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 corporation before 1698; in the freemen after 1698

Number of Qualified Electors:

21 before 1698; about 100 in 1701-2

Number of voters:

56 in 1698; at least 86 in 1710


26 Feb. 1690THOMAS GLEMHAM   
2 Nov. 1695SIR ADAM FELTON, Bt.   
4 Mar. 1697SIR JOHN DUKE, Bt., vice Sir Adam Felton, deceased   
28 July 1698SIR THOMAS FELTON,  Bt.17  
 William Johnson434 
 Sir Edmund Bacon, Bt.333 
 BACON and JOHNSON vice Felton and Hedges, on petition, 10 Feb. 1700   
10 Jan. 1701SIR EDMUND BACON, Bt.   
 Sir Thomas Felton,  Bt.   
 Sir Charles Hedges   
2 Dec. 1701SIR EDMUND BACON, Bt.17  
 Charles Killigrew9  
 Charles May91  
25 July 1702SIR EDMUND BACON, Bt.17  
 Edward Griffith7  
 Charles May72  
11 May 1705SIR EDMUND BACON, Bt.   
 William Thompson241333
 THOMPSON  vice Turnor on petition, 29 Jan. 1709   
10 Oct. 1710SIR EDWARD TURNOR60  
 Francis Negus33  
 Henry Grey24  
4 Sept. 1713SIR EDWARD TURNOR   

Main Article

The bitter party strife that overtook Orford in this period, and transformed its electorate from a corporate oligarchy into a much larger body of freemen, arose from interference by country gentlemen, to whom such ‘decayed’ boroughs were a tempting prey. Traditionally, the chief proprietorial interests had been those of the Devereux family, viscounts Hereford, lords of the manor, and the Tollemaches of Helmingham, but other neighbouring gentlemen had not been excluded, and in 1690 one such local squire, Thomas Glemham of Little Glemham, was returned with Thomas Felton, a ‘cousin’ of the Tollemache heir, Lionel*, Lord Huntingtower. The 8th Viscount Hereford, being still a minor, does not seem to have played a part in this election. Nor is there any evidence of party rivalry: Glemham, a Tory, and Felton, a Court Whig, were returned together without a contest.4

The balance was upset by the intrusion of an Essex squire, Sir Edward Turnor, grantee of the lighthouses on Orford Ness, who had been rebuffed in an attempt to create an interest for himself at the neighbouring borough of Aldeburgh and in 1692 turned his attention to Orford. ‘I was a stranger to the corporation’, he wrote,

as to my acquaintance with the members of it, and, having been uncivilly used by some of Aldeburgh I was willing to fix the keeping of my lighthouses upon the corporation of Orford and to that end proposed it to them . . . and the major part of them agreeing to it I shall still be ready to keep my word and fix it to the mayor for the time being, which will be no despisable advantage, for I believe £50 or £60 p.a. clear of all charges may be worth any man’s acceptance of that corporation.

He was willing to endow ‘a school for the youth of the town’ which would secure votes by providing opportunities for the corporators’ children. The borough had certainly seemed ready for the taking. An agent reported to Turnor that the corporation consisted of a mayor, nine portmen (headed by Huntingtower and the former Member Sir John Duke, 2nd Bt.), nine capital burgesses (with three vacancies) and only eight freemen, nearly all of whom were inhabitants. ‘These freemen . . . have formerly had a right of election’, he added, ‘but for late years it hath been restrained within the portmen and 12 burgesses so that ten votes carry the election.’ Inroads were quickly made. One of the portmen, Nathaniel Gooding, was recruited into Turnor’s service, and in May 1692 the corporation agreed in principle ‘to alter one of the burgesses next election’, though without naming any names. In following up his early success Turnor relied on a spreading network of local agents, unlike his rivals who preferred to be on the spot themselves. While Glemham, Felton and Duke (whose interest in the borough had now been resurrected) all recognized the importance of personal canvassing and treating, which they extended to the freemen, presumably as a precautionary measure, Turnor ignored the advice of his supporters and stayed away. At first this proved a disadvantage. One of the seats seemed earmarked for Glemham, whose ‘noble’ treating had secured a majority of the corporation votes, and although he and Turnor were co-operating in the expectation of joining their interests at the election, in practice Turnor was left to fight with Felton and Duke over second place. Moreover Felton expected assistance from the Whig recorder of the borough, Sir John Somers*. Turnor did have some influential assistance himself. Considerations of party solidarity overcame kinship ties sufficiently to shift the Tory Huntingtower away from Felton and into Turnor’s camp, a significant gain even though financial constraints had deprived the family of some of its former strength. More important, the young Viscount Hereford was beginning to exert himself and was won over by a promise on Turnor’s part to regulate the conduct of the ‘labourers’ at the lighthouse, who had made a nuisance of themselves by seizing shipwrecked cargoes before the lord of the manor could exercise his customary right to them. The key to Turnor’s strategy was, however, the corporation, where in September 1692 his supporters achieved a coup in carrying the mayoral election for one of their number, Nathaniel Gooding’s brother Richard, ‘to the great astonishment of Sir John Duke . . . but general satisfaction of all the rest’. With the co-operation of ‘my Lord of Hereford’s interest, that is to say Mr [Theophilus] Hooke [rector of Sudbourne, Suffolk]’, they planned to fill the vacancies among the capital burgesses and to recruit more freemen, including Turnor himself. The insistence on admitting ‘at least ten freemen who shall be all your friends’, as Turnor was informed, may well betray a design to revive the freeman franchise at parliamentary elections. Whatever the underlying objective, the fact that this tactic encountered early obstruction from the town clerk, who adjourned a court ‘without the mayor’s order, when the mayor proposed a freeman to be made’, suggests a general appreciation that the point might be crucial, and the two Goodings and their confederates felt obliged to postpone their attempt. Initial dismay at the outcome of the mayoral election had worn off, and opposition, led by the Goodings’ uncles Thomas and Joseph Hastings, had become bolder. Indeed, during the winter of 1692–3 factions within the corporation coalesced into distinct parties. On the one side was a Tory coalition formed by Turnor’s agents with the Devereux and Tollemache interests; on the other a group headed by Felton’s supporters, whom circumstances would render as Whigs. Allegiances, however, were still determined largely by personal motives, an instance being the temporary acquisition by the Tories of the mayor, Daniel Whidby; ‘upon this account’, as Nathaniel Gooding told Turnor:

about three weeks since there was a commission out of the ecclesiastical court of Norwich executed against my uncle Thomas Hastings for keeping Whidby’s wife and I perceived my uncle’s drift was to have laid all the shame and charge upon Whidby, which I prevented and set the saddle upon the right horse, remembering his unkindness to you. Afterwards I met Whidby at Woodbridge and told him of it and he gave me a very good treat with many thanks and faithfully promised me he would vote for you and never comply with my uncles in anything as long as he lived.5

Tension within the corporation reached a crisis in the spring of 1693. To forestall the long-expected move on the part of the Tories to recruit burgesses and freemen the Hastings brothers ‘broke open’ the town chest and seized the charter and other documents, intending thereby to exploit residual uncertainty over municipal regulations following the quo warranto controversies of the 1680s, in order to intimidate the Tories from further action. They were to be disappointed, for on 13 Apr. Huntingtower himself arrived at Orford and at a court which the town clerk refused to attend three new capital burgesses were chosen (including Thomas Glemham) and six freemen were admitted. The Tories then moved on to the attack, and in May Joseph Hastings was accused of having refused ‘at the command of the mayor to open the town chest’, of having then ‘in open court threatened to turn the mayor out of his . . . office’, and ‘in the absence of the mayor’ broken open the chest and removed the charter. He was removed from his place as portman and ‘disfranchised of . . . all liberties, privileges, immunities and freedoms’ within the borough, alongside another portman, ‘squire [Henry] Parker’, who had not attended a court for 14 years, the two vacancies being supplied by Tory loyalists. Gooding was jubilant. He told Turnor, ‘your business is beyond all scruple’. Others were more cautious, fearing a Whig counter-offensive. ‘A subscription of the major part of the portmen and chief burgesses’ was canvassed against any petition on the part of the Whigs for a new charter, and Huntingtower was advised to inform the recorder, now lord keeper, ‘of the alterations made and the reasons’, not so much because of Somers’ position within the borough but because of his position in central government. As mayor, Richard Gooding felt particularly vulnerable, fearing a lawsuit directed against him personally, since, as he put it, ‘I have got the ill will of both my uncles, who . . . have watched all opportunities to do me all the mischief they can’. He reported that, after a visit to the town from Felton’s brother, ‘the captain’, ‘they threaten me very deeply and do say they will lay a very great fine upon me’. At this point, however, the energies of the Feltons and ‘their gang’ were concentrated on the next mayoral election, in September 1693, which Thomas Felton was determined to attend, and for which his friends’ extensive treating was intended to prepare a party. Turnor declined to come down himself but did contribute to the Tory costs, which amounted to over £70, sharing responsibility with Glemham and Hereford. The outcome of the election was a confirmation of Tory ascendancy over the corporation. Turnor’s agent gave a full account:

The company that appeared was very great, and such a meeting as no man living ever saw at Orford on such an occasion. On our part was my Lord of Hereford, Lord Huntingtower, Sir Henry Johnson*, Mr Glemham, Mr [John] Bence*, and others; on the other part was Sir John Duke, Mr Tho[mas] Felton in very great splendour, Capt. Felton and others. The competitors were agreed on all hands to be Mr Tho[mas] Palmer and Mr Tho[mas] Hastings. The former carried it by nine. Matters ran very high and warm on both sides, and the ending with plentiful eating and drinking, besides treating a week before. My Lord of Hereford took a great deal of pains, he declaring for your interest openly at all times, but the business of that day for mayor was too great to dare own what was intended by the contest. Since the castle of Orford was built there was never so much money spent on the like occasion.

After such a convincing political defeat, with all that it implied for the next parliamentary election, Felton and his supporters turned to the law for their remedy. Their first action was to deny the legality of the election and swear their own candidate, Hastings, as mayor instead. ‘It’s too tedious’, wrote Turnor’s agent:

[to] tell you what a noise there was about writs and mandamus and the Lord knows what. The common people [who elected the mayor ‘in hall’ from two candidates named by the chief burgesses] was possessed . . . to appear to command the mayor to swear Mr Tho[mas] Hastings, but the late mayor [Richard Gooding] being steady and well instructed, Palmer was quietly by the old mayor sworn as the charter directs in the common hall or court chambers in the forenoon and Mr Hastings they say was sworn by the recorder and town clerk in the [Goose] House under the town chamber; others say that Mr Hastings was sworn before daylight at his own house. Sworn I believe he is, but how, where or by whom I know not.

Not only did the Whigs swear their own mayor, they also filled the other corporation offices held by their opponents. The Tories followed suit, and within days there were two rival corporations in existence, each claiming civic authority, although in practice it would seem that municipal business was conducted by the Tories, and that the Whigs maintained their existence largely in order to conduct mayoral and, even more important, parliamentary elections. Short of a new charter, which the Tories feared and for which the Whigs certainly contemplated an application, the quickest way to resolve this conflict was through litigation, and a series of writs and counter-writs was launched by each side. The Whigs, intending to prove the illegitimacy of the Tory corporation by demonstrating the illegality of their actions, brought an information against the Gooding brothers and Thomas Palmer for holding the court on 13 Apr. without due notice, admitting non-residents as capital burgesses, and dismissing Joseph Hastings and Parker unfairly (for whose reinstatement an application for a mandamus was also filed). In return the Tories brought an action against both the Hastings brothers for breaking open the town chest and removing the charter, and Joseph in particular for his action as magistrate in imprisoning one Marriott, ‘on purpose to bring the legality of Mr Palmer’s being elected mayor in question’. In court the verdicts went consistently in favour of the Tories, and even in Council in October 1694, when ‘the matter about choosing the mayor of Orford . . . was heard’, and ‘the petitioners were dismissed with a sharp reprimand’. It was presumably this series of successes that encouraged the Tories to turn down ‘my lord chief justice’s proposal to put an end to the contest’. But on the other side the Whigs could look to their party’s ascendancy in national politics, both for immediate protection, as in the entering of a nolle prosequi to avert judgment against the Hastings brothers for expropriating the charter, and for the possibility of ultimate victory, through the grant of a new charter or a decision taken in the Commons on the legitimacy of the next parliamentary election return.6

Even though the Tory faction effectively controlled the government of the borough, and could rely not only on a majority of its own corporation but also, it would appear, on a majority of the freemen, the persistence of an alternative Whig corporation dampened some Tory spirits, and in particular deterred Glemham from pursuing his ambitions for re-election in 1695, at least in partnership with Turnor. Fear of the likely ‘trouble and expense’ involved in a double return, and of a permanent loss of influence in the constituency, persuaded him to seek a compromise with the increasingly sanguine, and indeed aggressive, Felton interest. In so doing he precipitated a terminal quarrel with Turnor, the origins of which were already present in Glemham’s reluctance to ‘stir a step’ to help Turnor gain admission to Orford corporation, where he was still ‘not so much as a freeman’. The news of Glemham’s retreat from the parliamentary contest came to Turnor as late as August 1695, in a communication from Theophilus Hooke:

Mr Felton has been lately at Orford treating and caressing his party, and . . . it was then agreed to choose the two present burgesses [the outgoing MPs, Felton and Glemham]; on the next occasion, which Mr Hast[ings] was to acquaint Mr Glemham with, as soon as he came home. Upon notice of this, it came into my thoughts how backward he [Glemham] has been in paying his third of the charge, and how fair an opportunity this will be to quit himself of it for the future, and thereupon directed my brother to watch his coming home and discourse him upon what terms he would quit his interest to you . . . my brother . . . finds him willing to relieve, in case you will pay his proportion of the charges. I confess I could not pardon myself this, but that I find a necessity of an accommodation; and I believe you will be of my mind, if you consider how much worse our circumstances are, and under how many more difficulties we labour than we did. We have no friend at Court, and but one in Westminster Hall that dares be just. The friends we have are in the country, but experience shows we cannot get enough of them together for fear of being [starved] . . . our cause itself, that is so just, grows weaker and weaker, because the witnesses against us mend their oaths every trial, where they found them defective before, so that if the trial be in any other county, where they are not known what perjured villains they are, it may go hard with us upon a square trial. Besides all this, we see no end of the charge, which may be greater to you than it has been yet, though the choice should be near, because . . . the sheriff will deliver the writ to their mayor, who will return the two they shall choose, and you will have the after-game of a petitioner alone, which will be no small charge. I desire to know your thoughts . . . no time is to be lost, because there will be [little] enough [time] to model the corporation before the next choice of a mayor, which I suppose must be by a reference to gentlemen.

Turnor replied in evident perplexity:

I was not a little startled that a proposition of an accommodation should now be accepted (and that Hastings should be the man to go to Mr Glemham his greatest enemy to propose it), when the corporation and its friends who have stood so close to them have almost weathered all obstructions. Our mayor has been allowed and the villainies of the contrary party public enough not only through Suffolk but almost every sensible body in London knows of it, and now to yield the point they aimed at (which was to make Felton their burgess to corroborate their villainous practices) is what I can’t understand.

His own preference was to stand the risk of a double return and hope for ‘a Church of England Parliament’, but, for all the bravado with which he tried to embolden his agents, the truth of the situation was clear to him: ‘as to Mr Glemham’s releasing to me’, he observed sourly, ‘there is as little certainty of that as there was of his paying his share of the charge’. In any case he ‘scorned to stand with Mr Felton’, whatever Glemham might be willing to contemplate. Without any further directions, and without Turnor’s much-requested presence on the spot, those responsible for managing the Tories’ concerns were left to make what arrangements they could. Glemham first of all gave his ‘final answer’, that he would not stand, upon which Hooke attempted to bring about a negotiated settlement of the corporation dispute in order that Turnor and Felton might divide the representation on terms that Turnor could accept. Before this could be concluded, Glemham changed his mind once again, hoping thus to blackmail Turnor into writing off his debt. Otherwise, he said, he and Felton would combine and be returned by the Whig corporation, leaving Turnor to ‘play the after-game’ alone. This was enough to induce Turnor to write to the Tory mayor to announce his own withdrawal, not only to save the ‘trouble and charges’ of a disputed double return but to save ‘your corporation’ from suffering a parliamentary defeat that might ‘do a prejudice at the trial at law’. At this point Hereford, seeing his ‘interest in the corporation . . . [entirely] gone’, with ‘none to set up to preserve it’, seems to have authorized Hooke to look for an alternative candidate to Turnor, one who might be able to achieve a compromise and avoid the dangers of a double return. ‘In this shipwreck’, wrote Hooke afterwards, ‘we could not see one plank to save a man.’ However, ‘these melancholy reflections lasted no longer than [one] night’, for the very next day Felton’s brother Sir Adam, 3rd Bt., who, although loyal to the family interest, was himself a man of Tory sympathies, arrived with news of the latest meeting of Felton and ‘the heads of his party’. It transpired that the local Whigs ‘would by no means hear of Mr Glemham’, who had as a result been dumped in favour of a Court Whig, ‘a stranger to the borough’, probably (Sir) Joseph Jekyll*. ‘Whereupon I asked Sir Adam’, wrote Hooke,

why should not he join with his brother rather than a stranger? He answered it was what he never thought of but it was a sure way to make an end of our differences, and he would stand upon my lord’s recommendation. He went home and told his brother as much, who was cold in the matter and told him he durst not propose him to his party for they looked on him as great a Jacobite as Sir Ed[ward] Turnor. Sir Adam told him, he would propose himself, and did so at Sir John Duke’s . . . where he found the cabal met. They having no time to consult or consider, immediately agreed to join him with his brother, and accordingly next day both were chose by both sides, and returned by both mayors, but more to the satisfaction of our party than theirs, after they came to consider, for Sir J. Duke said . . . that they had taken in one to cut their throats; for Sir Adam told them, if we could not agree, he would bear the whole charge of the [suit] for the future, and at present there is a truce till differences are made up.

Turnor accepted what had happened, on the principle that ‘a desperate disease must have a desperate cure’, though with a bad grace and only on being reassured that this settlement was necessary to preserve his interest for the future. The greatest defeat, however, was suffered by Glemham, for whom the election was to be his last experience as a candidate in Orford. ‘Mr Glemham in a letter appeals to me’, reported Hooke, ‘if he be not hardly used, and expects his whole charges to be reimbursed.’ Such impudence merely gave Hooke ‘an opportunity of discharging my mind, which was brim full of resentment, and in my answer [I] have made it appear where the hard usage lay’.7

Sir Adam Felton’s pious hope of settling the ‘differences’ in the borough proved illusory. Prior to the 1696 mayoral election he and Hereford worked out a set of ‘proposals’ which were offered in writing to Thomas Hastings, only to be rejected. Each corporation then chose its own mayor and threatened the other with lawsuits. Resistance to the idea of an accommodation seems to have been strongest among the rival corporators. Of the principals, both Lord Hereford and Thomas Felton seem to have been willing to settle, to maintain their own interests without the risk of contested election returns, and when Sir Adam died, in February 1697, Felton paid Hereford a visit, possibly ‘to let him know he would assist him in choosing a burgess’ if an acceptable candidate could be found. Nothing came of the conference, and each man then found himself saddled with a candidate foisted on him by outside interests from his own party: on the Tory side, the lawyer John Hungerford*, sponsored by the Aldeburgh MP Sir Henry Johnson, and backed by Lord Jermyn (Thomas†) and ‘other friends of my lord’s [Hereford]’; on the Whig side, the lord keeper’s brother-in-law Jekyll, another carpet-bagging barrister. Meanwhile Duke, angered by Felton’s neglect of him, both now and at the preceding general election, was busy canvassing on his own account, having cobbled together an alliance of the maverick and disaffected, prominent among whom were the town clerk, Richard Porter, and Thomas Glemham. The depth of Duke’s discontent proved an unexpected boon to Hereford, who himself had taken personal offence on learning of Hungerford’s having previously been expelled the House for bribery and had announced that he would absent himself from the poll, in a combined fit of moral fastidiousness and sheer pique. Persuading his Tory confreres that ‘Mr Hungerford lay under that prejudice’, on account of his reputation, ‘that it was not safe to elect him’, he then ‘prevailed on Sir J. Duke to stand, who was chosen nem. con. to the great disappointment of Sir T. F[elton]’. A gleeful Tory reported:

It’s scarce to be thought what an amazement and consternation it caused in the adverse party when they first heard of it. Their mayor with some others protested they would not appear upon the hall but suppose were over persuaded by Sir Tho[mas] Fel[ton], Tho[mas] Hast[ings] and Porter, who were unwilling to appear so ungrateful as to oppose one that had done them so much service.8

Turnor seems not to have been considered by Hereford to be a possible candidate in 1697: either he took at face value Turnor’s professed aversion to the risk of trouble and expense, or he was still annoyed that Turnor had left him in the lurch at the general election. Nor was Turnor the Tories’ choice in 1698, when the long-threatened contest finally took place. By the time Hereford was informed of Turnor’s willingness to put up, the Viscount had already attended a meeting of ‘the gentlemen’ at which ‘by the general consent of all’ Sir Henry Johnson’s brother William and a connexion of Hereford’s by marriage, Sir Edmund Bacon, 4th Bt., had been selected to carry the Tory standard, and Hereford had ‘so far engaged that . . . he cannot quit with honour’. While Duke seems to have accepted the decision, Turnor was understandably aggrieved. ‘I know not how you came to be persuaded to name those two gentlemen’, he protested to Hereford,

as for Sir Edmund Bacon he declined standing the last time for, if he would then have stood, I offered to join with him, and now to stand he will be in no better a condition than he would have been three years ago, for as the business is ordered he must be a petitioner, and what interest he has in the House may easily be imagined, he never having been acquainted with the proceedings there, nor yet with any of the old members of it.

Turnor even went so far as to inspire ‘a petition to my lord’ from his supporters in the town, which succeeded at least in obtaining a promise from Hereford that if Bacon and Johnson were chosen, and the latter was, as expected, also returned at Aldeburgh, then Turnor should be brought in for the vacant seat. The election itself was decided not at the polls but on the hearing of the petition. Each mayor made his own return, and the Whigs’ control over county government ensured that their return was the one accepted by the sheriff. Partly because the Tories were anxious not to prejudice the legal claims of their corporation and partly, it would seem, because they did genuinely enjoy a majority of freemen voters, Bacon and Johnson grounded their case principally on the question of the franchise. Thus in effect they acknowledged the return made by the Whig mayor and argued that he had acted improperly in refusing to poll the freemen. This approach may not have been their first preference, since surviving copies of cases published and distributed on their behalf concentrate instead on the illegality of the Whig corporation. But in the interval between the original presentation of the petition and its final hearing the strategy was changed. Possibly they had become more fully aware of the strength of Court support for Felton and his partner, Sir Charles Hedges. Not only was Lord Chancellor Somers [Sir John] personally concerned in the corporation’s affairs, as recorder; his Junto colleague, Lord Orford (Edward Russell*), had recently begun to take a close interest in the borough from which he had taken his title. On the other hand, not even the most obtuse political observer could have failed to notice the increasing parliamentary difficulties besetting the Whig ministry. It seems more likely that Orford’s Tories were influenced by local developments, in particular a loss of support among the ‘inhabitants’ of the borough, whom the Whigs had allegedly polled along with some freemen in 1698. This both threatened their popularity within the town itself, and suggested a need to define the franchise before the phrase ‘burgesses and commonalty’, which in this contest had been traditionally understood to mean only the corporation, could be reintroduced to their disadvantage. There may even have been some Tory moves towards a settlement of the corporation dispute before the election petition was reported. The hearing, however, disproved all Tory fears. The committee accepted their arguments over the franchise, and although declining to hear evidence from Tory witnesses as to the freemen voters the Whigs had refused, found for the petitioners. In Whig eyes these were ‘very hard resolutions’, carried solely by the ‘non-attendance of those who should have taken more care’. When the report was made to the Commons, Bacon and Johnson were voted in by the narrowest margin in a packed House, with Whigs lamenting once more that the sitting Members had ‘had a very hard case of it’.9

Turnor did not make the immediate gain from this decision that he had expected, for William Johnson had taken ship for the East Indies, and was unable to signify to the House his choice of constituency before the dissolution. Turnor did, however, take Johnson’s place alongside Bacon at the ensuing general election, again contested for the Whigs by Felton and Hedges (even though the latter was moving away from Whiggism in other respects and towards a moderate Toryism). On this occasion the sheriff accepted the return made by the Tory mayor, so that Felton and Hedges were obliged to petition. The effect of the Commons’ judgment on the franchise, after a hearing in which the evidence had been thoroughly rehearsed and which left little scope for challenge, was to focus attention on the issue of the corporation dispute. Having established the freemen franchise the Tories had intensified their existing policy of admitting non-resident freemen, chiefly ‘country gentlemen’. No less than 34 were admitted and sworn on one day, 11 Nov. 1700. Indeed, by 1702, after a further series of multiple admissions, the electorate under the Tory corporation had risen to approximately 100. The Whigs seem to have followed suit. It thus became essential for each side to establish the legality of their corporation, not only to validate their return but also the qualification of a high proportion of their voters. Legal proceedings were renewed. In the autumn of 1700 the Tories brought another action for trespass against the Hastingses for their removal of the charter in 1693, and in November Narcissus Luttrell* reported a hearing at common pleas between the rival mayors. In the House Felton and Hedges pressed their claim on behalf of the Whig corporation, and the committee was furnished with the charters and corporation muniments. The rejection of the petition (25 Mar. 1701) presented the Tories with an opportunity to ‘maul’ their opponents, and appropriate legal proceedings were accordingly begun. But the deployment of governmental and parliamentary influence had always to be accompanied by personal canvassing within the borough, and at the local level the Tories proved sluggish, allowing their opponents to steal a march upon them during the summer of 1701 by ‘daily soliciting’ the members of the corporation. The most important Whig catch was Nathaniel Gooding, whose personal financial troubles made his loyalty a relatively cheap but unreliable commodity. In the absence of any communication from Bacon and Turnor, other members of the corporation began to consider making terms. Management of Hereford’s interest, which had hitherto provided more effective leadership, seems after the succession to the viscountcy of Price Devereux* to have devolved upon his predecessor’s brother-in-law, Leicester Martin*, who expected the Members themselves to take the initiative, and it was left to Bacon to save the day, descending on Orford in September 1701, where ‘over a large bowl of punch’ he reassured the waverers, ‘brought over’ the ‘dissenting party’ and ‘carried Nat. [Gooding] into Norfolk’, where his own country estate was situated, intending to keep him there ‘till the election’ and probably until the legal case could be settled. After that, offers from desperate Whig agents of ‘a green silk purse . . . with 100 guineas in it’ and other similar inducements failed to shift Tory loyalists, and, to the dismay of ‘the godly’, Bacon and Turnor were re-elected under the same circumstances as before, returned by the Tory mayor while the rival corporation tried unsuccessfully to secure the sheriff’s acceptance of its own return. The defeated Whigs on this occasion were Charles Killigrew and Charles May, Felton and Hedges having both found safer alternatives. Their petition, accompanied by another from the Whig mayor, Daniel Whidby, was supported by a renewal of legal processes, in order to establish the case made in the petition that the Tory mayor had no legal authority. Success in the courts, made possible by Gooding’s release from captivity on Bacon’s estate, and the death of some of the Tories’ witnesses, did not entail success in the House, where the petitions were not reported before the dissolution. The same fate attended the Whig petition against the re-election of the outgoing Members, rehearsing once more the arguments about the rival corporations. This was referred to the committee of elections but quietly dropped, notwithstanding the endeavours of Nathaniel Gooding who, after flirting very briefly with the Tories prior to the general election in July, was subsequently reported to have thrown in his lot completely with the Whigs, and to be vainly boasting that he could ‘turn out’ Bacon and Turnor for bribery.10

The dispute between the two corporations dragged on for another two years, with such miniscule offices as the borough’s ‘coal meeter’ subject to partisan competition. An eventual settlement came largely in consequence of the fading out of Felton’s influence among the Whigs and a reassertion of the Tollemache interest by Huntingtower, now Earl of Dysart in the Scottish peerage. Negotiations seem to have been begun under Dysart’s direction, with the approval of Bacon and other country gentlemen, including Sir John Duke. Neither Leicester Martin nor any other representative of the Devereux family seems to have been involved, and Turnor’s habitual absence also deprived him of a say. In sum, the arrangement was to return to the status quo prior to 1693, with all subsequent admissions and elections agreed to be invalid. Vacancies among the portmen and capital burgesses were to be filled in such a way as to give the Tories a majority of one portman, and to divide the number of burgesses equally. Charters and all other documents were to be delivered to Dysart. Martin, who complained that he had been left entirely in the dark during these transactions, sent a peevish but ultimately futile protest. As for Turnor, reassurances of his own security, and of the fact that the Tories retained a majority among the freemen despite the disfranchisement of all admitted since 1693, were sufficient to still his objections to the ‘new model’, but in the approach to the general election the following year the Tories felt it necessary to tread carefully. There was local resentment that the corporation was ‘monopolized by two men’ (presumably Dysart and his agent, the current mayor John Hooke); Felton was not yet utterly resigned to the reduction of his influence; and experience had bred in the minds of the principals a deep distrust of the corporators: the mayor told Turnor that he would take ‘due care’ in ‘making of freemen . . . and no more [shall be] made than what we are sure to be friends’. The arrest in January 1705 of ‘13 or 14’ members of the former Whig faction caused temporary alarm to local Tories and may indicate that Turnor had not abandoned hope of settling old scores, or that he was simply trying to assert himself. His main concern, however, was with the possibility of a wealthy outsider intervening, and in February there were indeed reports that ‘there is a gentleman that will give £100 p.a. to the corporation for nine years upon condition he may be chosen’; and, worse still, that the interloper was ‘one that all the gentlemen in the country shall approve of’. Despite Turnor’s refusal to canvass personally, his investment in the corporation, through the lighthouses and other benefactions, secured his return along with Bacon, himself almost just as much an absentee. Felton denounced his ‘friends’ for ‘promising Sir Edm[und] Bacon without giving him notice’, but was powerless to do more and the two Tories encountered no opposition.11

Upon Bacon’s decision, taken in the winter of 1706–7, not to stand for re-election, John Hooke and the other leading Tories in the borough hastily persuaded the corporation to pledge itself to return Clement Corrance of Parham Hall together with Turnor at the next election. This was done without informing Turnor or Dysart, and was justified to them on the grounds that otherwise a ‘Mr M’ (possibly Charles May, one of the defeated Whigs in 1701–2) would have promised ‘£800 to the corporation to be chosen, which you may believe to be a great temptation to such a poor place as this’. News of the money they had unwittingly forfeited worked upon the corporators, however, and their ‘chagrin’ grew into disaffection from the Tory candidates, more especially from Turnor, for while Corrance spent time and money on the voters Turnor’s continued absence bred a belief in the town, fostered by his enemies, that he was dead: ‘till they see you’, he was informed, ‘they will believe no otherwise’. Faction revived within the corporation. At the mayoral election in September 1707 ‘heats and animosities’ erupted, with the chief burgesses evenly divided and a strong element in ‘the mob’ pressing for the election of Thomas Hastings against the candidate favoured by the Tories. There was even a clamour for Hastings to be sworn despite his defeat, which he averted by declaring that he would ‘never do anything that shall create another difference in the corporation’. Some thought that ‘money matters’ lay at the root of these divisions, specifically the ‘disposition’ of the £20 p.a. accruing to the corporation from its management of the lighthouses. Further developments, however, pointed to the involvement of outside interests, namely two Whig army officers, Charles Churchill* (whose kinsman William* sat for Ipswich) and Daniel Harvey*, who were actively canvassing the former Whig portmen and capital burgesses. Of the two, Churchill was the more effective, receiving ‘very large promises’ and posing a serious threat to Turnor if not to Corrance, whose expenditure had secured him ‘frequent promises’ from the corporators, ‘which they cannot violate’. Harvey was sufficiently deterred to switch his attention to Dunwich, but another Whig candidate then appeared, the recorder of Ipswich, William Thompson III. In terms of personnel and strategy his supporters strongly resembled the Whig faction formerly headed by Felton. For example, they attempted to blackmail the mayor into ‘making such a return as desired’ by threatening that otherwise Thomas Hastings ‘should have the precept’ from the Whig sheriff and that ‘the right of mayorship should be disputed’. At another point it was rumoured that ‘they design to elect by the freemen in the corporation made in Dan. Whidby’s time . . . the trial at the common pleas bar confirmed him a good mayor they say’. Felton’s own position is unclear. He was not without hope of recovering lost ground in the constituency, but his strength lay in the ‘out-setters’ (non-resident freemen) rather than in the corporation, and corporators on both sides were determined to restrict the franchise to residents. He could still, however, be a power behind the scenes. By the time of polling an agreement seems to have been reached whereby Churchill made way for Thompson to challenge Turnor on his own for the second seat, on the assumption that Turnor was the more vulnerable of the two Tories, with Felton acting in some respects as the patron of their campaign. The day before the poll Churchill, Thompson and Felton arrived in the borough together, and ‘sent for all those freemen that were made in the disputable times’. Already, on their behalf, ‘out-setters’ had been summoned from nearby Framlingham, their whipper-in being none other than Nathaniel Gooding. The triumvirate then called upon the mayor in person to attempt to browbeat him into splitting the representation between Corrance and Thompson: ‘Major Churchill [and] Mr Thompson . . . threatening . . . that if we did not consent [that] Sir Thomas Felton should . . . put in one burgess he was resolved to set up two’. The Tories, however, ‘held together’ in the face of such tactics, even though some support had been lost to the ‘great offers’ the Whigs had made and Turnor’s interest in particular had suffered from the townsmen ‘not seeing . . . [him] since last election’. When the mayor had polled the corporation, the ‘old freemen [i.e. those admitted before 1693] and those [admitted] since the union [of 1704]’, Corrance and Turnor were found to have a decisive advantage. Indeed, according to one of Turnor’s agents Thompson had only recorded three votes at this stage. There remained ‘the Framlingham men’, a solid phalanx of Thompson’s supporters, which he alleged numbered 21. The mayor’s refusal to poll them gave Thompson grounds to petition, to which he added ‘bribery, menaces and other indirect practices’ on the part of Turnor and Corrance, and objections against several Tory voters in order to give himself a majority. ‘A trial at the next assizes’ was attempted as well, ‘concerning the freemen that voted for him [Thompson]’, a recourse to former tactics which seemed to presage another scheme to remodel the corporation. This was sufficient to alienate Charles Churchill, who was opposed to any course of action that might disrupt ‘the peace of the town’. His alliance with Felton was in fact already coming under strain, with each man jealous of the other’s interest, and in these circumstances Churchill withdrew from the constituency. Within the borough, too, there was concern at the prospect of a return to the chaos of a divided corporation. In August 1708 both factions in the town drew together to propose a compromise, by the terms of which Thompson would drop his projected petition in return for a promise of election at the next opportunity. Although his own support in the corporation was weak, he preferred the immediate advantage likely to be afforded by the Whig majority in the newly elected Commons, and for the future was prepared to trust to ‘the Framlingham men’, once their right to vote had been confirmed, and the attractions of ‘meat and drink’ to the ‘common people’ of Orford, in building up his interest in the borough itself. In the short term, his confidence was well placed. He petitioned, and at his hearing at the bar, which lasted until midnight on 29 Jan. 1709, the House found for him by over 50 votes and Turnor was unseated.12

When they had digested the outcome of the petition Thompson’s ‘friends’ on the corporation began to appreciate the possibility of using outside Whig influence to gain control of the borough and for a while talked freely of a new charter, and of a mandamus to restore Gooding to his former place as portman. That their hopes were short-lived was due in some degree to the death of Sir Thomas Felton in March 1709, which deprived Thompson of powerful assistance, both in the country and at court, and also to Thompson’s own complacent reliance on ‘the out-setters’. For their part the Tories showed a renewed determination to regain control. Turnor seems to have learnt the lesson of his defeat, at least in so far as to pay more attention to the borough between elections. With Dysart in turn showing much less concern for the upkeep of his interest, the Tory leadership became concentrated in the two parliamentary candidates, and correspondingly more effective. Following a last appearance in the borough by Charles Churchill, who in the summer of 1709 arrived with proposals ‘to preserve peace and unity among us’ and settle the parliamentary representation between himself, Turnor and Corrance by rotation, a scheme that failed to attract sufficient Tory support, John Hooke and his colleagues among the Tory portmen acceded to pressure from other members of their faction, and from Turnor, to admit a number of ‘country gentlemen’ as freemen ‘for to balance some that pretends to be so and has endeavoured the ruin of [the corporation’s] constitution’: in other words to outnumber the Framlingham contingent. After the mayoral election in September, 43 new freemen were chosen (of whom 24 were immediately sworn), the vast majority of them local squires and including Corrance and Turnor themselves. As a result, the 1710 election, in which Thompson did not put up, saw the return of the two Tories by a substantial margin. Two further mass creations of freemen in August and September 1711 (totalling about 50) both demonstrated and further cemented Tory dominance over the corporation, which sent up effusively loyal addresses on the peace in 1712 and 1713, praising Queen Anne’s ‘loyal and wise ministry’ and denouncing opposition as factious, malicious, warmongering, corrupt and ‘republican’. In 1713 Turnor and Corrance were not even opposed.13

Author: D. W. Hayton


This article is based on the detailed account of Orford elections in Murrell thesis, esp. chapter 6.

  • 1. Corpn. only.
  • 2. Essex RO, Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKW 02/10; corpn. only.
  • 3. Bodl. Willis 26, f. 126.
  • 4. Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, i. 54.
  • 5. W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/901, 948, 950–1, 1017, Edward Pratt to Turnor, 14 Apr. 1692, Nathaniel Gooding to same, 23 May, 15, 27 Aug. 1692, Turnor to [Theophilus Hooke], [Nov. 1692].
  • 6. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/984–5, 962, 995, Richard Gooding to Turnor, 12 June, 10 July 1693, Nathaniel Gooding to same, 30 Oct. 1694, Theophilus Hooke to same, 7 Jan. 1694–5; BL, Lothian mss, ‘Case of . . . Orford’ [1698]; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 385; CSP Dom. 1694–5, pp. 452–3.
  • 7. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/993, 829, 835, 1003, 1005, 1007, 1015, 965, Turnor to Theophilus Hooke, 23 May 1694, 18 Aug. 1695, same to mayor of Orford, 27 Oct. 1695, Hooke to Turnor, 17 Aug., 30 Sept., 19 Oct. 1695, Nathaniel Gooding to Turnor, 3 Nov. 1695.
  • 8. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/968, 970–1, 1010–15, 911, 1020, Nathaniel Gooding to Turnor, 26 Oct. 1696, 15, 22 Feb. 1696–7, Theophilus Hooke to same, 11, 18, 20 Feb., 2, 5, 13 Mar. 1696–7, Edward Pratt to same, 2 Mar. 1696–7, John Hooke to same, 6 Mar. 1696–7.
  • 9. Add. 22186, f. 98; 24107, ff. 166–7; 30000 D, f. 47; Shillinglee mss Ac.454/972–4, 1021, 1023, 1088, 839–40, 1151, Nathaniel Gooding to Turnor, 11, 18 July, 17 Oct. 1698, John Hooke to same, 16, 26 July 1698, June [?1699], Hereford to same, 19 July 1698, Turnor to Hereford, 21 July 1698, Thomas Palmer to Turnor, 25 July 1698; Lothian mss, ‘Case of . . . Orford’ [1698]; The Petitioners’ Case of the Corpn. of Orford . . . [1698]; Prideaux Letters (Cam. Soc. n.s. xv), 191; Vernon-Shrewsbury Letters, ii. 262; Cocks Diary, 47–48; Hervey Diary, 31; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/3, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 10 Feb. 1699[–1700].
  • 10. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/976, 980, 1183–5, 845–9, 852, 850, 1154, 1031, Nathaniel Gooding to Turnor, 16 Jan. 1699, 9 Feb. 1701[–2], Leicester Martin to same, 26, 28 Aug., 5 Sept. 1701, John Sanders to same, 4 Sept. 1701, William Betts to same, 9 Sept., 8 Dec. 1701, 19 Jan. 1702, Richard Gulston to same, 16 Dec. 1701, Thomas Palmer to same, 2 Mar. 1701[–2], John Hooke to same, 30 Oct. 1702; HMC Var. iv. 270–1; Luttrell, iv. 710; v. 27; Willis 26, f. 126; Dorset RO, Fox-Strangways mss, Nathaniel Gooding to Sir Thomas Felton, 22 Feb. 1702.
  • 11. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1036, 1040, 1042–4, 1046, 1159, 1190, 856, 890, 1200, John Hooke to Turnor, 14 Jan. [1702–3], 1 Nov. 1704, 22, 27 Jan., 8 Feb., 30 Apr. 1705, Thomas Palmer to same, 8 May 1704, Leicester Martin to same, 4 June 1704, Dysart to same, 28 June 1704, [?-] to same, Sept. [1704], John Morgan to same, 6 Nov. 1704; Winterton (Turnor) mss D/DKW 02/10.
  • 12. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1049, 1052–3, 1057, 1059–60, 1062–3, 1065–6, 1163–4, 1166, 857, 859, 1212, 860, 882, 862, 1194, 1192, 1230, John Hooke to Turnor, 23 Jan., 24 Sept., 23 Oct. 1707, 12 Mar., 8, 12 Apr., 3, 8 June, 11, 21 Aug. 1708, Thomas Palmer to same, 9 [June], 24 Sept. 1707, 6 May 1708, Dysart to same, 6 Feb. 1707–8, Turnor and Corrance to mayor of Orford, 17 Feb. 1707–8, J. Alsop to Felton, [1] May 1708, Corrance to Turnor, 10 May [?1708], 28 Aug. 1708, Leicester Martin to same, 12 May [?1708], 9 Sept. 1708, Alexander Bence to same, 14 Jan. 1708[–9]; Luttrell, vi. 402.
  • 13. Shillinglee mss Ac.454/1074, 1076, 1079–81, 1083, 1209, 1242, John Hooke to Turnor, 14, 28 Feb., 27 June, 16 July, 29 Aug., 28 Sept. 1709, John Morgan to same, 4 Mar. 1708–9, John Bence to same, 2 Sept. 1709; London Gazette, 19–22 July 1712, 13–16 June 1713.