Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 80 in 1715


 John Molesworth35
 John Holt35
24 Nov. 1718SAMUEL LOWE vice William Johnson, deceased 
 John Ward 
3 Dec. 1719WALTER PLUMER vice Sir Henry Johnson, deceased 
 William Harvey 
20 Mar. 1722SAMUEL LOWE 
18 Aug. 1727SAMUEL LOWE 
8 May 1730SIR JOHN WILLIAMS vice Windham, deceased 
21 Jan. 1732GEORGE PURVIS vice Lowe, deceased 
27 Feb. 1735PURVIS re-elected after appointment to office 
30 Mar. 1741FRANCIS GASHRY vice Purvis, deceased 

Main Article

Aldeburgh was dependent on its fishing and shipbuilding industries. Elections were controlled by the corporation, through their right of creating freemen. The Members returned were wealthy strangers, who were expected to spend money on the borough, and government nominees, to secure Customs and Admiralty patronage.

At George I’s accession the sitting Members were Sir Henry Johnson, a Blackwall shipbuilder, owner of the manor of Aldeburgh and other property near the borough, and his brother, who had jointly represented the borough as Tories since 1689. Re-elected after a contest with two Whigs, on petition their return was confirmed by the House of Commons, who rejected a recommendation by the elections committee that the seats should be awarded to their opponents, the only case in which Tories were successful on an election petition during this session.1 After the Johnsons’ deaths in 1718 and 1719 the borough was captured from Sir Henry’s son-in-law, Lord Strafford, on whose infant daughters their grandfather’s property had been entailed, by two Whigs, Samuel Lowe and Walter Plumer, at a reputed cost of £9,000.2 In 1727 Plumer, who had gone into opposition, was replaced by William Windham, a government candidate, who on his death was succeeded by Sir John Williams, a Tory business man supported by Lord Strafford. After Lowe’s death in 1732 his seat was filled by a succession of government nominees, standing jointly with Lord Strafford’s son-in-law, William Conolly, also a government supporter. When at the end of 1746 Conolly declared his intention of not standing for the borough at the next general election, Pelham recommended as his successor William Windham, the son of the previous Member of that name, in conjunction with Walter Plumer’s brother, Richard, the other sitting Member for Aldeburgh. On 28 Dec. 1746 he wrote to the Duke of Bedford, the first lord of the Admiralty:

There are intrigues there, and divisions amongst the leading people, which makes it necessary for Mr. Windham to go down immediately; and I must beg the favour of your Grace to permit Captain Ricant [the Admiralty’s agent at Aldeburgh] to go down also. I hope you will be so good as to recommend Mr. Windham and Mr. Plumer to Captain Ricant and such others as are under the immediate influence of the Admiralty. The great point is to prevent the making any freemen without our consent which it may not be easy to do without Ricant is present. I have sent to all those under our direction, and doubt not of success, unless we are countermined by our own friends.3

In the event the corporation returned Windham, but rejected Plumer in favour of Zachary Philip Fonnereau, whose brother, Thomas had established so strong an independent interest in the borough that he was able to ‘steal it’4 from the Government, thenceforth recommending both Members.

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. CJ, xviii. 26, 175-6; W. Graham, Letters of Joseph Addison, 342.
  • 2. Lady Strafford to Ld. Strafford, 23 May 1729, Add. 22226, f. 428.
  • 3. Bedford mss.
  • 4. H. B. Legge to Pelham, 10 Sept. 1748, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.