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 inhabitants

Number of voters:

about 150 in 1673


29 Jan. 1673EDWARD BACKWELL vice Croke, deceased 
  Election declared void, 6 Feb. 1673 
 Hon. Thomas Wharton631
 WHARTON vice Backwell, on petition, 19 Mar. 1673 
5 Feb. 1681JOHN HAMPDEN 
c.21 Mar. 16852RICHARD HAMPDEN 

Main Article

Wendover was a borough by prescription dominated by the Hampden interest. This family, more perhaps than any other, was identified with the country party, and they were always able to command one seat, but not until 1689 did they attempt to claim both. In 1660 Richard Hampden, a Presbyterian, was accompanied by John Baldwin, gentleman porter of the Tower since 1645, who as lord of the manors of Wendover Borough and Wendover Forrens appointed the returning officer. He sold his property to Hampden in September, and preparations for the next election began even before the dissolution of the Convention. Sir John Hobart, 3rd Bt., 3rd Bt. was reported as a possible candidate, but unlikely to succeed. It was suggested that Richard Ingoldsby should be invited to stand, but this apparently did not happen, and Hampden was joined by Robert Croke, son of a local Cavalier lawyer who had represented Wendover in the Long Parliament. The vacancy occasioned by Croke’s death in July 1671 lasted 18 months. This gave time for Edward Backwell, the eminent banker who had acquired property in the neighbourhood, to build up a formidable interest, with the aid of the high church vicar of Wendover. Some of the charges of bribery seem fantastic; two witnesses alleged that the vicar had promised on Backwell’s behalf a gift to the town of £100 p.a., but only one could be found to depose to the offer of £1,000 for a single vote. Backwell admitted that for Christmas both in 1671 and 1672 he had sent two sheep, an ox and £20 in cash to the overseers of the poor, but he had done the same in four other parishes. The overseers agreed that they had omitted from the distribution ‘three or four who had spoke scandalous words’ about Backwell, ‘but not upon any account of their votes, nor was there any discourse or mention of votes in the case’. Backwell was returned by ‘the major part of the inhabitants’, but when Parliament met all the elections held during the recess were declared void. On 8 Feb. 1673 Sir Ralph Verney wrote to his son: ‘Alderman Backwell will now be opposed at Wendover by my Lord Wharton’s eldest son, but you need not say that I told you so’. Fortified by the Hampden interest, Wharton ran Backwell to within a dozen votes on the second election, and petitioned. Presumably the majority of the House considered the charges of bribery proved, for the motion to unseat Backwell passed by 181 votes to 101.3

Wharton moved up to the county seat for the Exclusion Parliaments, and Backwell, an opponent of exclusion, divided the borough with the Hampden interest. They were returned in February 1679 ‘with the full assent and consent’ of the electors, but in August John Machell, one of Backwell’s supporters and a cousin of the Horsham MP, also stood. The return of Hampden and Backwell claimed the support only ‘of the greater number of the inhabitants’, but it was witnessed by Machell, who may have declined the poll, since an opposition newspaper stated that there had been no contest. When Richard Hampden joined Wharton as knight of the shire in 1681, his son John, an even more violent opponent of the Court, replaced him in the borough seat, though he was abroad at the time. There is no evidence of a contest in this election or that of 1685, when Richard Hampden was joined by Backwell’s son. James II’s electoral agents reported in 1688 that Wendover would certainly choose Richard Hampden, who ‘hath declared himself willing to part with the Penal Laws and Tests upon a settlement of liberty of conscience’, but would decline his son. John Backwell, they considered had lost his interest, perhaps because his follower, the vicar, had declared himself a Roman Catholic, ‘but the town intends to choose some other fit person who is not averse to your Majesty’s interest’. Backwell is not known to have stood in 1689 when both seats were won by the Hampdens.4

Authors: Leonard Naylor / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Bodl. Carte 79, f. 170.
  • 2. London Gazette, 23 Mar. 1685.
  • 3. VCH Bucks. iii. 25; BL, M636/17, William Smith to Sir Ralph Verney, 27 Dec. 1660, M636/25, Sir Ralph to Edmund Verney, 8 Feb. 1673, Edmund to Sir Ralph Verney, 10 Feb. 1673; Carte 79, f. 170; 109, ff. 405, 421, 422; Stowe 304, ff. 132-3; CJ, ix. 255.
  • 4. BL, M636/33, Edmund to John Verney, 23 July 1679; Dom. Intell. 8 Aug. 1679; Duckett, Penal Laws (1883), 240; HMC Downshire, i. 286.