Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the corporation and resident freemen
Number of voters:
|16 Feb. 1715||SIR RICHARD GROSVENOR||783|
|SIR HENRY BUNBURY||603|
|4 Apr. 1722||SIR RICHARD GROSVENOR||980|
|SIR HENRY BUNBURY||908|
|24 Aug. 1727||SIR RICHARD GROSVENOR||981|
|Sir Henry Bunbury||424|
|24 Jan. 1733||ROBERT GROSVENOR vice Sir Richard Grosvenor, deceased||879|
|21 Mar. 1733||SIR CHARLES BUNBURY vice Sir Thomas Grosvenor, deceased||811|
|15 May 1734||SIR ROBERT GROSVENOR||956|
|SIR CHARLES BUNBURY||948|
|6 May 1741||SIR ROBERT GROSVENOR|
|SIR CHARLES BUNBURY|
|5 May 1742||PHILIP HENRY WARBURTON vice Bunbury, deceased|
|22 July 1747||SIR ROBERT GROSVENOR||1049|
|PHILIP HENRY WARBURTON||928|
|James Mainwaring jun.||183|
Chester was dominated by a neighbouring Tory family, the Grosvenors, who sat for it without a break from 1715 to 1874, for 42 years holding both seats. Another local Tory family, the Bunburys, sat for it in every Parliament from 1701 to 1747, with a break between 1727 and 1733, when the Grosvenors took both seats.
In the early thirties an attempt to wrest the city from the control of the Grosvenors was made by the local Whigs, headed by Thomas Brereton, a Chester alderman, and Richard Manley, the author of a scheme for reviving the declining trade of the city by deepening the river Dee, which had become silted up. The scheme proved so popular that ‘for Mr. Manley and Navigation’ became the slogan of the Whig candidate for the mayoralty. Sir Richard Grosvenor was depicted by the anti-corporation party as being secretly opposed to the project; when a bill for making the river Dee navigable was dropped in April 1732, there were ‘tumults and disorders’; the Grosvenor family and the corporation were ‘daily insulted’; and from that month until the mayoral election in October ‘the city was hardly ever free from ... riots’.1 Lord Barrymore wrote on 9 May 1732:
The revolution at Chester is beyond thought, who has instilled these true revolution principles in them? I fancy Brereton has a finger in the pie. This will occasion the spending of £10,000. If Sir Richard [Grosvenor] thinks it worth while to keep Chester, all his antagonists cannot spare so much, add my Lord Malpas to them.2
Brereton arranged through Lord Malpas, Walpole’s son-in-law and the son of the Whig lord lieutenant of Cheshire, for a ‘swarm of excise, salt and customs house officers’ to be brought to Chester, as well as ‘common soldiers ... detached from every quarter of the kingdom to vote in favour of Mr. Manley’. On 10 Oct. a Whig mob, apprehending that the Grosvenor party intended to make 300 honorary freemen during the night, drove out the aldermen and demolished the city hall. Next day, Watkin Williams Wynn, a friend of Sir Richard Grosvenor’s, had directions given by the ‘servants and stewards of the Welsh gentlemen, to all their tenants to go to Chester, to beat the Whiggish rascals’, whereupon there arrived
8 or 9 hundred Welshmen ... armed with clubs, staffs and other dangerous and offensive weapons (such as common walking-sticks, whips etc.), the servants of Mr. Watkin Williams Wynn, in that gentleman’s livery armed with pistols, riding before them.
The Welshmen, who ‘knocked down every man that declared a Manley, or for King George’, were received by Wynn and other gentlemen ‘with their swords drawn, who welcomed them with loud huzzas and acclamations’ When on 17 Oct. the Grosvenor candidate was elected mayor, it was said that his party had paid £20 to £30 for a vote, and that the total cost of the election was £18,000.3
At a by-election in January 1733 occasioned by the death of Sir Richard Grosvenor, his younger brother, Robert, was opposed by Manley, but created 200 special constables to disperse would-be rioters, and was returned without further trouble.4 On another by-election two months later, when Sir Charles Bunbury defeated Manley and Henry Bennet, the Whig candidate for the mayoralty in 1732, Lord Barrymore commented:
Chester has made no small figure for 8 or 9 months past. Sure the expense must be prodigious on all sides; as I am told Sir Charles Bunbury is not at much, I am inasmuch pleased he has succeeded.5
At the general election of 1734 Grosvenor and Bunbury were re-elected after a contest with Manley and another Whig.
No further contests occurred till 1747 when James Mainwaring, a Whig alderman of Chester, having stood unsuccessfully, brought a petition against Philip Henry Warburton, a Tory, one of the sitting Members since Bunbury’s death in 1742, the petitioner contending that non-resident freemen had no right to vote. The poll for Grosvenor had included 333 non-resident voters; 318 had voted for Warburton, 182 for Mainwaring. The House of Commons resolved
that the right of election of citizens to serve in Parliament for the city of Chester, is in the mayor, aldermen, and common council, of the said city, and in such of the freemen ... not receiving alms, as shall have been commorant within the said city or liberties thereof, for the space of one whole year next before the election.6
As Warburton had a majority of votes even without those of the non-resident voters, he retained the seat.
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. A Letter from a Freeman of the City of Chester to his friend in London (1733).
- 2. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 313.
- 3. A Letter from a Freeman; Gent. Mag. 1733, p. 87; Nichols, Lit. Anecs. ii. 516.
- 4. A Letter from a Freeman .
- 5. To Sir Roger Bradshaigh, 8 Apr. 1733, Rylands, Crawford mss.
- 6. CJ, xxv. 505.