New Shoreham


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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 70 in 1681


2 Nov. 1695JOHN PERRY
26 July 1698JOHN PERRY
 Henry Priestman
 John Perry
 Edmund Dummer
 John Perry
15 July 1702JOHN PERRY
 Charles Davenant
 John Perry
 Nathaniel Gould
 Edward Stringer
18 Dec. 1708GREGORY PAGE vice Hammond, ineligible to sit
 Nathaniel Gould
 Edmund Dummer
 Robert Nightingale

Main Article

New Shoreham was a manorial borough consisting of about 150 houses in this period, with the constable, chosen at the manorial court, acting as returning officer. However, the lords of the manor, the Howard family, dukes of Norfolk, made no attempt to intervene in parliamentary elections. The borough became increasingly venal, frequently returning wealthy London merchants. Of the neighbouring families who had possessed an electoral interest there in earlier periods, only Sir Edward Hungerford, of the nearby manor of Broadwater, was still able to exercise influence and even he was quickly eclipsed by mercantile money. There was also an Admiralty interest: Shoreham’s only industry was shipbuilding and the navy commissioners could exert significant patronage by their purchasing policy.1

In 1690 Hungerford was returned in an uncontested election with John Perry, a London merchant with interests in the Royal African and East India companies. Hungerford’s politics were uncertain in this period while Perry, although he had originally been classed as a Whig, was now a Tory. Hungerford and Perry stood again in 1695, but when a third candidate presented himself in the person of Henry Priestman, one of the lords of the Admiralty and a friend and follower of Edward Russell*, the first lord and treasurer of the navy, Hungerford clearly felt unable to compete and withdrew. Perry stood as usual in 1698, but the return for the second seat produced a conflict which reflected personal and political rivalries within the naval administration. Priestman put up again, but was defeated by a third candidate, Charles Sergison, a Tory and one of the commissioners of the navy, who had risen through the ranks of the naval administration and had been strongly critical of Russell, now Lord Orford.2

In the first election of 1701 the rivalries within the naval administration were replaced by the commercial rivalry of the two East India companies. Perry and Sergison stood again as partners, the latter writing to the borough on 19 Dec. proclaiming his candidacy and again on 26 Dec. to apologize for being unable to accompany his ‘worthy friend’ Perry to Shoreham owing to ill-health, and assuring them that he would ‘entirely acquiesce with what you shall think fit’, in the choice of representatives. Perry, a former director of the Old Company, was opposed by Nathaniel Gould, a director of the New Company and a Whig, who spent freely, buying votes at a guinea apiece, while the fourth candidate was Edmund Dummer, a Whig from London. He too had been a commissioner of the navy until his dismissal in 1699 for alleged abuses, and was now trying to establish packet boat services to Holland. Gould and Sergison were returned, but a petition from a number of inhabitants was presented to the House claiming that their right of election

hath been invaded by Mr Nathaniel Gould, a mere stranger in the said borough, who, a few days before the last election, came down from London, and ordered the public crier of the said borough to give notice with his bell, to all the votesmen to come to the King’s Arms to receive a guinea a man to drink Mr Gould’s health; by which and other corrupt practices, he procured himself to be elected and returned, most of the votesmen having received a guinea piece.

The House ordered the case to be heard at the bar on 15 Mar. 1701, but on the 14th Gould himself presented a petition in which he admitted that,

through inadvertentcy and a mistaken apprehension of the law, he had done that before the teste of the writ, which may justly render him liable to the displeasure of this House, and that the thoughts thereof are so afflicting that he rather chose to acknowledge his error, than seem to justify the same by a defence; and, therefore, with the greatest humility, submits himself to the justice and favour of the House, humbly professing that the expense which he so unfortunately made, was entirely on his own account.

Gould was discharged from being an MP and no new writ was issued. It may have been at this point that Gould purchased the lands in the borough which he certainly owned by the time of his death, thereby giving him a better claim on the town’s voters. Three of the four candidates, Perry, Sergison and Gould, contested the second 1701 election and after his defeat Perry presented a petition against Gould, alleging corruption and partiality on the part of the constable, but the case was never heard.3

Perry and Gould both stood successfully in 1702. Sergison was not a candidate but may have encouraged the pretensions of Samuel Atkins, joint clerk of the acts. The defeated candidate on this occasion was Dr Charles Davenant, the Tory pamphleteer, who had lost his seat at Great Bedwyn in the second election of 1701. Before the election he had written to Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), that he had ‘formed a very good interest’ at Shoreham and had every possibility of success. He had heard rumours that Atkins intended to stand and requested Nottingham to help dissuade him. In the event a challenge from Atkins did not materialize and Davenant did not petition following his defeat.4

In 1705 Gould and Perry were joined by John Wicker, a Whig brewer from Horsham, who may well have partnered Gould. Perry was defeated and petitioned, accusing Wicker of bribery, but the petition was never heard. The naval administration returned to the electoral scene in New Shoreham in 1708, in the person of Anthony Hammond, a Court Tory and one of the commissioners of the navy. Gould stood as usual and the third and fourth candidates were a Whig, Richard Lloyd, an Irishman and owner of a Jamaican plantation living in London, and Edward Stringer, of unknown politics, perhaps a relation of the MPs William and Thomas Stringer. On this occasion the naval interest was successful for one seat and Lloyd outbid Gould for the other. Gould did not petition himself, but a number of the inhabitants did, accusing Lloyd of bribery and treating. A day was set for the hearing in the following February, but meanwhile the Whig House excluded Hammond according to the terms of the Regency Act which disqualified local port officials, on the grounds that as a member of the Navy Board in London he had been employed at times in the out-ports. The ensuing by-election was contested by Gould and Gregory Page, a rich East India merchant of Greenwich, Kent. Both were Whigs, although Page had been a director of the Old East India Company. Gould was defeated and petitioned, alleging that ‘five days before the election, the said Mr Page and above 30 strangers came to the said borough and spent great sums of money upon the electors, in contempt of the laws about elections’. The House appointed 3 May to hear the case at the bar, but Parliament was prorogued on 21 Apr. In the next session Gould did not renew his petition, but the inhabitants reintroduced theirs, relating to the 1708 general election. The elections committee reported on 13 Jan. 1710 that counsel for the petitioners did not dispute that Lloyd had a majority, but claimed that this had been secured by treating and bribery ‘after the teste of the writ’ and in particular that Lloyd’s agents had given £5 to every public house in the town to buy drink for those who would agree to vote for him. Counsel for Lloyd claimed that the treating had taken place before the date of the writ and produced a witness who said that Lloyd was a stranger to the borough but had been recommended ‘by several gentlemen of the best rank, in and near the said borough, and by several considerable merchants from the city of London’. The committee declared in favour of Lloyd and the House agreed.

Gould regained his seat in 1710, when he was returned with Page. The two defeated candidates, Edmund Dummer and Robert Nightingale (later 4th Bt. and a director of the East India Company 1712–22), petitioned separately on 2 Dec. 1710, alleging bribery and indirect practices against both sitting Members, but neither petition was heard. The 1713 election seems to have been a rare instance of an uncontested return. Gould took one seat and held it for the next 17 years, while the other went to Francis Chamberlayne, yet another Whig merchant from London, who sat for the borough until 1715.5

Authors: Paula Watson / Sonya Wynne


  • 1. Bodl. Willis 15, f. 25.
  • 2. Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; CSP Dom. 1698, p. 368.
  • 3. EHR, lxxi. 253; Harley mss at Brampton Bryan, Sergison to the inhabitants and constable of Shoreham, 19, 26 Dec. 1700.
  • 4. G. F. Duckett, Commrs. of Navy, 1, 54; Add. 29588, f. 70; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/5, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 22 Aug. 1702.
  • 5. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 381.