Cheshire

County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 4,800 in 16811

Elections

DateCandidateVotes
c. Apr. 1660SIR GEORGE BOOTH, Bt. 
 THOMAS MAINWARING 
25 Mar. 1661WILLIAM BRERETON, Baron Brereton 
 PETER VENABLES 
16 May 1664SIR FULK LUCY vice Brereton, deceased 
17 Jan. 1670THOMAS CHOLMONDELEY vice Venables, deceased 
 Sir Philip Egerton 
4 Mar. 1678HON. HENRY BOOTH vice Lucy, deceased 
3 Feb. 1679HON. HENRY BOOTH 
 SIR PHILIP EGERTON 
15 Sept. 1679HON. HENRY BOOTH 
 SIR ROBERT COTTON, Bt. 
28 Feb. 1681HON. HENRY BOOTH1500
 SIR ROBERT COTTON, Bt.c.1200
 Sir Robert Leycesterc.340
 Sir Philip Egerton280
23 Mar. 1685SIR PHILIP EGERTON1966
 THOMAS CHOLMONDELEY2099
 John Mainwaring1682
 Sir Robert Cotton, Bt.1552
15 Jan. 1689SIR ROBERT COTTON, Bt. 
 JOHN MAINWARING 

Main Article

The rising of Sir George Booth was, in all probability, a decisive influence on the Cheshire election in 1660. Booth himself and Thomas Mainwaring, one of his close friends and associates, were returned, apparently without a contest. In 1661 Booth had been raised to the peerage and Mainwaring did not stand. Two Cavaliers, Lord Brereton and Peter Venables were returned. But the election of Sir Fulk Lucy after Brereton’s death in 1664 probably represented a gain for the Opposition. When Venables died in 1670 his seat was contested by Thomas Cholmondeley and Sir Philip Egerton. The latter, at this date probably a supporter of the country party, stood down after a three-day poll. In the 1678 by-election Henry Booth, like his father an outspoken opponent of the Government, was returned apparently unopposed.2

After a gentry meeting, Booth was again returned to the first Exclusion Parliament with Egerton, who disappointed Shaftesbury by voting against the bill. He was replaced in the autumn by Sir Robert Cotton, who favoured exclusion. The 1681 election was contested. Late in January Lord Cholmondeley, one of the principal landowners in the county, wrote to his agent to put the management of his tenants in the hands of his cousin Francis Cholmondeley, who would rally them in support of Egerton and Sir Robert Leycester. In a subsequent letter he reported that he had heard that Booth was prepared to spend £3,000 and Cotton £500, ‘and they are resolved to let the King see that all the Cheshire gentry are not able to baffle the mighty Booth and Cotton interest’. Cholmondeley’s hope was that the gentry would, as in the case of Worcestershire, ‘confederate together upon their own charges’ to ensure the return of court supporters; but by 12 Feb. he instructed his agent to desert Leycester and give his second vote to Cotton, if he found the latter’s interest considerable. On 5 Mar. Booth wrote to the Earl of Conway:

I suppose you may have heard that I and Sir Robert Cotton are again elected for this county. We have been put to a great charge by a faint opposition. ... The Papists all voted for Sir Robert Leycester and Sir Philip Egerton. One man was for giving his vote for these two, and because two Papists came to vote for them he gave his vote for me and Sir Robert Cotton. It is computed that I had polled 1,500, Sir Robert Cotton about 1,200, Sir R. Leycester about 340 and Sir P. Egerton 280. I believe they might have had about 300 more to poll; we, I am confident, had at least 3,000 more. They are much ashamed of their undertaking.

After the election two rival addresses were prepared. One asked the Members to vote ‘cheerfully’ for supply, but it was rejected. The other, which emphasized the necessity of the exclusion bill and the right of petitioning, was presented by Lord Colchester (Richard Savage) and accepted.3

In September 1681 the grand jury presented a loyal address approving the dissolution of Parliament; but in July 1682 a loyal clergyman, hearing of the Duke of Monmouth’s plans for a ‘progress’, wrote:

I am very apprehensive of danger by his coming, for the lower parts of Staffordshire, Cheshire and Lancashire are very rotten and full of potent Whigs and malcontents. ... In Cheshire these are the Earl of Macclesfield and his son Brandon (Hon. Charles Gerard), Col. [Roger] Whitley, Sir Robert Cotton, (Sir) Thomas Mainwaring, Mr [Henry] Booth, Lord Delamer’s eldest son; and generally, except for a few persons, the whole country is disloyal.

Monmouth received a riotous welcome; on the basis of which the grand jury, with Sir Thomas Grosvenor as foreman, presented 32 gentlemen for sedition. But even at the 1685 election the Cheshire Whigs put up a determined resistance, although the Tories were better organized. Booth having succeeded to the peerage, he was replaced as opposition candidate by Mainwaring’s son John, who stood with Cotton against Egerton and Cholmondeley. The poll began on 13 Mar., and according to Sir Thomas Mainwaring:

there appeared for Sir Robert and my son near five times as many as for the other; but the sheriff made very short sittings and polled but until six o’clock, and my son [Peter] Shakerley, being governor of the castle, did, both in the forenoon and in the afternoon, through a sally port let in [as] many voices of theirs who were against us as would fill the polling place, and they both times polled them first, so that, till their men were spent, they did daily poll nine or ten times as many as us.

The sheriff’s tactics, continued over four days, provoked violence. Loyal citizens had their windows broken, and the Whigs shouted ‘Down with the clergy, down with the bishops’.

(Sir) Geoffrey Shakerley was knocked down in the street, lost his hat and wig, and the persons of some of the reverend clergy were likewise affronted. ... The militia of the city was raised and kept up for two days, but at such a distance and so far out of sight as to be only near enough to suppress any tumult or insurrection in case of need, without influencing any awe upon the election.

When on 28 Mar., according to Mainwaring’s diary, the sheriff perceived that:

a great many of our men were gone home with an intent to return on Monday, having been wearied out with his ill-usage, he polled those of ours that that day stayed in town, being about 600 men, and afterwards late in the evening declared Sir Philip Egerton and my cousin Cholmondeley of Vale Royal to be elected knights of the shire, but would not let any of us see his papers, to satisfy us who had the most voices.

With Roger L’Estrange announcing to his readers the ‘death of Whiggism in these parts’, the grand jury congratulated James II on his accession ‘in despite of all tumults, bills of exclusion, association, comprehension, and Black Boxes’, and thanked him for his promise to protect and preserve the established Church. The petition of the defeated candidates did not reach the House. In April 1688 the clergy of Cheshire sent an address to James thanking him for the clauses in his second Declaration of Indulgence designed to preserve the Protestant religion, but Whiggism was not dead in Cheshire, for Cotton and Mainwaring were returned to the Convention.