Wootton Bassett

Borough

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

Number of voters:

under 200 in 1690

Elections

DateCandidate
16 Apr. 1660JOHN PLEYDELL
 HENRY SOMERSET, Lord Herbert of Raglan
25 June 1660SIR BAYNHAM THROCKMORTON vice Lord Herbert, chose to sit for Monmouthshire
 Sir Walter St. John, Bt.
1 Apr. 1661SIR WALTER ST. JOHN, Bt.
 JOHN PLEYDELL
20 Feb. 1679HON. LAURENCE HYDE
 JOHN PLEYDELL
14 Aug. 1679HENRY ST. JOHN
 HON. LAURENCE HYDE
9 Feb. 1681HENRY ST. JOHN
 JOHN PLEYDELL
26 Mar. 1685HENRY ST. JOHN
 JOHN PLEYDELL
 William Hussey
17 Jan. 1689HENRY ST. JOHN
 JOHN WILDMAN II

Main Article

Wootton Bassett never developed effective municipal institutions, and two neighbouring and related families, the St. Johns of Lydiard Tregoze and the Pleydells of Midgehall, controlled the corporation. John Pleydell was successful in every election in this period except those of August 1679 and 1689. His junior colleague at the general election of 1660 was Lord Herbert of Raglan, whose aunt, Lady Englefield, enjoyed Wootton Bassett as her jointure. Unlike her husband, she was a Protestant, and took an active interest in electoral matters. When Herbert was also successful for Monmouthshire, it became clear that a by-election would ensue. ‘Joyful May-day’ was celebrated at Wootton Bassett with a fervour unknown for many years. Lady Englefield provided a maypole from Vasterne Park, whereupon Sir Walter St. John, who had been defeated at Great Bedwyn, was compelled to swallow his puritan principles and produce another. Herbert was anxious to promote the election of his henchman, Sir Baynham Throckmorton. Lady Englefield apparently preferred a local Royalist, Sir John Glanville, Speaker in the Short Parliament; but widespread desertions to the St. John interest persuaded her to accept her nephew’s nominee. Two indentures, each signed by a different ‘mayor’, survive for the by-election. Throckmorton was returned on 25 June and St. John two days later. But Lady St. John was anxious for her husband to present a low profile at this juncture, and Throckmorton’s seat was not further challenged. In 1661, however, St. John and Pleydell were returned ‘with unanimous consent and assent.’1

The manor of Wootton Bassett was purchased in 1676 by the courtier Laurence Hyde, who was, however, far from becoming ‘master of the two burgess-ships’, as the lord chancellor (Heneage Finch) erroneously believed. He was indeed returned himself at both elections of 1679, but partnered successively by Pleydell and St. John’s son, Henry, both probably moderate members of the country party. It is not known whether Pleydel