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

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

over 1,000


5 Apr. 16601HENRY CAREY, Visct. Falkland450
 Richard Croke290
 John Nixon264
 Sir Thomas Hampson, Bt.225
16 Apr. 1661RICHARD CROKE538
 Sir Francis Wenman457
 Sir Edmund Bray343
12 Feb. 1679WILLIAM WRIGHT937
 George Pudsey314
 Thomas Fifield48
 William Bayly1
 John Townsend1
25 Aug. 1679WILLIAM WRIGHT770
 George Pudsey508
 Thomas Fifield201
 Richard Croke3
 George Wickham2
 Richard Hearne1
 Thomas Baker1
7 Feb. 1681WILLIAM WRIGHT854
 George Pudsey476
 Charles Harris122
 William Bodley25
 Robert Whorwood2
 John Townsend1
 Thomas Fifield1
 William Pudsey1
9 Mar. 1685HON. HENRY BERTIE657
 Sir Edward Norreys53
11 Jan. 1689HON. HENRY BERTIE 

Main Article

Polls survive in the municipal records for all the elections in this period except the last, and reveal the intense political activity in Oxford. Most successful candidates were nearby residents who had close ties with the city. In 1660 Oxford returned Lord Falkland, son of the royalist secretary of state, and an obscure Presbyterian resident, James Huxley, against the corporation candidates, Richard Croke, the deputy recorder, and John Nixon, one of the aldermen who had sat as a recruiter in the Long Parliament. One observer commented on the arts used by the corporation candidates to further their election, and the industry necessary ‘to defeat their machinations.’ Sir Thomas Hampson, from a Buckinghamshire family which had sought to avoid involvement during the Civil War, and father of Sir Dennis Hampson, was ‘encouraged to stand that he might by subdivisions weaken our party’, but was used merely as a decoy, and had the worst of it. After their success, Falkland and Huxley ‘were brought into the town with great splendour’. In the changed circumstances of 1661, Falkland secured the greater prize of the county seat, and Huxley did not proceed to the poll. Croke and Brome Whorwood, both nearby residents, were elected after strong opposition from Sir Francis Wenman. An opportunist during the Interregnum, Croke later supported the court party, whilst Whorwood, a former Cavalier, developed into an extreme Whig.2

Traditionally regarded as a bastion of royalism, Oxford nevertheless reflected prevailing political opinion and succumbed to country pressures during the exclusion crisis. The freemen were under pressure from various sides: from the corporation, from local landed magnates, and from the colleges. The majority, reacting perhaps against the dominant royalism of the University, voted against the Court. As high steward of the borough, the Duke of Buckingham recommended the reelection of Whorwood at the first general election of 1679, writing that ‘he had deserved so well that I cannot believe you will think of putting anybody into his place’, but later advised the electors to choose a townsman. William Wright, who had twice served as mayor, came top of the poll, followed by Whorwood. The court interest was maintained by George Pudsey, who is said to have spent £500 on his first candidature alone. In the second election of 1679, he was beaten by only 55 votes, the other court candidate, Alderman Fifield, also mustering increased support. The 1681 election was the most fiercely contested, and the most affected by outside influences. Pudsey and Charles Harris were assisted by the colleges. Pudsey, in his third attempt at election, tried to secure his own return by the mass creation of freemen, but they turned against him and voted for the exclusionists. Wright and Whorwood had the support of the Hon. John Lovelace and the Duke of Buckingham who personally conducted a vigorous election tour. Lovelace’s mother was zealous for the country party, and he himself sought to strengthen his interest by transferring to Oxford an annual horse race which he had formerly established at Woodstock. Buckingham’s arrival over Magdalen Bridge was greeted with a torchlight procession and the cry of his supporters, ‘A Whorwood, a Whorwood!’ Yet, according to Wood, the greatest noise was for Pudsey. The Duke lodged at Wright’s house, and addressed the electors before the poll, when ‘some of the ruder citizens’ under the influence of strong drink, yelled the traditional city slogan, ‘No universities, no scholars, no clergy, no bishops!’ The Whigs were returned with a greatly increased majority, though Wright ‘could not get as much as a farthing for bearing the expenses of three elections’ from Whorwood, whose characteristic stinginess would doubtless have jeopardized his chances had he survived to contest another election. The bitter conflict between the parties was never more evident than at the election of a town clerk when after an exchange of insults the lord lieutenant, Lord Norreys, set about belabouring Whorwood with a cane. The corporation sent addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament and abhorring the Rye House Plot, but this came too late to save Wright and Whorwood from actions de scandalis magnatum or to fend off quo warranto proceedings. Under the new charter, received with great celebration on 2 Oct. 1684, the King reserved the right to remove members of the corporation.3

All the candidates in 1685 were Tories. Whorwood was dead and Wright had renounced politics. Pudsey as recorder had the most direct connexion with the city, though Sir Edward Norreys had twice before represented the county. Henry Bertie stood on the interest of his brother, Lord Norreys, now Earl of Abingdon, who entertained the city council at Rycote so splendidly that many of the revellers ‘came home drunk and fell off their horses’. Bertie and Pudsey had a clear victory. The corporation was purged in January 1688 when two aldermen 26 bailiffs and two of the common council were removed. After a second and more drastic purge in June, the charter had to be withdrawn and replaced, after which Sunderland was able to recommend as court candidates the Roman Catholic recorder, Trinder, who had appeared for the crown against the Seven Bishops, and Wright’s son, another lawyer. But at the abortive election of December 1688 Bertie was again returned, with his father-in-law Sir Edward Norreys replacing Pudsey, who had died in the previous summer. The result was repeated in the following month, apparently without a poll. On this occasion Oxford did not follow the national trend by returning at least one Whig.4

Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Oxford Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xcv), 255-6.
  • 2. Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 12, ff. 162-3 Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 648 Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xix), 399, Oxford Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xcv), 280.
  • 3. Jones, First Whigs, 41, 163-4; Oxford Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xcv), 116, 119, 135, Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 90-91, 97-98, 127-8, Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxi), 439, 523; (xxvi) 112, Luttrell, i. 93, London Gazette, 27 Sept. 1683; CSP Dom. 1683-4, p. 309; 1684-5, pp. 140-1.
  • 4. Wood’s Life and Times (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xxvi), 135, Oxford Council Acts (Oxf. Hist. Soc. xcv), 171, (n.s. ii), 201, PC2/72, ff 579, 677-8; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 246, 275; HMC Kenyon, 211.