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 the freemen and freeholders

Number of voters:

about 1,500 in 1722; 1,700 to 1,800 in 17471


9 Feb. 1715GEORGE GREGORY805
 Borlase Warren440
 Francis Lewis374
28 Mar. 1722JOHN PLUMPTRE866
 Borlase Warren756
6 Sept. 1727JOHN STANHOPE317
 John Sherwin18
26 May 1747SIR CHARLES SEDLEY vice Warren, deceased543
 George Augustus Howe, Visct. Howe286

Main Article

The chief interests in Nottingham were, on the Whig side, those of the Duke of Newcastle, who succeeded the Duke of Kingston as recorder of the borough in 1726, of the corporation, a close body, and of the Dissenters; on the Tory side, those of Lord Middleton, whose estate of Wollaton was close to the town, and of a number of neighbouring country gentlemen. By 1747 the local banker, Abel Smith, had also built up an important influence of his own, based on ‘the necessity our employers of workmen in the stocking trade are under of using the credit he gives them in their money matters’.2

In 1715 the late Members, two Tory country gentlemen, were replaced by two Whigs, belonging to leading town families, both of whom had previously represented the borough. The Whigs retained both seats by a small majority in 1722, when the Tories put up one candidate only. At the next three general elections the leaders of the two parties, to save expense, agreed to share the seats. In 1747 the sitting Whig Member, John Plumptre, had represented Nottingham for 32 years, and his Tory colleague, Borlase Warren, for 22.

Early in 1747 Newcastle and Middleton came to a private agreement to continue the Nottingham compromise at the next general election, on the understanding that Middleton would co-operate with Newcastle in the county and at Newark. However at a by-election in May, caused by the death of Warren, the corporation, against Newcastle’s advice, set up Lord Howe in opposition to Sir Charles Sedley, the Tory candidate.3 Sedley was returned by a large majority, with the support of Abel Smith, who was

under strong obligations to Lord Middleton. His Lordship’s opinion being that one of the best uses of money is the having of it, he lets very large sums lie dead continually in Mr. Smith’s hands who in the way of bankers’ business makes (as common report goes) some hundreds of pounds a year by it.4

At the general election in June, the corporation, believing ‘that they were able to carry an election for two Whig Members’, invited Howe to stand again, together with the sitting Whig Member, John Plumptre. On this Middleton sent a message to Newcastle threatening that ‘if he should find your Grace countenanced the present opposition he ... will oppose you in every place he has any interest as long as he lives’.5 ‘I cannot but lament my own ill fortune’, Newcastle replied, ‘who am accused by the Howe family of endeavouring to drive them out of the county and town; and am at the same time suspected by my Lord Middleton of having underhand countenanced this opposition’. As proof of ‘how extremely ill founded my Lord Middleton’s suspicions are’, he forwarded a copy of instructions to his steward to ‘engage my tenants and such others as have any respect to my opinion to give their votes for Mr. Plumptre and Sir Charles Sedley’.6

Though appeased by Newcastle’s action, Middleton was prevented from reciprocating by ‘the leading men among the Tories ... who for a pretty many years [had] been under a total exclusion from every office in the governing part of this corporation’, which they imputed to Plumptre. Nor could Plumptre expect any assistance from Abel Smith, whose eldest son was about to marry Lord Howe’s second cousin; while ‘to crown all’, he reported, ‘the Dissenters are leaving me apace’, nominally for voting against the repeal of the Test Act but in reality because he had ‘at times, got in three or four Whig churchmen’ to the governing part of the corporation, otherwise consisting chiefly of Dissenters, ‘all brought in by my interest and money’. In short:

Sir Charles Sedley is safe, nobody doubts it. The corporation and three-quarters of the Dissenters (at a large allowance) would vote for Lord Howe and me. Thus far we two should be even. Then comes the weight of Mr. Abel Smith upon all the stockinners, both masters and men, and several other traders of the town, which nobody computes at less than 200 men, but rather more, all which would vote either for Sir Charles and Lord Howe or Lord Howe singly: to which must be added the remainder of the Dissenters. Against this glaring majority I had nothing to oppose but a very inconsiderable number of persons who would vote singly for me and such second votes as your Grace’s agent and Lord Chesterfield’s could gain to me from among the Sedleyites.7

He therefore decided to give up, leaving Sedley and Howe to be returned unopposed.

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. Blackner, Nottingham, 299; J. S. Charlton to Newcastle, 1 Aug. 1753, Add. 32732, f. 393.
  • 2. John Plumptre to Newcastle, 15 June 1747, Add. 32711, f. 358.
  • 3. Mayor and corporation to Newcastle and Newcastle to mayor and corporation, 18, 21 May 1747, ibid. ff. 75, 104.
  • 4. John Plumptre to Newcastle, 20 June 1747, ibid. f. 438.
  • 5. J. S. Charlton to Newcastle, 8 June 1747, ibid. f. 266.
  • 6. Newcastle to J. S. Charlton and John Clay, 20 Mar. 1747, ibid. ff. 289, 293.
  • 7. John Plumptre to Newcastle, 20, 27 June, 12 Aug. 1747, Add. 32711, ff. 438, 576; 32712, f. 372.