Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 150


(1801): 545


19 June 1790GIBBS CRAWFURD71
 George Grant43
 William Popham31
17 June 1791 HOPKINS re-elected after appointment to office 
3 Dec. 1793 AUGUSTUS ROGERS vice Crawfurd, deceased 
15 Feb. 1794 JOHN SARGENT vice Rogers, vacated his seat 
27 May 1796JOHN SARGENT 
5 July 1802JOHN PRINSEP78
 John Sargent69
 John Willett Payne69
21 Mar. 1806 SIR SAMUEL ROMILLY vice Moore, vacated his seat 
7 May 1807JOSEPH HUNT116
 John Palmer Chichester63
1 June 1810 RICHARD WELLESLEY vice Hunt, expelled the House97
 Sir Henry Edwyn Stanhope, Bt.30
15 Jan. 1812 ROBERT MOORSOM vice Wellesley, appointed to office 

Main Article

The arrangement whereby the Admiralty and the Ordnance returned a Member each was maintained without difficulty until 1802. Management of the borough was in the hands of the latter department. The 3rd Duke of Richmond, then master general of the Ordnance, informed Pitt, 22 June 1790, ‘Queenborough is over as we would wish though there was a contest’.1 One of the defeated candidates was the nabob William Popham, late Member for Milborne Port, who was in opposition to Pitt. On the death of the Ordnance Member in 1793 he was replaced by another and applications to Pitt for the seat from outsiders such as Richard, 5th Viscount Chetwynd, were ignored.2

In 1802 there was a rebellion, compared by contemporaries to that at Harwich. The ministerial nominees were Sargent, for the Ordnance, and Adm. Payne, for the Admiralty. John Prinsep, a London East India merchant, championed the rebels. He canvassed at first with John Hatfield, a confidence trickster (hanged on 3 Sept. 1803) and, on Hatfield’s detection, with his friend Peter Moore’s* son.3 Their success was seen as typical of the ‘bad management’ of elections by Addington’s ministry, as the corporation of seven was at government’s disposal and the freemen, for the most part, in Ordnance or Admiralty employ. Peter Moore informed Fox, 9 Mar. 1806:

The political interest which I have acquired at Queenborough is very important. It is not confined to the present seat. By personal attention, I could maintain both against office, at no great expense, in times to come.

This was in response to a request to offer up his son’s seat to the Grenville ministry, and his price was provision for his son ‘for whom I had three several offers under Mr Addington’s administration’.4 Moore’s compliance ended the rebellion, for the ministry brought in their solicitor-general then and at the ensuing general election, when Prinsep withdrew, complaining bitterly that he was not informed of ministerial intentions, which were to return a lord of the Admiralty with Romilly.5

In 1807 the Portland ministry supplied Ordnance and Admiralty nominees, who were put to some embarrassment by a Whig opponent, Col. Chichester, in a poll of 172 voters, compared with 147 in 1802.6 The borough was mentioned by William Alexander Madocks in his motion against ministerial corruption, 11 May 1809, as one where the ‘amount of the salaries of the places held by the freemen of the borough under the Ordnance and the Navy was annually £2,368’.7 When Joseph Hunt was expelled the House in 1810, his seat was offered by the ministry to Richard Wellesley, who complained that his election was delayed as long as possible by ‘a large party of malcontents headed by the mayor’.8 They informed vice-Adm. Sir Henry Stanhope that ‘there was no intention to bring in an opposition Member; but that they would not vote for a gentleman unfit for the purpose and upon whose account they never had been in the least consulted’. Stanhope had declined their offer to support his candidature on discovering that he would be involved in a contest with a government nominee, and Chichester, who had been prepared to offer if Stanhope declined in the first instance, refused to be his substitute. Stanhope received the following letter, 30 May 1810, from ‘Mr Munn’:

The corporation are seriously offended. You gave them your word of honour that you would stand upon their offering the borough to you and now consider you have only been tampering with them to prevent an independent man from coming in; they desire me to say you have your choice either to be considered as having joined in a scheme to deceive them and forfeited your word of honour, or to accept their free suffrage; assuring you that they freely yield to your proposal not to canvass a man or to make any personal exertion whatever more than to show yourself a staunch man to your word ... I told them you declared you would not give the fractional part of a penny and they say they never intended it should cost you one farthing.9

On his refusal Stanhope, ‘a novice in the business’, was nevertheless put up by the malcontents and, as he informed Charles Philip Yorke* at the Admiralty, felt obliged to proceed. He was defeated and Yorke forgave him with a lecture. He promised to comply with ministerial wishes in the borough in future.10

In 1812 Lord Mulgrave, master general of the Ordnance, advised the prime minister to put up the treasurer of the Ordnance with Adm. Moorsom, the Admiralty nominee, as

John Villiers will not do again there, and it will require an officer of the Ordnance department to countervail the exertions of Captain Byng, who must not be allowed to force himself into that borough on an independent interest, even though he were as favourable as he certainly is hostile in his disposition.11

Byng gave no further trouble and there was no contest until 1826.

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. PRO 30/8/171, f. 149.
  • 2. PRO 30/9/122, f. 221.
  • 3. The Times, 12, 15 May, 12 June, 2, 5, 7 July 1802; PRO Dacres Adams mss 11/3; Gent. Mag. (1803), ii. 984.
  • 4. Add. 51469, f. 7.
  • 5. Romilly, Mems. ii. 138, 170; Grey mss, Prinsep to Howick, 15 Oct.; Fortescue mss, T. to Ld. Grenville, 17 Oct.; Sinclair mss, Moira to Sir J. Sinclair, 30 Dec. 1806.
  • 6. Kentish Chron. 8 May 1807; J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1808), 495.
  • 7. Parl. Deb. xiv. 491; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iv. 82.
  • 8. Add. 37295, f. 262; 37315, f. 115.
  • 9. Sheffield City Lib. Spencer Stanhope mss, Sir H. to W. Spencer Stanhope, 31 May 1810.
  • 10. Add. 45042, ff. 122, 123; 45044, f. 99.
  • 11. Add. 38249, f. 190.