Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
|10 Apr. 1660||THOMAS STREET|
|9 Apr. 1661||SIR ROWLAND BERKELEY||615|
|18 Feb. 1679||THOMAS STREET|
|SIR FRANCIS WINNINGTON|
|2 Sept. 1679||SIR FRANCIS WINNINGTON|
|15 Feb. 1681||SIR FRANCIS WINNINGTON||901|
|7 Apr. 1685||WILLIAM BROMLEY|
|11 Jan. 1689||WILLIAM BROMLEY|
Under its charter of 1621 the corporation of Worcester, which controlled the roll of freemen, consisted of the mayor and sheriff, six aldermen, 18 common councilmen, and 48 assistants. There was no territorial interest, but the corporation showed a strong preference for local lawyers. The city was famous for its loyalty in the Civil War, and even in 1660 chose two Royalists whose eligibility under the Long Parliament ordinance was doubtful. Thomas Street came from a family long prominent in municipal affairs, and was accompanied by the town clerk, Thomas Hall. The corporation purged itself in September when 13 of its members were ‘excepted against’ by Lord Windsor on the King’s instructions, and the Cavalier Sir William Morton replaced the Commonwealth judge John Wilde as recorder. Hall did not stand again, and in 1661 Sir Rowland Berkeley, a local squire of a strongly royalist family, was returned at the top of the poll. For the junior seat Street narrowly defeated John Nanfan, who had represented the county under the Protectorate.3
At both elections of 1679 Street was returned unopposed with Sir Francis Winnington, who had recently been dismissed as solicitor-general for defecting to the Opposition. It is probably significant of a shift in opinion even in ‘the faithful city’ that the reliable Street, a first-rate constituency Member, was obliged to move down to the junior seat in September, and in 1680 quo warranto proceedings were launched. Street became a high court judge in 1681, and was replaced as court candidate by Thomas Harris, who had served as town clerk since 1668. A second country candidate appeared in the person of Henry Herbert, and Winnington was offered a walk-over if he would sever interests. But he refused, and both exclusionists were successful. Harris complained of violence at the election, but the Oxford Parliament was dissolved before his petition could be heard.4
The corporation sent a loyal address approving the dissolution of Parliament, which was signed by 610 citizens, including three lords and 43 of the common council. Other addresses expressed abhorrence at the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot. Nevertheless quo warranto proceedings were instituted. The corporation were encouraged to resist by Lord Coloony ( Richard Coote), but 26 of them were found guilty of technical infringements. Street considered that, if the 26 dissidents were replaced by ‘good men’, the corporation would be ‘as useful and considerable as can be desired’. Under the new charter of January 1685 the assistants were to be reduced by natural wastage to 32, and the crown reserved the usual right to remove officials. Windsor, now Earl of Plymouth, was nominated as recorder and recommended Berkeley’s son-in-law, William Bromley, and Bridges Nanfan, son of the unsuccessful candidate in 1661, for government support at the next election. Winnington was expected to stand as Whig candidate, but no poll is recorded.5
Harris’s successor as town clerk was removed in October 1686; but the first full-scale regulation of the corporation in November 1687 was apparently based on the 1621 charter, since it provided for the removal, among others, of seven of the ‘forty-eight’. A further order-in-council two months later dismissed 30 of the reduced corporation, including the mayor. Six possible candidates were mentioned by the King’s electoral agents in September 1688. Bromley, with ‘a good interest’, was described as ‘a discreet and moderate man and an enemy to persecution’. Nanfan and John Somers, a successful barrister and Whig pamphleteer, were also said to have ‘a good character and interest’. Three others ‘supposed right’ were Herbert, Philip Foley, and a certain Captain Harrison; and it was emphasized that ‘care must be taken to unite their interests that they do not divide, but pitch upon two that shall stand’. Outside court circles Bromley and Somers, ‘who was one of the counsel for the bishops’, were the only candidates mentioned, and they were duly returned to the Convention in the Whig interest.6
Authors: Edward Rowlands / Geoffrey Jaggar
- 1. Townshend's Diary (Worcs. Rec. Soc.), 70.
- 2. True Prot. Merc. 23 Feb. 1681.
- 3. VCH Worcs. iv. 388-9; Worcester chamber order bk. 1650-78, f. 38.
- 4. Smith’s Dom. Intell. 28 Feb. 1681; SP29/415/423-4; CJ, ix. 707.
- 5. London Gazette, 15 Aug. 1681, 30 Mar. 1682, 16 July 1683; SP29/423/94-96, 44/325/424-6; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, pp. 183, 250; 1685, p. 23; V. Green, Worcester, ii. 39; VCH Worcs. iv. 389.
- 6. PC2/71/324; 72/542, 570; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 442; Finch-Halifax (Chatsworth) mss 1/58, Conyers to Halifax, 13 Sept. 1688.