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 freeholders and inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

162 in 1690; 140 in 1702


26 Feb. 1690Thomas Erle160 
 William Okeden7476
 Thomas Skinner9386
25 Oct. 1695Thomas Erle  
 Thomas Trenchard  
2 Aug. 1698George Pitt  
 Thomas Trenchard  
10 Jan. 1701Thomas Erle  
 George Pitt  
5 Mar. 1701Sir Edward Ernle, Bt. vice Erle, chose to sit for Portsmouth  
26 Nov. 1701Thomas Erle  
 George Pitt  
21 July 1702Thomas Erle106 
 George Pitt72 
 Denis Bond82 
 John Harbin11 
 Roger Clavell2 
 Sir Josiah Child, Bt.2 
 Nathaniel Bond1 
 John Flint11 
24 Nov. 1702Sir Josiah Child, Bt., vice Pitt, chose to sit for Hampshire  
22 Feb. 1704Sir Edward Ernle, Bt., vice Child, deceased  
15 May 1705Thomas Erle  
 George Pitt  
10 May 1708Thomas Erle  
 George Pitt  
9 Oct. 1710Thomas Erle  
 George Pitt  
13 Dec. 1710Sir Edward Ernle, Bt., vice Pitt, chose to sit for Hampshire  
1 Sept. 1713Thomas Erle  
 George Pitt  

Main Article

The interest at Wareham was divided between the Pitts of Strathfieldsaye, Hampshire, Tories who owned property and several advowsons in the borough, and Thomas Erle of Charborough, a local Whig who had held one of the seats since 1679. In 1690 Erle was returned unopposed, but there was a contest for the second seat between Thomas Skinner†, a Dissenter who had represented the borough in the Convention, and William Okeden, who probably stood on the Pitt interest. Of the 162 who voted, 160 cast one of their votes for Erle and divided their second votes fairly evenly between Skinner and Okeden, but giving Skinner a majority of ten. The mayor, however, disqualified 19 of Skinner’s votes and only five of Okeden’s, giving the latter a majority. Skinner’s petition on 6 Oct. was referred to the committee of elections, to which he produced another poll showing 93 votes cast for him and only 74 for Okeden. But the committee disregarded this second poll and confirmed Okeden’s return in its report to the House, which was accepted on 22 Dec. 1690.2

Before the next election George Pitt died, leaving provision in his will for a schoolmaster’s salary at the free school which he had earlier founded. With the family interest thus strengthened, his son, George Pitt, who had recently entered Parliament for Stockbridge, decided to contest Wareham in 1695. Erle stood as usual, this time in partnership with his nephew, Thomas Trenchard. The other candidates were Okeden, who probably joined with Pitt, and one Mr Fitz, ‘who was once a local carpenter and is now a full pursed gentleman’. No poll is known to have taken place, and Erle and Trenchard were returned. Although the strength of Erle’s interest had been fully demonstrated, and he had made himself even more secure by the purchase of the manor of Wareham in 1697, it was probably at about this time that he and Pitt came to an agreement to share the representation. As a result, Pitt was returned with Trenchard in 1698, Erle himself having moved seats to Portsmouth. In the first election of 1701 Erle was returned with Pitt, though the former opted to sit for Portsmouth, as before, this time leaving his seat to Sir Edward Ernle, 3rd Bt., his son-in-law. In the second election of 1701 Erle and Pitt were returned.3

For the 1702 election Pitt was invited to stand for Hampshire and Erle was urged to join Trenchard in contesting Dorset. Erle was reluctant to do so, but while the matter was still under consideration another candidate came forward at Wareham in the person of Denis Bond*, a Whig, who owned land in Purbeck and had some leasehold property (purchased outright in 1711) in a manor two miles from Wareham. Meanwhile, Pitt decided to contest both Hampshire and the borough, while Erle eventually opted for Wareham only. On 1 June Ernle wrote to Erle:

I forgot to tell you that before I left London, Mr Pitt came to me and said he was mighty dissatisfied that you had not mentioned him in your last letter to Wareham and if you don’t speedily write some word that you join with him now and never will with anybody else, he will bring down a merchant that shall spend a £1,000 but will turn you out.

Erle remained loyal to his arrangement with Pitt, but did not enjoy as complete a success as formerly because a number of Erle’s voters refused to support a Tory when a second Whig was standing. Only 54 voters were prepared to endorse the Whig–Tory ticket, whereas 52 voted for Erle and Bond. Moreover, some of Bond’s voters refused to vote for Erle, preferring to throw away their second votes. The trend was started early in polling when Roger Clavell, having voted for Bond, tried to cast a second vote for himself. The mayor refused to allow him this gesture, and Clavell therefore voted for Bond’s father, Nathaniel*, who was not even standing for election. Other electors also wasted their votes, giving rise to a proliferation of apparent candidacies in what remained a three-cornered contest. Only one of Erle’s and two of Pitt’s voters were plumpers in the true sense of casting only a single vote. Two of Pitt’s supporters wasted their second vote, compared with 15 who voted for Bond and threw away their other vote. The strength of Bond’s support was sufficient to bring him to second place in the poll, but the mayor refused to return him. He presumably disqualified enough of Bond’s voters to return Pitt. No petition was presented to the House, however, Pitt choosing in any event to sit for Hampshire. At the ensuing by-election the seat was taken by another Tory, Sir Josiah Child, 2nd Bt., son of the well-known East India Company director. Child had been one of the pretended candidates at the last election. It may well have been the somewhat unsatisfactory nature of the 1702 general election that led to Wareham receiving its first charter of incorporation in 1703. This confirmed the borough’s existing privileges, but at the same time instituted a new corporation, consisting of a mayor, six capital burgesses and 12 assistants. The new mayor had supported the Whig–Tory ticket of Erle and Pitt, and 13 of the burgesses and assistants (all of whom were appointed for life) had voted likewise. Of the remainder, only two had voted for the two Whig candidates, Erle and Bond, the other three not having voted at the last election. On Child’s death in 1704 Ernle returned to the seat. Shortly before the 1705 election Pitt wrote to Erle: ‘We expect a speedy dissolution and then I shall bend my course to Wareham, where your interest, Sir, is undoubted, but were it not should be equally considered with my own’. So true were these words that Erle and Pitt were returned together for the rest of Queen Anne’s reign. The only deviation from this pattern was caused by Pitt’s decision after the 1710 election to sit for Hampshire. Ernle was returned without a contest at the ensuing by-election, but naturally stood down in favour of Pitt in 1713.4

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Dorset RO, Bond mss D367/x4, poll 21 July 1702.
  • 2. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 84, 103, 109, 110; Willis, Not. Parl. ii. 488; Bond mss D367/x4, poll 25 Feb. 1689[–90].
  • 3. Hutchins, 82, 89; Add. 70018, f. 94.
  • 4. Churchill Coll. Camb. Erle mss 2/20, Ernle to Erle, 1 June 1702; 2/44, Pitt to Erle, 27 Feb. 1705; Bond mss D413/box 20, E. Morton to Serjt. Bond, 23 Apr. [1702]; D367/x4, poll 21 July 1702; Hutchins, 127–8.