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 the freemen

Number of voters:

about 120 rising to about 220


(1801): 1,446


27 Nov. 1798 HON. CHARLES MARSHAM vice Farnaby Radcliffe, deceased 
5 July 1802MATTHEW WHITE105
 Hon. Charles Marsham (Visct. Marsham)90
 Alexander Evelyn71
31 Oct. 1806HON. CHARLES MARSHAM (Visct. Marsham)149
 Matthew White62
 Matthew White93
 Thomas William Plummer66
19 Mar. 1810 SIR JOHN PERRING, Bt., vice Godfrey, deceased90
 John William Head Brydges51
 William Busk49
7 Oct. 1812SIR JOHN PERRING, Bt.158
 Thomas William Plummer69
 Sir John Courtenay Honywood, Bt.45
 Matthew White22
20 May 1819 SAMUEL JONES LOYD vice Taylor, vacated his seat157
 Sir John Courtenay Honywood, Bt.90

Main Article

Evelyn and Farnaby Radcliffe, local landowners who had sat since 1768 and 1774 respectively, had by 1790 established a commanding position at Hythe, and with the aid of government had beaten off the challenges of an independent interest led by John Sawbridge*. In 1790 and 1796 they were unopposed, although in August 1789 the Duke of Portland had wished that ‘the state of Hythe could be represented to Lord North’, the lord warden of the Cinque Ports, ‘as it may be very material before Evelyn goes there again’, and in 1790 William Honywood* of Sibton declined an invitation to contest the seat.1 On Farnaby Radcliffe’s death in 1798, Marsham, the son of Lord Romney, lord lieutenant of Kent, quietly filled his place. But as Oldfield recognized, ‘the influence’ of Hythe was ‘not so easily managed as the insignificant corporations of Rye, Winchelsea, Hastings, Seaford, or Romney’. In the 1790s he estimated that 104 of the 126 freemen were non-resident and in 1820 that only one tenth of the 220 electors were resident. The support of the corporation, in which the Tournay family was very influential, and of government was important; but the non-resident freemen, who were ‘not immediately under the control or persecution of a Treasury agent, [and] cannot be trained to the word of command so easy as a dozen custom-house officers, or pensioners, upon the emoluments of the sinecures’, encouraged contests.2 The advice which Lord Thanet gave to Lord Holland, 30 Sept. 1812, would have held good at any time during the period:

The notion I have of the place is that the amount of party feeling on one side is not very considerable. A good look-out for the outvoters was always considered essential, the London ones are generally easily found, but there are several in different parts of the county which are apt to be overlooked.3

In 1802 Evelyn retired in favour of his daughter and heiress’s husband Alexander Evelyn (formerly Hume), brother of Sir Abraham Hume*. He and Marsham were opposed by Matthew White, a London merchant, and Thomas Godfrey, a local landowner, who were supported by the ‘independent interest’, these being ‘principally non-resident freemen’, led by the families of Simmons of Canterbury and Chitty of Deal. Thirty-seven persons claimed the freedom before the election, in which White topped the poll and Godfrey narrowly beat Marsham into third place. Of the 182 electors who polled, 82 split their votes between White and Godfrey, 64 between Marsham and Evelyn. Twenty-three of those who voted for Marsham also voted for White (13) or for Godfrey (10) and their votes were probably decisive. The gentry, including the Tournays, overwhelmingly favoured Marsham and Evelyn, while their opponents drew most of their support from tradesmen, among them a number from Canterbury, and from mariners. The corporation’s hostility to the new Members was marked by their denial of the freedom to them at the annual assembly in 1803.4

White remained the candidate of the independent interest in 1806, when he reported to Lord Hawkesbury, 14 Aug.:

Lord Grenville having pointedly requested me not to create an opposition to Lord Marsham’s views of a seat for Hythe, I propose for the present to make my trip into Kent without bringing forward to the independent interest a second candidate.

Marsham was also a prospective candidate for Kent and Lord Howick informed Grenville, 25 Oct., that in case of his standing for the county, ‘some other candidate will be proposed on the same interests’. Godfrey too appears now to have enjoyed the support of both the corporation and government. He was returned with Marsham and elected to the freedom on 2 Feb. 1807. Six of White’s supporters petitioned against Godfrey’s return, complaining of ‘bribing and corrupting’ and that he had used members of the government service to induce electors to vote for him, but they failed to enter into a recognizance in due time.5

Marsham retired in 1807. John William Head Brydges of Wootton, younger brother of Samuel Egerton Brydges*, was the first of the local men to enter the field, but he withdrew in favour of Charles, Lord Whitworth, an Irish peer of Kentish birth, married to the widow of the 3rd Duke of Dorset, whose property at Knole had provided his ancestors with the basis for a strong electoral interest at Hythe until its defeat in 1768. Whitworth issued an address, 30 Apr., declaring his support for the King’s action in dismissing the ‘Talents’, but he withdrew on 3 May after discovering that his civil list pension was not tenable with a seat in Parliament. Brydges tried to renew his pretensions, but was beaten to it by another local landowner, William Deedes of Sandling. The election developed into a contest between local country gentlemen and merchant outsiders, and for the last time before 1832 the country gentlemen were successful. To strengthen his position, White coalesced with Thomas William Plummer*, a London merchant closely connected with Lord and Lady Holland. In their addresses to the freemen, they claimed to be not only ‘the assertors of your independence’, but ‘the firm friends of our King and country’ and ‘the advocates of the church and state’, though Plummer had sided with the ‘Talents’ in their clash with the King. Eighty-six electors, including most of the gentlemen who voted, split their votes between Godfrey and Deedes, while 62 split for White and Plummer. The latter mustered only four other votes, but White secured a further 31, many of them shared with Deedes. The Chitty family supported the ‘independent’ candidates.6

White later attributed his defeat to ‘the manner in which the second votes were given to the opposing candidates’, and claimed that after the election about 100 freemen had pledged to support him at the first vacancy and to reserve their second votes until his election should be secure. Plummer too was confident that he had established an interest and had ‘very little doubt of success on the first vacancy’.7 Neither of them appeared after Godfrey’s death in 1810, when Sir John Perring, a wealthy banker and merchant, came forward and ‘expressed his public sentiments to be, a firm adherence to his King and country’. He was opposed by Brydges, who professed to be ‘independent of any party’ and William Busk*, another London merchant, who campaigned ‘in opposition to the measures of the present administration’. The Whigs seem to have taken some interest in him and William Henry Fremantle* informed Grenville, 16 Mar.: ‘We have very good accounts from Hythe. I should not be surprised if we carry a Member for that place.’ In the event Perring, who apparently had the support of the corporation and received the freedom in 1811, won comfortably. Most of the gentry who polled voted for him, while Busk’s supporters included a number of London voters.8

In 1812 White and Plummer reappeared, this time standing separately. Deedes stood down and Brydges offered yet again, but quickly withdrew, leaving the three merchants to fight it out. No reference to political principles has been found in the records of the election, although Plummer, who finished a distant third, had the support of Holland House and sought that of Lords Thanet, Romney and Radnor through his business partner Joseph Foster Barham*. Twenty-six of his 69 votes were plumpers. Perring and White shared 107 votes, White and Plummer only eight. Thirty-four electors, including the mayor and several gentlemen, voted for Perring and Plummer, whose brother believed the corporation had ‘decidedly taken him up’. Most of the other gentry who voted plumped for Perring. A petition against Perring’s return, accusing him of illegal treating and bribery, was lodged in the name of two London outvoters, 14 Dec. 1812, but it was not pursued and was discharged 2 Feb. 1813, the same day that White received the freedom of Hythe.9

In 1818 Sir John Courtenay Honywood of Evington, son of Sir John Honywood*, revived the local challenge. Perring stood again and was joined by John Bladen Taylor, a nabob, who had established himself some time before the election. White, apparently disturbed both by Taylor and by John Innes*, a London merchant who was frequently mentioned as a potential candidate, withdrew, complaining of the treachery of his friends, but he was put in nomination again at the last minute. He finished bottom of the poll, while Honywood came a poor third behind Taylor and Perring, whose 109 shared votes accounted for two thirds of their respective totals. Almost all of Honywood’s votes were shared with Perring. The gentry either split their votes between Perring and Taylor or plumped for the latter.10 When ill health forced Taylor to retire in May 1819, Honywood tried again, but he was comfortably beaten by yet another outsider, Samuel Jones Loyd, son of a successful London banker. Loyd had the support of Taylor’s former friends, but apparently not that of the corporation, who denied him the freedom in 1820. He also received strong support from tradesmen and mariners from Deal, Canterbury and London, while his opponent had the backing of the Tournays and their friends. The banners paraded after Loyd’s victory bore the legends, ‘Loyd the freeman’s friend’; ‘freedom of election’; and ‘loyalty and liberty’.11

Author: J. M. Collinge


  • 1. Ginter, Whig Organization, 81; Kentish Chron. 15 June 1790.
  • 2. Boroughs, ii. 320-22; Key (1820), 248.
  • 3. Add. 51571.
  • 4. Biog. List (1812), 39; G. Wilks, Barons of the Cinque Ports, 118. This and subsequent analyses of Hythe polls are based on ms poll books in London Guildhall Lib.
  • 5. Add. 38242, f. 10; HMC Fortescue, viii. 401; Wilks, 118; CJ, lxii. 36, 67.
  • 6. Kentish Chron. 1, 5, 8 May 1807; Add. 38833, f. 240.
  • 7. Kentish Chron. 2 Oct. 1812; Grey mss, Plummer to Grey, 12 June 1807.
  • 8. Kentish Chron. 13, 16, 20 Mar. 1810; Fortescue mss; Wilks, 119.
  • 9. Kentish Chron. 2, 6 Oct.; Bodl. Clarendon dep. C.362, Plummer to Foster Barham, 1 Oct.; Add. 51571, Thanet to Holland, 30 Sept. 1812; CJ, lxviii. 56, 108; Wilks, 119.
  • 10. Kentish Chron. 5, 12, 16, 19, 23 June 1818.
  • 11. Ibid. 11, 21 May 1819; Wilks, 119.