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 inhabitant householders

Number of voters:

about 500 in 1690


 John George
28 Mar. 1661JAMES LIVINGSTON, 1st Earl of Newburgh
3 Jan. 1671HENRY POWLE vice Newburgh, deceased
 Sir Robert Atkyns
 CHARLES LIVINGSTON, 2nd Earl of Newburgh
 Henry Powle

Main Article

The marriage of the 1st Earl of Newburgh to the daughter of Sir Henry Poole of Sapperton in or about 1660 brought him the manor of Cirencester. His bailiff normally acted as returning officer for the borough. Most of the rest of the Poole estate, including the Seven Hundreds of Cirencester, was bought by Robert Atkyns between 1661 and 1667. The other principal interest was enjoyed by the Masters of Cirencester Abbey. The lawyers, John George and Henry Powle, though both local residents, probably owed their election more to personal and political factors. In 1660 Thomas Master I was returned unopposed, and George petitioned unsuccessfully against the election of Powle, who was adjudged to have received the greater number of votes. Politics does not seem to have influenced this election; all three candidates favoured the Restoration. It is not known whether either of the sitting Members stood in 1661, when Lord Newburgh, an active Royalist, was returned with George. When Newburgh died in 1670, leaving a child of four as his heir, the seat was contested by Powle and Atkyns’s son, the younger Sir Robert. An unseemly fray at the election between Master and John Grobham Howe I is the first indication of a new interest in the borough. Powle was elected, and Atkyns’s petition for the election to be declared void because of the ‘disturbance’ was rejected.1

George died in the closing weeks of the Cavalier Parliament, and Atkyns and Powle were returned at the three exclusion elections. Both were expected to support the bill, but Atkyns was absent from the division, and Powle actually voted against it, though he reverted to the Opposition after resigning from the Privy Council in 1680. The ‘inhabitants’ sent loyal addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament in 1681, expressing their abhorrence of the Rye House Plot, and congratulating James II on his accession, the last being presented by the Duke of Beaufort (Henry Somerset) as lord lieutenant of Gloucestershire.2

Atkyns moved up to represent the county in 1685, but even with Whig power at its nadir, Powle’s interest was still to be reckoned with. Howe’s nephew, Richard Howe, was apparently prepared to join forces with him; but eventually Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne I) found him a safer seat at Tamworth. The Tory candidates were Master’s son and the 2nd Earl of Newburgh, who was certainly under age. On 22 Mar., four days before the election, the French ambassador reported that there was ‘some disorder’ over the candidature of Powle and Lord Newburgh, and that the former had the advantage. Master was returned as senior Member, presumably unopposed, but Powle claimed that Newburgh owed his majority to voters in receipt of alms. The election committee was ordered to hear the case on 4 July but was prevented by the adjournment, and Powle, or so it was later alleged, withdrew his petition.3

In September 1687 the numerous dissenters in Circencester sent a belated address of thanks to the King for his first Declaration of Indulgence. It is probable, however, that they already had their eyes on John Grobham Howe II as a candidate, for he was listed among the Gloucestershire opposition at this time. In April 1688 Sunderland recommended Powle, also hitherto in Opposition, as court candidate, with John Chamberlain, who had declared himself to Beaufort as ‘not for persecution, and therefore, if chosen, thinks he will vote for repeal’ of the Test Act and Penal Laws. On 13 Sept. Sunderland informed Newburgh that Powle and Chamberlain were

intending to stand, with the King’s approbation, to serve in Parliament for Cirencester, where your lordship has a considerable interest. His Majesty commands me to acquaint you with it, that you may write to your officers and tenants there [to] give these gentlemen all the assistance they can in order to their election.

It is unlikely that either Powle, who was returned for Windsor, or the Jacobite Newburgh stood in 1689. The Tory Master was returned by the steward, in the absence of Newburgh’s bailiff, together with Howe, one of the most violent Whigs in the Convention. He was soon referring to Cirencester as ‘my corporation’, and Master eventually, though fruitlessly, trimmed his sails by voting for the disabling clause in the bill restoring corporations.4

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Bristol and Glos. Arch. Soc. Trans. l. 233-5; CJ, viii. 92; ix. 205; Ventris Reps. i. 209.
  • 2. London Gazette, 5 Dec. 1681, 6 Sept. 1683, 23 Mar. 1685.
  • 3. Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 18, ff. 178, 179; PRO 31/3 bdle. 160, f. 85; CJ, ix. 715, 733; x. 461.
  • 4. London Gazette, 3 Oct. 1687; Bodl. Carte 130, f. 24; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 273; Grey, ix. 112.