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 inhabitant householders not receiving alms

Number of voters:



10 Apr. 1660JOHN LANGHAM  
 John Langham  
 George Thompson  
13 Mar. 1666(SIR) THOMAS CLARGES vice Moore, deceased  
4 Mar. 1679SIR RICHARD HOW  
 Sir John Shorter  
 Thomas Smith  
10 Oct. 1679SIR RICHARD HOW 1876
 Sir John Shorter 1613
 Thomas Smith 15391
16 Feb. 1681SIR RICHARD HOW5861622
 PETER RICH5831616
 Edward Smyth7161347
 Slingsby Bethel70313342
18 Jan. 1689JOHN ARNOLD6262130
 (SIR) PETER RICH4641677
 Edward Smyth6641526
 Anthony Bowyer5381360

Main Article

Under a charter of 1551 the borough of Southwark was a mere dependency of London, although the Surrey justices exercised a concurrent jurisdiction. The corporation appointed the aldermen of Bridge Without, the steward, who kept the court of record, and the bailiff, who acted as returning officer. But public order was always at risk in so densely populated an area, and the militia was entrusted to the lord lieutenant of Middlesex. The parish of St. Olave’s, downstream from London Bridge, would appear from its registers as virtually a one-class society, with its population working the breweries and tanyards unacceptable in select residential quarters. Little open space remained, except on Horsleydown on the confines of Camber-well. St. George’s to the south contained no less than four prisons, the Surrey gaol and those of the King’s Bench, the Marshalsea, and the Counter, and confinement was by no means rigorous. The wealthiest parish was St. Saviour’s, with its ex-monastic church of St. Mary Overy near the bridge-foot. Here lay the famous coaching inns, and here much of the agricultural produce of the southeastern counties was marketed. The theatres and bear-gardens of Bankside had vanished under puritan rule, and even the brothels, if we may take Samuel Pepys as an expert witness on this point, had migrated to such areas as Long Lane and Whetstone Park which were of easier access from the fashionable quarters. Upstream, the population of Paris Garden was stated in 1671 to have ‘multiplied considerably’ by the settlement of ‘such whose livings depended on the river’, watermen, shipwrights, and workers in the timber-yards, who formed an indispensable element in election mobs. Only St. George’s Fields, in the south-west, appear to have escaped development in this period. Since the recruiter election of 1645 it had been impossible to confine the franchise to the ratepayers, and few electorates can have been more overwhelmingly proletarian in their composition. It is instructive to note that few can have been steadier in their loyalty; only in the last two elections of the period did one seat fall to an opponent of the Stuarts. Of the nine Members who sat for Southwark, three were London aldermen, though Thomas Bludworth had strong Surrey connexions and Sir Peter Daniel had almost literally a foot in both camps with premises on London Bridge. George Moore, whose family presents an interesting example of social mobility, Sir Richard How and Peter Rich were all prominent Southwark residents, while two others came from the immediate neighbourhood, Sir Thomas Clarges from Westminster and Anthony Bowyer from Camberwell. John Arnold, a country gentleman from Monmouthshire, might seem comparatively exotic; but he had his birth and education in the borough, where his father was imprisoned for debt, and where he himself later became an involuntary resident.3

The general election of 1660 returned two London aldermen who were strong supporters of the Restoration, the Anglican Bludworth and the Presbyterian John Langham. On 22 Mar. 1661

between three and four score persons of schismatical opinions met at the King’s Head (a place once used for fanatic meetings) ... to consider of their burgesses for the next Parliament, and had pitched upon Col. George Thompson, one of the late Rump Parliament, and Jeremy Baines, brewer, that now stands bound for good behaviour for seditious words

when they were dispersed by the militia under the command of Lt.-Col. George Moore. Bludworth and Moore, ‘both right honest men’, stood as court candidates at the general election. Baines was not nominated, but ‘the Presbyters, Independents, Anabaptists, and Quakers joined together in abundance’ in support of Langham and Thompson, who had represented Southwark as a recruiter and again in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. ‘Upon the view’ the bailiff declared Bludworth and Moore elected, but some of the inhabitants petitioned on the ground that a poll had been denied. From the elections committee, however, Job Charlton reported that no poll had been demanded until an hour and a half after the result had been declared, and the House resolved in favour of the sitting Members. On Moore’s death in 1665 the seat was contested by Clarges and the steward of the borough, Edward Smyth. As the brother-in-law of the lord general (George Monck), Clarges enjoyed the support of Bludworth, who was serving as lord mayor. Smyth evidently thought St. George’s Fields too accessible for his opponent’s supporters from Westminster, and persuaded the bailiff to hold the election on the artillery ground, ‘a place where many people have been lately buried that have died of the plague’. He evidently inherited some literary talent from his grandfather, the author of the Lives of the Berkeleys, and for the benefit of his father, a Gloucestershire j.p., compiled a vivid election narrative:

The bailiff at £10 charge divided the artillery ground in Horsleydown, intending to make the election there the day following, which the same night, so soon as the pale was well up, was countermanded by a letter from my lord general. The next morning two companies of foot were sent over. One possessed the hall where the writ was to be read, the other the artillery ground on Horsleydown. About eight in the morning Sir Thomas Clarges had gotten a party about him by riding from Horsleydown all up the streets to St. Margaret’s Hill, which being added to that vast multitude which he had amassed together from Newington, Lambeth, Westminster, etc. were guessed at about 2,000; of which about 500 were allowed by the spectators to be inhabitants and able to pass the poll. With these he possessed St. Margaret’s Hill so full that no room could be left for my friends. About 9 of the clock I got on horseback at the further end of the liberty below the Tower, and rode up the street all the way to St. Margaret’s Hill when the writ was read. At the meat market I placed two sober men to tell what number I had, the place being strait, and my company marching orderly four in a rank; who agreed 1,530 and some odd, and that when the other party were garbled of all their unpollable men, I must necessarily carry it by great odds. When I came to the hill, I made a shift to get up to the scaffold where the writ was read, which was filled by my Lord Craven, (Sir) Philip Howard, and many others of the Court, so that my lord mayor, who came down to countenance the selection against me, was forced to stand in the street in the crowd. The writ being read, and the cry loud on both sides, I demanded the poll, and an adjournment to a convenient place to take it, which my lord mayor required should be St. George’s Fields; but I insisted that Horsleydown was the fittest place, to which the bailiff presently adjourned till two of the clock. My lord mayor, offended hereat, went straight to the Council and complained of the disobedience of his officer, and prayed an order of the Council requiring the bailiff to adjourn to St. George’s Fields, which he obtained, and sent it over to us in the evening.

The poll had not yet begun, as Smyth had yielded to Clarges’s request for a discussion on procedure. On the next day Smyth found his numbers grew thinner, and desisted, though confident that he could well have maintained the poll till Saturday night. Each party raised about 20 signatories for the indenture. Smyth concluded:

I shall now make what haste I can out of town when I have seen all my scores paid, which have run higher than ever I would imagine, though in no proportion to the other side, Sir Thomas Clarges his bills amounting to above £700 as I am informed.

In 1671 the inhabitants of Paris Garden manor, who had built themselves a church from the charitable bequest of John Marshal, petitioned for a separate parish. A bill was ordered and successfully steered through committee by Sir Adam Browne, one of the knights of the shire. But after the disastrous fire of 26 May 1676 which destroyed the Town Hall and much adjoining property, it was Clarges who took the chair for the bill to erect a fire court on the model of that which had so successfully determined differences between landlords and tenants in London.4

Nevertheless on the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament Clarges transferred himself to a cheaper and quieter constituency. Bludworth retired and the court candidates for the exclusion elections were two ‘active and honest’ residents, Sir Richard How and Peter Rich. Smyth, still steward, was described to the Government as ‘an ill man, [who] by reason of his place encourages the factious and discountenances the loyal’. In both elections of 1679 his interest was given to Thomas Smith, who does not seem to have been a relative, though they were both of the Middle Temple, and Sir John Shorter, who owned the great dock in Southwark, and was variously described as an Anabaptist, a great Presbyterian, and a member of an Independent conventicle. On 21 Feb. it was reported:

In Southwark several have been long canvassing for it, but within this four or five days Mr Oates appeared for Mr Smith, a lawyer who hath been very useful to him since his discovery of the Plot, and it’s thought will carry it.

But Oates was unsuccessful and the court candidates carried it. Their opponents petitioned, but their case never reached the floor of the House, and they were again defeated in October after seven days’ polling in the comparative comfort of the parish churches. In 1681 the exclusionists changed their candidates; Smyth stood himself with the penurious republican sheriff, Slingsby Bethel, whose expenses were paid by John Cholmley, the King’s brewer, described as ‘the great encourager of the dissenters’. The Dukes of Monmouth and Buckingham personally appeared for the country candidates in St. George’s Fields, and claimed 8,000 votes for them on the view. The bailiff rejected Bethel’s proposal to expedite the poll by using the methods adopted for London municipal elections. It was conducted in the Old Artillery House, with the parish officials present to exclude those in receipt of alms. The exclusionists were decisively defeated, though Bethel claimed that he and Smyth would have had a majority on the scot and lot vote. A petition from the ‘burgesses and inhabitants’ was introduced into the Oxford Parliament, but no report could be made. In May Bludworth to the delight of the Court presented a loyal address from Southwark, approving the dissolution and pledging lives and fortunes to the defence of the monarchy, and in October Bethel was fined £2 13s.4d. for assaulting the King’s waterman during the election. At Rich’s suggestion Southwark was rewarded for its loyalty with the transfer of the winter assizes from Croydon. The grand jury expressed their abhorrence of the ‘Association’, with which they coupled the ‘extraordinary applications’ made at the last election for the borough, and the Rye House Plot, when they took the opportunity to condemn ‘a violent and presumptuous faction’ in Southwark and to uphold the legal succession and the established Church. Shortly afterwards Smyth was removed from the stewardship.5

How died in 1683, and at the general election of 1685 Rich was returned for London, of which he had been nominated chamberlain. Southwark elected Sir Peter Daniel, a Tory alderman, and Bowyer, a discreet Whig whose family had been associated with the borough since Elizabethan times. It is not known who was appointed to manage the court interest in 1688. Shorter, who had been nominated lord mayor, would have been a likely choice, but he fell off his horse and sustained fatal injuries while opening Bartholomew Fair. In a more than usually cryptic passage the nonconformist minister Roger Morrice records a message from ‘Arnold the prisoner’ in December to desire the interest of Archbishop Sancroft at Southwark in the next election, or at least not to oppose him. ‘Bowyer will certainly carry it in Southwark, and if Arnold stand there must be a great competition between him and Mr Smyth, of whom I gave a due character, as he well deserved it; or Smyth must be out of the Parliament (which was a great loss), for he could be chosen nowhere else.’ Although out of office, Smyth still possessed a personal interest in Southwark, since his mother had been of the family of Robert Bromfield, who had sat for the borough under James I. Arnold, a somewhat reckless Whig, had been sentenced in 1683 to pay an impossibly heavy fine for scandalum magnatum, and may have been living within the rules of the King’s Bench prison. At the general election, as his approach to the archbishop suggests, he appears to have joined forces with the Tory Rich to defeat Bowyer and Smyth, and he retained his seat in the Convention, even though he had also been successful in his old constituency of Monmouth Boroughs. Smyth was consoled with a Welsh judgeship; but the ‘inhabitants’ again sought to establish the narrow franchise and produced an unofficial poll of the ratepayers in his favour. Daniel and other respectable witnesses testified regretfully to the elections committee that for the last 40 years any occupant of a two-room hovel had been allowed to vote in Southwark, provided that he had his own front door and did not receive alms. John Birch reported accordingly, and the House declared the sitting Members duly elected.6

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Dom. Intell. 10 Oct. 1679.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 170.
  • 3. Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 54 5, 552-3; Stow, Survey of London (1720), ii. pt. 4, p. 7; W. Rendle, Old Southwark, 9-11; Jones, First Whigs, 164.
  • 4. Eg. 2543, ff. 35-36; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 45; HMC 5th Rep. 182; CJ, viii. 281; ix. 205, 410; N. and Q. (ser. 12), x. 27-28; PC2/58/381-2; Stow, ii. pt. 4, p. 6; Manning and Bray, iii. 549.
  • 5. SP29/307/3; Luttrell, i. 87, 411; Evelyn Diary, iv. 562; D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 391; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 149; Bodl. Carte 50, f. 284; 222, ff. 248-9; 228, f. 134; CJ, ix. 569, 706; HMC Lindsey, 32; Dom. Intell. 10 Oct. 1679; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 170, 179, 496; 1682, p. 582; July-Sept. 1683, p. 235; 1683-4, p. 62; True Prot. Mercury, 16 Feb. 1681; Trial of Slingsby Bethel (1681); EHR, xlv. 566-8; London Gazette, 19 May 1681, 4 May 1682, 9 July 1683.
  • 6. Ellis Corresp. ii. 150, 161; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 344; CJ, x. 118-19; W. R. Williams, Gt. Sessions in Wales, 143.