Double Member Borough
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
|15 Apr. 1754||Sir John Rushout||395|
|23 Apr. 1756||Edward Rudge vice Porter, deceased|
|2 Apr. 1761||Sir John Rushout||466|
|21 Mar. 1768||John Rushout|
|18 Oct. 1774||John Rushout||490|
|William Charles Colyear, Visct. Milsington||64|
|23 Sept. 1780||Sir John Rushout||435|
|Charles William Boughton Rouse||379|
|3 Apr. 1784||Sir John Rushout|
|Charles William Boughton Rouse|
‘A profusion of trouble and expense has for more than half a century past ... marked a seat in Parliament for the borough of Evesham’, wrote Mark Beaufoy to Sir John Rushout on 1 Sept. 1767.1 The strongest interest was that of the Rushouts of Northwick Park, who held one seat without a break from 1722 to 1796. A long way behind came that of the Rudge family, who first sat for the borough in 1680.
There were strong contests in 1754, 1756, and 1761. In 1754 John Porter, partly financed by Administration, defeated one of the sitting Members, Edward Rudge, after an unusually expensive contest. In 1756 William Baylies, a local physician,2 who seems to have built up a following among the poorer voters, tried for a seat. James West, who had some interest at Evesham, wrote to Newcastle on 19 Apr. 1756:3
Dr. Baylies has a majority in the town without offering or promising anything to any one voter, but Sir John Rushout’s voters at Blockley, Lord Sandys’s and Lord Foley’s at Worcester, joined to those of London who are brought down at Mr. Rudge’s expense, will, I think, determine the election in favour of Mr. Rudge. The Tories are all for Mr. Rudge.
Baylies seems to have been very unpopular with the gentry. In February 1761 Mark Beaufoy wrote:4
Dr. Baylies has declared for Evesham, and we were afraid would have carried it without opposition; but we have at last stirred up one which I think will defeat the Doctor’s measures, to his inexpressible mortification and disappointment.
Dr. Baylies had 181 single votes, the greatest number of single votes ever polled in Evesham. The Doctor’s interest had visibly declined for some days before the election, and how should it be otherwise when large sums were given on one side and nothing on the other. I fancy the Doctor is sick of elections, and the baronet had a hard push to get in his son, and many that assisted him are sorry that it is so. The Doctor had more than 100 turncoats.
In October 1767 three candidates were canvassing the borough against the forthcoming general election: John Rushout jun.; George Durant, a Worcestershire man who had made a fortune as paymaster on the Havana expedition; and James West jun. West sen. wrote to Newcastle on 11 Oct.:7
There will probably be a very warm contest. Sir John Rushout has declined on account of age, and the town ... were so angry at his bringing in two last time that Mr. Rushout has been obliged to declare that he will not join anyone, and in that light only is his security. Mr. Durant, without one gentleman in the county to support him, spends money, yet I think my son must succeed at last.
But Durant made Sir John Rushout a most tempting offer—in return for his interest at Evesham, he would pay John Rushout’s expenses.8 West soon withdrew, and Sir John Rushout remained in the field, probably to act as a deterrent. He declined on the morning of the poll, and Durant and young Rushout were returned unopposed.
In 1774 Rushout was returned with a record number of votes; and Henry Seymour, though absent in France, took the second seat. In 1780 a political question crept into the election, when a group of voters tried to impose a ‘constitutional test’ on the candidates.9 But since all three were declared opponents of Government, the issue was decided by familiar means. On the fifth day of an extremely hard-fought election, Rushout and Rudge declared a coalition to keep out the newcomer, but Boughton Rouse beat Rudge by 22 votes. Beaufoy wrote after the election:10
Rouse was so hard run as to send into the neighbourhood of London a post chaise and four horses to bring down a single vote ... If Jack Biddle had not closed with Rouse’s friends, Rudge had been the man; or if Rudge and Rouse had joined their interest Sir John had been thrown out. Both Rudge and Rouse have spent, it is said, between four and five thousand pounds each.
1784 was one of Evesham’s rare uncontested elections.
Author: J. A. Cannon
- 1. G. Beaufoy, Leaves from a Beech Tree, 112.
- 2. About him see DNB.
- 3. Add. 32864, f. 345.
- 4. Leaves from a Beech Tree, 92.
- 5. Glocester Jnl. 17 Feb. 1761.
- 6. Add. 34735, f. 267.
- 7. Add. 32985, f. 443.
- 8. Leaves from a Beech Tree, 113.
- 9. Glocester Jnl. 24 Apr. 1780.
- 10. Leaves from a Beech Tree, 128.