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 freeholders and leaseholders for life

Number of voters:

about 100


(1801): 471


 John Drummond 
 Robert Drummond 
28 Apr. 1791 SAMUEL SMITH II vice Selwyn, deceased88
 Nathaniel Newnham51
27 June 1793 NATHANIEL NEWNHAM vice Smith, deceased 
7 May 1804 MAGENS DORRIEN MAGENS vice Dalkeith, vacated his seat 
27 Feb. 1810 JOSEPH HAGUE EVERETT vice Everett, deceased 
19 Apr. 1811 CHARLES WINN ALLANSON, Baron Headley [I], vice Everett, vacated his seat 
22 Dec. 1812 SANDFORD GRAHAM and JOSEPH BIRCH vice Magens and Everett, vacated their seats 
26 June 1815 CHARLES NICHOLAS PALLMER vice Graham, vacated his seat 
28 June 1817 HENRY LAWES LUTTRELL, Earl of Carhampton [I], vice Pallmer, vacated his seat 
 HENRY LAWES LUTTRELL, Earl of Carhampton [I] 

Main Article

In 1790 the Selwyn control of Ludgershall was challenged for the first time since 1747. George Selwyn had long neglected ‘that beggarly place’, as he contemptuously termed the borough, and now Thomas Everett, a London banker of local origins, who owned a number of freeholds at Ludgershall and had purchased the Biddesden estate, put up his banking partners, John Drummond and his brother. They were not successful, but Selwyn realized that he would hand on a ‘diminished interest’ to his heir, Viscount Sydney.

I am much disturbed at the opposition [he informed his niece Mary Townshend, early in June]. I thought nothing of this kind could have happened, having had so much reliance upon the nature of the borough, and supposing that whatever was wanting to confirm our property in it would be supplied by the vigilance of others whose pretensions although only in reversion were seemingly more permanent ... Weak princes are always supine and lose by security what could not have been extorted from them if they did not think themselves secure. This misfortune I undergo and share with my most Christian brother Louis XVI. The Poissards of Paris and of Ludgershall were too much despised by us, and I shall not be surprised if, instead of being at the head of the poll my head may be upon one before the election is over, for I am told that the democrates at Ludgershall are already very riotous and may overpower les troupes de ma maison ... I do not wonder to see Lord Sydney so much chagrined at what has happened, when so little might have prevented it had we had active persons on the spot to have purchased what has now fallen into the hands of this banker, who will make the family pay dear for the bargain he has made, and add to this the development to the world of the state of this borough, which, in everybody’s opinion almost was a property in which no one had a share but ourselves. It is now the virgin unmasked, and we must be contented if we can keep what we have, and pretend to do no more at present, but in future, do as all courtiers do, get what we can.1

Selwyn’s comparison of events at Ludgershall with those in France should not be taken seriously and no political issue was involved in the contest of 1790.

On 27 Sept. 1790 Selwyn informed his nephew Charles Townshend that he feared the borough was lost,

or if regained at any time so as to be upon the eligible foot it has been till this period it must cost Lord Sydney or his family a great deal of trouble and expense ... For the future the person to whom this borough is to belong will do right to have an agent constantly upon the spot, and to give a particular account to the persons interested of what is done to the prejudice of that interest which he should be paid to support.2

This was advising Sydney to lock the stable door after the horse had bolted.

At the time of Selwyn’s death, 25 Jan. 1791 Everett’s party had a petition pending against the return, which turned on the right of election. The Morning Chronicle whimsically reported a caveat being entered in Doctors Commons by ‘the independent electors’ against Selwyn’s bequest of Ludgershall to Viscount Sydney. Selwyn was now represented by Sydney’s heir John Thomas Townshend* and it was reported that Sydney’s second son (well under age) would succeed to Selwyn’s seat. Their counsel argued that the franchise which, like the petitioners, they admitted to be ‘in such persons who have any estate of inheritance, or freehold, or leasehold, determinable upon life or lives, within the said borough’, as determined by the House in 1698, was confined nevertheless ‘in entire ancient houses, or the entire sites of ancient houses’ on which quit rents were paid to Selwyn as lord of the manor. This argument was supported by reference to four elderly inhabitants and to the poll book of 1747. The House rejected it and decided that the franchise was ‘not confined’ as in a burgage borough, 15 Apr. 1791, but confirmed the return of 1790. Thereupon Everett approached Sydney through Sir John Sinclair* with a view to purchasing Sydney’s inheritance, which was to be valued by arbitration if necessary:

Mr Everett cannot dispose of his interest in Ludgershall, having large property in the neighbourhood where his family reside, and such property must be disposed of also were he to part with his interest in the borough. Lord Sidney’s property in the neighbourhood is comparatively small, and Lord Sydney does not reside on his estate.

This negotiation failed; had it succeeded, ‘Mr Drummond’ was to have been Everett’s nominee.3

In the by-election for Selwyn’s seat, Sydney put up a merchant banker, Samuel Smith II, who was fair competition for Everett’s choice of his banking partner, Nathaniel Newnham*. The returning officer, Rev. John Selwyn, rejected 49 votes for Newnham and eight for Smith, presumably in defiance of the House’s decision of 15 Apr. 1791, for Newnham’s petition again turned on the right of election, 6 May 1791. Sydney’s friends petitioned the House, 13 Feb. 1792, that they wished to contest the decision of 15 Apr. 1791, which Everett in turn undertook to defend. After procrastination, a compromise was avowed, 20 Feb. 1793: Smith was confirmed in his seat, 20 Mar. 1793, but on his death soon afterwards, Newnham was returned unopposed.4 Nor was there any further contest. Everett returned himself in 1796, and on his death in 1810 his son Joseph Hague Everett did the same, subsequently disposing of the seat as he pleased. The 2nd Viscount Sydney sold his moiety just after the election of 1812 to (Sir) James Graham* of Kirkstall. Like Sydney in 1804, Graham turned out his Member (his own son) in 1815 for hostility to the government, though he relented in 1818.

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. S. P. Kerr, Selwyn, 163-4.
  • 2. Ibid. 166.
  • 3. CJ, xlvi. 19; Morning Chron. 28 Jan.; Public Advertiser, 4 Feb., 5 Apr.; Sinclair mss, Everett to Sinclair, 19 Apr. 1791, and Sinclair’s undated memo.
  • 4. Morning Chron. 2 May 1791; CJ, xlvi. 461; xlvii. 376; xlviii. 9, 14, 220, 418.