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:

234 in 16981


 Philip Foley 
21 Nov. 1694THOMAS FOLEY vice Cope, deceased 
28 Oct. 1695PHILIP FOLEY 
27 July 1698PHILIP FOLEY159
 Matthew Ducie Moreton101
 Edward Foden62
16 Jan. 1701JOHN CHETWYND 
25 Nov. 1701THOMAS FOLEY 
24 July 1702THOMAS FOLEY 
26 Dec. 1702WALTER CHETWYND vice Chetwynd, deceased 
25 Nov. 1709WALTER CHETWYND re-elected after appointment to office 
6 Oct. 1710WALTER CHETWYND1142
 Henry Vernon163
 VERNON vice Chetwynd, on petition, 25 Jan. 1711 
24 Jan. 1712WALTER CHETWYND vice Foley, called to the Upper House 

Main Article

Stafford, the county town, had seen considerable electoral manoeuvrings during the Restoration period but no actual polling of rival candidates. In 1690, however, there was a challenge to the more Whiggish of the outgoing Members, Philip Foley, from a Tory, Jonathan Cope I, which resulted in a poll. All three candidates were local gentlemen, but John Chetwynd, who topped the poll, had the support of the corporation. The real contest was for the other seat and here the role of the mayor, as the returning officer, proved vital. According to Walter Chetwynd I*, ‘the other two were more equally matched and though my neighbour C[ope] has drunk hard for it, his liquor would hardly have made him a burgess without the concurrence of Mr Mayor’s favour’. Entertainment for the voters was a recurring theme in Stafford elections, but Foley chose to highlight the mayor’s role in illegally admitting voters in his petition against Cope’s return. However, despite an order for the town clerk to attend the committee of elections, no report was made to the House. Foley renewed his petition on 6 Oct. 1690, but again no action was taken so it may be presumed that Foley let the case quietly drop as he had also been returned for Droitwich.3

The death of Cope, probably in September 1694, saw the Foleys manoeuvring to find an acceptable candidate to succeed him. Thomas Foley I* early announced his intention to his brother Philip to put up his son, Thomas Foley III. This placed Philip in a dilemma as he felt honour-bound to alert Hon. Henry Paget* to the vacancy as the latter had reluctantly retreated from dividing the county in a by-election a few months before. However, Foley did not minimize the difficulties Paget would face in terms of opponents, citing Sir Thomas Pershall, John Chetwynd of Grendon, and members of the Bagot and Shirley families as possible rivals, and the consequent expense it would involve. In declining Foley’s offer of assistance Paget made reference to Stafford’s reputation as a relatively open but expensive borough in which to seek election: ‘I waive my design for a place where so many worthy persons are eating and drinking themselves into the good opinion of their electors who cannot but value them according to their abilities that way.’ Although it was rumoured that the neighbouring gentry designed a ‘confederacy’ against the Foleys, it was left to John Chetwynd of Grendon to provide the opposition. By late September one observer estimated that almost £100 had been spent, whereupon ‘the ordinary people of the town seem very well pleased’, while Thomas Foley reported ‘fighting every night’ in the borough. All this expense eventually proved too much for Chetwynd who desisted about ten days before the election leaving Foley unopposed.4

At the 1695 election the partnership of Philip and Thomas Foley proved too strong for the other sitting Member, John Chetwynd, and an army officer, Matthew Ducie Moreton*, who had both made some interest before desisting. This Foley partnership faced a more serious challenge in 1698 from Moreton and Edward Foden, the recorder of Stafford. Both men held estates locally, the former at Moreton and the latter at Haughton, four miles from the borough. The Foleys were prepared to spend money to defend their position, giving £100 towards endowing the town’s almshouses in election year (as did John Chetwynd) and they were evidently successful, easily outpolling their opponents. An analysis of the poll book shows 121 double votes for the Foleys as against only 53 for the Moreton–Foden ticket. Perhaps significantly, the more Tory-inclined Thomas Foley was unable to pick up many votes from his rivals, whereas 35 voters chose to support Philip Foley and Moreton, a committed Whig.5

Despite considerable pressure from his political associates, Philip Foley declined to stand at the general election of January 1701. Realization of mortality, plus election costs of £420 at the previous election, no doubt influenced his decision, which was taken in spite of a calculation from his supporters in the borough which indicated that nearly half the voters were ready to commit themselves to double votes, a fact which in turn persuaded Sir Thomas Pershall to ‘order his son to desist as there was no likelihood of his carrying it’. As Philip Foley was adamant that he would not contest the election, this allowed John Chetwynd to join Thomas Foley without opposition. Very little is known about the election of November 1701 except that by June Foley’s agents were asking for additional funds and that a ‘tumult’ was reported to have occurred on the eve of polling during which two people were killed ‘and many broken heads were given before the fray ended’. Nevertheless, no poll was necessary to return John Pershall with Foley.6

The general election of 1702 appears to have passed off without incident, Foley and Chetwynd being returned unopposed, no doubt because Pershall was reported to have little support. However, a letter of November 1702 from Pershall to Philip Foley indicates some discussion in the ranks of the corporation over filling vacancies in the common council. To Pershall an agreement between their supporters would ensure ‘one of your family and mine may represent the corporation of Stafford whilst this generation of men are living’. A failure to agree could only help Chetwynd’s interest. It is possible that Philip Foley’s retirement had caused some unease to the traditional supporters of the family interest owing to the more pronounced Tory views of his nephew. In the event, John Chetwynd’s death in December 1702 saw the unopposed return of his son, Walter Chetwynd II, and may have facilitated the realignment of politics in the borough with Foley becoming more associated with the Tories in local and national affairs and the Chetwynds more inclined to the Whigs. A report in March 1705 referred to the importance of the corporation and Lord Gower’s (then Sir John Leveson Gower, 5th Bt.*) attempts to engineer changes in it for the benefit of John Chetwynd before his death. In 1705 Philip Foley was discussing ways in which to minimize Gower’s influence. Clearly the Foleys were perceived as separate, and more moderate than any likely client of Gower, for Lord Paget, an old Whig ally of the Foleys, was lobbying hard for Pershall in case Thomas Foley should not stand at Stafford in 1705. When the election took place in May the forces of the Chetwynds and the Foleys were sufficiently strong to exclude a third candidate and ensure their untroubled return. The same combination of forces saw the outgoing Members returned in the 1708 election and, no doubt, enabled Walter Chetwynd to be re-elected after his appointment to office in November 1709.7

However, earlier in 1709, the furore over the dismissal of Henry Vernon I (recorder of Stafford) and Bryan Broughton† from the bench had indicated that the former had designs on Chetwynd’s seat. Indeed, Vernon appears to have threatened to oppose Henry Paget in the county unless he helped to persuade Thomas Foley to join with him. In the circumstances of 1710 such an alliance was bound to put Chetwynd in difficulty as he was associated with the ousted Whig ministry. However, Chetwynd secured his return, through the mayor ‘who is a Dissenter’. Vernon petitioned, and was able to obtain a second petition on his behalf from several freemen and sons of burgesses who had been refused the right to vote. The Commons heard the merits of the case at the bar and declared Vernon duly elected. Interestingly, Thomas Foley was reported to be greatly satisfied with this outcome, although in December his brother-in-law, Robert Harley*, the leading minister, had angered ‘some of the warm Tories’ by dividing with the Whigs on the question of whether to refer the petition to the committee of elections. Harley probably saw Chetwynd as a possible supporter of his moderate scheme, whereas for Foley, deep-seated family rivalry was the paramount consideration. Chetwynd returned to the Commons in January 1712 on Foley’s elevation to the peerage and he retained the seat in 1713, being returned unopposed with Vernon. The swing in party fortunes in 1715 saw the Chetwynds capture both seats without a contest.8

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Hereford and Worcester RO (Hereford), Foley mss E12/F/I/BE/335, pollbk. 1698.
  • 2. Post Boy, 7–10 Oct. 1710.
  • 3. Harl. 7001, f. 396; Wm. Salt Lib. Stafford, Stafford city pprs. box. 8, election case (Horwitz trans.); Add. 70014, f. 317; Staffs. RO, D1323/A/1, corpn. order bk. p. 371.
  • 4. Foley mss, [Philip Foley] to Mr P[aget], 11 Nov. 1694 (copy), Paget to Foley, 18 Sept. 1694; Add. 70114, Foley to Robert Harley, 29 Sept. 1694; 70226, Thomas Foley I to same, 10 Nov. 1694; HMC Portland, iii. 558.
  • 5. Add. 70018, f. 85v; 70227, Thomas Foley III to Robert Harley, 25 Oct. 1695; Foley mss, William Greene to Philip Foley, 19 Feb. 1697[–8]; 1698 pollbk.; J. L. Cherry, Stafford in Olden Times, 78.
  • 6. Add. 70225, Philip Foley to Harley, 18 Dec. 1700; 29579, f. 248; Foley mss, Obadiah Lance to Philip Foley, 21 June 1701; HMC Portland, iii. 638; London Post, 1–3 Dec. 1701.
  • 7. Add. 29579, f. 405; Foley mss, John Pershall to Philip Foley, 7 Nov. 1702, Philip Foley to [–], 13 Mar. 1704[–5], Ld. Paget to William Greene, 24 Mar. 1705.
  • 8. Staffs. RO, Gower mss D593/P/16/1/2a, Vernon to Ld. Gower, 13 Aug. 1709; Post Boy, 7–10 Oct. 1710; HMC 5th Rep. 208; Add. 70144, Mary Foley to Abigail Harley, 25 Jan. 1710[–11]; Wentworth Pprs. 161.