Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 4,000


17 Feb. 1715JAMES BUTLER2142
 Charles Eversfield1224
 Bertram Ashburnham1105
16 Apr. 1724PELHAM re-elected after appointment to office 
22 Feb. 1728JAMES BUTLER vice Compton, called to the Upper House 
21 May 1730PELHAM re-elected after appointment to office 
9 May 1734HENRY PELHAM2271
 Sir Cecil Bishopp1704
 John Fuller1581
14 Jan. 1742CHARLES SACKVILLE, Earl of Middlesex, vice Butler, deceased 
15 Dec. 1743PELHAM re-elected after appointment to office 
12 Jan. 1744MIDDLESEX re-elected after appointment to office 
6 July 1747HENRY PELHAM 

Main Article

The Duke of Newcastle owed his pre-eminence in Sussex to his great estates, to the patronage which he could dispense as a member of the Government, and to his lavish personal expenditure. At his seats at Halland and Bishopstone there was a practice of giving ‘small beer and doles of wheat to all the people of the country about them, without stint or limitation, and of entertaining all comers and goers, with their servants and horses’, at a cost of £2,000 a year; his coming of age in 1714 was celebrated by a banquet to the countryside costing £2,000; and at the general election next year, when he authorized his agent ‘to give five guineas a man’, the gain of both seats by the Whigs was generally attributed to ‘all manner of indirect practices, particularly by the Earl of Clare [Newcastle’s then title], their grand patron’.1

For nearly twenty years there were no more contests, one of the seats being held by Newcastle’s brother, Henry Pelham, representing the eastern division of Sussex, the other by a country gentleman, James Butler, representing the western division, according to custom. But in 1734 the anti-government party, hoping to profit by the unpopularity of the excise bill, put up an opposition Whig, Sir Cecil Bishopp, with a Tory, John Fuller, against Pelham and Butler. During the campaign Pelham wrote to Newcastle:

We shall carry it, I verily believe, by a great majority, but it is more uphill work than ever I expected to see in this county. The whole county about is poisoned, very little regard in the common people for the King or royal family, less for the ministry, in short it is personal interest must carry this election, nothing else will or can.2

It did.

In 1740 Newcastle’s chief rival in the county, the Duke of Somerset, threatened him with another opposition unless he agreed to replace Butler by Bishopp.3 Newcastle replied that he proposed to conform himself, as he always did, ‘to what shall be the general opinion of the nobility and Whig gentlemen of the county’.4 In the event Pelham and Butler were re-elected without opposition.

On Butler’s death of small-pox ten days after the election Newcastle replaced him by the Duke of Dorset’s son, Lord Middlesex, in spite of a protest by the Duke of Somerset that

as the east division of our county of Sussex is already represented by a very worthy and honourable gentleman, it will ... be very hard upon our freeholders not to have a gentleman of our own western parts to represent them likewise in this new Parliament.5

Lord Middlesex’s seat at East Grinstead was filled by James Butler’s son, John, who was returned for the county in 1747, when Middlesex had gone into opposition.

Author: Romney R. Sedgwick


  • 1. S. H. Nulle, Duke of Newcastle, 21, 45, 61-62.
  • 2. 29 Sept. 1733, Add. 32688, f. 421.
  • 3. 24 July, 1740, Add. 32694, f. 294.
  • 4. 2 Aug. 1740, Add. 32694, f. 403.
  • 5. 28 May 1741, Add. 32697, f. 93.