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:

99 in 1673


  Double return. HUNGERFORD and BAYNTUN seated, 17 May 1661 
  Election declared void, 20 June 1661 
10 July 1661HENRY BAYNTUN I 
21 Aug. 1661(SIR) EDWARD HUNGERFORD vice Speke, deceased 
1 Feb. 1673FRANCIS GWYN vice Bayntun, deceased77
 Hon. Vere Bertie22
  Election declared void, 6 Feb. 1673 
11 Feb. 1673FRANCIS GWYN75
 Hon. Vere Bertie23
 Francis Gwyn 
 Francis Gwyn 
25 Aug. 16851RICHARD KENT vice Talbot, deceased 

Main Article

Chippenham was incorporated in 1554, the government being vested in a bailiff and 12 ‘burgesses.’ By 1660 the franchise seems to have been exercised by inhabitant freemen holding leases of tenements in the borough lands. Until 1684, the chief interest was held by Edward Hungerford, though the Bayntuns, Spekes, Talbots, and Pophams, all of whom had property nearby, also had strong interests. In 1660 Chippenham returned Hungerford, who had sat in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, and Edward Poole, a repentant Parliamentarian. Both supported the Restoration, and there is no evidence of a contest. In 1661 Hungerford and Henry Bayntun I were returned by the bailiff, and Sir Hugh Speke by ‘the burgesses and aldermen’. Hungerford and Bayntun were allowed to sit on the merits of the return, but on 20 June Job Charlton reported from the elections committee:

that no due notice was given for the election, and that so many of the electors were absent as might have overbalanced the poll, had they all been there; and that the poll, being demanded by all three, was refused, as against Mr. Bayntun; and the opinion of the committee of the wilful miscarriage of the bailiff therein, as by design, and that the election was void.

The House agreed, a new writ was ordered and the bailiff was ‘sent for in custody to answer his said miscarriage at the election, and his insolent carriage before the committee’. Bayntun and Speke were returned at the by-election, but the latter died five days later, before taking his seat, and at the ensuing by-election Hungerford was returned, probably without a contest.2

On Bayntun’s death a new writ was issued by the lord chancellor on 15 Jan. 1673 during the recess. On 1 Feb. Francis Gwyn, standing on the interest of his cousin Sir Francis Popham defeated Vere Bertie, a court lawyer, whose brother had just acquired an interest in Wiltshire by marrying one of the Danvers coheirs. The election was among those declared void when the House met; but the result was repeated ten days later. Sir Edward Dering gave an account of the proceedings on Bertie’s petition before the committee of elections on 22 Feb.:

The matter pretended was corruption; the principal evidence was that Sir Francis Popham, about 40 years since, and Alexander his son gave £12 per annum to be forever distributed among the poor freemen of this town; that is, 40s. to six of them yearly; the bailiff and the corporation being always to nominate 12, out of which Sir Francis Popham’s heirs were to choose the six who should have this charity. And it was argued, and doubtless true, that some of the electors gave their vote for Mr Gwyn recommended by the young Sir Francis Popham for their burgess for fear if they should displease Sir Francis Popham they would lose the benefit of this charity. And others, in memory of the kindness this town had received from that family and out of hopes that young Sir Francis would be as kind to the town as his father and grandfather had been, did so also.

But note: here is nothing that does at all reflect upon Mr Gwyn that he did either give or promise anything, or any man else by his consent, privity, or procurement; which used to be the inquiry in this matter. Here is nothing done or said, given or promised by Sir Francis Popham that is illegal and injurious. The gift of Sir Francis Popham 40 years since cannot possibly be so strained as to be done with design of choosing Mr Gwyn a member, who was not then born. It is a discouragement upon all people ever to do good to any corporation, since by doing so they exclude themselves and their posterity to the third and fourth generation of being elected by them. And upon the whole it was not possible this corruption could extend to more than six electors, and Mr Gwyn had a majority of 52, his number being 75, and Mr Bertie’s 23. And if either gratitude for benefits received, or hopes of advantages to come did sway them to give their votes for Mr Gwyn, it was no more than most men do consider in the persons whom they elect. And at the time of election all things passed very fair and without any exception to any man’s vote; only as soon as the election was over (Sir) Edward Bayntun said he believed they should find corruption in it.

Besides all this, the committee seemed to go beyond their power in hearing any witnesses or words that might reflect on the honour of a sitting member, Sir Francis Popham, he being not mentioned in the petition, nor referred to them by the House. All that was said about Sir Francis Popham’s promise to give the town £200 appeared no more than that four years since, when the corporation presented a handsome nag to Sir Francis Popham, his father then being there told him, "Frank, this horse will cost you a hundred pounds or two, for you must be as kind to this town as I and your grandfather have been", which he said he would be, or to that effect, but had not yet done it, nor since promised it.

But the matter being put to the question it was voted that Mr Gwyn was not duly elected; the negatives being 76, and the affirmatives 63. Then a second question being put whether Mr Vere Bertie was duly elected, that was also carried by as many or more votes.Something, I confess, might be said as to the former question, though I were in the affirmative; but as to this second vote, I cannot reconcile it by any means to any rules that we have ever owned here, and was totally against it.

Sir Thomas Meres reported accordingly, but the House overruled the committee by 142 votes to 118, and Gwyn kept his seat.3

At the first general election of 1679 Hungerford, now in Opposition, was returned unopposed, but Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones) wrote:

As to our friend Gwyn, though he went down to his former borough and there bestowed both his money and his time upon them, yet he lost his election by 13. The competition was between him and Sir John Talbot, and Gwyn thinks that the steward of the Popham estate under the trustees played him foul play.

Both Gwyn and Talbot were court supporters. In the next election Gwyn was again unsuccessful, being defeated by Samuel Ashe of nearby Langley Burrell. In 1681 there is no evidence of a contest, the borough returning Hungerford and Speke’s son Sir George, both exclusionists.4

Chippenham produced loyal addresses abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot, but was unable to save its charter. Richard Kent, a placeman who had bought the Hungerford property, paid the fees for the new charter, under which Talbot’s son, Sharington Talbot, and Thomas Webb were named to the corporation. The younger Talbot and Bayntun’s nephew Henry were returned in 1685, probably without a contest, and when Talbot was killed in a duel he was replaced by Kent. The bailiff and four burgesses were removed by order-in-council in 1687, and in the following year the new joint lord lieutenant Lord Yarmouth (William Paston) wrote:

Mr Richard Kent of the custom house and Mr Bayntun have the chief interest, but if Mr Kent sticks close to Sir John Talbot they will carry it. Sir James Long, whom I can engage, has a good interest too. The royal electoral agents reported in April 1688: Chippenham is a borough by prescription; about 80 tenements elect. They propose to choose Henry Bayntun and Richard Kent, of whom they are confident.

Kent was instructed to stand as court candidate, but there is no evidence that he did so. Bayntun was again returned and was joined by his uncle Nicholas Bayntun, whose seat was nearby. There is no evidence of their political stand in the Convention.5

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. F. H. Goldney, Chippenham Recs. 72.
  • 2. Ibid. 261-71; J. J. Deniell, Chippenham, 13, 15.
  • 3. Chippenham Town Clerk’s Office, CBW/266; Dering, 129-31; CJ, ix. 260, 261.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1678-9, pp. 90, 197.
  • 5. Ibid. 1684-5, p. 226; 1685, p. 39; 1687-9, p. 276; Luttrell, i. 103; London Gazette, 11 Oct. 1683, 31 Aug. 1685; Goldney, 71, 76; PC2/72/555; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 210, 225-6.