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 'freemen'


about 120 in 1688


  Double return of LUDLOW and THYNNE. LUDLOW seated, 3 May 1660. THYNNE declared elected, 18 May 1660 
11 Apr. 1661EDWARD SEYMOUR vice Harbord, chose to sit for Launceston 
23 Feb. 1677ROBERT HYDE vice Howe, deceased 
12 Feb. 1679RICHARD HOWE 
16 Mar. 1685ROBERT HYDE 
12 Jan. 1689ROBERT HYDE 

Main Article

The Howe family enjoyed the principal interest at Hindon, together with the Thynnes, until the death of ‘Tom of Ten Thousand’ in 1682. George Grobham Howe was returned unopposed in 1660. Anxious to exclude Edmund Ludlow, the republican general, Edward Seymour stood down in favour of Sir Thomas Thynne. According to Ludlow

Sir Thomas Thynne, by his agents, had procured the hackney sheriff of Wiltshire ... to deliver the writ for the election ... to one entrusted by him; who, having packed a party (generally consisting of the scum and poor of the parish, whom he had bribed by giving money to, and promising more, filling them with drink, and engaging to the richer sort that they should have the command of his brother Sir James Thynne’s park), would have had the bailiff to have gone forthwith to the election: an action which savoured not of a gentleman of honour, and much less of a neighbour and a friend, as he professed himself to be, especially at such a time as this, when he perceived me going down the wind. But the bailiff, understanding the duty of his place, refused so to do, alleging that he was to give a competent warning, that all concerned in the election as burgesses might have due notice; who accordingly published that the election should be upon a certain day; at which time, of about 26 who had any right to give voices, nineteen appeared for me, and the others for Sir Thomas Thynne, all agreeing to the choice of Mr Howe of Barwick; so that the bailiff declared Mr Howe and me to be chosen, and, having signed the indentures to that purpose, returned the writ with the indentures to the sheriff, as is accustomed in such cases. But the agents of Sir Thomas Thynne (unwilling to lose all their charge and labour, and guessing upon very probable grounds that, could they but bring the business to a contest, the next assembly would consist of such judges as would favour any cause in opposition to that wherein I was concerned) signed another indenture for Mr Howe and Sir Thomas Thynne, making up in quantity what they wanted in quality, taking the subscription of the rabble (who paid no charge either to state, Church or poor), yea even of those who received alms from the parish, whom, to procure of their party, they made to believe that I was already fled, and that they would certainly be destroyed by the King if they made choice of me.

Ludlow was allowed to sit on the merits of the return. The elections committee reported that the right of election lay in the ‘freemen in general’, an expression to which it is difficult to attach any meaning, since Hindon had no machinery for creating freemen. But the House, anxious to cleanse itself of the regicides, accepted the report and Ludlow was unseated.1

In 1661 the Thynne interest was presumably put at the disposal of the courtier Sir Charles Harbord, though the correspondence of Sir James Thynne is curiously silent about this transaction. Even more curious is the by-election that followed; Harbord chose to sit for Launceston on 11 Apr. and on the same day, without a resolution for a new writ, Seymour was named to a committee. Presumably he had the indenture in his pocket and showed it to the Speaker, but it never came to the hands of the clerk of the crown. Although no further vacancy occurred till 1676, there was a flurry of electioneering in the winter of 1673-4, Seymour having no doubt indicated his intention of transferring to Devonshire for the next Parliament. Howe determined to bring in his cousin Sir Richard Grobham Howe, but William Thynne, who acted as steward of the Longleat estate, set up Thomas Thynne I, of the Gloucestershire branch of the family, whose sister had recently married Howe’s son. This step is unlikely to have met with the approval of Thomas Thynne II, since there was not only political but long-standing family animosity between the cousins. The problem was resolved by the continuance of the Cavalier Parliament, during which Thomas Thynne II found a seat at Oxford University and Sir Richard Grobham Howe came in for the county.2

When Sir George Grobham Howe died in 1676, leaving a minor as his heir, he was succeeded by Robert Hyde, who through the deaths of his father, uncle and cousin had built up a considerable estate in south-west Wiltshire. But he was pilloried as a venal courtier by the opposition pamphleteers and did not sit in the Exclusion Parliaments. In the first election of 1679 he was succeeded by his kinsman Thomas Lambert, whose loyalty was less conspicuous, while Sir Richard Grobham Howe, retaining the county seat for himself, put his son Richard in for the borough. Lambert voted against exclusion, and at the next election the two Howes, father and son, were returned. Presumably ‘Tom of Ten Thousand’, though himself assured of election as knight of the shire, regarded this as a threat to the Thynne interest at Hindon, for in 1681 he put up an obscure cousin from Surrey for the second seat, and the younger Howe had to drop out. The Hindon seats now began to attract attention from further afield. In June 1683, Henry Cornish, the Whig alderman and later martyr, visited Wiltshire, apparently the county of his birth:

’Tis said that part of his design in coming was about the purchase of some houses in the borough of Hindon, which are to be sold by Mr Thynne’s executors, the occupiers whereof have voices at elections, and which for that reason are valued at an extraordinary rate; but I hear that he, finding that he could not be well assured of the voices when time should serve, declined the purchase.

In the end it seems that the burgages were bought by Sir Matthew Andrews, another Surrey resident, who had acquired other property in Wiltshire.3

In 1685 the Hyde interest was dominant; even the Howe mansion at Berwick St. Leonard, just outside the borough, was occupied by a widow of the former family. Richard Howe wrote to his brother-in-law, now Viscount Weymouth, on 11 Feb.:

My father gives me his consent to stand there and join with whomever I think fit, and cloth as wholly leave me with the expense of it, which I need not tell your lordship how ill that will suit with my condition; and, if I mistake not Hindon, he that spends most shall have the best interest.

Howe presumably withdrew on discovering that Hyde preferred to join his interest with Lambert’s. In 1688 Lord Yarmouth (William Paston), the new joint lord lieutenant, and the King’s electoral agents, agreed that Hyde and Lambert enjoyed the chief interests, and were opposed to the Court. Andrews, with about 50 tenants among the 120 voters, was ‘supposed right, but was not discovered by those on the place, he being then in London’. Yarmouth prevailed on Lambert not to stand, and as Andrews preferred his old seat at Shaftesbury, Hyde was joined in the Convention by John Milner, another Surrey man, who enjoyed his neighbour’s interest.4

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Voyce from the Watch Tower, 110; CJ, viii. 9, 35.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 286; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 14, ff. 395-6, Thynne to Thynne, 31 Dec. 1673.
  • 3. CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 314.
  • 4. Clarendon Corresp. ii. 213; Thynne pprs. 18, ff. 178, 189, Howe to Weymouth, 11, 22 Feb. 1685; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 209, 225.