A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1957.
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PARLIAMENTARY HISTORY 1689–1832
One of the most striking features of the county representation during this period is the comparatively small circle to which it was confined. Only seventeen different names appear in the complete list of members of Parliament for the county from 1689 to 1832; and if to these are added the names of the unsuccessful candidates in the various contested elections, the total is still only twenty. Further, of these twenty names, all belong to families long settled in Wiltshire and with landed estates there. The picture becomes even more striking if the period is divided up into three sections: from 1689 to 1722 (i.e. to the end of the Parliament of 1715); from 1722 to 1812; and from 1812 to 1832. During the first period, which includes twelve parliaments, the county members were drawn from eight families. (fn. 1) Inclusion of unsuccessful candidates adds only two further names. (fn. 2) This can be called the How-Hyde period, for the representation was almost monopolized by these two families. A member of one or other of them represented the county in all but three Parliaments (1695, 1698, Nov. 1701) and from 1702 to 1722 the county was represented without a break by Sir Richard How, 3rd Baronet of Wishford, and Robert Hyde of Hatch, whose father was Clarendon's first cousin.
In the second period, which includes sixteen Parliaments, the county members were again drawn from eight families. How and Hyde were again elected in 1722, but Hyde died shortly after the election and How retired at the end of that Parliament. His cousin John represented the county from 1729 to 1741, after which the names of How and Hyde disappear from the county representation. The six remaining families of this period are all new names, which had not appeared among the members for the county in the earlier period. (fn. 3) If 1689–1722 is the How–Hyde period, 1722–1812 is the Goddard– Long period. A member of one or the other family represented the county in every Parliament except that of 1734, a Goddard in ten Parliaments, a Long in eight, a Goddard and a Long in only three. The Goddards were a Swindon family which had been settled in Wiltshire since the reign of Henry VIII and had bought land at Swindon, formerly the property of Lacock Abbey, after the Dissolution. (fn. 4) The Longs were a Wiltshire family of many ramifications, the county members being mostly the successive baronets of Draycott Cerne. As a family with a title they were gentry of a slightly higher social status than the Goddards, and to judge from contemporary pamphlets, they appear to have been regarded as 'aristocracy', where the Goddards were 'independent gentry'. (fn. 5)
The Penruddock and Wyndham families, who were connected by marriage, together almost rival the Goddards and Longs; for either a Penruddock or a Wyndham sat for the county in every Parliament from 1770 till 1812—a Penruddock in four Parliaments, a Wyndham in five. The Penruddocks of Compton Chamberlayne were descended from Sir George Penruddock who acquired estates at Ivy Church (Alderbury) in the reign of Henry VIII, and represented Wiltshire in Parliament in 1557; and Sir Edward Penruddock who built the house at Compton Chamberlayne in the reign of Elizabeth I. (fn. 6) The Wyndhams were the Wiltshire branch of the Somerset family of which Sir William Wyndham, the Jacobite, was a member, and which also had a branch in Norfolk. They had been in Wiltshire since the early 17th century, one branch at Norrington (Alvediston), another at Dinton, and a third at Salisbury. Henry Penruddock Wyndham, who represented Wiltshire from 1796 to 1812, was the son of Henry Wyndham of Salisbury and Arundel Penruddock, whose brother Charles was married to Frances Wyndham of the Dinton branch. Their son Charles Penruddock represented Wiltshire from 1770 until his death in 1788. Thus there was a double connexion between the two families. (fn. 7)
The third period, 1812–32, includes six Parliaments, and the county representation was shared among four families, the Longs and three newcomers. (fn. 8) The Astleys were a Staffordshire family but their connexion with Wiltshire dated from the first half of the 18th century. Sir John Astley's mother had married as her second husband General Webb of Biddesden (Chute), member of Parliament for Ludgershall, when her son was only a year old; and after her death he bought himself an estate at Everley, in the same part of the county. This passed at his death to Francis Dugdale, father of John Dugdale Astley, the Wiltshire member of Parliament. John Benett of Pythouse (West Tisbury) was of a family of lesser Wiltshire gentry of long standing. (fn. 9) Paul Methuen was a descendant of John Methuen, famous as the negotiator of the Methuen or Port-wine treaty with Portugal in 1703, and the family had been settled in Wiltshire since the 17th century. (fn. 10)
Thus throughout the whole period 1689–1832 the county was represented by members drawn from a very restricted circle of county families, and these families were not on the whole families with strong connexions in the Wiltshire boroughs. It is true that members of these families, including those who later represented the county, did from time to time sit for boroughs. The Hyde family had influence at Hindon in the late 17th century, and Robert Hyde sat for that borough in a number of Parliaments before he was elected for the county. Members of the Long family sat for a number of north Wiltshire boroughs—for Calne in 1701, for Chippenham in 1705–10, for Devizes between 1780 and 1788, for Malmesbury from 1689 to 1692, for Marlborough from 1762 to 1780 and for Wootton Bassett in 1715 and 1734, often graduating to county membership later. Methuens sat for Devizes and for Great Bedwyn; Wyndhams for Calne, Wilton, and Salisbury. But the only families appearing among the county members who also controlled or had a strong influence in a particular borough were the Ashes, the Mompessons and the St. Johns. In each case the excursion into the county representation was extremely brief, and all of them occur before 1702. Sir Thomas Mompesson, who had at that time a strong interest at Old Sarum, represented Wiltshire only in the Convention of 1689. Two members of the St. John family, with its interest at Wootton Bassett, sat for the county in 1690 and 1695 respectively. William Ashe, whose family controlled Heytesbury and represented it continuously throughout the period, sat for Wiltshire in the last Parliament of William III (1701). The Wyndham family perhaps provides a further exception in the latter part of the period, since it made considerable efforts in the mid-18th century to acquire a seat at Salisbury. But their efforts met with no success till the election of Henry Penruddock Wyndham's son Wadham in 1818. Apart from these exceptions, the families who represented the county were not the patrons of boroughs: and the gentry with a strong interest in a particular borough did not generally aspire to a county seat. The only exception to this is Thomas Pitt, of Old Sarum, who made two unsuccessful bids for county membership in 1713 and 1715.
If the county members were all of the country gentry class, their politics, as reflected in the available division lists, can perhaps best be described as a sturdy independence, which up to 1784 expressed itself in an almost continuous opposition to the government of the day. (fn. 11) During the How—Hyde period this attitude can be labelled more specifically as high church toryism, which in the reign of Anne did not always involve opposition to the government. But during the Parliament of 1727–34 and most of the Parliament of 1734–41 the two Wiltshire members, John Ivory Talbot of Lacock and John How of Wishford, voted continuously against Walpole's government until the division on the Convention of the Pardo in 1739, when How voted with the government. His rise to the peerage as Lord Chedworth in May 1741 was no doubt the reward of this change of side. From the fall of Walpole to the establishment of the Younger Pitt in power in 1784, the Wiltshire members have an unbroken record of opposition to all the various governments which held office during those years; although on the vote of no confidence in the North government which was only narrowly defeated in March 1782, Charles Penruddock figured among those whom John Robinson described as 'Persons who were said not to go the whole length with them [the Opposition] but who did vote with them as before'. (fn. 12)
The crisis of 1783–4 apparently brought about a temporary separation of the two Wiltshire members, Charles Penruddock and Ambrose Goddard. A contemporary pamphlet, An Authentic List of all the Members of the late House of Commons; shewing the various changes that have been made in consequence of the General Election of 1784 (fn. 13) placed Goddard among 'those members of the House of Commons, who supported Mr. Pitt and the constitution', and Penruddock among those 'who voted against Mr. Pitt's administration'. But in Robinson's calculations of probable support for Pitt's government, made on the eve of the election of 1784, both Goddard and Penruddock are classified as 'Hopefull' (fn. 14) and both of them in fact voted with Pitt's government on the Regency question in 1788. During the remainder of Pitt's administration the Wiltshire county members probably supported the government, as neither Goddard and Sir James Tylney Long in the Parliament of 1790–6, nor Goddard and Henry Penruddock Wyndham in the Parliament of 1796–1802 ever figure in any of the numerous lists of the opposition minorities in divisions. Paul Methuen, elected in 1812, revived the tradition of independence, voting consistently with the opposition in that and the following Parliament, but his partners (Richard Long in 1812, William Long-Wellesley in 1818) both voted with the government. John Benett and John Dugdale Astley also voted on opposite sides in the Parliaments of 1820 and 1826, Benett for the opposition and Astley for the government; but both of them voted for the Reform Bill in the Parliaments of 1830 and 1831.
There were seven—possibly eight—contested county elections during the period; in 1690, 1705, and 1713, possibly in 1715, though it is not certain opposition was actually carried to a poll; the by-elections of 1722 and 1772; the election of 1818 and the by-election of 1819. The early part of the period is thus a time of active electioneering; the middle and late 18th century, in Wiltshire, as in most other counties, was a period with few contested elections, though the single contest in 1772 was a particularly energetic and interesting one; while the period from 1812 until the Reform Bill contained the two most violent and prolonged contests that the county had ever known.
At the election of 1690, Lord Cornbury, who had represented the county in the Convention, was again returned, his partner being no longer Sir Thomas Mompesson but Sir Walter St. John, like Cornbury a tory. They were opposed by Henry, Lord Coleraine, who asserted in a petition that he was in fact elected by the majority of the freeholders, 'but that James Edghill, Under-Sheriff, and one Sansbury, the County Clerk, admitted many unqualified voters to the poll, and unduly adjourned the County Court from Wilton to several places the first day, the last adjournment being to Salisbury, then visited with the smallpox, the fear whereof restrained and discouraged some hundreds that would have polled for the petitioner'. Presumably the freeholders supporting his opponents had already voted, in a less plague-infested neighbourhood. Nothing came of this petition. (fn. 15)
The last Parliament of William III (Nov. 1701) was the only occasion during this early period when Wiltshire was represented by two whigs, Maurice Ashley and William Ashe. They were supported by Wharton (then High Steward of Malmesbury) and by Peterborough, who had influence at Chippenham, (fn. 16) and there was a good deal of activity among the county gentry on their behalf.'I beg you to be industrious against the election for our county,' wrote Henry Blake to Walter White of Grittleton, on behalf of Ashe and Ashley; 'Ned Bayntun will take care of Melsham [Melksham] and Bromham side, I will of Calne, Compton etc., Tom Long and his brother Dick of Corsham etc., and doe you doe the same in the north part. We propose a general rendez-vous at Sandy Lane. I am in haste, but be you sollicitous in this matter as well.' (fn. 17) The whig triumph was short-lived for the long partnership of the tory Sir Richard How and Robert Hyde began in 1702 in the first Parliament of Queen Anne. Unavailing attempts were made by the whigs to break this, in 1705, 1713, and 1715. William Ashe stood again in 1705, partnered this time by Sir Edward Ernle of Maddington, who had sat for the county in 1698. They finished some 300 votes behind How and Hyde, the poll showing How 1,763, Hyde 1,715, Ashe 1,435, Ernle 1,430. (fn. 18)
Opposition was carried to a poll again in 1713. On this occasion the whig candidates were Edward Ashe (William's son) and Thomas Pitt of Old Sarum, who were defeated by nearly 600 votes, after a riotous poll. A general feature of the 1713 election was the attempt by the whigs to use against their opponents the tory government's recent attempt to make a commercial treaty with France which, it was alleged, by letting in French wines to the detriment of Portuguese wines would have struck a blow at the wool trade with Portugal, linked as it was with the import of Portuguese wines in the Methuen Treaty of 1703. At the Wiltshire election 'the Whig party appeared (all of them) with wool in their hats at the place of election. The Tories hooted them, called them wolves in sheep's clothing, surrounded them by parcels and whipped many of them and knocked down others, insomuch that the Whigs were soon forced to pull all the wool out of their hats.' (fn. 19) 'A mob was raised and paid' by the tory candidates which 'appearing with clubs and drums', marched 'round the place of polling, till the close thereof, to the Great Terror of the electors.' The tories were further powerfully assisted by the under-sheriff, who apparently refused to tender the Oath of Abjuration to any but Quakers (who, of course, would refuse it), the majority of whom would have voted for the whigs. (fn. 20) The harvest seems to have had the effect of driving up the cost of the election, both by making it difficult to get horses, and by making freeholders unwilling to make the expedition to the poll and lose harvest time unless it was made very much worth their while. Lord Bruce's agent, Charles Beecher, apologized for this added expense in getting the freeholders on the Ailesbury estates to the poll. 'The Burbage people would not go unless they had 7s. 6d. a man nor many others without 5s. a man, which I was forced to promise them. But I stopped my hand as soon as I heard, a little before the election, that it would go right for Howe and Hyde.' Much stir was apparently caused at the poll by a quarrel between George Penruddock of Compton Chamberlayne and Thomas Burnet, the violently whig son of the Bishop of Salisbury. A duel was to take place, but the bishop prudently locked up his son next morning, and nothing came of it. (fn. 21) Ashe and Pitt presented a petition against the election of How and Hyde, but very shortly afterwards thought better of it and the petition was withdrawn. (fn. 22)
Whig opposition was apparently again organized at the election of 1715 but with little chance of success. 'Everybody hereabouts agrees that How and Hyde will carry it for the county', wrote Beecher to Lord Bruce from Tottenham Park on 8 November 1714. 'We hear that Sir E. Ernly and Pitt set up against them.' (fn. 23) It seems probable that this opposition did not go as far as a poll. George Penruddock again appears to have been a very ardent, not to say violent, supporter of How and Hyde, for when Thomas Pitt gave a ball at the Half-Moon Inn at Salisbury on the evening of the coronation of George I, Penruddock and 40 others burst in, shouting 'How and Hyde' and breaking all the windows. (fn. 24)
The long How-Hyde partnership was finally broken by Hyde's death in April 1722. He had been in failing health for some time, and it had seemed doubtful whether he would be able to stand again at the 1722 general election. A meeting of many of the gentlemen of the county was held at the 'Three Tuns' at Marlborough on 21 March 1722, to decide upon a candidate if Hyde were unable to stand, and Richard Goddard of Swindon was decided upon. Although Hyde did stand, and was again elected with How without any opposition, he was not well enough to appear at the election, and at a large gathering of gentlemen at the 'Angel' at Salisbury for dinner after the election, Goddard was again named as candidate if Hyde's health should fail. (fn. 25) Only a few weeks later Hyde died, and much activity among the county gentlemen began on Goddard's behalf. Thomas Smith of Shaw House, Melksham, was at dinner on 2 May 1722 when 'one Greenway that lives with Mr. Goddard of Swindon, came to bring letters and speak with me concerning his friend Mr. Goddard's being chosen to represent the county in this Parliament in place of Mr. Hyde... after my dinner I was with him, and Mr. Talbot of Lacock [M.P. for Wilts. 1727–41] at "The George" at Melksham, the last named gentleman din'd with the clergy of the neighbourhood there as they do once a month, so that the opportunity happen'd well for Mr. Greenway's purpose.' Two days later Smith visited Mr. Harding of Broughton Gifford 'to speak with him and consult him about making some interest for Mr. Goddard's election for the county'. (fn. 26) The day before the election Smith and a number of neighbours set out together for Salisbury, where they spent the night. On the morning of the election 'wee break-fast at our Inn, the Blew Boar, and paid our respects to Mr. Goddard the candidate, the morning being wet; about 11 we set out for Wilton where was an opposition, and so made no stay there, but came homeward through very bad weather'. (fn. 27)
The years 1722–1812 present a strong contrast to the activity of the earlier period. They are years of quiescence in which, with the striking exception of the by-election of 1772, the members were chosen by amicable agreement among the leading gentry. This is the hey-day of the Deptford (Wylye) and Beckhampton (Avebury) Clubs— meetings of the principal gentry, and especially the justices of the peace of south and north Wiltshire respectively, for the purpose of choosing candidates whenever a vacancy in the county representation occurred through death or retirement. These clubs figure prominently in the election literature of 1818, but it is difficult to find any more reliable information about them. According to the author of a pamphlet which deplored the defeat of Benett, the 'independent' candidate in 1818, these clubs started as a means of combating 'an aristocratic ascendancy and a most unwarrantable interference of the Peerage' in 1772; the defeat of the Herbert candidate in 1772 was the triumph of the clubs, representing 'the whole independent voice of the county'. But the clubs soon grew as bad as the domination they had overthrown, and themselves set up a domination by certain county families and more especially by the Long family. It was alleged that when a vacancy in the representation occurred in 1806, Richard Long of Rood Ashton, 'a man of no public worth or value, though a plain and respectable man in his private character', was chosen behind the doors of the clubs and then accepted by the freeholders. Certain members of the clubs then began to draw away and adopt a more independent attitude, as a result of which Paul Methuen was chosen in 1812. This minority supported Methuen and Benett in 1818, for which they were vilified by 'the Rump of the old clubs'. (fn. 28) All this was election propaganda and no doubt a rather highly coloured picture. But the very violence of the attack and the eagerness of all three candidates in 1818 (even the Long family's own candidate) to declare they stood for independence of the clubs, indicates the strength of their influence and the extent to which it was resented.
The clubs were certainly in existence by 1768, when the death of Sir Robert Long created a vacancy. Meetings at the Deptford inn and at Beckhampton were held to choose a candidate for the forthcoming general election, selecting first Charles Penruddock, who refused both for himself and for his son Charles, on the ground that he was 'not yet settled'. John Ivory Talbot, a former county member, also declined, and it was then decided to invite Thomas Goddard of Swindon to be the candidate. (fn. 29) He and Edward Popham were duly elected without opposition, the election costing them no more than £61 13s., including the official fees and expenses of the under-sheriff (£18 18s.), the usual payments to bell-ringers, bands, and morris dancers, and £16 for four hogsheads of strong beer. (fn. 30) In 1770 Thomas Goddard died and Charles Penruddock junior was elected without opposition, 'his friends and relations going to the poll in their coaches merely for show'. (fn. 31) Misfortune, however, seemed to dog the Wiltshire members in this Parliament, for in 1772 Popham also died and another by-election became necessary. This resulted in one of the few contested county elections of the mid-18th century.
The first candidate in the field was Henry Herbert of Highclere (Hants), a cousin of the 10th Earl of Pembroke, the lord lieutenant of Wiltshire. (fn. 32) Herbert had been elected at Wilton, a borough entirely in Lord Pembroke's control, at the general election of 1768; in 1772 he applied for the stewardship of the manor of East Hendred, in order to be eligible to stand for the county, and after his defeat in the county election he was at once re-elected for Wilton, which he again represented in the Parliament of 1774. His candidature for the county caused widespread opposition and at the county meeting on 7 August 1772 Ambrose Goddard of Swindon offered himself as a candidate and received much support. (fn. 33)
It is difficult to decide the exact grounds of this strong anti-Herbert feeling, and there is little strictly contemporary evidence about it. Later writers described the election as fought against 'an aristocratic ascendancy and a most unwarrantable interference of the peerage', (fn. 34) but it is not true that, as Oldfield says, Herbert was supported by the whole of the aristocracy in the county. (fn. 35) The list of subscriptions for Goddard's election campaign contains the names of Lords Bruce, Castlehaven, Radnor, and Shelburne besides those of many of the leading county gentry. (fn. 36) The other Wiltshire peers put their relations into their borough seats, confining their activities in county elections to the general influence their position as landowners gave them; they clearly thought that Lord Pembroke should do the same. It is possible that Lord Pembroke, as lord lieutenant and a lord of the bedchamber to the king, was regarded as representing not only interference by the peerage but also 'government' interference; although in the 1780's, when he began to take an active interest in politics, he was a staunch admirer of Shelburne and a harsh critic of the North government, losing the lord lieutenancy in 1780 for voting in favour of economical reform. (fn. 37) Henry Herbert himself had voted against the government in February 1772, and did so again on several subsequent occasions. The evidence of election squibs, for what it is worth, shows resentment against Herbert not so much as the candidate of a peer as the rich outsider attempting to buy his way into the county representation, with the help of Lord Pembroke and the government backing which Lord Pembroke could command. A ballad celebrating the triumph of Goddard, the friend of Wiltshire, over Herbert, the stranger, depicts the defeated candidate and Lord Pembroke drowning their sorrows in wine:
Should they, with all their boasted Force
My citadel invade,
When your Purse shrinks too much we'll call
The Treasury to our aid.' (fn. 38)
Other poems praise Goddard as 'Freedom's Champion.' (fn. 39) Herbert's subsequent career confirmed this opinion of him. He was involved in two unsavoury elections at Cricklade (where he had an interest) in 1774 and 1780; and in 1794 Bartholomew Bouverie was prepared at his brother's request to vote for Herbert's son at Cricklade, but added, 'I must confess to you I know not the man whose character in public and private life I less respect than Lord Carnarvon'. (fn. 40)
The election of 1772 was to a large extent a contest between north and south Wiltshire. The Herbert influence was naturally strong in the south, especially in Salisbury and a big surrounding area. Against this Herbert's opponents sought to organize the extensive influence of the Goddard family, which had many branches and was spread out widely in north Wiltshire, with landed representatives in at least fourteen villages; (fn. 41) and the influence of families supporting Goddard, which included the Longs, with their widespread ramifications in north Wiltshire. A committee for managing Goddard's campaign was set up, including among others Lord Folkestone, Sir James Long, Charles Penruddock, the other county member, and John Awdry of Notton, Goddard's brother-in-law, who acted as his principal agent in this election and that of 1774. The county was divided into canvassing districts, each consisting of a group of several hundreds, and agents were appointed to organize the canvassing each in his own district. Goddard was at a disadvantage in that the poll was held at Wilton in the heart of the area where Herbert influence was strong, so that while Herbert had most of his freeholders within fairly easy reach of the poll, Goddard's supporters in north and west Wiltshire would have a considerable journey to make and be obliged to spend at least one night away from home in order to poll. The committee drew up a list of all the inns in Salisbury engaged for Goddard, with the number of beds available at each, and it was the main task of the agent for Salisbury and district to arrange for the accommodation and entertainment of freeholders coming from a distance. Bills from some 50 inns were paid by Awdry on Goddard's behalf, for sums ranging from 10s. to £450, for beds, meals, drinks of all kinds, tobacco, and stabling and food for horses. Similar bills for entertainment and for horse hire to get the freeholders to the poll were presented by the agents in the various districts, but the Salisbury bills were much heavier, owing to the need to put up freeholders there for the night. (fn. 42) The total expenditure on Goddard's election was £8,154 16s. 0¼d., a vast proportion of it going on bills from innkeepers. Other items of expenditure were the insertion of advertisements in local newspapers, the making of rosettes (the committee drew up a list of people in different parts of the county to whom these rosettes should be sent, and in what quantities) and the making of two silk banners with 'Goddard and Freedom' embroidered upon them in large gold letters. The total amount raised by subscription, to which the candidate himself had contributed £1,000, was £8,250; and the balance in hand was subsequently used to defray the joint expenses of Goddard and Penruddock at the uncontested general election in 1774. (fn. 43)
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this election is the forecast made by Goddard's agents of how the votes would go. The agents in most of the districts sent in these forecasts for their own areas, estimating so many votes for Goddard and so many for Herbert. (fn. 44) Comparison of these estimates with the poll book (fn. 45) shows in some cases a remarkable accuracy on the part of the canvassers. For example, the estimate for Salisbury and the six surrounding hundreds was Goddard 98, Herbert 240; the actual poll for this area, Goddard 88, Herbert 248: (fn. 46) for the parishes of Bradford, Melksham and Calne respectively the estimate was Goddard 55, 21, 63; Herbert 6, 16, o, the actual figures in the poll being respectively, Goddard 71, 19, 54, and Herbert 16, 22, 3. For Trowbridge, the estimate was Goddard 48, poll 21; for Herbert, estimate 36, poll 53. (fn. 47) In other areas the estimate is less accurate, but the discrepancy between estimated and actual figures is never very great. Study of the poll book shows that, as might be expected, Goddard did badly in Salisbury—in the City and Close he polled only 44 votes as against 135 for Herbert—and in a big surrounding area, the only exception to this being the hundred of Downton, where he did well. This was probably due to the local influence and support of the Earl of Radnor, whose eldest son, Lord Folkestone, was a member of Goddard's election committee. In the west, Goddard did well in the hundreds of Bradford, Mere, and Whorwellsdown, Herbert did well in Warminster, while Melksham and Westbury hundreds were fairly evenly divided. Goddard's big triumph was, again as might be expected, in north Wiltshire, his only failure being in Malmesbury borough, where he polled only 2 votes as against 66 for Herbert, while the hundred of Malmesbury was fairly evenly divided. The figures at the close of the poll, which continued for four days, were Goddard 1,870, Herbert 1,055, majority for Goddard 815. If this, as the squibs suggest, was the triumph of the local man over the stranger, it is also of interest to note the very small number of 'strangers' who voted. The poll book shows only about 40 freeholders living outside the county, 19 of them from London, a very small proportion of the 2,925 freeholders who voted. (fn. 48)
After the 1772 election, peace once more descended upon the county. The widespread petitioning movement in the winter of 1779–80, during which various counties presented petitions to the House of Commons against wasteful government expenditure and in favour of 'economical reform', had its repercussions in Wiltshire. A county meeting in January 1780 drew up a petition on much the same lines as the original Yorkshire petition, which was presented by the two county members; and also, following the example of other countries, set up a committee of correspondence to keep in touch with other counties and forward the objects of the petitions. In Wiltshire, as in many other counties, enthusiasm soon waned when the movement passed into the control of a small body of extremists in London, who sought to turn it into a movement for parliamentary reform, and as far as Wiltshire was concerned the whole movement seems to have petered out by the end of March 1780. (fn. 49) Goddard and Penruddock continued to represent the county till the latter's death in 1788, when he was succeeded by Sir James Tylney Long. Long himself died in 1794 and was succeeded by Henry Penruddock Wyndham, head of the Salisbury branch of the family. Wyndham and Goddard continued until 1807, when the vacancy created by Goddard's retirement was filled by Richard Long. Wyndham retired in 1812 and his succession by Paul Methuen of Corsham, while it did not disturb the peace of the county, was nevertheless a portent of disturbances to come in that it introduced a new family into the county representation, with, apparently, the backing of many of the more independent gentry. The peace of the county was shattered and the first real challenge made to the domination of the 'clubs' and the ascendancy of the Long family at the general election of 1818.
Paul Methuen stood again at this election, but Long had already announced his intention to retire. In his place the Long family and the other county families forming the backbone of the 'clubs' put forward William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, son of the Earl of Mornington and a nephew of the Duke of Wellington, who had married Catherine, daughter of Sir James Tylney Long in 1812 and had then taken the names of Tylney and Long in addition to that of Wellesley. In the previous Parliament he had sat for the borough of St. Ives. In the meantime, however, John Benett of Pythouse, president of the county agricultural society, had issued a printed address 'To the Nobility, Gentry, Clergy and Freeholders of the County of Wilts', announcing his intention to stand, and to renew in person his request for their support as soon as the present Parliament was dissolved. Benett was already busy soliciting the support of people with outstanding influence in the county. A letter to Lord Folkestone received a non-committal reply, (fn. 50) and was followed up by a letter from Benett's chief agent, a Salisbury solicitor named Tinney, who assured Lord Folkestone (then one of the members for Salisbury) that all his best friends there were zealous for Benett. (fn. 51) Lord Folkestone nevertheless supported Methuen. Benett, however, seems to have had considerable support, including that of the Wyndham family, both the Dinton and Salisbury branches. William Wyndham of Dinton was chairman of Benett's election committee of no freeholders, which had its headquarters at the 'White Hart' at Salisbury, where as many of them as possible dined every day during the election. This committee remained in being after Benett's defeat, its members continuing to organize meetings in their own districts, and this undoubtedly contributed to Benett's success in the by election of 1819. (fn. 52) The committee organized a large dinner at Devizes for Benett's supporters a few days before the nomination day, presided over by Wadham Wyndham, himself a candidate at Salisbury; and made arrangements for 'gentlemen in the interest of Mr. Benett' to meet at the Beckhampton Inn on the morning of the nomination and ride together to Devizes for that event. (fn. 53)
The other candidates were also active. A sumptuous dinner was given by Wellesley at Marlborough for the freeholders, which went on till dawn with singers from London, Bath, and Salisbury. (fn. 54) Methuen's election seems from the first to have been certain. 'Nothing can be more satisfactory or more decided than my superiority in numbers over the others,' he wrote to Lord Folkestone. (fn. 55) 'I hear Methuen is most successful in his canvas,' wrote another of Lord Folkestone's correspondents some months before the election; 'Very few promises given to either of the other candidates.' (fn. 56) Methuen in fact easily headed the poll, and this superiority was evenly spread over the whole county. For the purposes of the poll the various hundreds were divided into eight groups, each group having a polling booth to itself. Methuen headed the poll in every booth but one, where he was twenty votes behind Benett. (fn. 57) Perhaps the surest evidence of the strength of Methuen's position is the eagerness with which the other candidates sought to give the impression of a 'coalition' with him. Several handbills issued by Benett's committee gave the impression of a coalition between Methuen and Benett; (fn. 58) and Benett attempted to get votes already promised to Methuen by saying that Methuen 'had no objection to part with them', as he had more than he wanted. (fn. 59) Wellesley also made strenuous efforts to coalesce with Methuen, largely because he was already in debt and the expenses of the election seemed likely to ruin him. (fn. 60) As a result of all this and the rumours that were circulating, Methuen thought it necessary to issue a leaflet stating that 'Mr. Methuen has not coalesced, and will not coalesce with either Mr. Benett or Mr. Long Wellesley'. This provoked a sarcastic retort from Benett's supporters, asserting that 'there is a system now going on (call it coalition or what you please) the purpose of which is to injure Mr. Benett and promote the interests of Mr. Wellesley'. (fn. 61) Some colour is lent to this accusation by the fact that Methuen seems to have regarded Wellesley merely with good-natured contempt, describing him as 'frightened out of his wits (such as they are)' by the expenses of the election, whereas he wrote quite virulently about Benett as a man of no 'veracity or honesty', and that 'there is nothing he will not say or do I am convinced'. (fn. 62) This attitude is perhaps reflected in the fact that more people cast their votes for Methuen and Wellesley together than for Methuen and Benett together.
The election was essentially a contest between Benett and Wellesley; only 46 people voted for them together. There was a lively contest in election literature. Benett was represented as the independent, honest, local man, as against Wellesley, the wealthy stranger, a supporter of the government (and therefore presumably supported by the government), the puppet brought forward by the Long family and representing dictation by the clubs, with nothing to recommend him but his relationship to that national hero Wellington. 'Freeholders,' shouted a broadsheet in favour of Benett, 'here is the true contrast. Look on this picture and on that.' This was followed by a point-by-point contrast between the two candidates, the independent Benett, with his local knowledge, who spends his time on experiments in trade and agriculture; the stranger Wellesley who spends his time lounging in London society and was 'no more like his uncle than I to Hercules'. It was signed 'Hamlet Secundus'. Propaganda for Wellesley represented him as also 'independent', and of course stressed his relationship to Wellington. Benett was attacked for having given evidence before a committee on the Corn Law; for having deplored the fact that 'the manufacturers live better than the farming labourers', and having said that '8s. per week is sufficient to maintain a man, his wife and family on barley bread and potatoes, which is good enough for them'—a statement which Benett categorically denied. (fn. 63) The standard of this anti-Benett propaganda is not high, but it appears to have done Benett considerable damage. 'The mob and the women' were 'outrageous against him', and his agent, in whose house in Salisbury he stayed during the election, expected to have all his windows smashed as a result. (fn. 64) The effect in the two manufacturing towns of Bradford and Trowbridge, which Benett had canvassed shortly before the poll without encountering any outward signs of hostility, can be gauged from the poll book. Benett polled only 21 votes in Bradford as against over 200 by both his opponents, and only 20 in Trowbridge as against 156 for Methuen and 143 for Wellesley.
Riotous scenes took place at the nomination in spite of the provision of extra special constables and appeals by the Devizes magistrates to all classes to 'conduct themselves peaceably and quietly'. Each side was much concerned to throw the blame upon the other, and to declare that the conduct of its own supporters had been merely selfdefence. The poll, which lasted nine days, seems to have passed off more quietly. (fn. 65) The final result was Methuen 2,822, Wellesley 2,009, Benett 1,572.
It is interesting to compare the position of Benett, the champion of 'independence' in 1818, with that of Goddard, its champion in 1772. The quantity of election literature was much greater in 1818 than in 1772, but the line taken by the champions of 'independence' was much the same. Both denounced the corruption and aristocratic connexions of their opponents and the fact that they were 'strangers'. The story that the independent gentry who had resented aristocratic dictatorship in 1772 had by 1818 become as dictatorial themselves is to some extent confirmed by the fact that a number of families which supported Goddard in 1772 opposed Benett in 1818; (fn. 66) and that on the whole Benett did badly in areas where Goddard had done well and vice versa. The 1818 election was not so much a contest between north and south Wiltshire as the 1772 election had been. Benett did well in the hundreds of the north-east, badly in those of the north-west, as might have been expected with both the Long and Methuen families against him. He did well in all the extensive area around Salisbury (in spite of the Radnor influence being against him) where Goddard had been opposed by the Pembroke influence; in Salisbury itself he did not do well, but much better than Goddard had done, though Goddard had probably had both the Radnor and Wyndham families with him, while Benett had only the Wyndhams. Benett on the whole did badly in the west (where Goddard had done well), but this was chiefly due to his complete rout at Bradford, Melksham, and Trowbridge. Wellesley, on the other hand, did well in the west and on the whole well in all the north Wilts. hundreds, and badly in the south and south-west. The number of 'outsiders' voting in 1818 was again very small, 39 as against 40 in 1772.
The excitement had barely had time to subside when Methuen's retirement in July 1819, due to ill health, once more plunged the county into the throes of a contested election. Benett stood again, his opponent on this occasion being John Dugdale Astley, who had supported Benett in 1818 and was a member of the election committee which, calling itself the committee for the independence of the county, remained in being after the 1818 election was over. A good deal of indignation was expressed about this in pro-Benett election literature, and Astley found it advisable to issue a handbill 'To the Freeholders of the county of Wilts' in which he defended himself by saying that it was well-known to many of his friends that he had thought of standing in 1818 and only been deterred by the fact that his position then was 'not so clearly and absolutely independent as a County Member's ought to be'. It was also widely asserted that there had been collusion between Astley and Methuen, whereby Astley had early knowledge of Methuen's intention to retire and thus was able to steal a march on Benett, who only had this knowledge when it was publicly announced in early July, about a fortnight before the poll took place. Methuen as well as Astley came in for much criticism for having thus sold the county once more to the clubs, from whose bondage he had in 1812 been concerned to deliver it. Astley's denials do not ring very true and he was on one occasion driven to saying, 'If I had any previous information, I assure you, gentlemen, that I took no undue advantage of it.' (fn. 67) Methuen himself was Benett's inveterate enemy and had at the time of the 1818 election told Lord Folkestone, 'I will never be bullied out by him (Benett) and I hope if I ever do retire ... I may not see my place occupied by a man devoid of common truth and common honesty. I have no doubt Astley will oppose Benett whenever he comes forward.' (fn. 68) Methuen was very unwilling in 1819 to sign a statement published by Astley that there was no pre-concerted arrangement between them, and only did so, with considerable annoyance, when Astley insisted he could not get on without it. (fn. 69)
The short interval between Methuen's retirement and the actual poll left little time for personal canvassing. Benett issued a number of election addresses, one to the freeholders generally, others to freeholders in particular areas, for instance those in and around Salisbury, and those in and around Devizes. A special and longer address was issued 'To the Freeholders of Bradford and Trowbridge', where he had done so badly in 1818. This he attributed to the calumnies spread by his opponents, at the last moment when there was no time to refute them; for instance the statements that he had induced people to vote for the Corn Laws and had proposed a duty on foreign wool. In this address Benett was at pains to stress that agriculture and manufacture depend upon one another; therefore if he is admitted to be a friend to the farmer, he must also be a friend to the clothier. He did slightly better in these towns than he had done in 1818, but the improvement was very slight. The Radnor interest was again exerted strongly against him. Lord Folkestone, at his own request, was sent a copy of the poll book for the 1818 election at Cricklade, with 'a list of the freeholders in the neighbourhood in a book for canvassing, together with lists of each place on separate sheets so that several persons may take different directions'. (fn. 70) Lord Radnor's steward, wearing Astley's colours, attended the sheriff's assessor during the poll, 'to support the disputed voters in Mr. Astley's interest'. On being asked by Benett's counsel whether he had attended at Lord Radnor's direction, he was hastily warned by Astley's counsel and replied that he did not choose to answer. The handbill which related these facts quoted the vote of the House of Commons that it was an infringement of the privileges of the House for a peer to concern himself in elections. (fn. 71)
The quantity of election literature was even greater than in 1818. The propaganda
for Benett was greater in quantity and more forceful and biting in quality than that for
Astley, and it was perhaps this which helped to sway sufficient votes to change failure
in 1818 into success in 1819. The theme was much the same as in 1818: Benett was
depicted as the independent local man, defending the freedom of Wiltshire from Astley,
the rich outsider (he had land in Wiltshire but had not lived there till shortly before
the election) the candidate of the 'club' families. Ballads referred to the 1772 election
and drew a parallel between Goddard and Benett. Voters were adjured to follow the
example of their fathers and
Reject the proud stranger who boasts of his wealth.
Oh ne're may old Wiltshire be purchased with pelf;
Be again Independence and Freedom the plan,
Choose the friend of the County, and Benett's the Man,
Think, think of the Glory of Wiltshire.
To all this Astley's propaganda could produce no better counter-blast than asserting that Benett was not a man of sufficient substance to be a county member, and was in fact hoping to get into Parliament to escape from his creditors; and that he had 'rejoiced at the horrors of the French Revolution'; a charge which Benett indignantly denied.
The nomination, as in 1818, was a scene of riot and combat, and the poll, which lasted for fifteen days, was preceded by a fight with bludgeons and 'such missiles as the place supplied', between the supporters of the rival candidates for the vantage ground in front of the hustings, in which Benett's supporters were eventually successful. (fn. 72) The fortunes of the two candidates fluctuated from day to day, but when the poll finally closed Benett had achieved a majority of 166. The final figures were Benett 2,436, Astley 2,270. Benett generally increased his number of votes in most parts of the county, markedly so in Salisbury, and the hundreds of Chippenham, Malmesbury and Highworth, Cricklade, and Staple. (fn. 73) Thus the two rivals in 1818 together represented Wiltshire for the rest of this Parliament. Long-Wellesley had carefully remained detached and neutral in the by-election, announcing his intention to work cordially with whichever candidate were elected.
In 1820 the two rivals of 1819 were elected together and continued to represent the county till the Reform Bill. When the county was divided into two divisions, Methuen emerged from his retirement to sit with Astley for the northern division, while Benett and Sidney Herbert of Wilton represented the southern division.
The parliamentary history of the sixteen Wiltshire boroughs during this period is one of individual variations in a general pattern which is remarkably uniform. With probably three exceptions, all the boroughs were 'open' in 1689 in the sense that influence was generally shared between two or more families of local gentry. In most boroughs this state of affairs lasted certainly until 1715 or rather later, and was in many cases then gradually replaced by the building up of the predominating influence of one family, a process generally complete by about the mid-18th century; while in a minority of cases the borough remained 'open' until shortly before or right up to the Reform Bill. It is clearly not possible in the available space to describe the electoral history of individual boroughs on the same scale as that of the county; but a brief and necessarily very summary account of each borough during this period will, it is hoped, give some general picture of Wiltshire borough representation and enable some general conclusions to be drawn about the borough members and their patrons.
The boroughs may conveniently be considered in three groups: boroughs already virtually under the complete control of one family by 1689; (fn. 74) boroughs 'open' in 1689 but described as 'close' by John Robinson in 1783; (fn. 75) and the six boroughs described by Robinson as 'open' in 1783. (fn. 76)
Heytesbury, Wilton, and Old Sarum are of very slight interest during this period and need only very brief discussion. (fn. 77)
Heytesbury has the unique distinction of being the only Wiltshire borough where there was not one contested election between 1689 and its extinction in 1832. The manor had been bought by the Ashe family in the 17th century. (fn. 78) It then passed by marriage to the A'Court family of Ivy Church in 1705 and remained in their hands for the rest of the period, Sir William A'Court Bt. being created Baron Heytesbury of Heytesbury in 1828. (fn. 79) Up to 1772 the borough was represented almost entirely by members of the Ashe and A'Court families. In 1772, as a result of the increasing interest taken in the borough by the Duke of Marlborough and consequent litigation over the ownership of the burgages, an agreement was made between the duke and General Ashe A'Court whereby in future each of them was to return one member, but by 1820 the A'Court family was again in sole control. (fn. 80)
Wilton's parliamentary history was almost as uneventful as that of Heytesbury, but it kept one member in 1832. The Earl of Pembroke had a predominating influence throughout the period and exercised complete control for the greater part of it. Only four contested elections occurred, the last in 1710. (fn. 81) Probably the biggest problem which confronted the Herbert interest at Wilton during this time was that of 'singlespeech Hamilton', who sat for Wilton from 1780 to 1790. In 1789 Hamilton withdrew his support from Pitt's government, a source of acute embarrassment to Lord Pembroke and his son, both of whom had received favours from and were the friends and ardent supporters of Pitt. Hamilton insisted that in the original agreement between Lord Pembroke and himself no stipulation was made as to how he should vote, and that therefore he was under no obligation to give up his seat at Wilton now that he proposed to vote against Lord Pembroke's wishes. Lord Pembroke, to the obviously increasing irritation of his son, felt himself committed to Hamilton, while fervently wishing to be rid of him. Embarrassment was increased by the intervention of the Prince of Wales on Hamilton's behalf. Finally the situation was saved by Hamilton getting a seat elsewhere 'without the least expense', so that, as he delicately put it, 'fortunately my not being re-elected at Wilton is become equally desireable to us both'. (fn. 82)
At Old Sarum again the predominating influence of one family ran through the whole period. Thomas Pitt of Fort St. George, Madras, the owner of the famous Pitt diamond, bought the site of the castle of Old Sarum from Lord Salisbury in 1691, and completed his control of the borough by buying lands at Stratford-sub-Castle from William Harvey in 1710. (fn. 83) There were no contested elections after 1715. Robert Pitt, father of the future Earl of Chatham, first sat for the borough in 1705, and thereafter in most Parliaments till 1722. Chatham himself first entered Parliament for Old Sarum in 1734. The borough went through various vicissitudes, being temporarily handed over to the Prince of Wales in liquidation of a debt owed to the Prince by Chatham's elder brother Thomas in 1749; (fn. 84) and being again 'pawned' by him to the Treasury at the election of 1761. (fn. 85) It remained in the Pitt family, however, till the death of the 2nd Lord Camelford, Chatham's great-nephew, in 1804, after which it was bought by Lord Caledon, a rich East India merchant who had put his fortune into big estates in Ireland. (fn. 86) Several of his relatives sat for Old Sarum between 1802 and the borough's extinction by the Reform Bill.
The history of the remaining seven boroughs described by Robinson as 'close' in 1783 is more interesting. In each case the predominating influence was establishing itself during the period between 1689 and about the middle of the 18th century, and in all but two boroughs this predominating influence was that of a peer.
The representation of Calne (fn. 87) from 1689 to about 1715 was generally shared between four or five local families. The most important of these was the Duckett family, who owned the manors of Calne and Calstone from 1585 to 1763, and as a result was generally able to nominate at least one member at Calne. Several members of this family themselves sat for the borough: Lionel Duckett of Box in the Convention, George Duckett from 1705 to 1710 and again from 1722 to 1734; his brother William in 1734 and his son Thomas in 1754 and 1761. (fn. 88) Generally allied with the Ducketts in the period before 1715 were the Bayntuns of Spye Park, like the Ducketts whiggish in politics. Opposed to them were two high tory families—the Hungerfords of Cadenham and Studley, and the Chiverses of Quemerford, who were successful clothiers (fn. 89) —and the moderate tory Hedges. Sir Charles Hedges, Secretary of State from 1701 to 1706, and high steward of Malmesbury from 1701 to 1705, came of a Wiltshire family and had bought the manor of Compton Bassett in 1701. He sat for Calne in 1702, and contested the seat unsuccessfully in 1701, 1705, and 1708; (fn. 90) and his son William represented Calne from 1710 to 1715. Contests took place at nearly all the general elections between 1700 and 1715 and the alinement of the whig Ducketts and Bayntuns against the various tory families comes out clearly in the election petitions. (fn. 91) During the reign of William III the two sides generally returned one member each, but in Anne's reign the representation at Calne was in line with the changes in national politics; the tory families holding both seats in 1702, 1710, and 1713 (predominantly tory Parliaments), the Ducketts and Bayntuns holding both seats in the predominantly whig Parliaments of 1705 and 1708. After 1715 the Bayntuns interested themselves in Chippenham rather than Calne, and the Hedges were succeeded both at Compton Bassett and in the representation of Calne by the Northeys. The Hungerfords and Ducketts continued in the field, but no Hungerford represented Calne after the Parliament of 1741, and the most usual practice between 1715 and 1761 was for Calne to be represented by one Duckett and one Hungerford or one Northey.
Between 1754 and 1765 all the property in and around Calne which carried with it influence over the borough representation passed into Shelburne's hands. The first Earl of Shelburne bought Bowood in 1754, (fn. 92) and the financial difficulties of Thomas Duckett led to his property and interest at Calne also passing to Shelburne. Duckett was obliged to sell his seat at Calne to the Treasury in 1755, but he was again elected in 1761, when his partner was Daniel Bull, son of his steward, John Bull, who was also steward to Shelburne and to William Northey of Compton Bassett. In 1762, as a result of Shelburne's efforts, Daniel Bull obtained a commissionership of taxes and his seat at Calne passed to Thomas Fitzmaurice, Shelburne's brother. In 1763 Duckett's financial straits were such that he sold the manor of Calne to Shelburne for £28,600, and Shelburne completed his hold over the borough by buying the 'Prebend Manor of Calne' from William Northey in 1765. (fn. 93) The borough continued to be entirely under the control of the Lansdowne family till 1832, and as a result the type of member representing it completely changed. Shelburne never used Calne exclusively for his own family, but rather to provide seats for notable members of the opposition who had no parliamentary interest of their own. Instead of being represented by local gentry, Calne came to be represented by a number of eminent strangers such as John Dunning, Isaac Barre and, much later, Macaulay. Calne lost one seat in 1832.
The parliamentary history of Downton (fn. 94) during this period differs from that of Calne, in that Downton came earlier under the control of one family, and then towards the end of the 18th century became once more an object of competition between rival families. In the later 17th century the influence and representation had been shared between several local families—the Bocklands, the Raleghs, the Brickworth branch of the Eyre family. (fn. 95) A new interest, which was to be of great importance for the future, was introduced into the borough after 1695, when the rich London banker Charles (later Sir Charles) Duncombe bought an estate at Barford (Downton) and started buying up the Downton burgages. (fn. 96) Duncombe himself sat for Downton in 1695 until his expulsion from the House of Commons in 1698, and again from 1702 until his death in 1711. His considerable property was divided between his two nephews, Thomas Duncombe of Yorkshire, who was elected at Downton on his uncle's death, and Anthony Duncombe, himself a banker and goldsmith of considerable wealth. He sat for Downton in 1734 and 1741 and was created a peer as Lord Feversham in 1747. The Eyre family continued to hold the other Downton seat until about 1740. In 1742 Feversham obtained the lease of the manor of Downton, by which time all but two of the burgages were in the hands of the Duncombe family, and his control of the borough was complete. (fn. 97)
Feversham died in 1763 and a complicated disposal of his property took place, which was to have important results in Downton parliamentary history. The property he had inherited from Sir Charles Duncombe passed to his cousin Thomas Duncombe (son of the member for Downton in 1711) who thus inherited the control of the borough, for which he sat in 1751 and 1768 and again for two months before his death in 1779. The rest of Feversham's property passed to his daughter Anne, who in 1777 married Jacob, 2nd Earl of Radnor. (fn. 98) On Thomas Duncombe's death in 1779 all his property passed to his daughter, the wife of Robert Shaftoe, who succeeded his father-in-law as member for Downton and as patron of the borough. Robinson in 1783 described Downton as 'Mr. Shaftoe's borough', but the Shaftoe control was never uncontested. Disputes over Lord Feversham's will led to protracted litigation in Chancery, and from 1774 to 1796 each election at Downton was contested between the Shaftoe and Radnor interests— the interests of the husbands of the two Duncombe heiresses. Each side took a different view of the identity of the burgages, the voters and the returning officer. The Shaftoe interest succeeded in 1780, 1781, and 1784; but in 1790 and 1796 the Radnor interest prevailed. Lord Radnor bought Shaftoe's burgages and henceforward had complete control of the borough, (fn. 99) which he used for junior members of his family and, in the case of his eldest son, as a stepping stone to the more important seat which he could command at Salisbury. He seems to have regarded Downton as peculiarly his own, unlike the seat at Salisbury, which was a family one. When Lord Folkestone was talking of giving up the Salisbury seat in 1812, because many of his constituents disliked his radical views, his father warned him that he must not think he had any right to a seat at Downton, which 'is quite my own in Fee'. (fn. 100) In the Parliaments of 1818 and 1820, the members for Downton voted with the government and not with Folkestone and the opposition. It is, perhaps, a fitting end to the parliamentary history of Downton that on the death of the 2nd Earl of Radnor in 1828 it passed into the hands of the radical Folkestone, in time to be abolished in 1832.
The histories of Marlborough and Great Bedwyn as parliamentary boroughs were closely linked in the 18th century, as the Bruce family successfully established complete control over both of them; and they provide an interesting example of the way this kind of control was built up. This family began its connexion with Wiltshire in the second half of the 17th century. The 2nd Earl of Ailesbury's first wife was Elizabeth Seymour, sister of the 3rd Duke of Somerset, from whom she inherited the Tottenham Park and Savernake estates in 1672. The man who later was to be the Bruces' chief rival for 40 years at Marlborough, and to some extent also at Bedwyn, came upon the scene at about the same time, Charles 6th Duke of Somerset, who succeeded to the dukedom in 1678. (fn. 101) As he was one of the leading whigs in Anne's reign and the Bruces were staunch tories, the rivalry was a political as well as a personal one. The 3rd Earl of Ailesbury died in 1747, leaving his property to Thomas Brudenell, fourth son of his sister, who had married the 3rd Earl of Cardigan. Thomas Brudenell was created Earl of Ailesbury in 1776 and the two peerages of Ailesbury and Cardigan were united in his grandson. (fn. 102) Fourteen members of the Bruce and Brudenell families represented Marlborough or Bedwyn between 1702 and 1832.
Bruces were elected for these boroughs for the first time since 1689 in 1702, when Lord Ailesbury's brothers, James and Robert Bruce, represented Bedwyn and Marlborough respectively. James's partner at Bedwyn was a fellow burgage-owner, Francis Stonehouse, at that time friendly to the Bruce interest. In 1705 he decided not to stand again and Lord Bruce stood in his place, apparently with his approval and support. (fn. 103) The Bruces were successfully opposed by Nicholas Pollexfen and Admiral Byng, who received financial and other support from certain Newbury clothiers, who often figure as the villains of the piece at this period in the letters from the Bruces' agent, Charles Beecher, to Lord Bruce. (fn. 104) In 1705 the clothiers were paying £5 or even £7 a man to the voters, so that Beecher found 'all in an uproar, and will have £6 a man'. Two voters were not only treated all the night before the election, but were kept prisoners by the clothiers' servants to prevent them from voting for the Bruces. (fn. 105) At Marlborough feeling ran very high and the Bruce faction had hopes of support from the church party, which was strongly opposed to Somerset; (fn. 106) but these hopes proved false and the Bruce interest suffered total defeat in both boroughs. Contests again occurred in 1708, when the Bruces obtained one seat at each borough; (fn. 107) in 1710, when they obtained one seat at Bedwyn and both seats at Marlborough, largely as a result of being in favour of Dr. Sacheverell, while Somerset had been against him; (fn. 108) and in 1713, when once again they obtained one seat at each borough. (fn. 109) Between 1711 and 1714 the situation at Marlborough was further complicated by disputes over a by-law governing the method of selecting the mayor, in which the Bruce and Seymour interests took opposing sides. The Bruce interest triumphed and their nominee became mayor in 1712, but there continued to be much confusion and rival mayors in office at the same time. (fn. 110) In 1715 Somerset turned defeat into victory by his use of this dispute in the parliamentary election of that year. He put it about at Marlborough that the repeal of the by-law was illegal, that consequently the charter would be forfeited and replaced by a 'popular' one, and all who had taken part in the last elections of mayors were liable to heavy fines. (fn. 111) The consternation that ensued, combined no doubt with the general swing of opinion against the tories on the accession of George I, led to the complete overthrow of the Bruces at both Marlborough and Bedwyn, where Francis Stonehouse, their former ally, turned against them and supported the opposing candidates. (fn. 112)
It is clear from Charles Beecher's letters that the Bruce family found all this activity very costly. The competition of Somerset at Marlborough and the Newbury clothiers at Bedwyn drove prices up. The lavish expenditure at Bedwyn in 1705 was taken as a precedent by the voters, who had high expectations in 1710 and at the subsequent by-election in 1711. (fn. 113) At Marlborough in 1705 Beecher found the 'people very mercenary and resolved to serve the highest bidder'; the mayor presented him with a formidable list of meat, poultry, and wine, which he said Lord Ailesbury had given him last time he was mayor; and Beecher concluded a catalogue of demands by remarking 'that in short Marlborough has become ten times worse than Bedwyn'. (fn. 114) The disputes over the method of electing the mayor led to prodigal offers by both 'interests'. Somerset in 1712 was offering £50 a man to all who would desert the Bruce interest. He 'bought' one John Smith for £100 down and the promise to educate his son at school and university; and to replace Smith, Beecher 'got Flurry Bowshire for 40 guineas.... I am very sorry for all this expense, my lord,' he wrote to Lord Bruce, 'but without it your lordship's interest would have been entirely defeated for ever.' (fn. 115)
The establishment of the Bruce interest at Marlborough was certainly complete by 1761, (fn. 116) probably considerably earlier. The last contested election in the 18th century was in 1734, (fn. 117) the last occasion on which a Seymour was elected. At Bedwyn contests continued till 1747, and William Sloper, who was opposed to the Bruce interest, (fn. 118) held one seat almost continuously from 1715 till 1756. In 1762 Lord Bruce (later 4th Earl of Ailesbury) still held less than half of the hundred burgages to which the franchise was attached; but in 1766, by the purchase of 46 burgages from Lord Verney, he completed his control over the borough, only 12 burgages remaining in the hands of other owners. By 1792 all except one had passed to the Bruce family. (fn. 119)
The parliamentary history of Bedwyn really ends with the establishment of the Bruce interest, and the borough was disfranchised in 1832. That of Marlborough has an interesting sequel in the years immediately before the Reform Bill. A strenuous attempt at opening the borough was made by the Marlborough independent and constitutional association, and especially by its secretary, John Woodman, a Marlborough solicitor. These reformers claimed that under the charter the right of election was in the mayor and burgesses—burgesses meaning resident householders paying the poor rate who had been sworn as burgesses—not only in the mayor and corporation. (fn. 120) At the general election of 1826 the reformers put up two candidates against Lords Bruce and Brudenell, of course unsuccessfully, but an election petition was then presented. (fn. 121) This was heard and rejected by the committee of elections, after much learned argument by the petitioners' counsel. The corporation of Marlborough were very obstructive, refusing Woodman access to all the corporation's records for the purpose of collecting evidence. (fn. 122) The expenses of the petitioners were over £750, to which was added a further large account from William Illingworth, who had been employed to search the records in the Rolls Chapel, the Petty Bag office, the Chancery, the King's Bench, the Crown Office and the Tower of London. (fn. 123) The campaign was enthusiastically renewed before the general election of July 1830. About a month before the election, Woodman and fifteen other householders attended the open court at the town hall and claimed to be sworn as burgesses, the refusal of this claim being regarded as a possible asset if there should be an election petition. (fn. 124) Great care was taken over the choice of the candidates (John Mirehouse, a lawyer, and Sir Alexander Malet of Wilbury House (Newton Tony)), to avoid government opposition to the petition, which might result if radical candidates were chosen. Care was also taken to avoid any kind of bribery or treating. (fn. 125) At the election the mayor refused a show of hands and declared the Ailesbury candidates elected; (fn. 126) and the subsequent petition failed. (fn. 127) In the following year two petitions to the House of Commons and an address to the king from certain inhabitants were presented praying for the opening of the borough and the taking of the votes by ballot. (fn. 128) A petition against the Reform Bill was presented in April 1831, but the mayor had considerable difficulty in getting signatures for it, notwithstanding the free use made of threats to occupiers of corporation or Ailesbury houses that they would be turned out if they did not sign. Only about 60 signatures were obtained, as against nearly 400 for the petitions in favour of reform. (fn. 129) The parliamentary history of Marlborough before 1832 can perhaps be appropriately ended with Sir Alexander Malet's letter to Woodman on 12 December 1831: 'Marlborough and 10 other boro's that were in Sched. B. retain 2 members. Hurra!' (fn. 130)
The influence of the Berries, Earls of Abingdon, at Westbury (fn. 131) was already established in 1689, but its extent varied at different times and they did not until about 1770 establish complete control over the borough, which therefore falls into this group. In 1688 when James II was trying to discover whether a general election was likely to produce a Parliament ready to repeal the Test and Corporation Acts, both the lord lieutenant and the king's agents reported that Lord Abingdon had the chief interest at Westbury, which he shared with Colonel Richard Lewis of Edington Priory, later of Corsham, 'a very nere man, and will spend little or nothing'. (fn. 132) Lewis represented Westbury, with one of the Bertie family, from 1688 to 1701. From 1701 to 1715 Lord Abingdon enjoyed control of both seats, which were held by two members of his family, only one serious attempt, in 1702, being made to contest this control. (fn. 133) 'The only place in our county for any man to be elected a member of Parliament', wrote Sir James Long to a friend in 1705, 'is my Lord Abingdon's borough of Westbury where his lordship recommends both members and always succeeds'. (fn. 134) The Berties were tories and, as might be expected, reverses came in 1715. Their interest at Westbury from 1715 to the middle of the century was challenged by George, Lord Carbery, who represented Westbury in the Parliaments of 1715 and 1722, and his son, George Evans, in the Parliaments of 1734 and 1741. Contests took place in 1715, 1722, 1724, 1729, 1734, and 1747, (fn. 135) and only in 1727 did the Bertie interest succeed in returning both members. By 1761 Lord Abingdon had once more successfully established his interest for one seat; (fn. 136) and by 1784 his control over the borough was complete and Robinson spoke of Westbury as 'Lord Abingdon's', just as he spoke of Wilton as 'Lord Pembroke's'. (fn. 137) This interest was built up partly by a systematic buying of the burgages—of the 61 Lord Abingdon owned 50 by 1715, and all but 2 by 1806 (fn. 138) —and partly by methods closely resembling those by which the Bruce interest had been built up at Bedwyn and Marlborough. It was asserted in 1702 (though denied by the Bertie family) that bonds of £20 were given by some of Lord Abingdon's tenants to vote in his interest as long as they lived; (fn. 139) and it was asserted in 1715 that there had been 'once in three years, distributed among the voters a considerable number of guineas, in wheat, woollen or linen, under the denomination of Bertie and Annesley. (fn. 140) The first distribution was about six years ago: since which it had been done twice or thrice.' (fn. 141)
In 1810 Lord Abingdon sold the borough to the Sir Manasseh Lopes, (fn. 142) who himself sat for Westbury in 1820, and his nephew, Sir Ralph Franco, in 1814, 1818, and 1831. Few men with local connexions represented Westbury throughout the period from the Revolution to the Reform Bill, which deprived it of one seat.
The history of the borough of Ludgershall (fn. 143) followed much the same general pattern as that of Downton, but in this case the predominating influence was not that of a peer. Contests took place at Ludgershall in all but four of the ten general elections between 1689 and 1714. (fn. 144) As at many other boroughs during the same period, the representation was shared between a number of local families, the most important being the Webbs of Rodbourne Cheney, where they had been established for many generations. The Webbs were by the late 17th century a family of more than local importance. Colonel Edmund Webb, who represented Ludgershall from 1700 to 1705, had also an interest at Cricklade, for which he sat for many years; his son Thomas was an eminent lawyer, counsellor-at-law to the Prince of Denmark and Recorder of Devizes, which he represented in the Parliament of 1710. More important in the history of Ludgershall was Colonel Webb's second son, General John Richmond Webb, the hero of the battle of Wynendael, who figures in Thackeray's Henry Esmond. The reports made to James II in 1688 had referred to Ludgershall as influenced by Thomas Neale and the Roman Catholic Sir Anthony Browne, who had 'the chiefe interest'. (fn. 145) In 1692 John Richmond Webb laid the foundation of his family's predominating influence at Ludgershall by purchasing an estate at Biddesden from the Brownes, an estate on which in 1711, when he had become something of a popular hero, he was to build himself a house modelled upon Kensington Palace. (fn. 146) For the next few years Thomas Neale and the Webbs competed; John Webb defeated Neale's son in 1695 and successfully petitioned against Neale's own election in 1698. (fn. 147) From 1698 to 1734 the Webbs held the field; in no Parliament was Ludgershall not represented by at least one Webb, and more often than not by two, or by one Webb and another member in the Webb interest. (fn. 148)
Between 1707 and 1715 the Bruce family, then building up its influence at Marlborough and Bedwyn, attempted to establish an interest at Ludgershall also. The election of 1708 was preceded by assiduous nursing of the constituency by Lord Bruce on behalf of his uncle, the voters being given 'two hogsheads of drink on Easter Monday' (1707) and many of them seeming Very free for Mr. Bruce'. (fn. 149) By the end of the year there was considerable support for Bruce among those who 'design as they say to fling out Mr. Webb, who they do not love'. (fn. 150) Webb paid 3 guineas a man just before the 1705 election, for which he expected to be elected twice, and one of the other candidates paid 2 guineas a man. This, with rumours of the successful extortion being practised on Lord Bruce by the electors at Bedwyn, led the local Bruce agent at Ludgershall to consider 'it most conducing to the establishment of your lordship's and Mr. Bruce's interest... to give them two guineas each, which with the arguments he should use, as to your lordship's favour and the constant benefit to the whole town received from your estate thereabouts ... he believes he will give them entire satisfaction'. (fn. 151) Bruce was elected, with Webb. The Bruces, however, failed to maintain their success. In 1710 Robert Bruce was narrowly defeated by Major-General Thomas Pearce; (fn. 152) and in 1713 the Bruce candidate, Henry Skylling, was defeated by Webb and Robert Feme, after 'a tedious, troublesome, noisy election', the poll, which lasted from 9 a.m. to 8.0 p.m., ending with Webb 58, Feme 57, and Skylling 44. (fn. 153) After this failure the Bruces seem to have given up hope at Ludgershall and concentrated their efforts at Marlborough and Bedwyn.
General Webb died in 1724 and was succeeded by his son Borlace, who sat for Ludgershall in 1722 and 1727 but was defeated in 1734 (fn. 154) and died without heirs in 1738. (fn. 155) An unsuccessful attempt was made to capture Ludgershall in the interest of the Prince of Wales in 1747; (fn. 156) but by 1741 control of the borough was in the hands of Colonel John Selwyn of Matson (Glos.), and Chislehurst (Kent), like Webb a veteran of the Marlborough wars, and a supporter of Walpole. His brother Charles and his brother-in-law Thomas Hay ward sat for the borough in 1741, his brother-in-law Thomas Farrington and his son George, the well-known society wit, in 1747. (fn. 157) On his father's death George Selwyn inherited the control of Ludgershall, and from 1780 until his death in 1791 he sat for the borough himself, having fallen out with his constituents at Gloucester. Selwyn was a staunch supporter of Lord North—even, it is said, snoring in unison with him during long debates (fn. 158) —and later of the younger Pitt, and this is reflected in the voting of the Ludgershall members during this period. Difficulties, however, arose with North over the behaviour of Lord Melbourne whom Selwyn, at North's request, had nominated at Ludgershall in 1768. (fn. 159) In 1782 Melbourne had so far fallen under opposition influence that he absented himself from the important division on Rous's motion of no confidence in the government, which was only defeated by nine votes. Selwyn was furious, more particularly as Melbourne refused to give up his seat, saying that he had bought it, which Selwyn indignantly denied. (fn. 160) Selwyn here found himself in a similar situation to that of Lord Pembroke with William Hamilton at Wilton in 1789. (fn. 161) Further trouble arose at 'that beggarly place', as its patron called Ludgershall, (fn. 162) at the election of 1790, when opposition candidates appeared on the scene and the election of Selwyn and his partner was petitioned against by certain of the inhabitants, who held that the franchise should be given a wider interpretation than that accepted by Selwyn and the returning officer. (fn. 163)
Selwyn's property at Ludgershall passed on his death to his nephew, Viscount Sydney, (fn. 164) but at about this time Biddesden House was bought from a descendant of General Webb's by Thomas Everett, a London banker. (fn. 165) A certain number of the burgages passed into his hands and the interest thus became divided. Everett himself sat for the borough from 1796 until his death in 1810; his son Joseph from 1810 to 1812; and a fellow banker, Magens Dorrien Magens, from 1804 to 1812. (fn. 166) In the early years of the 19th century, probably about 1812, Lord Sydney's property at Ludgershall was bought by Sir James Graham of Kirkstall (Yorks.), (fn. 167) whose son represented the borough on several occasions and generally voted with the opposition. (fn. 168) The members sitting in the Everett interest generally, though not always, voted with the government. Ludgershall was disfranchised in 1832.
Malmesbury differs from the other boroughs in this group in that the predominating interest which was established there by the end of the 18th century was government interest. As a parliamentary borough Malmesbury was chiefly notable for its extreme corruption during the whole of the period. A corporation borough, it had only thirteen voters (fn. 169) and the high steward and his deputy had the chief influence. Elections, therefore, largely depended upon whether or not the high steward and deputy were working together; and whether they were, jointly or separately, acting independently or under government control.
From 1689 to 1715 the predominating influence was that of Wharton, who was high steward for most of this period, temporarily losing his hold over the town between 1698 and 1705. (fn. 170) Apart from this interlude, when the borough returned two tories under the influence of Sir Charles Hedges, high steward from 1701 to 1705, Wharton's candidates were returned, including Addison from 1710 until his death in 1719. But Wharton did not have it all his own way, and contests took place in 1690, 1698, 1705, and 1708. (fn. 171) Other families in the neighbourhood had interests at Malmesbury, notably the Howards, Earls of Berkshire, of Charlton. A member of this family, Craven Howard, was elected in 1695 and stood unsuccessfully in 1690 and 1698, and in 1690 he seems to have opposed Wharton's candidates. (fn. 172) Moreover there was trouble with the deputy steward, William Adye, who in 1698 procured the election of Michael Wicks and Edward Pauncefoot against Craven Howard and Wharton's candidate, Sir Thomas Skipwith. (fn. 173) Pauncefoot, 'a person that had very little acquaintance in the town of Malmesbury, and was not present at the time of the election', stood at the last minute in the interest and in the place of Sir Thomas Estcourt, another local landowner, who was ill. (fn. 174) Estcourt was much upset and wrote from his sick bed to Wharton to explain he had never meant to oppose his interest. 'Adye drew me in to be concerned ... for my friend Painsfort and not I him. ... I will never have more to doe with him as long as I live nor with the corporation unless you command me.' (fn. 175) The Earl of Peterborough also used his influence in Malmesbury elections, and in 1702 was voted guilty of corrupt practices by the House of Commons for his part in the election of November 1701. (fn. 176)
After Wharton's death in 1715 Malmesbury was for a short time under the control of a member of the opposition, Sir John Rushout, who was high steward from 1716 to 1722 and sat for the borough from 1713 to 1722. (fn. 177) In 1722 his election was successfully challenged by Giles Earle, of Crudwell, a friend and staunch supporter of Walpole; (fn. 178) he and his son William represented Malmesbury together till 1747. In 1747 at least one seat was won in the interest of the Prince of Wales, (fn. 179) but in 1754 the two successful candidates were recommended one by Newcastle and one, Brice Fisher, by Henry Fox, apparently as the result of an arrangement whereby Newcastle paid £1,000 to bring about the election of Fox as high steward. Fisher, the son of a Wiltshire clothier and himself a Blackwell-Hall factor, had some interest of his own at Malmesbury, but owed his election to Fox. (fn. 180) For the next twenty years the Fox and Suffolk interests competed for control of the borough, success generally going to the side connected with the government of the day. Suffolk, a supporter of George Greenville, replaced Fox as high steward in 1762, and was succeeded in 1768 by his surgeon and deputy steward, Edmund Wilkins. Charles James Fox was high steward (with Wilkins as deputy) from 1769 until 1775, holding a government office for most of this period, and was M.P. for Malmesbury from 1774 to 1780. In 1775, when Fox was in opposition and Suffolk in office, Wilkins again became high steward and generally supported the government. In 1783 Robinson could describe the borough as under government influence. (fn. 181) In 1760 Fox suggested to Lord Suffolk (fn. 182) that a legal agreement should be made to bind the thirteen burgesses for seven years. It was proposed to give each of them £30 a year, which, with two feasts each year, would cost £405 annually.
No new Burgesses to be chosen but by the High Stewards or his Deputy Mr. Earle's (fn. 183) commendation, nor till he shall have sign'd and seal'd the above mention'd Bond or Contract. It is hoped by this to prevent the Burgesses from being necessitous; to make what each Man receives proportionable to the time he serves, and to put an end to those Cabals, and strugglings in the choice of new Burgesses, which have given Mr. Earle so much trouble.... Mr. Fox wishes he had a better thing to offer to Lord Suffolk, but if his lordship approves of this or can form a better scheme Mr. Fox will be proud to go hand in hand with his Lordship at Malmesbury in the choice of Burgesses: and Members for that place and hopes his son may have the honour to do so after him. (fn. 184)
This was presumably the origin of the similar arrangement between the burgesses and Dr. Wilkins, high steward from 1775 until his death in 1806, and carried on by his former deputy, Edmund Estcourt, (fn. 185) and after 1812 by Joseph Pitt. (fn. 186) This led certain indignant inhabitants of Malmesbury to petition the House of Commons in 1807. The electors, they said, were 'so fettered... that it was no odds to them who they voted for, it was as master [meaning the said corrupt agent] pleased.... And that more than thirty years elapsed without any one of "the borough's'' members having even been seen there, even for the momentary purpose of being elected.' The petition went so far as to describe the recent death of one of the capital burgesses as having been hastened by his shame at having taken part in this disgraceful system. (fn. 187) Efforts to break through the system were made at contested elections in 1796, 1802, 1806, and 1807, (fn. 188) all without success. The borough lost one seat in 1832 and was represented in the first reformed Parliament once more by a local aristocratic landowner, Lord Andover, eldest son of the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire.
The third group to be considered consists of six boroughs, all described as 'open' by Robinson in 1783. In four of these—Salisbury, Chippenham, Cricklade, and Devizes— no one predominating influence managed permanently to establish itself at all; in the other two—Hindon and Wootton Bassett—only at the very end of the period, on the eve of the Reform Bill.
Within this group, Salisbury stands in a class by itself. Throughout the period it was generally represented by local men—exclusively so if one includes as 'local' people with estates in the neighbouring county of Hampshire. (fn. 189) Between 1689 and 1715 the representation was shared by five families: Eyre, Fox, Hoby, Mompesson and Pitt, with a Jones of Ramsbury in 1713. The attempt of Bishop Burnet to intervene in the election of 1705 provoked the opposition of most of the clergy and caused such a disturbance that the Dutch agent in London commented upon it in his reports to his government. (fn. 190) The queen had spoken 'severely' of Charles Fox, tory member for Salisbury, who had been one of the Tackers in 1704, and this caused Burnet to 'set my whole strength to keep him out, for I being lord of the whole town and having laid manny obligations on the body in generall, and on most of the electors, I thought I might for once recommend one to them. I failed in my attempt, and it raised a most violent storm against me.... I am sensible it was an errour in me occasioned by my too forward zeal to serve and please the Queen'. (fn. 191) The intervention of the Duke of Beaufort in 1713, when he 'not only applied himself to the Corporation in the Council-house, but in person from house to house' on behalf of Richard Jones, also caused much resentment. (fn. 192) The independent attitude of Salisbury can be judged from the tone of the city's address to its two members in 1742, which, though full of compliments and appreciation of their services, made it quite clear that the city wished its members to take a particular line—in favour of triennial Parliaments and a place bill, for instance: and recommended them to pay special attention to the condition of the 'woollen manufacture, the decay of which is so sensibly felt in these parts'. (fn. 193)
The most important family in the parliamentary history of Salisbury in the 18th century appeared on the scene in 1741—the Bouveries, later Earls of Radnor. Originally of Dutch extraction, the family had been settled in England since the later 16th century and first became connected with Wiltshire when Sir Edward Bouverie, son of a rich Turkey merchant, bought the Longford estate in 1717. His brother Sir Jacob Bouverie was elected for Salisbury in 1741; and from that date till the Reform Bill a member of the family held one seat. (fn. 194) The Earl of Radnor was regarded as having an established right to one seat at Salisbury and, more vaguely, a kind of right to approve of the occupant of the other seat, though this was perhaps more a matter of courtesy than of right. (fn. 195) There was on the whole solidarity in Parliament between the two Salisbury members throughout most of this period of the Bouverie influence—both being generally in opposition to the government until the Parliament of 1818. This reflects the good relations between the earls of Radnor and the corporation rather than an actual predominance at Salisbury, which the Bouverie family never had.
The chief architect of the family interest in the city was Jacob, 2nd Earl of Radnor, described by a contemporary as 'that grand borer after precedents in the House of Lords, and dictator at Quarter Sessions and Turnpike meetings by way of relaxation in the country', (fn. 196) whose political influence extended far beyond Salisbury. His interest at Downton from 1780 onwards has already been mentioned; the family estates at Coleshill on the borders of Wiltshire and Berkshire made him an important influence at Cricklade; (fn. 197) his influence in the county was also considerable and he seems largely to have guided the proceedings of the committee of correspondence in 1780–81. (fn. 198) But the family never aspired to the county representation, though in 1802 the earl had some passing hopes of one of the Berkshire seats for his eldest son. (fn. 199)
The 2nd earl prided himself that the family interest at Salisbury was based on mutual respect and not on corruption. 'I have considered this interest,' he told his son, 'not merely in a parliamentary view... but as individually creditable... It is an interest neither begun nor kept up by the gross mode of corruption, nor the more common mode of obtaining favours from Government. It has... been preserved by individual attentions and general upright and fair conduct. I might add the very handsome Council House erected at my sole expense of many thousand pounds must have some hold upon honourable minds' (fn. 200) In 1802 Lord Radnor's brother, William Henry Bouverie, who had represented the city since 1776, decided to retire in favour of the young Lord Folkestone, then serving his apprenticeship as a member for Downton. The young man received the most specific instructions from his father on the way he should carry out his canvass. He received a list of the corporation and was told to call on each in turn, starting with the mayor and certain senior members, and calling a second time on any who were out on the first occasion. To those living at a distance he must write. He was to 'express your wish to obtain a seat, which has been so long (62 years without interruption) enjoyed by different members of the family. You will propose to those who may enter at all into the subject a perfect independence in your political conduct, both of minister and opposition.' No letter or address should be sent to the newspapers, as it had always been considered more respectful to make a direct application, by letter or in person, to each individual member of the corporation. (fn. 201) This certainly presents a marked contrast to the open 'buying' of votes by which the Bruce interest was built up at Bedwyn and Marlborough, and the strength of this personal bond between the 2nd earl and Salisbury was apparent before the election of 1818, when Lord Folkestone's radical views had given great offence to a section of his constituents. Folkestone had considered giving up the Salisbury seat in 1812 because, with his belief in parliamentary reform and annual Parliaments, he did not like to appear to be participating in measures of which he disapproved: but his father, who did not share his son's opinions, but whose policy it was never to interfere in his conduct in Parliament, dissuaded him. (fn. 202) An opposition movement began in Salisbury as the election of 1818 approached and even went so far as to consider putting up two new candidates against the two sitting members. This opposition was apparently not opposition to the Radnor interest, but to Folkestone personally. Friends wrote to tell him that he was being criticized in the local press, that his name was being linked with that of the notorious radical leader, Orator Hunt; and he also received an anonymous letter about his political views. Tradition and respect for Lord Radnor, however, enabled the family interest to survive this feeling, and in 1818 Folkestone was again elected unopposed, and considered the Radnor interest to be as strong as ever, though 'whether it has the same appearance of permanence is another question.' (fn. 203)
Competition for the second Salisbury seat continued intermittently between 1741 and 1832. The Wyndham family made an attempt on it between 1765 and 1768. At the by-election of 1765 Henry Penruddock Wyndham (later member for the county) was a candidate, but thought it politic to withdraw in favour of Samuel Eyre of Newhouse, the candidate of St. Martin's parish, from which the Wyndhams hoped for support later. Greater efforts were made before the general election of 1768, and Wyndham succeeded in becoming a member of the corporation but failed to be nominated as a candidate at the election. The tradition of representation by local men was both challenged and vindicated at this election. Henry Dawkins, who had very recently bought an estate at Standlynch, was a candidate. 'Is it possible', wrote Wyndham indignantly to his father, 'that any man can think himself entitled to represent a city by buying an estate and living a few years near it? A man whose very name is new in Wiltshire.' (fn. 204) Nevertheless Dawkins succeeded in obtaining the votes of half the corporation and was returned with Stephen Fox on a double return. But when Fox petitioned, Dawkins withdrew from the contest. (fn. 205) From 1774 till his death in 1813 the second seat was held by William Hussey, an alderman of Salisbury and son of a former mayor, who had married into the Eyre family. Hussey appears to have become the doyen of Salisbury politics, whose right to his seat became as firmly established as that of the Bouverie family, though as he grew old there was criticism of him for interfering too much in the filling of vacancies in the corporation. (fn. 206) On his death, the Wyndham family tried again, the candidates at the by-election being Henry Penruddock, Wyndham's son Wadham, and Thomas Jervoise. Wadham Wyndham himself was absent on military duties until just before the election: his canvass suffered from delay and mismanagement by his father and he obtained very few votes. (fn. 207) In 1818, however, he was returned unopposed with Folkestone, partly on account of his uncompromising opposition to Catholic Emancipation, on which a section of Salisbury opinion felt very strongly. (fn. 208) Lord Radnor was also strongly opposed to Catholic Emancipation, and Folkestone therefore generally abstained from voting upon it. But the long solidarity between the two Salisbury members was broken by the election of the tory Wyndham, who voted with the government. The situation was not changed when Folkestone succeeded to the peerage in 1828 and his seat at Salisbury passed to his brother. In the divisions on the Reform Bill the Salisbury members voted on opposite sides.
Among the Wiltshire boroughs Malmesbury provided an outstanding example of a very corrupt borough with a narrow franchise. Cricklade, Hindon and Wootton Bassett all, in varying degrees, provided examples of corruption in boroughs with a wide franchise.
Cricklade was probably one of the best examples in England of a thoroughly corrupt borough with a wide franchise. (fn. 209) Its parliamentary history during this period is divided into two parts by the Act of 1782 which, as a result of the peculiarly scandalous bribery, running into thousands of pounds, at the election of 1780, threw open the borough by giving a vote at Cricklade to all freeholders in the surrounding hundreds of Highworth, Cricklade, Staple, Malmesbury, and Kingsbridge. (fn. 210) The period before this Act can, however, also be divided into two parts, the dividing line being the year 1718, when the manor of Cricklade was bought by William Gore, a rich London merchant, a director of the Bank of England with interests in the South Sea and Royal African Companies. (fn. 211) Before 1718 the manor had, from the early 17th century, been in the hands of the Maskelyne family, and the political patronage, at least since 1688, had generally been shared between the Maskelynes' connexions, the Webbs of Rodbourne Cheney, (fn. 212) and the Fox family. (fn. 213) During this period the borough was represented largely by people with local connexions, and very often by members of the Webb and Fox families, though outsiders began to appear about 1708. Between 1718 and 1780, the manor of Cricklade was held successively by the Gore family, by Arnold Nesbitt, an Irish merchant and banker, who bought the manor from Charles Gore in 1763, (fn. 214) and by Paul Benfield, a rich East India merchant, who bought it after Nesbitt's death in 1779. (fn. 215) Ownership of the manor generally seems to have brought sufficient influence to carry the election to one seat; a member of the Gore family sat for the borough in five out of the seven Parliaments covered by their tenure of the manor: Nesbitt himself sat in the Parliaments of 1761 and 1774; Benfield in the Parliament of 1780, though this election was probably won by bribery on a huge scale, and his purchase of the manor was not complete at the time. (fn. 216) A competing interest was that of Colonel Henry Herbert, later Earl of Carnarvon, who had unsuccessfully contested the county seat in 1772, and who played a prominent part in the orgy of bribery in the elections of 1774 and 1780. (fn. 217) No one, however, succeeded in establishing anything like a predominant interest, and contests took place regularly between 1718 and 1780. If the owners of the manor are regarded as local men—and Nesbitt at any rate lived for a time at the Priory, Cricklade (fn. 218) —the borough was still represented largely by people with local connexions, Benfield and John Macpherson, his fellow East India merchant and partner at the election of 1780, being the most outstanding exceptions.
The Act of 1782 throwing open the borough increased the number of voters to about 1,200, (fn. 219) and achieved its main object by making successful bribery on the pre-1782 scale impossibly expensive. 'It is very hard indeed to class this borough/ wrote Robinson in 1783, 'or to say who is likely to be returned for it, it is now laid so open.' (fn. 220) Contested elections, however, continued to be fairly regular and the place of wholesale bribery was taken by the competing influence of the chief land-owning families in the hundreds now included in the borough franchise. Henry Herbert (now Earl of Carnarvon) bought the manor of Cricklade from Benfield in 1794, and a member of his family sat for the borough regularly from 1794 to 1812. In 1815 his son sold the manor to Joseph Pitt, a Cheltenham banker and entrepreneur and the builder of Pittsville and the Pump Room at Cheltenham, who already held considerable property in Cricklade. (fn. 221) Pitt represented the borough from 1812 until 1831 and was probably the most powerful political influence there from 1815 to the Reform Bill, which he opposed. There was, however, always competition from the aristocratic landowners in the neighbourhood— Lord Folkestone at Coleshill, Lord Suffolk at Charlton, and Lord Holland, who had considerable property in the hundred of Malmesbury. The St. John and Goddard families also had influence at Cricklade (fn. 222) and so had William Hussey, Folkestone's co member for Salisbury. With the exception of Pitt, who was in the government interest, all these local families can be said to have represented 'opposition' influence, but they did not always act together; for instance, the Folkestone, Carnarvon, and Goddard interests worked together in 1794 and in 1807, when they were opposed by Lord Suffolk; but in 1812 Folkestone was supporting Thomas Calley of Burderop and probably also Robert Gordon, although William Herbert the former member, had asked for his support. (fn. 223)
The election of 1818 provides a good example of the working of these competing interests. The candidates on this occasion were Joseph Pitt, Thomas Calley, and Robert Gordon of Ashton Keynes and Kemble, a staunch supporter of the opposition. Lords Radnor and Folkestone were agreed that their interest should be given to Gordon, and they both preferred Calley to Pitt, to the extent of giving him leave to canvass the second votes of those in the Radnor interest. (fn. 224) A series of letters from Gordon to Folkestone during the weeks preceding the poll shows clearly not only that the Radnor interest was exerted to the utmost on his behalf, but also that he was on such terms of respectful friendship with Folkestone that he did not hesitate to ask for assistance in all sorts of other ways. He continually sent further lists of tenants to whom he wanted Folkestone to write; he asked for his influence with Lord Holland and Lord Andover (eldest son of the Earl of Suffolk and Berkshire) to get them to use their interest on his behalf at Malmesbury; he begged Folkestone to come to Cricklade as soon as his own election at Salisbury was over—'I cannot tell you of how much importance it will be to me'; and on another occasion he concluded, 'I shall certainly hang myself if you are not at Cricklade.' (fn. 225) Pitt, who was apparently strongly supported by government influence, (fn. 226) headed the poll, with Gordon about a hundred votes behind him and about a hundred votes ahead of Calley. (fn. 227) Gordon had told Folkestone on the eve of the poll that he had '779 promises in the hundreds and 80 in the Borough'; he in fact polled 79 in Cricklade itself, but was a good deal too optimistic in his prediction of his total poll. He was also rather too optimistic about his prospects at Malmesbury, where he had assured Folkestone he had 'more than half even without the desired support of Lords Holland and Andover: he polled 31 votes in Malmesbury borough, where the poll book listed 76 names, 161 votes in the hundred, the poll book giving 350 names: Lord Andover gave a single vote for Calley. Five members of the Bouverie family, including Folkestone, had votes at Cricklade; four (including Folkestone) gave single votes for Gordon; Folkestone's brother Duncombe voted for Gordon and Calley. Pitt and Gordon continued to represent Cricklade till the last unreformed Parliament, when Calley was elected instead of Pitt, and he and Gordon again represented Cricklade in the first reformed Parliament. The members from 1784 till the Reform Bill were all without exception men with local connexions.
The borough of Hindon (fn. 228) was so exceedingly corrupt throughout the period that on two occasions it attracted the attention and disapproval of the House of Commons. After the 1702 election, as the result of a petition by 'the unbribed burgesses', the election of George Morley was declared void, and a committee was appointed to draw up a bill to throw open the borough to include all freeholders of the hundred of Downton who had a vote in the election of county members–the same policy as was later adopted for Cricklade. This bill passed the Commons but seems never to have been considered by the Lords, and was not among bills to which the royal assent was given at the end of the session. (fn. 229) Reprieved, the Hindon electors apparently continued their corrupt ways until the borough was again the subject of inquiry by the House of Commons in 1774. The election of that year resulted in reciprocal accusations of bribery by all the four candidates; the election was declared void and a bill again introduced for disfranchising the borough. (fn. 230) Proceedings dragged on throughout the session of 1775 and were restarted in that of 1776, but in the end the bill was dropped, partly as a result of the obstructive tactics of its opponents, partly because the fixing of a new and wider franchise raised the problem of the addition this would make to the influence of various landowners in the neighbourhood. The borough had escaped again, but 'we have not yet learned', wrote Oldfield, 'that it is become more immaculate, from the ordeal it has passed'. (fn. 231) After the last contested election of the period, that of 1780, the unsuccessful candidate was once more petitioning against the bribery used by his opponents, and complaining 'that a general system of corruption prevailed in that borough'. (fn. 232)
During the early part of the period, until about 1715, Hindon was in general, though by no means entirely, represented by people with some local connexion. The Hyde family had interest there in the late 17th century and Robert Hyde, later member for the county, sat for Hindon from 1689 to 1698; Sir James Howe, a connexion of Sir Richard Howe, member for the county, was member for Hindon, 1698–1701 and again in 1702. After 1715 the local men became fewer and fewer. The two families with the most consistent interest were the Calthorpes of Elvetham (Hants) and the Beckfords of Fonthill. Reynolds Calthorpe sat for Hindon in 1698, 1701, 1705–10, and 1713 until his death in 1720, and was an unsuccessful candidate in 1708 and 1710. (fn. 233) His son Henry represented the borough in 1741, his nephew James in 1758 and his great-grandsons, Arthur and Frederick Gough Calthorpe, respectively in 1818–26 and 1826–30. (fn. 234) The Beckford interest began in the 1740's with the purchase of the Fonthill estate by the elder William Beckford, later lord mayor of London and inheritor of vast wealth from estates in Jamaica. (fn. 235) His son William, the author of Vathek, represented Hindon, 1790–5 and 1806–20, and the Beckford family could generally influence at least one seat at Hindon, though this influence seems to have been precarious. Robinson in 1783 thought the Beckford interest might carry both seats at the coming election, but added 'it is very open indeed'. (fn. 236) Oldfield gives the younger William Beckford and Lord Calthorpe, the lord of the manor, as joint patrons of the borough in 1820; (fn. 237) but on the eve of the Reform Bill a contemporary division list gives Lord Grosvenor as sole patron. (fn. 238) The borough was disfranchised in 1832.
Corruption at Wootton Bassett was not on the same scale as that at Cricklade and Hindon, but particularly bad cases of bribery occurred at intervals throughout the period 1689–1832, (fn. 239) and provide a third example of a corrupt borough with a wide franchise. (fn. 240) The families with the chief interest all through the period were the St. Johns, Viscounts Bolingbroke, and the Hydes, Earls of Rochester, and later HydeVilliers, Earls of Clarendon. The St. Johns also had influence at Cricklade, and the Hydes at Hindon early in the period, so that these families form a further link between these three boroughs. Wootton Bassett between 1689 and 1722 was a tory borough, as might be expected, the outstanding exception to this being the election of John Wildman, son of the well-known republican, who represented the borough in the Convention and in 1690, presumably in opposition to the wishes of both families of patrons; one of the few examples of the failure of the supporters of James II to exert their influence successfully in the elections to the Convention. (fn. 241) The members during this early period were almost all local men, and this continued to be generally the case until as late as 1780. After 1780 few local men sat for the borough other than members or connexions of the St. John family, which generally had sufficient influence to return one member throughout the whole period. (fn. 242) Sometimes this influence was used 6n behalf of the government—for instance, between 1762 and 1783; sometimes against the government—for instance, between 1783 and 1802, (fn. 243) and in 1747, when it was used on behalf of Colonel Martin Madan, a supporter of the Prince of Wales. (fn. 244) Government influence in the borough seems to have been exercised at this time through Robert Neale of Corsham, member for Wootton Bassett in the Parliaments of 1741 and 1747, who, in a letter to Newcastle in February 1755, ascribed the loss of his seat, interest and £1,800 to his having obeyed Henry Pelham's orders and tried to carry both seats. (fn. 245)
The election of 1754, at which Neale lost his seat, provides a good example of corruption. The mayor in 1750 and again in 1753–4 was William Hollister, who considered, when the election was over, that he had been very hardly treated by both sides. Neale's partner was Lord Drumlanrig, and their opponents were John Probyn and Thomas Estcourt Cresswell, both with local connexions, who 'canvassed the town and spent their money very frequently from the year 1751 to the year 1754'. Neale made great but unsuccessful efforts to get Hollister's co-operation in filling up vacancies in the corporation with his (Neale's) friends, and a few days before the election offered the mayor £500 to return Lord Drumlanrig and himself. 'That', Hollister naively remarked, 'I could have very justly done with a great majority of good votes', but he had already engaged himself to 'that late blackguard Cresswell', for whom he had been entertaining the electors at his own house and at inns, for which services he was offered a mere twenty guineas 'and I never had a shilling nor the value of a shilling for the expence I had been at in my own house.' Hollister's bill of expenses (presumably for Cresswell and Probyn) came to £5,789, the electors being paid 30 guineas a man, and included bills at inns for sums ranging from £300 to £3. 16s. (fn. 246)
John Robinson's 'Election account from 1779 to April 1782' contains two payments 'on account of Wootton Bassett', £1,500 on 8 December 1779 and £500 on 19 May 1781. The borough, like Hindon, figured in his list of 'open boroughs where seats may probably be obtained with expense', with the entry 'I seat, suppose £3,000'. On the eve of the election of 1784, Robinson was hoping to obtain at least one seat for Pitt's government at Wootton Bassett notwithstanding the opposition to the St. John family; (fn. 247) but George Augustus North and Robert Seymour-Conway were returned on the St. John interest, against George Tierney and Abraham Robarts, Tierney at least apparently standing on Lord Clarendon's interest. (fn. 248) Subsequently Lords Clarendon and Bolingbroke came to an agreement by which they each returned one member, (fn. 249) but in 1807 and 1812 their interests were defeated by that of James Kibblewhite of Grays Inn, who succeeded in getting both members returned, largely by extensive bribery. He had built a number of houses in Wootton Bassett, which he subsequently sold to Joseph Pitt of Cricklade, who narrowly succeeded in returning two members in 1818. (fn. 250) On the eve of the Reform Bill, which extinguished the borough, Lord Clarendon was, according to a contemporary division list, the sole patron. (fn. 251)
Chippenham and Devizes (fn. 252) have an interesting feature in common—their representation during a large part of the period by merchants with local connexions. In both boroughs the representation during the years 1689–1715 was shared between a number of local families. At Chippenham these were all of the local country gentry—the Longs, the Pophams of Littlecote, the Whites of Grittleton and the Montagus of Lackham; while Devizes was frequently represented by the merchant families of Child and Methuen. Sir Francis Child the goldsmith and founder of Child's bank sat for Devizes from 1698 to 1702, in 1705 and in 1710; his son John in 1702 and his son Robert in 1713. Sir Francis was the son of a Wiltshire clothier of Heddington, and left £10 to the poor of that parish in his will. (fn. 253) John Methuen, the negotiator of the treaty with Portugal in 1703, was also the son of a Wiltshire clothier and had married the daughter of another, Seacole Chivers of Quemerford (Calne). (fn. 254) He sat for Devizes from 1690 to 1706 and was then succeeded by his son Paul in the Parliament of 1708. Another merchant family, the Eyleses, provide a further link between Chippenham and Devizes. Like the Childs, they were rich London merchants, originally connected with the Wiltshire woollen industry. The two sons of John Eyles, wool-stapler, had become respectively Sir John and Sir Francis, aldermen and lord mayors of London and directors of the East India Company. Sir John bought an estate at Southbroom, Bishops Cannings, in the late 17th century, and his grandsons, Francis Eyles of Southbroom and Benjamin Haskins Stiles of Bowden Park (Lacock), and his nephew Sir Joseph Eyles, a director of the East India Company and of the Bank of England, between them monopolized the representation of Devizes from 1721 to 1740. Sir John Eyles, the first merchant member for Chippenham in 1713, (fn. 255) was son of Sir Francis Eyles and brother of Sir Joseph, the member for Devizes. (fn. 256)
During the period of the Eyles ascendancy at Devizes the chief influence at Chippenham was still a family of country gentry—the Bayntuns (later Bayntun-Rolts) of Spye Park (Bromham), who had formerly been one of the most influential families at Calne. Their interest at Chippenham was by no means undisputed, and in 1741 Edward Bayntun-Rolt and his partner resorted to bringing into the borough 'a considerable number of armed men... in order to terrify and intimidate the voters', and to the abduction of the sheriff, Anthony Guy, their chief opponent among the Chippenham burgesses. (fn. 257) The year 1754, however, marks the beginning of the regular representation of Chippenham also by merchants with local connexions. Sir Samuel Fludyer, an alderman of the city of London, son of a clothier of Frome (Som.) and himself a leading Blackwell-Hall factor, established an interest at Chippenham, which he represented from 1754 until his death in 1768. His brother Thomas sat for the borough from 1768 until his death in 1769; Samuel Marsh, their brother-in-law and partner in the firm of Fludyer, Marsh, and Hudson, from 1774 to 1780; another partner, Giles Hudson, from 1780 to his death in 1783; Sir Samuel Fludyer's son George from 1783 to 1802; and John Maitland, also a member of the firm, from 1802 to 1812 and 1817 to 1818. (fn. 258) From about 1770, the competition between the Bayntun-Rolt and Fludyer interests was complicated by the appearance of a new interest, that of Henry Dawkins of Standlynch, son of Henry Dawkins of Jamaica. 'An union of interests between two of these gentlemen, renders void and effectually excludes, the influence of the third.' (fn. 259) Dawkins represented Chippenham from 1780 to 1784 and his son James from 1784 to 1812, when he was elected for Hastings and the name of Dawkins disappeared from the representation of Chippenham. The Bayntun-Rolt family had disappeared from the representation after 1780. By 1812 the Maitland interest had absorbed the Fludyer and Dawkins interests, but an opposition was kept up by a Chippenham attorney named Guy. The Maitland candidate, John Grossett of Lacock Abbey, was defeated in 1818 by the radical Marquess of Blandford, but this success for 'independence' was short-lived. (fn. 260) Grossett was elected in 1820, and Ebenezer Fuller Maitland in 1826. By 1830 the predominating influence seems to have passed to Joseph Neeld who had bought Grittleton House in 1827 and continued to represent Chippenham after the Reform Bill. (fn. 261)
Meanwhile at Devizes the tradition of representation by local merchant interests was continued. From 1747 to the eve of the Reform Bill one seat was held by the owner of New Park, Bishops Cannings. From 1747 to 1768 this was William Willy, a London merchant, son of George Willy, a mercer of Devizes; from 1769 to 1801, it was Willy's nephew James Sutton, son of a Devizes clothier, who married a sister of Henry Addington, later Viscount Sidmouth. (fn. 262) Addington sat for Devizes from 1784 to 1805. On Sutton's death both New Park and the seat in Parliament passed to his son-in-law, Thomas Estcourt, (fn. 263) who sat for Devizes until in 1826 he was elected for Oxford University, amid the regrets, congratulations, and gratitude of the Devizes Corporation. (fn. 264) The second seat at Devizes was held from 1740 to 1780 by John and Charles Garth, father and son, and each in turn recorder of Devizes. John Garth had business connexions with the Eyles family, to whose influence he probably owed his first election at Devizes, but subsequently the Garths held the seat on their own interest, supported by the Willy and Sutton families. This interest was hotly but unsuccessfully contested by the Fludyers in 1761 and 1765 in an attempt to establish a hold on both Chippenham and Devizes. (fn. 265) From 1780 to 1788 the second seat was held by Sir James Tylney Long, later member for the county; and from 1788 onwards by the owners of Erlestoke ParkJoshua Smith, son of a Scottish timber merchant, (fn. 266) until 1818, later George Watson Taylor, who bought the estate after Smith's death in 1819. (fn. 267)
Thus Devizes from 1689 to 1780 was predominantly represented by local merchants, and for the whole of the period 1689–1832 by men with local connexions, although from 1790 onwards these connexions were often of a recent date. Chippenham also was represented for a large part of the period by merchants with local connexions, but connexions by no means so close as was generally the case at Devizes. The influence of local clothiers at Bedwyn in the early 18th century has already been noted, but this was short-lived; at no other Wiltshire borough was this parliamentary interest connected with the local cloth industry sustained for a large part of the period.
A few general conclusions can now perhaps be drawn. In the first place, if one considers the kind of people who exercised influence over borough elections, the point that emerges most clearly from a study of this period is the decline of the influence of the local gentry, due not to any great increase in the influence of the commercial class but to the growth of the influence of the peerage. From 1689 to about 1740 the influence of the local landed gentry was the predominating one in the boroughs, though never such an exclusive one as in the county. Families of this class (sometimes several competing families) wielded the most important influence in 9 boroughs, (fn. 268) peers in 5 (fn. 269) and merchants in I. (fn. 270) From about 1740 to 1790 the number of boroughs under the influence of the local gentry dropped to 3½73 (fn. 271) —or 4½ including Ludgershall, in the hands of gentry, but not Wiltshire gentry. The peers' boroughs rose to 7½, (fn. 272) those of the merchants to three. (fn. 273) In the period 1790–1832 the gentry influenced two whole and two half boroughs, (fn. 274) while the peers influenced eight and a half, (fn. 275) and in two more (Cricklade and Wootton Bassett) were competing with tolerable success against merchant influence. The influence of the rich commercial class in these years is not fully reflected in the number of boroughs actually under its control—Chippenham, Westbury, and half Ludgershall: to which Old Sarum (counted as a peer's borough) should perhaps be added, as Lord Caledon was in fact a rich East India merchant. The influence of this class is perhaps more truly reflected in the career of Joseph Pitt, unknown in the realm of Wiltshire borough influence till the early 19th century, who by about 1815 had the strongest single influence at both Cricklade and Wootton Bassett and was managing the electoral arrangements at Malmesbury. The only other person at this period with strong influence in three boroughs was Lord Radnor, and the only other person besides these two with such influence in more than one borough was Lord Ailesbury.
This shifting of the balance of influence from local gentry to peers can also be seen in the type of members returned during this period. The parliamentary representation of Wiltshire (county and boroughs) in the period 1688–1715 has been analysed by Mr. R. G. Stuckey, (fn. 276) and his conclusions generally hold good also for the period 1715– 41. During the whole period 1688–1741 about 60 per cent. of the Wiltshire members were of the country gentry class, and some 10 per cent. were sons of peers (or were themselves Irish peers). Of the members sitting in the period 1741–90 about 43 per cent. were country gentry and 23 per cent. sons of peers, while for the period 1790–1832 the numbers of country gentry sank to about 39 per cent., as against 24 per cent. sons of peers. As might be expected, the boroughs returning the largest numbers of peers' sons were those under the control of a peer during much of the period—Marlborough, Bedwyn, Downton, Westbury; and also Heytesbury and Malmesbury. The proportion of merchant members remained fairly constant throughout the whole period; about 15 per cent. for 1688–1741; 16 per cent. for 1741–90 and 15 per cent. for 1790–1832. (fn. 277)
More striking even than the decline of the country gentry is the decline in the numbers of local members. Mr. Stuckey has shown that in the Parliament of 1690–5 as many as 76 per cent. of the members were local men; that this proportion steadily decreased, and that the percentage of local members for the whole period 1688–1715 was about 55 per cent. (fn. 278) For the period 1715–41 the proportion was 48 per cent. local men to 52 per cent. outsiders; for the period 1741–90 it had sunk to 34 per cent. local men to 66 per cent. outsiders, and for the period 1790–1832 members from outside the county numbered 76 per cent. as against only 24 per cent. local men. The wheel had thus come full circle, the outsiders attaining the predominance enjoyed by local men in 1690. For this the boroughs were entirely responsible, more particularly Westbury, Malmesbury, and Hindon, all of which, over the whole period 1689–1832, returned over 80 per cent. of members from outside Wiltshire.
The parliamentary history of Wiltshire during the period 1689–1832 thus presents a striking contrast between county and boroughs. In the county a small circle of local gentry remained in undisputed control and the members were drawn entirely from this class. Among the boroughs only Salisbury and Devizes, represented continuously by Wiltshire men or people with local connexions, presented a comparable picture. The borough representation as a whole was passing steadily out of the hands of the local gentry.