Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the resident freemen
Number of voters:
over 200 in 1675
|4 Apr. 1660||JOHN BOWYER I|
|?Edward Mainwaring I|
|6 Apr. 1661||SIR CAESAR COLCLOUGH, Bt.|
|EDWARD MAINWARING I|
|21 Apr. 1675||WILLIAM LEVESON GOWER vice Mainwaring, deceased||120|
|Sir John Bowyer, 2nd Bt.||100|
|6 Feb. 1679||SIR THOMAS BELLOT, Bt.|
|WILLIAM LEVESON GOWER|
|14 Aug. 1679||SIR THOMAS BELLOT, Bt.|
|WILLIAM LEVESON GOWER|
|3 Mar. 1681||SIR THOMAS BELLOT, Bt.|
|WILLIAM LEVESON GOWER|
|30 Apr. 1685||EDWARD MAINWARING II|
|William Sneyd II|
|Sir Thomas Bellot, Bt.|
|William Leveson Gower|
|11 Jan. 1689||WILLIAM LEVESON GOWER|
The Mainwarings of Whitmore, the Levesons of Trentham and the Bowyers of Knypersley exercised the principal interests at Newcastle. Two Parliamentarians, Samuel Terrick and John Bowyer, were returned to the Convention of 1660. It is possible that Edward Mainwaring, who had also supported Parliament in the early days of the war, was a candidate, since Mercurius Politicus gives him as Bowyer’s partner. In 1661 he was returned with Sir Caesar Colclough, an Anglo-Irish baronet who had influential cousins and a considerable number of tenants in the borough. In 1663, 14 members of the corporation were removed by the commissioners, and in the next year a new charter was granted.1
While Mainwaring was on his deathbed in 1675, William Sneyd and Terrick suggested that William Leveson Gower should stand, although the mayor and others of the corporation were already engaged for Bowyer’s son. After Mainwaring’s death, the bishop of Worcester’s son, Arthur Fleetwood, who was employed in the Treasury, told him that Bowyer had agreed to withdraw in his favour if Leveson Gower would do the same. Otherwise he would contest the election, and had no doubt of carrying it. This encounter, Leveson Gower asserted, only strengthened his resolve: ‘Had not Mr Leveson Gower been thus provoked, he had not sought after it, by reason he was dubiously elected [on a double return] and returned for Malton’. Before the election Leveson Gower alleged that 150 freemen pledged him their support, but his opponent employed underhand means to defeat him: Colclough’s bailiff was persuaded without his master’s consent to order his tenants to vote for Bowyer, while a local skinner was told he would not do business again with Sir Thomas Bellot if he voted for Leveson Gower. Another supporter of Bowyer declared that the other candidate ‘was greatwith the King and too often at Court, and that he liked him the worse for that’. Leveson Gower received the writ from the lord keeper on 15 Apr., delivering it to the sheriff of Staffordshire two days later. He was returned almost without incident, Bowyer seeming to accept his defeat; it was only later that he decided to petition. The case was still unsettled early in 1677 when Leveson Gower’s local agent wrote urging him to have the hearing put off until after 2 Apr., since many of his witnesses would be at the assizes in Stafford, and adding: ‘if you lose this case it’s no coming to Newcastle again’. But the elections committee made no report to the House, and Leveson Gower retained the seat.2
Bowyer sat for the county in the Exclusion Parliaments, and Fleetwood had died in 1677. Leveson Gower, who was recommended by the Court, seems to have divided the borough with his rival’s nominee Bellot. Curiously enough, he was the only one of the three to vote for the bill, perhaps in order to outbid the other interest. He complained that Bowyer seemed to aim at control of three of Staffordshire’s seven seats, since he was attempting to nominate to both Newcastle seats for the autumn election, while putting himself forward again for the county:
I urged it upon him yesterday to show reason why he pretended to choose two burgesses at Newcastle exclusive to me, when he could not be chosen himself when he stood in competition with me, and why at this very time he would [not] accept of the burgess-ship they offered him. He gave no other answer to both [than] that though the town of Newcastle would go down on their knees to him, he would not serve them.
Leveson Gower and Bellot were re-elected to the second and third Exclusion Parliaments. They were not required to attend in 1681, thereby freeing Leveson Gower to contest Shropshire, for which he chose to sit in the Oxford Parliament. A new writ was ordered for Newcastle on 24 Mar., and the election must have been held with commendable promptitude. There were two candidates, Ralph Sneyd and John Bagnall, both favouring exclusion. Perhaps they stood on the two competing interests of Bowyer and Leveson Gower, but if this is the case, which interest supported which candidate is unknown. Although a gentleman returning from Oxford during the course of the election informed them of the dissolution, the poll was nevertheless completed, and Sneyd was returned by a majority of 114 votes to 97 to a Parliament which no longer existed.3
Newcastle failed to address in approval of the dissolution or in abhorrence of ‘Shaftesbury’s Association’, but in August 1683 the corporation expressed their horror at the Rye House Plot. Bowyer claimed to be ‘the sole author and promoter of the address’, which failed, however, to save the charter. The government of the town was now placed in the hands of the mayor, 12 aldermen, and 15 capital burgesses, all removable at will by the King. A further loyal address followed on James II’s accession, and Antony à Wood reported that on 1 Apr. 1685
the mayor... caused a bonfire to be made in the public market place wherein he solemnly burnt before multitudes of people the bill of exclusion and the black box. (I never heard that was ever done by a public magistrate; only by private persons or at a private or simple bonfire.)
Two aldermen had to be removed from the corporation, however, before the return of two Tories could be assured. Both the successful candidates, Edward Mainwaring II and William Sneyd II, had been added to the corporation shortly after the new charter had been granted. Bellot and Leveson Gower petitioned unsuccessfully. In February 1686 Mainwaring was removed from the corporation by the deputy mayor, who was himself later displaced with three other aldermen by order-in-council. Mainwaring was restored, only to be removed again when James reversed his religious policy in 1687, along with Sneyd, four other aldermen, both bailiffs and six capital burgesses. In January 1688 the corporation thanked the King for his first Declaration of Indulgence, and promised to elect Members who would concur with it. In September the royal electoral agents reported:
They will choose Sir Thomas Bellot and Leveson Gower. The town are unanimous for them, and sent two of their body to discourse each of them. They have given assurance that they are for removing the Penal Laws and giving liberty as far as they would desire it, were they in the Catholics’ or dissenters’ case. Our agents will likewise discourse them also, as will Sir John Bowyer and the Lord Brandon [Hon. Charles Gerard].
After the Revolution Leveson Gower endeavoured to cast the matter in a different light. He told the Convention:
There were instructions to recommend persons to be chosen on purpose that the people should have jealousies of them that they might not be chosen. One Roberts [see Yarmouth I.o.W.] was employed by Brent to my corporation to choose me on purpose to keep me out.
But the old corporation was restored in October, and Leveson Gower was re-elected to the Convention with the Whig John Lawton.4
Authors: A. M. Mimardière / Basil Duke Henning
- 1. VCH Staffs. viii. 42-43; Ward thesis, 242; T. Pape, Restoration Govt. and Newcastle, 17, 19, 28.
- 2. Staffs. RO, D593/S16/2/1, 2; DNB (sub Fleetwood).
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 477; Wm. Salt Lib. D1721, Leveson Gower to Bagot, 16 July 1679; Ward thesis, 243, 245; Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), ii. 148.
- 4. London Gazette, 30 Aug., 1683, 9 Mar. 1685, 16 Jan. 1688; Ward thesis, 246; Pape, 31-34, 50-54; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 21; Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxvi), 137; CJ, ix. 716, 749, 760; PC2/71/70, 265, 275; 72/550; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 251-2; Grey, ix. 108.