Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 600


(1801): 4,744


16 June 1790THOMAS STEELE 
28 Feb. 1791 STEELE re-elected after appointment to office253
 Sir Richard Hotham167
25 May 1796THOMAS STEELE112
 William Hodgson10
10 Nov. 1797 STEELE re-elected after appointment to office 
31 Oct. 1806THOMAS STEELE 
5 Oct. 1812CHARLES LENNOX, Earl of March 
8 Aug. 1814 HUSKISSON re-elected after appointment to office 
15 June 1818CHARLES LENNOX, Earl of March 
22 Nov. 1819 LORD JOHN GEORGE LENNOX vice March, called to the Upper House 

Main Article

Although there were only two effective contests in this period, Chichester remained an open borough. The 3rd Duke of Richmond had failed to carry both Members in 1784 when White Thomas was championed by the independent party of Blues anxious to prevent a ducal monopoly. Lest they should attempt to oust Richmond altogether, his surviving nominee Thomas Steele, whose roots were local, pretended to dissociate himself from his patron in his preliminary canvass for the election of 1790. The manoeuvre failed and Steele reverted to avowed reliance on Richmond. Sir Richard Hotham of Bognor thereupon withdrew, in the interests of a compromise endorsed by 42 members of a committee of inhabitants whereby Richmond and the Blues named one Member each. Hotham’s opportunist challenge to Steele in the by-election of 1791 was unsuccessful.1

This compromise operated smoothly until the duke’s death in 1806, when his nephew succeeded him. In 1796, admittedly, ‘Citizen’ Hodgson [i.e. William Hodgson MD (1745-1851)] challenged the sitting Members, but he withdrew on the first day of the poll with no hope of success.2 There was no further incident until 1807, when Thomas Steele retired in public disgrace. On 27 Apr. Lord Egremont informed the 4th Duke, then viceroy of Ireland:

I am a good deal afraid with this business of Steele’s, who, I find, must withdraw from Parliament, and your absence, you may have some trouble at Chichester. I heard today at the Treasury that Tierney had thoughts of going there to offer himself.

Richmond’s candidate was Du Pré, whose wife was connected with his family and who met with no positive refusal and ‘but very few doubts’ in his canvass. An understanding between the Blues and the ducal party operated to the disadvantage of any third man. One of Richmond’s adherents John Crawford informed him:

I had almost forgot to tell you that we had two if not three sounding their way to try if there was any chance to get in here. [George Bolton] Mainwaring junior, an Honourable Mr Bolton and some say Tierney, but he was not here; the others, finding how the land lay, went on to Bognor, and have not since been heard of.

According to Du Pré, Richmond’s agent John Ridge maintained that ‘had Mr Thomas’s party assembled two, Lord Mark Kerr would have been a very proper person; but seems to think that you are virtually bound by the Duke of Richmond’s agreement, as long as they allow you one’.3

By 1810 it was clear that Du Pré was not an effective Member. Richmond informed his brother-in-law Earl Bathurst, ‘He thinks his idleness hurts my interest’. He thought of Bathurst’s son Apsley, if of age, or failing him, as his own heir was destined for the county and his second son too young, of Lord Mark Robert Kerr, a kinsman, or Walter Burrell*, a country gentleman. In June 1811 Bathurst suggested that Apsley should replace Du Pré next session, but he did not do so. As it was, White Thomas’s decision to retire in 1812 promised a contest. The Blues had ceased to be effective, like their Member. They had no obvious candidate, though Gen. J. Gustavus Crosbie or William Poyntz* were mentioned as the most likely. But there was no guarantee that Richmond would now feel obliged to honour his predecessor’s pact of 1790, even if his older adherents might think it honourable to do so. William Huskisson*, seated at Eartham, five miles away, was the instrument of Richmond’s emancipation. He could not obtain Richmond’s nomination, but he could offer for the independent seat, helped by Egremont, Richmond’s ally in county politics: ‘I conceive that it would be more acceptable to him if his friends should countenance me with their second votes rather than any person devoted to the opposition’. His well-wisher in the borough, James Bennet Freeland, admitted, apropos of the pact of 1790, ‘this engagement can impose no obligation on those who were not parties to it and consequently the duke’s younger friends are at liberty to act as their inclinations may prompt them’. He added, ‘I must be allowed to suggest that it might be most polite for you to appear to the public quite unconnected with the Duke of Richmond as many respectable inhabitants have a decided objection to the duke’s returning both Members’.4

In the event the Blues could not find a consenting candidate and Huskisson was returned with Richmond’s heir, the Earl of March, whom he had nominated on the assurance that March was the most likely choice to avert a contest. The quiet election made him regret that he had sacrificed his son’s opportunity to come in for the county to unnecessary alarms at Chichester.5 The Blues subsequently lapsed, and although Poyntz, their supposed candidate in 1812, continued to eye the constituency, he had to wait until 1823 for a propitious opening. On the 4th Duke’s death in 1819, his younger son came in unopposed. Yet at that point, according to Huskisson, ‘the mayor, the corporation and the magistrates, all rank Tories, are so loud against the government that they go to the length of almost wishing that ministers were turned out’.6

Authors: Brian Murphy / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. v. 10; W. Suss. RO, Add. mss 1036, 2134; Suss. Weekly Advertiser, 21 June 1790.
  • 2. W. Suss. RO, Add. mss 2135; Suss. Weekly Advertiser, 30 May; True Briton, 30 May 1796; DNB .
  • 3. NLI, Richmond mss 69/1224, 1226, 1234, 1238.
  • 4. Ibid. 61/333, 72/1597; Add. 38739, ff. 46, 48, 103; 39948, ff. 28, 30, 32.
  • 5. Morning Chron. 7 Oct. 1812; Richmond mss 69/1252, 1258-9; Petworth House mss, Richmond to Egremont, 2 Nov. 1812.
  • 6. Add. 38574, f. 138.