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 inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 4001


  Double return of Cawley and Farrington. CAWLEY seated, 3 May 1660. FARRINGTON declared elected, 21 May 1660
6 Nov. 1673RICHARD MAY vice Peckham, deceased
 Thomas Garway
7 Feb. 1679RICHARD MAY
 Sir Christopher Conyers
4 Jan. 1681RICHARD FARRINGTON vice Farrington, deceased
10 Feb. 1681JOHN BRAMAN
9 Mar. 1685(SIR) RICHARD MAY

Main Article

In 1660 the ‘commonalty’ of Chichester elected two royalist sympathizers, Henry Peckham and John Farrington, both resident in the city. But the mayor sealed an indenture for Peckham and William Cawley, the son of a notorious regicide, on the grounds that they had the majority of the freemen. Cawley was seated on the merits of the return, but unseated on the merits of the election. The House found that the mayor had ignored 21 precedents in limiting the franchise to the freemen, and sent for him in custody for his wilful error.2

At the 1661 election Peckham and the Cavalier William Garway, whose seat at Ford was some eight miles from the city, were returned unopposed. But there was again a contest in 1673 after the death of Peckham. The return of Richard May, who had succeeded Peckham as recorder, was challenged by Thomas Garway, a brother or cousin of the sitting Member, but his petition was rejected without a division. In the following year the 3rd Lord Grey of Warke succeeded to the Uppark estate, and his interest transformed Chichester politics. No opposition was offered to the re-election of May at the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament, but the cautious Garway transferred himself to Arundel, and his place as country candidate was taken by John Braman, the veteran ‘agitator’ of the Putney debates, who had settled in the city on his release from prison in 1665. The horrified chapter put up Sir Christopher Conyers, lord, in the right of his wife, of the nearby manor of Lordington, as a ‘loyal’ candidate. All but one of the choristers voted for him, but as the dean lamented:

Alas, what can ten or twelve votes the church can make to near 400 of the town. Our interest in the town is represented far greater than it is. The town carries all before it in spite of what we churchmen can do.

May was not returned in September, ‘being now perfectly hated by both sides’. His place was taken by John Farrington, by now in opposition.3

In February 1680 the Duke of Monmouth visited Chichester. His arrival was described by Bishop Carleton:

The elector-general Grey (for so is his title in this county) ... went out to bring him into the city attended with broken shopkeepers, butchers, carpenters, smiths and such like people, all dissenters and petitioners, to the number of fifty or three score. ... Had the reception ended there, no other could be expected from such a rabble of brutes. But the great men of our cathedral welcomed him with bells and bonfires made by wood had from their own houses.

Farrington died in December and was succeeded by his son, who was again elected with Braman ‘without any opposition’ at the general election a few weeks later. Following the election a paper was read in which the Members were thanked for their support of exclusion and other opposition measures in the previous Parliament. Braman’s response provoked a loyal address from the corporation, in which they disowned the whole sense of a scandalous speech delivered by a factious person ... pretending its contents to be the sense and in the name of

the whole city ... of all which this corporation was wholly ignorant till they saw it in print.

They went on to thank the King for dissolving Parliament. But the Opposition was still powerful in Chichester. Sir Leoline Jenkins was told that:

they are as factious a sort of people as any in England and ... are ready at an hour’s warning to serve the Duke of Monmouth and Lord Grey. ... The bishop is much scorned here, as if he were a public disturber, that is a Tory, as they call them here who love the King.

The corporation continued to produce loyal addresses on every possible occasion, but in September 1681 the dissenting party approved Braman and Farrington for re-election, and when the latter’s coachman (later to be hanged for highway robbery) murdered an informer, the jury acquitted him without leaving the box. But in the upper levels of society the situation was changing, and a further visit by Monmouth in February 1683 was a failure, the gentry attending a rival reception put on by the sheriff. The Uppark interest vanished when Grey fled to Holland after the Rye House Plot, and the discomfiture of the radicals was completed by the surrender of the charter in the summer of 1684. Before the general election of 1685 the mayor wrote to ‘many factious spirits’ who were ‘so impudent as to set up for electing their old seditious Members’. But in fact May, who had become an Exchequer official, regained his seat in James II’s Parliament, accompanied by an obscure local squire, George Gounter, whose sole claim to distinction was the somewhat secondary part played by his father in the escape of Charles II after the battle of Worcester. The new charter, issued later in the same month, confirmed May as recorder, but contained the usual clause empowering the crown to remove officials by order-in-council. Of the 41 common councilmen nominated three were peers, three baronets, two knights and 14 esquires, including both the sitting Members as well as May’s cousin, Thomas May of Rawmere. The King was thanked by his ‘obedient subjects’ of Chichester for his first Declaration of Indulgence in April 1687, but in the following February the purge began. The mayor, one of the bailiffs, four aldermen and 14 common councilmen, including Gounter and Thomas May, were removed from the corporation. The venal journalist Henry Care informed his readers that this ‘alteration was generally very acceptable to the inhabitants’ who wished ‘to express the public joy by ringing the bells’, but the senior canon of the cathedral ‘stiffly refused to suffer it’. Thomas Miller, leader of the Tory group on the corporation, was removed with ten of his henchmen, and the purge was completed in June with the ousting of two more aldermen and 12 of the common council. Richard May was retained as recorder, but the King’s electoral agents were confident that Braman and Farrington would regain their seats. At the general election of 1689, however, two Tories, Miller and Thomas May, were returned.4

Authors: B. M. Crook / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Bodl. Tanner 149, f. 117.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 9, 40.
  • 3. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. lxxxix), 64; VCH Suss. iv. 116; Bodl. Tanner 149, f. 117.
  • 4. Suss. Arch. Colls. vii. 169; Smith’s Prot. Intell. 15 Feb. 1681; CSP Dom. 1680-1, pp. 282, 467, 473; 1682, pp. 333, 545; Jan.-June 1683, pp. 45, 76; 1684-5, pp. 129, 224; 1685, p. 21; London Gazette, 8 May 1682, 13 Aug. 1683, 26 Feb. 1685, 22 Aug. 1687; A. Hay, Chichester, 579-601; PC2/72, ff. 613, 678, 693; Pub. Occurrences, 28 Feb. 1688; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 441.