Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the resident freemen paying scot and lot

Estimated number qualified to vote:

about 20


3,599 (1821); 3,366 (1831)1


7 Mar. 1820PETER BROWNE 
4 Mar. 1823ROBERT KNIGHT vice Dodson, vacated his seat 
9 June 1826HENRY BONHAM13
 Stanes Brockett Chamberlayne2
 Benjamin Smith2
1 Mar. 1830PHILIP PUSEY vice Bonham, vacated his seat14
 George De Lacy Evans3
1 Mar. 1830EVANS vice Pusey on petition, 17 May 1830 
 George De Lacy Evans6
 Benjamin Smith6
 Philip Pusey3
 Benjamin Smith2
 Alexander Donovannil

Main Article

Rye was situated on a hill about three miles from the east Sussex coast and surrounded by the Tillingham, Brede and Rother rivers. At their confluence was its harbour, south-east of the town. It was in ‘an indifferent state’ in this period, but vessels of up to 200 tons could use it and sail to the quay on the north side of the borough. Rye’s trade was ‘very trifling’, and fishing and shipbuilding were its principal sources of employment.2 The electorate in 1820 was a close oligarchy dominated, as it had been since the mid-eighteenth century, by the Lamb family of Mountsfield Lodge. Admissions to the freedom, which conferred the right to vote at parliamentary elections, had been severely restricted and carefully monitored: beyond a few admissions by birthright, new freemen had mostly been created by the exercise of the right of the mayor to nominate one a year. The Lambs had virtually monopolized the mayoralty for two generations. Their relations with successive administrations since 1784 had been generally amicable, if occasionally strained, and they had invariably returned ministerialists.3 Thomas Phillipps Lamb, head of the family since 1804, died, as one of the sitting Members, in June 1819. His first son Thomas Davis Lamb† had predeceased him in 1818, and his property passed to his second son, the Rev. George Augustus Lamb (1782-1864), rector of Iden, Sussex, who was mayor at the time of the 1820 election.4

He returned the sitting Members, both supporters of government, after giving a ‘very laconic and decisive’ answer to an offer of £3,500 for a seat from ‘that impudent fellow’ Jacob Wilson Wardle of Whitburn, county Durham. Peter Browne, son of Denis Browne* and cousin of the 2nd marquess of Sligo, who had evidently paid for the seat, had been accommodated in 1818 on the recommendation of Charles Arbuthnot*, the Liverpool ministry’s patronage secretary. Lamb was ‘surprised’ when Thomas Metcalf, his London attorney, expressed

a doubt whether Peter, or rather whether Lord S. for him, would be again desirous of the seat. It appears that they considered it as an independent seat; and that this doubt arises from Metcalf’s having convinced them, that both Arbuthnot and I considered Peter as the nominee of the former.

Sligo was apparently set right on this matter.5 The other Member, John Dodson, a civil lawyer, who had replaced Lamb’s father the previous summer, sat as a family connection. His brother, the Rev. William Dodson, vicar of Edlington, Lincolnshire, was married to Lamb’s sister Elizabeth and was a freeman and jurat of Rye.6 Browne and Dodson incurred election expenses of about £350 between them.7

Owners and occupiers of land of Rye and neighbouring parishes petitioned Parliament for relief from agricultural distress in May 1820 and March 1821; and in June 1822 they petitioned the Commons against interference with the corn laws.8 Rye freeholders, merchants, traders and other inhabitants petitioned the Commons for restoration of Queen Caroline’s name to the liturgy, 27 Feb. 1821.9 Local hop planters petitioned the Commons for repeal of the additional duty on their produce, 21 May 1822, 21 Feb. 1823.10 Inhabitants of Rye petitioned the Commons for inquiry into the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 10 June 1824, and for repeal of the coastal coal duties and the assessed taxes, 23 Feb. 1825.11

Lamb, aware that ‘without parliamentary interest, nothing ... can be done’, jealously guarded his rights to local patronage, but was anxious to establish ‘a character for sincerity and fair dealing’. He was ruthless in suppressing any challenge to his authority from within the corporate body: thus in July 1820 he forced through the election of the Dodsons as canopy-bearers against the objections of Thomas Hay. He did likewise the following year, when Hay again, and John Meryon, a wine merchant, were inclined to quibble. On the first occasion he told Dodson, ‘I am on more accounts than one, satisfied with this result, and principally because ... [it] must be a proof to the powers above of undiminished influence in our family’.12 In July 1820 he instructed Dodson and Browne to ‘use every possible exertion’ to prevent the passage of a bill recently introduced by Edward Curteis, Member for Sussex and the largest landowner in the neighbourhood of Rye, to amend the laws relating to commissioners of sewers and to strengthen their powers of protecting property under their care. This was seen in the town as a threat to the free navigation of Rye harbour and the Rother, which was always vulnerable to the effects of sluices and other drainage works erected on surrounding lands. The measure made no further progress that session, but was reintroduced in 1821 when its opponents in Rye petitioned against it and succeeded in forcing its withdrawal.13

Lamb had financial problems, caused largely by an encumbered inheritance from his father. Soon after the 1820 election he borrowed at least £1,000 from the Dodsons and their brother Nathaniel, as well as raising £2,400 on a mortgage of his advowsons and £1,000 by the sale of timber on his land. It was ‘no joke’, he told John Dodson, ‘to pay almost £3,400 per annum out of such a property as this’.14 He coveted professional advancement, and in June 1821 sought Dodson’s aid in pressing his claim to a vacant stall in the diocese of Chichester:

This is the first thing I have ever thought of applying for, and I really feel that it is not above my pretensions; it will not break my heart if I do not succeed, at the same time I shall be pleased if I do, and I am very sure that I need not apprehend the strictest scrutiny into the discharge of my professional duties.

He had no success, and in the summer of 1822, ‘irritated by the disappointment of my hopes, and those not extravagantly formed, in various ways’, he called on Dodson to vacate his seat:

One only cause produces the necessity for this sacrifice, and that is, my poverty. Two causes have united to produce this poverty, those are, the unkindness of ministers, and the imprudence of my own family. However strictly I investigate the matter, I really can bring no charge home to myself.

He blamed Lord Liverpool for breaking a ‘written promise’ to provide for his brother William Phillipps Lamb and for not advancing himself or Dodson in their respective professions; his mother, for failing to make ‘certain sacrifices in my favour’, and his brother, for not adopting the ‘course which I recommended’. He claimed that since his father’s death his property had fallen £30,000 in value, that its annual return would fall some £600 ‘short of the peremptory charges on it’ and that his brother, despite a handsome inheritance, was barely solvent. He went on:

I have therefore only one more stake to throw, and that evidently is, to make the most I can of the political interest. I loathe and abhor the idea, but it is this or nothing; it is this, or the immediate sale of the whole property, from which sale I probably should not get for my share five thousand pounds. You may imagine that I am stung to the quick, when I reflect that I am driven to this by the neglect and ingratitude of ministers, no less than by the imprudence of my own family. When I call to mind, how these ministers have raised my expectations only to disappoint them; how I have been cheated, cajoled, neglected, and personally insulted by them; when I see the misery and ruin in which the country is involved, and in which I so largely partake; when I think upon both my private wrongs, and the wrongs of the public; be not surprised when I tell you, that no man who is likely to sit on the ministerial side of the House, shall through my influence be returned for Rye ... I may be foiled in the attempt, but the attempt shall be made to introduce an opposition man. I had rather be beaten and have done with it all, than own any further connection with that sink of infamy the treasury; and I will acknowledge to you that my arrangements are all completed, depending only on your giving me the opportunity to carry them into effect.15

Dodson had to comply, and Lamb sold the seat to Robert Knight, a former Friend of the People, who duly acted with opposition in the House. It was perhaps on this occasion (or in 1826) that the wealthy Leeds flax spinner John Marshall*, a Whig, ‘entered into an agreement for a seat for Rye’ for £4,500, but pulled out when he discovered that ‘the agent had no authority from the principal, who had merely threatened to put in an opposition man, but had by some means been conciliated’.16 There were also developments behind the scenes concerning Browne’s seat. In April 1822, with marriage in the offing, he told Sligo that his fiancée and her mother wanted him to remain in Parliament for at least three more sessions and asked him to provide £300 of the annual cost of £600 required, with the other half to be supplied by himself and his three brothers. He assured Sligo that he would ‘have of course the whole benefit of the seat, exactly as before, and to advance your objects you will know I will feel as solicitous to do, as ever’. Sligo initially agreed, but had second thoughts, to Browne’s dismay. His father intervened and, while the sequence of events remains somewhat obscure, he was able to tell Sligo in mid-May that he had ‘manoeuvred ... so that government will keep in Peter for [the] next three years after he will keep in himself ... for your service, which you have enabled him to do’. Two months later Denis Browne wrote to Sligo:

You had the goodness to pay L[amb] while you kept the seat, as now you have no concern in it or ever had further than what you generously gave to my son, you having nothing to pay for it or nothing to say to it ... We will pay ... [Lamb] ourselves every session at close of it the yearly instalment provided he keeps his part of this agreement ... Metcalf told Peter he would not take the money because he would not keep the agreement. The bargain of Peter Browne is a good bargain and will not be relinquished. On the contrary, he will be always in Parliament without charge to you or to anyone but himself.

Evidently the gist of the ‘bargain’ with Lamb was that if Peter Browne ‘last four years’, the ‘present arrangement’ [Sligo’s] ‘will be completed’, but if his tenure fell short of that, it would be ‘made up four years’ by Lamb ‘for every four years after in [the] same proportion to be paid in case of a new return’. Sligo disputed Denis Browne’s view of the situation regarding the seat, 20 July 1822:

I cannot agree that I am precluded from any interference because my circumstances don’t allow of my going on with the seat ... The bargain ... was made by you for me, and as long as the borough is kept it is kept with that bargain unless a fresh article is made for it. Now my opinion was and is that if you wish to force him to keep up to his bargain you must on the first day of next meeting tender him £2,500 more, unless you wish to make an amicable arrangement on the subject with Lamb, when all that remains will be between you and him. While however you act on the first arrangement, I cannot but feel myself responsible for the thing. I dare say, however, that you and he will settle everything satisfactorily before then, and all reference to me will be avoided.17

At the end of the 1823 session Browne was appointed secretary of legation at Copenhagen, but he remained the nominal Member for the rest of the Parliament. There was a curious episode in April 1826, when a new writ was issued for an election in his room on the 7th, but was cancelled three days later. It was alleged in 1831 by one of Lamb’s enemies that this had been part of a further conflict between him and the government: ministers wished to replace Browne with a man of their choice, but Lamb tried to bargain for preferment and on being refused secured the issue of a new writ with the intention of returning his own nominee, forcing government to intervene to supersede the order.18

Whatever the truth of this, by the time of the general election of 1826 Lamb and his cronies were facing a concerted challenge to their authority from within the borough. The leaders of the revolt, which began in earnest in May 1825, were two freemen, Meryon and William Prosser, who were assisted by William Holloway, Dr. Charles Lewis Meryon and others. On 4 May about 50 inhabitant ratepayers applied at the court of record for admission to all the rights and privileges of the town. The authorities stalled, and the inhabitants petitioned the Commons for redress, 17 May. During the following weeks the court allowed some 60 applicants to take the oath of allegiance and supremacy, but refused to concede their demands for admission to the freedom. On 28 Aug. 1825 the rebels, in a coup de main, met and elected Meryon as mayor, but the next day the corporation, refusing to acknowledge him, chose William Dodson, whose non-residence in Rye further infuriated their opponents. On 18 Oct. the Meryon party took forcible possession of the guildhall, where they installed themselves as an alternative corporation. They remained in occupation until 29 Nov. when they surrendered to an order in king’s bench returning the hall to the legal corporation, but not before they had ransacked the town’s records and found, among other items, a written agreement of 1758 between five corporators to act together to subjugate the borough and restrict admissions to the freedom. Early in 1826 they sought a mandamus from king’s bench to compel the mayor to admit inhabitant ratepayers to the freedom, but the court’s decision went against them. They then persuaded Lord John Russell to present another petition to the Commons, complaining of the ‘undue influence’ of Lamb and his associates and seeking inquiry into their grievances. This he did on 26 Apr. 1826, when he observed that it was ‘a question which affected the representative system generally, and one which ought to be taken into the serious consideration of the House’. Liverpool, as lord warden of the Cinque Ports, was also petitioned, but to no avail.19 In May 1826 the rebels formed the Rye Independent Association. At the election the following month they put up Stanes Brockett Chamberlayne of The Ryes, Essex, who had married a local widow, and Benjamin Smith†, son of William Smith, Whig Member for Norwich. Lamb’s candidates, Richard Arkwright, a former member for the borough, and Henry Bonham, were wealthy ministerialists. They polled the votes of 13 freemen and their opponents those of two, together with those of 62 men claiming the franchise as inhabitant ratepayers. Dodson, as returning officer, rejected all the latter and returned Arkwright and Bonham. No petition was lodged.20

Owners and occupiers of Rye and the surrounding parishes petitioned both Houses against relaxation of the corn laws in 1827.21 Baptists, Protestant Dissenters and members of the established church petitioned for repeal of the Test Acts in 1828.22 Owners and occupiers, merchants, tradesmen and other inhabitants petitioned the Commons for repeal of the Act restricting the circulation of small bank notes, 19 June 1828.23 Some inhabitants petitioned both Houses against Catholic emancipation (which Arkwright opposed, while Bonham abstained) in March 1829.24 Gentlemen, farmers and traders petitioned the Commons for repeal of the duties on malt, beer and hops, 10 Mar., and local bankers for mitigation of the punishment for forgery, 24 May 1830.25 In 1827 the independents reiterated their grievances in addresses to the king and the duke of Wellington, Liverpool’s successor as lord warden, and in another petition to the Commons.26 The following year they renewed the legal struggle and, narrowing the issue, sought to establish the right of any son of a freeman, born after his father had been made free, to be admitted. Under the rule of the oligarchy only the eldest sons of freemen had been admitted by birthright, and mayoral nominees had generally been elderly men unlikely to have children. Meryon and Prosser were joined in this endeavour by another freeman, James Barry, whose eldest son had died since his admission, and whose younger son Thomas was selected as the claimant. Again the verdict in king’s bench went in favour of the corporation, as it did when the case was renewed later in the year. In 1829 the inhabitants of Rye contemplated organizing a joint campaign by all the Cinque Ports to petition Parliament for inquiry into their grievances. Russell, who was asked to promote the scheme in the Commons, thought such petitions could not be advantageously introduced except as election petitions, and nothing came of the plan, though he did present a petition from Rye alone, 4 May, when he voiced his reservations. Later in the year the Rye ratepayers unsuccessfully tried to persuade the new mayor, Nathaniel Procter, who was thought to be a sympathizer, to reopen the question of admission to the freedom.27

In February 1830 the dying Bonham vacated his seat and Philip Pusey, a Berkshire landowner, whose politics were then of a liberal cast, was expected to replace him. On the eve of the election the leaders of the Independent Association and their legal adviser Samuel Miller introduced Colonel George De Lacy Evans, an Irish veteran of the Napoleonic wars, who had recently attracted attention as an anti-Russian pamphleteer. He secured three freemen’s votes against Pusey’s 14, the mayor rejecting those tendered for him by inhabitant ratepayers. One report commented that ‘the candidates were respectively questioned as to their principles, which, in a borough so perfectly rotten, deserves to be recorded as a remarkable effect, produced by public spirit’.28 Petitions were lodged by Evans and his supporters, and their case was prepared and conducted by Miller and the eminent civilian Thomas Edwards, who had been involved with Evans in the election campaign of their friend Robert Otway Cave* at Leicester in 1826. They argued that the freemen qualified to vote at parliamentary elections were freemen of the Cinque Ports generally, which of course included all inhabitants paying scot and lot. Counsel for the defence contended that the right lay only in such persons as had been admitted to the freedom of Rye by the corporation. The election committee decided, 17 May 1830, that all resident householders paying scot and lot were entitled to the freedom and therefore to the vote, and Evans was seated.29

Meanwhile, a renewal of the dispute over Rye harbour and the Rother levels had precipitated serious disorder in the town. In 1826 the townsmen had obtained a chancery decree ordering the local commissioners of sewers to make alterations to Scot’s Float sluice, which was deemed to be a nuisance to navigation. Nothing had been done by February 1830, when the neighbouring landowners secured the introduction of a bill which was seen in Rye as an attempt to annul the decree. Orderly protests, in the form of petitions to the Commons, where Russell pleaded their case, 5 Mar. 1830, and submissions by counsel to the committee on the measure were of no avail, and in late April a mob of townsmen wrecked the sluice. Troops were called in by Curteis’s son Herbert Barrett Curteis*, a Sussex magistrate. Violence and arrests ensued and the military remained in Rye for several weeks. The bill passed its report stage in the Commons by 40-22, 10 May, and went to the Lords four days later. On 27 May Evans, presenting a Rye petition of protest, condemned Curteis’s use of force and demanded redress for his constituents’ grievances. Although ministers stood by Curteis, it was clear that there was considerable sympathy for the townsmen at the admiralty. On 5 June 1830 Edward Curteis informed Lord Egremont, the lord lieutenant of Sussex:

Rye is still in a great state of excitement, principally owing to the recent overturn of the borough, a fate which seems to await the whole of the Cinque Ports ... In this attack on the Lamb interest, none of the landowners has had any concern whatever, but have all carefully avoided it. The assailants however make no distinction, and are disposed to cause a general destruction of property of any and every kind ... I would add, most confidentially, however, for I know not the truth of the report, that the Rye people say they are to be supported at the admiralty and that Rye, like Sandwich, is to be in future an admiralty borough. Certain it is that their cause is warmly and avowedly supported at that office, though it is not in other departments.

The admiralty intervened to impose a compromise, which was regarded by the townsmen as a victory and by Curteis as ‘a sacrifice of the rights and property of the landed interest’. The measure was divided into two bills, one dealing with the Rother levels, the other with the harbour. By the latter, its management was vested in commissioners whose financial qualification was drastically reduced from that formerly required. The bill was introduced on 15 June by Sir George Cockburn, a lord of the admiralty, and had its third reading, after protests from Curteis, 2 July. In the Lords, 7 July, Lord Radnor condemned it, but Lord Melville, first lord of the admiralty, insisted on its passage because ‘the spirit of party which has already produced so much mischief at Rye cannot be put down until some final legislative enactment has been made’. Both bills became law on 16 July 1830.30

Evans’s success was celebrated with a triumphal procession and dinner, 16 June 1830, when calls were made for the ratepayers of Hastings, Hythe, New Romney and Winchelsea to follow the example set at Rye. The following day Evans was promised the support of the ‘independent electors whenever the occasion should arise’. An application to king’s bench on behalf of Rye residents for a mandamus ordering the corporation to hear claims to the freedom was rejected, 19 June.31 Lamb, who was alleged by his opponents to be the instigator of the somewhat mysterious Free-Born Association formed in July 1830, among non-ratepaying natives and residents, lodged a petition of appeal against the decision on the right of election. On its presentation by Sir Robert Inglis, 16 July, the radicals Hume and Otway Cave referred to rumours that ‘secret service money’ had been allocated by the treasury to support it.32 The dissolution intervened, and Evans came forward with Smith, who had recently returned from a visit to America. Lamb’s candidates were Hugh Duncan Baillie, a Bristol banker, and Francis Robert Bonham, a confidant of the home secretary Peel. After much legal wrangling over the right to vote of one of the ratepayers supposedly enfranchised by the ruling of May, the assessor appointed by Lamb deemed such votes to be invalid. Only the votes of freemen were accepted and Lamb’s candidates secured the majority. According to one report, ‘rotten eggs, mud, and all the symbols of election vituperation, were showered with unsparing profusion upon the holy boroughmonger’.33

The campaign for redress continued in the autumn with addresses to Wellington and the king, which linked the grievances of the inhabitants of Rye with those of the ratepayers of Hastings, Hythe, New Romney and Winchelsea, where unsuccessful oppositions to the established interests had been mounted at the general election. Evans was active in Rye and at one meeting, 19 Oct. 1830, he thanked the admiralty for their ‘impartial assistance’ in settling the harbour dispute and made conciliatory references to Wellington. At the same gathering Holloway stressed that the Rye independents were not radicals and disclaimed any desire for universal suffrage.34 In an attempt to bolster their position the corporation had admitted 25 new ratepayer freemen, none of them involved in the Independent Association, on 28 Aug. 1830. They continued to refuse applications from their known opponents and from members of the Free-Born Association, which seems to have collapsed in disillusionment.35 The petition of Evans and Smith against the return of Baillie and Bonham was presented on 3 Nov. 1830, but the Speaker ruled that it could not be considered until Lamb’s appeal, which was renewed two days later, had been investigated. On 18 Dec. 1830 the committee appointed to consider the right of election overturned the decision of May and denied the ratepayers’ right to vote. Their petition complaining of the conduct of the returning officer at the last election, which in effect charged him with breach of privilege, was refused acceptance, 21 Dec.36 Evans denounced the appeal committee’s decision at Rye meetings, 29 Dec. 1830, 27 Jan. 1831, when he advocated agitation for general parliamentary reform in alliance with towns throughout the kingdom. The legal struggle was abandoned and the petition against the 1830 return was withdrawn, 9 Feb. 1831.37

Protestant Dissenters, Wesleyan Methodists and Baptists of Rye petitioned the 1830 Parliament for the abolition of slavery.38 Some inhabitants petitioned the Commons in favour of the secret ballot, 26 Feb. 1831.39 On 3 Mar. 1831 Evans rallied support in Rye for the Grey ministry’s reform bill, by which the borough was scheduled to lose one Member, and petitions in its support were sent to both Houses.40 Soon afterwards evidence emerged of disunity among the independents, with anonymous attacks on Smith and rejoinders in his favour. Thomas Edwards, withdrawing his professional services from the Independent Association, accused a group within it of intriguing to strengthen Smith’s position at the expense of Evans, attacked Smith for advising the abandonment of the 1830 election petition and portrayed the Barry case of 1828 as a covert attempt to establish an interest for Smith in the corporation. Elaborating these allegations two months later, he implicated Chamberlayne and Miller in a plot to discredit Evans by promising to invest in town improvements Smith’s share of the surplus of the money which he and Evans had contributed to the costs of fighting Lamb’s appeal. When the defeat of the reform bill precipitated a general election these squabbles were temporarily set aside. Three days before the election Evans, encouraged by the Westminster reformers, went to Preston with a view to opposing Henry Hunt*, who was denouncing the reform bill as inadequate. He soon found that he had no chance and responded to a summons to return to Rye. The reformer Alexander Donovan of Framfield, having just abandoned his attempt on Lewes, made a bid for the backing of Lamb, who rebuffed him, ‘as he was opposed to the bill and intended to return two anti-reformers’. Donovan then approached Evans’s ratepayer supporters, who invited him to stand separately on the same interest. He did not expect to succeed, but, justifying his conduct to the duke of Richmond, a member of the cabinet, said he was ‘sure that I serve the government measure by keeping up the cry of the people in favour of reform, which Colonel Evans’s absence at Preston begins to damp’. He claimed that on his return to Rye, Evans thoroughly approved of his conduct.41 A Lieutenant Francillon of the navy (either John George or Thomas) was also nominated, but he did not persevere. Lamb’s nominees were Pusey, who had voted against the reform bill as Member for Chippenham, and another anti-reformer, Thomas Pemberton, a prominent king’s counsel. By Pemberton’s account, written many years later, he went to Rye on the recommendation of Arbuthnot, whose brother-in-law was one of his former law pupils, and was led to expect a ‘quite safe’ return at a cost of £2,400.42 Pusey, whose wife was ill, did not appear in person. Lamb, anticipating trouble, employed thugs as special constables and called in a detachment of coastguards. These tactics provoked the inhabitants to barricade the town and physically intimidate freemen who tried to vote for the anti-reformers. One in particular, according to Donovan, was ‘nearly trampled to death’. No attempt was made to tender the votes of ratepayers. There was serious and protracted tumult, and polling was adjourned to the following day, when Lamb assembled a troop of dragoons at Mountsfield Lodge. The inhabitants responded with more barricades and Lamb, faced with the threat of riot and bloodshed, was forced to concede one seat. Evans agreed, but Donovan wanted Lamb to return Evans and make a double return of Pemberton and Pusey. Lamb refused this and Donovan, by his own account, gave way when Evans promised him ‘100 votes for the county’. Pusey was unacceptable to the reformers and Pemberton, who had already left the scene, was returned with Evans when polling was resumed pro forma.43

Evans’s enemies on the popular side evidently tried to break up the Independent Association, which was revived and tied more closely to his election committee. In June 1831 he unsuccessfully applied to the mayor for a massive creation of freemen, ostensibly to aid his intended bid to have Rye united with Winchelsea as a two Member constituency. He urged the Independent Association to abandon their plan to stage a mass protest demonstration, fearing that any ‘commotion’ would harm the cause.44 When he made the proposal in the House, 30 July, he boasted that his return ‘in spite of the influence and usurped power of the corporation’ testified to the ‘independence, public spirit, and attachment to the constitution’ of the inhabitants of Rye; but he had difficulty in glossing over the violence and intimidation which had occurred, ministers saw no merit in the scheme and he had to withdraw it. Inhabitants of Rye petitioned the Lords in favour of the reform bill, 3 Oct.45 In December 1831 almost 80 new freemen were admitted, including Holloway. Evans condemned this as an attempt to continue ‘the old close system under a new guise’, whereas Holloway and others represented it as a logical step in the democratization of the borough. The issue of the harbour remained contentious and there were quarrels, in which Evans became involved, among the new commissioners over the shape of the projected improvement bill.46 The petition of the inhabitants of Rye for the Commons to withhold supplies until reform was secured was belatedly presented, 1 June 1832.47

Rye provided one of the most striking examples of the massive extension of some borough boundaries by the 1832 Boundary Act. The commissioners having established that there was an inadequate number of £10 houses within the old limits, the constituency was enlarged to include the town of Winchelsea and the parishes of Rye, Peasemarsh, Iden, Playden, Winchelsea, East Guildford, Icklesham and Uder, and part of Brede. Its area was thereby increased from 1.6 to 32.3 square miles, containing a registered electorate of 379, of whom some 200 were freemen of Rye. This expansion played into the hands of the Curteis family and at the 1832 general election Evans, who was additionally handicapped by his estrangement from some of his former supporters, was beaten by Edward Barrett Curteis.48

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. The figure for 1821 applies to the whole parish; that for 1831 to the parliamentary borough (PP (1831-2), xl. 61).
  • 2. Pigot’s Commercial Dir. (1823-4), 520; VCH Suss. ix. 39.
  • 3. Oldfield, Key (1820), 252-5; W. Holloway, Hist. Rye, 240-4; L.A. Vidler, New Hist. Rye, 188; PP (1835), xxiv. 1031-3; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 471-3.
  • 4. PROB 11/1624/26.
  • 5. E. Suss. RO, Monk Bretton mss MOB 20; Harewood mss WYL 250/8/87, D. Browne to Canning 30 Apr. 1825.
  • 6. Monk Bretton mss 19, 21.
  • 7. Ibid. 1-3.
  • 8. CJ, lxxv. 210; lxxvi. 143; lxxvii. 338; LJ, liv. 135.
  • 9. CJ, lxxvi. 114.
  • 10. Ibid. lxxvii. 285; lxxviii. 58.
  • 11. Ibid. lxxix. 473; lxxx. 118.
  • 12. Monk Bretton mss 4, 5, 10, 31, 36.
  • 13. Ibid. 6; CJ, lxxv. 404, 408; lxxvi. 152-3, 219, 251; The Times, 12 Apr. 1821.
  • 14. Monk Bretton mss 12, 22.
  • 15. Ibid. 24, 35.
  • 16. JRL, Spring Rice mss Eng. ms 1284 (b), p. 9.
  • 17. TCD, Sligo mss 79, 81, 84, 85, 88.
  • 18. Monk Bretton mss 24, 35; CJ, lxxxi. 218, 223; The Times, 11 Apr. 1826; Hastings Iris. 29 Jan. 1831.
  • 19. Holloway, 245-51; Vidler, 118-19; W. Cooper, Parl. Hist. Suss. 43; CJ, lxxx. 427; lxxxi. 292; E. Suss. RO, Rye corporation recs. 141/1-3; PP (1835), xxiv. 1031, 1033; Add. 38385.
  • 20. Holloway, 251-2; The Times, 27 May 1826.
  • 21. CJ, lxxxii. 290; LJ, lix. 192, 276.
  • 22. CJ, lxxxiii. 23, 101; LJ, lx. 53.
  • 23. CJ, lxxxiii. 452.
  • 24. Ibid. lxxxiv. 132; LJ, lxi. 203.
  • 25. CJ, lxxxv. 158, 463.
  • 26. Ibid. lxxxii. 541; The Times, 12 June 1827.
  • 27. Holloway, 252-8; Vidler, 120; Cooper, 43-44; CJ, lxxxiv. 259; Rye corporation recs. 141/5, 6.
  • 28. Holloway, 258-9; The Times, 4 Mar.; Brighton Guardian, 10 Mar. 1830.
  • 29. CJ, lxxxv. 169, 170, 221, 222, 229, 334, 335, 429; The Times, 29 Apr.-1 May, 3-7, 12-15, 17 May 1830; Add. 36466, f. 81.
  • 30. Holloway, 259; Vidler, 120; The Times, 3, 14 May; CJ, lxxxv. 33, 99, 109, 137, 169, 340, 422, 489, 630, 635, 646; Petworth House mss 80, Curteis to Egremont, 5, 11 June; Brighton Guardian, 23 June; Hastings Iris, 23 Oct. 1830.
  • 31. Kentish Gazette, 22 June; Brighton Guardian, 23 June 1830.
  • 32. CJ, lxxxv. 648; Cooper, 44.
  • 33. Brighton Guardian, 21, 28 July, 4, 11 Aug.; The Times, 6 Aug.1830.
  • 34. Brighton Guardian, 29 Sept.; Hastings Iris, 23 Oct. 1830.
  • 35. Holloway, 261-3; Brighton Guardian, 25 Aug.; Hastings Iris, 6, 13, 20 Nov. 1830.
  • 36. CJ, lxxxvi. 15, 39, 106, 108, 152, 156, 158, 195, 226; Hastings Iris, 4, 18, 25 Dec. 1830.
  • 37. Hastings Iris, 1, 29 Jan. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 226-7.
  • 38. CJ, lxxxvi. 455; LJ, lxiii. 449, 455.
  • 39. CJ, lxxxvi. 310.
  • 40. Hastings Iris, 5 Mar., 2, 23 Apr.; Brighton Guardian, 4 May 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 446; LJ, lxiii. 493.
  • 41. Hastings Iris, 30 Apr. 1831; Rye Election Placards; W. Suss. RO, Goodwood mss 1433, ff. 239, 243.
  • 42. Lord Kingsdown, Recollections, 82-91.
  • 43. Holloway, 264-5; Cooper, 44-45; Hastings Iris, 7 May; Rye Election Placards; Brighton Guardian, 4 May; Goodwood mss 1433, f. 487; Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss, Mahon to Sneyd, 5 May 1831.
  • 44. Hastings Iris, 4 June 1831; Rye Election Placards.
  • 45. LJ, lxiii. 1039.
  • 46. Brighton Guardian, 21 Dec. 1831; Holloway, 269.
  • 47. CJ, lxxxvii. 364.
  • 48. PP (1831-2), xl. 59-61; N. Gash, Politics in Age of Peel, 70, 71, 218, 432; Holloway, 269-71.