New Romney

Cinque Port

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of Qualified Electors:

not more than 39

Number of voters:

14 in 1696; at least 22 in 1701


7 Mar. 1690SIR CHARLES SEDLEY,  Bt. 
 Sir William Twisden,  Bt. 
26 Oct. 1695JOHN BREWER 
 Sir Charles Sedley,  Bt. 
27 Nov. 1696SIR CHARLES SEDLEY, Bt. vice Twisden, chose to sit for Appleby11
 Edward Goulston31
22 July 1698JOHN BREWER 
24 Nov. 1701JOHN BREWER17
 David Colyear, Ld. Portmore8
 John Tookey1
 John Mascall snr.1
 Sir Basil Dixwell, Bt.1
 L. Portridge32
4 Nov. 1704WALTER WHITFIELD vice Bathurst, deceased 
15 May 1705JOHN BREWER 
28 Nov. 1707JOHN BREWER re-elected after appointment to office 
8 May 1708JOHN BREWER 
 John Brewer7
 Edward Knatchbull3
 Sir William Hardres, Bt.23
20 Apr. 1713HON. EDWARD WATSON vice Whitfield, deceased 

Main Article

New Romney offered the peculiar spectacle of a freeman borough which operated to all intents and purposes as a corporation borough. The franchise was vested in the freemen, but entry into this body was restricted to the sons of freemen and those made free by the common assembly. Numbers were so tightly controlled that their number never exceeded the mayor, 12 jurats and 26 common councilmen allowed by the town’s charter, and MPs were only invited to take up the freedom after their election to Parliament. The electorate tended to favour men who could demonstrate some form of local link, although increasingly it chose wealthy individuals, some of whom had influence with central government.4

By 1690 New Romney basked in the reputation of a borough staunch in its adherence to the Church. However, this did not preclude support for Whig candidates, especially those willing to demonstrate their Anglican credentials. Indeed, in the Convention of 1689 they had chosen a stranger, James Chadwick*, who happened to be the son-in-law of Dean Tillotson of Canterbury. In 1690 both John Brewer and Sir Charles Sedley, 5th Bt., when applying for the corporation’s backing, made reference to their support for the Church. The 1690 election also saw the last episode of the long-running controversy over the lord warden’s right to nominate to one of the seats in each Cinque Port. In February Hon. John Beaumont*, the lieutenant-governor of Dover Castle, wrote to the mayor to reserve this right in the forthcoming general election. Such action caused controversy in the 1690 Parliament and led to legislation against the practice; thereafter crown influence had to be exercised through informal channels. Three weeks prior to the election, one local notable reported, ‘there is discourse of six or seven stand’, including the two old Members Brewer and Chadwick, plus (Sir) Robert Austen (3rd Bt.*), son of Sir John Austen, 2nd Bt.*, Edward Goulston* and Sir Benjamin Bathurst* (who believed the corporation ‘inclined to support and preserve the Church of England’). In the event Brewer and Sedley were returned, Sir William Twisden, 3rd Bt., petitioning against Sedley’s return on the grounds that the mayor had acted partially, and although he renewed his petition in the next parliamentary session, no decision was ever reported by the committee of elections.5

Four days before the 1695 election, a correspondent of Robert Harley’s* predicted Brewer’s return, but thought Sedley likely to be defeated by a Mr Taylor (presumably John*, who sat for Sandwich). He added that Twisden, ‘who might have, refuses’. Twisden was chosen in absentia and Brewer despatched to inform him of his election. Twisden accepted the honour even though he had not solicited it. Sedley, who reportedly lost by only one vote, petitioned, alleging that the mayor had acted as returning officer, though unqualified. No report had been made before Twisden chose to sit for Appleby. Sedley was returned at the resulting by-election, easily defeating Edward Goulston.6

The 1698 election appears to have passed off uneventfully with Brewer and Sedley returned unopposed. Likewise in January 1701 both Brewer and Sedley were returned after seeking the endorsement of the corporation, each securing 16 votes in an uncontested election. Sedley’s death in August 1701 encouraged a number of candidates at the general election held in November. In all, seven went to the poll, with Brewer emerging victorious in partnership with Goulston (11 of Goulston’s voters also voted for Brewer). Their closest challenger, with eight votes, was the Scottish peer, Lord Portmore, who in 1696 had married Sedley’s only daughter. The other candidates were local townsmen such as John Mascall senior and John Tookey (possibly a cousin of Goulston, whose mother was a Tookey), and the lieutenant-governor of Dover Castle, Sir Basil Dixwell, 2nd Bt.*7

The 1702 election saw the new deputy warden of the Cinque Ports, the Earl of Winchilsea, predict ten days before the poll that Brewer and Sir Benjamin Bathurst could not fail at New Romney. This was made certain shortly afterwards when Goulston withdrew his candidature upon finding ‘a great part of the corporation incline at this juncture to choose another gentleman’. Bathurst’s death in 1704 saw several pretenders to the vacancy. Leonard Digges, Goulston and Walter Whitfield offered their services to the corporation, Whitfield being returned, probably without opposition, and Goulston again withdrawing before the poll. According to Harley’s calculations before the 1705 election, Brewer and Whitfield were the likely winners over Goulston, although there is no evidence that the latter actually stood a poll.8

Brewer successfully retained his seat when forced to contest a by-election in 1707, owing to his tenure of the receivership of prizes. The general election the following year saw no change in the parliamentary representation but in 1710 there were five candidates. Brewer was defeated by Robert Furnese, who shared the representation with Whitfield. Two Tories, Edward Knatchbull* and Sir William Hardres, 4th Bt.*, trailed badly. Both had made great play with their local links, as had Furnese, but their message was altogether more political than his, in seeking to tie in their candidature with the Queen’s desire for a new Parliament. Brewer petitioned against Furnese, alleging bribery and other undue practices, but withdrew his petition.9

The death of Whitfield precipitated a by-election held at the beginning of the 1713 session. Brewer entered the fray in an attempt to regain his seat, but may have been a touch overconfident as he had to write to the corporation in February explaining optimistic comments he had made as to the strength of his interest. In the event Hon. Edward Watson was chosen without a contest. Watson and Furnese were comfortably returned at the general election of 1713 held a few months later.10

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Centre Kentish Stud. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 11.
  • 2. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp14, poll.
  • 3. Daily Courant, 13 Oct. 1710.
  • 4. Newman thesis, 319; BL, 816 m 4 (70), The Case of Sir Robert Austen. . . .
  • 5. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 56/1, Brewer to corp. 8 Feb. 1689[–90]; 56/3, Bathurst to same, 15 Feb. 1689–90; 56/4, Sedley to corp. 20 Feb. [1690]; Add. 42586, f. 78; Centre Kentish Stud. Dover mss 199X, John Mascall to T. Bedingfield, 12 Feb. 1689[–90] (Horwitz trans.).
  • 6. Add. 70018, ff. 94–5; New Romney bor. recs. NR/AC2, common assembly bk. 1622–1702, p. 746; NR/AEp 58/1, Brewer to corp. 29 Oct. 1695; 58/2, Twisden to same, 30 Oct. 1695.
  • 7. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 59/1, Brewer to corp. 19 Dec. 1700; 59/2, Sedley to same, 21 Dec. 1700; AEp13, poll; AEp14, poll.
  • 8. Add. 29588, f. 93; 70334, Harley’s list, 14 Feb. 1704–5; New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 61, Goulston to corp. 16 July 1702; 62/1, Digges to corp. 13 May 1704; 62/2, Whitfield to same, 15 July 1704; 62/3, Goulston to same, 31 Oct. 1704.
  • 9. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 63/1, Knatchbull to corp. 14 Aug. [1710]; 63/2, 6, Whitfield to same, 29 Aug., 3 Oct. 1710; 63/3, Hardres to same, 8 Sept. 1710; 63/4, Brewer to same, 14 Sept. 1710; 63/5, Furnese to same, 16 Sept. 1710.
  • 10. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEp 64/1, 65/1, Watson to corp. 20 Jan. 1712–13, 18 Aug. 1713; 64/2, Brewer to same, 3 Feb. 1712–13; 65/2, Furnese to same, 19 Aug. 1713.