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 resident freemen

Number of voters:

about 700


 Thomas Molyneux 
14 May 1726PULTENEY re-elected after appointment to office 
24 Jan. 1732NICHOLAS FAZAKERLEY vice Pulteney, deceased378
 James Haldane132
 Francis Reynolds231
 Sir Henry Hoghton14

Main Article

Preston elections were dominated by the neighbouring country gentlemen, most of whom were Tories, if not Jacobites. The mainstay of the Whigs was the Hoghton family, the patrons of the strong local nonconformist community. The earls of Derby were influential, particularly after 1736, when Sir Edward Stanley, who had inherited a considerable estate in Preston itself, succeeded to the title. The chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, whose court at Preston made it the legal capital of the county, had a traditional claim to recommend one Member, which he lost under George I.

In 1715 two local country gentlemen, Sir Henry Hoghton, a Whig, and Henry Fleetwood, a Jacobite, both of whom had previously represented Preston, were returned without a contest. In 1722 a local Whig wrote to Lord Sunderland:

Lord Lechmere, as chancellor of the duchy, is certain of one Member for Preston, Sir Harry Hoghton has a great interest in that town, these two joining heartily I make no doubt might carry that borough entirely.

He added that Fleetwood had ‘given his interest ... to one Hesketh of Rufford, a gentleman very much a Tory’. In the event Hoghton stood for the county, giving his interest at Preston to Daniel Pulteney,1 who was returned together with Hesketh. A third candidate, Thomas Molyneux, who had formerly sat for Preston as a Whig, petitioned against Hesketh for bribery but no decision was reached on his petition.

In 1727 the candidates were Hoghton, standing as a government supporter, and Pulteney, who had gone into opposition, standing with the support of the local Tories. At the last moment an attempt was made, at the personal instance of the King, to keep out Pulteney by putting up a third candidate, Charles Mordaunt, as the nominee of the new chancellor of the duchy, the Duke of Rutland. From Preston Mordaunt sent the Duke a gloomy report on

the weak state of your interest, which is not only slighted by the people of the town, but even rejected by the dependents of the Government. All I can assure your Grace is, no sum of money can compass this affair — for I should not stop at that to obey my master — and that bestowed in the most plentiful manner [it] would not gain forty votes; either side having purchased ’em before your Grace was nominated chancellor, the gentlemen being resolved at all adventures to secure [by] their poll Pulteney.

He went on to say that there was a ‘general prepossession’ that he had been sent to keep out Pulteney and that all the gentlemen had been warned

to be firm, and on their guard; for there was a violent attack prepared from the Court against their grumbling friend. ’Tis a pity this election was not thought of before; for there is not the least room either to hope success or give vexation.

In the circumstances the only hope of keeping out Pulteney would be a petition for bribery:

If bribery before the writs are issued out is of any use, either side have done it so publicly, and is so avowed by the voters it will be no difficult matter to vacate the election; and my way will be to poll your Grace’s officers, who though they live in the town have not yet manifested to me they can obtain one single voluntary vote for your Grace.

He had

told the gentlemen I was surprised your Grace’s recommendation had so slight a regard; that as you granted a favour to the town, you might reasonably expect another from them. As to the report concerning my coming against Mr. Pulteney it was only a malicious report raised to prejudice the King in his people’s love by insinuating he intervened in elections ... In my poor opinion your Grace should immediately resent this usage and remove the court for it is a general agreement of the whole town to turn their backs on the Government.2

The report of the local officials of the duchy of Lancaster was to the same effect:

We have used our utmost endeavours, and gone about through the town, and find the voters so generally engaged on one side or other (even the officers under the Government except only in this court) that notwithstanding all the efforts we could make, there is not the least hopes or probability of success ... Both the other candidates, as we are informed by the voters, had given two or three guineas a man before we came down.3

The Duke forwarded these reports to his brother-in-law, Henry Pelham, who passed them on to Walpole, observing:

You will see Mr. Mordaunt desires instructions what to do, and as his Majesty recommended him himself, I think the Duke of Rutland did very right in sending these letters to London. I hope therefore you will, as soon as you can, yourself or somebody by your direction write to Mr. Mordaunt, and tell him what to do. It is impossible for any one else to say anything upon this point, the interest is certainly nothing, and how to encourage petitions upon bribery only, I don’t pretend to determine.4

Mordaunt was withdrawn, leaving Hoghton and Pulteney to be returned unopposed.

On Pulteney’s death in 1731, Lord Barrymore wrote to Sir Roger Bradshaigh:

As to Preston some gentlemen ... made me an offer of their assistance in case I had any design to stand for that place, but I had no view that way and hope the gentlemen will write to Lord Derby and by that means have a good representative. Mr. Fazakerley will be a top one.5

Fazakerley, a Tory, was returned after a contest with a Whig opponent.

In 1734 an attempt to keep Hoghton out was made by the local Tories, headed by Richard Shuttleworth, Member for the county, in alliance with discontented Whig elements, headed by the Stanley family. On 2 Apr. 1734 Hoghton wrote to Walpole:

I must not trouble you with a history of the violent proceedings here. Mr. Shuttleworth’s son, if he had lived was to have opposed me, and his father had remitted large sums to his friends here on that account, but he being dead my adversaries have offered their interest to several to oppose me, but I have the town in such an high spirit, that nobody is yet named. Lord Derby on account of the excise, and other unpopular votes this session (which now I feel the weight of) is my declared enemy, and offers to be at the expense of keeping me out, if any one will undertake it. Sir Edward Stanley is now with his Lordship, [who] comes here next Friday, and I am told it will then be declared who is to join Mr. Fazakerley. In the meantime no endeavours are wanting to keep up their interest, but I don’t in the least doubt carrying it.6

The attempt to find a second opposition candidate proving unsuccessful, Hoghton and Fazakerley were returned unopposed.

In 1741 Shuttleworth’s next son, James, who had come of age, was joined to Fazakerley for the Tories, while Francis Reynolds stood with Hoghton for the Whigs. As early as 11 July 1740 Barrymore informed Bradshaigh that ‘Mr. Reynolds is fully engaged at Preston, to what purpose time will show, but a very great expense is certain’.7 Shuttleworth and Fazakerley won both seats, retaining them unopposed in 1747.

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. E. Hamilton to Sunderland, undated, and 6 Apr. 1722, Sunderand (Blenheim) mss.
  • 2. 5 Aug. 1727, Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 3. 5 Aug. 1727, ibid.
  • 4. 10 Aug. 1727, ibid.
  • 5. 27 Sept. 1731, Rylands, Crawford mss.
  • 6. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 7. Crawford mss.