Castle Rising


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

Number of voters:

about 30


c. Apr. 1660SIR JOHN HOLLAND, Bt. 
21 Mar. 1661(SIR) ROBERT PASTON 
10 Feb. 1673SIR JOHN TREVOR vice Steward, deceased 
4 Nov. 1673SAMUEL PEPYS vice Paston, called to the Upper House22
 Robert Offley7

Main Article

Castle Rising was a pocket borough of the Howard family, though they were usually content to nominate to a single seat. The dukes of Norfolk were lords of the manor, and most of the burgages which carried the franchise were held by their dependants and nominees. The 5th duke was a lunatic, and until 1679 the family interest was exercised by his brother Henry Howard, a Roman Catholic. On 19 Apr. 1660 it was reported that his distant cousin Charles Howard of Naworth had been elected to the Convention for Rising with the Presbyterian Royalist John Spelman. In fact Howard was returned for Cumberland, and the family interest went to another former Parliamentarian, Sir John Holland. Henry Howard asked Holland to stand again before the dissolution; but Holland had hopes that with the support of Sir Horatio Townshend he might be elected knight of the shire, and returned an evasive answer. Accordingly Howard nominated (Sir) Robert Paston, the heir to the wealthiest royalist resident in Norfolk, and a local lawyer, Robert Steward, who had much interest with the corporation as steward of the manor. When Holland returned from Westminster he found that Townshend had other ideas for the county seats, and applied for a nomination at Rising, where he had heard ‘there was like to be some banding in point of the election’. Howard replied courteously but perhaps with a touch of irony: ‘My interest you may clearly see is so fallible there’, and proceeded to heap coals of fire on the untimely applicant’s head by offering him through Townshend a seat at Aldeburgh, which he accepted. Howard affected to believe that ‘factions’ might ‘make a disturbance’ at Rising, but needless to say Paston and Steward were returned.1

At both by-elections in 1673 Howard nominated outsiders, though Samuel Pepys of the Navy Office had a cousin in the borough, and later acquired a modest property interest. But he had to take second place to Sir John Trevor, a rising court lawyer, who filled the vacancy caused by Steward’s death at a cost of some £60. When Paston was raised to the peerage as Lord Yarmouth later in the year, Howard nominated Pepys, in accordance with a promise to the Duke of York. ‘You may depend upon it as done’, wrote the confident patron, ‘though unluckily the mayor (a perfect creature I could depend upon) dying, will put us to a little trouble extraordinary.’ Trouble there certainly was, though perhaps more in the Commons than in the constituency. Robert Offley of the Middle Temple, standing as a country candidate, drove Pepys’s election expenditure above £600. Pepys was returned, but Offley had scraped together seven votes by ‘a mean cheat’ (according to Sir Robert Southwell), and petitioned. His trump card was the letter from Howard recommending Pepys to the town. In January 1674 the elections committee was in no mood to countenance interference by a powerful Roman Catholic, and declared Pepys’s election void; and the Court ‘carried it but by one vote to get Mr Offley’s declared void too’. In the short run this helped Pepys; for when Sir Thomas Meres reported the case the House pursued the red herring of Popery with such gusto that they never reached any decision on the election, and the sitting Member was not further challenged.2

When the Cavalier Parliament was dissolved Pepys was planning to improve his interest at Rising by buying more burgages and fulfilling his longstanding promise to contribute £50 to the repair of the church. But rumours about his religion had reached the town, and he received no reply to his letter offering himself for re-election. Fortunately the Admiralty interest provided him with a cheaper seat at Harwich, while Trevor was given a promise of Bere Alston by his fellow-lawyer (Sir) John Maynard I. The Howard interest had been thrown into disarray by family scandals and the Popish Plot; Henry Howard, who had succeeded as 6th Duke of Norfolk in 1677, was lying low, and eventually went abroad, but his son Lord Arundel had announced his conversion to the Church of England. A new interest had appeared in the borough with the purchase of the neighbouring estate of Sandringham by James Hoste, a London merchant of Dutch extraction. ‘Well-beloved’ by his neighbours, he was on excellent terms with Lord Yarmouth, now lord lieutenant, who used Sandringham as his base when on tour in the west of the county. Anxious to find a seat for his second son, the Hon. Robert Paston, Yarmouth reported to his wife on 29 Jan. 1679:

I have written to Mr Hoste to make friends at Rising for Robin. If my Lord Arundel writes to his servant it may be done, and I hope it will not displease the duke, though father and son do not set their horses together.

But Arundel preferred another distant cousin, Sir Robert Howard of the Berkshire branch; and the royal physician, Sir John Baber, who acted as the Presbyterian agent at Court, was proposed for the second seat. Yarmouth’s letter was not entirely unproductive, nevertheless, for Hoste was prompted to use his interest for himself. He was returned with Howard to all three Exclusion Parliaments. The ever-sanguine Yarmouth hoped they would be ‘right’, but Hoste voted for the first exclusion bill, and Howard eventually came to support the same policy.3

As known Whigs neither Howard nor Hoste stood in 1685. Howard’s son Thomas succeeded to the family seat, now controlled by the Protestant 7th Duke, while Hoste was replaced by the high Tory, Sir Nicholas L’Estrange. In April 1688 the royal electoral agents reported:

Castle Rising is a borough that chooseth by prescription. There are about 20 electors. ’Tis wholly under the power of the Duke of Norfolk. They will choose who your Majesty will name and recommend by his grace.

No further report or nomination is known. L’Estrange refused to stand after the Revolution, and Sir Robert Howard regained his seat in the Convention, while his son transferred to Bletchingley. Hoste took no further part in politics, leaving the second seat at Rising available for another Whig, Robert Walpole, who seems to have managed the Duke of Norfolk’s estate. His agent reported authorized expenditure of £40 18s. at the 1689 election, and additional bills of £26 7s.11d. from the six alehouses in the town.4

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Blomefield’s Norf. Supp. ed. Ingleby, 33-34, 124; Merc. Pub. 19 Apr. 1660; Norf. Arch. xxx. 130-4.
  • 2. Pepys Further Corresp. 273-4, 283, 287; Pepys Life, Jnls. and Corresp. ed. Smith, i. 140-2; CJ, ix. 291, 304, 306; Grey, ii. 407-13; Stowe 204, f. 61v.
  • 3. Pepys Further Corresp. 330-3, 340, 353-4; Add. 28621, f. 39; CSP Dom. 1679-80, pp. 66, 75; Works of Sir Thomas Browne ed. Wilkin, i. 233.
  • 4. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 314; Norf. Supp. 31-41.