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

Right of Election:

in the burgage holders

Number of Qualified Electors:

68 in 1686, 69 in 1720 1

Number of voters:

51 in 1701; 67 in 1713


3 Mar. 1690JOHN MACHELL 
1 Nov. 1695JOHN MACHELL 
25 July 1698JOHN MACHELL 
6 Jan. 1701HENRY YATES 
22 Nov. 1701HENRY YATES35
 Henry Cowper282
16 July 1702HENRY COWPER 
 John Wicker33
4 Apr. 1707HENRY GORING vice Cowper, deceased 
 Henry Goring 
 Thomas White 
5 Dec. 1710JOHN MIDDLETON vice Eversfield, chose to sit for Sussex 
 Hon. Richard Ingram32
 Nicholas Best4

Main Article

Horsham was a manorial borough where the franchise was vested in the burgage holders, who numbered 54 in 1611 but had increased to 68 by 1686. In this period there appears to have been some splitting of burgages for electoral purposes but the overall number of burgage holders had only increased to 69 by 1720. More important for control of the electorate were the court leet and court baron: the lord of the manor appointed a steward who presided over the court leet, which chose the two bailiffs who were the returning officers, and the court baron, which admitted tenants to their burgages, the rolls of the court baron being recognized as the voters’ register. The steward could (and towards the end of Anne’s reign certainly did), act in conjunction with the foreman of the jury at the two courts, to influence which burgage holders were summoned, and the two officers could thereby exert control over both the election of the bailiffs and the admission of new burgage holders.3

For the first ten years of this period, the lord of the manor was the 7th Duke of Norfolk, who had conformed to the Church of England and become a Whig in politics. During his lifetime the borough was represented by a succession of local Whigs and there were no contests. In 1690 John Machell of Hills Place, a Court Whig who owned part of a burgage in Horsham, was returned with Thomas White I, a member of an old Horsham family and a burgage owner, who was probably also a Whig. In 1695 it seemed possible that there might be a contest, when Robert Harley* was informed that Machell would be returned, but that ‘Mr Yates may carry it against Mr White’. Henry Yates of Warnham, another Court Whig, also had an interest in the borough, owning parts of two burgages. In the event White stood down, leaving Machell and Yates to be returned unopposed in 1695 and 1698. In the first election of 1701 Machell withdrew, probably for health reasons, leaving Yates to be returned with Henry Cowper, whose family was seated at Strood, some three miles from Horsham, and who had purchased part of a burgage at some point between 1695 and 1701. He was the first Tory to be returned since 1689.4

Norfolk died in April 1701 and his son was a minor and a Catholic. Immediately the long peace at Horsham broke down, with local gentry and burgage holders manoeuvring to gain influence in the borough. The November 1701 election produced Horsham’s first contest, when Yates stood as usual and Cowper was challenged by John Wicker, a local Whig seated at Horsham Park, who owned a burgage in Horsham. There was a significant amount of cross-voting, reflecting the independent ownership of the burgages and suggesting that the voters at this stage were not particularly partisan. Cowper lost by one vote, apparently the result of a burgage split in 1697, and presented a petition against Wicker’s return, complaining of threats, bribery and the acceptance of illegal votes by the bailiffs, one of whom was John Rolfe, Wicker’s brother-in-law. The petition was never reported.5

Shortly before the 1702 election Machell wrote, ‘Mr Wicker, Mr Cowper and my nephew are candidates. ’Tis said they are playing the old trick of splitting to throw out Mr Wicker.’ The ‘nephew’ was probably Machell’s great-nephew by marriage, Charles Eversfield, who had inherited the estates of his uncle, Anthony Eversfield†, including Denne Park near Horsham and part of a burgage within the borough. Anthony Eversfield had sat for Horsham in four Parliaments, and his nephew’s candidature on this occasion represented a Tory attempt to win control of both seats. Eversfield was probably acting in alliance with Cowper, and with the Gorings of Highden who were distantly related to the Eversfields. Sir Charles Goring, 3rd Bt.†, owned a moiety of the same burgage as Eversfield, and his half-brother Henry* had already presented the borough’s loyal address on the accession of Queen Anne. However, Eversfield was only 18 in July 1702 and stood down. The day after the election, Machell wrote, ‘we are all here in great confusion about our election’, possibly referring to confusion over the legality of votes from the split burgages. The same three men were candidates in 1705, Eversfield topping the poll with 43 of the 60 votes cast, and indeed from this point his interest in the borough seems to have become unassailable. There was again a significant amount of cross-voting. For the second seat, Cowper, who had strengthened his position in the borough by securing the position of foreman of the jury at the court baron in this year, defeated Wicker by one vote, the result of another split burgage. Wicker petitioned against Cowper’s return, alleging that unqualified voters had been allowed to poll, but after presenting the petition a second time on 4 Dec. 1706 was granted leave to withdraw it on 13 Jan. 1707, having also been returned for New Shoreham. Cowper died in March 1707 and was succeeded by Henry Goring, who had been admitted as a burgess in Horsham in 1703.6

Eversfield took over from Cowper as foreman of the court baron in 1707, and was also foreman in 1708, 1710, 1711 and 1713. In the 1708 election Eversfield was returned as usual but Goring, according to his own account, was kept out by the machinations of his relation John Middleton I of Muntham. Middleton, himself a Tory but evidently on bad terms with Goring, persuaded Thomas White, who was apparently a Tory in Anne’s reign, to put up in order to split Goring’s vote. Goring lost to the other candidate, John Wicker, but did not petition. Returned at a by-election for Steyning in 1709, Goring remained at Steyning at the general election of 1710, leaving Eversfield and Wicker to be returned for Horsham, apparently unopposed. John Middleton I clearly had designs for political influence in Horsham, and having bought half a burgage in 1710 was admitted a burgess shortly before the by-election held when Eversfield chose to sit for the county, and took the seat without a contest. Eversfield’s domination of the borough was further enhanced when he secured from the Duke of Norfolk the stewardship of the two courts, leet and baron, either at the end of 1711 or the beginning of 1712 (while his ally Goring was foreman of the jury at the court baron in 1712 and 1714). Eversfield was thus able to hold off a challenge from a new interest which had emerged, that of Hon. Richard Ingram, son of the 3rd Viscount Irwin [S] (Arthur Ingram*), who in 1704 had inherited the estates of his grandfather, John Machell. In 1713 Ingram stood for the Whigs against Eversfield and Middleton. Ingram had the support of the Wickers, and shortly before the election John Wicker jnr., son of the former Member, tried to create new burgesses by entering into an agreement for the bogus transfer of burgages to five nominees, paying the actual owner £160 for the transaction. The court baron, however, under the stewardship of Eversfield, rejected them and when the five tried to cast their votes for Ingram they were refused by the bailiffs. The importance of this unsuccessful gamble can be seen by the poll, in which Ingram lost to Middleton by three votes, Eversfield as usual gaining a comfortable first place. There was a fourth candidate, Nicholas Best, who owned one third of the same burgage as Eversfield and Goring and whose candidacy remained somewhat mysterious. He received only four votes, which included Ingram’s although he himself voted for Eversfield and Middleton. In this election there was very little cross-voting, suggesting an expansion in influence by the main interests in the borough. An account of the election in the Whig Flying Post reported the poll as 44 for Eversfield, 40 for Ingram and 39 for Middleton, and claimed that the bailiffs had declared ‘that though Richard Ingram had a majority of voices, they would return Mr Eversfield and Mr Middleton and accordingly returned them’. The report was rounded off with a claim that one of the bailiffs and some others had celebrated the evening by singing Jacobite songs. The bailiffs retaliated by inserting a rebuttal in the Tory Evening Post furiously denying the allegations. Ingram’s petition against Eversfield and Middleton alleged the acceptance of illegal votes, bribery and undue practices, but was not reported, and the two Tories sat for the borough until the end of the period.7

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. W. Albery, Parl. Hist. Horsham, 31.
  • 2. Ibid. 40–44, 52–54 for polling figures.
  • 3. VCH Suss. vi (2), 147; Albery, 31, 36–38, 49–55.
  • 4. Add. 70018, ff. 94–95.
  • 5. Albery, 39–42, 45; Arundel Castle, Horsham pprs. HO2379, lists of burgage tenants, 1611–1807.
  • 6. Albery, 42–46; London Gazette, 26–30 Mar. 1702.
  • 7. Horsham pprs. 2236, 2227, election documents; HO2208, Horsham ct. rolls, pp. 19, 23, 26, 29, 31, 35–36, 38, 42, 44–45, 47–48, 51, 55–57, 61; HO2235, Horsham poll 1713; Parham mss at Parham House, xlvii, letters 1708–1921 addenda, p.1, Henry Goring to Sir Cecil Bishopp, 25 May 1708; Albery, 47–54; Flying Post, 1–3 Sept. 1713; Evening Post, 10–12 Sept. 1713; Post Boy, 15–17 Sept. 1713.