Available from Boydell and Brewer
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of Qualified Electors:
Number of voters:
|27 Feb. 1690||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, 1st Bt.|
|2 Nov. 1695||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, 1st Bt.|
|Sir Rushout Cullen, Bt.|
|11 Mar. 1698||JOHN RUDGE vice Rushout, deceased|
|Hon. Thomas Windsor|
|29 July 1698||SIR HENRY PARKER, Bt.|
|Hon. Thomas Windsor|
|? Sir Thomas Rous, Bt.2|
|16 Jan. 1701||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, 2nd Bt.|
|26 Nov. 1701||SIR JAMES RUSHOUT, 2nd Bt.|
|22 July 1702||HUGH PARKER|
|Sir James Rushout, 2nd Bt.|
|15 May 1705||JOHN RUDGE|
|Sir Richard Cocks, Bt.|
|11 May 1708||SIR EDWARD GOODERE, Bt.|
|14 Oct. 1710||SIR EDWARD GOODERE, Bt.|
|31 Aug. 1713||SIR EDWARD GOODERE|
|Sir John Rushout, Bt.|
After a brief hiatus under the charter of 1684 when the borough’s parliamentary representatives were elected by the corporation, Evesham returned to its freeman franchise for the elections to the Convention of 1689. The lack of an indigenous elite capable of engrossing the representation to itself ensured that the borough fell prey to outsiders, helped no doubt by the custom whereby members of the eight companies could all be admitted to the freedom of the borough, and the power of the corporation to create freemen (including non-residents). This put a premium on the ability of aspiring Members to influence a large number of voters, especially as the numbers of admissions of freemen rose during the period. As a consequence most candidates at Evesham were wealthy men, the majority having made successful careers in the metropolis, or benefited as the heirs of such men. In addition, they often had local links, either as the descendants of families with close ties to the town, or as the purchasers of estates carrying a local electoral interest.3
The election of 1690 illustrates the situation with rare clarity. The sitting Members were intent upon seeking re-election. They were both Tories, Sir John Matthewes† (a Spanish merchant, who had inherited property in Evesham from his father and served as mayor in 1685–6), and the borough’s recorder, Henry Parker (a successful London lawyer and purchaser of an estate in Worcestershire). Their Whig opponents were Sir James Rushout, 1st Bt. (a second generation local landowner who significantly added to his family’s holdings, and who had previously sat for Evesham 1670–81), and Edward Rudge (a London merchant whose family originated in the town and who became lord of the manor in 1664 and MP in 1681). In the event there was no contest, Rushout and Rudge being returned unopposed after their opponents desisted about a week before the poll. The reasons are unclear, but it was probably the superior local resources of the Whigs and particularly the reassertion of the Rushout interest, plus a promise from Rudge’s supporters that he would not contest the seat at the following election. Rushout had occupied one of the county seats in the Convention, but a full week before its dissolution he announced in a letter to a Mr Martin (probably the mayor in 1677–8 or 1679–80, and an erstwhile opponent) his intention to transfer to Evesham, pressing him to fulfil a previous promise of support. Rushout’s campaign seems in general to have been one of studied moderation, particularly with regard to religion. This approach was regarded as disingenuous by Tories such as James Thynne*, who in a letter to his brother Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†, who was given responsibility for distributing £300 in Matthewes’ will) viewed with scepticism his portrayal as a ‘good son of the Church of England and equally afraid of popery and presbytery’. Another Tory detected the ‘zeal, malice and money of the fanatics’ at work. On election day the return of Rushout and Rudge was greeted ‘with all the disrespect imaginable . . . all their acclamations were made up of fanatics and rabble’, with the leading citizens declining to attend (including Martin).4
Rushout originally thought that Rudge had reneged on the promise made by his friends not to stand at the 1695 election, but it soon became apparent that he was neglecting his interest. The chief beneficiary was Henry Parker, who, by early August, had ‘treated many of the magistrates at his house’. Furthermore, he had sought to neutralize the Rushout interest
by the strategem of kicking me [Rushout] upstairs, it being industriously spread by some of his friends and I believe for his sake that I am to stand for the county that so I may be forgotten at Evesham where it seems granted I may be chosen.
This highlighted Rushout’s dilemma: he was loath to intervene in the county if his cousin, William Bromley I*, stood there instead of at Worcester (which he chose to do). The other possible candidates mooted at the beginning of August, Hon. Thomas Windsor*, an army officer and half-brother to the Earl of Plymouth, and Sir Edward Dineley of Charlton, a nearby squire, failed to materialize, leaving Parker as the solitary Tory. Rushout, on the other hand, was joined by his nephew, Sir Rushout Cullen, 3rd Bt.* (whose father, Abraham, a London merchant, had been elected on the same interest in 1661). However, the long campaign by Parker bore fruit, as he was able to use his influence with the mayor to prolong the poll to his advantage. He could also count upon the single votes of such Tory stalwarts as Sir John Pakington, 4th Bt.*, Dineley and Sir Thomas Haslewood (who held land at Bengeworth, within the boundaries of Evesham). Rushout complained of ‘foul play’, noting that there would be sufficient evidence to void the election, but also questioning whether it would be worthwhile as there was little prospect ‘of playing our game better next time’. Possibly this lack of enthusiasm explains why the resultant election petition never emerged from committee.5
Rushout’s death precipitated a by-election: a straight contest between John Rudge (a merchant like his father, but also a financier), and Hon. Thomas Windsor. The victory of Rudge maintained the balance of parliamentary representation in the borough between Whig and Tory. He was also returned with Parker (now a baronet) at the general election of 1698, Windsor again being defeated. The election of January 1701 saw the re-emergence of the Rushout interest, which had been temporarily in abeyance after the death of the first baronet. The second baronet, in combination with Rudge, proved too potent for Parker who desisted before the poll. In another reversal of fortune Parker’s eldest son, Hugh, was able to mount an effective challenge to Rudge in November 1701, possibly with the tacit support of Rushout, who ‘has undoubtedly the best interest’. Conversely, Rudge had ‘considerably (as ’tis said) lost his interest by falling out with some of his relatives there about money matters’. By the general election of 1702 the situation had again changed, with Rushout ‘turned out’ by Parker and Rudge. Rushout did not contest the election of 1705 and his death in the same year, leaving a minor as the heir, left the family interest in eclipse until the second baronet’s brother, Sir John Rushout, 4th Bt.*, re-established it in 1722. Parker and Rudge were now in a strong position. The Whigs did challenge Parker, a Tacker, in 1705 by setting up Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.* Cocks had local connexions, but clearly not the entrenched political interest of the two sitting Members. Although Defoe witnessed ‘a great contest’ and ‘a great deal of foul play’, Cocks was unsuccessful.6
By 1708, another interest based on local landownership had been revived to such an extent that it was able to secure a seat. It belonged to Sir Edward Goodere, 1st Bt. (whose father had made a fortune in the Indian trade), who had married Sir Edward Dineley’s heiress and upon his death was able to take control of the Charlton estate. His appearance seems to have caused Parker’s withdrawal from politics. The other man elected was John Rudge, the only defeated candidate being John Deacle, either the wealthy London woollen draper, founder of Evesham’s free school and native of Bengeworth, or else his namesake, nephew and heir, who sat for the borough between 1715 and 1722. Although Dr Sacheverell played a significant role in stirring up passions in Worcestershire during the summer of 1710, the political effect of his short visit to Evesham in July was probably negative, in that it deterred men of Deacle’s stamp (the nephew had succeeded his father and was a Nonconformist) from entering the lists. It certainly did not dislodge Rudge or Goodere. By 1713 Goodere’s support for the Court had identified him much more strongly with the Tories, and this may account for Rushout’s abortive challenge. Only in 1715 was Goodere ousted by the Whigs.7
Author: Stuart Handley
- 1. W. A. Speck, Tory and Whig, 130.
- 2. W.L. Sachse, Ld. Somers, 140.
- 3. VCH Worcs. ii. 379; J. R. Jones, First Whigs, 198n; Barré thesis, 195–6.
- 4. Add. 70014, ff. 291–2; Hereford and Worcs. RO (Worcester, St. Helen’s), Northwick mss 705: 66/BA4231/6/ii, Rushout to Martin, 28 Jan. 1689[–90]; G. May, Hist. Evesham, 271; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 13, f. 259; Surr. RO (Guildford), Midleton mss 1248/1, f. 232.
- 5. Bodl. Ballard 35, f. 48; Surr. RO (Kingston), Somers mss 371/14/J4–7, Rushout to [Somers], 3, 10 Aug., 28 Oct., 3 Nov. 1695; Add. 70018, f. 85; May, 401.
- 6. Add. 29579, ff. 248, 405; Somers mss 371/14/B20, Walsh to Somers, 26 Oct. 1701; HMC Portland, iv. 84, 271.
- 7. HMC Portland, 550; Ballard 21, f. 226.