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

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 1,356 in 1701; 2,914 in 1705; 2,585 in 1710; 2,780 in 17131


20 Feb. 1690SIR JOHN PELHAM, Bt. 
14 Nov. 1695SIR JOHN PELHAM, Bt. 
 Robert Orme 
25 Aug. 1698SIR WILLIAM THOMAS, Bt. 
 Sir John Fagg, Bt. 
9 Jan. 1701HENRY LUMLEY 
11 Dec. 1701SIR HENRY PEACHEY859
 Henry Lumley600
 Robert Orme4512
23 July 1702THOMAS PELHAM 
 Sir Henry Peachey1397
 Henry Lumley8953
20 May 1708SIR HENRY PEACHEY1307
 Sir George Parker, Bt.6214
5 Oct. 1710SIR GEORGE PARKER, Bt.1512
 Sir Nicholas Pelham1067
 Sir Henry Peachey10485
7 Aug. 1712EVERSFIELD re-elected after appointment to office 
3 Sept. 1713HENRY CAMPION1522
 James Butler1308
 John Morley Trevor12376

Main Article

In addition to the usual party divisions in Sussex, there was considerable rivalry between its eastern and its western sides which was exacerbated by the method of holding elections in the county. Each election was confined to the town where the county court was sitting, and by law the county court met alternately in Lewes and Chichester. This arrangement, together with the 1696 Act for further regulating elections which stated that a poll could not legally be adjourned to another part of the county without the agreement of the candidates, meant that several consecutive elections might be held at one or the other town. This was a source of much dissatisfaction among the eastern electors, who claimed that Chichester was extremely inconvenient for them. In earlier periods the practice had developed of choosing one Member from the east and one from the west, but as partisan politics caused more contests and increased the turnout of voters, this amicable agreement broke down, particularly as elections held at Chichester were dominated by the Duke of Somerset, whose seat at Petworth gave him a commanding position in West Sussex. Other politically active peers with extensive estates in the county were Ford Grey, Earl of Tankerville, George Nevill, 13th Lord Abergavenny, and Thomas Lennard, Earl of Sussex. Of the commoners, the most influential family were the Pelhams of East Halland in the east.7

In 1690 both outgoing Members, Sir John Pelham, 3rd Bt., and Sir William Thomas, 1st Bt., of Fokington, were returned without a contest. Both were long-serving MPs, both were from the east of the county and both were Whigs. The same two stood again in 1695, but this time they were opposed by a candidate from the west, Robert Orme, a Tory, of Woolavington, who enjoyed the support of Somerset and the bishop of Chichester. An account of the pre-election manoeuvring and the election itself was sent by Robert Middleton, vicar of Cuckfield, to his brother-in-law, Dr Simon Patrick, bishop of Ely (formerly bishop of Chichester). The bishop of Chichester had written a letter on Orme’s behalf to the clergymen of the diocese, which greatly annoyed many of the local Whig gentry, since Orme ‘sustains the odium of having all the papists and Jacobites to be much on his side’. Orme’s party first tried to rush the election through at Chichester before the rest of the county was alerted, but this was prevented when the sheriff postponed the poll for a fortnight. On polling day there was a great crowd of voters for Pelham and Thomas from the middle and eastern parts of the county led by Sussex and Abergavenny. Tankerville brought in 200–300 freeholders from the west for Pelham, ‘who was chiefly struck at’ by Orme, but despite this obvious superiority in numbers

Mr Orme and his party would have a poll. And this was insisted on, and the poll was also taken only in one narrow place, in all likelihood to protract the election and force thereby multitudes of our side to return home unpolled, they having many three score miles, some a little more, and some less, to ride, to get to Battle fair on Monday, on which their winter provision of cattle did depend. For these reasons, and also because the sheriff, and those of our party, when grown thin, were threatened to be assaulted by the mob, whom Mr Orme feasted prodigiously; and also because the sheriff and the knights had it under the hands of the best lawyers that it was legal, the court was for the convenience of ours, and the Eastern country, adjourned to Lewes the Thursday following, where the poll was concluded.

According to Middleton, Pelham and Thomas polled about 900 at Chichester and 600 at Lewes, while Orme had about 400 in Chichester but none at Lewes, having refused to bring any of his voters there, partly because he had few to bring but also because, by protesting at the adjournment of the poll to Lewes as illegal, which it probably was, he would have grounds for challenging the election in Parliament. His petition against Pelham and Thomas, alleging illegal practices by the sheriff, was presented on 30 Nov. 1695, but on 7 Mar. 1696 he was granted leave to withdraw it.8

There had been some dissatisfaction that both the 1695 Members were from the east. To solve this problem, Pelham stood down in 1698, leaving Thomas to find a partner from the west, which he did in the person of Sir John Fagg, 1st Bt.*, of Wiston. At another level, Tankerville and Somerset, who had been on opposite sides in 1695, now agreed to act jointly, but while both were happy to accept Thomas, Somerset wished to continue supporting Orme, who was quite unacceptable to Tankerville. On 21 July Tankerville wrote to Somerset:

In order to preserve that good understanding which has so happily begun between us and shall on my part be preserved as what I value most, I think it convenient to repeat to your Grace what, with my usual plainness, I acquainted you at White’s Chocolate House, which was that I could not bring myself to be for Mr Aulmes [i.e. Orme], but would most willingly concur with you if Sir Henry Peachey, or some other western gentleman proper for such a trust, were proposed by your Grace for the county in conjunction with Sir William Thomas; I am still of the same mind, and with me do agree almost all of this part of the country, but if that cannot be, Sir John Fagg will answer the common objection last election for the county, for he is a western gentleman.

In the event Orme stood again, presumably with Somerset’s support, and on this occasion Fagg proved a less formidable opponent than Pelham had been and Orme was successful.9

For the first 1701 election Thomas contented himself with his borough of Seaford and Orme did not stand. Somerset’s candidate was Brigadier Henry Lumley, brother of the 1st Earl of Scarbrough, but unlike Scarbrough he seems to have been a moderate Tory. The day before the election Somerset gave it as his opinion that Lumley was secure and that the second seat would probably go to Thomas Pelham I, a Whig from the east, eldest son of Sir John Pelham. This prediction proved only partly correct. Lumley was returned but Pelham came in for his usual seat at Lewes and the second seat went instead to John Miller, a Tory from Chichester in West Sussex. It is not known if the election went to a poll. By contrast, in the second 1701 election there were five potential candidates: Thomas, Orme, Henry Lumley and Thomas Pelham all stood, and they were joined by Sir Henry Peachey, a Whig, whose estate lay in Petworth in the west. On 14 Nov. Orme reported that Peachey and Pelham had joined, but a week later Pelham was returned again for Lewes and dropped out of the Sussex contest, which was won by Peachey and Thomas. After the election Sussex was one of the constituencies which sent instructions to its two newly elected Members as to their conduct in Parliament. Careful not to treat the Members as delegates rather than representatives, the preamble ran:

It is not that we think we are able to instruct or direct you, our representatives, how to discharge that high trust which we by our choice have called you to. No, at no rate, but we judge it convenient that you should in some general notions know the sense of us whom you represent in this critical junction.

The Members were then urged to do their utmost to assist the King in any measures he saw fit to take against France, to support the alliance already made and any found necessary in the future, to ensure that sufficient supply was voted, and to avoid all ‘heats animosities and misunderstandings’ both within Parliament and with the ministry. In 1702 the county’s address of condolence on the death of King William and congratulation on the accession of Queen Anne was presented not by one of the county Members, but by the defeated candidate Thomas Pelham, who had been returned for Lewes. He was introduced by the lord lieutenant, the 6th Earl of Dorset and Middlesex (Charles Sackville†). For the 1702 election Pelham and Henry Lumley were returned, apparently unchallenged.10

The 1705 election was contested by Peachey, Henry Lumley and two candidates standing for the first time: Sir George Parker, 2nd Bt., a Tory, of Ratton, and John Morley Trevor, a Whig, of Glynde, both from the east. Trevor’s wife was niece to Thomas Pelham I, now Sir Thomas, 4th Bt., and he also had the support of Somerset. While there was a possibility that the election would be held at Chichester, Trevor and his supporters indicated that they would support the candidate from the west (Peachey), but without formally joining, for fear that this ‘would hurt Mr Trevor’s interest with the clergy’. On this assurance Peachey, according to his own account, made all the interest he could in the west for Trevor:

but when ’twas known the election would be in the east they began openly to show that neither the word joining nor the thing had any place in their thoughts. Being informed of this from all parts, I took a journey to Lewes, where I found it true, and no other reason for it, than that ’twould hurt Mr Trevor and do me no good, which had it been at first alleged had been unexceptionable, but to offer it a week only before the election, savoured not very much of the man of honour, nor did the pretence the clergy would take offence at it much mend the matter, but still less now we see that more of those gentlemen polled for me than him, and that even of the few he had one half were western men made by me.

Peachey further claimed that he had been reliably informed that Trevor’s agents had not only done nothing for him but had actually made interest against him and that on the day of the election, before his arrival, supporters of Trevor and Parker ‘joined in the field and cried up each other’. Whatever the truth of these charges, when Peachey actually arrived, his supporters and Trevor’s were jointly led to the poll by Somerset. An eyewitness wrote to Robert Harley*:

What added, if not to the interest of the two latter [Trevor and Peachey], yet to the splendour of their party was that the dukes of Somerset and Richmond appeared at their head and such a sight having been seldom seen at Lewes, it was thought by all the inhabitants it must of necessity carry the election, but multa cadunt etc., for before they began to poll the high sheriff produced the resolves of the House of Commons against lords of Parliament appearing at elections and told their Graces they should go off the bench before one man should be polled. The Duke of Richmond swore he would not go off; the other began to debate and told the sheriff the resolve of the House was no law. The sheriff replied whatever was done by the Commons in Parliament he would always abide by as his representatives, even to the last drop of his blood, ‘and if you do not go immediately off the bench, I’ll adjourn the court’. ‘Mr Sheriff’, quoth the Duke of Somerset, ‘you had acted more like a gentleman had you told us of this before we came here’. ‘My lords, till I came here I had nothing to do to tell you, neither could I believe you would come where you knew you had nothing to do, and I would have you to know I am as good a gentleman as yourself and know as well how to behave myself’. He ordered the under sheriff to make way and he himself went off with them, and our dukes immediately with the stars disappeared, which brought all their party under a cloud.

The two dukes spent the rest of their time watching a puppet show. This comic debacle, together with the lack of support from Trevor, ensured Peachey’s defeat, and Trevor was returned with the other easterner, Parker. Peachey’s petition against Parker’s return was not reported in this session and, although reintroduced, was withdrawn.11

Having secured both seats in 1705 the eastern gentlemen determined to try to perpetuate their predominance by introducing a bill to reform elections in Sussex, very probably to enable the county sheriff to adjourn elections from Chichester to Lewes and vice versa. Leave to bring in such a bill was granted on 10 Feb. 1708. The committee charged with preparing the bill was dominated by MPs with eastern interests: Parker, John Morley Trevor, Thomas Pelham II, the Member for Lewes, and Hon. Spencer Compton. However, the manager of the bill was John Conyers, who had represented East Grinstead which was in the western division. The bill had its first reading on 16 Feb., but while it was in committee petitions were presented, from the western freeholders, Arundel, Midhurst and Horsham against it, and from Hastings in favour. Eventually the opposition proved too strong and the bill was dropped.12

The failure of the bill enabled the 1708 election to be held entirely at Chichester and this time Peachey, the western Whig, was returned unopposed, doubtless with the support of Somerset. A second Whig, Peter Gott, whose principal seat, Stanmer, was four miles from Brighton and just within the eastern division, put up against the Tory, Parker. After a two-day poll, Parker retired from the contest. The 1710 election was a strictly party contest, in which Somerset put up two Whigs, Peachey from the west and Sir Nicholas Pelham, uncle of Thomas Pelham I, now Lord Pelham, from the east. The two Tories were also easterners: Parker, and Charles Eversfield of Denne Place, who usually sat for Horsham. A pre-election report to Harley that the ‘High Church’ would prevail was proved correct. When Eversfield stood for re-election in 1712 after his appointment to office, the Whigs at first intended to oppose him. The Tory newspaper, the Post Boy, reported:

We are informed by the faction here that Charles Eversfield is to be opposed in his election for the county of Sussex, he having been a zealous promoter of peace and a great enemy to Whiggism by getting subscriptions of £400 to buy common prayer books to be sent into Scotland.

In fact the Whigs did not put up any opposition and Eversfield was unanimously re-elected. The Post Boy reported:

there being the greatest appearance of gentlemen and substantial freeholders that was ever known in the county with above 150 of the clergy; there was such great numbers went into that factious town (Lewes), crying peace, peace, that it was observable it gave great disturbances to the inhabitants, who are most of them Dissenters, or those that delight in war.

For the 1713 election the Tories put up Henry Campion, a Jacobite, who was something of a break with Sussex traditions in that his principal seat was in Kent. His partner was John Fuller of Brightling in East Sussex. The two Whig candidates were John Morley Trevor from the east and James Butler II of Warminghurst Park in the west, previously MP for Arundel. But the old rivalry between east and west was now largely subsumed in the party rivalry of Whig and Tory, and when Butler had been asked to contest Sussex, he replied that he would only do so ‘if it be in the Whig interest’. Trevor and Butler advertised their joint candidature in the Daily Courant and Flying Post, soliciting votes as

men zealously affected to the present constitution both in church and state, the Queen and Protestant succession in the illustrious House of Hanover, and for the encouragement of the woollen manufactures and all trades advantageous to Great Britain.

Campion, on the other hand, they advised, had voted for the treaty of commerce with France in the previous Parliament. The election was held at Lewes, where polling took place in the old town hall and in four wagons. The Post Boy reported that the Whig candidates were ‘supported by five lords, which were supposed to have some interest in the county till it had been tried at this and the preceding election’. As before, the patronage of the peers could not prevent the Whigs losing, albeit by a smaller number of votes than previously, but they did not petition and Campion and Fuller were the county’s representatives until the end of the period.13

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Horsfield, Suss. ii. app. 24; E. Suss. RO, Danny mss DAN 2188, 1710 pollbk.
  • 2. Bean’s notebks.
  • 3. Suss. Rec. Soc. iv. 21.
  • 4. Brighton Ref. Lib. ‘Suss. poll 1708’.
  • 5. Post Boy, 10–12 Oct. 1710.
  • 6. Horsfield, 24.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Suss. Arch. Colls. cvi. 145–51.
  • 9. Egremont mss at Petworth House 14, Tankerville to Somerset, 21 July 1698 (Horwitz trans.).
  • 10. Add. 28927, f. 127; London Gazette, 23–27 Apr. 1702; Hants RO, Knight mss 18M61, Orme to John Lewknor*, 14 Nov. 1701, Peachey to same, 13, 17 Nov. 1701, Thomas to Lewknor, 16 Nov. 1701; The Electors Rights Asserted (1701), 17–18.
  • 11. HMC Portland, iv. 185; Egerton 929, ff. 72, 77; HMC Townshend, 330.
  • 12. CJ, xv. 538, 545, 554, 595, 596, 617, 625; Reasons Why the Sheriff of Sussex Should be Enabled to Adjourn the Poll from Chichester to Lewes [?1708].
  • 13. Bath mss at Longleat House, Portland misc. pprs. report to Harley, n.d. [?1710]; Add. 70421, newsletter, 14 Oct. 1710; Speck, Tory and Whig, 7; Post Boy, 5–8 July, 2–5, 9–12 Aug. 1712, 5–8 Sept. 1713; Daily Courant, 22 Aug. 1713; Flying Post, 22–25 Aug. 1713; Horsfield, 24; HMC Portland, ii. 222.