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:

about 520 in 1693, rising to about 1,000 in 17151

Number of voters:

at least 426 in 1698


6 Mar. 1690ROGER KIRKBY 
7 Nov. 1695ROGER KIRKBY 
 Richard Spencer 
25 Feb. 1697HON. FITTON GERARD  vice Preston, deceased 
9 Aug. 1698ROBERT HEYSHAM389
 Sir Joseph Tily129
 Charles Rigby1122
13 Jan. 1701ROBERT HEYSHAM393
 Richard Spencer1653

Main Article

Under the 1684 charter Lancaster was governed by a mayor, seven aldermen, from whom the mayor was chosen on a rota system, and a common council, with vacancies being filled by co-option. The franchise lay in the freemen. Browne Willis* was informed that there were only 400 houses in the town, and a comprehensive freemen list from 1693 shows only about 520 freemen at the beginning of this period. By 1715, however, the swearing of large numbers of non-resident freemen, many created in election years, had swelled the electorate to over 1,000. This electorate included a small number of Dissenters. In 1718 the borough’s Presbyterian congregation was thought to include 36 voters, and at the by-election of 1689 Presbyterian freemen had been thought numerous enough to require particular attention. Lancaster was also home to a sizable Quaker community, and it is clear that even before the Affirmation Act of 1696 a number of Quakers were admitted as freemen. One observer identified the Quaker freemen as a distinct electoral bloc in the 1689 by-election, but whether they continued to vote in parliamentary elections is unclear.4

Before the 1690 election Roger Kirkby, Thomas Preston, Lancaster’s Convention Members, and Sir Samuel Gerard, cousin of the Whig lord lieutenant, Lord Brandon (Charles Gerard*), all made an interest. Although sources are scarce, it seems likely that Gerard and Kirkby were standing with Brandon’s support against Preston, an ally of Gerard’s Lancashire rival the 9th Earl of Derby. Kirkby and Preston retained their seats, with Gerard apparently withdrawing before the poll. Despite this setback Brandon continued his attempts to increase his interest at Lancaster, supporting attempts by a group of freemen to obtain a new charter incorporating a number of companies of tradesmen. The dispute dated back to 1685, when the loyalist corporation created a large number of new freemen to prevent Brandon’s election for Lancaster, and to the regulation in 1688 of the corporation by the then lord lieutenant, the 3rd Viscount Molyneux, and Brandon himself. Preston supported the common council’s opposition to a new charter, and the case was still pending when the 1690 Parliament was dissolved. Kirkby and Preston stood again and were joined by a ‘Mr Spencer’, probably Richard Spencer of Preston, sheriff from 1694 to 1696, and it may be that Spencer stood in alliance with Preston, as Brandon, now 2nd Earl of Macclesfield, campaigned against Spencer. It appears that the contest went to a poll, at which Kirkby and Preston emerged triumphant. The case for the new charter was brought before the Privy Council in December 1695, and, despite a caveat being entered against it, the King ordered the charter to be passed the following April. The fate of this charter is not known, but when Preston died in January 1697 Macclesfield made an interest for the ensuing by-election by telling the advocates of the new charter that it had passed the seals, that he had paid the fees for the charter, and would forward it to the borough if the freemen would ‘oblige’ him and return his brother Fitton. Macclesfield was, however, playing a double game, for at the same time he was promising opponents of the new charter that in return for their votes he would retain possession of the charter. Macclesfield’s dissembling reportedly ‘fixed both p[ar]ties’ in the borough to his interest, and Derby was forced to abandon plans for his brother, Hon. Charles Zedenno Stanley*, to stand. ‘Mr Spencer’ also abandoned thoughts of standing when confronted by Macclesfield’s interest, and Gerard was returned unchallenged.5

Gerard stood for the county in 1698, and Macclesfield supported Kirkby and the Whig (Sir) Joseph Tily* at Lancaster. They were challenged by Robert Heysham, a London merchant whose family hailed from Lancaster, and Charles Rigby, brother of Edward Rigby* and lawyer for the opponents of a new charter. In a hard-fought contest Heysham attacked Kirkby’s support for the Court, highlighted his financial embarrassment, lampooned his support for moral reform and commented that

          Taxes on the living, dead, glass, windows, malt
          On leather, parchment, paper, money, salt
          With long etceteras are the ten years’ fruit
          Of sending to the senate such a brute

In an election address Heysham also questioned the commitment of outsiders, such as Tily, to boroughs in which they held no interest of their own, and challenged whether the practice of lawyers, such as Rigby, ‘as often to plead the wrong causes as the right’ made them suitable representatives. Heysham comfortably topped the poll, with Kirkby easily defeating Tily and Rigby.6

Heysham and Kirkby were re-elected in January 1701 despite another challenge from Spencer, and the sitting Members were returned without a contest in the second 1701 election. Sir William Lowther, 1st Bt., who had married Thomas Preston’s heiress, canvassed the borough in November 1701, and though he decided against forcing a poll at this election, his interest was strong enough to secure his return with Heysham in 1702. Heysham carefully maintained his interest in the borough, and Lowther’s death the day after the dissolution of the 1702 Parliament allowed Heysham to stand with his brother, and fellow merchant, William. Upon arriving at Lancaster in May 1705 they were met with ‘a very kind reception and all pretenders vanished’. The Heyshams were returned unchallenged in 1708, their interest probably strengthened by the creation of 84 freemen in the year before the elections, over twice the average annual freeman admission for this period.7

In 1710, however, the Heysham interest was challenged by Dodding Bradyll†, a London merchant who owned property in the vicinity of Lancaster. Heysham informed Robert Harley* that Bradyll’s candidacy had been encouraged by the Whig merchant Sir Gilbert Heathcote*, and that Bradyll was being assisted by the interest of the 10th Earl of Derby (Hon. James Stanley*), outgoing lord lieutenant, ‘among the justices of the peace’. Henry Fleetwood* wrote to the Duke of Hamilton, prospective lord lieutenant of Lancashire, that ‘the struggle at Lancaster is very violent against the Heyshams’ and asked Hamilton to write to the borough in support of the sitting Members. Bradyll concentrated his attack upon William Heysham, but Hamilton’s support, assisted by the creation of over 150 freemen in the months before the election, led Bradyll to withdraw before the poll. The 1713 election was expected to be controversial, Lancaster being included in 1712 among three Lancashire boroughs in which ‘hotter disputes’ were expected, but although Robert Heysham, who had been alienated by the ministry over the peace, was standing upon the Whig interest at London, the Heysham brothers were, following Robert’s defeat at London, returned unchallenged.8

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. Lancaster City Museum, Lancaster bor. recs. minute bk. 1676-1702, pp. 612-15; Bodl. Willis 48, f. 358.
  • 2. Cumbria RO (Kendal), Le Fleming mss WD/Ry box 28, Sir Daniel Fleming’s† notebk., p. 210.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Hist. of Lancaster ed. White, 91–93, 111; J. Brownbill and J.R. Nuttall, Cal. of the Recs. of the Corpn. of Lancaster, 12–14; Willis 48, f. 358; Bodl. Rawl. D. 863, ff. 37–39; Early Lancaster Friends ed. Mullett, 22–32.
  • 5. Le Fleming mss WD/Ry 3740, R. Fleming to [Sir Daniel Fleming], 16 Feb. 1689–90; HMC Kenyon, 216; Northern Hist. xix. 61–86; Autobiography of Stout, 100–2; SP 44/98, f. 91; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 541; 1693, p. 57; 1694–5, pp. 502–3; Lowther Corresp. ed. Hainsworth, 246; PC 2/76, pp. 239, 411; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe 9/88/10, George* to Roger Kenyon*, 10 Feb. [1697]; DDKe 9/70/9 Thomas Kenyon to same, 17 Feb. 1696[–7].
  • 6. Le Fleming mss WD/Ry 5294, election poem and address, c.1698; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 153; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn coll. Blathwayt mss box 19, James Vernon I* to William Blathwayt*, 16 Sept. 1698.
  • 7. Kenyon mss DDKe 9/100/6, Charles Rigby to George Kenyon, 25 Nov. 1701; Hamilton mss at Lennoxlove bdle. 4200, John Hamilton to Hamilton, 2 Aug. 1702; Lancaster bor. recs. bk. of old constitutions and orders 1679–1736, p. 199; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Robert Heysham to James Grahme*, 11 May 1705; Lancaster Freeman Rolls ed. Cann Hughes (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. lxxxviii, xc).
  • 8. HMC Portland, iv. 579; NLS, ms 8262, f. 43; Add. 70200, Robert Heysham to Harley, 11 Sept. 1710; Bagot mss, same to Grahme, 11, 22, 28 Sept. 1710, William Heysham to same, 11 Sept. 1710; Lancaster Freeman Rolls; Hamilton mss bdle. 4205, James Dunlop to Hamilton, 7 July 1712.