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:

1,200 in 1722


24 Jan. 1715SIR JOHN WALTER 
20 Mar. 1722THOMAS ROWNEY jun.336
 — Hawkins79
 William Wright75
24 Oct. 1722FRANCIS KNOLLYS vice Walter, deceased 
16 Aug. 1727THOMAS ROWNEY jun. 
23 Apr. 1734THOMAS ROWNEY jun. 
8 Feb. 1739JAMES HERBERT vice Skinner, appointed to office 
3 Dec. 1740PHILIP HERBERT vice Herbert, deceased 
26 June 1747THOMAS ROWNEY 
21 Nov. 1749PHILIP WENMAN, Visct. Wenman, vice Herbert, deceased 

Main Article

The Tory-controlled corporation was the most powerful influence in the city of Oxford. All the Members returned were Tories. Thomas Rowney and his son, Thomas, who were members of the corporation, had the chief interest, representing the town for 64 years between them. In 1743 the younger Rowney succeeded Montagu Bertie, 2nd Earl of Abingdon, as high steward of the borough.

The only contest occurred in 1722, when, a Tory reports,

there was a foolish opposition started against our city Members, young Rowney and Sir John Walter ... by counsellor Hawkins and young Wright. They polled seventy-nine out of twelve hundred voters and then threw it up.1

On the death of Sir John Walter seven months later, it was said that ‘old Tom Rowney is much pressed to let himself be named again, and joined with his son. He may certainly have it upon holding up his finger’.2 But Rowney declined, bringing in a relation, Francis Knollys,3 who was re-elected unopposed with Thomas Rowney jun. in 1727.

In 1734 Hearne, the Oxford antiquary, noted:

Matthew Skinner, serjeant at law and recorder of the city of Oxford, and Thomas Rowney esq., were unanimously elected Members of Parliament for the city of Oxford. There had been an opposition at first, which continued a good while, the said Rowney (who was Member in the last Parliament) being for one Mr. Dawkins, formerly gentleman commoner of Magdalen College, and vast interest was made and a great deal of money (not less, they say, than a thousand pounds) was spent by the said Dawkins, and all to keep Skinner out, whose interest was espoused by the Earl of Abingdon. But Skinner having the most reputable persons, both of the university and city on his side, there was no manner of danger on his side, so that few doubted of his being a Member, so that the contest, in all probability, was to be between Rowney and Dawkins. Dawkins had a great number, so many, it seems, that Rowney began to fear himself should be out, unless matters were made up. At last therefore things were compromised, and Dawkins relinquished his interest, being not willing Rowney should be out, and so it happened that Skinner and Rowney were chosen. Much money was spent during the opposition, and a great number of new freemen (most of them were very poor) were made during the struggle, which is like to bring a deal of mischief to the town, as abundance of ill blood hath been raised otherwise on this occasion.4

Tories continued to be returned unopposed until 1768.

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. HMC Portland, vii. 317.
  • 2. Ibid. 329.
  • 3. Ibid. 337.
  • 4. Hearne, Colls. (Oxf. Hist. Soc.), xi. 330-1.