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:

about 1,660 in 1681


 Sir Gilbert Gerard, Bt. 
 Sir William Roberts 
 Sir James Harrington, Bt. 
 John Page 
 Sir John Robinson I, Bt. 
5 Sept. 1679SIR WILLIAM ROBERTS, Bt.720
 Sir Francis Gerard, Bt.194
 Sir William Smith, Bt.3
13 Jan. 1681ROBERT ATKYNS vice Peyton, expelled the House680
 Hugh Middleton379
 Charles Umfrevile160
3 Mar. 1681SIR WILLIAM ROBERTS, Bt.1054
 Hugh Middleton607
 Sir Charles Gerard, Bt.415
18 Mar. 1685SIR CHARLES GERARD, Bt. 
 Sir Hugh Middleton, Bt. 
 Nicholas Raynton 
 Thomas Johnson 
 Sir William Smith, Bt. 
11 Jan. 1689SIR CHARLES GERARD, Bt. 
 Sir Robert Peyton 
 Thomas Johnson 

Main Article

Although Middlesex was too large and popular a constituency to allow for its being amenable to patronage, it is clear that the protection provided by the Duke of Buckingham and Lord Grey of Warke was an important factor in the exclusionist successes in 1679-81. The conduct of the elections by the elected sheriffs of London also favoured radical candidates. But the results in 1660 and 1689 suggest that there was normally a majority for more cautious policies. The suburbs of London had already spread westward along the Thames beyond Westminster and northward along the main roads; but none of the Middlesex Members in this period came from either of these districts. Despite the difficulties of communications with Brentford, where the county election was usually held, most of them owned substantial estates in the still rural northern fringe of the county from Ruislip to Enfield.1

At the general election of 1660 there were six candidates. Two notable Presbyterian Royalists, Sir William Waller and Sir Gilbert Gerard of Harrow, stood jointly against the Cromwellians, Sir William Roberts of Willesden and Sir James Harrington of Swakeleys. Lancelot Lake, who came from a royalist family, but was not excluded by the Long Parliament ordinance, and the obscure John Page of Uxendon, stood singly; but it is probable that Page’s candidature was designed to take votes from his neighbour and kinsman Gerard. Waller and Lake were successful, to the great satisfaction of the Royalists. Neither Presbyterians nor Cromwellians stood for Middlesex in 1661; Waller, the only candidate from the Brentford area in this period, preferred a desperate attempt on Honiton. Lake was re-elected with Sir Thomas Allen, once a commissioner of array. The third candidate was the prominent London Royalist, (Sir) John Robinson I, who had been made lieutenant of the Tower; but he was not successful.2

With the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament it was the turn of Lake and Allen to disappear from the political scene. One seat was taken in the Exclusion Parliaments by Sir William Roberts, 1st Bt., the son of the unsuccessful candidate in 1660. On the hustings in February 1679 he protested his devotion to the prerogative and the Church, but he was returned unopposed with Sir Robert Peyton, atheist, republican and debauchee. A premature attempt was made at this election to instruct the Members to promote a bill of ease for Protestant dissenters; Peyton evaded an answer, while Roberts refused point-blank. But he went over to the Opposition on the exclusion issue, and stood jointly with Peyton in the autumn election. Peyton and Lord Grey headed a convoy of voters to Brentford; but as soon as they had left the City they were stopped at Smithfield by a company of soldiers, whereupon

the apprentices came out with their paving shovels, and were for knocking the soldiers on the head for abusing the freeholders; but the officers who led the soldiers coming timely in put an end to the fray, and Sir Robert proceeded on his way.

Peyton was met at Brentford by Roberts and the Duke of Buckingham, who had no doubt mustered the country supporters from the rural areas. Gerard’s son (Sir) Francis Gerard stood as a court candidate with (Sir) William Smith, the unscrupulous developer of a great estate in the East End. He polled a derisory three votes, and Gerard also desisted. Peyton’s dissolute life left him vulnerable, and before the second Exclusion Parliament met he had become involved in the obscure Roman Catholic intrigue known as the Meal-Tub Plot. He was expelled the House, and a new writ was ordered on 15 Dec. 1680. At the by-election, Hugh Middleton of Hackney, nephew of the founder of the New River Company, stood for the Court, and may have benefited from a split in the country vote. Charles Umfrevile, who had been removed from the commission of the peace in 1678 for spreading ‘libels’, had enhanced his reputation among the radicals by his conduct as a juryman in the Popish Plot trials; but he polled less than half of Middleton’s votes. However, his candidature failed to prevent an absolute majority for (Sir) Robert Atkyns, who had lost his place on the judicial bench for his opposition to the Court. Atkyns’s previous electoral experience had been confined to small boroughs, and he may not have enjoyed his experience in Middlesex. At the general election two months later Roberts was joined by Nicholas Raynton, whose strong links with the dissenters probably enabled him to pick up Umfrevile’s votes. The court supporters also joined ranks behind Middleton and Sir Charles Gerard, the third generation of the family to stand for this constituency without success. Nevertheless they did much better than in 1679, and Raynton’s comparatively poor showing revealed the limitations of the nonconformist interest. The election was transferred to Hampstead Heath, where ‘the numbers being equal so that it could not be decided by view, they went to polling’. This time the successful candidates ‘gratefully accepted’ an address from the freeholders, drawn up on similar lines to the London address, urging them

to repeal the 35th of Elizabeth [cap. 1], the Corporations Act, and all others that have proved injurious to the true Protestant interest; to assert the people’s unquestionable right of petitioning; to remove our just fears by reason of the great forces in this kingdom under the name of Guards, which the law hath no knowledge of; to prevent misery, ruin and utter destruction which unavoidably must come upon this and neighbouring nations if the Duke of York or any other Papist ascend the royal throne.

The Tory magistrates countered with a loyal address on 18 Apr. approving the dissolution, and in December Middleton, who was well on the road to ruin, was rewarded for his efforts with a baronetcy.3

At the general election of 1685 there were again six candidates, four Tories and two Whigs. Raynton stood for re-election with Thomas Johnson of Mile End, who had been removed from the bench at about the same time as Umfrevile, and had come under suspicion after the Rye House Plot. Smith and Middleton also offered themselves again, and Gerard joined forces with another substantial country gentleman, Ralph Hawtrey.

Sir William Smith came into the field attended with about 200 men, most on horseback, but ’tis thought not half of them had votes. He, finding his party so inconsiderable in respect of the rest, desisted, and gave all his votes to Sir Hugh Middleton, but he lost it by 150 votes at least. ... This is the third time Sir Hugh Middleton hath stood, and spent a great deal of money and missed it.

Gerard and Hawtrey, ‘both thought to be very honest gentlemen’ by court supporters, carried it. Roberts died in 1688, but Peyton re-established himself by taking part in the Dutch invasion. On 10 Jan. 1689 the Orange Gazette ‘presumed’ that he and Johnson would carry it; but the two Tories were re-elected.4

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. HMC Lindsey, 32.
  • 2. Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 644; VCH Mdx. iv. 207; N. and Q. clxvi. 401; HMC Portland, iii. 250.
  • 3. Bodl. Carte 228, f. 147; Jones, First Whigs, 167-8; HMC Lindsey, 32; HMC 7th Rep. 474, 495; Dom. Intell. 9 Sept. 1679; Lysons, Environs, ii. 511; HMC Finch, ii. 44; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 25; Prot. Dom. Intell. 4 Mar. 1681; True Prot. Mercury, 5 Mar. 1681; Smith’s Prot. Intell. 17 Mar. 1681; Address from Justices of Mdx. (1681).
  • 4. Verney Mems. ii. 383; Orange Gazette, 10 Jan. 1689; HMC Le Fleming, 232.