Higham Ferrers


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

Background Information

A single Member constituency

Right of Election:

in the householders not receiving alms1

Number of voters:

under 200


  Double return. DACRES declared elected, 16 May 1660 
28 Mar. 1661LEWIS PALMER 
17 Feb. 1679SIR RICE RUDD, Bt.862
 Sir Lewis Palmer, Bt.118
18 Aug. 1679SIR RICE RUDD, Bt. 
15 Feb. 1681SIR RICE RUDD, Bt. 
31 Mar. 1685SIR LEWIS PALMER, Bt. 
 Sir Matthew Dudley, Bt. 
10 Jan. 1689SIR RICE RUDD, Bt. 
8 Feb. 1689HON. LEWIS WATSON vice Rudd, chose to sit for Carmarthenshire 
15 July 1689THOMAS ANDREW vice Watson, called to the Upper House 

Main Article

All the candidates for Higham Ferrers in this period were resident within the county, except Dacres and Rudd, and they owned property in the town. Under the charter of 1556, the franchise was granted to the mayor, aldermen and ‘burgesses’ but whether this was limited to the ‘select burgesses’, i.e. the corporation, was subject to interpretation. Both candidates in 1660 had previously been elected for the borough, Dacres as long ago as 1626, Harby as a recruiter. Both had supported Parliament in the first Civil War, but Harby sat on after Pride’s Purge when Dacres (then knight of the shire for Hertfordshire) was secluded. There was a double return, Harby being elected by the corporation, but on 16 May the House resolved in favour of ‘the burgesses at large’, and Dacres took his seat. By the next election, the manor of Higham Ferrers, which extended well beyond the limits of the borough, had been restored to the queen mother, and Lewis Palmer, the eldest son of the attorney-general, was returned without a contest by the mayor, aldermen, ‘burgesses’ and ‘commonalty’. The borough was quickly rewarded for its compliance when Palmer’s father reported in favour of a new charter extending the jurisdiction of its court.3

On the queen mother’s death the manor was granted to Queen Catherine of Braganza, with reversion to her master of the horse, the 2nd Earl of Feversham. Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) was made steward, and he appointed as his deputy Salathiel Lovell, a lawyer prominent in Northampton politics in the country interest. It was probably Lovell who was responsible for the return of the Welsh baronet, Sir Rice Rudd, to the three Exclusion Parliaments. Rudd was acceptable to the local loyalists; his maternal grandfather, who came from a family long resident in the town, had been a Cavalier, and his stepfather, Goddard Pemberton, evidently opposed exclusion. He contested the seat in February 1679 with Palmer, and was returned. Palmer claimed the majority of the votes, which he seems to have obtained by polling all the scot and lot payers of the manor, including the out-hamlets. His petition was never reported, and Rudd may have been unopposed at the next two elections.4

Secretary Jenkins scribbled some notes about Higham Ferrers as early as 1682, but the warrant for a new charter was not signed until August of the following year, and it was not issued until 18 Feb. 1684. For the first time, a recorder was appointed, the crypto-Catholic Earl of Peterborough, and Pemberton was nominated j.p. for life. The franchise was not mentioned, and the proposal to grant 40 acres of meadow and £100 p.a. to the poor of the borough was not proceeded with. Palmer regained his seat in 1685, defeating the Whig Sir Matthew Dudleyt, whose petition was buried in committee. The corporation produced its first loyal address of the period on the accession of James II, but was drastically purged in March 1688, with the removal of the mayor, two aldermen and 11 ‘capital burgesses’. At the general election of 1689 Rudd was returned, but chose to sit for Carmarthenshire. Lewis Watson, Feversham’s heir, stood for the vacancy, and promised to give £50 ‘towards renewing the lease of the poor estate’; but although elected he never fulfilled his promise. He succeeded to his father’s peerage a few months later, and Thomas Andrew, another Whig, was returned ‘by the greater part of the aldermen and burgesses’.5

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Bridges, Northants. ii. 170.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 104
  • 3. CJ, viii. 33; A. N. Groome, Higham Ferrers Charters and Insignia, 27, 32; Northants. Past and Present, ii. 244; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 611.
  • 4. Bridges, ii. 173; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 104; 1682, p. 303; CF, ix. 569.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 302-3; July-Sept. 1683, p. 259; Groome, 35-40; CF, ix. 716; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iv. 293; London Gazette, 16 Mar. 1685; PC2/72/621.