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 corporation

Number of voters:

72 in 1660-75; 54 in 1675-89


2 Apr. 1660HENRY EYRE
30 Nov. 1661STEPHEN FOX vice Swanton, deceased
16 May 1664EDWARD HYDE vice Tooker, deceased
8 Feb. 1665RICHARD COLMAN vice Hyde, deceased
14 Feb. 1673WILLIAM SWANTON vice Colman, deceased
12 Feb. 1681JOHN WYNDHAM
 Sir Thomas Mompesson
26 Mar. 1685(SIR) STEPHEN FOX
14 Jan. 1689THOMAS HOBY
 Samuel Eyre
 David Thomas
30 May 1689THOMAS PITT vice Eyre, appointed to office
 William Wyndham

Main Article

Several attempts had been made by the free-holders and inhabitants of Salisbury to broaden the franchise under the Protectorate, but they had all come to nothing. Though the corporation had renounced the Cromwellian charter in 1659, they were mostly hostile to the Restoration, and in 1660 it was reported that they intended to send Edmund Ludlow to the Convention. In the end they thought better of this gesture of defiance, but the Members returned both at this election and the next were all likely to support the Opposition, though Edward Tooker, through his former ward Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, might afford them a lifeline to the Court. In each case the other Member was a lawyer; Henry Eyre was recorder till displaced at the Restoration, while Francis Swanton was clerk of the assizes. The method of election prescribed was by ‘each person of the corporation writing on a ticket two names’; but if votes were given for any other candidates their names have not been preserved. At the first by-election to the Cavalier Parliament, only seven months later, the corporation were in a more deferential temper, returning Stephen Fox, a courtier, without a contest. But this did not save them from a drastic purge in the following year, when Lord Chancellor Clarendon became high steward, and eight new aldermen and 22 councilmen were appointed. When the other seat fell vacant in 1664, the Duke of York wrote in favour of Thomas Thynne I, while Albemarle (George Monck) asked Clarendon to recommend (Sir) Thomas Clarges ‘which may be easier as it is no popular election’. But Clarendon instead put up his son Edward Hyde. On Hyde’s death, Richard Colman, the recorder, who had married a Hyde, took his place. Both elections were probably uncontested. The corporation showed reluctance to displace Clarendon after he had been incapacitated, but in 1672 Cooper (now Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury) became high steward. A few weeks later Colman died, but if Shaftesbury issued a writ for a by-election during the recess nothing is known of it. Swanton’s son William succeeded Colman both as recorder and Member; he seems to have been a moderate supporter of the country party, but no specific link with Shaftesbury has been traced. It was not Swanton, but Eyre’s nephew Giles who had the credit for obtaining the new charter of 1675, under which the ‘assistants’ or councilmen were reduced to 30, and the crown reserved the right to approve future recorders.1

Swanton was insufficiently radical for 1679, when two exclusionists, Sir Thomas Mompesson and Alexander Thistlethwayte, were returned at both elections, probably unopposed. But in 1681 the corporation returned John Wyndham, a strong supporter of the Court, with Thistlethwayte. However, with revolution in the air, the freeholders revived their claim to the franchise, and put in an indenture (unsigned) for the two sitting Members. To avoid the expense of a double return, Mompesson, who had a safe seat at Old Sarum, stood down, though the freeholders subsequently petitioned on their own account. After the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, Wyndham presented one of the earliest loyal addresses from the common council; another, abhorring the ‘Association’ was procured in 1682, and a third blamed the ‘fanatics’ for the Rye House Plot. The charter was surrendered in 1684 by an obsequious mayor; Giles Eyre, whom the court had reluctantly accepted as recorder on Swanton’s death, was displaced, and the 2nd Earl of Clarendon (Henry Hyde) succeeded Shaftesbury in the post once held by his father.2

Under the new charter, Wyndham and Fox were elected to James II’s Parliament, probably unopposed, for Mompesson was again returned for Old Sarum. In spite of its narrow franchise, the regulators found the constituency unmanageable. They displaced the mayor, 11 aldermen, 14 assistants and the town clerk in 1687, but their successors proved just as refractory, and the charter was again called in. The joint lord lieutenant, Lord Yarmouth (William Paston), reported that two ‘strong dissenters’, Bennett Swaine and James Hely, would ‘certainly be chosen, if there be a supplemental charter, and a few new ones added to the corporation’. Hely had represented the city under the Protectorate, and was again serving on the corporation after removal by the commissioners in 1662. The royal electoral agents wrote:

The election is in the body corporate, who are receiving their charter; and though that city for the generality are cross to your Majesty’s interest, yet such persons are proposed to be inserted in that charter as intend to choose Bennett Swaine and James Hely, who have great interest in the city, and both undoubtedly right.

The new charter removed all the government nominees of 1687, but quickly found its way to the scrap heap. In October the survivors of the 1683 corporation resumed their places. At the general election of 1689, they elected Giles Eyre, with another Whig, Thomas Hoby, though the radical freeholders insisted on returning Eyre’s cousin Samuel and David Thomas, a Whig collaborator who had been Shaftesbury’s doctor and a close friend of Locke. Their petition was of course rejected; but when Eyre was made a judge in May, the freeholders tried again. This time they put up Wyndham’s brother William, a moderate Tory. The corporation returned Thomas Pitt, a Whig, and Wyndham apparently recognized that a petition would be fruitless.3

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 628; v. 393; Adm. 1745, f. 104; Salisbury corp. minute bk. D35/131, Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 444, 449; HMC Var. iv. 244, 246; VCH Wilts. vi. 120.
  • 2. Hoare, 479; HMC Var. iv. 248; VCH Wilts. vi. 120; CJ, ix. 710; London Gazette, 30 May 1681, 29 June 1682, 16 July 1683.
  • 3. HMC Var. iv. 249, 250; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 208, 224; Hoare, 449, 486, 493-4; PC2/72/542, 608; M. Cranston, Locke, 90, 95; CJ, x. 71.