Old and New Shoreham: Parliamentary representation

Page 167

A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 6 Part 1, Bramber Rape (Southern Part). Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1980.

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New Shoreham sent two burgesses to parliament from 1295 onwards. (fn. 1) In the 15th century either the two constables or up to fourteen burgesses attested elections by the burgesses and other inhabitants; as there was apparently no separate class of burgesses the franchise appears to have been then, (fn. 2) as later, in the householders paying scot and lot. (fn. 3) In the later 15th century and the earlier 16th the duke of Norfolk controlled the choice of the electors. (fn. 4) Notable members in the early 17th century included Inigo Jones in 1621 (fn. 5) elected in place of Sir John Leeds who was unseated because he had by negligence taken his seat before being sworn, (fn. 6) and Anthony Stapley, the regicide, in 1624 and 1625. A shipbuilder and navy commissioner, Sir Anthony Deane, represented the borough in 1678, (fn. 7) and in 1685, when Samuel Pepys seems to have declined the nomination, Sir Richard Haddock, one of the principal commissioners, was returned; on those two occasions Henry Goring, father and son, were respectively thought to control or influence the nomination. (fn. 8) Members in that period included local landowners. The number of voters in 1681 was c. 70. (fn. 9) Although the returning officer was the constable appointed in the duke of Norfolk's manorial court there is no indication that the duke attempted to manage the borough. Evidence that the borough was corrupt begins with allegations in 1679 of undue practices by the constable. Sir Nathaniel Gould, who owned shipbuilding yards in Shoreham, was unseated in 1701 for treating, but up to his death in 1728 he continued to be returned at elections which frequently gave rise to petitions on grounds of bribery or intimidation. (fn. 10) Gould and his fellow member paid for the rebuilding of New Shoreham's market-house. (fn. 11) In 1709 Anthony Hammond's election was declared to be invalid because of his office under the Crown as a navy commissioner, (fn. 12) but the connexion with the navy was maintained, among the members being Sir William Peere Williams, Bt. (d. 1761). (fn. 13) Other early-18th-century members included wealthy London merchants and directors of the East India Company, who spent money freely and assisted the town's shipbuilding industry. The government was able to influence elections because many of the 130 voters had places in the customs at Shoreham or in the naval yards at Deptford and Woolwich. In 1729 the borough was said to be 'a new whore, that is anybody's for their money', (fn. 14) and in 1752 it was said that the townsmen boasted of a franchise by which 'every seventh year they are much enriched by what they receive in return for their vote'. (fn. 15) Before the election of 1754 a potential candidate who did not in fact stand was thought to have given each of 100 electors £20 and the promise of a further £20. Corruption was organized and regulated through a supposed charitable club called the Christian Society, whose members were exclusively electors and were sworn and covenanted to secrecy. At a by-election in 1770 the society declared that it would support the highest bidder, one possible candidate offering £3,000, which was not enough, but differences of opinion within the society encouraged three candidates to go to the polls; the returning officer, who had resigned from the society, refused to allow 76 votes and returned as elected the candidate with the second largest number of votes cast. The ensuing petition led to an inquiry, an amended return, and an Act (fn. 16) disfranchising 68 electors and enlarging the franchise, so as to avoid future bribery, to the freeholders of Bramber rape, numbering c. 800. New Shoreham thereby ceased to be a true borough constituency. It was thereafter represented mostly by country gentlemen, (fn. 17) but from 1859 to 1880 one member was a barrister, Sir Stephen Cave, paymaster general 1874-80. (fn. 18) Double voting by the freeholders of Bramber rape, for the county in addition to the borough seats, was ended by the Reform Act of 1832. (fn. 19) New Shoreham lost its two seats under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885. (fn. 20) There was a tradition that elections had been held at the Stone in High Street; (fn. 21) they were held in the churchyard in 1708, (fn. 22) in the north transept at some later date, (fn. 23) and in the church porch in 1826. (fn. 24)


  • 1. Names of Members Returned, H.C. 69, pp. 6 sqq. (1878), lxii. The statement in S.A.C. xxvii. 81 that no returns survive for 1474-1538 is incorrect.
  • 2. Wedgwood, Hist. Parl. 1439-1500, Reg. 698.
  • 3. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1715-54, i. 337.
  • 4. G. H. Ryan and L. J. Redstone, Timperley of Hintlesham (1931), 12; L. & P. Hen. VIII, x, p. 344; S.A.C. cxiv. 49-60.
  • 5. Names of Members Returned, 454.
  • 6. Procs. and Debates of H.C. 1620 and 1621, i. 30-1, naming him as 'Leech'.
  • 7. D.N.B. The possibility of a naval connexion 100 years earlier (D.N.B. Suppl. S.V. Thos. Fenner) has been ruled out: ex inf. Hist. Parl. Trust.
  • 8. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1678, 438; 1685, p. 79; D.N.B. S.V. Haddock.
  • 9. Ex inf. Hist. Parl. Trust (Prof. B.D. Henning).
  • 10. T. Carew, Rights of Elections, ii. 125-7; W.S.R.O., MP 31.
  • 11. S.A.C. xxvii. 81.
  • 12. Carew, Elections, ii. 126.
  • 13. D.N.B.
  • 14. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1715-54, i. 337-8; on corruption cf. Defoe, Tour Thro' G.B. ed. Cole, i. 130.
  • 15. B.L. Add. MS. 11571, f. 121v.
  • 16. 11 Geo. III, c. 55.
  • 17. Hist. Parl., Commons, 1754-90, i. 151, 396-8.
  • 18. D.N.B.
  • 19. 2 Wm. IV, c. 45, s. 5; 2 Wm. IV, c. 64, s. 35 and sch. O. 34.
  • 20. 48 & 49 Vic. c. 23.
  • 21. S.C.M. xxv. 408.
  • 22. Carew, Elections, ii. 127.
  • 23. Lower, Hist. Suss. ii. 160.
  • 24. Snewin & Smail, Glimpses, 151.