Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
|19 June 1790||JOHN HENRY PETTY, Earl Wycombe||34|
|SIR JOHN JERVIS||26|
|John Dashwood King||22|
|1 Feb. 1794||SIR FRANCIS BARING, Bt., vice Jervis, vacated his seat||29|
|(Sir) John Dashwood King, Bt.||22|
|26 May 1796||JOHN HENRY PETTY, Earl Wycombe|
|(SIR) JOHN DASHWOOD KING, Bt.|
|6 July 1802||SIR JOHN DASHWOOD KING, Bt.|
|SIR FRANCIS BARING, Bt.|
|1 Nov. 1806||(SIR) JOHN DASHWOOD KING, Bt.|
|6 May 1807||(SIR) JOHN DASHWOOD KING, Bt.|
|8 Oct. 1812||(SIR) JOHN DASHWOOD KING, Bt.|
|(SIR) THOMAS BARING, Bt.|
|18 June 1818||(SIR) JOHN DASHWOOD KING, Bt.|
|(SIR) THOMAS BARING, Bt.|
From 1754 to 1790 the representation of Wycombe was controlled jointly by the Waller family of Hall Barn, Beaconsfield and the Petty family of Temple Wycombe and Loakes House, whose head from 1761 was William, 1st Marquess of Lansdowne. Their control derived from influence exerted within the common council, a self-electing body with the power of creating freemen, almost half of whom were non-resident by 1790.1
Lansdowne decided to try for both seats in 1789 when his son Earl Wycombe, one of the sitting Members, and his friend Sir John Jervis canvassed the freemen. Robert Waller, the other Member, did not stand in 1790, but Lansdowne’s nominees were opposed by John Dashwood King of West Wycombe. Lord Wycombe was well supported by both resident voters, including the mayor and most of the aldermen, and by non-residents, and comfortably topped the poll, but Jervis only scraped into second place. Dashwood King’s support was predominantly local, with 17 of his 22 votes coming from residents. Of Jervis’s supporters, less than half were townsmen and the dozen ‘foreign’ votes which he received from Lansdowne’s interest were crucial to his success. While Dashwood King’s local supporters included 12 gentlemen, of whom eight, among them three aldermen, cast plumpers for him, the 11 Wycombe residents who voted for both Lansdowne candidates included only three gentlemen and two clergymen.2
At a meeting of the common council in 1791, from which the three hostile aldermen were absent, Lansdowne secured the election of 15 new freemen, 11 of them non-resident. Their votes were decisive in the victory of Sir Francis Baring, Lansdowne’s former financial adviser, over Dashwood King at the by-election of February 1794. Dashwood King’s support among the local gentry remained strong. There seems also to have been some popular hostility to aristocratic dictation, and Lord Wycombe is said to have been physically assaulted at about this time.3 Dashwood King’s supporters in the common council succeeded in electing a friendly alderman in June 1794, and later in the year Adey Bellamy, a local Quaker, produced a compromise scheme, whereby the number of burgesses was to be limited to 60, no new ‘foreign’ freemen were to be elected and burgesses were to be chosen, as vacancies arose, by ballot of the common council. Lansdowne accepted the plan, which was adopted by all sides in the common council and implemented by the election of about 30 new town burgesses. Implicit in the arrangement was an understanding that Dashwood King was to be admitted to a share in the patronage of the borough, and in 1796, when Lansdowne was able to transfer Baring to a seat at Calne, Dashwood King was returned. He subsequently consolidated his position (by Lansdowne’s reckoning, with the aid of bribery) and retained the seat for 35 years.4
By 1800 Lansdowne had disposed of his property at Wycombe to Lord Carrington* and it is not clear whether he continued to exercise any direct influence in the borough.5 The Times reported, 10 Feb. 1802, that Baring had been called on by ‘a considerable portion of the burgesses’ explicitly to declare the ‘pretensions’ on which he grounded his bid for the seat: ‘they deprecate the intervention of a certain assumed influence, which, without daring to avow its encroachments upon their privileges, has secretly endeavoured to undermine them’. The report added that Baring would be challenged for the seat which Lord Wycombe, long an absentee Member, was to surrender at the dissolution, by the nabob John Prinsep*, but on 26 Feb. 1802 Lansdowne told his younger son that Baring’s election was ‘secure’.6 It seems probable that Baring was advised by Lansdowne to try for the seat and owed his success to his earlier enjoyment of Lansdowne’s support. The compromise scheme was laid aside in 1803, and the Lansdowne interest, as such, certainly died with the 1st Marquess in 1805. On its foundations the Barings developed their own and, as the number of burgesses declined, the position reverted to that which had existed before 1790. Baring’s son Thomas, who represented the borough for 26 years, claimed in 1832 that ‘not one of his elections has cost him more than £50’.7 Lord Carrington evidently did not seek to assert any influence at Wycombe in this period.
Author: David R. Fisher
- 1. L.J. Ashford, Wycombe, 189-90.
- 2. Lansdowne mss, Wycombe to Lansdowne, 4 Mar. 1789; J. Parker, Wycombe, 73.
- 3. Ashford, 192; Parker, 74-75; Bucks. RO, Carrington mss D6, C.W. Rafferty, ‘Wycombe and Family Notes’, 5.
- 4. Ashford, 193-4; Fitzmaurice, Shelburne, ii. 357; R.W. Davis, Political Change and Continuity, 41-42.
- 5. Mr E.J. Davis of Bucks. RO kindly supplied information on the transfer of the Petty property.
- 6. Lansdowne mss.
- 7. Ashford, 194-5; Grey mss, Howick to Grey [8 June 1832].