Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the inhabitant householders
Number of voters:
about 200 in 16811
|31 Mar. 1660||FRANCIS LUTTRELL I|
|4 Apr. 1661||FRANCIS LUTTRELL I|
|SIR HUGH WYNDHAM|
|25 Aug. 1666||JOHN MALET vice Luttrell, deceased|
|Sir Thomas Bridges|
|17 Feb. 1673||THOMAS WYNDHAM I vice Wyndham, deceased|
|Sir Thomas Bridges|
|13 Feb. 1679||FRANCIS LUTTRELL II|
|SIR JOHN MALET|
|Sir William Wyndham, Bt.|
|1 Sept. 1679||FRANCIS LUTTRELL II|
|26 Feb. 1681||FRANCIS LUTTRELL II|
|26 Mar. 1685||FRANCIS LUTTRELL II|
|12 Jan. 1689||FRANCIS LUTTRELL II|
Minehead was dominated by the Luttrells of Dunster Castle, who were returned for the senior seat at every general election of the period, usually with a colleague of their own choice. All the candidates came from Somerset gentry families. Since the forfeiture of the charter in 1604 elections were held in the court feet of the manor, with the two constables acting as returning officers. The indentures are very numerously attested, those for 1661 and 1673 bearing over 120 signatures.2
The Luttrells had been Parliamentarians during the Civil War, and for his colleague in the Convention Francis Luttrell chose his wife’s uncle Charles Pym, the younger son of ‘King Pym’. Both supported the Restoration, but in 1661 Luttrell evidently decided to trim his sails by replacing Pym with Sir Hugh Wyndham, a local Cavalier who had married into a parliamentarian family. Luttrell, like all the men of his family, died in early middle age, leaving his heir a minor. At the by-election which followed, his widow Lucy supported Sir Thomas Bridges, whose estate at Keynsham was too distant for him to be able to establish an independent interest. Though ‘a very honest gentleman’, he was successfully opposed by John Malet, ‘a justice of the peace seven or eight miles off’, who undertook to obtain a restoration of the charter. ‘There was a very handsome appearance on both sides.’ But Lucy Luttrell defeated the attempt to revive the corporation, which would have reduced the family income from fishing royalties and other rights, by a quo warranto in 1668. Wyndham died on 20 July 1671, early in the long recess. Bridges stood again, this time supported by a letter from the Duke of York. But the Wyndham family were determined to retain the seat. Their candidate was the late Member’s brother Thomas, and (Sir) William Wyndham deferred his attendance at Westminster to ensure his cousin’s success.3
Though still a minor, Francis Luttrell was old enough to contest the next general election in person, and to demonstrate that the family interest was unimpaired. Forming a tactical alliance with Malet, he swept the Wyndham interest out of the borough; Sir William, standing in person, received only five votes. Luttrell was absent from the division on the first exclusion bill, but Malet supported it, and by July 1679 Luttrell had promised the seat to Thomas Palmer, though Sir William Portman applied to him on behalf of Hugh Speke, whose father owned the neighbouring manor of Alcombe. The sitting Members were re-elected in 1681, though Palmer died later in the year. Luttrell had already gone over to the Court, and doubtless inspired the inhabitants of Minehead to produce an address abhorring the Rye House Plot in September 1683, and promising to elect Members committed to the legal succession. They congratulated James II on his accession, and on his preservation from the exclusionists, and ‘in a full assembly’ at the general election returned two Tories, Luttrell and Palmer’s brother Nathaniel. Both Members were driven into opposition by the reversal of the King’s ecclesiastical policy, and in December 1687 the royal electoral agents wrote: ‘Francis Luttrell (who will not comply) hath so much interest there that it will be difficult to oppose him. Robert Syderfin, a barrister, hath a good interest, with John Speke, if he be not chosen for the county.’ Syderfin, the younger son of a minor gentry family seated at Carhampton, had Presbyterian connexions. The next report in April 1688 had little to add:
The election [is] popular. The town belongs to Col. Luttrell, of whom we can yet give no account; who [sic] he proposes will be chosen here, except the sheriff can improve the interest of John Speke and Robert Syderfin, who are both right, which he hath promised to do.
The court candidates had desisted by September, when the electoral agents could only report: ‘The sheriff hath undertaken the care of this place and to propose right men, which they could not fix upon when our friends were upon the spot’. Luttrell and Palmer were re-elected to the Convention as Tories.4
Author: Irene Cassidy
- 1. F. Hancock, Minehead, 10, 426-8.
- 2. Ibid. 38-40, 429-38; Som. RO, Luttrell mss 59/1, 4.
- 3. Luttrell mss, A4, Lucy Luttrell to Sir Charles Pym, 4 Sept. 1666; SP29/169/58; Hancock, 287-9, 332; Adm. 2/1746, f. 131; BL Loan 29/86, Katherine Bromfield to Lady Harley, 23 Jan. 1673.
- 4. Som. RO, Sanford mss 3109, William to Edward Clarke, 26 Feb. 1679; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 207; London Gazette, 20 Sept. 1683, 30 Apr. 1685; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 18, 230, 243; H. C. Maxwell Lyte, Some Som. Manors (Som. Rec. Soc.), 9-10.