Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the ratepayers
Number of voters:
|30 Mar. 1660||CLEMENT THROCKMORTON|
|JOHN ROUS II|
|26 Mar. 1661||(SIR) CLEMENT THROCKMORTON|
|28 Mar. 1664||HON. FULKE GREVILLE vice Throckmorton, deceased|
|SIR FRANCIS COMPTON vice Puckering, deceased|
|30 May 1677||ROBERT DIGBY, Baron Digby, vice Greville, called to the Upper House|
|4 Feb. 1678||SIR JOHN BOWYER, Bt., vice Digby, deceased Richard Booth|
|6 Feb. 1679||SIR HENRY PUCKERING, Bt.|
|SIR JOHN CLOPTON|
|29 Aug. 1679||THOMAS LUCY|
|Sir Richard Newdigate, Bt.|
|11 Feb. 1681||THOMAS LUCY|
|HON. THOMAS COVENTRY|
|14 Mar. 1685||SIMON DIGBY, Baron Digby|
|HON. THOMAS COVENTRY|
|10 Jan. 1689||WILLIAM DIGBY, Baron Digby|
Warwick was dominated by the castle, since 1605 in the hands of the Greville family, who usually also served as recorders of the borough. As the head of the family sat in the House of Lords throughout this period as Lord Brooke, they seldom claimed a seat in the Commons, though it is unlikely that the electorate readily defied their wishes. Sir Henry Puckering, who lived at the Priory, was the most prominent resident in the town, but like the Grevilles he had few relatives to provide for. The borough was therefore open to the local gentry, of whom the most successful were the Digbys of Coleshill, the holders of an Irish peerage. An exception is provided by the candidature of Richard Booth, a London merchant of Warwick origin, but his interest was easily destroyed. The corporation, consisting under the 1554 charter of the bailiff, 12 ‘principal burgesses’ and an unspecified number of assistants, lost their exclusive right to the franchise by a decision of the Commons in 1628 which extended it to the ‘commonalty’, usually defined as those who paid to church and poor, without residential qualification.1
The two Members elected to the Convention had both avoided involvement in the Civil War, but in other respects their careers were very different. Clement Throckmorton had represented Warwick under the Protectorate, but held no local office until the Restoration, which he clearly welcomed. John Rous, the younger son of a Presbyterian family, had served on the commission of the peace throughout the Interregnum, and this was his only Parliament. He was replaced in 1661 by Puckering’s only son Henry. The corporation was purged by the commissioners in August 1662, when the bailiff, one of the principal burgesses, and one of the assistants were removed, and in the following year they petitioned for a new charter. Before it was issued, a double by-election was necessitated by the early deaths of both the sitting Members. Lord Brooke’s younger brother, Fulke Greville, only just of age, was returned for the senior seat on 28 Mar. 1664, accompanied by a Guards officer, Sir Francis Compton, whose eldest brother, the Earl of Northampton, was lord lieutenant of Warwickshire. Both were committed supporters of the Court. The new charter of 13 Oct. confirmed Brooke as recorder, but required crown approval of his successors. The ‘principal burgesses’ were restyled aldermen, the assistants were limited in number to 12, and the corporation was to be immune from quo warranto proceedings.2
When Greville succeeded to the peerage on 17 Feb. 1677, his six nephews having died in childhood, he nominated Robert, Lord Digby as his successor. In his first electoral intervention Booth proposed Sir John Knightley, a country gentleman, but withdrew on hearing of the Digby candidature, not before receiving a hint from the corporation that he would have been acceptable himself. It was not long before an opportunity came to test this, for Digby died on 29 Dec., leaving his brother under age. Brooke’s next nomination can only be explained by the recent heavy mortality among the local gentry families. Sir John Bowyer, a Staffordshire baronet, came of a family ill-affected towards the Stuarts; but he had married Lady Puckering’s niece in 1672 and had since ‘spent a considerable share of his time and his monies’ in Warwick. Although he was unanimously accepted by the corporation, Booth resolved to oppose him, writing to an anonymous correspondent:
I do stand for the place, and if I be elected to that place by the corporation of Warwick I will do them the best service I can, and I pray you, whoever you are, to declare it to the town, and though I do not make the commons my friends with strong beer, yet shall do that I hope that will be of great kindness to the town and be of more good use than all the hogsheads of beer in the town; for what my charity is to the town is when I please and what I please, which if it should cease [you] may thank the mayor and some aldermen.
Booth’s affairs prevented him from attending the election, and Bowyer was elected. At the first general election of 1679 he stood successfully for his own county. Puckering took his place as senior Member for Warwick, and Compton was replaced by Sir John Clopton. Booth sought to impress the electorate by driving round Warwick in a coach and four, but does not seem to have gone to the poll. Before the autumn election, however, he apparently prevailed on Sir Richard Newdigate, who was also a candidate for the county, to join with him in the borough in the country interest. It is not known whether either of the sitting Members, who had both voted against exclusion, offered themselves for re-election; but Thomas Lucy, also a court supporter, was returned with Booth. Though an army officer like Compton, Lucy was also squire of Charlecote, and his family had long been popular in the borough. Many years later evidence was given of an unofficial poll taken on behalf of the country candidates after all the ‘scot-and-lotters’ had voted. The Warwick Castle accounts record the moderate expenditure of £13 9s.10d. ‘for an entertainment’ at this election, perhaps for the corporation. On the directions of the Privy Council Puckering and Knightley conducted an inquiry into the municipality in September 1680. Four assistants were removed ‘not having duly taken the oath and subscribed the declaration’ against the Covenant, and two more were suspended until they did so. The result was gratifying; Booth was one of the few exclusionists to lose his seat in 1681, when he was replaced by Thomas Coventry, and a loyal address, after the dissolution of the Oxford Parliament, praised the King’s ‘good and gentle government’, while a second, authorized by the common seal, which was sent in 1682, abhorred the ‘Association’ and expressed detestation of slavery ‘under the arbitrary power of fellow subjects’. After the Rye House Plot the corporation denounced the ‘fanatics’ who were attempting to alter the legal succession to the throne, and Brooke persuaded them to surrender their charter. The new charter, dated 18 Dec. 1683, reduced the number of assistants from 12 to eight, with the usual proviso for the removal of officials by order-in-council.3
Before the general election of 1685 Brooke reported to Sunderland: ‘I doubt not but we shall choose ... [Simon] Lord Digby and Mr Coventry for Warwick’. Lucy had died in the previous year at the age of 29; but Sir Andrew Hacket, the sheriff of Warwickshire, feared that Thomas Archer, who had a house in the town, was likely to press the claims of his son Andrew Archer†. He was fobbed off with the offer of a seat at Tamworth that never materialized, and Digby and Coventry were returned to James II’s Parliament as Tories. Digby, like his two elder brothers, died young; but it was not until nearly two months after his death that Sunderland wrote to Brooke on 16 Mar. 1686 not to engage his interest for the by-election. The bearer of the letter, and by implication the court candidate, was the notorious gambler ‘Beau’ Feilding, ‘a very honest gentleman’, twice rejected at Coventry and a Roman Catholic convert. Brooke replied that, in consultation with Puckering and (Sir) Richard Verney he had resolved to nominate Sir John Mordaunt, ‘a near relation of my Lord Peterborough. ... Mr Feilding brought me your letter when it was too late to go back from our resolutions, but I do not doubt you will approve what has been done’. No new writ was authorized, however. In the following year the corporation came into sharp conflict with William Eedes, a native of the town who had been appointed to the crown living of St. Mary’s. Though he was an Oxford graduate, his Latin pronunciation was defective, they complained; moreover, he omitted to pray for them after they had refused to increase his stipend, and he helped the Roman Catholics to build a chapel in the town. Evidently he had friends at Court, for on 26 Aug. 1688 the corporation was dissolved. Another new charter was authorized in the following month, naming the Roman Catholic Lord Carrington as recorder, Feilding as alderman, and Eedes’s father, ‘who hath no more breeding than he has given his son’, as mayor. The assistants were abolished, but no alteration was made in the parliamentary franchise. It is probable that this charter never took effect; on 13 Dec. the former corporation resumed office, though with considerable misgivings over their legal status. Two Tories were returned at the general election of 1689. William, Lord Digby took over his brother’s seat; but Coventry had succeeded to the peerage, and the other Member in the Convention was a townsman, William Colmore.4
Authors: A. M. Mimardière / Virginia C.D. Moseley
- 1. Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lix. 13; CJ, xx. 114.
- 2. Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lix. 30-32.
- 3. Warwick Castle mss 2668-72, 2677; TD65/5; CJ, xx. 114; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lix. 33-36; London Gazette, 9 June 1681, 24 Apr. 1682, 30 July 1683.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 62, 72, 119; 1686-7, p. 88; 1687-9, pp. 271-2; DNB; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lix. 17-18, 37.