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 464 in 1713


3 Mar. 1690SIR JOHN BOLLES, Bt. 
4 Nov. 1695SIR JOHN BOLLES, Bt. 
 Sir Edward Hussey, Bt. 
 Sir Thomas Meres 
10 Aug. 1698SIR JOHN BOLLES, Bt. 
 Sir Thomas Meres 
22 Jan. 1701SIR JOHN BOLLES, Bt. 
 Sir Edward Hussey, Bt. 
3 Dec. 1701SIR JOHN BOLLES, Bt. 
 Sir John Bolles, Bt. 
 John Sibthorpe264
 Sir Thomas Meres721
16 Sept. 1713THOMAS LISTER392
 Richard Grantham2322

Main Article

Since the Restoration the representation of Lincoln had been dominated by the local gentry families of Monson and Meres. However, the non-juring stance of Sir Henry Monson, 3rd Bt.†, allowed other Lincolnshire gentlemen with longstanding borough connexions to challenge for a seat, most notably Sir John Bolles, 4th Bt., of Scampton, and Sir Edward Hussey, 3rd Bt., of Caythorpe. The town was hardly in a position to obstruct such outside interference, having yet to recover from its Civil War upheavals. A visitor in 1690 found it in a sorry state, and Defoe later labelled it ‘an old, dying, decayed, dirty city, and except that part which . . . lies between the castle and the church on the top of the hill, it is scarce tolerable to call it a city’. Attempts were made in this period to recover the prosperity which the local woollen industry had once brought the town, but to no avail, and a visitor of 1725 could still speak of ‘the ruin and desolation that appears everywhere’. Although the cathedral interest exhibited similar impoverishment, it was clearly a force to be reckoned with, and the existence of local Presbyterian and Baptist meetings may well have helped to stir religious controversy in 1705 and 1710.3

The Lincoln election of 1690 did not see a contest, with the seats being shared between Hussey, a Country Whig who had been first returned for the borough in May 1689, and Bolles, a Country Tory whose grandfather had represented the city in 1661–3. There is no evidence to suggest that the other sitting Member, the Tory Sir Christopher Nevile†, fought a campaign to maintain his place, and he died two years later. In 1695 this apparent accommodation was no longer tenable, as four candidates put up. Alongside Hussey and Bolles stood Sir Thomas Meres, a Tory who had sat for Lincoln almost continuously since 1659, and William Monson, the Whiggish younger brother of the non-juring Sir John. Hussey may well have joined with Monson in opposition to the two Tories, since in the wake of the return of Bolles and Monson, Sir Edward only petitioned against the election of Bolles. A significant factor in the run-up to the poll was the visit of the King, whose progress that autumn aimed to drum up support for his government in the provinces. However, even though he appeased many Lincoln freemen by acceding to the town’s request for a grant of another fair, the Lincoln result was far from a triumph for the Court interest, and Bolles later boasted that William had been unable to unseat him. The defeated Hussey found no joy in Westminster after submitting his petition on 5 Dec., despite allegations that the mayor had shown partiality by admitting freemen to vote against Sir Edward, and had used ‘other corrupt and undue practices’. Such complaints may well refer to the 48 new freemen created just before the election, a tactic repeated in the build-up to the next contest, and probably on other subsequent occasions.4

The Association of 1696 was well supported at Lincoln, with some 1,100 local inhabitants signifying their loyalty to King William. Two years later their attention was focused on commercial matters, since in early 1698 the corporation petitioned in support of a bill to improve the navigation of the Don, but to no avail. The admission of 38 new freemen the following July suggested that intensive electioneering was under way, as the contest of 1698 resolved itself into a struggle between Bolles, Hussey and Meres. Once again Meres was disappointed, reportedly trailing Hussey by 100 votes, and Bolles by ‘a yet greater number’. In the ensuing Parliament trade was again a local priority, with civic support expressed on 2 Feb. 1699 for the bill to improve the navigability of the Aire and Calder. The first election of 1701 saw the same candidates as its predecessor, but this time Meres prevailed over Hussey. However, despite having failed to ‘gain the point at Lincoln’, Hussey was reportedly unconcerned at his defeat. The subsequent wave of revulsion which greeted Louis XIV’s recognition of the Pretender worked in the Whig politician’s favour, for in October Lincoln issued a loyal address, and two months later returned Hussey alongside Bolles.5

Great local celebrations greeted the accession of Queen Anne, and the corporation addressed the new monarch in exuberant style, likening her to Elizabeth I in hopes she might overawe the threat of a tyrannical power in Europe. The dean and chapter also protested its allegiance, acknowledging Anne’s care for ‘our religion in very dangerous times’. The notoriety of Bolles earned Lincoln much attention prior to the election of 1702, with Defoe urging Sir John’s defeat in his Reformation of Manners. Although only just released from custody for slandering the Queen, Bolles travelled to the city intending to put up, and one observer even predicted that he ‘will set Sir Thomas Meres hard at Lincoln’. However, Meres and Hussey apparently had little difficulty in overcoming his challenge, and the election marked the final eclipse of his local interest. Two years later the Lincoln assembly issued an address in acknowledgment of the victories of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) and Sir George Rooke*, which, perhaps significantly, was presented by only one of its Members, the Tory Meres.6

Although the borough did not see a contest in 1705, it was undoubtedly influenced by the furore over the Tack, which had sparked controversy throughout the county. Several months in advance of the poll Robert Harley* speculated as to whether Hussey could be encouraged to stand, but Sir Edward does not appear to have put up, and ceased to play any further active role in Lincoln politics. His withdrawal paved the way for the Tories to take both seats in the persons of Meres and Thomas Lister I of Coleby, another gentleman whose ancestors had represented the town. In the ensuing Parliament the corporation was keen to support a bill to improve the navigability of the Foss Dyke, the canal which linked the city to the Trent, but the measure did not even get a first reading. Despite this failure, the sitting Members gained an unopposed return in 1708.7

In June 1710 the Tory bias of the town assembly was signalled by an address which endorsed passive obedience and proclaimed that their ‘whole body are entirely of the Church of England, and for the purity of its doctrines’. However, the configuration of interests at the election of 1710 suggested a more complex pattern of allegiance within the borough at large. The names of both sitting Members were put forward, but the paucity of votes gained by Meres suggests that the septuagenarian had not actively campaigned to be returned. Certainly, the correspondence of Lister’s agents on the eve of the contest makes no reference to Meres, and does not suggest that Lister allied himself with the other Tory challenger, town resident John Sibthorpe, even though the final poll figures indicate that their supporters may have voted in unison. Lister’s backers identified Richard Grantham of Goltho as their chief adversary, another gentleman whose family had long played a prominent part in town affairs. Grantham’s politics at this time are somewhat unclear, but his career bespeaks Whiggish principles. Indeed, he was in all probability the ‘one good’ candidate whose prospects on the eve of the contest were a source of encouragement to the Whig George Whichcot*. The election itself saw Grantham emerge victor by a small margin, leaving Lister to pip Sibthorpe as the Tories battled it out for the second seat.8

Despite Tory disappointment at this election, the corporation remained a bastion of party strength, its members voting in January 1712 to sponsor the publication of a sermon upholding non-resistance. However, political differences between the two Lincoln MPs possibly marred the presentation of the city’s address of July 1712, since only Lister attended the declaration of thanks for the Queen’s promise to communicate peace terms. The following year Lister was again the only one to appear at court with an address acknowledging the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, which in the eyes of the assembly had overcome ‘many foreign difficulties and [the] secret machinations of disloyal and ill-designing persons at home’. This representation indicated that local Tories were in confident mood in the run-up to the election of 1713, and they duly prevailed over Grantham, prompting the Tory Post Boy to gloat that

our poll lasted here from nine on Wednesday morning till four the next morning, and the Church party carried it . . . by a vast majority; had there been occasion, upwards of 50 voters were ready to poll for the two worthy gentlemen who are chosen, to the great satisfaction of all those who are true friends to the Church and Queen; and to the mortification of some who, notwithstanding the stations and revenues they enjoy, have upon all occasions joined with the enemies of both.

The Hanoverian succession predictably tilted the local balance of power in favour of the Whigs, but their Tory adversaries continued to have a considerable impact on Lincoln elections, thereby ensuring many contests and increasing expense for the competing candidates.9

Authors: Paula Watson / Perry Gauci


  • 1. Lincs. Hist. and Arch. vi. 92.
  • 2. Evening Post, 19–22 Sept. 1713.
  • 3. Diary of Abraham de la Pryme (Surtees Soc. liv), 19; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 493; HMC Portland, vi. 86; Dr Williams’ Lib. Evans list.
  • 4. Add. 46525, f. 60; F. Hill, Tudor and Stuart Lincoln, 194, 203; HMC 14th Rep. VIII, 14, 112–14; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 499.
  • 5. Oldmixon, Hist. Addresses, i. 197; Hill, 194; Perceval Diary 1701 ed. Wenger, 100; Lambeth Palace Lib. mss 942/144, John Mandeville to Archbp. Tenison, 20 Aug. 1698; Glos. RO, Newton mss D1844/C/10, J. Weld to Sir John Newton, 3rd Bt., 25 Jan. 1701; Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn Coll. Blathwayt mss, box 20, Robert Yard* to William Blathwayt*, 14 Oct. 1701.
  • 6. Post Man, 28–30 Apr. 1702; London Gazette, 2–6, 9–13 Apr. 1702, 5–9 Oct. 1704; Poems on Affairs of State ed. Ellis, vi. 424; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 4221, Hon. Charles Bertie I* to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 27 July 1702.
  • 7. Add. 70335, list of constituencies, 7 Feb. 1705.
  • 8. Oldmixon, ii. 199; Lincs. AO, Massingberd Mundy mss 2MM/B/5, Vaughan Bonner to Burrell Massingberd, 15 Oct. 1710; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Holles) mss Pw2/291a, Whichcot to Duke of Newcastle (John Holles†), 17 Oct. 1710.
  • 9. Hill, 213; London Gazette, 3–5 July 1712, 19–23 May 1713; Post Boy, 19–22 Sept. 1713.