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:

about 40


10 Apr. 1660JOHN BUTTON 
10 Apr. 1661SIR WILLIAM LEWIS, Bt.21
 Sir Nicholas Steward, Bt.7
 Sir John Wolstenholme3
9 Mar. 1663SIR NICHOLAS STEWARD, Bt. vice Bulkeley, deceased12
 William Guidott3
11 Feb. 1678SIR RICHARD KNIGHT vice Lewis, deceased13
 John Button11
 George Fulford8
7 Feb. 1679JOHN BUTTON 
22 May 1679JOHN BURRARD vice Bulkeley, deceased 
14 Aug. 1679JOHN BUTTON 
1 Nov. 1680HENRY DAWLEY vice Button, deceased 
 Richard Whithed 
2 Mar. 1681HENRY DAWLEY23
 Richard Whithed19
 Sir John Coventry11
12 Mar. 1685RICHARD HOLT 
14 Feb. 1689RICHARD HOLT 

Main Article

The Lymington salterns had produced bay-salt since the 12th century, and the borough remained sufficiently prosperous to lay out £220 on a new town hall in 1684. The proximity of the New Forest attracted younger sons of such recognized county families as the Bulkeleys, the Buttons and the Whitheds to settle in the town. The rudimentary corporation consisted of mayor, recorder (though there were no borough courts), and an unspecified number of ‘burgesses’ or freemen. Only 15 of these freemen, in whom the franchise was exclusively vested during this period, were resident in 1675; almost all the remainder were gentlemen of the county. There was clearly a Presbyterian majority, though sufficiently broad-minded to accept the Roman Catholic head of the Tichborne family as a freeman in 1650. One seat at Westminster was usually at the disposal of the Buttons of Buckland and their successors, the Burrards of Walhampton, both resident on the outskirts of the town. Bartholomew Bulkeley was a townsman, and Henry Bromfield and Sir Nicholas Steward were also local residents, but the other successful candidates, though all Hampshire men, came from more distant parts of the county.1

John Button and Bromfield represented Lymington in the Convention, but stood down in 1661 to provide seats for two more prominent Presbyterians, Sir William Lewis and John Bulkeley, both former knights of the shire. Steward, a Royalist with a sinecure office in the Exchequer, secured a letter of support from the Duke of York for this election. The other court candidate, an outsider, was the veteran customs farmer Sir John Wolstenholme. After the sweeping victory of the country candidates the commissioners for corporations removed the mayor for refusing the oaths and no less than 21 freemen who failed to answer their summons. Only six replacements were nominated, and most of those ejected found their way back on to the freeman roll sooner or later. But it was a shrunken electorate that was called on to choose a successor to Bulkeley shortly afterwards. Only 15 ‘burgesses’ are named on the indenture, including Tichborne, and they chose Steward by a large majority over William Guidott, a rising lawyer who had the advantage of being a kinsman of the newly appointed mayor. On Lewis’s death in 1677 it was resolved to hold future parliamentary elections by a complicated secret ballot, as at Southampton. But by the time the writ was issued the resolution had been rescinded. Button sought to regain his seat, but he was opposed by Sir Richard Knight and George Fulford, a Dorset squire who founded a free school in the borough. All three candidates mustered a fair amount of support, but Knight won the seat.2

Knight does not seem to have stood for re-election in 1679, and Steward retired from politics. At the first general election their seats were taken by Button and Bartholomew Bulkeley, who had acquired the manor in 1665. He died a few weeks later, and was replaced by Button’s son-in-law, John Burrard. The sitting Members, who had avoided commitment on the exclusion issue, were re-elected in the autumn, probably without opposition. Button also died before the second Exclusion Parliament met, and at the by-election the court supporter Henry Dawley defeated Richard Whithed, who had represented the borough in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. Whithed’s petition was never reported. The country party made a determined effort to carry Lymington in 1681, and produced the highest poll of the period. Whithed was partnered by Sir John Coventry, who was keeper of a walk in the New Forest, but resided outside the county and enjoyed a safe seat at Weymouth. The electorate showed their customary dislike of outsiders by relegating him to the bottom of the poll, though he was by far the most prominent politician among the four candidates, and Dawley and Burrard retained their seats.3

Burrard’s views may have evolved in the next few years towards Whiggism, and he contracted an alliance with the Powletts. Lymington produced no loyal address, and in 1685 Richard Holt, who had married into the Whithed family, succeeded Dawley. He was returned ‘unanimously’ with Burrard by the mayor, Thomas Dore, who a few months later was in arms for ‘King Monmouth’. Quo warranto proceedings were launched, and in January 1688 the corporation resolved to defend the action on the grounds that Lymington was a borough by prescription. In April the royal electoral agents reported that the sitting Members would probably be re-elected, ‘and ‘tis believed will neither comply’ with the King’s ecclesiastical policy; Francis Dickens of Lyndhurst, who had given his assent, ‘hopes, if supported by the King, to have interest enough to be chosen here’. By September, however, he had transferred his candidature to Petersfield. Holt and Burrard had ‘fully declared themselves in your Majesty’s interest’, probably after the Government had withdrawn the quo warranto. Legal costs totalled only £44, probably because the borough had thriftily employed Burrard’s cousin George Burrard as solicitor and one of the less prominent members of the Eyre family as counsel. Dickens may have stood in 1689, for in the town book the words ‘by the majority’ have been deleted from the return of Holt and Burrard.4

Author: Paula Watson


Polls from the town minute bk. 2, ff. 51, 86v, 87v.

  • 1. VCH Hants, iv. 641-2; v. 471; E. King, Old Times Revisited, 26, 31, 61; C. St. Barbe, Recs. of Lymington, 37.
  • 2. St. Barbe, 36, 37; King, 81-82.
  • 3. VCH Hants, iv. 646; CJ, ix. 652.
  • 4. King, 79, 80, 90; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 429-30, 433.