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 inhabitants paying scot and lot 1660-3, 1689; in the corporation, 1679-85

Number of voters:

24 in 1685; 181 in 1689


c. Apr. 16601ROBERT PACKER 
16 June 1660THOMAS SAUNDERS I vice Dunch, chose to sit for Cricklade 
 Sir Humphrey Bennet 
1 Apr. 1661HON. GEORGE FACE 
6 May 1663SIR JOHN BENNET vice Fane, deceased 
8 Feb. 1679JOHN STONE 
 John Stone 
10 Feb. 1681SCOREY BARKER 
20 Apr. 1685JOHN STONE 
  Double return of Jennens and Dormer. 
 JENNENS declared elected, 21 Feb. 1689 

Main Article

There was no predominant influence at Wallingford, and most candidates were nearby residents. There were three known contested elections. In 1660 Hungerford Dunch was returned, son of a Cromwellian ‘peer’ whose family had frequently represented the borough, along with the former recruiter Robert Packer, a Presbyterian. Dunch chose to sit for Cricklade, and the ensuing by-election was contested by the Cavalier, Sir Humphrey Bennet, and Thomas Saunders, whose earlier political career is obscure. Bennet’s Elizabethan ancestors had resided near Wallingford, his sole claim to represent the town, and Saunders probably enjoyed the interest of his brother-in-law, William Knollys. Benne’s petition was rejected. In November the corporation petitioned the King to restore those surviving officials who had been ejected for their loyalty and replaced by officers and soldiers ‘who still give out dangerous and seditious speeches against his Majesty’. They asked for the removal of all ‘burgesses’ elected since 1647. In reply, the deputy lieutenants of Berkshire ordered the mayor and burgesses to ‘try to procure the amicable restoration’ of displaced loyalists. The petition was probably aimed at interest with the corporation. A few days before the 1661 Packer’s election, in an attempt to remodel the corporation, the Cavaliers George Fane and Sir Thomas Dolman, assisted by Saunders, ‘ejected the mayor ... and established another in his room, upon pretence of an authority from his Majesty’. Secretary Nicholas was instructed to prepare a letter expressing the King’s dislike of these proceedings and ordering the reinstatement of the mayor. Fane and Packer were elected. However, in June 1662, 15 of the corporation were removed by the commissioners. On Fane’s death in 1663, the courtier Sir John Bennet was recommended by the King as one ‘whose ancestors formerly had great interest in the town’. Although he was duly elected in the following month a new charter was issued.2

Not even the appointment as high steward in 1670 of Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) could secure the family interest and government control after the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament. At the next general election a country candidate, Scorey Barker, and a court supporter, John Stone, were returned. Barker came from a cadet branch of a Berkshire family, but he lived at Chiswick and had no known connexion with Wallingford, except that John Robinson I, shortly to become his father-in-law, lived at nearby Nuneham Courtney. Stone was defeated at the autumn election by William Lenthall, who probably sought election to escape his creditors. In 1681, Lenthall transferred to Cricklade, and was replaced by another country candidate, Taverner Harris, standing on the interest of John Lovelace. Sir George Jeffreys became high steward later in the year, and in September the corporation presented a loyal address approving the dissolution of the last two Parliaments. At the mayoral election Lovelace’s candidate was rejected and the corporation were said to

have made an open protest against him, that they will have nothing to do with him or any that belong to him, and unanimously resolved that Taverner Harris, a factious gentleman in the neighbourhood, shall never be chosen to serve in Parliament for their town, because his lordship recommended him.

Another address abhorring the Rye House Plot did not suffice to fend off quo warranto proceedings. Instructions were given for drafting a new charter on 8 Feb. 1684 to ensure ‘that Parliament men may be elected only by the mayor, recorder, aldermen and burgesses, as formerly before the last charter’.3

In 1685 two Tories were returned unopposed, Stone and the recorder, John Holloway. As in 1680, a petition against the election from some of the ‘inhabitants’ never emerged from committee, but an alderman and three ‘burgesses’ were removed by order in council on 30 Aug., no doubt for their temerity. Despite an address in September 1687 thanking James for the Declaration of Indulgence, the mayor, the town clerk, Peter Sayer, an alderman and seven ‘burgesses’ were removed in the following February. Later that year, the King’s agents reported that Wallingford had ‘pitched upon’ William Williams ‘and one other who your Majesty shall propose to name’. On 16 Sept. Williams wrote to Jeffreys:

In the circuit I found a free inclination in some of the principal persons in Wallingford to elect me for that place. I received it kindly and intend in my return to London to visit that place and improve my interest there for the King’s service. I desire your lordship will please to command the sheriff to take care that the mandate for the election of Members for that borough may be delivered to Mr Sayer, an attorney of good interest there, to be kept for me. I shall take care to advise him to keep it till I shall be there.

But nothing further is known of this candidature, and at the general election of 1689 Thomas Tipping, a strong Whig, was returned unopposed. The second seat was contested by William Jennens, a Tory, and John Dormer of Ascot, some six miles from Wallingford, later described as ‘a sad, swearing, heathenish, irreligious man’. Dormer had held a commission in Princess Anne’s Horse until cashiered on 28 Nov. 1688, presumably for desertion to William of Orange. Before the election the candidates agreed, in the presence of the corporation, that ‘those only should be admitted who are charged to the church and poor’. On this basis Jennens had a comfortable majority, although Dormer claimed 37 more votes from unqualified electors. Nevertheless it was proved that:

at the time of the election, several soldiers did return back to the town, although they were before ordered to march out, to prevent all disturbances in the election; which soldiers, as proved by divers witnesses, did make great menace to the mayor, in case he did not return Mr Dormer, some of them threatening to cut off his ears and burn down his house, in case Mr Dormer should lose the election: and under this terror the mayor was induced to make a double return.

Jennens petitioned on 22 Jan., but it was not until 21 Feb. that John Birch reported from the elections committee in his favour, and the House agreed.4

Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Cal Cl. SP, iv. 664.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 106; CSP Dom. 1660-1, pp. 373-4; 1670, p. 680; PC2/55, ff. 180-1; SP29/33/51; C66/3037; J. K. Hedges, Hist. Wallingford, ii. 220-1.
  • 3. CJ, ix. 644; Hedges, 222; Luttrell, i. 118, 271; Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 105; SP44/66/335-6.
  • 4. CJ, ix. 716; x. 11, 31; PC2/71/134; London Gazette, 12 Sept. 1687; Berks. RO, Wallingford borough statute bk. 1648-1766, f. 145; Hedges, 223; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 336; (1883), 237; NLW mss 1548, f. 33; Oxoniensia, xi. 99; Hearne’s Colls. (Oxford Hist. Soc. lxv), 404; CSP Dom. 1687-9, pp. 237, 365.