Double Member Borough
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
|15 Apr. 1754||Francis Fane|
|13 June 1757||Henry Fane vice Francis Fane, deceased|
|27 Mar. 1761||Thomas Fane|
|1 Dec. 1762||John Fane, Lord Burghersh, vice Thomas Fane, called to the Upper House|
|18 Mar. 1768||John Fane, Lord Burghersh|
|27 Jan. 1772||Hon. Henry Fane vice Burghersh, called to the Upper House|
|15 June 1772||Hon. Henry Fane re-elected after appointment to office|
|8 Oct. 1774||Henry Fane|
|Hon. Henry Fane|
|11 June 1777||Francis Fane vice Henry Fane, deceased|
|9 Sept. 1780||Hon Henry Fane||22||18|
|David Robert Michel||22||18|
|Double return. Election declared void, 4 Dec. 1780|
|12 Dec. 1780||Hon. Henry Fane|
|David Robert Michel|
|1 Apr. 1784||Hon. Henry Fane||31|
|Hon. Thomas Fane||31|
John Scrope, Walpole’s secretary to the Treasury, represented Lyme Regis from 1734 till his death in 1752. By the judicious use of Government patronage, and by reducing the number of freemen and introducing non-residents into the corporation, he built up an interest in the borough which passed at his death to his nephew, Francis Fane. The Fanes continued to manage the borough, as Scrope had done, with the help of Government; and in 1758 they were given £100 per annum from secret service funds for Lyme. ‘This must not be looked upon as any new or additional expense’, wrote Henry Fane to Newcastle on 13 June, ‘because till within a very few years it was constantly paid from 1734 (when my uncle first went to that place).’1 The payment was continued until at least 1782.
The Fane control at Lyme seems to have remained undisturbed till Henry Fane’s death in 1777. His brother and nephew had predeceased him, and the borough was left to his great-nephew, the 10th Earl of Westmorland, still a minor. There had always been a party in the borough which aimed at extending the franchise to include the freeholders, and in 1777, taking advantage of the Earl’s minority, this group attempted to gain control of the corporation by creating large numbers of freemen. They attacked and ousted six Fane burgesses for non-residence, on the same grounds prevented the new mayor from serving, and countered orders from the King’s bench to restore them with further complaints against non-residents. Their manœuvres led, in 1779, to the election of a mayor by each party. At the general election of 1780 the rival mayors each took a poll, one of freeholders and the other of freemen, and a double return was made. No political question was involved in the contest. Robinson wrote about Lyme in his survey of July 1780: ‘The persons who bring forward the contest are friends to Government and would act with Government, but [since] in this case Administration [is] connected and supported by Lord Westmorland and the Members, they cannot be accepted.’ Petitions from both sides were rejected by the House of Commons and the election was declared void. At the ensuing election on 12 Dec. the poll was taken by the Fane mayor who returned the Fane candidates. Their opponents Henry Harford and Lionel Darell again unsuccessfully petitioned.
In 1782, after Crewe’s bill disfranchising revenue officers was passed, the Fanes safeguarded their position by creating 20 new freemen, of whom only three were residents of Lyme. In 1784 the town party again put up two candidates, and by petitioning once more attempted to force the issue of freeholders versus freemen. One of them wrote to the town clerk: ‘This is the last effort that can be made, the fate of Lyme entirely depends on it—liberty or slavery ad infinitum.’ Their petition was dismissed and the Fane control at Lyme continued till the Reform Act.
Author: Mary M. Drummond
- 1. Add. 32939, f. 93.