Lyme Regis


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 and freeholders 1690; in the resident freemen 1695, 1701 (Feb.)-1708; in the resident freemen and freeholders 1698, 1710, 1713

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 32 in 1701 (Nov.); at least 39 in 1708


10 Feb. 1690Henry Henley 
 John Burridge I 
29 Oct. 1695Henry Henley 
 Robert Henley 
4 Aug. 1698Henry Henley 
 Robert Henley 
9 Jan. 1701Robert Henley 
 Joseph Paice 
27 Nov. 1701John Burridge I32
 Joseph Paice23
 Richard Hallet9
20 July 1702Henry Henley 
 John Burridge I 
15 May 1705Thomas Freke 
 John Burridge I 
10 May 1708John Burridge I33
 Thomas Freke29
 Henry Henley16
10 Oct. 1710Henry Henley 
 John Burridge II 
31 Aug. 1713Henry Henley 
 John Burridge II 

Main Article

The main interest at Lyme Regis lay with two local Whig families, the Henleys, who owned land in and around the town and had established an almost hereditary right to one seat, and the Burridges, a merchant family whose members had frequently filled the mayor’s office and who had become sufficiently influential by 1689 to supply a parliamentary representative. John Burridge I had been returned after a contest in 1689, when a longstanding controversy over the right of election was also revived. Since 1660 returns had been made by the mayor, corporation and freemen. But Burridge had gained his victory by additional votes from the freeholders. A petition against his election had been upheld by the elections committee but overruled by the House. In 1690 Henry Henley and Burridge were returned on the same franchise as at the previous election. Burridge stood down in 1695 and most probably gave his support to his successor Robert Henley (a Bristol merchant and defeated candidate of 1679), who in addition to being a kinsman of Henry Henley possessed the advantage of being a commissioner of transport. The Henleys were returned without a contest and, so far as can be discerned from the indenture, upon the narrower franchise of mayor, aldermen and freemen alone. The same candidates were re-elected in 1698, when Robert Henley’s interest had been further enhanced by his appointment to the customs commission. At this election, however, the return was made by both freemen and freeholders. Henry Henley stood down at the first 1701 election, and was replaced by Joseph Paice, a London merchant. In his memoirs, Paice claimed that he had been invited to stand by a member of the corporation, but it should be noted that he was also a kinsman of the Burridges and doubtless enjoyed their support. The indenture for this election implied a franchise that was restricted to the mayor, capital burgesses and resident freemen. The second election of 1701 was contested. Robert Henley, whose office on the customs commission was now incompatible with a seat in the Commons, retired, leaving Paice to stand in partnership with Burridge. Richard Hallet, a London merchant now settled at Lyme Regis, offered a challenge based on the freeholder vote, but Paice and Burridge were returned on the restricted franchise. Hallet petitioned on 6 Jan. 1702, claiming that

a few days before the election, Nathaniel Gundry, mayor of the said borough, declared he would admit the freeholders to vote; yet, finding several to come, intending to vote for the petitioner, he refused to let them vote, and declared Mr Burridge and Mr Paice duly elected; although the petitioner would have had a majority of legal votes from Mr Paice, if the mayor would have suffered them to poll.

The petition was referred to the elections committee, but was never reported.1

The failure of Hallet’s petition was a setback for the freeholders and they continued to be excluded from the next three elections. In 1702 Paice retired from public life and was replaced by Henry Henley. Burridge held on to the second seat. Shortly before the election, Hallet, doubtless angry at his failure, had called in a loan of £200 which he had made to the corporation in 1697; but Burridge had immediately filled the gap by lending a similar sum. In 1705 Henley stood down to make way for Thomas Freke II, a Whig member of a prominent Dorset family and a friend of the Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley*). Freke was seeking respite, in the comparative safety of Lyme, from the frequent contests at Weymouth. Shortly after this election Defoe wrote to Robert Harley* that Lyme was a ‘town entirely united, and all the churchmen very moderate and well affected’. The accommodation between Henley and Freke lasted only for one Parliament. Henley stood again in 1708, albeit unsuccessfully, against Burridge and Freke. Henley’s petition on 26 Nov. made no mention of the right of election, but a second one from his supporters, presented simultaneously, claimed that the mayor had refused to poll the freeholders. The indenture itself mentioned only the mayor, aldermen and resident freemen. At the next two elections, however, Henley carried the seat on the broader franchise, now in partnership with John Burridge II, the nephew of the former Member. Disputes over the qualification of electors, especially the rights of non-resident freemen, continued in the ensuing period and were not resolved until 1785.2

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. A. Luders, Controverted Elections, ii. 4, 10–13, 18–23, 27, 70–71; A. Manning, Fam. Pictures, 7–8, 12; Dorset RO, Lyme Regis mss B7/D1/3A, 1 Mar. 1702.
  • 2. Luders, 8–12; HMC Portland, iv. 270.