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

Number of voters:

about 350 in 1727


25 Oct. 1669RICHARD HARRISON vice Sir John Harrison, deceased
16 Apr. 1685HENRY CRISPE
 Charles Gerard, Visct. Brandon
 Sir Samuel Gerard
 Roger Kirkby
21 Nov. 1689ROGER KIRKBY vice Rawlinson, deceased
 Sir Thomas Rawlinson

Main Article

At the general election of 1660 the Kirkby family was not in a position to exert its usual influence at Lancaster, being disqualified under the Long Parliament ordinance which barred Cavaliers from sitting. Both Members in the Convention had a parliamentary record in the Civil War. The senior, Sir Gilbert Gerard, was a Presbyterian who had regained his post as chancellor of the duchy on the return of the secluded Members. But there is no trace of duchy interest in this constituency during the period, and he may have owed his seat to his distant cousin, Lord Gerard of Brandon, the Cavalier general. The other seat was taken by a local lawyer, William West, who was probably an Independent and a republican. But in 1661 the family interests dominant before the Civil War regained control; Richard Kirkby’s father and Sir John Harrison, also a Royalist, had shared the representation of the borough in the Short Parliament. Nevertheless with a comparatively large electorate even Kirkby had to be circumspect, and ‘to gratify those who had elected him burgess of Parliament’, of whom West was the chief, he resisted the unduly sweeping purge of the corporation proposed by Lord Derby. On Harrison’s death, he was succeeded by his son Richard.1

Kirkby and Richard Harrison were re-elected to the first Exclusion Parliament; but this was to be the last success of the Harrison interest. It was probably with the support of Lord Gerard, now Earl of Macclesfield and an opponent of the Court, that William Spencer gained the second seat for the country party in September 1679, and held it in the next general election. A loyal address, approving the dissolution of the last two Parliaments, could not be procured till August 1681, and even then it was moderately worded, thanking the King for his promise to hold frequent Parliaments. The address abhorring the ‘Association’ was less equivocal, and after the Rye House Plot the corporation undertook to surrender their charter. Its successor was issued on 22 Dec. 1684 at the cost of £184.2

The 1685 election was warmly contested. The court candidates were Roger Kirkby, son of the late Member, and a London lawyer, Henry Crispe, who was recommended by Lord Keeper Guilford (Sir Francis North), Judge Jeffreys, and Lord Sunderland. The Whig Curwen Rawlinson originally enjoyed the support of his wife’s cousin, the Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck); but when Macclesfield’s son Lord Brandon (Hon. Charles Gerard) lost the county election Rawlinson stood down. A candid Tory wrote:

Brandon must be kept out. Therefore to secure the election we are about to choose a new bailiff tomorrow, and then to make a considerable number of gentlemen free of the corporation to carry certainly what we design, and this the mayor will do.

Writing in old age, and with a somewhat erratic memory, a local Quaker recalled that Brandon

had the interest of most of the common freemen; but was strongly opposed by the mayor and council and the country gentlemen, who, to prevent his election, brought in as freemen the country gentlemen’s servants and attendants, six for one shilling, who were thereafter called ‘twopenny freemen’. They had also two companies of the militia, trained soldiers under arms to awe the freemen ... by which the said election was frustrated, there being at least one hundred of these two-penny freemen sworn on this occasion.

Nevertheless Lord Derby, as lord lieutenant, was careful to order that the militia ‘appear not so as to be deemed in the least to impede a free election’, and he had genuine grounds to fear ‘that when the day of election comes, the animosity of the rabble is such, his Majesty’s peace will be much in danger’.

On Thursday last our sheriff with Mr Mayor and aldermen of Lancaster, with other gentlemen, and those that did stand for burgesses went all to the hall. The handicraftsmen and rabble left their employments and followed, crying ‘A Gerard! A Gerard!’ The sheriff following the mayor up the stairs into the hall, my Lord Gerard came up to the sheriff and gave him a rub, upon which some words passed, which caused the mayor to command peace. ... My Lord placed one Eccleston in a window in the hall, and when the sheriff in his speech or discourse did anyway reflect upon my Lord, my Lord gave a sign to Eccleston, and he to the rabble, which caused such a noise that nothing could be heard for half an hour.

Besides removing two supporters of Brandon from the corporation for ‘seditious practices’, the sheriff also assisted Sir Roger Bradshaigh II to persuade other candidates to stand down in favour of Kirkby and Crispe. Though ‘no gentleman keeps company with my lord but [Edward] Rigby, who is constant with him’, his humbler followers were undaunted, and on the day of the poll itself ‘Crispe caused the mayor to commit one of the rabble for saying he had a Pope in his belly’. Brandon petitioned against the return of the court candidates, but without result.3

On the Declaration of Indulgence in 1687, the mayor had the borough mace carried openly before him to the Presbyterian meeting house; but the majority of the corporation still opposed the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and thanked the King only for his promise to preserve the established Church. On 23 Feb. 1688, the new mayor, three aldermen, nine common councilmen, the town clerk and the bailiff were ordered to be removed. Kirkby was recommended as court candidate, and selected as his colleague Brandon’s cousin Sir Samuel Gerard, a courtier. They were defeated in the general election of 1689 by Rawlinson and Thomas Preston, two moderate Whigs who had played an active part in the Revolution. Their petition was received by the House too late to be considered. But Rawlinson’s death on 29 Aug. left the constituency wide open to Kirkby and the Gerard interest. His antagonists, desperate for another candidate, pitched on a wealthy London vintner, Sir Thomas Rawlinson. A sound churchman of Tory principles, he was not related to the late Member, though his father hailed from Lancashire. The vicar of Lancaster wrote to him on 23 Sept.:

I have an extraordinary desire that you might succeed, for you are of the same name with him who is gone, who was the best friend I had in the whole world. ... I have been somewhat concerned about elections heretofore. ... Your only competitor is Col. Kirkby, who besides other disadvantages will now have curses instead of votes for putting the town and country to the great charge of many hundred pounds needlessly and unreasonably at this time of great taxes for buying soldiers’ clothes at his own rate and by his own be-speaking.

But on 11 Oct. he wrote again

There has happened a contest between the governing part of our town and the mobile about an assessment, which Mr Kirkby manages to his advantage by siding with the rabble and in open sessions affronting Mr Mayor and some others. He has thereby gained a greater strength among the inferiors than ever he was able [to] by his just merit. ... Mr Preston is not in town enough to work men, whilst the colonel has his full scope and by his hectoring and swaggering for the mobile is still winning ground.

Preston advised Rawlinson to procure a letter from (Sir) Henry Ashhurst to the local Presbyterians, ‘and if you have any acquaintance with Mead the Quaker to get his letter to one Mr Henry West’, who had inherited the property of the Member in the 1660 Convention. It does not appear that Kirkby’s opponents were able to outbid him with the dissenters, but Sir William Rawlinson, one of the commissioners of the great seal, whom ‘everyone here loves and honours’, did write to the mayor on behalf of his distant kinsman:

I take him to be a firm Protestant, hearty to the Church of England, a gentleman of a good estate and substance and consequently free from necessitous temptations, that will be diligent and ready to serve your corporation.

But, as the vicar wrote to the candidate, ‘I am afraid we must put you to the trouble of a journey and some stay among us’. Rawlinson’s reception by the mayor, however, was less than cordial, while the rival candidate

sent for the town music, called the waits of the town, and having in his company several of the meaner sort of the commons, they came in a very rude manner to Mr Foxcroft’s where at that time Sir Thomas Rawlinson lodged, and stayed there above an hour, and during that time they made several great shouts and huzzas. ... The waits desiring to be excused... the colonel told them he would break their fiddles and beat them to boot, and then they went round the town with great shouting and huzzas and came to Mr Preston’s lodging, where they continued shouting till one in the morning.

Rawlinson appears to have conducted the rest of his campaign from the safe distance of Preston post office, and Kirkby was duly returned, to retain the seat for the rest of his life.4

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. W. O. Roper, Materials Hist. Lancaster (Chetham Soc. lxi), 37-42, 49-50, 201-2; SP29/61/45.
  • 2. London Gazette, 25 July 1681, 8 June 1682, 2 Aug. 1683; Roper, 206-7.
  • 3. Westmld. RO, Fleming mss 2894, letter of Lord Derby, 2 Apr. 1685; 2897, Rigby to Preston, 8 Apr. 1685; 2899, letter of William Kirkby, 9 Apr. 1685; 2902, letter of 13 Apr. 1685; Autobiog. William Stout ed. Marshall, 100-1; CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 119-20; CJ, ix. 722.
  • 4. Stout, 92; London Gazette, 8 Sept. 1687; PC2/72/616, 732, 734; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 276; SP44/56/439; HMC Le Fleming, 206; Northumbrian Docs. (Surtees Soc. cxxxi), 163; Westmld. RO, Fleming mss 3442, letter of 6 Feb. 1689; Bodl. Rawl. D863, ff. 33-49; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 135.