GOULSTON (GULSTON), Richard (1669-1731), of Wyddial, Herts.

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



21 Feb. 1701 - 6 Dec. 1705
1710 - 24 May 1715

Family and Education

bap. 15 Apr. 1669, 1st s. of James Goulston of Wyddial by Mary, da. and coh. of John Rowley of Barkway, Herts.  educ. Enfield sch.; Trinity, Camb. 1684; G. Inn 1687.  m. by Nov. 1701, Margaret (d. 1724), da. and coh. of Dr Francis Turner, bp. of Ely, 2s. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1704.

Offices Held

Freeman, Hertford 1698.1


Goulston’s great-grandfather, a prothonotary of the court of common pleas, had established the family in Hertfordshire by buying the manor of Wyddial early in the 17th century. The Member’s grandfather, Richard, represented the county in 1659, having remained neutral during the Civil War, and his will specifically excluded Congregationalists from his charity, an indication of the family’s antipathy to Dissent. Goulston’s father was high sheriff of the county in 1684–5, evidence that, like the Kent branch of the family, of which his cousin and brother-in-law Edward* was the representative in Parliament, he supported the Tory reaction at the end of Charles II’s reign. Richard was also tied to High Church Tories by marriage. He was originally destined to wed his cousin and grandfather’s ward, Dorothy Dicer, who had herself been contracted in 1676 to Goulston’s later parliamentary ally, Ralph Freman II*. The marriage between Goulston and Dorothy Dicer had been arranged in 1677, when Richard was only eight, but the contract was subsequently broken and she finally married the eldest son of Sir Eliab Harvey*. Some time afterwards Richard married the daughter of the non-juring bishop of Ely, and was a trustee of the charitable bequests of his will. These loyalties evidently outweighed his family’s minor Whiggish connexions: his uncle, Sir William Goulston†, had been an associate of Sir Robert Clayton* and had sat on some of the grand juries at the time of the Popish Plot (though Sir William’s loyalty to the establishment in church and state appears to have predominated after 1683); the Whig William Gulston, MP for Bridport, was another relative; and the mother of Joseph Addison* came from the Leicestershire branch of the family.2

Goulston was returned at a by-election in February 1701, after the death of Thomas Filmer*. His activity in the session is difficult to separate from that of his kinsman William, though two matters can be ascribed to him with some certainty. On 17 May he presented the bill for removing the county gaol at Hertford, reporting ten days later from the second-reading committee and carrying the bill to the Lords on 31 May. Five days earlier he had told in favour of a vote condemning the Earl of Stamford for the destruction of wood in Enfield Chase, an issue which combined local and party interests. He may also have been a teller on 10 May against an adjournment of the report on the Lichfield election, since his county colleagues Freman and Charles Caesar*, with whom he worked closely, had acted in the same capacity in previous divisions on this matter. He was forecast in February 1701 as likely to support the Court on the question of the ‘Great Mortgage’, and was later blacklisted as having opposed preparations for war with France. In the next session, on 28 Mar. 1702, he was a teller in favour of the apprehension of Edward Owen of Coventry, who had dispersed the ‘black list’ at the election there.

As this record suggests, Goulston showed an active interest in the second election of 1701, and he was in correspondence with Simon Harcourt II* about the results. He wrote to his friend Sir Edward Turnor* that he was ‘overjoyed’ at the latter’s success, to which he and Caesar drank a toast, and noted that the elections went generally against ‘the godly’, an epithet applied to the Whigs. His own election was contested, however, and required ‘diligence’ and ‘tedious hours’ of electioneering, which took him away from his wife for a fortnight, ‘the longest separation we have been acquainted with since the knot was tied’. He braced himself for a petition against his return, but was convinced that he and Caesar had ‘so much right on our side that we are ready to defend whatsoever they shall object’. The committee of elections decided in his favour by 188 votes to 142, and on 27 Jan. the House upheld the resolution. He had written before Parliament’s assembly of his hopes of seeing his friend Robert Harley* in the chair, and was listed by Harley with the Tories. Yet once again it is difficult to distinguish his activity in the House from that of William and Edward, though he was presumably the Goulston active in the determination of elections. He is likely to have told with Caesar on 29 Jan. against an adjournment of the examination into Whig bribery at the Malmesbury election, and on 14 Feb. against calling to the bar the petitioners against the election. On 17 Mar. he presumably served again as a teller (Caesar acted in the same capacity that day on the same issue) against agreeing with the elections committee that younger sons of freemen did not have the right to demand freedom of the borough of East Retford. The only certain indication of his views was his support for the motion of 26 Feb. vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments of William’s ministers.3

Re-elected in July 1702, Goulston and Freman wrote to Harley recommending to him a chaplain of ‘right Church of England principles’, further evidence of the close relationship between the Hertfordshire Tories and the Speaker. Goulston’s activity in Parliament now becomes easier to follow, for he was the only member of the family left in the House. On 13 Feb. 1703 he voted against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, an indication of his sensitivity on the subject of the succession. He was a teller on 28 Jan. 1703 against the election of the Whig Thomas Jervoise* for Plympton Erle, and again on 17 Feb. (with Caesar) against the clause relating to the marines in the bill for stating the debts of the armed forces. He acted as teller on three further occasions in the next session: on 21 Dec. 1703 in favour of retaining words (in an address concerning the prosecution of plotters) relating to the ‘violation’ of the king’s prerogative; on 1 Feb. 1704 in favour of a milder text for an address thanking the Queen for communicating papers about treasonable correspondence with France; and on 7 Mar. against the introduction into the naval recruitment bill of a clause concerning coal ships. During the next session, on 19 Dec. and 31 Jan. 1705, he reported on private estate bills. Surprisingly, on 17 Jan. he told with the Court Whig Francis Shepheard against imposing a duty on goods imported from the East Indies, presumably because he had a personal financial interest, though nothing is known of his holdings. The following month he was highly resentful of resolutions made by the Upper House about bills passed by the Scottish Parliament, believing that the Lords were ‘playing their old game and attempting the privileges of our House; they have by a paper at a conference delivered us many resolutions which they seem to expect we should agree to, but we must stand to or else they’ll be our masters for ever’. Having been forecast as likely to support the Tack, Goulston was named on Harley’s lobbying list, but ties of friendship did not overcome High Church principles and on 28 Nov. 1704 he voted in favour of the measure. Perhaps sensing an imminent backlash against the Tackers, in February 1705 Goulston felt the need to spend ‘some time’, even while Parliament was sitting, to prepare the way for his re-election at Hertford. Initially his electoral preparations seemed to have paid off, but although he retained his seat in May 1705, following which an analysis of the new Parliament classed him as ‘True Church’, a petition was lodged against his return. The elections committee considered the matter on 21 Nov. 1705 and Goulston ‘carried it by 18’, but the committee resolved two days later in favour of his opponent, Thomas Clarke*. On 6 Dec. the House formally unseated him, making him another victim of the reaction against the ‘True Church’ lobby. By then there had only been enough time for him to have opposed the Court’s choice of Speaker.4

Goulston was purged from the commission of the peace in 1709 and remained out of the House until the Tory landslide of 1710, when his prediction that he would be elected ‘by a great majority’ proved correct. Naturally classed as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’, he became a member of the October Club, and was named as one of the ‘patriots’ who in the first session detected the mismanagements of the previous administration. On 11 Jan. 1711, during the debate on the Rutland election, he told in favour of bringing in candles (effectively against an adjournment) thereby supporting Lord Nottingham’s (Daniel Finch†) endeavour to reinstate Richard Halford*. He was teller again on two more election disputes, on 27 Jan. against a motion to seat the Whig Lord Shannon (Richard Boyle*) for Hythe, and on 8 Feb. against the election of William Livingston* for Aberdeen. He also assisted in the management of two private estate bills. Harley, now Lord Oxford, sought to woo him into office, making a note on 4 June about the possibility of appointing Goulston to the commission for victualling the navy, possibly as part of a plan to draw all three of the key Hertfordshire Tories into naval administration. As it turned out, he was offered a different post, for on 13 Aug. he informed Harley

how impossible it is for me to undertake a part in the commission designed for [inquiring into the state of forces in] Spain. I am sensible of the great honour intended by this particular trust, and indeed it would be most agreeable to my own inclination, were I not master of a family which can by no means spare me so long as an office of that nature will require.

He may also have believed in the October Club’s denunciations of office-holding, and have therefore sought to retain his independence, for the excuse of needing to spend more time with his family seems to have been little more than a polite way of refusing to become beholden to the Court.5

Goulston made little significant contribution to the new session, though on 24 Jan. 1712 he told against adjourning the House during the debate on the conduct of the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†). On 20 May he reported to Turner on proceedings in the Upper House about the appointment of commissioners to investigate grants, and two days later was ordered to carry a message to the peers requesting that the passageway between the two Houses be cleared whenever Members of the Lower House needed to use it. Goulston was by now intimate with another Tory leader, William Bromley II*, whom he described as ‘our very good and worthy Speaker’. During the third session he showed himself particularly active in promoting a local measure for the improvement of Enfield’s roads, the result of a longstanding interest in the state of his county’s highways. On 29 Apr. and 4 May 1713 he reported on the condition of the roads, and four days later presented a bill for their repair. He voted on 18 June for the French commerce bill, and five days later reported in the voice of a true country gentleman that the House was

so entangled in the mysteries of trade, and I doubt not in the iniquities also belonging to it, that ’tis impossible for any who will be faithful to their trust and attend the Parliament to say when they are like to be masters of their liberty. However, I hope one month’s more will dismiss us from that attendance . . . ’tis very rare that the House of Commons rise so soon as six of the clock; we have heard all the impertinences against that so much talked of bill of commerce, and Saturday next is designed for a long debate upon the merits of the bill; the faction make no scruple of the vilest practice to attain their ends, which tends chiefly to oppose (right or wrong) whatsoever is contrived by the ministry . . . our worthy Speaker received within two days past a mark of their venom, being accused by Mr [James] Stanhope* of artful and unjust insinuations, which accusation was both unjust and false. On this occasion he behaved himself answerable to his character, showing a warm and becoming resentment with (I think) more good nature than the party deserved.

Goulston may have been writing the letter in the House itself for he excused its ‘blemishes, which those who write in a crowd are forced sometimes to submit to’. His prediction that the House would not rise for another month proved remarkably accurate, during which time, on 3 July, he reported, and later carried up, a private bill.6

Like his colleagues, Goulston may now have decided to accept Court blandishments, for in August 1713 he wrote to Harley reminding him of his promises and that he was owed ‘three quarters’ of an unspecified salary. Justifying his new readiness to accept Court favours, he observed that

the last election and three years’ attendance in Parliament has impaired my private fortune much the best part of £1,000 . . . I am the gentleman who have [sic] been the butt of the faction’s rage whenever I have stood for the borough I have so long served . . . I humbly request that on Monday I may receive your favour, because the next day we must appear at the borough.

Whether or not he received Harley’s ‘favour’ is unknown, but he was certainly successful at the polls. The sweetness of victory was nevertheless soured by personal bitterness, for when his brother died at the end of March 1714 Goulston remarked with some feeling that, since Charles had always been their mother’s favourite, ‘so her lamentation is very great and what he has left she has in her power’. Marked as a Tory on all the lists of the new Parliament, he seems to have been chiefly interested in securing seats for those who shared his allegiances. He twice acted as a teller on disputed elections, on 6 Apr. against allowing the Earl of Barrymore (James Barry*) to present a new petition disputing the election at Wigan, and on 27 Apr., with Caesar, on what was a more local concern, in favour of the election of John Gape* at St. Albans. Although he had hitherto followed Freman and Caesar, the two men appear to have differed over the succession, and it is likely that Goulston sided with Caesar in his unease about the Hanoverians. On 15 Apr. he was one of the tellers on a procedural question to adjourn the debate on the state of the nation (when Freman was in the chair) which, if passed, would have prevented the resolution that the succession was in no danger. He acted once more as teller on 23 June against allowing Andrew Archer* to make a motion after 6 p.m. This may possibly have been because the latter was a Hanoverian Tory, though it is also possible that Goulston resented Archer’s over-zealous inquiry into the state of the forces and garrisons in Spain, the commission which he himself had earlier turned down; alternatively the High Tories may simply have wanted to wind up the day’s proceedings after the passage of the schism bill. The Hanoverian succession effectively terminated Goulston’s political influence at a national level. Although re-elected in 1715, he was unseated on petition, and by 1716 had been purged from the commission of the peace. Unlike his friend Caesar, for whose return he continued to work, he never regained his own seat. He died intestate on 18 Mar. 1731, and was buried at Wyddial parish church, to which he had given a silver communion service in 1727. His estate passed to his only living son, Francis, who sold it in 1772.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. Herts. RO, Hertford bor. recs. 25/100.
  • 2. Clutterbuck, Herts. iii. 471–2; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 137; xxx. 46–47; Bodl. Rawl. lett. 92, f. 24; PROB 11/384/117.
  • 3. W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/850, Goulston to Turnor, 16 Dec. 1701; Rawl. lett. 92, f. 72; Luttrell, Brief Relation, v. 132.
  • 4. Add. 70197, Goulston to Harley, 6 Aug. [?1702]; Rawl. lett. 92, f. 297; Luttrell, v. 614, 616, 620.
  • 5. L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 189; HMC Portland, iv. 602; v. 72; Add. 70332, memo. 4 June 1711.
  • 6. Rawl. lett. 92, ff. 518, 563; Herts. Co. Recs. vi. 330.
  • 7. Add. 70198, Goulston to Harley, 7 Aug. 1713; Rawl. lett. 92, ff. 626–7; Bull. IHR, xxxiv. 214; Glassey, 252; Cottrell-Dormer mss at Rousham, Caesar letterbk. B, Goulston to Caesar, 20 Aug. 1727; Trans. E. Herts. Arch. Soc. viii. 386; Clutterbuck, iii. 472, 475; Cussans, Herts. Edwinstree Hundred, p. 121.