Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:



20 Apr. 1660JOHN TROTT
21 Mar. 1661JOHN COLLINS
31 Jan. 1673SIR KINGSMILL LUCY, Bt. vice Trott, deceased
  Election declared void, 6 Feb. 1673
29 Oct. 1678HON. CHARLES WEST vice Lucy, deceased
 John Deane
 John Pollen
 John Collins
 Sir Robert Henley
 Francis Powlett
16 Mar. 1685(SIR) JOHN COLLINS
 Sir Robert Henley
 John Venables

Main Article

The corporation of Andover, which had monopolized the franchise since it had been restored in 1586, consisted of the bailiff, who acted as returning officer, the ‘steward’ or recorder, ten ‘approved men’ and 12 ‘burgesses’. Rulers of a market town of only moderate importance, they greatly coveted the revenues of Weyhill fair, the largest and most celebrated in the south of England, to which their Elizabethan charter gave them some claim. There was no dominant interest in the borough, but all the Members in this period except Robert Phelips were Hampshire landowners or local residents. At the general election of 1660 John Collins, an Anglican and a Royalist, was returned with the Presbyterian John Trott. Collins was elected steward during the summer, but the corporation continued to hedge their bets by re-electing the sitting Members in 1661. On Trott’s death, Sir Kingsmill Lucy was elected during the recess, and re-elected after Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury’s writs had been declared void by the House of Commons. He made his mark by an attack on Lauderdale, but later went over to the Court. His premature death in 1678 was followed by a contested election, in which Charles West defeated John Deane, though both were apparently court supporters.1

But by 1679 the country party had gained control of the corporation. On the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament Collins was replaced as steward by an exclusionist, William Wither. At the first general election of the year the new steward stood together with Francis Powlett, a cousin of the Marquess of Winchester. The court candidate was John Pollen, a devout Anglican who leased the rectory manor from Winchester College. He petitioned against Wither, alleging ‘several illegal and unwarrantable practices’ in combination with the bailiff. Though Wither died on 25 Apr. no writ was ordered for a by-election, nor did the elections committee report. Guidott, Wither’s successor as steward, though also an exclusionist, had no parliamentary ambitions, and at the autumn election Powlett stood with Sir Robert Henley as the second country candidate, and defeated Collins. In the following month, however, a number of the corporation complained that the municipal election had been rigged, and the Privy Council ordered another bailiff to be sworn in. This success for the court party was followed by another, when Collins regained the stewardship from Guidott. His petition to the second Exclusion Parliament was never reported, but at the general election of 1681 the court party gained both seats, West and Collins defeating Henley and Powlett. The defeated candidates petitioned on the grounds that the franchise should be extended to the freemen, but again there was no report.2

The Tory corporation produced loyal addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament, and abhorring the ‘Association’ as the work of those ‘who thought to have petitioned your sacred Majesty out of your life and throne’. The Marquess of Worcester (Henry Somerset) as high steward of the borough thereupon ‘put them on’ surrendering their charter and they acted with exemplary rapidity. ‘Mr Dowling of Andover’ left Whitehall on Monday, ‘got the surrender voted and passed under the seal of the corporation’, obtained a warrant for a new charter from (Sir) Robert Sawyer, the attorney-general, who lived in the neighbourhood, and pressed on to Windsor, where an obliging clerk of the signet presented it to the King for sealing on Wednesday night. If Dowling, as was reported, paid the clerk £200 for his most unbureaucratic promptitude, it was money well spent, for the new charter gave the corporation control of Weyhill fair. Despite an outcry from the rival interests, Lord Worcester hoped they would be allowed to retain it, the new corporation ‘being such as deserve countenance for having always upheld the King’s interest’. Ten Whigs had been replaced, and Collins appointed steward for life. Needless to say the corporation loyally abhorred the Rye House Plot, congratulated James II on his accession, and elected Collins and the courtier Phelips to his Parliament. The inhabitants again claimed the franchise, but desisted when Robinson, the ‘sub-steward’ or town clerk, threatened to prosecute them for a riot.3

Robinson was removed in March 1688, and the King’s electoral agents expected Collins to follow him. But they were at first by no means confident that this would suffice. They reported that Gabriel Whistler of Combe, the son of a clergyman who had been removed by the ejectors under the Commonwealth, had joined interests with Powlett, but neither of them would comply with the King’s ecclesiastical policy. However, it was also reported that the town had invited Sawyer to stand in place of Collins, and they noted that the bailiff’s place depended upon the King: ‘this town will require a further purge’. In fact no further alterations were made by the Privy Council, but in September the King was told that ‘a good election’ was expected, though the court candidates had not been settled. Owing to the prolonged litigation over Weyhill fair, the surrender of the 1599 charter had not been enrolled. Its return in October left Whigs and Tories in balance on the corporation, and at the general election of 1689 Powlett and Pollen apparently agreed to divide the borough. They were opposed by Henley and John Venables of Woodcote, whose family had been considerable benefactors to the town before the Civil War. Although he was akin to Pollen, he probably stood with Henley as a more extreme Whig than Powlett, since he sought to poll ‘the populace’. Collins apparently took no part in the election, Robinson, as ‘sub-steward’, signing the return. Sawyer, a popular hero as defending counsel for the Seven Bishops, found a more dignified seat at Cambridge University, while Whistler was probably preoccupied with the fate of his Irish lands, from which he must have derived most of his income. Powlett and Pollen were returned, and the House found in favour of the narrow franchise, rejecting a petition from Henley and Venables.4

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1672, pp. 543-4; PC2/64/97; VCH Hants, iv. 350; CJ, ix. 533.
  • 2. Andover corp. recs. 4/MI/3; E/EL/1; CJ, ix. 578, 640, 707; Prot. Dom. Intell. 11 Mar. 1681.
  • 3. London Gazette, 20 June 1681, 12 June 1682, 16 July 1683, 2 Mar. 1685; CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 358, 392-3, 514; CJ, x. 71; HMC Le Fleming, 189.
  • 4. PC2/72/640; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 429, 433; Suss. Arch. Soc. xxv. 73; VCH Hants, iii. 43; iv. 355, 397-8; CJ, x. 70-71.