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 inhabitant householders not receiving alms

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

about 2001


21 Feb. 1690Richard Beke 
 John Backwell 
22 Oct. 1695John Backwell 
 Richard Beke 
 ?John Hampden 
23 July 1698John Backwell 
 Richard Beke 
7 Jan. 1701John Backwell 
 Richard Hampden 
25 Nov. 1701Richard Hampden 
 Richard Crawley 
15 July 1702Richard Hampden 
 Sir Roger Hill89
 Richard Crawley76
 Crawley vice Hill, on petition, 23 Nov. 1702 
8 May 1705Richard Hampden 
 Sir Roger Hill 
 Sir Charles Hedges 
 Richard Crawley 
3 May 1708Thomas Ellys 
 Sir Roger Hill 
21 Nov. 1709Henry Grey vice Ellys, deceased 
3 Oct. 1710Sir Roger Hill 
 Henry Grey 
 Richard Crawley 
 Edward Sayer 
25 Aug. 1713Richard Hampden 
 Sir Roger Hill 
13 Mar. 1714James Stanhope vice Hampden, chose to sit for  Berwick-upon-Tweed 

Main Article

In Anne’s reign Wendover parish had between 250 and 300 resident families, comprising about 1,100 ‘souls’, but no person of quality resident in the borough. The Hampdens, resident at nearby Great Hampden, had the chief interest at Wendover. As lords of the manor, they appointed the constables, who acted as returning officers. Whereas in 1689 the Hampdens had monopolized the representation through Richard I* and his son John†, in 1690 neither was returned. John Hampden was a candidate along with John Backwell, whose father had built up an interest in Wendover, and Major Richard Beke, an old Cromwellian soldier, friend of Hampden and related by marriage to Sir Thomas Lee, 1st Bt.* Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, reported on 15 Feb. 1690 that Backwell ‘stands fairest’ and that the contest for the other seat was between Hampden and Beke. In the event Hampden stood down, although whether by ‘agreement’, as reported on the 18th, or on the morning of the poll, when he found himself facing defeat, is uncertain. John Verney* (later Lord Fermanagh) was surprised by this outcome, but thought ‘old Mr Hampden was against his son’s being chosen’. At any rate Hampden junior was ‘much discomposed at his being laid aside’.2

With Richard Hampden I too ill to contemplate standing anywhere, but still unwilling to countenance his son’s candidature, the 1695 election saw Backwell and Beke returned, apparently without a poll, although one of Verney’s correspondents reported that the Earl of Danby (Peregrine Osborne†) went hotfoot from the poll at nearby Aylesbury to ensure that Backwell defeated Hampden. By 1698, both Richard and John Hampden were dead and John’s eldest son, Richard II, was probably abroad, leaving the way clear for the two outgoing Members to be returned unopposed. Richard Hampden’s return to England saw him resume the family’s seat in January 1701, with Beke standing down rather than give up an office in the excise. Backwell retired in November 1701 and was replaced by Richard Crawley, who had inherited property in the borough following his marriage to a Dashwood in 1699.3

At the general election after Queen Anne’s accession, Hampden stood jointly with Sir Roger Hill, an acquaintance of his father from the days of Exclusion, in order to defeat Crawley. However, Crawley petitioned on 24 Oct. 1702 against Hill on the grounds of corruption and indirect practices, which had induced several of the ‘poorer sort’ to vote for Hill. Witnesses on behalf of Crawley testified that free drink was given to voters on Hill’s account, and that the constable had been partial. After resolving that people coming to live in the borough by certificate had no right to vote, Hill’s counsel appear to have given up the fight and the Commons duly seated Crawley. Hill’s defeat led to repercussions in the borough, one of Hampden’s agents reporting in February 1703 that

I have account from some people at Wendover that there has been much discontent amongst some part of them by reasons the bills were not fully satisfied at the last election. There is enough money in Mr Young’s [Hill’s agent] hands to answer all, when your honour and Sir Roger Hill will be pleased to appoint the payment of it.4

Hampden’s absence in Holland caused some concern to Lord Wharton (Hon. Thomas*), the leader of the Buckinghamshire Whigs. In December 1704 he counselled Hampden to return in order to prepare for the forthcoming general election:

as for Wendover that hath not been in so good a condition these thirty years [Wharton having been elected for the borough in 1673] . . . but remember I tell you that if you should not come over it will quickly be in as bad a one as it was when your grandfather left it [Richard Hampden I having sat elsewhere in 1690].

As usual this was sound advice, for more interest than normal was being expressed in Wendover, especially as Hill was taking the opposite approach, writing to his agent on 30 Jan. 1705 that ‘no one knows yet how long it may be before a new Parliament shall be chosen, and when treatings are begun, to end them will disoblige more than not to begin’. An electoral calculation of Secretary Robert Harley* for 1 Feb. 1705 contained the note ‘write to Mr Hampden’ and it is interesting that his fellow secretary, Sir Charles Hedges*, put in for the seat. Crawley also entered the lists and he must have known Hedges, both men being civil lawyers and with Admiralty jurisdictions. Hampden and Hill were returned. Hedges told Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) that he himself had a majority of those with a right to vote, while some sources believed that Crawley had been Hill’s main challenger. Although it was reported that Hedges would petition, he was elected instead for a Cornish borough so decided not to bother; neither did Crawley. On the other hand Hampden and Hill went off to the new Parliament armed with a set of ‘instructions’ so that the world would know whether ‘instead of acting agreeable to our intentions you only act according to your own’.5

Later in 1705 Hampden made an effort to ensure that the new rector of Wendover was favourable to his interest. He informed Lord Keeper Cowper (William*) that the rector’s predecessor had been placed by a previous lord keeper, presumably Somers (Sir John*) and the appointment had greatly promoted his grandfather’s interest in the borough, ‘the minister having great influence on some of the people’. In 1708, with Hampden having declared early for the county and no opposition forthcoming, a vacancy opened up at Wendover. In late December 1707 Lord Cheyne reported the likely candidature of ‘one [John] Shute [later Barrington†] who was sent to Scotland to keep the Kirk steady to the Union’. In April 1708 it looked as if Hampden would still stand and vacate the seat on being chosen for the county. The Tories invited William Gore* to stand, a rich young Tory who had just succeeded his father at nearby Tring. Originally Gore was to put up in concert with Crawley, but Crawley declined and resigned his interest to him. Having treated extensively (£60 being spent in one evening), Gore may not even have gone to the poll, where the victors were Hill and Thomas Ellys, a Whig cousin of Hampden.6

Wendover’s reputation as a borough addicted to entertainments was demonstrated on 5 May 1709 when the Tory vicar of Great Kimble preached in Wendover parish church before the Society for the Reformation of Manners, on electoral corruption: he asked ‘if wasting gentlemen’s estates be nothing, yet is not the eternal destroying of themselves of some account’, and went on to denounce the ‘several thousand pounds’ spent over the last 20 years to secure the return of ‘inconsiderate and loose persons’. Wendover’s notoriety did not produce a contest in November 1709 when Henry Grey, a connexion of Hampden, was returned unopposed at a by-election to replace Ellys. With a dissolution likely, in June 1710 Grey was at Great Hampden ‘to look after my borough’. As Hampden was intent on fighting the county seat, Grey and Hill defeated Crawley and Edward Sayer, who petitioned on 5 Dec. 1710 without result. In 1713 Hampden chose to fight the county seat as well as joining Hill at Wendover and securing election at Berwick. He opted for the northern seat to facilitate the unopposed return of James Stanhope at a by-election for Wendover.7

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Willis, Not. Parl. i. 127.
  • 2. Bucks. Dissent and Par. Life 1669–1712 ed. Broad (Bucks. Rec. Soc. xxviii), 241; Willis, 125, 127; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/44, Sir Ralph to Edmund Verney, 15, 21, 23 Feb. 1689[–90], John to Sir Ralph Verney, 26 Feb. 1689[–90]; Add. 70014, ff. 287, 301.
  • 3. Verney mss mic. 636/48, Lady Gardiner to Sir Ralph Verney, 24 Oct. 1695.
  • 4. Bodl. Ballard 32, f. 185; Bucks. RO, Buckinghamshire mss D/MH39/2, John Welch to Hampden, 22 Feb. 1703.
  • 5. E. Suss. RO, Glynde mss GLY 795, Wharton to Hampden, 1 Dec. 1704; Bucks. RO, Way of Denham mss D/W/76/25, Hill to Joshua Young, 30 Jan. 1704[–5]; Add. 70335, Harley’s note 1 Feb. 1704–5; 70284–5, Godolphin to Harley, ‘Wed. at 10’ [8 May 1705]; Bodl. Rawl. D.863, f. 89; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 10 May 1705; Verney Letters 18th Cent. i. 226; Flying Post, 15–17 May 1705.
  • 6. Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP/F173, f. 19; Ballard 10, f. 155; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Mellish mss Me157/96/53, William Wrightson to Joseph Mellish, 24 Apr. 1708.
  • 7. R. Gibbs, Bucks. Misc. 194–5; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(6), p. 39.