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 freemen

Number of Qualified Electors:

90 in 1690; 117 in 1705; 88 in 1714

Number of voters:

69 in 1690; 79 in Jan. 1701


5 Mar. 1690Frederick Tylney59
 Lord William Powlett39
 Charles Morley351
31 Oct. 1695Lord William Powlett 
 Frederick Tylney 
25 July 1698Lord William Powlett 
 Frederick Tylney 
6 Jan. 1701George Rodney Brydges55
 Lord William Powlett49
 Frederick Tylney412
29 Nov. 1701George Rodney Brydges 
 Lord William Powlett 
20 July 1702George Rodney Brydges 
 Lord William Powlett 
9 May 1705Lord William Powlett 
 George Rodney Brydges 
3 May 1708Lord William Powlett 
 George Rodney Brydges 
5 Oct. 1710George Rodney Brydges 
 Thomas Lewis 
25 Aug. 1713George Rodney Brydges 
 Thomas Lewis 
15 Mar. 1714George Brydges vice Brydges, deceased 
 John Popham vice Lewis, chose to sit for Southampton 

Main Article

The right of election at Winchester lay with the freemen, all of whom were allowed to participate not only in parliamentary elections but also in the election of new freemen, thereby lessening, although not eliminating, the electoral influence of the corporation, consisting of the mayor, six aldermen and 24 common councilmen. The strongest interest was exercised by the 1st Duke of Bolton (Charles Powlett†), by virtue of the patronage he could wield as lord lieutenant of Hampshire, a post to which he had been appointed in 1689, and as high steward of Winchester. At the 1690 election there were three candidates, Bolton’s son Lord William Powlett, a Whig, and two Tories, Frederick Tylney and Charles Morley, whose father, Francis, had represented the borough in the Convention. However, the two Tories did not stand together, as was evident from the poll, in which 69 of the 90 listed freemen voted. Morley cast a single vote for Tylney, but Tylney voted singly for Powlett, and no fewer than 31 of the electors voted for both Tylney and Powlett, while only 27 voted for both Tories. The mayor and the recorder voted for Tylney and Morley, while Bolton and Lord Bridgwater (John Egerton†) voted for Powlett and Tylney. Morley came third in the poll and petitioned, claiming that 12 of Powlett’s votes (those of the two peers and ten non-resident freemen) should be discounted. The committee of elections reported that Powlett’s counsel chose not to defend the validity of the votes of the two peers, on the grounds that he still had a majority without them, but they did deny that any residential qualification was necessary for the freemen. On these grounds the committee had resolved that Powlett was duly elected, to which the House agreed.3

In 1691 the Tory recorder, Richard Harris, died and was replaced by Thomas Coward, a Whig, who held the office for the rest of the period, acting when necessary as election agent for the Duke of Bolton. In the same year the corporation took steps to clarify their methods of choosing a mayor, following a dispute over the succession to a mayor who had died in office in 1689. After making inquiries from some of the older freemen, a new ordinance was passed laying down the procedure. At a general assembly of all the freemen a committee was appointed, consisting of all those who had previously served as mayor, which was to decide upon two names to be added to the previous year’s runner-up in the mayoral election. These three names would then be presented to the sitting mayor, who would strike out one of the newly named candidates. The final choice of mayor, from the remaining two names, was to be made by the freemen. With this potential source of conflict out of the way the freemen and the local magnates agreed that for the 1695 general election the two sitting Members, Powlett and Tylney, should be returned unopposed. At the common assembly meeting, 104 freemen, including four peers (the dukes of Bolton, St. Albans, and Richmond, and Lord Bridgwater), were listed in the minutes, of whom 55 were marked as present, all of whom appeared to have voted for both candidates. The same amicable arrangement held in 1698, when of the 89 freemen listed, including the same four peers, 55 were present and 51 recorded their votes, of which all but one was for both candidates. The single vote was for Powlett.4

A year after this election Bolton died and was succeeded by his son, the Marquess of Winchester (Charles Powlett I*), as 2nd Duke of Bolton, who also succeeded his father as lord lieutenant of Hampshire and high steward of Winchester. Both dukes had used their influence during the period of electoral peace in the town since 1690 to try to ensure that only their supporters were created freemen, including the young 2nd Duke of Bedford and the Marquess of Hartington (William Cavendish*), who were created freemen prior to the first 1701 election. Although the dukes were not always successful in preventing new Tory creations, most notably when Tylney secured freedom for two of his nominees by means of a gift of £50 to the corporation in July 1700, enough had been done to enable a second Whig, George Rodney Brydges, to put up with Powlett in January 1701. Brydges, who had bought the estate of Avington near Winchester, had previously represented Haslemere. He stood jointly with Powlett, thus securing the support of Bolton. At the time of the poll 100 freemen were listed in the assembly minutes, of whom 79 voted, including three of the five peers among the freemen, Bolton, Richmond and St. Albans, who cast their votes for the two Whigs. Brydges topped the poll with 55 votes, receiving only one single vote, sharing 34 with his fellow Whig Powlett, and 20 with the Tory Tylney. Powlett was second in the poll with 49 votes, of which three were single, and 12 were shared with Tylney. Tylney received the most single votes, with nine of his 41 being plumpers. Tylney petitioned on 13 Feb., alleging that menaces and threats had been used and that the appearance of three dukes, all opposing him, had intimidated his supporters. The petition was referred to the elections committee, which reported on 28 May. Tylney’s counsel had produced witnesses to prove that before the election pressure had been exercised by Bolton on both the present and previous mayors not to make any new freemen without his approbation. The former mayor, Richard Good, alleged that when he ignored this advice and made two of Tylney’s nominees freemen, he was warned by Brydges that Bolton had ‘called him knave and said he had very much disobliged the Duke by making persons free against the Duke’s interest and the Duke would be his ruin’, a threat which was implemented when Bolton prevented his being appointed under-sheriff. The present mayor admitted opposing the making of Tories in compliance with Bolton’s request, but claimed that when pressed for both his votes by the Duke he only promised one, which he had given to Powlett; the second he cast for Tylney. Other witnesses alleged that the recorder, acting on behalf of Bolton, had claimed that the Duke would secure the removal of the sessions and assizes from Winchester if Lord William were not returned. Counsel then tried to challenge five of Powlett’s voters, but without success. For Powlett it was alleged that Tylney had engaged in widespread bribery, offering £3 and £5 a vote, together with promises of work. In the debate that followed, Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt., and their supporters tried hard to unseat Powlett, it being reported that Seymour in particular ‘took a vast deal of pains to turn them out, but was disappointed for the House was sensible that none had the interest of their country and that it was nothing but his sport and malice that gave them this trouble’. However, the record of these proceedings by Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, stated that ‘there was never a fairer cause’ than Tylney’s case:

so fair that at the committee my Lord [Powlett] left it without making any defence: on the evidence of the petitioner at the committee after the report my lord made a short speech and withdrew: I thought there would have been nothing said to it but Sir Edward Seymour said the lord influenced, and produced a letter of Jack Smith’s which he wrote to Tylney to let him know he could not serve him, being made [a] free[man] by the Duke of Bolton, and that he might do as the Duke would have him. There were present also the Dukes of St. Albans and Richmond. This was contrary to a vote made this session and therefore if it had been a law, not subject to it being made before the offence was committed: but this was wonderfully insisted on but the question was carried by a majority of 40 for the sitting Member.5

Brydges and Powlett were returned unopposed at the second 1701 election, though, as on all previous occasions, votes were recorded for the two Members at the assembly meeting on the day of the election. This procedure seemed to be little more than a matter of form, but one freeman chose to cast only a single vote, as occurred in 1698, though on this occasion the vote was for Brydges. While 94 freemen were listed, including four peers, Bridgwater having died, only 59 appear to have been in attendance, of whom 58 were recorded as voting for both candidates. At the 1702 election the two sitting Members were returned unopposed once more, on this occasion by 50 of the 98 freemen listed in the minutes. Although for the moment the Whig position seemed impregnable and Bolton had retained his offices despite the installation of a Tory administration, the Winchester Whigs, mindful of the closeness of their victory in January 1701, determined to strengthen their side by the creation of new freemen, which they did on a comparatively lavish scale. The normal rate of admission was two to four a year. This was now increased to 12 in 1703 and eight in 1704. These increases account for the fact that at the 1705 election the number of freemen listed in the minutes had reached its highest level, at 117. Notable Whig inclusions among the new freemen were two peers, the Earl of Galway (a French Huguenot and career soldier who had served as a lord justice in Ireland with Bolton from 1697 to 1701 and had an estate in Hampshire), and the Duke of Schomberg and Leinster (who sat in the English Lords as Marquess of Harwich). The latter’s creation as a freeman therefore brought the number of peers among the freemen back up to five. As no other candidate had appeared for the election, Brydges and Powlett were returned unopposed once again at an assembly meeting attended by 66 freemen. However, having managed to get a Tory mayor chosen in September, the Tories appeared to have mounted a counter-attack at an assembly meeting on 14 Dec., when an ordinance was passed by 29 votes to 4, which noted that

whereas great differences have been lately among the members of this corporation chiefly occasioned by some late mayors and aldermen making a numerous company of honorary freemen without an assembly, notwithstanding such proceedings have oftentimes been presented as irregular by several grand juries of this city.

It was resolved that in future new freemen could only be admitted in accordance with established practice, at an assembly and with the consent of the majority of the freemen in attendance. A fine of £30 was set for any mayor who disobeyed and £20 for any alderman who acquiesced in such disobedience. The four votes against the ordinance included Coward, the Whig recorder. Thereafter the numbers of new freemen appears to have decreased.6

The Tories’ success in slowing down the admission of freemen made no difference to the result of the 1708 election when Brydges and Powlett were returned unopposed once again. A notable new name included in the common assembly list on that occasion was Prince George, who had been made a freeman of the city during a royal visit in August 1705. The number of peers listed had increased to six, owing to Hartington having succeeded his father as Duke of Devonshire in 1707. However, the total number of freemen had declined to 98, of whom 47 appeared to have been in attendance for the election. The change of ministry in the summer of 1710 transformed the situation in Winchester. At an assembly on 15 Aug. 1710, when 94 freemen were listed, including Bishop Trelawny, the Tories secured the admission of six new freemen by 39 votes to 33. The votes against their admission included the two sitting Members, Bolton, his son the Marquess of Winchester (Charles Powlett II*), and other Whigs such as Thomas Jervoise* and Richard Chaundler*. This Tory success acted as a precursor to the candidature of one of the new freemen, Thomas Lewis I*, against Powlett, whose interest was almost destroyed when his brother, Bolton, was replaced as lord lieutenant of Hampshire and high steward of Winchester by the Tory 2nd Duke of Beaufort, himself made a freeman in September. At first Powlett intended to fight, but on 3 Sept. it was reported that ‘my Lord William Powlett will be hard set at Winchester by Mr Lewis, whose money flies about like dust’, while on the 30th a correspondent informed Charles Fox* that Powlett would ‘certainly lose it at Winchester’. The increasing probability of failure, together with a refuge prepared for him at Lymington, a borough controlled by the Powletts and their close allies the Burrards, eventually induced Powlett to drop out of the Winchester election, leaving Brydges and Lewis to be returned unopposed by 55 of the freemen. Only 89 freemen were listed in the assembly minutes, though Trelawny and the English peers were not included on this occasion. Lewis showed his gratitude by donating £200 towards the cost of rebuilding the guildhall. At the 1713 election Brydges and Lewis were returned unopposed at an assembly meeting where 59 of the 93 freemen listed were in attendance. In early 1714 Lewis, who had chosen to sit for Southampton, was replaced by John Popham, a Winchester resident, who had been one of the Tory freemen created in 1710. The vacancy caused by the death of Brydges early in 1714 was filled by his son, George, who was also a Whig. The two by-elections, held on the same day, were uncontested. The number of freemen listed on this occasion was 88, of whom 41 attended the assembly meeting. At the 1715 election Popham lost out to Brydges and Powlett, whose families thereafter dominated the borough’s representation until the middle of the 18th century.7

Authors: Paula Watson / Ivar McGrath


  • 1. Hants RO, Winchester corp. recs. ordinance bk. 7, ff. 47-48.
  • 2. Ibid. ff. 166–7.
  • 3. Ibid. bk. 7, ff. 47–48; SP 9/22/51.
  • 4. Winchester corp. recs. ordinance bk. 7, ff. 61–72, 127–8, 142–3.
  • 5. Ibid. bk. 6, f. 127; bk. 7, ff. 148, 160, 162, 166–7; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/4, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 29 May 1701; Cocks Diary, 153–4.
  • 6. Winchester corp. recs. ordinance bk. 7, ff. 173–4, 179–80, 213–15, 228–31.
  • 7. Ibid. bk. 8, ff. 14–16, 48–51, 62–64, 82, 121–3, 134–5; Boyer, Anne Annals, iv. 178–9; Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 58(6), pp. 206–7; Dorset RO, Fox-Strangways mss D124/box 238, bdle. 11, [?Sir Willoughby Hickman*] to Fox, 20 Sept. 1710.