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:

1690-1702 in the inhabitant householders not receiving alms; 1702-14 in the inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

1690-1702 about 4,000; 1702-14 about 1,500


14 Mar. 1690ANTHONY BOWYER23601
 Sir Peter Rich1677
 Thomas Cooke1526
28 Oct. 1695ANTHONY BOWYER2251
 Sir George Meggot1776
27 July 1698CHARLES COX1831
 Capt. Rossey1311
 Sir George Meggot1236
9 Jan. 1701CHARLES COX2605
 Arthur Moore1626
24 Nov. 1701CHARLES COX322
 Edmund Bowyer47
17 July 1702CHARLES COX1877
 John Lade1194
 Election declared void, 10 Nov. 1702 
25 Nov. 1702JOHN CHOLMLEY816
 John Lade664
30 Apr. 1708CHARLES COX 
7 Oct. 1710SIR CHARLES COX765
 John Lade641
 Sir Issac Chard576
12 Jan. 1712EDMUND HALSEY, vice Cholmley, deceased815
 Sir George Mathews831
 Mr Stiles8
 Mr Cormel5
 MATHEWS vice Halsey, on petition, 7 Feb. 1712 
27 Aug. 1713JOHN LADE792
 Sir George Mathews721
 Samuel Rush710
 Election declared void, 20 Apr. 1714 
3 May 1714JOHN LADE807
 Samuel Rush708
 Thomas Lant704

Main Article

Although dwarfed by the neighbouring city of London, Southwark retained control of its choice of Members, an independence maintained despite the competing jurisdictions of the metropolis and the county of Surrey. A charter of 1550 had established Southwark as the City ward of Bridge Without, but the borough had never been fully assimilated by the government of the London corporation. In the absence of a wardmote, the aldermanship of Bridge Without had already become a sinecure well before the Glorious Revolution, and even within the borough there remained several autonomous liberties which helped perpetuate Southwark’s reputation for lawlessness. Undermining City influence still further were the powers wielded by the Surrey justices, who held a court of quarter sessions in the borough alongside that presided over by the lord mayor. In October 1694 the Southwark constables drew attention to this problematic arrangement, when they complained of having to attend eight sessions each year. The Surrey officials ultimately gained the ascendancy in this dispute, Southwark having already established itself as a regular venue for the county assize. The borough also boasted a separate commission of lieutenancy, and although nominally under the control of the lord lieutenant of Middlesex, the local militia attended the Surrey muster. Amid the uncertainties spawned by these rival jurisdictions, the greatest electoral influence rested with the bailiff, a lessee of the London corporation who acted as returning officer. The machinations of successive incumbents were brought to the attention of the House by a series of election petitions, and by 1697 the office was reckoned to be worth ‘a considerable sum’. Defeated candidates also notified the Commons of the violence which attended the gathering of so large an electorate, and the borough’s reputation for political disorder ultimately led to the House’s decision to limit the franchise in October 1702. Defoe may have described the ‘prodigious’ number of local inhabitants as ‘the principal beauty of the borough’, but politicians were less enamoured by the prospect of controlling so large a number of tradesmen. The limitation of the franchise probably helped to curb electoral disturbances, but it did not interrupt a series of Whig victories at Southwark. The party’s cause was significantly advanced by the influence of brewers John Cholmley and Charles Cox, dominant figures within the borough’s most important industry, whose political interest was bolstered by their business contacts with other major local employers in the inn-keeping and maritime trades. Moreover, even though there is little evidence to suggest that any of the Whig candidates were themselves Dissenters, they could rely upon the borough’s large Nonconformist population to provide valuable electoral support. Conversely, the strength of their Tory opponents was demonstrated by the frequency of contested elections, as well as by the emergence of Dr Henry Sacheverell as a local Tory champion, a dramatic development which ensured that the borough remained a turbulent constituency throughout the period.2

The election of 1690 testified to the bitter rivalries existing within the borough, providing as it did the highest turn-out of the period. The Whigs made a strong show, running the outgoing Member John Arnold alongside Anthony Bowyer, a well-respected local lawyer. The Tory challenge was also impressive, the other outgoing Member, Sir Peter Rich†, partnering the influential City merchant (Sir) Thomas Cooke*. At the polls the Whigs proved comfortable victors, but the defeated candidates petitioned, alleging that ‘many hundreds’ of their supporters had not been polled and that as many Whig votes had come from unqualified electors. The petition revealed that before polling had begun both parties had agreed to a new set of election articles ‘in hopes it might produce a peaceable effect’, but these precautions appear to have had little effect. The Tories claimed that rival supporters had ‘beaten and wounded’ several of their voters, and that some ‘300 eminent traders’ had been intimidated from voting by a mob crying ‘no papist, no King James’. The matter was referred to the elections committee, but was never reported, even though on 11 Oct. 1690 Rich and Cooke renewed their petition. The victorious Whig candidates soon revealed an awareness of their constituency’s needs by backing a bill to erect a court of conscience for the benefit of Southwark and neighbouring Surrey parishes, but it failed on 3 May 1690 at the engrossment stage. Undeterred by this failure, in the next session Bowyer managed to steer a similar bill through the Commons, only to see it fail at its first reading in the Upper House. Many local interest groups subsequently sought redress of their grievances by addressing Parliament, although the only one to do so in the course of the 1690 Parliament was the Southwark clothiers, who on 25 Mar. 1695 petitioned the Commons against the monopoly of a cartel of redwood merchants.

Eight months before the election of October 1695 an address of condolence on the death of Queen Mary professed the borough’s unanimous support for King William, but the subsequent contest suggested that local political tensions had not been eradicated. On this occasion Bowyer was partnered by local brewer Charles Cox, the controversial Arnold having opted to stand for Monmouth. On the eve of the election an agent reported to Robert Harley* that no opposition was expected against the two Whigs, but the next day another Southwark brewer, Sir George Meggot, appeared as a candidate. Meggot’s opposition to Cox and Bowyer reflected a staunchly Tory background, for his father had served as a chaplain to Charles II and had been honoured with a funeral elegy by Dean Sherlock. Having served as sheriff of Surrey in 1689–90, Meggot clearly wielded some local authority and one report subsequently suggested that Meggot ‘had like to have worsted Mr Bowyer’. However, the poll resulted in another clear Whig victory. Despite losing by several hundred votes, Meggot petitioned, arguing that ‘many’ of his supporters had been ‘riotously assaulted and wounded’ by agents of the Whig candidates, and that the bailiff had committed ‘many unjust practices’. The elections committee reported on the matter on 27 Dec., informing the Commons that Meggot had even claimed that his coachman had been knocked from his seat by a Whig mob. However, the Whigs printed a lengthy account of the election to show that the disturbances had been caused by Meggot’s allies, and that such violence had not affected the poll itself. Most damagingly for Meggot, they also suggested that their opponent had greeted his defeat with the boast that ‘he had friends enough to bring him into the House of Commons’ and ‘would lay £500 he would be in the House’. In response to the committee’s report, the Commons deemed Meggot’s petition ‘vexatious, frivolous and groundless’, and ordered him to pay the expenses incurred by his Whig opponents in the course of the committee hearing. Moreover, the Commons then ordered him into custody for bringing the House’s reputation into dispute. Meggot’s anguish did not end there either, for on 4 Dec. 1696 the House found him guilty of breach of privilege for having attempted to prosecute two witnesses who had given evidence before the elections committee. The witnesses, John Lade and Thomas Maylin, subsequently played influential roles in Southwark politics, as did Meggot’s son George†, Member for Southwark under George I.3

While Meggot suffered for his political indiscretion, in the course of the 1695 Parliament his fellow Southwark inhabitants sought to bring the House’s attention to the borough’s wartime hardships. On 14 Jan. 1696 the Commons heard a petition from local felt-makers, dyers and smiths which alluded to ‘the decay of trade in general’ when protesting against an additional duty on coal. The next day the Commons received a protest from the glass-house workers of Southwark who felt ‘doubly taxed’ by recent duties on coal and glass. Local parish officials also vented their concern at tax increases, warning on 20 Jan. that a ‘very numerous’ section of the poor could not afford coal, a situation which ‘may prove of dangerous consequence’. However, the borough’s leaders also revealed political concerns, several petitioning on 27 Nov. against a qualification bill which, they feared, would debar all but substantial landowners from the House. The government subsequently showed that its principal concern for Southwark lay with the maintenance of law and order, charging the borough’s deputy-lieutenants in February 1697 to take pre-emptive action against an expected rising of large numbers of ‘the ordinary sort of people’. The anticipated riot never materialized, but Southwark’s potential lawlessness was further highlighted by a bill passed during that session which enabled creditors to obtain satisfaction from debtors who took refuge in ‘pretended privilege places’, such as the Clink liberty and the Mint. However, this ‘severe and wholesome law’ failed in its objective, the liberties continuing to frustrate local authorities until an even more draconian statute was passed in 1723.

Southwark may have been spared violent protest, but a steady flow of petitions continued to alert the Commons to the borough’s problems. No less than three railed against leather duties, and the Southwark drinks trades, a powerful interest within the borough, lobbied the House on 24 Feb. 1698 to protest against a duty on tobacco-pipes. Five days later a wide spectrum of Southwark traders petitioned the Commons to stem the rise in copper coinage, a plea which would be repeated on 29 Mar. 1699. The governors of St. Thomas’ Hospital, Southwark illustrated the borough’s sufferings more graphically when requesting the House on 5 Apr. 1698 to expedite the payment of expenses incurred while annually caring for some 2,000 sick servicemen. Having helped to politicize many local groups, economic difficulty can be considered a significant influence on the election of 1698. However, even though the end of the war may have raised hopes for a recovery of local trade, the ensuing Southwark contest did little to fulfil Tory aspirations. Bowyer’s decision to retire from parliamentary politics may have heartened his opponents, but his replacement, the brewer John Cholmley, soon revealed a very solid local interest in tandem with Cox. Opposing the Whig brewers were the recently-disgraced Meggot, and a ‘Captain Rossey’, an obscure figure whose identification is hampered by the fact that he played no significant part in the borough’s politics either before or after this election. Perhaps capitalizing on local economic discontents, both Rossey and Meggot performed strongly to attract over 1,000 votes, but the Whigs achieved another comfortable victory. A report suggested that the Tory candidates demanded a scrutiny, but they did not subsequently petition. This Whig success ushered in a period of dominance for Cox and Cholmley, a 14–year reign which faithfully reflected the strength of the brewing interest.4

In the course of the 1698 Parliament the borough produced several petitions which indicated continuing local hardship. ‘Divers inhabitants’ actually risked the wrath of local brewers by protesting to Parliament on 19 Jan. 1699 that the borough’s mass production of spirits and strong waters had forced up the price of corn to unacceptable levels. The Commons was less receptive to subsequent pleas for a reduction in local tax assessments, rejecting a petition from the liberty of the Mint on 22 Apr.; from the freeholders of Brixton hundred on 16 Feb. 1700; and from the parish of St. George’s three days later. Even though the Commons proved deaf to such requests, only four days after the dissolution of Parliament the Whigs were reportedly ‘confident’ that they would retain both seats at Southwark. The very next day, 24 Dec., Arthur Moore* was cited as a likely Tory challenger at Southwark. Having resigned himself to the loss of his Grimsby seat, Moore was prepared to spend ‘much money’ to establish an interest in Southwark, but political enemies from both parties conspired to ensure his removal from the House. Chief among his rivals at Southwark were Sir Basil Firebrace* and Sir John Parsons*, both of them willing to campaign in an unfamiliar constituency in order to dash the hopes of their fellow Tory. Firebrace’s opposition to Moore was probably rooted in differences over the unification of the two East India companies, for although both were Old Company men, Moore proved himself far more intransigent towards the merger than the conciliatory Firebrace. Parsons’ intervention possibly came at the behest of his current electoral ally at Reigate, Lord Somers (Sir John*), who had received much criticism from Moore in the recent past. Moore predictably lost the Southwark election ‘by a great majority’, a result which one commentator greeted as evidence that ‘the Old and New Company is the great distinction in and about London’.5

Having recently despatched the challenge of a leading Tory such as Moore, Cox and Cholmley could approach the second election of 1701 with some confidence. The strength of Whig feeling in the borough was attested in early October by an address from the Southwark grand jury which proclaimed ‘how much they resent the affront offered to his Majesty by the French King’. The only challenge to materialize against the sitting Members actually came from their fellow Whig Edmund Bowyer, half-brother of former MP Anthony, who insisted that a poll be started on 20 Nov. even though the majority of electors ‘appeared’ to support Cox and Cholmley. The paucity of votes counted suggests that Bowyer declined to pursue the contest for long, and he did not attempt to overturn the result by petitioning Parliament. Although the election had been uneventful, local party passions were undoubtedly strong, for four days afterwards an advice, purportedly on behalf of ‘the inhabitants of Southwark’, was presented to the borough’s MPs. Very much in the vein of other Whig addresses delivered to Members at this juncture, the advice urged Cox and Cholmley to support the grant of a liberal supply for war with France, and to end divisions between the two Houses. By way of response, the two Southwark Members showed their zeal for the Whig cause by leading ‘about 500’ liverymen to the Guildhall to poll for their party’s candidates at the City election.6

Even as the country prepared for renewed warfare, Southwark’s petitions to the last of William’s Parliaments indicated that the borough had yet to overcome the hardships engendered by the previous conflict. On 9 Feb. 1702 the churchwardens described their fellow parishioners as ‘generally poor persons and seafaring men’ when requesting the House that local apothecaries remain eligible for parochial office. The officials of St. George’s parish lamented that they were ‘overburdened with poor’ when making a special plea on 3 Mar. for the Commons to indemnify them from any liability for the care of impoverished families in the Mint and the Rules. Another attempt was also made to establish a court of conscience in the borough, but the House rejected this renewed request in consideration of ‘the exorbitant powers and the inconveniences that would thereon ensue’. Despite this disappointment, the borough greeted the accession of Queen Anne with a loyal address, lauding the memory of the deceased King William ‘who hath rescued and preserved our religion and liberties from popery and arbitrary power’.7

The first election of the new reign brought a reinvigorated Tory challenge in the person of John Lade, who presented a rival brewing interest to the sitting Whig Members. His suspect allegiance to the established regime earned him the hatred of Cox, and no doubt played a part in Lade’s decisive defeat at the polls. Undeterred, Lade petitioned the Commons to claim that his opponents had robbed him of victory by causing a ‘great riot’ to intimidate his supporters, many of whom were ‘violently beaten and assaulted’. The details of the disturbances were revealed by the election committee’s report of 10 Nov., Lade’s counsel laying most of the blame on Cox’s draymen, ‘who were distinguished by grey hats with red ribbons’. It was reported that Cox’s men had effectively cleared Tory voters from the polling site, St. Margaret’s Hill, and although a constable reported that ‘the disorders were from the zeal of both sides’, he also observed that ‘the men with the grey hats were most remarkable in them’. In reply, the witnesses for the Whigs lamely observed that ‘they thought this as quiet an election as ever they saw in the borough, unless one of Mr Bowyer’s’. Unconvinced by such testimony, the committee later resolved that ‘a great tumult and riot’ had occurred, and that Whig agents had been primarily responsible. In addition to this success, Lade managed to undermine his rivals’ victory by questioning the extent of the franchise, arguing that ‘it was impossible ever to have a fair election or scrutiny’ under existing conditions. This Tory manoeuvre was probably designed to counter the influence of the Whig brewers over the borough’s poor electors. In reply, the Whigs could demonstrate that the inhabitant householder franchise had been upheld by the Commons as recently as 1689, but Lade gained his point when the committee recommended that the franchise be limited to inhabitants paying scot and lot. The House agreed and declared the election void, thereby forcing Cox and Cholmley to the expense of a second poll. The contest was much closer, Lade securing an undoubted advantage as the turnout fell below half that of the first election. The reduction in the number of voters probably helped to curtail disorder, as did a pre-election agreement between the candidates not to appear on horseback. However, for all Lade’s success in the House, the Whig Members still managed to prevail over him at the second election, albeit by a much reduced majority.8

Although the next two general elections saw victories for the Whig interest, the sitting Members were continually reminded of the strength of their local Tory rivals. Lade remained politically active, presenting in September 1704 an address at court on behalf of the borough which gave thanks for the allied victory at Blenheim. One report suggested that Cox and Cholmley met with opposition at the election of 1705, but no record of the poll survives. Whig supporters certainly did not take victory for granted, judging by a pamphlet published on the eve of the election, which took pains to stress Cox’s actions on behalf of local churches and the Southwark economy. It also lambasted Lade for Jacobitism, and accused its opponents of using local vestries to intimidate voters. Local Tories clearly contributed little to their party’s cause at the ensuing Surrey election, where the sole Tory candidate received the support of only 29 of the 107 Southwark freeholders who polled. However, local Whig leaders evidently still perceived Lade to be a potent threat, for three years later Cox sought to cast doubt over the Tory brewer’s loyalty in the hope of procuring his dismissal as a justice of the peace. Thanks to the help of Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), Cox achieved his objective, Lade’s name being omitted from the Surrey commission issued only 20 days before the 1708 election. On 30 Apr. the two Whigs were returned ‘without any opposition’, a result which caused Sunderland to gloat to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) that the Southwark election had ‘gone as one would wish’.9

Despite the achievement of a seventh consecutive success, Cox and Cholmley had no cause for complacency, and in the course of the 1708 Parliament economic hardship and religious tensions provided a thorough test of their local authority. Signs of renewed commercial unrest appeared on the last day of the preceding Parliament when a wide cross-section of Southwark traders had petitioned the House against the circulation of copper coinage. In much more strident terms, local ministers joined with other principal inhabitants to warn the House on 21 Feb. 1709 that the borough’s trade ‘has greatly decayed for several years’ and that consideration had to be shown for seafaring families who encountered many difficulties when attempting to collect their husbands’ wages. The appointment of High Churchman Dr Henry Sacheverell to a chaplaincy at St. Saviour’s in May 1709 was a more direct catalyst for local contention. Lade was one of the key figures in securing Sacheverell’s appointment, but at one point even he had felt it prudent to send the controversial cleric back to Oxford so that order might be restored. Lade continued to support the Doctor, however, and even attended the infamous sermon for which Sacheverell was later impeached. Eager to regain the political initiative during the trial, the Southwark Whigs, in the guise of ‘divers inhabitants’ of St. Saviour’s, petitioned the Commons on 10 Feb. 1710 to highlight the arbitrariness of the local vestry. In particular, they accused the vestry of wielding ‘too great an influence’ over parliamentary elections by virtue of its control over the rating of scot and lot, a charge which demonstrated the impact of the alteration of the franchise in 1702. Not surprisingly, the petition also suggested that the vestry’s choice of chaplains ran counter to local opinion. Only four days later the vestry petitioned the Commons to justify its actions, and on 16 Feb. a petition of ‘divers’ scot-and-lot payers from St. Saviour’s asserted that the vestry had been of ‘the greatest advantage’ to the parish. However, before any action could be taken, Sacheverell’s lenient treatment at the hands of the Lords delivered the Tories a national triumph, which was greeted in the highly politicized borough by a riot of apprentice hatters. Even though Sacheverell was debarred from preaching at St. Saviour’s for three years, his influence in the borough ensured that the Southwark election of 1710 was keenly contested. The principal opponent of the sitting Members on this occasion was once again Lade, who, as a patron of Sacheverell, was the obvious choice to lead the High Church campaign. The Tories were well prepared for the contest, ‘several 100s’ of their supporters assembling two weeks in advance of the poll to choose their candidates. However, it is unclear whether the fourth candidate, Sir Issac Chard, a glover from nearby Camberwell, stood alongside Lade in the Tory interest. The Surrey poll books for the elections of 1705 and 1710 indicate that Chard was a Whig, although in the London elections of 1710 and 1713 he split his votes. Moreover, he was later prepared to testify against the Whig candidates to the elections committee which reviewed the Southwark contest of 1713. It is difficult to imagine that he stood as an independent in the partisan aftermath of Sacheverell’s trial, but an ambivalence towards the Tory cause is certainly suggested by his decision not to petition the Commons alongside Lade in the wake of their election defeat.10

Already struggling against a tide of High Church euphoria, the Whig campaign was hampered still further by the involvement of the recently knighted Cox in the scandal surrounding Sir Cleave More, 2nd Bt., the sitting Member for Bramber, who had attempted to seize a relative’s estate through a fraudulent commission of lunacy. A pamphleteer sharply rebuked Cox for abetting the crime, but also sought to expose the Whig Member’s religious hypocrisy, labelling him ‘one of those half-faced believers’ who ‘think it orthodoxy sitting, to go to church to save the meeting’. His partner Cholmley was treated more sympathetically, although the charge that he ‘neither of church or meeting thought, or valued which got uppermost’, could have harmed his electoral chances amid the heated religious passions of the summer of 1710. The subsequent poll proved predictably close, but although Chard performed creditably on his first appearance, neither he nor Lade was able to remove the sitting Members. Lade’s failure brought bitter disappointment for local Tories, and although he petitioned, alleging that the Whigs had used ‘threats and other indirect practices’, most notably the dispersal of ‘scandalous papers’, the matter was never reported. Some consolation for local Tories, however, came from their party’s triumph at the Surrey election, although the Southwark Whigs still managed to outpoll their rivals among the 202 borough freeholders who voted there.11

In January 1711 City leaders were prepared to use the aldermanship of Bridge Without as a bargaining counter in negotiations for a short-lived political accord, but the politicians of Southwark showed little appetite for compromise. Religion continued to fuel political tension, and ensured that local politicians would use any opportunity to secure an advantage, most notably the difficulties ensuing from the settlement of a large number of Palatine refugees in the borough. The first influx of settlers had occurred in the autumn of 1709, on the occasion of which Sir Charles Cox had offered temporary accommodation to ‘near 1,000’ Palatines in his warehouses. They were subsequently sent to Ireland and the colonies, but many returned to Southwark, thereby delivering to the borough a poor relief problem of formidable proportions. A petition from the parish of St. Olave’s on 15 Jan. 1711 brought the matter to the House’s attention, forecasting ‘the utter ruin of the said parish’ if the refugees were not removed. A committee of inquiry was accordingly set up and reported its findings on 14 Apr. Cox’s opponents, most notably Lade, had not been slow to gain the maximum political capital out of the affair, testifying to the committee that the Whig brewer had failed to heed warnings that these migrants should not be accepted ‘for fear of expense or infection’. A Tory-dominated Commons condemned any who had encouraged the Palatine refugees as ‘an enemy to the Queen and this kingdom’, and the following September the Privy Council sought to relieve the borough’s suffering by ordering the deportation of some 540 to Holland.12

Having engineered such an embarrassment for a principal opponent, the Southwark Tories were soon presented with another opportunity to undermine local Whig dominance when Cholmley died in October 1711. Within a week of Cholmley’s demise, three likely candidates had already been identified, all of them brewers: Lade; Edmund Halsey, the Whig proprietor of the local Anchor brewery; and Thomas Maylin, a Whig electoral agent since at least 1695. Only a few days later it was reported that Maylin had ‘declined’ to stand, and although Lade had yet to declare his intentions, the contest was already perceived to be between Halsey and Sir George Mathews of Twickenham. Mathews had shown Whiggish sympathies as recently as the Surrey election of 1710, but it soon appeared that he had the backing of Lade and the local ‘Church party’. The author of an election pamphlet, A Merry New Year’s Gift, even suggested that Sacheverell himself had attempted to influence local electors against Halsey, but neither of the two principal candidates was noted for religious zeal. The electorate itself did not reflect their moderation, and, when describing the course of a debate between local voters, the pamphleteer concluded: ‘it came to this point in effect, whether Dr Sacheverell, or one whom he recommended, should be elected or no, for the whole discourse turned chiefly upon him and his religion or politics’.13

The election began on 18 Dec. when, in addition to Mathews and Halsey, a ‘Mr Stiles’ and ‘Mr Cormel’ appeared. Neither of the two new candidates can be identified with certainty, an anonymity which no doubt played a part in limiting their support to a handful of votes. However, the fact that a ‘Mr Stiles’ was later named as one of Mathews’ agents suggests that he may be tentatively identified as Stephen Stiles of St. George’s, Southwark, a Tory voter at the Surrey elections of 1705 and 1710. Also assisted by Mathews’ son-in-law Henry Goring*, the Tory campaign was certainly well disciplined, a newspaper advertisement directing its supporters to assemble at Horsleydown on the morning of the election. Such efforts were rewarded when the Tories achieved their best result of the period, as Mathews emerged the victor with a slim majority over Halsey. To gain that ascendancy Mathews had had to overcome the bias of the Southwark bailiff, Henry Marten, who in the course of the election moved the location of the poll no fewer than three times. Moreover, after the Whigs had requested a scrutiny, Marten continued to act irregularly, adjourning proceedings without specifying a time and a place for it to be held. The scrutiny finally began on 31 Dec., and although Mathews protested at the manner in which it had been called, the bailiff subsequently reviewed the qualifications of some 150 electors. At its conclusion, Marten overturned the result in favour of Halsey, prompting Mathews to petition to publicize how unfairly the contest had been managed. The elections committee report found overwhelming evidence of electoral malpractice. Lade testified in Mathews’ interest against the arbitrary proceedings of the bailiff, whose only defence was that he did not adjourn the scrutiny to any specific time and place because he needed a breathing space in which to circulate copies of the poll to the candidates. A printed paper was published to defend Marten’s claims, arguing that Mathews’ agents had reneged on a pre-election agreement by insisting that the abjuration oath be tendered to several Quaker voters. Before the elections committee Halsey’s counsel sought to undermine Mathews’ case by accusing him of electoral corruption, but to no effect. The committee resolved that Marten had acted irregularly in calling the scrutiny, a decision which the House acknowledged by ordering him into custody for his ‘arbitrary and illegal proceeding’. The committee also ruled that Mathews was duly elected, and although the Commons divided on a motion to recommit the resolution, Mathews’ return was subsequently upheld without a division.14

Even while the House debated the by-election, political clashes continued to disturb the peace of the borough. On 29 Jan. 1712 two local Dissenters celebrated the eve of the anniversary of Charles I’s execution by burning a calf’s head on St. Margaret’s Hill, an incident which the Post Boy condemned as ‘the flagrant and insufferable impudence of the impertinent regicides’. The culprits were soon dealt with by local magistrates, led by Lade, but not before several ‘ridiculous libels’ against Sacheverell and his followers had been affixed to local church doors. By way of response, the Tories sought to build upon Mathews’ electoral victory by presenting an address at court in June 1712 which thanked the Queen for her promise to communicate peace terms. Significantly, the peace was anticipated as a harbinger of economic recovery, and as a victory against those promoting a ‘spirit of discord’. An address from the borough in June 1713 greeted the signing of the peace with even greater exuberance, lambasting the opponents of peace as warmongers who ‘have raised vast fortunes to themselves’, and praising the ministry for defeating ‘the designs of so malicious and ruthless a faction’. Only three months earlier, bells and cannon-fire at Southwark had signalled the end of Sacheverell’s suspension, the celebrations no doubt fuelling Tory hopes of success at the general election later that year.15

Although the Southwark Tories had scored several successes over the previous three years, they received a notable setback prior to the election of 1713 when their leader Lade deserted to the Whigs. His apostasy became apparent a month before the poll when ‘several 100s’ of local Tories met to choose their candidates, and unanimously decided upon Mathews and Samuel Rush†, a Southwark vinegar distiller who had attended the recent presentation of the borough address. The cause of Lade’s alienation from his long-term allies is unclear, although he was later reported to have railed against the ‘Churchmen’ for being ‘false’ towards him. His switch of allegiance was certainly of very recent origin, but he was welcomed by his former Whig opponents as a valuable electoral ally, particularly in the wake of Cox’s decision to step down in favour of City merchant Fisher Tench. Although born in the neighbouring parish of Newington, Tench could boast little local interest, and his candidacy most probably reflected the influence of Lade, who shared Tench’s interest in the Royal African Company. Perhaps to compensate for their obvious weaknesses, the Whigs endeavoured to make maximum political capital out of recent metropolitan discontent over the French commerce treaty, their supporters appearing on election day with wool in their hats to demonstrate their backing for the English cloth trade. In contrast to the great contest across the river, the Whigs scored a narrow victory at the polls to dash any immediate hopes of a Tory revival. Emboldened by their strong performance, the defeated candidates petitioned the House, making familiar protests against the corruption of their rivals and the ‘illegal practices’ of the bailiff. The committee report revealed that witnesses had testified to many instances of Whig malpractice, the Tories claiming to have a list of 94 supporters who were robbed of the vote by the bailiff’s peremptory decision to close the poll. The Whigs responded by questioning Mathews’ eligibility to sit by the terms of the Members’ Qualification Act of 1711, using land tax assessments to show that he had exaggerated the annual value of his Twickenham residence by over £100. The committee ultimately resolved that none of the four candidates had been duly elected, and the House accordingly ordered a second election.16

The Whig attack on Mathews had evidently found its mark, since he declined to stand at the second Southwark contest, and was replaced by Thomas Lant of Putney, the owner of Suffolk Place, commonly called the Mint, in St. George’s parish. Although the Whigs ultimately kept faith with Lade and Tench, prior to the election there had been some speculation concerning the possible candidacy at Southwark of James Stanhope*, who was desperately seeking to regain a seat after his electoral defeat at Cockermouth. Although lacking Stanhope’s prestige, the Whig candidates gained another victory at the polls, leaving the Tories to pin their hopes on another petition to the House. On 8 May the defeated candidates sought to bring the Commons’ attention to the ‘corruption and illegal practices’ of the Southwark Whigs, and the House resolved to hear the matter at the bar of the House. There followed a series of six hearings, during which the chief point of controversy centred on the right of Quakers to vote at the election. On 25 May a division of the House upheld a motion that the affirmation which had been taken by the Southwark Quakers did not entitle them to vote, a Tory success which was repeated on 15 June when the Whigs failed to secure a two-week adjournment for the hearing. Ten days later the Whigs again failed to carry the Commons when attempting to maintain the voting rights of a Southwark Quaker, and thereafter turned to the defence of the qualifications of other supporters. A setback for the Tories occurred on 29 June, however, when they lost a division by a single vote when trying to uphold the franchise for those residents within the liberties of the Mint and Queen’s Bench who did not pay local rates. Turning to the offensive, the Whigs then asserted that they could disqualify a ‘considerable’ number of Tory voters, a claim which they attempted to justify four days later. On 3 July, having heard the Whig counsel once more, the House proceeded to ratify Lade’s election by 92 votes to 75, and Tench’s return without a division. The significance of these resolutions was not lost on Viscount Fermanagh (John Verney*), who cited them as proof of growing Whig strength in the House. Within the borough itself the establishment of a Dissenting school at Horsleydown in 1714 bore witness to the confidence of the party’s supporters, even though its founders emphasized that they were acting ‘without any respect to parties’. Under Hanoverian rule the Southwark Whigs continued to consolidate their hold over the borough, and a succession of brewers proved the intrinsic strength of their local interest by dominating the borough’s representation well into the second half of the 18th century.17

Author: Perry Gauci


  • 1. Bean’s notebks.
  • 2. D. J. Johnson, Southwark and the City, 151, 169–70, 241–2; Post Boy, 18–20 Feb. 1697; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, i. 170; T. Harris, London Crowds during Reign of Charles II, 221.
  • 3. London Gazette, 28–31 Jan. 1695; Add. 70018, John Freke to Harley, 22 Oct. 1695; 70070, newsletter 29 Oct. 1695; DNB; True State of Southwark Election.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1697, p. 27; Aubrey, Surr. v. 98–100; Flying Post, 23–26 July 1698.
  • 5. Som. RO, Sanford mss DD/SF/3310, 3110, Freke to Edward Clarke I*, 23, 24 Dec. 1700; HMC Portland, iv. 10–11; Bodl. Ballard 38, f. 190.
  • 6. Yale Univ. Beinecke Lib. Osborn Coll. Blathwayt mss, box 20, Robert Yard* to William Blathwayt*, 7 Oct. 1701; Post Man, 20–22 Nov. 1701; Flying Post, 27–29 Nov. 1701; Add. 70075, newsletter 27 Nov. 1701.
  • 7. Cocks Diary, 261; London Gazette, 19–23 Mar. 1702.
  • 8. English Post, 18–20 Nov. 1702.
  • 9. London Gazette, 7–11 Sept. 1704; Letter from Bor. of Southwark [1705]; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter, 8 May 1705; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 184–5; Daily Courant, 1 May 1708; HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 32.
  • 10. G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 56–57, 63, 233; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 315; Surr. Polls of 1705 and 1710; London Poll of 1710 (IHR); London Rec. Soc. xvii. 115.
  • 11. The Lunacy [1710]; Surr. Poll of 1710 (IHR).
  • 12. G. S. De Krey, Fractured Soc. 231; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxv. 446.
  • 13. British Mercury, 29–31 Oct., 31 Oct.-1 Nov. 1711; Surr. Poll of 1710; Newcastle Courant, 24–26 Dec. 1711 (ex inf. Prof. W. R. McLeod); Lambeth Bor. Arch. Minet Lib. Merry New Year’s Gift [1712].
  • 14. Surr. Polls of 1705; 1710; Daily Courant, 14 Dec. 1711; Case of Southwark Election [1712].
  • 15. Post Boy, 2–5 Feb. 1712; London Gazette, 21–24 June 1712, 30 June–4 July, 1713; G. Holmes, Trial of Sacheverell, 260.
  • 16. Daily Courant, 25 July 1713; Flying Post, 22–25 Aug. 1713.
  • 17. Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 632–3; Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 320; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 296; J. Aubrey, Surr. v. 78–79.