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:

45 in 1673


  Double return of Stanley and Harrison. STANLEY seated, 3 May 1660  
13 July 1660CHARLES KERR, Earl of Ancram, vice Stanley, chose to sit for Liverpool  
8 Feb. 1671SIR WILLIAM FRANKLAND, Bt., vice Strickland, deceased  
c. Jan. 1673?SIR WILLIAM WENTWORTH vice Ingram, deceased Robert Wharton  
  Election declared void, 6 Feb. 1673  
  Double return. WENTWORTH seated, 30 Oct. 1673  
26 Mar. 1685SIR HUGH CHOLMLEY, Bt.  

Main Article

The bailiff, who acted as returning officer at Thirsk, was chosen in the manorial court of the earls of Derby. But during this period control passed to the principal local landowner, Sir William Frankland of Thirkleby. The other major interest was held by his brother-in-law Viscount Fauconberg. As he was childless, and the other male members of the Belasyse family were mostly recusants, his interest went to an uncle by marriage (Sir Thomas Ingram), two nephews (Nicholas Saunderson and Thomas Frankland), and two second cousins (Barrington Bourchier and Sir Hugh Cholmley).1

All the candidates at the general election of favoured the Restoration. William Stanley was ineligible under the Long Parliament Ordinance as a son of the 6th Earl of Derby, executed as a Royalist in the second Civil War. Bourchier’s father was an impenitent regicide, but he had himself been brought over to the Stuart cause by his uncle Sir Henry Cholmley, and imprisoned by the Rump for advocating a free Parliament. Thomas Harrison of Allerthorpe, who had represented the North Riding in 1654, and the county in 1659, had also supported the demand for free elections, and with Sir Thomas Wharton and John Dawnay presented the Yorkshire declaration to General George Monck. There was no opposition to ‘the martyr’ Bourchier, but Stanley and Harrison were involved in a double return. On 3 May Stanley was seated on the merits of the return, but chose to sit for Liverpool. A new writ was ordered on 15 May, but the by-election was not held until after the Restoration. Stanley’s cousin, Lord Ancram, was successful. Bourchier, having saved his estate, took no further part in politics, and Ancram moved on to Wigan, a safer Stanley borough, in 1661. In their place Thirsk elected two officials, both younger sons of Yorkshire families, Ingram and the royalist conspirator Walter Strickland.2

At the by-election caused by Strickland’s death in 1670 Sir William Wentworth stood as the Stanley candidate against Sir Thomas Frankland, but desisted on the promise, confirmed by the burgage-holders, of the Thirkleby interest at the next election. Even before Ingram’s death in 1672 Wentworth and Humphrey Wharton, on behalf of his son Robert ‘began to solicit’, an ungrateful task, for ‘the borough-holders take any man’s treat, and while they are treated with cups will say much and perform little. ... Sir John Kaye and Sir Jeremy Smithson are pretenders, but to little purpose, though the latter says he will spend £ 1,000 and hath promised bribes to particulars.’ Wharton was akin to the bailiff, Roger Meynell, and was ‘backed by the endeavours of most of the neighbouring gentlemen’, though Frankland remained as good as his word to Wentworth. The election was first held on one of the writs issued by Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury during the recess, and no return survives. At the second election Meynell, ‘being a popish recusant, and very partial’, according to his frustrated kinsman, allowed Wentworth 12 unqualified votes, and returned him. ‘Mr Wharton’s 15 electors then went to an alehouse and signed an indenture with five others incapable of voting.’ Wentworth was allowed to sit on the merits of the return in the next session; but the merits of the election were warmly disputed, turning chiefly on the question of corruption. Bribery was proved against Wharton, but Wentworth had paid or promised nothing before the election, and his payments totalled a mere £40 to four alehouses ‘for meat and drink there spent ... at the two elections, viz. that of my Lord Shaftesbury’swrits and the next’. Nevertheless the elections committee voted it a void return, but their recommendation was reversed in the House by a majority of 146 votes to rag, and the court supporter Wentworth was declared duly elected.3

Lord Derby refused his support to Wentworth for the exclusion elections, and endeavoured to reach an understanding with Fauconberg:

I desire to know what your resolution is concerning the burgess-ship of Thirsk, and whether you are still of the mind for us to elect in turns. I am content to be for that gentleman your lordship names, if you be pleased to honour me so far as to give me your lordship’s interest for the person I shall propose.

Fauconberg replied that Frankland had

so great an interest there as would prevail though your lordship and myself should both oppose him. ... It remains only who shall be his partner, and to this I do assure your lordship ... I have not yet made application to the town ... not for him, because he has no need of my assistance, nor for any other out of respect to your lordship, though I should be very glad ... to recommend my nephew, [Nicholas] Saunderson, son to Lord Castleton, who, living with Sir William Frank-land near the place, is very well known and esteemed there, and I am confident would carry himself very honestly.

Frankland and Saunderson were returned in February 1679 ‘with an universal consent, no antagonist appearing to dispute it with them’. Frankland voted for exclusion, but Saunderson abstained. They retained their seats in the autumn; but on the dissolution of the second Exclusion Parliament Frank-land alone was promised re-election, and for the Oxford Parliament he chose as his colleague his neighbour Sir William Ayscough, who had sat for Thirsk as a recruiter in the Long Parliament.4

Thirsk produced no loyal addresses until the accession of James II, when the ‘burghers and inhabitants’ congratulated him, though without excessive enthusiasm. Fauconberg was able to reassert his influence at the general election of 1685. He was able to return the Tory Cholmley for one seat, and to persuade Frankland, for fear of the King’s displeasure, to stand down in favour of his son Thomas in the other. In September 1688 the royal electoral agents expected the borough to choose Sir Richard Graham of Norton Conyers, the uncle of Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme), and Thomas Frankland, ‘the last of which is doubtful’. Grahme is unlikely to have stood after the Revolution, and Cholmley died about this time. The Franklands could presumably have taken both seats at the general election of 1689; but Sir William never stood again, and Thomas Frankland was ‘unanimously nominated, elected and chosen’ with another moderate Whig. Richard Staines, an obscure local lawyer.5

Authors: P. A. Bolton / Paula Watson


  • 1. Northern Hist. iii. 73; VCH N. Riding, ii. 61, 63.
  • 2. Gooder, Parl. Rep. Yorks. ii. 67-68; CSP Dom. 1659-60, p. 356; CJ, viii. 10.
  • 3. HMC 5th Rep. 197; CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 95, 98-99; Dering Pprs. 79, 88; CJ, ix. 262, 283, 342.
  • 4. HMC Astley, 39, 41; HMC Var. ii. 164-6; Prot. Dom. Intell. 8 Feb. 1681.
  • 5. London Gazette, 12 Mar. 1685; HMC Astley, 59-62; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 103.