Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in burgage holders

Number of voters:



29 Apr. 1717THOMAS PENGELLY vice Stanhope, appointed to office 
 Sir Robert Raymond 
8 July 1717 vice Lechmere, appointed to office 
  Double return. SEYMOUR declared elected, 18 Jan. 1718 
20 July 1721ANTHONY LOWTHER vice Seymour, deceased 
31 Jan. 1727WILLIAM FINCH vice Pengelly, appointed to office 
29 Aug. 1727WILLIAM FINCH119
 George Shafto Delaval86
9 Feb. 1738ELDRED CURWEN vice Lawson, deceased149
 Richard Davenport130
11 Dec. 1747WILLIAM FINCH vice Wyndham, chose to sit for Taunton 

Main Article

At the accession of George I the chief interests in Cockermouth were in the Duke of Somerset, Lord Wharton, and the Lawsons of Isel, each of whom owned estates near the borough. The Duke of Somerset, as lord of the manor, controlled the appointment of the returning officer.

In 1715 the sitting Members, James Stanhope and Nicholas Lechmere, nominated respectively by Somerset and Wharton, were returned unopposed. When Stanhope vacated his seat in April 1717 on becoming secretary of state, the government candidate, Sir Robert Raymond, was defeated by Somerset’s candidate, Serjeant Pengelly. At another by-election in July, caused by Lechmere’s appointment to the duchy of Lancaster, the vacancy was contested between Somerset’s son, Lord Percy Seymour, and Sir Wilfred Lawson, who were both returned, Lawson yielding the seat to Seymour on petition, when he admitted to being under age.

From 1722, when Pengelly and Lawson were returned unopposed, the representation of Cockermouth was shared by Somerset with the Lawsons. The interest of the Whartons died out, their estates being bought by the Duke and their burgages by the Lawsons.1 On Pengelly’s death the vacancy was filled by Somerset’s brother-in-law, William Finch, and on Lawson’s, after a short interval, by his brother-in-law, General Mordaunt, who built up a strong personal interest.

In 1745 Sir James Lowther began buying burgages in Cockermouth at prices which suggested that he had designs on the borough. It was surprising, Somerset’s agent wrote, 28 Mar. 1745,

that Sir James living in the neighbourhood and full of money should not long ago either have bought up the borough or secured a powerful interest in it. His eyes are now opened. Elections of all sorts become everyday more extravagant schemes nor will there possibly be an end of this bad work till some grand revolution lops off this rotten part of the constitution.

In the circumstances he suggested that the time had come for the Duke to consider strengthening his hold on the borough:

It would be the happiest and most desirable day that Cockermouth ever saw to be divested of the power of hurting themselves: till then the natural advantages of the place and its inhabitants will never have power to exert themselves against sloth, poverty, indolence and debauchery. To accomplish such end burgages must be bought and many may yet be purchased, for as big as we look we are very poor and though the price is now high in my humble opinion they can scarce be bought too dear. I cannot help thinking that the borough might still be secured wholly to my Lord Duke though the expense of such purchase would run high and it must too be a work of time, a scheme that I should pride myself much in contributing to bring about ... I have so little a spirit of a burgher that I hope to live to attend the funeral of this ancient corporation which has already survived its integrity too long.2

In the event Lowther was deterred by the excessive price from buying more than 24 burgages, compared with 26 owned by Somerset and 18 by the Lawsons.

At the general election of 1747 Somerset’s agent was instructed that the Duke’s grandson, Sir Charles Wyndham, the heir apparent to the greater part of his estates, was to be recommended to ‘his Grace’s friends in the borough’, and that their second votes were to go to Lowther’s candidate, a relation of his named Stephenson;

but in this you should act with very great discretion, in doing what is most necessary for strengthening the interest of Sir Charles Wyndham and effectually securing his election, as the first and principal point you have in charge, and to be very secret in this last direction, and not to act for Mr. Stephenson, but as it proves safe for Sir Charles Wyndham.3

The agent exercised his discretion to deny all support to Stephenson, who in consequence withdrew, leaving Wyndham and Mordaunt to be returned unopposed. On Wyndham’s making his election for Taunton, Finch was reinstated.

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. B. Bonsall, Sir Jas. Lowther and Cumb. and Westmld. Elections, 2, 12.
  • 2. Cockermouth mss.
  • 3. Bonsall, 13 & n. 5.