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

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 7,000


8 Feb. 1715MILDMAY FANE3236
 Sir Edward Knatchbull3068
 Percival Hart3004
28 Sept. 1715JOHN FANE vice Mildmay Fane, deceased 
6 Sept. 1727SIR ROGER MEREDITH4067
 Sir Edward Dering2647
 Percival Hart2549
2 Apr. 1733SIR EDWARD DERING vice Furnese, deceased 
15 May 1734SIR EDWARD DERING4441
 WILLIAM VANE, Visct. Vane4252
 Charles Sackville, Earl of Middlesex3569
 Sir George Oxenden3450
19 Feb. 1735SIR CHRISTOPHER POWELL vice Vane, deceased 

Main Article

The selection of candidates for Kent county elections was governed by a convention that one of them should be an East Kent and the other a West Kent man. The chief Whig families were the Sackvilles of Knole, dukes of Dorset, and the Fanes of Mereworth, earls of Westmorland. The Government had an interest based on the Chatham docks and the Cinque Ports.

In 1715 Lord Westmorland succeeded in securing the adoption of his brother, Mildmay Fane, by persuading a rival Whig candidate, David Polhill, to accept the office of sheriff, which disqualified him from standing. Fane and another Whig defeated the retiring Tory Members, Sir Edward Knatchbull and Percival Hart, by majorities of less than 200. On Mildmay Fane’s death later that year he was succeeded by his brother, John Fane, without opposition.

In 1722 Polhill, a West Kent Whig, stood with Sir George Oxenden, an East Kent man, but the Whig interest was split by Fane, who insisted on standing, with the support of the Duke of Dorset. In the end all three Whig candidates withdrew, leaving Knatchbull and another Tory, Sir Thomas Twisden, to be returned unopposed.1

In 1727 the Whigs, strengthened by Knatchbull’s defection, won both seats by increased majorities. At the next general election their candidates were Oxenden and Lord Middlesex, whose father, the Duke of Dorset, then lord lieutenant of Ireland, had persuaded Fane, now Lord Catherlough, not to stand, on a promise to bring him in for Sandwich. The Whig campaign was handicapped by Oxenden’s suspicion that the Duke’s agents were making interest for Middlesex singly, instead of jointly for both; by Middlesex’s prolonged absence in Ireland with his father; and by Oxenden’s having voted for the excise bill.2 Moreover, Walpole,

having a pique at Lord Carlow [phonetic for Catherlough] for his behaviour in Parliament last session, wrote over to the Duke of Dorset when in Ireland that he should not support Lord Carlow but Mr. Burchett, and upon receipt of the letter the Duke served Mr. Burchett,3

leaving Catherlough without a seat. On 11 May, four days before polling day for the county, Lord Hervey wrote to Henry Fox:

There is a thousand embarras and tracasseries about the Kentish election. Lord Catherlough, who has acted very oddly in several things this year, is playing the devil there, roaring against the Duke of Dorset, and does all he can against Lord Middlesex.4

As a result Middlesex and Oxenden were defeated by Sir Edward Dering, a Tory, standing jointly with Lord Vane, an opposition Whig. At both the next two general elections Tories were returned unopposed, an attempt in 1747 to put up Lord George Sackville and Oxenden failing because the Duke of Dorset objected to his son’s joining with Oxenden, with whom the Sackvilles had fallen out during the 1734 campaign.5

Author: A. N. Newman


  • 1. Memo. by C. Polhill, 10 Nov. 1770, Polhill mss, Sevenoaks Pub. Lib. Kent.
  • 2. HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 153.
  • 3. HMC Egmont Diary, ii. 109.
  • 4. Ilchester, Lord Hervey and his Friends, 198.
  • 5. C. Polhill to — Hughes, 24 July 1747, Polhill mss.