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

Number of voters:

under 100


29 Dec. 1721SIR EDWARD DUKE vice Turnor, deceased59
 Sir Edmund Bacon21
21 Mar. 1722DUDLEY NORTH75
 Thomas Norton11
 Thomas Dacres11
17 Aug. 1727DUDLEY NORTH73
 Arthur Jenny41
31 Jan. 1729WILLIAM ACTON vice Devereux, chose to sit for Montgomeryshire 
23 Feb. 1730ROBERT KEMP vice North, deceased 
29 Apr. 1734RICHARD POWYS45
 John Cope25
 Joseph Windham Ashe25
1 Feb. 1738JOHN COPE vice Barlow, deceased 
9 May 1741JOHN CAMPBELL, Visct. Glenorchy 
23 July 1742LEGGE re-elected after appointment to office 
19 Apr. 1745LEGGE re-elected after appointment to office 
31 Jan. 1746JOHN BATEMAN vice Glenorchy, appointed to office 
30 June 1746LEGGE re-elected after appointment to office 
30 June 1747HENRY LEGGE 
5 May 1749LEGGE re-elected after appointment to office 

Main Article

Till the beginning of the eighteenth century it was uncertain whether the franchise at Orford was in the corporation, a close body, consisting of a mayor, eight portmen, and twelve capital burgesses, or in the freemen. In 1701 the House of Commons decided in the latter sense, but since the corporation had the right to create new freemen it continued to control the representation.

Up to 1730 the corporation returned Tory landowners, usually with estates near the borough. The chief interest was in Price Devereux, 9th Earl of Hereford, the lord of the manor, whose son was returned in 1727 and who was presumably responsible for the choice of two other members of Welsh families, Richard Powys and Lewis Barlow in 1734. There was, however, a pro-government element in the corporation, reflected in the frequent contests.

Between 1731 and 1734 a series of legal actions against the corporation resulted in the invalidation of the elections of successive mayors, portmen, and freemen, and in the forfeiture of the charter. These proceedings were managed and financed by two of Walpole’s officials, John Lawton, an Exchequer clerk, and Nicholas Paxton, the Treasury solicitor.1 In 1736 the corporation was remodelled, so as to ensure a government majority on it; houses were bought for the free accommodation of portmen and freemen at a cost of £3,000; and 26 new freemen were created. To commemorate the new order Lawton presented the corporation with a parchment volume for recording their acts, inscribed:

Donum Johannis Lawton majori et communitati burgi de Oreford, anno libertatis suae recuperatae atque restauratae primo, salutis 1736, Thomas Cosens generoso majore.

At a by-election in 1738 John Cope, one of the defeated ministerial candidates in 1734, was returned unopposed. In 1740 Lawton reported to Walpole: ‘I am sure Orford is safe against the world in your hands’.2 Thenceforth there were no more contests till Orford was disfranchised by the Reform Act of 1832.

After Walpole’s fall these proceedings were brought to the notice of the secret committee set up by the Commons to inquire into his conduct. By this time Lawton was dead,3 while Paxton refused to answer questions on the matter put to him by the committee, on the ground that by so doing he might incriminate himself. In the end the committee had to content themselves by reporting that a sum of about £3,000 had apparently been provided out of public funds for financing actions against the corporation with a view to bringing it under Treasury control.4

In March 1742 a majority of the corporation made an attempt to escape from the Treasury by petitioning the Duke of Marlborough to become their patron, promising that ‘whatever gentleman his Grace shall entrust with the management of this borough under him, we will pay our absolute obedience to’.5 Nothing however came of this, two Treasury nominees being returned unopposed in 1747.

In 1748 Henry Legge, one of the ministerial Members for Orford, wrote to Pelham:

I see by the newspapers Lord Hereford is dead, whose successor cannot be so inactive a person as he was ... If a great deal of care is not taken, either a parcel of simpletons will get the management and lose it to the party, or Sir Richard Lloyd with the assistance of some of another complexion will steal it from the Treasury as completely as Aldborough [Aldeburgh] was lost. And surely the Treasury has paid too much for it to lose it rashly. I have been often upon the spot, and studied the constitution of Orford a long while, and do assure you, as heartily as my wife [Orford] looks to be, she is as far from being sound at heart as her sister Aldborough was.

A few weeks later he wrote again:

Since I wrote to you I have heard from Orford that Sir Richard Lloyd is chosen a capital burgess; if so I doubt he has jumped into my saddle and I could almost wish to be divorced from the old lady; for to say the truth I don’t much relish that old leaven of Lawton and Paxton etc.6

The 2nd Lord Egmont wrote of Orford in his electoral survey, c. 1749-50: ‘In the Crown, but I am told Fonnereau has lately got a great independent interest there.’ In the event however it was Lord Hertford who established an independent interest by buying the manor of Orford from the executors of Lord Hereford in 1753.7

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. ‘The Case of Orford’, c. 1734, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss; CJ, xxiv. 225-6.
  • 2. Lawton to Walpole, 14 Dec. 1740, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss; HMC Var. iv. 272.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. and Pprs. 1739-41, p. 570.
  • 4. CJ, xxiv. 225-6.
  • 5. 16 Mar. 1742, Marlborough mss.
  • 6. 10 Sept. and 24 Oct. 1748, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 7. W. A. Copinger, Suff. Manors, v. 119, 150.