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 800


21 Mar. 1722JOHN KNIGHT 
6 May 1726WINDHAM re-elected after appointment to office331
 Richard Jackson234
16 Aug. 1727JOHN KNIGHT 
31 Jan. 1734RICHARD JACKSON vice Knight, deceased417
 Richard Price333
27 Apr. 1734RICHARD PRICE517
 Richard Jackson329
 Peter Ducane312
 John Robinson339

Main Article

Sudbury was an open borough, but the corporation could influence elections through the power of the mayor, as returning officer, to decide who was entitled to vote. At the accession of George I the chief interest in the borough was that of Sir Hervey Elwes, a neighbouring landowner, whose family had represented it, sometimes filling both seats, in most Parliaments since 1677. But in 1722 Elwes withdrew from politics to repair his shattered finances, leaving the corporation free to dispose of Sudbury to the highest bidder.

In 1722 and 1727 both seats were filled without a contest by government supporters with no local connexion. Before the general election of 1734 Elwes’s uncle, Lord Bristol, attempted to retrieve the borough by putting up one of his sons.

If baneful bribing [he wrote] is not to bear down and beat out all the natural neighbouring interest everywhere in choosing a new Parliament, I hope to show [that] Sir Hervey Elwes, with some small credit I find I have there myself, may get him chosen upon the old and only honourable foot of reputation.

Having, as he supposed, secured the support of the Sudbury authorities, in the person of a leading citizen, William Carter, he approached Walpole, who promised to do what he could for him but warned him that Carter was ‘a double dealer’, had already promised his interest to a rich London merchant, and would without the least doubt ‘do the like by twenty more’.1 In the end Lord Bristol withdrew his son’s candidature, leaving Sudbury to be fought for by four wealthy strangers. Two opposition candidates were elected.

From 1741 the borough fell under the influence of Thomas Fonnereau, a wealthy government contractor, with large estates in Suffolk, who was returned unopposed at that election with Carteret Leathes, a former Member, one of Walpole’s henchmen. In 1747 Richard Rigby, standing on the Prince of Wales’s interest and with his financial support, went down to Sudbury, with a bodyguard of prize fighters. He was returned

notwithstanding the opposition of Mr. Fonnereau, the old court candidate, and the friends of Capt. Robinson who lived in that country, and the interest of the Duke of Grafton who had intended to choose there his son-in-law Lord Petersham.2

The 2nd Lord Egmont described Sudbury, c.1749-50, as ‘very venal - it may be had by money’.

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. Letters Bks. of John Hervey, 1st Earl of Bristol, iii. 107, 111.
  • 2. Corresp. H. Walpole (Yale ed.), xxx. 331 n. 6.