Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

2,645 in Jan. 1701, 4,519 in 17051


19 Feb. 1690Hon. Thomas Wharton   
 Richard Hampden I   
30 Oct. 1695Hon. Thomas Wharton   
 Sir Richard Atkins, Bt.   
24 Feb. 1696Hon. William Cheyne vice Wharton, called to the Upper House896  
 Henry Neale264  
 Sir Roger Hill942  
31 Dec. 1696Henry Neale vice Sir Richard Atkins, deceased863  
 Sir Roger Hill266  
 Sir John Verney, Bt.263  
 Sir John Wittewronge, Bt.633  
27 July 16984Hon. Goodwin Wharton944944 
 William Cheyne, Visct. Newhaven [S]15461544 
 Sir John Verney, Bt.939946 
 Henry Neale787 787  
 Sir Roger Hill42054116 
8 Jan. 1701Hon. Goodwin Wharton16041616 
 William Cheyne,  Visct. Newhaven [S]1353 1367 
 Robert Dormer1209 12297 
 Sir John Verney, Bt.7058  
10 Dec. 1701Hon. Goodwin Wharton213321252033
 Robert Dormer189819051839
 William Cheyne, Visct. Newhaven [S]17289170610178811
22 July 1702Hon. Goodwin Wharton2146  
 William Cheyne, Visct. Newhaven [S]1980  
 Robert Dormer1899  
 Sir Denys Hampson,  Bt.7412  
8 Nov. 1704Sir Richard Temple, Bt. vice Wharton, deceased16781620 
 Francis Duncombe144713137114 
24 May 1705Robert Dormer26302630 
 Sir Richard Temple, Bt.24332473 
 William Cheyne, Visct. Newhaven [S]213715213716 
27 Feb. 1706Hon. William Egerton vice Dormer, made a judge   
19 May 1708Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.   
 Richard Hampden II   
4 Oct. 1710John Verney, Visct. Fermanagh [I]2161  
 Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.2157  
 Richard Hampden II2148  
 Sir Henry Seymour209917  
2 Sept. 1713John Verney, Visct. Fermanagh [I]2018  
 John Fleetwood2061  
 Richard Hampden II1942  
 Sir Edmund Denton, Bt.190718  

Main Article

Buckinghamshire was frequently contested in the first age of party. The sequence of contests began with two by-elections in 1696, and from 1698 seven of the next eight general elections went to a poll (the exception being 1708), as did the by-election in 1704. Such an outcome would have seemed surprising from a viewpoint in the early 1690s, when the Whig hegemony of the Whartons and Hampdens established in 1679 seemed secure, particularly as it upheld the tradition whereby one knight hailed from the Chilterns and the other from the ‘Vale’. The Whartons and Hampdens also enjoyed the support of the strong Nonconformist vote in the county, and many of the most important families. In February 1690, observers expected no challenge to the Hon. Thomas Wharton and Richard Hampden I, who were duly returned unopposed, at very little charge. Wharton was again returned in 1695, this time with Sir Richard Atkins, 2nd Bt., a former Tory, whom Wharton had won over to the Whig side. Hampden was clearly too ill to contemplate standing and the only possible challenge came from Sir Roger Hill*, who appears to have embarked on a late appeal for support, but may not have stood a poll.19

The death of Wharton’s aged father in February 1696 brought his own elevation to the peerage. In the ensuing by-election Wharton backed his friend, Hon. William Cheyne, who also received support from the Whig lord lieutenant, the Earl of Bridgwater (John Egerton†) and the veteran Tory, the Earl of Carnarvon. Several other candidates were reported to be standing, all of them Whigs. John Hampden†, son of Richard Hampden I, laboured under Wharton’s displeasure for saving his own skin by giving evidence of the Rye House Plot and for virulent attacks upon the Court party of which Wharton was a prominent member. Hampden did not pursue his candidature to a poll, although several commentators later thought he might well have carried the day had he done so. Hill, an extreme Whig, but one who was on poor terms with Wharton, came bottom of the poll. The distant runner-up was Henry Neale – a man whose main interest appeared to be outside the county.20

The death of Atkins in November 1696 precipitated a second by-election within the year. One observer named seven possible candidates, plus several unnamed contenders. In total at least 11 men were mentioned for the vacancy. However, Lord Wharton held the key, being described as having ‘the greatest interest of any man in Buckinghamshire’. During Atkins’ illness he had been preparing the ground for Thomas Pigott of Doddershall, a deputy-lieutenant and a man he knew to be in the interest of the present government. When Pigott declined the honour, Wharton alighted upon Henry Neale, who had sold ‘his house and some land belonging to it to Mr Beke [Richard*]’. With his family name retaining ‘a very great vogue in this country’, Hampden again made an interest, thereby raising the possibility of a split in the Whig vote, especially as his criticisms of the Court struck a chord, given the financial difficulties attendant on the recoinage. However, on 7 Dec., in the middle of the campaign, Hampden slit his own throat and died on the 10th. This fact alone may have encouraged Sir John Wittewronge, 2nd Bt. (d. 1697), and Hill to continue in the race. The most important candidature for the future was that of the Tory Sir John Verney, who had only recently taken up residence in the county following his father’s death, after a long career as a merchant in London. In 1696, the basic Country outlook of both Hill and Verney led to confusion between the two as to which of them should challenge Neale and in any case Verney’s naivety and late start ensured defeat. Neale triumphed by a large margin. Wittewronge finished at the bottom of the poll, with second place a close run thing between Hill and Verney. Hill told Verney he thought the ‘late election was managed by indirect methods’, and Anne Nicholas advised him to ‘look into the poll’, for ‘’tis a great affront put upon the country to be so imposed on by a company of knaves and Dissenters’. However, plans to petition were aborted when Verney’s lawyer could not ‘so fit the evidence as to make it fit for your petition’ in the time available for presenting the case.21

By 1698 the political situation in the county had changed. Cheyne’s relationship with Wharton had cooled to such an extent that they were no longer allies. By late April Wharton had set up his brother, Goodwin (who had recently suffered a stroke), to partner Neale. Cheyne also entered the campaign early, treating the freeholders engaged with the militia in May and promising people in the Chilterns that he would stand ‘single’. Verney did not campaign at this point, later excusing his inaction with reference to the sudden dissolution and the absence of a gentry meeting to which he could apply for endorsement as a candidate. As late as 13 July Hill was sounding out Verney about the need for a candidate so that Cheyne’s second votes would not be wasted, offering to stand himself if Verney did not. Verney declined, but on 21 July he changed his mind after meeting Lords Carnarvon and Abingdon at the Aylesbury election and being persuaded to enter the campaign to ‘serve my Lord Cheyne, my kinsman and friend’. Almost simultaneously Hill announced he would also stand. Cheyne decided to remain neutral, promising to settle any last-minute alliances on election day. Cheyne’s tactics paid handsome dividends as he topped the poll, the predominant cries being ‘No courtier. No pensioner. No Judas!’ Verney very nearly defeated Wharton for the second seat, despite only four days’ campaigning. However, he performed poorly in the Chilterns where Hill made his strongest showing. Neale came in 4th and Hill a distant last. Again Verney’s campaign was ill-organized, late in starting and lacking in self-belief. As Cheyne put it, ‘I am heartily sorry you should miscarry by the fault of your own friends’. On 17 Aug. Hill wrote offering to ‘do you right as to our late election’ by inspecting a copy of the poll to ‘find out the frauds therein’. Cheyne duly produced a copy arranged ‘in such a method viz every man placed in his respective parish and every parish in its respective hundred, so that anything for your service may be easily found out and the suspected parishes inquired after’. However, Hill failed to discover sufficient irregularities and by October Verney had to acknowledge that no petition could be sent to the Commons challenging the election.22

In the summer of 1699 Wharton and Cheyne fought a duel, partly owing to a perceived slight felt by the latter at the previous county election (see Cheyne, Hon. William). The autumn of 1699 witnessed a high degree of electoral preparation in case of a general election (or by-election if Goodwin Wharton were to die). Verney declared his candidature to Cheyne in August 1699, but Cheyne remained wary of a joint declaration for fear it would damage his interest in the Chesham area. In November 1700 Cheyne alerted Verney to the prospect of a dissolution and promised to support him as much as he could without joining openly with him. Their opponents were Goodwin Wharton and Robert Dormer, the latter a recent convert to Whiggery, who were candidates in the same interest ‘tho’ an independency is pretended’. Another drawback to the Verney campaign was the rumours that ill-health would preclude his candidacy, Dormer even applying for his vote on those grounds. Again, the Verney interest did not campaign very effectively, with many letters not going out until mid December and Verney himself seeming besieged by the agents of his opponents even in his neighbourhood. Wharton topped the poll, but Cheyne defeated Dormer; Verney trailed badly, 500 votes adrift.23

In the summer of 1701 Buckinghamshire became the focus of the Whigs’ attempts to persuade the King that it was safe to call a new Parliament. Thus, an address was sent detailing support for war and a new election. When Parliament was dissolved Verney, in response to his defeat in January, stood aloof from the second election. Although urged to stand in order to ‘put a stop to the Presbyterians for they are very uppish’, others were glad he did not enter the contest ‘since all parties disobliged you’. To Cheyne’s request for his interest he replied: ‘I stir not for anybody, I bid all free-holders that ask me vote for whom they please. I intermeddle not with it’. He reinforced this upon receiving an application from Lord Wharton on Goodwin’s behalf, ‘which was no way disagreeable to me, so I shall let my neighbours know as opportunity of discourse offers, and I further assure you that directly and indirectly I have not made one voice against him, for truly I meddle not any ways about this election’. Cheyne, having failed to deliver votes for Verney, now found himself standing single against Wharton and Dormer combined. Wharton topped the poll, with Dormer defeating Cheyne by 170 votes in a three-way contest. A paper of instructions was presented to the victors exhorting the new Members, among other things, to grant supplies, restore public credit, support the King’s alliances and the Protestant succession.24

Cheyne later wrote to Verney that ‘if you had exerted your interest in my behalf . . . I should not have been the sufferer’. In the 1702 election, although the same candidates took the field, on this occasion it was Lord Cheyne who joined Goodwin Wharton in the Commons, with Dormer defeated. A fourth candidate, Sir Denys Hampson, 3rd Bt.†, polled only 74 votes. The Tories had sought to boost Cheyne by having him declared custos during the brief period of the new Earl of Bridgwater’s minority, while Dormer’s friends gave out that their man would have been lord keeper if the King had lived, a fact not necessarily in his favour. Verney, too, seems to have been a little more favourable towards Cheyne. There then followed a battle over the clerkship of the peace with Cheyne trying to displace Wharton’s nominee, Francis Neale.25

The long anticipated death of Goodwin Wharton on 25 Oct. 1704 precipitated a by-election just as the parliamentary battle over the Tack was beginning. The Tories were off the mark quickly, Francis Duncombe* declaring his candidature three days later. Backed by Lord Cheyne and the young Earl of Bridgwater, he was able to announce ‘a very great meeting in my behalf’ to discuss when the election would be held. The Whigs were at a disadvantage because their candidate, Sir Richard Temple, 4th Bt., was abroad on military service. In the event Temple left Flanders immediately upon being alerted of the vacancy, and by 3 Nov. an interest was being organized for him. Duncombe arranged for those fearful of the smallpox outbreak in Aylesbury to be polled in a booth outside the town, but was hopeful that a strong early appearance ‘may prevent a poll’. In the event Temple defeated Duncombe by over 200 votes.26

Lord Wharton, looking back on the by-election and forward to the next general election, wrote on 1 Dec. 1704 to Richard Hampden II:

it is absolutely necessary that a speedy resolution be taken as to the next elections . . . particularly for the county, which cannot be done (since the death of my brother) without a meeting of all the gentlemen of our friends, and which cannot possibly be delayed long least we fall into the same mischiefs, which very lately we had like to have done for that very reason.

The Whigs decided to couple Temple with Dormer (the defeated candidate in 1702) and were challenged by Lord Cheyne. Initially, it was hoped to partner Cheyne with the Earl of Bridgwater’s brother, Hon. William Egerton, but ‘upon a strict inquiry into his age he wants a few months of 21 years so incapable of being elected’. Thus, by mid-January Cheyne was forced to ask for single votes, reminding his supporters that casting a second vote would ‘make their friendship to me of none effect’. At the start of February Robert Harley* noted that Cheyne was in danger of defeat and his assessment proved accurate. Although Cheyne obtained 1,852 plumpers, including 80 out of 107 clergymen, he came bottom of the poll. Interestingly, the Quakers voted against Lord Cheyne, and Whig voters outnumbered Cheyne’s plumpers and the splitters combined, prompting Lord Fermanagh (as Verney had become) to remark, ‘our country being mostly of the 41 stamp’.27

Dormer’s promotion to the judicial bench in 1706 allowed the county to unite around the choice of William Egerton, now of age, to the vacancy. In 1708, the Tory challenge suffered not only from the unfavourable political climate, but also the ineligibility of Lord Cheyne, who as a Scottish peer could not offer himself for election. Egerton, too, was under pressure. For Cheyne, still the power behind the Tory interest, the likelihood that Wharton would oppose Egerton provided an opportunity to make ‘him [Egerton] and our lord lieutenant [Bridgwater] our own’. Unfortunately, Bridgwater was not disposed to set up his brother despite canvassing for him during the summer of 1707, and this left Cheyne to lament his own impotence and ‘a melancholy story but a true one that now the Lord Wharton names both the knights of our county’. With Temple also standing down, Richard Hampden II and (Sir) Edmund Denton, (1st Bt.) another protégé of Wharton, were chosen ‘unanimously’, accepting instructions from the freeholders to prosecute the war with France and refuse any peace ‘till the Protestant succession be out of danger of being disturbed, and the whole Spanish monarchy be returned to the House of Austria’.28

In the crucial run up to the dissolution in 1710, Lord Wharton was absent in Ireland, thereby weakening the organization of the Whig interest. As Dyer observed on the presentation of a ‘very loyal’ address from the Buckinghamshire grand jury in August, ‘it’s believed this address would hardly have been obtained if my Lord Wharton had been in England, his Lordship bearing so great a sway in that county’. When Lord Cheyne wrote to Harley on 12 Aug. to thank him for his reception from the Queen upon presenting this address he evinced confidence that Buckinghamshire could be converted to Toryism with judicious use of appointments and informed Harley that: ‘we meet on Saturday next at Aylesbury to pitch on a person from the Vale to join with Sir Henry Seymour [1st Bt.*] . . . to oppose Mr Hampden and Sir Edmund Denton in the county. We shall give them a good deal of disturbance if we carry not our point.’ With the Tories choosing Fermanagh to join with Seymour, canvassing began in earnest. Interestingly, the Tories bought up many debts relating to a local turnpike, Fermanagh specifying that only the debts of freeholders should be bought and the money not paid until ‘the time of petitioning about elections be over, because these very men who sell their debts may be brought to be witnesses against us’. In the event of electoral defeat it was only reasonable that they should have their money after the poll had been checked to see how they had voted. A note in Fermanagh’s papers suggests that £185 9s. 6d. was paid out for £293 1s. 4d. worth of debt. The Tory candidates proclaimed themselves ‘both genuine sons of the Church of England, of undoubted loyalty and affection to her Majesty’s person and government, and entirely in the interest of the Hanover succession’. However, the Whigs played up Fermanagh’s Irish connexion (even though he had never set foot in Ireland) and ‘Frenchified’ Seymour. In the event the poll was extremely close, only 62 votes separating the four candidates, with Fermanagh and Denton claiming the two seats. Out of the 8,560 votes cast there were a mere 164 split votes. Hampden’s defeat was later blamed by Richard Steele* on ‘a blunder in some of the agents on that side’, possibly a reference to the 23 freeholders who returned home thinking that the poll had closed. Certainly, there were reports that Hampden had considered himself safe a few days before the poll.29

By May 1711 Cheyne was being touted as lord lieutenant and custos of Buckinghamshire and seems to have been in firm control of the government’s patronage in the county. In the summer of 1712 there was a purge of justices and in 1713 Cheyne played a key role in another close county contest. In February 1713, with Seymour having declined another Buckinghamshire campaign, Fermanagh announced to Cheyne his intentions to desist. Cheyne had first to dissuade Fermanagh from this course of action and then find a partner acceptable to him. Eventually, at the start of May, Cheyne persuaded his cousin, John Fleetwood, to join with Fermanagh, although most of the cost appears to have been borne by Cheyne. The Whig candidates were again Hampden and Denton, and they made great play with topical issues in their campaign, appealing in the press for votes ‘being gentlemen zealously affected to the true Protestant interest, for the encouragement of all the woollen manufactures of the kingdom and for the trade of Great Britain in all its branches’. On election day,

The Whigs there put wool in their hats, saying ’twas all going into France, and they resolved to keep some on’t, before ’twas all gone. Lord Wharton, Lord Bridgwater, Lord Portland and Lord Essex were at the head of them with wool in their hats; and Lady Wharton with her own fair hands made up several cockades for the country fellows. The Tories had oaken boughs in their hats, and these jokes in their mouth against their adversaries that their wits were gone a wool-gathering, and that they look’t very sheepish.

The Tories proclaimed that the oaken boughs they wore were not only to celebrate the miraculous escape of Charles ii after the battle of Worcester, but also to show

that with hearts of oak at the bottom, they will stand fast to the old English constitution both in church and state, in opposition to the miscellaneous tribe of atheists, deists, republicans and Irish sheep-shearers, who triumph in their stolen wool.

The Tories had the support of ‘all the parochial clergy of the county except about 12’. Surviving acounts pay testimony to Cheyne’s financial role; in the end he appears to have spent almost £650, the joint expenditure of the campaign totalling over £780.30

With the change of dynasty in 1714, the 1715 election saw the party leadership on both sides opt for a compromise, whereby John Fleetwood and Richard Grenville† would take the seats. This agreement was wrecked by Hampden, who threatened to stand, thereby awakening fears among the Tories of Whig duplicity. Efforts were even made to entice James Herbert II* to join with Fleetwood, but in the event a compromise was worked out whereby Hampden joined with Fleetwood, Grenville being accommodated at Wendover. Normal party conflict resumed in 1722 and the next uncontested general election took place in 1741.31

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Bull. IHR xlviii. 71.
  • 2. Bean's notebks.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Aug. in OR, but it was held in July.
  • 5. Bodl. Willis 8, f. 151.
  • 6. Huntington Lib. Ellesmere mss EL 35/c/20, 1701 pollbk. giving 1698 figures; EL 8629a (Horwitz trans.) breakdown by hundreds gives Hill 413.
  • 7. Ellesmere mss EL 8629a, breakdown of poll by hundreds; Bull. IHR, 71. Some figures give Dormer 1309, but the breakdown total is 1209. Likewise Wharton has been given 1604.
  • 8. Bull. IHR, 71.
  • 9. Post Man, 11–13 Dec. 1701.
  • 10. Bull. IHR, 71.
  • 11. Willis 8, f. 154.
  • 12. Ibid. but the breakdown by hundreds gives Wharton 2144 and Cheyne 2032.
  • 13. Post Man, 9–11 Nov. 1704.
  • 14. Willis mss 8, f. 154.
  • 15. Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 227.
  • 16. Daily Courant, 26 May 1705.
  • 17. Flying Post, 10–12 Oct. 1710.
  • 18. Ellesmere mss EL 10741, 1713 poll.
  • 19. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss STT 479, W[illiam] C[haplin] to Sir Richard Temple, 3rd Bt.*, 11 Feb. 1689[–90]; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/44, Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, to Edmund Verney, 15, 21 Feb. 1689[–90]; 636/48, Hill to Sir Ralph Verney, 12 Oct. 1695.
  • 20. HMC Hastings, ii. 255; Verney mss 636/49, Daniel Baker to Sir John Verney, 5 Dec. 1696, Carey Stewkeley to Sir Ralph Verney, 2, 9 Feb., 1 Mar. 1695–6.
  • 21. Verney mss 636/49, Carey Stewkeley to Sir John Verney, n.d., Anne Nicholas to same, 30 Nov. 1696 (2 letters), Dan. Baker to same, 5 Dec. 1696, William Busby to same, 12, 19 Dec., 12 Jan. 1696[–7], Hill to same, 5 Jan. 1696[–7]; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 46/36, James Vernon I* to Duke of Shrewsbury, 12 Dec. 1696; Bull. IHR, lvi. 197.
  • 22. Verney mss 636/50, Verney to Ld. Lichfield, 21 July 1698; same to Coleman, 17 May 1698, same to Cheyne, n.d. [c. 23 July 1698], same to Hill, 17 July, 15 Oct. 1698, same to Dr Woodhouse, 23 July 1698, Cheyne to Verney, 25, 30 July, 14 Sept. 1698, Hill to same, 13 July, 17 Aug. 1698, Alexander Denton I* to same, 23 July 1698; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 154–6; Ellesmere mss EL 8629a, poll by hundreds; Bull. IHR lvi. 197–8.
  • 23. Verney mss 636/51, Verney to Cheyne, 23 Aug. 1699, 19 Dec. 1700, same to Sir Henry Seymour, 17 Dec. 1700, Cheyne to Verney, 23 Aug. 1699, 19 Nov. 1700; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 162–3; Ellesmere mss EL 8629a, poll by hundreds; Bull. IHR, lvi. 198–9.
  • 24. Verney mss 636/51, Verney to Cheyne, 18 Nov. 1701; Verney Letters, i. 165; Bull. IHR, xlviii. 71; lvi. 199; Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 298.
  • 25. Bull. IHR, xlviii. 71; Northants. RO, Finch-Hatton mss 275, Ld. Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) to Ld. Keeper Wright, 4 June 1702; Verney mss 636/51, Lady Gardiner to Verney, 31 Mar. 1702 Verney Letters 18th Cent. 166; Willis 18, f. 154; Bucks. Sess. Recs. ii. 359–61, 378.
  • 26. Verney mss 636/52, Duncombe to Fermanagh, 28 Oct. 1704; Add. 61307, f. 173; Stowe mss STT 2568, Wittewronge to Henry Andrews, 3 Nov. 1704; Willis mss 18, f. 154; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 168.
  • 27. E. Suss. RO, Glynde mss 795, Wharton to Hampden, 1 Dec. 1704; Verney mss 636/52, Dormer to Fermanagh, 20 Jan. 1704[–5], Cheyne to same, 16 Jan. 1704[–5], Fermanagh to Sir Thomas Cave, 3rd Bt.*, 27 May 1705; Bodl. Ballard 10, f. 120; Add. 70335, Harley’s notes, 1 Feb. 1704–5; Bull. IHR, xlviii. 71–72; lvi. 199; W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 24; Bodl. Rawl. D. 863, ff. 89–90; Verney letters 18th Cent. 227.
  • 28. Verney Letters 18th Cent. 169; Ballard 10, ff. 152, 155; Verney mss 636/53, Denton to Fermanagh, 9 Dec. 1707; Boyer, Anne Annals, vii. 48–49.
  • 29. Add. 70421, newsletter, 3 Aug. 1710; 70217, Cheyne to Harley, 12 Aug. 1710; Verney Letters 18th Cent. 301; Verney mss 636/54, ‘highway bills 1710’; Post Boy, 30 Sept.-3 Oct. 1710; Ballard 21, f. 123; Bull. IHR, xlviii. 72–73; Steele, Wharton Mems. 86; Flying Post, 10–12 Oct. 1710.
  • 30. HMC Portland, iv. 694; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 216; Verney mss 636/55, Fermanagh to Cheyne, 22 Feb. 1712–13, same to Ralph Verney†, 6 May 1713, Cheyne to Lady Fermanagh, 5 May 1713; Daily Courant, 31 Aug. 1713; Post Boy, 5–8, 8–10 Sept. 1713; Wentworth Pprs. 351; Ellesmere mss EL 10734, election accts.
  • 31. Verney Letters 18th Cent. 315–20; Speck, Tory and Whig, 115–17; Verney mss 636/55, Cheyne to Fermanagh, 28 Dec. 1714.