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 the freemen

Number of voters:

about 700


(1801): 2,837


3 July 1790SIR JOHN RUSHOUT, Bt.418
 Francis Sulivan374
 Sir John Rushout, Bt.248
 Humphrey Howorth183
 Humphrey Howorth320
 HOWORTH vice Lopes, on petition, 22 Feb. 1808 
 Sir Charles Cockerell, Bt.341
 COCKERELL vice Rouse Boughton, on petition, 23 Feb. 1819 

Main Article

Although Evesham was an open borough, the corporation had since 1661 always been much attached to the family of the Rushouts of Northwick in this neighbourhood, whose interest has been considered as the prevailing one, and sufficient to procure a seat in Parliament for one of that family. The other seat is open.This, apart from subjecting the Rushouts to considerable anxiety, gave adequate scope to ‘a combination of attorneys’ to manoeuvre the return of the second Member.1

Since 1780 Sir John Rushout’s colleague had been Charles Edward Rouse Boughton, a nabob resident locally and supporter of Pitt’s administration. By 1789 Rushout, who had been in opposition, went over to Pitt, his object being a peerage, if possible before the next election. Until then his chief support had been the acquiescence of the Rudge family, whose interest had formerly led them to compete for the second seat. In the political reshuffle it was not Rushout but Rouse Boughton who suffered. He reported to Pitt, 10 Mar. 1789, that although the Rudges had been weaned from opposition by William Welch (for whom he suggested as reward a vacant professorship of civil law), he could not count on them; moreover

I found the people here were determined to have a new man for the ensuing election, and the utmost I could do was to secure a candidate well inclined to you. That is now accomplished: and I have no doubt, that Mr Sulivan will succeed, who, as I learn from [Thomas] Steele*, will be entirely agreeable to you. I am told we are to have a list of opposition candidates today. But I can safely assure you, that no one of them will be received here.

With reference to some voters swayed by Henry Beaufoy*, he found ‘that they have promised their votes to Mr Ford, who has declined making any declaration of his political principles, but is suspected to be in the interest of opposition’. On 27 Apr. 1789 Rushout assured Pitt that he could vouch for the return of a friend of the government if he obtained a peerage, in addition to Sulivan, whom he believed safe.2

In the event Rushout’s peerage was postponed indefinitely and he stood for re-election. reselection. Since October 1789 the Whig election managers had been pressed by Joseph Lavender, a local attorney and banker, to send a candidate to Evesham, where his expense would not exceed £3,000 ‘and probably not £2,500’ After refusals from William Baker* and Lord Robert Spencer*, they selected a wealthy novice, Thomas Thompson. He at first found the going hard as the voters were chagrined at the hasty withdrawal of Francis Ford*, but he secured Lord Beauchamp’s support and, at the poll, defeated Sulivan. The latter was assailed with cries of ‘no nabob’ and his supporters subjected to the violence of ‘a licentious and desperate mob’. The Duke of Portland wrote to William Adam, 5 July 1790, ‘I heartily wish you joy of little Thompson’s success at Evesham, he was within 11 of Rushout and polled 257 single votes’.3

On 8 Apr. 1796 the True Briton reported: ‘Evesham is to have Mr Parrot in place of Mr Thompson. This is only changing one parrot for another; but a real for a counterfeit one.’ But Thompson returned to the fray; so did Rushout, once more disappointed of a peerage, in exchange for which he again offered to return a friend of government. The Treasury toyed with the idea of encouraging William Taylor I* to oppose Thompson, but they found a more advantageous candidate in the wealthy London banker Thellusson, who headed the poll.4 Rushout, whose heart was no longer in it, was defeated and received his peerage of Northwick as consolation. Before the dissolution of 1802 Thompson went abroad for health reasons and by March was already out of the question. The aspirants to his seat were Bruce, a London banker, and Howorth, a Whig nabob. They appeared at Evesham together and beat Thellusson to a canvass, which he had declined in order to keep the peace. Bruce, supported by Lords Northwick and Coventry, the Lygons and other neighbouring gentry, was regarded as sure to win a seat; Howorth lost his battle. The report was that ‘if any two gentlemen of respectability in the neighbourhood had started, they would have ousted all the three candidates’. As it was, the contest was protracted for five days and severe, a number of controversial freeholder votes being admitted to the disadvantage of Howorth. He alleged that 64 freeholder votes were inadmissible, because freeholders could not take the burgess oath. He petitioned, alleging bribery and intimidation. The committee of the House (including Thellusson’s father-in-law) rejected the petition after Howorth had refused to submit his evidence.5

Howorth appears to have reached ‘a private compromise’ with Bruce, who withdrew in 1806. Thellusson had hoped to secure Northwick’s support through George Tierney, the Whig election manager, as he proposed to support the Grenville ministry, but Northwick, while not hostile to Thellusson, would not countenance ‘an avowed union of interests’ between him and his candidate, the London merchant William Manning. Manning’s canvass was conducted by Northwick’s brother-in-law Cockerell and he was ‘decidedly in favour of government’. Thellusson gave up; he was ‘deservedly obnoxious’ at Evesham, where his conduct had been ‘both ungentlemanly and ungrateful’. Samuel Whitcombe, after a partial canvass, also withdrew. Thus Manning and Howorth were unopposed.6

In 1807 Manning again stood singly on Northwick’s interest. Howorth, challenged on behalf of the Portland ministry by Sir Manasseh Masseh Lopes, a big spender, refused to swallow his narrow defeat, which he described as that of the independent interest by a ministerial interloper, and petitioned against the return, alleging bribery and treating by Lopes and the admission on his behalf of 122 freeholder votes (out of 695) which were invalid. On account of these votes, and not of bribery, Lopes was unseated, after spending £10,000.7

There was no change until 1818 when Manning, with a seat elsewhere, withdrew in favour of Northwick’s brother-in-law Cockerell. Since the beginning of the year there had been a third man, William Edward Rouse Boughton, son of the former Member. He was supported by the Rudge family and professed ‘perfect independence’. After a 12-day poll, said to have cost the candidates more than £20,000 as they scoured the country for out-burgesses, Cockerell was defeated. He petitioned, alleging bribery, treating and illegal votes; as did some electors in his interest. The committee of the House resolved in his favour after defining the right of election. Since the freeholders had been ruled out in 1808, freemen and paymasters (scot and lot payers) eligible for six months before the election had been admitted to vote. Cockerell objected to the paymasters—from whom Rouse Boughton had secured 158 votes to his 107.The right of election was confirmed to be in the ‘capital and other burgesses’ and not in the freemen plus inhabitants paying scot and lot, 8 Mar. 1819. This decision was anticipated and ridiculed by John Rickman, clerk of the House in a letter to the former Speaker, Lord Colchester:

I hear that the Evesham sitting Member is likely to be ousted by the new invention of a list of objectionable votes acquired from each party. A class of voters (but by name) is put in the list of the petitioner, and are condemned. The counsel for the sitting Member of course urges the same rule against the same sort of votes for the petitioner. No, it is said; you did not give notice of objection to them:—and therefore of course you could not give such notice of votes which you had to maintain as good ones—yet the Act is imperative: the committee cannot go into the question.8

Authors: M. J. Williams / R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Oldfield, Boroughs, ii, 263; Rep. Hist. v. 250.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/174, ff. 129, 200.
  • 3. Ginter, Whig Organization, 103, 104, 108, 130, 131, 132, 140, 145, 199; Public Advertiser, 5 July 1790.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/173, f. 290; 174, f. 209; 182, f. 87.
  • 5. The Times, 6, 8 Mar., 12 Apr., 7, 10 July 1802; CJ, lviii. 42, 429, 433.
  • 6. May, Evesham, 210-11; Glocester Jnl. 27 Oct.; Add. 51584, Tierney to Holland, Tues. [14 Oct.]; 51823, Northwick to same, 22 Oct.; Spencer mss, Rev. Preedy to Spencer [25 Oct.], W. to J. Preedy, 4 Nov. 1806.
  • 7. Madresfield mss, Manning to Beauchamp, 30 Apr.; Add. 38255, f. 362; Morning Chron. 18 May 1807; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 224; Farington, v. 292; CJ, lxii. 589; lxiii. 86.
  • 8. The Late Elections (1818), 116; May, 213; CJ, lxxiv. 21, 30, 152; U. Corbett and E. R. Daniell, Controverted Elections (1821), 26; PRO 30/9/16, Rickman to Colchester, 20 Feb. 1819.