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 burgage-holders

Number of voters:

about 180


  Double return. ARTHINGTON and JENNINGS seated, 3 May 1660 
c. Apr. 1661JOHN NICHOLAS 
27 Mar. 1673(SIR) EDMUND JENNINGS vice Burwell, deceased 
 (Sir) Edmund Jennings 
11 Jan. 1689SIR EDWARD BLACKETT, Bt.188
 (Sir) Edmund Jennings571

Main Article

The archbishop of York’s liberty of Ripon, which in normal times commanded one seat, was purchased at the sale of church lands by the Fairfax family. The other principal interest in this period was held by Edmund Jennings, who lived in the town. Though a staunch Anglican, he led the resistance to the archbishop’s efforts to reassert his authority after the Restoration and could usually rely on the corporation interest. Under the Jacobean charter the corporation consisted of the mayor, who acted as returning officer, 12 aldermen, 24 assistants, the recorder and the town clerk. At the general election of 1660 Jennings, who had represented the borough with his brother Jonathan in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, was returned with Henry Arthington, standing on the Fairfax interest. But the mayor sent up another indenture, presumably unsealed, to ‘satisfy’ the republican general John Lambert. Arthington and Jennings were seated on the merits of the return, and the decision was confirmed on 4 June when Edward Turnor reported from the elections committee that by the mayor’s own confession they had ‘the greater number of voices’.2

Neither Jennings nor the Presbyterian Arthington was acceptable to Archbishop Frewen in 1661. He nominated his chancellor, Thomas Burwell, for one seat, while Secretary Nicholas explained that the other was occupied by his son John ‘that he might keep an ill man out’. Eight aldermen were displaced by the commissioners in 1662, and both Jennings and his brother were nominated to the corporation. He regained his seat without a contest after Burwell’s death in 1673, and led the opposition to Archbishop Sterne’s attempt to revive the borough court. The dispute, a long and acrimonious one, during which the archbishop claimed as of right the power to nominate candidates by letter, was settled inconclusively. The corporation’s quo warranto against the archbishop failed, but no further proceedings were taken on his bill in Chancery against several persons who had resisted the borough court. Relations between the archbishop and the corporation were probably further soured by the duel in 1675 in which Jonathan Jennings killed the archbishop’s registrar George Aislabie.3

Nevertheless the archbishop was able to secure the return of his son, Richard Sterne, at all the exclusion elections. Both Jennings and Sterne opposed the bill in 1679, and in the August election Jennings was defeated by Christopher Wandesford of the country party. On the indenture 1681 ‘burgesses’ are named, besides seven aldermen, and ‘many others, being the greater part of the burgesses’, are said to have voted. Wandesford was far from confident of retaining his seat in 1681, and made inquiries about Appleby; but the sitting Members were re-elected to the Oxford Parliament. The corporation nevertheless produced loyal addresses approving the dissolution, and abhorring the ‘Association’ and the Kye House Plot.4

Quo warranto proceedings against the corporation began in 1684, and on 5 Sept. the recorder, Sir William Dawson, reported to Sidney Godolphin I (presumably in ignorance that he had moved to the Treasury a few days before):

We had a long debate on the surrender of the charter; many difficulties were urged to have delayed it; but I thought that his Majesty’s great favour to us was to be received with a ready compliance, and therefore pressed it to an issue. The result was, a surrender was agreed upon nemine contradicente to be into the hands of his grace of York, to the use of his Majesty. For he being lord of that town, and there having been formerly some misunderstanding betwixt his predecessor and them, to have the concurrence of the archbishop with them in this act was thought a good means, not only to allay all jealousies, but to procure some advantages to the town about their fairs and such things.

The charter was surrendered, but no replacement had been issued before the 1685 election, probably because of the opposition of the new archbishop, John Dolben. Nevertheless 84 signatures, including those of the mayor, the Jennings brothers, and 11 women, were attached to a letter accepting the archbishop’s recommendation of his son Gilbert, and promising to choose for his partner ‘one who may justify our prudence and good affections to the crown’. Dolben and Jennings were returned as Tories to James II’s Parliament; but both probably went into opposition in the second session, and, when a new charter was authorized during the prolonged vacancy that followed Archbishop Dolben’s death in 1686, Jennings was omitted from the corporation, though his brother was retained. Officials were to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and to be removable by order-in-council, as usual. In September 1688 the royal electoral agents reported: ‘They will choose Sir Jonathan Jennings, and who else your Majesty shall name, in the right of the archbishop of York. They propose Sir William Dawson to be the other.’ Dawson’s replies on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws were evasive, but better than the attitude of the Jennings brothers, who ‘absolutely disallowed our commission’, and of the mayor and three of his brethren. It was recommended that all the aldermen should be removed, and replaced by Roman Catholic gentry. But in fact only the mayor and two others were displaced, and in the following month the old charter was restored. Thomas Lamplugh was appointed to the vacant archbishopric during the Revolution, but he was in no position to exercise his usual patronage at the general election of 1689. The Jennings family attempted to take both seats, as they had done 30 years before; but a new Tory interest had appeared in the neighbourhood with the purchase of Newby by Sir Edward Blackett, who defeated the elder brother by over three to one.5

Authors: Paula Watson / Virginia C.D. Moseley


  • 1. Ripon Millenary Rec. ii. app. p. xvi.
  • 2. Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxxii. 52; Northern Hist. iii. 73-74; Ripon Millenary Rec. ii. 43; CJ, viii. 9, 55.
  • 3. Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 10, f. 112, Nicholas to Thynne, 18 June 1661. Ripon Millenary Rec. ii. 66-68, 72, 75.
  • 4. Westmld. RO, D/Ry 2372, Fletcher to Fleming, 27 Jan. 1681; London Gazette, 30 May 1681, 20 Apr. 1682, 13 Aug. 1683; Ripon Millenary Rec. ii. 76.
  • 5. Add. 41803, f. 94; Northants. RO, DF127, inhabitants of Ripon to Archbishop Dolben, 6 Mar. 1685; CSP Dom. 1686-7, p. 300; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 82-84, 103; PC2/72/735.