Yarmouth I.o.W.


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:

about 100

Number of voters:

at least 63 in 1695


4 Mar. 1690Sir John Trevor 
 Charles Duncombe 
2 Apr. 1695Henry Holmes vice Trevor, expelled the House 
 Robert Wolseley 
1 Nov. 1695Henry Holmes60
 Anthony Morgan33
 John Acton321
22 July 1698Henry Holmes 
 Anthony Morgan 
7 Jan. 1701Henry Holmes 
 Anthony Morgan 
27 Nov. 1701Henry Holmes 
 Anthony Morgan 
21 July 1702Henry Holmes 
 Anthony Morgan 
10 May 1705Henry Holmes 
 Anthony Morgan 
8 May 1708Henry Holmes 
 Anthony Morgan 
5 Oct. 1710Henry Holmes 
 Sir Gilbert Dolben 
27 Aug. 1713Henry Holmes 
 Sir Gilbert Dolben 

Main Article

The chief interest at Yarmouth lay with the governor of the Isle of Wight, in 1690 Sir Robert Holmes, a Court Tory, who in addition to the influence he exerted by virtue of his office, had built up a personal interest in the borough, where he had acquired property. He returned two Court nominees, both outsiders, Sir John Trevor, subsequently chosen Speaker, and Charles Duncombe, the wealthy Tory banker. On the death of Holmes in 1692 his estates and electoral influence at Yarmouth passed to his nephew, Henry Holmes, also a Tory but, unlike Sir Robert, a Country supporter. The office of governor, however, went to Lord Cutts [I] (John*), who set about trying to bring the three island boroughs under closer government control. At Yarmouth he was opposed by both Henry Holmes and Major Anthony Morgan, a Court Whig, who, having acquired a nearby estate through marriage, was trying to establish his own electoral influence in the borough. Cutts wrote that Yarmouth corporation ‘consists of a mayor and 12 aldermen, who have a power to add as many freemen to the corporation as they please (who have all of them voices in the election of Members of Parliament), insomuch that the mayor and any five of the aldermen can turn the elections as they think fit’. He added that the corporation would be entirely at his own disposal but for the opposition of Morgan. In March 1695 Trevor was expelled from the Commons and one report had Joseph Dudley*, lieutenant governor, journeying down to Yarmouth as a possible candidate, but his hopes were thwarted by commands from on high. On 19 Mar. Cutts was informed by the secretary at war, William Blathwayt*, that the King wanted Sir Henry Belasyse* to stand at the ensuing by-election ‘if you can be assured of a majority there; but otherwise you are to give your interest to Major [Henry] Holmes, as he is the King’s servant and a neighbour of that corporation’. By 20 Mar. the orders had changed. Cutts was still ordered to exert his own and

his Majesty’s recommendation to the utmost for Sir Henry Belasyse if you see a fair probability of success . . . but that if there be more reason for despair, the person to be set up be Mr [Robert] Wolseley, the King’s envoy at Brussells now here. His Majesty thinks it absolutely necessary that you stay in these parts until the election be over.

Despite the withdrawal of Court support Holmes continued to stand on his own interest, but Cutts obviously considered the chances of a rival candidate to be poor and consequently put up Wolseley rather than Belasyse. On 22 Mar. he informed his lieutenant governor, Joseph Dudley*, that he had ‘an express from Petersfield that Mr Wolseley will be there in an hour or two; and he and I both will be at Yarmouth tomorrow, . . . I desire you to exert vigorously the King’s and mine and your own interest; and I hope God will bless the honest Williamite side’. It was reported on the 26th that Cutts’s interest was opposed by the Marquess of Winchester (Charles Powlett I*), who was Cutts’s rival for influence in the locality and who consequently, although a Junto supporter, had given his support to Holmes. Meanwhile a rumour had reached London that to help his candidate Cutts had ordered two companies of foot from Portsmouth to quarter at Yarmouth during the election. Blathwayt wrote anxiously to him:

I hope, my Lord, it is quite otherwise, for that it is a constant rule and his Majesty’s express pleasure that all soldiers do ever remove from a place where there is to be an election; as it is absolutely necessary in this case, where the least intimation of such quartering would set the House of Commons in a flame, and make void any election your lordship should countenance.

Holmes reportedly carried the election by five votes, upon which Cutts made a speech to the voters expressing his disappointment at the ‘disrespect’ they had shown him. Wolseley did not petition. Undeterred, Cutts wrote to Dudley on 31 May 1695 that for the general election he intended to put up Wolseley and Duncombe. In the event neither stood and Cutts gave his support to his brother-in-law, John Acton, against Holmes and Morgan. Acton was defeated, and presented a petition against Morgan’s return on 30 Nov. 1695, which was reported on 28 Mar. 1696. Acton’s counsel claimed that five of Morgan’s voters, one of whom was a servant to Henry Holmes and the other four his tenants, were not qualified since they had been chosen freemen only by the mayor and four aldermen whereas the bye-laws required the consent of five aldermen. In reply Morgan’s counsel produced a more recent bye-law which required the consent of only the majority of the aldermen for the creation of new freemen. The committee resolved, and the House agreed, that Morgan was duly elected. In September 1696 it was suggested that George Rooke* might come in for Holmes at the next election, but before that date an agreement between Cutts and the island gentry, including Holmes and Morgan, was concluded whereby it was decided to put aside all disputes in electoral matters (see NEWTOWN, I.o.W.). At the next election in 1698 Holmes and Morgan were returned and held the seats, unchallenged, until 1710, Morgan’s influence no doubt being strengthened by his appointment in 1702, just before William iii’s death, as lieutenant governor of the Isle of Wight.2

Cutts died in 1707 and was replaced by his former opponent, the Marquess of Winchester, now 2nd Duke of Bolton, who appears to have made no attempt to interfere with the Holmes–Morgan partnership, despite Holmes’s record as a Tacker. With the change of administration in 1710 Bolton was in turn replaced by a Tory, General John Richmond Webb*, who substituted Holmes for Morgan as his lieutenant governor and put up another Tory, Sir Gilbert Dolben, who had no local connexions, in the general election of 1710. Morgan, not surprisingly, stood down and Holmes and Dolben were returned unchallenged in 1710 and again in 1713.

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Bean’s notebks.
  • 2. HMC Astley, 77, 83, 85; Mass. Hist. Soc. Procs. ser. 2, ii. 175–6, 180–1; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 19 Mar. 1694[–5]; Add. 46527, ff. 74, 77; BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. Robert Crawford* to Mq. of Halifax (William Savile*).