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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

63 in 1701, 81 in 1712


1 Mar. 1690SIR JOHN FAGG, Bt. 
29 Oct. 1695SIR JOHN FAGG, Bt. 
26 July 1698SIR JOHN FAGG, Bt. 
7 Jan. 1701SIR JOHN FAGG, Bt. 
4 Mar. 1701SIR ROBERT FAGG, Bt. vice Fagg, deceased33
 Charles Goring30
16 Apr. 1701CHARLES GORING vice Fagg, whose election was declared void, 10 Apr. 170126
 Charles Fagg 
 Sir Edward Hungerford 
 William Wallis 
1 Feb. 1709HENRY GORING vice Tunbridge, called to the Upper House 
 RICHARD BELLEW, Ld. Bellew [I] 
 Double return. GORING declared elected, 15 Feb. 1709  
7 Oct. 1710HENRY GORING 
 James St. Amand20
16 Feb. 1712RICHARD BELLEW, Ld. Bellew [I] vice Wallis, whose election was declared void, 17 Feb. 171155
 William Wallis26
24 Apr. 1713ROBERT LEEVES vice Bellew, whose election was declared void 
1 Sept. 1713HENRY GORING 

Main Article

The right of election at Steyning lay in the inhabitants paying scot and lot, but gradually the assessment of these rates was restricted to certain houses built on ancient foundation. The borough had no corporation, the constable who was elected annually at the court of the lord of the manor, the Duke of Norfolk, acting as the returning officer. There was no controlling interest but a strong influence was exercised by two rival local families, the Whig Faggs of Wiston and the Tory Gorings of Highden, both of whom owned houses within the town. In time, however, the borough became increasingly venal, the disputed elections in this period generally turning on the issue of bribery.1

In 1690 the Goring interest was weakened by the failure of the head of the family, Sir Henry Goring, 2nd Bt.†, to take the oaths, which allowed both seats to be taken by the Faggs. Sir John Fagg, 2nd Bt., was returned with his son, Robert I, both Whigs. Just before the 1695 election John Freke wrote to Robert Harley* that at Steyning, ‘Sir J. Fagg chooses whom he pleases’. On this occasion Fagg procured his own return and that of Sir Edward Hungerford of nearby Broadwater, probably also a Whig. These two held the seats in 1698 and both stood in the first 1701 election, but a contest threatened, with no less than four other candidates in the field. The first to appear was Dr Charles Goring, son of Sir Henry. Anxious to revive the family interest at Steyning, he applied for support to the Duke of Somerset, who dominated West Sussex from his seat at Petworth although by his own account his interest in Steyning was small. Next was Hon. Robert Cecil*, a kinsman of Somerset, who also applied to the Duke for support. Fagg and Hungerford stood again, and the remaining two candidates were Major Monke, probably a member of the Monke family of Ashington and Shoreham, either John Monke†, who represented Shoreham in 1689 or his son William; and a Mr Moyer, probably Samuel Moyer, a wealthy Turkey merchant of Pitsea Hall, Essex, who was created a baronet in 1701. All these candidates had declared themselves by the time John Ellis*, the under-secretary of state, wrote to Somerset requesting his aid at Steyning. One Mr Heron replied on the Duke’s behalf on 26 Dec. 1700:

Dr Goring . . . has been so early in his applications to my lord Duke about Steyning that ’tis above a month ago since he engaged him and indeed, if he had not been so nimble, Mr Robert Cecil, the fat gentleman whom I believe you must have seen, who is a near relation of my lord Duke’s and whom he has a great inclination to serve, would have been too early for you, for it is near three weeks since he made his addresses, but came too late and though he is now certainly upon the place, can do no good, as ’tis generally believed, there being no less than six candidates for that borough . . . My lord Duke desires you, therefore, for the future, whenever you have thoughts of this nature that you would let him be made acquainted with them very early, though the interest he has at Steyning is so very small that he never yet interfered himself in any election there and I believe had not done it now if the same person who prevailed upon him to espouse his interest there had not desired him it was much more considerable than he ever thought it had been.

Heron finished by recommending Bramber as a likelier prospect for an outsider. Heron did, however, visit Steyning, where he discovered that Ellis’ hopes rested on Moyer, who intended to make a charitable bequest to the town and thereby establish an interest which he would transfer to Ellis. Heron expressed grave doubts as to the feasibility of the scheme, writing to Ellis on 29 Dec.:

I had the curiosity to go to Steyning last Friday, where I had never been before, to learn upon what foot you founded your design of standing there, you having only told me in general terms, that you had met with encouragement to do it, and there I found the candidates I told you of in my last . . . Mr Moyer had not declared his pretensions till the very night I came and really, though the charitable intention he has for the advantage of the poor there deserves their utmost acknowledgment yet the pre-engagements they are all or most of them under at this time, makes it impossible, I think, that he should succeed, and consequently you, for he told me afterwards he designed to devolve all the interest he would make upon you, and even that too, I think, would be another difficulty, for whatever effect this surprising charity may have upon them at the first impression, I question very much whether it would transport them so far as to transfer their votes to a gentleman, whose name they would not hear of till the moment of election, for so Mr Moyer, as I apprehend by him, designed to manage it.

It is not known if any or all of these candidates went to a poll, but whatever the case Fagg’s interest proved the strongest and he and Hungerford were returned. On the death of Fagg shortly after the general election the seat was contested by his son and successor Robert I, now the 2nd Bt., and Goring. Goring lost by three votes and a correspondent wrote:

I hear from Sussex that Dr Goring . . . hath been disappointed in his election at Steyning after he had exhausted most of his treasure and credit. I question not but he and his father will contrive to bring an action against the borough for damages, they always being sure of one witness, Tom Lee, and I doubt not of their industry in procuring another when they shall think convenient.

Goring petitioned, alleging bribery and partiality on the part of the constable, who had been ‘threatened and overawed’ by Fagg. The franchise was not in dispute, as being agreed to be in the inhabitants paying scot and lot, but counsel for Goring challenged eight of Fagg’s voters as unqualified and alleged extensive treating by Fagg before the election together with numerous presents of food to the electors. For the sitting Member, counsel challenged eight of Goring’s electors and claimed that he had paid up to five guineas a vote. Before the case could be made for justifying Fagg’s electors the committee stopped the hearing and resolved that neither candidate was duly elected. The House agreed and the election was declared void. Fagg and Goring contested the subsequent by-election and this time Goring was returned by two votes. Fagg petitioned, alleging that the constable had closed the poll while 13 of his supporters were still waiting to cast their votes. The petition was referred to the committee but never reported. Both men were returned, apparently unchallenged, at the second 1701 election.2

For the 1702 election (Sir) Robert Fagg withdrew in favour of his younger brother, Charles Fagg of Mystole, Kent, who, with Hungerford, stood against Goring. Fagg was defeated and petitioned against Goring, alleging bribery and corrupt practices, but the petition was never reported. The decline of the Fagg interest, which seems to have begun with the death of Sir John in 1701, was further marked in 1705, when no member of the family stood, leaving Hungerford and Goring to fight it out against a newcomer, William Wallis, a former army officer and probably a Whig, who owned estates in Hertfordshire and had bought property in Steyning. Hungerford was defeated and presented a petition accusing Wallis of bribery and corruption, but it was not reported. He reintroduced the petition on 5 Dec. 1706, only to withdraw it.

Goring’s death in 1708 enabled the Faggs to make a comeback in the person of Robert Fagg II, (Sir) Robert’s son and possibly, unlike the other members of his family, a Tory. The second seat was contested by Wallis and a newcomer, Viscount Tunbridge, son of the 1st Earl of Rochford, a close friend of William III. Tunbridge was a serving army officer and also a Whig. After his defeat, Wallis’ petition against Tunbridge, containing the customary charge of bribery, was heard at the bar of the House on 22 Jan. 1709, when Tunbridge was declared duly elected. As his father’s death had already sent him to the Lords, a new writ was issued on the same day. The by-election was contested by Henry Goring (later 4th Bt.), a nephew of Dr Charles Goring but at this point a Whig, and Lord Bellew, an Irish peer standing on the interest of his brother-in-law the Duke of Richmond, who in 1695–7 had purchased Goodwood Park. Although Richmond was a Whig, Bellew seems to have been a Tory. There was a double return. In his petition Goring alleged that he had had the majority of legal votes and had been proclaimed as duly elected, whereupon Richmond had demanded a scrutiny, after which the constable had again declared Goring duly elected and at around noon had made three proclamations to that effect. Some hours later, Goring had been about to leave town when he heard the market bell ring, and:

inquiring into the meaning of it, and seeing a great number of people drawn together, sent his clerk and two or three gentlemen, to know what was the matter, who, going into the session-house, and finding the Duke of Richmond, the Lord Bellew, the constable and most of those that voted for the Lord Bellew, together, the petitioner’s clerk tendered the indenture of return of the petitioner to the constable to sign; which he said he would not immediately do, but that he must leave it, and he would return it; but was resolved to make a double return.

Bellew presented a petition containing the more usual allegations of bribery, menaces and unqualified voters. At a hearing on the merits of the return the House resolved that Goring had been duly elected. Further consideration of the merits of the election was adjourned for three days and Bellew, probably realizing that he had little chance, withdrew his petition.3

Four candidates initially entered the 1710 contest. The old Goring–Fagg rivalry was renewed in the persons of Henry Goring, who after this election became inclined to the Tories, and Robert Fagg II. The other candidates were Wallis and James St. Amand, the antiquary, who owned Steyning rectory, and whose father, a prominent Jacobite, had represented St. Ives in 1685. According to one witness Fagg did not stand the poll, and St. Amand was defeated following ‘foul play’. St. Amand duly petitioned against Wallis. The petition suggests that Wallis had stood with Goring, as it claimed that the constable was Wallis’ tenant and had therefore returned Wallis and Goring, and that Goring had also used illegal practices to obtain votes. The elections committee reported that the right of election was agreed to be in the inhabitant householders paying scot and lot. Although an apparent difference from the 1701 report, the lack of disputes and little change in the number of voters in the subsequent contest suggests that there was in fact no material change in the franchise in this period. Counsel for St. Amand claimed that, of Wallis’ 51 votes, 42 were ineligible, 30 for bribery, ten for treats and two for receiving alms. It was alleged that before the election 42 of the voters had signed a request for St. Amand to stand and promising to vote for him, but at the poll the majority of them voted for Wallis, who had paid sums varying from £7 to 50s. for a vote, and many of them declared that they would not have voted for Wallis had they not been bribed. The night before the election Wallis had treated 12 or 13 of the electors at the house of one of his tenants. Counsel for Wallis alleged that St. Amand had not only bribed voters but had bribed the witnesses against Wallis, giving sums varying from £10 to £50. The committee resolved that neither candidate had been duly elected, and the House agreed, declaring the election void and ordering further that no new writ be issued that session. When the election was eventually held on 16 Feb. 1712 Wallis and Bellew again contested. This time, although Wallis had 27 tenants in the town, he could only muster 26 votes (25 according to the Post Boy) against 55 for Bellew, who was not present at the election. Wallis petitioned, and his counsel challenged all Bellew’s votes as having been obtained by bribery or treating. The elections committee reported to the House on 8 May 1712 that the right of election was not disputed, but that serious charges of bribery had been heard. Wallis’ counsel claimed that Richmond had financed the election; that £200 had been left with Robert Leeves, a local man, and £300 with ‘Mr Fagg’, presumably Robert II, to act for Bellew. Some £5–£10 had been promised per vote and in some cases already paid. Richmond and his chaplain had personally canvassed for Bellew and the night before the election had treated 39 of the electors at a local inn for the whole night, right up until the election. Several of Wallis’ witnesses claimed that he had publicly declared he would not give any money for votes. For Bellew, counsel claimed that Wallis’ witnesses had been bribed to give false evidence; and that Wallis had offered 10–20 guineas to Nathaniel Trayton, steward of the court for the Duke of Norfolk, the lord of the manor, to choose a constable favourable to Wallis, but that Trayton had refused. The committee declared in favour of Bellew, but the House disagreed. A resolution finding Wallis duly elected was also defeated and the election was declared void. It was ordered that no new writ be issued that session. When the election did take place, on 24 Apr. 1713, Bellew’s former agent Robert Leeves, a Tory, was returned. In 1713 Goring and Wallis were returned unchallenged, both men representing the borough until the end of the period.4

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Q. xvii. 398.
  • 2. Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; 28893, f. 131; 28927, f. 127; 28886, ff. 168, 180; 28252, f. 257; J. Comber, Suss. Gen. (Lewes), 188–9.
  • 3. Add. 31143, f. 298; Goodwood Estate Archs. ed. Steer and Venables, i. p. xi.
  • 4. SRO, Hamilton mss GD406/1/5649, William Wade to Hamilton, 6 Oct. 1710; VCH Suss. vi(1), 237.