Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in inhabitant householders
Number of voters:
|1 Feb. 1715||SIR WILLIAM WYNDHAM||161|
|SIR JOHN TREVELYAN||156|
|Election declared void, 10 Sept. 1715|
|11 Apr. 1717||SAMUEL EDWIN||1541||1022|
|Sir John Trevelyan||139||185|
|TREVELYAN and MILNER vice Edwin and Gage, on petition, 23 May 1717|
|18 Dec. 1721||SIR RICHARD LANE vice Milner, deceased|
|MANSEL vice Lane, on petition, 9 Jan. 1722|
|22 Mar. 1722||ROBERT MANSEL||165|
|24 May 1723||FRANCIS WHITWORTH vice Mansel, deceased||164|
|Sir John Williams||130|
|17 Aug. 1727||ALEXANDER LUTTRELL|
|Sir William Codrington|
|15 Apr. 1732||WHITWORTH re-elected after appointment to office|
|26 Apr. 1734||ALEXANDER LUTTRELL|
|28 June 1737||SIR WILLIAM CODRINGTON vice Luttrell, deceased|
|9 Feb. 1739||THOMAS CAREW vice Codrington, deceased||161|
|13 May 1741||FRANCIS WHITWORTH|
|19 Mar. 1742||JOHN PERIAM vice Whitworth, deceased|
|30 June 1747||PERCY WYNDHAM O'BRIEN|
At the beginning of the eighteenth century both Minehead seats were controlled by the Luttrells of Dunster Castle, Tories, through their right as lords of the manor to appoint the constables, who acted as returning officers. Their monopoly of the representation was resented by a section of the inhabitants, who took advantage of the minority of Alexander Luttrell to raise an opposition to the castle interest.
In 1715 two Tories, Sir William Wyndham and Sir John Trevelyan, were returned on the castle interest against two strangers, James Milner, a Whig, and Samuel Edwin, a Tory, who petitioned on the ground that though they had a majority of the votes their opponents had been returned by the partiality of the constables. Declaring the election void, the House of Commons ordered that a new writ should not be issued during the current session, possibly to give time for the consideration of a petition to the King by the inhabitants of Minehead, praying for the restoration of their Elizabethan charter. The threat seems to have had the effect of causing Mrs. Luttrell, acting on behalf of her son, to compromise the ensuing by-election by putting up Trevelyan and Milner, who were opposed by Edwin, partnered by Thomas Gage, a ministerial supporter. Edwin and Gage were returned by the sheriff, on an indenture not signed by the constables, who had returned Trevelyan and Milner. On petition
the court party, who espoused the interest of Thomas Gage ..., perceiving that it was like to go against him, moved that the merits of the said election and return be referred to the committee of privileges and elections; but the same was carried in the negative by a majority of about 50 voices [actually 69], the opposing party having, on this occasion, been strengthened by Mr. Robert Walpole and his friends.
The seats were awarded to Trevelyan and Milner.3 On Milner’s death Sir Richard Lane, a Whig, by intercepting the writ procured a return in his own favour which, though not signed by the constables was accepted by the sheriff, but the castle candidate Robert Mansel, was seated on petition.4
In 1722 Mrs. Luttrell consulted the Duke of Chandos as to a suitable candidate to join with Mansel. On being told that the choice of a Tory would be ‘a certain way to vacate both seats’, if not to the imposition of a new charter taking away the right of the lord of the manor to nominate the constables,5 she chose Thomas Hales, a ministerial candidate. Thenceforth the Luttrells shared the representation with ministerial candidates at every general election till 1747, when Charles Whitworth, the son of the late Whig Member, wrote to Henry Fownes Luttrell, recently married to the Luttrell heiress:
The situation of Minehead induces the inhabitants thereof to make choice of their Members, the one upon the natural interest, the other upon that which may be serviceable to them. It was upon this footing they approved of Mr. Luttrell and my father ... These, I believe you are sensible, are the only two material interests in that town, though every place there is a floating squadron.
As I am determined to stand the general election at all hazards, I think it will be for both our interests to unite together, which I dare say will be to the entire satisfaction of the constituents.
You know the footing the two present representatives came in upon, the one [Thomas Carew] entirely by the castle interest, and if you propose to stand yourself, it cannot be thought that the same interest will prevail for two; whereas if you do not choose to come in this Parliament, I am equally willing to join whoever you give your interest to. The other representative [John Periam] came in upon my father’s death, without any opposition, myself not being of age.
Fownes Luttrell, writing from his estate in Devonshire, where he remained till the last days of the election campaign, rejected the proposed junction, remarking that he could not conceive that the constituents would ‘reduce the castle interest to so low an ebb as not to have the choice of one Member at the ensuing election’. On this Whitworth joined with Percy Wyndham O’Brien, another Whig, while Fownes Luttrell wrote from Devonshire to the chief inhabitants of Minehead:
My anxiety for being a representative is not so very great as even now to make me determine either to offer myself or support a friend at the ensuing election, but only to ask the free voice of the constituents for one or the other, clear of all expense to myself. On these conditions if you think the borough will be unanimous, the greater will be my obligations towards you. I too plainly see the rock my father Luttrell foundered upon to run myself headlong into the same danger.6
In the end he neither stood himself nor succeeded in finding a candidate to stand on his interest, leaving the two Whig candidates to be returned unopposed.
About 1749-50 the 2nd Lord Egmont thus summarized the position at Minehead in his electoral survey:
The natural interest of this borough is in Mr. Fownes, who married the heiress of the Luttrells and has taken their name - for the whole town and a very good and ancient estate near it belongs to him - but this interest has been strangely neglected by them. It is probable they [i.e. the electors] will compliment him with one [seat]. The other I am confident can be had.