the Commons considered the plot in the following session the majority voted to reaffirm their belief in it. These events, however, made little impact on the election of the following year. Although all of Lancashire’s boroughs were fiercely contested, with Macclesfield and the county’s Tories clashing at Lancaster, Preston and Wigan, Assheton and Stanley were returned unopposed for the county.5

The question of allegiance nevertheless remained contentious in Lancashire, as demonstrated by reports that some of those sent to search the houses of Lancashire Catholics following the arrest of Sir John Fenwick† were fired upon, and that those who declined to take the Association were publicly insulted for their refusal. Such manifestations of conflict were, however, absent in the election of 1698. Macclesfield supported the candidacy of his brother Hon. Fitton Gerard and, despite Macclesfield’s lack of success in the Lancashire boroughs at this election and James Vernon I*’s assertion that if Gerard had been opposed ‘it might have gone bad with him’, he was returned with Stanley. By the first election of 1701, however, the decline of the Gerard interest had spread to the county. Gerard and Stanley stood again, but found themselves opposed by the Tory Richard Bold, whose father had sat for the county in the first Parliament of 1679. The Gerard interest’s decline was indicated by the widespread belief that it was Gerard’s seat which was under threat and, despite attempts to secure the election of a favourable sheriff and a successful appeal for support to the Duke of Hamilton (who had married the niece of Gerard and Macclesfield), this proved to be the case. Despite Derby’s opposition to the return of his brother James and support for Bold, Stanley topped the poll by a substantial margin, while Bold defeated Gerard by nearly 400 votes. Gerard petitioned on 21 Feb. 1701 alleging that Bold’s return was due solely to ‘bribery’ and, ironically, given that he had been chosen in order to bolster Gerard’s hopes of re-election, ‘the partial and illegal proceedings of the sheriff’, but the petition was not heard. Louis XIV’s declaration for ‘James III’ and the increasingly likely prospect of renewed hostilities with France meant that the heats generated by the January election were not allowed to cool, and in the summer Lancashire’s county address became the focus for these divisions. Drafted by the county’s Whigs, it was subsequently amended by the Tories so that while it affirmed the county’s loyalty to William III it opposed a renewal of the war, claiming that one million gold crowns would have to be minted to pay the cost, an amendment which led the Prussian envoy to comment facetiously that the address had been inspired by France.6

The death of Macclesfield in November 1701 and the consequent decline of the Gerard interest removed the most controversial figure in Lancashire’s politics, but the conflicts between local Tories and Whigs, and between Lord Derby and his brother, that had been evident in the first election of the year remained unresolved and dominated the following two elections. Derby eagerly pursued the lord lieutenancy of Lancashire, motivated in the main by a desire to use the office’s influence upon county elections against his brother, and in November was said to be ‘making all the court to the gentry he can’ in order to regain the lieutenancy. Having secured one seat in the first election of the year, the county’s Tory gentry harboured ambitions of capturing the other and replacing Stanley. John Atherton of Atherton, son of Sir Richard Atherton†, was proposed as Bold’s partner, and a local clergyman who had been at Brasenose with Atherton wrote in his support that

he is of an extraordinarily sweet temper, and masters his passions by reason and judgment. He is religious without fanatic hypocrisy, and a sincere lover of the Established Church. His generosity and fortunes raise him above such self-interest, and I’m sure in this present design he has no other prospect than the common good.

Such calls for support proved, however, to be inadequate, Atherton finding that appeals to Country Tory sentiments were no match for the influence Stanley was able to wield as ranger of the five forests of Lancashire, and Atherton withdrew from the contest on the day of the poll, leaving Stanley and Bold to be returned unopposed. The 1702 election witnessed a similar train of events. On this occasion Bold was joined by Samuel Cheetham of Turton, following failed attempts to persuade Peter Legh† to stand, and Derby offered his full support to their joint candidacy. Having already been appointed lord lieutenant, Derby campaigned to replace his brother as ranger of the five forests, lobbying Secretary Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) through the newly appointed chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt.*, and invited the county’s gentlemen to a dinner at Preston where the Earl would introduce Bold and Cheetham to the assembled gentry. These efforts were, however, in vain and Cheetham, like Atherton in the previous election, found himself unable to sustain a challenge so that Stanley and Bold were returned without a poll.7

On Derby’s death in November 1702 he was succeeded by his brother. The 10th Earl retained the post of ranger of the five forests and was also appointed lord lieutenant and custos, and his determination to assert his interest in Lancashire was evident at the by-election consequent upon his elevation to the Lords. Derby supported the election of Richard Assheton, brother of Sir Ralph, but the Tory Viscount Cornbury (Edward Hyde*) wrote to Peter Legh offering to oppose Assheton if no other candidate could be found, claiming that ‘Sir Ralph Assheton or any of his cannot be acceptable under the rose at this time’. Legh took soundings on the likely success of a Hyde candidacy, but was informed by an Anglican clergyman with Tory sympathies that the strength of the Stanley interest was such that although ‘Hyde has my heart and would have my best endeavours . . . ’tis to no purpose for him to stand’. Hyde’s candidacy appears to have gone no further, and in January 1703 Assheton was returned unopposed. The strength of Derby’s interest also prevailed at the 1704 by-election caused by the death of Bold. Encouraged by the gentry, the Tory Richard Shuttleworth began to make an interest for this election, but once it became clear that Derby did not intend to support his candidacy Shuttleworth withdrew from the field, while making clear his intention to stand for the county at the next general election, and on this occasion Richard Fleetwood was returned unopposed. Shuttleworth made good his promise in 1705, standing in opposition to the Whigs Sir Roger Bradshaigh, 3rd Bt.*, and Charles Stanley, both standing with the support of Derby. The lord lieutenant threw his full weight behind Stanley and Bradshaigh, and in February Bradshaigh wrote that ‘I find most gentlemen will be determined, as my Lord Derby recommends’. This confidence in Derby’s interest proved misplaced, however. Shortly before the election Robert Heysham* wrote that there would be ‘a strong poll betwixt Sir Roger Bradshaigh and Mr Shuttleworth’, that ‘all the gentlemen’ were for Shuttleworth, and that he intended to ‘make him a good interest’ among Lancaster’s freeholders. During the campaign a William Farrington, probably of Werden though it may have been his cousin who hailed from Shawe, also joined the election and his candidacy was probably prompted, given that most of his eventual votes came from Shuttleworth voters, by the hope that he would prevent Shuttleworth’s supporters giving their second votes to either of the Whig candidates. Faced with such opposition, Stanley, according to the Tory Sir John Bland, 4th Bt.*, attempted to deceive Shuttleworth and his supporters about the date of the election and was only prevented from having the sheriff declare himself and Bradshaigh elected without a poll when Heysham ‘by chance heard of it and demanded a poll for Shuttleworth’. Bland condemned this and Derby’s ‘haughty treatment of all the gentlemen’. The poll demonstrated why the Stanley interest felt the need to employ such deception. Shuttleworth was comfortably at the head, allegedly having another 400 voters ready if necessary, with Stanley second and Bradshaigh a distant third. Bland wrote that the election proved that ‘Lord Derby has not that interest as is represented above’, and Shuttleworth’s success clearly demonstrated that the county’s predominantly Tory gentry were not prepared to allow Derby to return two Whig Members for the county.8

Derby’s position in the county was enhanced by his appointment as chancellor of the duchy in 1706, but it may be that the electoral reverse of 1705 dimmed his partisan fervour. The place of chancellor gave Derby control of the Lancashire bench, but his alterations in favour of local Whigs were far from comprehensive, and when in 1707 the Whig Member for Liverpool Thomas Johnson was engaged in a contest with the Tory William Clayton* to gain the nomination of a customs collector at Liverpool he bemoaned that Derby ‘is not as active as some men are’. Despite his alleged neglect of Lancashire’s Whig interest, Derby was able to ensure the return of his brother to the 1708 Parliament along with Shuttleworth, but by the 1710 election he was finding it harder to maintain his control of one seat. It was thought likely that, if he remained in office, Derby would recommend a ‘Captain Parker’, probably Edward of Brownsholme, to stand in alliance with his brother. It seems, however, that Derby’s dismissal as lord lieutenant and chancellor of the duchy was confidently expected in Lancashire, and it was rumoured that Stanley was preparing to stand at Preston if opposed in the county, and Bland, who owned lands in the vicinity of Manchester, was approached to stand in alliance with Shuttleworth. Bland declined the offer, but at the August assizes

There was a mighty appearance of gentry . . . who designed to set up Mr Farrington in conjunction with Mr Shuttleworth; there were many against Mr Stanley, which alarmed the Earl his brother who was here with a very small attendance of gentlemen. The country in respect of their harvest did interpose and so the contest is over, my Lord not concerning himself over other elections.

Clearly the Stanley interest was coming under increasing pressure from the predominantly Tory gentry, but the delaying of Derby’s dismissal until September, despite the Duke of Hamilton’s frequent requests that it be effected quickly, allowed the Stanley interest to resist this pressure in 1710. By 1713, however, the Tory interest in the county was too strong to be faced down. Interest-making began in April 1712, with Shuttleworth, Stanley and ‘Mr Cheetham’, presumably Samuel of Turton again and whose candidacy was supported by Shuttleworth, all throwing their hats into the ring, and in the summer they were joined by John Bland, son of the baronet, standing upon the interest of his father. By the time of the county meeting in September Stanley appears to have withdrawn from the contest, an admission that the Tory tide was too strong for the Stanley interest to deny. At the meeting Cheetham, faced by the opposition of the Bland interest, ‘declared his resolution to desist: as being unwilling to disunite or divide an interest of such worthy members of the Church of England’, and the return of Shuttleworth and Bland was agreed. The death of Hamilton in a duel in November 1712 does not appear to have jeopardized the return of two Tories for the county, and there is no evidence that it tempted the Derby interest to consider challenging the agreement of September. Bland presented the county’s address to the Queen expressing thanks for the ‘glorious peace’ in August 1713, and the following month he and Shuttleworth were returned unopposed for the county. It was not until 1722 that the Stanleys were able to re-establish their influence over county elections, which they then controlled for the rest of the 18th century.9

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


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  • 2. NLS, Crawford mss 47/3/23, pollbk.
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  • 6. Add. 17677 QQ, f. 346; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 145–6, 152–3; Le Fleming mss WD/Ry 5588, Bold to Sir Daniel Fleming, 6 Dec. 1700; SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/4679, Charles Stanley to Hamilton, 9 Dec. 1700; GD406/1/4661, 4656–7, 4798, Gawin Mason to same, 14, 28 Dec. 1700, 2, 9 Jan. 1700[–1]; Lancs. RO, Stanley mss DDK 15/22, copy letters of Ld. Derby, 15 Jan. 1700–1; Add. 30000 E, f. 346.
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  • 8. Glassey, 286–7; Greater Manchester RO, Legh of Lyme mss E17/89/25/2, Hyde to Legh, 23 Nov. 1702; John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss corresp., Edward Allanson to same, 2 Dec. 1702; Hamilton mss at Lennoxlove bdle. 4200, John Hamilton to Hamilton, 13 Dec. 1702; Kenyon mss DDKe 9/100/25, Fleetwood to George Kenyon, 3 Apr. 1704; DDKe 9/100/26, Shuttleworth to same, 7 Apr. 1704; DDKe 9/100/27, Nicholas Starkie to same, 12 Apr. 1704; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Duke of Hamilton to James Grahme*, 16 Jan. 1704–5; Heysham to same, 8 Feb. 1704–5; HMC Portland, iv. 183.
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