East Retford


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 resident freemen

Number of voters:

about 80


31 Jan. 1715THOMAS WHITE 
28 Mar. 1718WHITE re-elected after appointment to office 
26 Mar. 1722THOMAS WHITE79
 ? Robert Sutton6
21 Aug. 1727THOMAS WHITE 
26 Jan. 1733JOHN WHITE vice Thomas White, deceased 
25 Apr. 1734JOHN WHITE 
5 May 1741JOHN WHITE46
 Sir Robert Clifton41
 Stephen Soame4
27 June 1747JOHN WHITE 
24 Dec. 1751JOHN SHELLEY vice Mellish, appointed to office 

Main Article

The chief interests at Retford in 1715 were those of the Duke of Newcastle, whose estates surrounded the borough, and of four country gentlemen: two Whigs, Thomas White and John Thornhagh; and two Tories, William Levinz and John Digby. ‘I found Levinz and Jack Digby in possession of it’, Newcastle wrote over half a century later. ‘I soon got in Jack White’s father and have, by degrees, totally got the better of Levinz and Digby’.1 With Newcastle’s support White and his son, John, held one seat continuously from 1715 to 1768. The other seat gave more difficulty because, as John White told Newcastle,

gentlemen can never submit to have Retford entirely thrown under the influence of your Grace and that little share of interest which has been established in my family by the countenance it has had from your Grace’s ancestors and yourself ever since the Revolution.2

No trouble arose in 1715, when Digby was left in possession of the second seat, or in 1722, when Digby was replaced by Levinz’s son-in-law, Patrick Chaworth. But when in 1727 it was proposed that George Gregory, a dependent of Newcastle’s, should stand, in conjunction with White, the head of the Thornhagh family threatened to declare in favour of Levinz and a Whig country gentleman, Sir Robert Clifton, who had announced their intention of standing for the borough. This led to a compromise under which Gregory stood down; White and Levinz each promised not to oppose the election of such person as the other should propose for the borough; and both agreed that if any third person were to stand they should jointly oppose him.3 Under this arrangement Levinz nominated Clifton who, with Thomas White, and after White’s death with his son, John, was returned without opposition in 1727 and again in 1734.

In 1741 White and Clifton, standing jointly, were opposed by a third Whig, William Mellish, who defeated Clifton by paying up to £80 or £100 a vote.4 In 1747 Mellish joined with White,5 both being returned without opposition. At the same time the Thornhaghs were propitiated by the return of John Thornhagh for the county, while the Levinz interest was acquired by Newcastle in return for a commissionership of customs for William Levinz junior. In 1751 Mellish also gave up his seat in return for a commissionership of excise, thus enabling Newcastle at last to gain control of the second seat by nominating his nephew, John Shelley, who was returned unopposed.

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. Newcastle to Rockingham, 17 Nov. 1767, Add. 32987, f. 14.
  • 2. White to Newcastle, 22 Apr. 1741, Add. 32696, ff. 345-6.
  • 3. Sir Robt. Sutton to Newcastle, 4 Sept. 1727, SP Dom. 36/3; Sir Robt. Sutton to Sir Andrew Thornhagh and W. Levinz to same, 1 Aug. 1727, Foljambe mss (précis in HMC Foljambe, 143-4).
  • 4. White to Newcastle, 15, 22 Apr. 1741, Add. 32696, ff. 322, 345.
  • 5. White to Newcastle, 20 June 1747, Add. 32711, f. 423.