Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in freeholders, copyholders and leaseholders for three years, and in 40s. freeholders in the hundreds of Highworth, Cricklade, Staple, Kingsbridge and Malmesbury

Number of voters:

about 1,200


[of Cricklade] (1801): 1,333


25 June 1790THOMAS ESTCOURT246
 Samuel Petrie111
9 June 1794 HENRY GEORGE HERBERT, Lord Porchester, vice Heneage, vacated his seat 
12 July 1802THOMAS ESTCOURT285
 HENRY GEORGE HERBERT, Lord Porchester232
 George Augustus Pollen137
12 Nov. 1806THOMAS GODDARD632
 HENRY GEORGE HERBERT, Lord Porchester574
 Thomas Howard, Lord Andover508
22 June 1811 HON. WILLIAM HERBERT vice Porchester, called to the Upper House 
14 Oct. 1812JOSEPH PITT 
27 June 18181JOSEPH PITT721
 Thomas Calley508

Main Article

As a result of the extension of the franchise to freeholders in neighbouring hundreds in 1782, Cricklade came to resemble a county seat, with the local gentry jockeying for its representation.2 Thus in 1790 two local gentlemen pledged to independence were again returned, sponsored by the two county Members, who lived within the hundreds. They had been adopted at Marlborough, well outside the constituency, on 17 June and this was deplored by their opponent Samuel Petrie, who had applied to Pitt for support, 13 Mar. 1790, and was laying siege to Cricklade for the fifth time. He found, despite a ‘laborious general canvass’ in the autumn of 1789, that he could command no interest outside the borough whose disfranchisement he had helped to provoke. His conduct had earned him the hostility of Paul Benfield*, the nabob whose interest he had disturbed, and who toyed with the idea of putting up a candidate, but was mollified by the assurance that Petrie stood no chance.3 When, on the third morning of the poll, Goddard, one of the county Members, led a procession of 350 freeholders friendly to Estcourt and Walker Heneage into Cricklade, Petrie abandoned the contest. His opponents ridiculed him in their address of thanks, but withdrew a reference to ‘contemptible opposition’ at Petrie’s request for an explanation. His righteous indignation was reserved for the county Members, whom he publicly rebuked for having taken sides against him: ‘What object they could have in deceiving me, or allowing me to deceive myself, they themselves best know’.4 He then petitioned against the return, 18 Dec. 1790, accusing the returning officer of closing the poll prematurely and the successful candidates of bribery. When the House at length dealt with this, 15 Mar. 1793,5 Petrie had to be haled out of the debtors’ prison to give evidence and a week later the decision went against him; his petition was declared ‘frivolous and vexatious’ with regard to Estcourt, who could thus have sued Petrie for damages—it is not surprising that Petrie was next heard of at Ostend.

On Walker Heneage’s retirement in 1794, Lord Porchester, whose father, the 1st Earl of Carnarvon, had purchased Cricklade manor from Paul Benfield in 1791, was returned and the family held on to the seat until the election of 1812. Their property was sold in the autumn of 1811 to their former steward, the borough-monger Joseph Pitt.6

The local gentry contended for the other seat and there was little support for George Augustus Pollen*, said to be ‘on a roving electioneering expedition’, in 1802. In that year, however, the 15th Earl of Suffolk, a Whig who owned much of Malmesbury hundred, contemplated putting up his son Lord Andover and was deterred only because he was assured that as neither of the sitting Members wished to retire, he would only damage his son’s future prospects by intervening.7 In the autumn of 1805 Andover (since Member for Arundel) came forward, claiming that Estcourt meant to retire; by another account, he drove Estcourt out of the field.8 In his farewell address, 22 Oct. 1806, Estcourt suggested that a contest might be averted by taking the sense of a general meeting, as if it were a county election. Nor did the parallel end there: the canvass was based on land tax returns and conducted on county lines; and Andover’s campaign was rather against Porchester, as a Hampshire interloper using corrupt influence in the borough to thwart the freeholders, than against the other candidate, Thomas Goddard of Swindon, son of the retiring county Member, who commanded a strong interest in the Swindon, Purton and Wootton Bassett districts. The belief that Gen. Henry St. John would stand on the strength of the Bolingbroke interest at Wootton Bassett proved unfounded.9 On 23 Oct. 1806, Porchester wrote:

Mr Goddard being supported by the same interest which has hitherto supported Estcourt and myself, I felt myself under the necessity of joining my interest with his, it being mutually understood that this junction could not be extended to oblige either of [us] to decline the aid of our respective friends who might be inclined to give their votes to Lord Andover.10

Andover, who received three-quarters of the votes in Malmesbury hundred and nearly half of those from Highworth hundred, attributed his defeat to the Cricklade vote swayed by Porchester. According to the canvassing lists of 1806 there were over 200 voters there, 70 of them faggot lessees. Although his friends offered to subscribe for a petition in his favour, he was reluctant to pursue the matter; and in 1807, when he was invited to stand again with the prospect of an alliance with Goddard, he considered the idea, but after a preliminary canvass, declined, on his father’s advice.11 In June 1811, when Porchester succeeded his father as 2nd Earl of Carnarvon, and offered his seat to Andover, he no longer wished for it. Carnarvon’s brother William Herbert, who would willingly have made way for Andover, was returned; not without a threat of opposition from a local landowner, Thomas Calley of Burderop, who proceeded to canvass in anticipation of the general election.12 Herbert and Goddard began a joint counter-canvass in August 1811, but soon afterwards Carnarvon sold his manor of Cricklade to Joseph Pitt, who offered himself in October 1811. Goddard decided to retire in December and gave his interest to Robert Gordon of Kemble who found, however, that he was too late in the field. Although there was some resentment towards Pitt as ‘an attorney, a banker, a landjobber and a money lender’, and at his hold on ‘the votes in the town of Cricklade notoriously corrupt’, the prospect of a junction between Pitt and Calley, who for his part had Lord Suffolk’s interest, induced Gordon to retire.13

In 1816, anticipating an early dissolution, Gordon secured the backing of Lord Folkestone; Calley retaliated by canvassing and promising to stand singly. When Gordon resumed his canvass in the spring of 1818, he was embarrassed to find it reported that Lord Radnor, father of his ‘great pillar’ Folkestone, supported Pitt. Pitt certainly had ‘Lord Shaftesbury and other ministerialists’ straining every nerve for him and had the premier Lord Liverpool’s good wishes. Calley’s chief support was still Lord Suffolk’s interest, but this time it did not come up to expectations and he was defeated for second place by Gordon, after many voters had divided their support between them against Pitt.14

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Cricklade Hist. Soc. Mus. Elwell mss, poll bks.; Stooks Smith gives Pitt 715, Gordon 602, Calley 505; while a poll bk. in the Pleydell Bouverie mss (Berks. RO) gives Pitt 721, Gordon 599 and Calley 505. Similar variants occur for the polls of 1802 and 1806.
  • 2. Materials for a Hist. of Cricklade ed. Thomson, ch. vi.
  • 3. Wilts. Arch. Mag. lvi. 371; PRO 30/8/166, f. 181; Public Advertiser, 2 July 1790; India Office Lib. mss. Eur. C.307/4, ff. 1, 2, 4, 22, 26.
  • 4. Glocester Jnl. 25 June, 5 July 1790.
  • 5. CJ, xlviii. 17, 439; Elwell mss, corresp. 1790-3.
  • 6. Methuen mss, Merewether to Methuen, Fri. [1811].
  • 7. Elwell mss, Estcourt to Crowdy, 8 July; Berks. RO, Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/13, Radnor to Folkestone, 17 June; Salisbury Jnl. 21 June 1802.
  • 8. Elwell mss, Andover to Crowdy, 20 Sept.; Wilts. RO 490/1321, Carnarvon to Radnor, 27 Sept. [1805].
  • 9. Elwell mss, 1806 canvass bks. and handbills; The Globe, 25 Oct. 1806.
  • 10. Add. 51822, cf. 51823, Suffolk to Holland, 21 Oct. 1806.
  • 11. Elwell mss, Andover’s farewell address (draft), canvass lists, Thomas to Crowdy, 13 Dec.; Andover to same, Mon. [Dec. 1806], Crowdy to Andover, 2 Apr., reply 5 Apr.; Wilts. RO 415/420, Merewether to ?, Thurs. [7 May 1807].
  • 12. Elwell mss, Andover to Crowdy [7 June], C. Herbert to same [recd. 7 June], reply 10 June, Goddard to same, 12 June; Add. 51825, W. Herbert to Holland, 14 June; Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/55, W. Herbert and Goddard to Folkestone, 21 Aug. 1811.
  • 13. Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/57, Gordon to Folkestone, 16 Dec.; Methuen mss, Merewether to Methuen, n.d. [1811]; Elwell mss, Pitt to Crowdy, Sunday; Add. 51826, Suffolk to Holland, 28 Mar. 1812.
  • 14. Pleydell Bouverie mss 028/101, Gordon to Folkestone, 29 Oct.; 104, Calley to same, 26 Dec. 1816, 135, 145, 162, 163, Gordon to same, 20 Mar., 15, [16 Apr.], 10 June; Add. 38458, ff. 231-3; Elwell mss, Wells to ?Crowdy, 29 Mar.; Methuen mss, Craven to Methuen, 12 Apr. 1818.