Durham City


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 freemen

Number of voters:

838 in 16781


27 Mar. 1678SIR RALPH COLE, Bt.408
 William Tempest319
 John Turner187
 William Christian171
20 Feb. 1679SIR RALPH COLE, Bt.515
 William Blakiston436
 William Tempest504
10 Jan. 1689GEORGE MORLAND599
 William Tempest2782

Main Article

Under Bishop Matthew’s charter of 1602, the corporation consisted of a mayor, 12 aldermen and 24 common councilmen, all of whom were to hold office during good behaviour. The mayor’s oath included a promise to make no orders ‘against the privileges of the Bishop of Durham’. Admission to the freedom, however, was controlled by the city companies. Although the city was enfranchised, like the county, by the Act of 1673, deficiencies in drafting prevented the holding of an election for five years, until it was decided that the high sheriff should act as returning officer on the bishop’s precept. Of the five candidates in 1678, John Parkhurst depended on the support of Bishop Crew, his cousin, while John Turner, a former recorder, and William Christian, another local lawyer, probably had the best interest with the corporation. Sir Ralph Cole was a country gentleman who had supported the successful campaign for enfranchisement led by William Tempest’s father. In an orderly poll 838 freemen voted by company, and Cole and Parkhurst were returned. The mayor reported a few small irregularities, but insufficient to affect the result, and though Tempest petitioned twice the elections committee never reported.3

Parkhurst represented Northamptonshire as an exclusionist in 1679-81. In his absence, all the candidates opposed exclusion. Cole was re-elected in February 1679, and Tempest at the cost of £239 11s.5d. defeated William Blakiston, the mayor, who probably enjoyed the bishop’s interest. Cole, who was more interested in art than politics, did not stand again, and the result was an extremely tight finish at the September election. Blakiston finished top of the poll, eight votes ahead of Sir Richard Lloyd, the spiritual chancellor of the diocese, who edged out Tempest by only two votes. In 1681, Lloyd and Tempest were returned unopposed.4

Though the corporation produced loyal addresses approving the dissolution of Parliament and expressing abhorrence at the ‘Association’ and the Rye House Plot, Durham was required to surrender its charter. Sunderland asked Crew to suggest alterations, and Luttrell lamented that the bishop ‘had reserved to himself and his successors in that see the power of approving and confirming the mayor, recorder, aldermen and common council of the city. O tempora!’ However, the only addition in the charter delivered in March 1685 was the provision that the corporation members were ‘to be conformable to the Church of England’. Crew had no reason to be dissatisfied, however, for at the general election a few days later both his candidates were returned. Lloyd was re-elected with Charles Montagu, the bishop’s nephew and constable of the castle. In March 1688 the corporation declared their readiness ‘to engage and give our own votes and to use all our interest with others for such persons only as shall be recommended by the lord bishop of Durham to serve as burgesses for this city in the next ensuing Parliament’, and they sent a further loyal address in July congratulating the King on the birth of the Prince of Wales. One of Crew’s nominees was probably his predecessor’s grandson, the eldest son of Gilbert Gerard II; but the situation was transformed by the landing of William of Orange. Crew, one of the most sycophantic of James II’s bishops, went into hiding, and at the abortive election of December 1688, held probably under the 1602 charter, the bishop’s interest was eclipsed. George Morland, an alderman, was returned with Henry Liddell, the heir to a great estate in the county. Both are obscure figures whose politics at this juncture are hard to define. Nevertheless they were again successful in the following month, Liddell defeating Tempest by a wide margin.5

Authors: Gillian Hampson / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. C. Sharp, Parl. Rep. Dur. (1831), 32.
  • 2. Ibid. 33-35.
  • 3. Hutchinson, Dur. i. 547; C. Daykin, ‘Parl. Rep. Dur. 1675-1832’ (Durham Univ. M. Litt. thesis, 1961), 38-42, 111-12; Durham Cathedral Lib. Hunter mss 37/15v, 17; Sharp, 32, 33; CJ, ix. 464, 517.
  • 4. Hunter mss 12/22; HMC Astley, 41; Hutchinson, ii. 45.
  • 5. London Gazette, 27 June 1681, 20 Mar. 1682, 19 July 1683, 12 July 1688; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 102; 1687-9, p. 199; C. E. Whiting, Nathaniel, Lord Crewe, 129-30; Luttrell, i. 314; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 115; 103, 115.