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 1,250 in 1710


29 Aug. 1660SIR FRANCIS ANDERSON vice Calverley, deceased
 Sir Robert Slingsby, Bt.
3 Dec. 1673WILLIAM BLACKETT vice Marlay, deceased
1 Dec. 1680NATHANIEL JOHNSON vice Blackett, deceased
18 Feb. 1681SIR RALPH CARR
 Sir Henry Brabant

Main Article

The corporation of Newcastle consisted of the mayor, the recorder and the sheriff, who acted as returning officer, with ten aldermen and a common council of 24. Both the corporation and the Members of Parliament were elected by the freemen, though the complicated indirect method in use in municipal elections favoured control by the merchant oligarchy. All the successful candidates in this period came from this class, and all except William Calverley were themselves in trade. Newcastle’s Members were active in defending the interests of the local merchant adventurers and the hostmen, or coal exporters, on whose trade the prosperity of the town chiefly depended. In consequence the payment of parliamentary wages continued till 1685. At the general election of 1660 Robert Ellison, a Presbyterian, was returned with Calverley, an obscure lawyer who took out his freedom on the occasion. The Restoration was greeted with a loyal address expressing the hope that Charles II might prove ‘the instrument to unite a divided church, compose a distracted kingdom, and ease an oppressed people’. A new writ was ordered on 23 July after Calverley’s death; but the by-election was not held until the franchise had been restored to Sir John Marlay, hero of the Scottish siege in 1644, and nine other Royalists. The new Member was a Cavalier officer, Sir Francis Anderson, whose election set the political tone for the rest of the period. A further royalist success followed at the municipal elections on 1 Oct., when they wrested control from the close-knit group that had governed Newcastle during the Interregnum. Anderson stood for reelection in 1661 with Marlay, though the latter had compromised himself under the Protectorate. The Duke of York recommended another Cavalier to the corporation, Sir Robert Slingsby, the comptroller of the navy, who was connected with the Northumberland gentry by marriage, and considered it both easy and proper for the principal officers ‘to labour to get into the Parliament’. The labour, however, had to be performed by deputy, since he was in London on the day of the election and never even took out his freedom. Anderson and Marlay were returned by ‘the greater part of the burgesses’, and when George Liddell, a royalist conspirator, petitioned on 15 May, he alleged no electoral irregularities but only Marlay’s betrayal in 1658. The Commons spent the whole morning on the affair, but eventually rejected the petition, and Liddell took no further action.1

On Marlay’s death in 1673 he was succeeded by William Blackett, a prominent coal-owner, who was re-elected with Anderson at the first election of 1679. Anderson died in July and was replaced in the autumn election by his son-in-law, Sir Ralph Carr. Blackett too died before the second Exclusion Parliament met, and at a by-election in 1680 Nathaniel Johnson was returned. The new Member, as head of a syndicate engaged in farming the unpopular hearth-tax, was more closely connected with the crown than his predecessors; yet national politics had so little impact on this constituency that the corporation asked the sitting Members to stand again in 1681, and they were returned in their absence with no visible opposition from the exclusionists. In October Johnson presented an address with 883 signatures approving the dissolution, and further loyal addresses abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot were procured in 1682-3. Nevertheless Johnson was soon conspiring with Henry Brabant, one of the local customs officials who claimed great influence with the common council, to obtain the surrender of the charter. No doubt it was Brabant who produced the report of ‘disorders’ in Newcastle ‘caused by the differences of opinion of the factious among the magistrates’. The crown already enjoyed the right of veto on the election of the recorder and the town clerk, which the corporation was willing to extend to the sheriff; but Brabant insisted that the choice of aldermen must also be controlled. ‘Lately, I am sure, some persons have been elected of republican principles, others downright trimmers.’ Despite an initial misunderstanding, his views prevailed, and the new charter, which passed the seals a few days before Charles II’s death, contained the usual provision for the removal of all members of the corporation by order-in-council.2

On 19 Feb. 1685 the Duke of Newcastle (Henry Cavendish), who had been nominated recorder, wrote to Sunderland that he had told the corporation to elect Brabant, ‘and I am confident Sir Nathaniel Johnson will be chosen at Newcastle’. His confidence in Johnson was well justified, but the second Member in James II’s Parliament was not Brabant, but Blackett’s son, recently created a baronet. Brabant apparently believed that a vacancy would be created by the appointment of Johnson as governor of the Leeward Islands, and when he became mayor in October he proceeded to purge the common council in order to facilitate his own return at a by-election. Blackett, however, carried too many guns for him, and together with Johnson procured an order for fresh elections ‘according to the custom and charter of the town’. Brabant was so humiliated that he accepted the royal mandate to admit to the freedom Sir William Creagh, a zealous Roman Catholic merchant residing in the town; but when two scions of the local Roman Catholic gentry presented their mandates a fortnight later he did venture to report ‘general dissatisfaction’. On 24 Dec. 1687 the mayor, the sheriff, six aldermen, the deputy recorder, and 15 of the common council were removed. Creagh, the newly nominated mayor, and his backwoodsmen set up a statue of James II in the market place with an inscription to ‘the first Catholic king, erected by the first Catholic mayor’; but the court interest was now effectively in the hands of the dissenters, led by Ambrose Barnes, a Presbyterian, who described himself as ‘the first mover in the alterations made in those parts’. After a fulsome address proposed by Creagh had been defeated in the council chamber, quo warranto proceedings were commenced, and the charter was surrendered on 8 Mar. 1688 after just over three years in force. When Newcastle proposed Serjeant Jefferson, a loyal Anglican, as deputy recorder, he was told that the King had fixed on Barnes’s son. A warrant for a new charter was issued on 20 July, reducing the electorate to the corporation and 39 electors to be chosen by the ‘mysteries and by-trades’, though in fact Barnes ‘drew up a list with his own hand ... to make sure that the elections went right’. This select body dutifully elected Barnes’s brother-in-law Hutchinson as mayor. A preliminary sounding of candidates for Parliament had revealed that ‘in all probability Sir William Blackett stands the fairest and can make the greatest interest in the corporation if he pleases to appear’. Sunderland however nominated Nicholas Cole, son of Sir Ralph Cole and the only Anglican alderman left on the corporation, and ‘William Barnes, senior’, an unfortunate lapse, which necessitated, as the candidate proudly related,

the King writing down to Newcastle with his own hand to get him chosen into the next Parliament he was presently intending to call. Some thought the King had found Mr Barnes’s weak side, Mr Barnes was sure he had found King James’s blind side.

On the Dutch invasion the court interest collapsed. Barnes would not lift a finger to assist in the defence of Tynemouth Castle, Hutchinson resigned the mayoralty in favour of an Anglican, and on Newcastle’s recommendation Blackett was restored to the bench. The town refused to admit either the Roman Catholic Lord Widdrington or Lord Lumley, who had raised the county of Durham for William of Orange; nor would they act on William’s mandate for the general election of 1689. But Blackett and Carr offered themselves for election, and, ‘there being no competitors, these worthy gentlemen were returned’ to the Convention, their indenture being attested by the sheriff alone.3

Author: Gillian Hampson


  • 1. Barnes Mems. (Surtees Soc. 1), 173, 177, 218; CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 4; J. Brand, Hist. Newcastle, ii. 490; Cal. Cl. SP, v. 56; Adm. 2/1745, f. 29; Pepys Diary, 23 Feb., 15 Apr. 1661; CJ, viii. 250; Thurloe, vii. 346; HMC 5th Rep. 160, 203.
  • 2. Smith’s Prot. Intell. 4 Feb. 1681; London Gazette, 31 Oct. 1681, 24 Apr. 1682, 30 July 1683; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 30; 1683-4, pp. 187, 314-15, 327, 333; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 422; SP44/335/401; Brand, ii. 194.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 25, 342, 374, 414-15, 422; 1686-7, pp. 3, 139, 155, 322; 1687-9, pp. 167, 175, 238, 273; Brand, ii. 194-5; HMC Cowper, ii. 356; Barnes Mems. 177-9; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 139; Arch. Ael. (ser. 4, xviii), 79; HMC Le Fleming, 228, 233-4.