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

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 1,500


22 Jan. 1715ROBERT PIGOTT 
13 Apr. 1722EDWARD RICHARD MONTAGU, Visct. Hinchingbrooke 
27 Oct. 1722JOHN PROBY vice Hinchingbrooke, deceased 
26 Aug. 1727WILLIAM CAVENDISH, Mq. of Hartington 
7 Feb. 1730ROBERT PIGOTT vice Hartington, called to the Upper House638
 Sir John Bernard473
27 Nov. 1739CHARLES CLARKE vice Montagu, called to the Upper House692
 William Mitchell521
 Charles Clarke684
9 Nov. 1745WILLIAM MONTAGU vice Mitchell deceased 

Main Article

Traditionally, the Huntingdonshire elections were controlled by the great Whig family of Montagu, represented by the Dukes of Manchester at Kimbolton and the Earls of Sandwich at Hinchingbrooke. There were other families with considerable electoral influence. The Probys of Elton, John Dryden, M.P., followed by his nephew Robert Pigott of Chesterton, the Bernards of Brampton, Coulson Fellowes, though a newcomer, of Ramsey Abbey, all had established claims to be considered as representatives for the county. Nevertheless the influence of the Montagus, disunited as they were, was usually decisive.

Between 1715 and 1739 the Hinchingbrooke interest was in partial eclipse. The 3rd Lord Sandwich (d.1729) was kept under restraint in his own house, taking no part in public affairs, while his Jacobite wife lived in France. His son, Lord Hinchingbrooke, died in 1722 at the age of 30, leaving two infant boys. During that period the county was represented by four men connected with the Duke of Manchester, only Lord Hinchingbrooke himself (for a few months in 1722) and John Proby, a Tory, who took his place, being independent of the Duke’s interest. At a by-election in 1730 Robert Pigott was unsuccessfully challenged by Sir John Bernard of Brampton Park. In 1739, at another by-election caused by the succession of Lord Robert Montagu to the Dukedom, Charles Clarke, the Whig recorder of Huntingdon, a local man, stood with the support, it was said, of Pigott and the Tories against William Mitchell, the new Duke’s nominee. The Duke of Newcastle, who had ‘a good opinion of Mr. Clarke’, but was ‘much against all those that oppose an established Whig interest as the Manchester interest was in that county’, gave his support to Mitchell. Manchester himself objected to ‘Mr. Clarke, who made his application at a time when neither decency nor affection would permit me to appear, much less to busy myself with elections. Mr. Mitchell was recommended to me by the greatest part of the gentlemen of the county.’1 None the less Mitchell was defeated by a considerable majority.

At the end of 1739 the young Lord Sandwich, later known as ‘Jemmy Twitcher’, returned from his travels on coming of age. Joining the Duke of Bedford’s group of opposition Whigs, he determined to ‘break ... the lord lieutenant’s [Manchester’s] interest’, even though ‘contrary to my principle I am obliged to side with people whom I cannot think friends to their country’. With this object he declared in 1740 for Clarke and Pigott,2 the latter being replaced by Coulson Fellowes, an opposition Whig, who was returned with Mitchell in 1741, Clarke taking third place. On Mitchell’s death in September 1745 Sandwich, who had joined the Government with the Bedford group at the end of 1744, was able to bring in his brother, Capt. William Montagu, unopposed at the ensuing by-election. To this end he had obtained ‘a satisfactory answer from Mr. Proby senior through the good offices of Lord Gower. At the same time he told the Duke of Bedford that he hoped so to manage the next general election ‘that our lord lieutenant will not have one member either in town or county’. In October 1746 he wrote to the Duke of Newcastle about Manchester’s list of proposed J.P.s, which was ‘calculated simply to give me trouble by conferring favours on Sir Edward Pickering and Mr. Proby ... He sees himself obliged to have recourse to Sir Edward Pickering, a professed opposer of your measures, in order to break in on me at all’. Sandwich also suspected Proby and others of stirring up an opposition against his candidates. He told the Duke of Devonshire that ‘the interest of the Government cannot be so effectively supported in [Huntingdonshire] as by myself’, explaining that he had joined his brother to Fellowes to prevent the latter’s uniting ‘his personal friends with the Tory interest’.3 In November 1746 he informed the Duke of Bedford that

my brother is the only one for the county that can be chose without opposition; for with him I can divide the Tory interest, which would be united against any other candidate that intends to support the measures of the government; for, notwithstanding what Mr. Proby may think, I know very well Mr. Fellowes’s friends would force him, if my brother was out of the question, to join with Sir Edward Pickering in preference to young Proby, as they now forced him to join with my brother, which I do not at all consider as a voluntary act of his: but in any sense an opposition, and a strong one, is certain to any new candidate from Sir Edward Pickering, supported by the Tory interest in general, and (if I was to take part against him, of course) by the Duke of Manchester. I would not answer for the success of any person against that connexion.4

However, before the 1747 election he quarrelled with William Montagu, for whom he substituted his cousin and protégé, Edward Wortley Montagu junior, who was returned unopposed with Fellowes, though he had ‘not a foot of land in the county’.5 Sandwich’s electoral projects at this time were so tortuous that, as he wrote to Pelham, ‘no part of this can be touched in any shape but by myself, as the whole management of it will depend upon the immediate impression of my personal credit with several different people’.6 A few months after the election he was already intriguing to capture more than half of Fellowes’s personal interest in his own town of Ramsey.7

Author: R. S. Lea


  • 1. Newcastle to the Duke of Devonshire, 30 Oct. 1739, Devonshire mss; Manchester to Ld. Malton, 30 Oct. 1739, Fitzwilliam mss.
  • 2. Sandwich to Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, 25 June 1740, Marlborough mss.
  • 3. Sandwich to Bedford, 18 Sept. 1745, Bedford mss; to Newcastle, 2 Oct. (N.S.) 1746, Add. 32805, f. 281; to Devonshire, 10 Oct. (N.S.) 1746, Devonshire mss.
  • 4. Bedford Corresp. i. 281-2.
  • 5. HMC 10th Rep. I, 296.
  • 6. 23 May (N.S.) 1747, Newcastle (Clumber) mss.
  • 7. Sandwich to Bedford, 2 Feb. (N.S.) 1748, Bedford mss.