Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the burgage-holders paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 30


c. Apr. 1660JOHN BYNE 
28 Mar. 1661JOHN BYNE 
  Double return of Goring and Parsons. GORING seated, 17 May 1661 
14 Jan. 1662SIR CECIL BISHOPP, Bt. vice Byne, deceased 
29 Aug. 1679HENRY GORING II 
8 Mar. 1681PERCY GORING 
14 Jan. 1689JOHN ALFORD 

Main Article

Bramber had no municipal institutions, the constable acting as returning officer. During this period the dominant interest passed from the Bishopp family of Parham to the Gorings of Highden. In 1660 John Byne and Edward Eversfield were returned. The former was the brother-in-law and the latter the cousin of Henry Goring I. In the double return of 1661 Byne was unopposed, but Percy Goring was returned by the constable and 13 ‘inhabitants and burgesses’ and John Parsons, an aspiring lawyer from Steyning, by 15 ‘burgesses’. Goring, who came from the Burton branch of the family, probably owed his interest less to his High-den cousins than to his wife, whose first husband Sir Edward Bishopp had represented the borough in the Long Parliament. He was allowed to sit on the merits of the return, but the merits of his election, which presumably depended on a residential qualification for voters, were not determined as Parsons did not pursue the case. On Byne’s death in 1662 he was succeeded by Goring’s step-son, Sir Cecil Bishopp.1

It is unlikely that either of the sitting Members offered himself for re-election on the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament. Goring lost his principal interest at the death of his first wife and took up residence at Maidstone; moreover his nephew, the head of the Burton branch, had become a Roman Catholic and was imprisoned in the Tower after the Popish Plot. Bishopp also became a Roman Catholic at a date unknown. They were replaced in the first Exclusion Parliament by Henry Goring II and his cousin Nicholas Eversfield, nephew of the Convention MP. Eversfield also retired after only one Parliament, and in the August election both seats seemed to be within the Gorings’ grasp. However Parsons had not quite given up hope of representing the borough, while John Fagg I and the local Quakers made a vigorous effort to bring in the republican Algernon Sidney. Penn wrote to him on 29 July 1679:

Sir John Fagg has been a most zealous, and, he believes, a successful friend to thee. But upon a serious consideration of the matter it is agreed that thou comest down with all speed. ... Another, one Parsons, treats to-day, but for thee as well as himself, and mostly makes his men for thee, and perhaps will be persuaded, if you two carry it not, to bequeath his interest to thee, and then Capt. [Henry] Goring is thy colleague; and indeed this I wish, both to make the thing easier, and to prevent offence. Sir John Pelham sent me word he heard that his brother [-in-law] Henry Sidney would be proposed to that borough, or already was, and, till he was sure to the contrary, it would not be decent for him to appear.

Though Henry Sidney was out of the country on a diplomatic mission, and totally unknown in the constituency, his candidature was confirmed by the arrival of Spencer, the family man of business, to act as his election agent. Algernon Sidney withdrew to the Quaker stronghold of Amersham, announcing ‘in a learned speech’ the transfer of his interest to Sir Charles Wolseley. He also distributed 10 or 12 guineas ‘to thank them, as was pretended, and left instructions and promises with some of that party of ten pounds a man’, which, as Spencer grumbled, together with Goring’s

frequent treats and drinkings ... made us spend much more than we should to keep our party firm. ... You would have laughed to see how pleased I seemed in kissing of old women, and drinking wine with handfuls of sugar, and great glasses of burnt brandy, three things much against the stomach.

Thomas Pelham, from his safe seat at East Grin-stead, was twice able to visit Bramber on Henry Sidney’s behalf, while his father, whose chief concern was to thwart Fagg’s aspiration to represent the county, sent over half a buck, ‘which we treated bravely’. The candidatures of Parsons and Wolseley evaporated, and on the eve of the poll Percy Goring consented to desist ‘if he might have his charges reimbursed’. To this Spencer agreed, ‘for I found by this you would prevent all grudges between the Gorings and the burghers, and ... any ill will between Sir John Pelham and those who the day before had been at the election of knights’. On his insistence, Percy Goring announced his own withdrawal, telling the electors that, if they were prepared to choose a stranger (a description equally applicable to the speaker, who lived in Kent), there was ‘none more worthy’ than Sidney, and Spencer’s client was duly returned with Henry Goring. The unsuccessful candidate’s expenditure of £80 was higher than Spencer had expected; ‘but it is not to be imagined what those fellows, their wives and children, will devour in a day and night, and what extraordinary reckonings the taverns and alehouses make, who, being burghers, are not to be disputed with on that point’. Sidney’s agents had spent almost £200 more, and considered themselves ‘no ill husbands neither’.2

Spencer sought to console his principal for the expense with the comment: ‘You are sure of Bramber, for Percy, I reckon, has passed over his interest forever’. But Sidney did not stand in 1681, when the two Gorings were returned. In 1685 Henry Goring transferred to Steyning, and his cousin was too impoverished to stand again. Bramber accordingly returned two outsiders to James II’s Parliament, Sir Thomas Bludworth, brother-in-law to Judge Jeffreys, and William Bridgeman, an official who was recommended by Sidney’s cousin, Lord Sunderland. The King’s electoral agents in 1688 expected Bramber to make a ‘good’ election, although the court candidates were not named. At the general election the illiterate constable set his mark to the statement that ‘the said borough truly and uprightly, without favour or affection to any person, or by any indirect practice or proceedings to my knowledge, did fairly and indifferently elect and choose’ two Tories, Charles Goring and John Alford, who had long been associated with the family interest.3

Author: B. M. Crook


  • 1. Cooper, Parl. Hist. Suss. 33; Grantees of Arms (Harl. Soc. lxvi), 191; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. lxxxix), 83; CJ, viii. 250.
  • 2. Sidney Diary, i. 114-19; G. W. Meadley, Mems. Algernon Sydney, 336-7.
  • 3. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 441.