Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the inhabitants paying scot and lot1

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

about 410


11 Mar. 1690WILLIAM DIGBY, Baron Digby [I] 
 Richard Booth 
 James Booth 
29 Oct. 1695WILLIAM DIGBY, Baron Digby [I] 
 Sir George Rooke 
4 Dec. 1699HON. ALGERNON GREVILLE vice Greville, deceased 
 Sir Thomas Wagstaffe64
 George Lucy1152
 Sir John Burgoyne, Bt. 
 Roger Burgoyne 
13 Dec. 1710HON. CHARLES LEIGH vice Francis Greville, deceased 
 Hon. Algernon Greville 

Main Article

Despite its large and potentially independent electorate, Warwick during the 1690s and 1700s continued to lie under the personal influence of the 5th Lord Brooke (Fulke Greville†). His principal seat was the Castle, which overlooked the borough, and from this vantage point he tended an interest which stemmed jointly from his position as recorder and from his ownership of much property within the town limits, the extent of which is revealed in an estate account for 1686 showing a rent roll totalling £695. In the former capacity he was almost certainly closely involved in the lengthy process of securing the restoration of the borough’s old charter revoked by James II in August 1688. The replacement charter establishing a predominantly Catholic corporation was never issued, and in the ensuing breakdown of law and order in the town the members of the ‘displaced’ corporate body headed by Brooke resumed their former positions and powers on 13 Dec. 1688. Though highly uncertain still of their exact legal status, they expected to have their position clarified by a ‘general act’ in the Convention Parliament. When this failed to materialize, the corporation petitioned King William in 1690 for a new charter. Further delay resulted in another request in the autumn of 1691. The new petition stressed that unable to bear the continuing uncertainty of their situation the corporation members had from 13 Sept. ceased to act, since which time the town had slid once more into disorder. A warrant for incorporation was finally issued in June 1692, but it was not until April 1693 that the new charter was issued. It is not clear how the town was governed in the interim, though Brooke featured prominently in its administrative affairs. In the post-Revolution confusion a trust had been set up to manage the corporation’s finances and leases, with Brooke as its leading member. It continued its functions long after the borough had been properly re-incorporated and only went into decline after Brooke’s death in 1710. Thus by the time of its re-establishment the corporation’s obligations towards Brooke had increased, and through the cultivation of this suzerainty he was at most elections able to procure the return of combinations of his brood of sons and close protégés.3

In 1690 the sitting Members Lord Digby and William Colemore I were returned at a contested election. Digby was distantly connected to Brooke through his marriage to a sister of the 2nd Earl of Gainsborough (Wriothesley Baptist Noel†), the husband of Brooke’s eldest daughter. As a wealthy townsman and alderman, Colemore appears to have been the corporation’s favoured candidate, but it is clear he was also, or soon became, well regarded by Brooke. Their opponents were a father and son pair, Richard† and James Booth, of a minor gentry family. In their petition, presented on 24 Mar. 1690, they implicitly disputed restriction of the franchise to payers of scot and lot, maintaining they had been elected ‘by a majority of freemen and householders’, but there were no subsequent proceedings. It was not until 1723 that the scot and lot franchise was seriously disputed before the committee of elections. According to testimony heard on this occasion improperly qualified inhabitants often came forward to poll, but the usual practice was for their names to be checked against the rate books which were used as a register of voters. On 5 Sept. 1694 the centre of Warwick was substantially destroyed by fire including its main streets and many principal buildings. An early estimate put the damage to 460 houses at £120,000. The task of reconstruction dominated town affairs for years afterwards and not surprisingly Brooke was very much at the forefront of this activity. The day after the conflagration he convened an ad hoc committee of town worthies ‘to consider ways and means to relieve the sufferers’, and opened up a subscription with his own contribution of £40. Digby obtained an Act early in 1695 for rebuilding the town and for empanelling a set of ‘commissioners or judges’, with Brooke heading the list, to monitor and regulate reconstruction and to adjudicate in cases of dispute. The commission continued to meet until 1704 when it was finally wound up. The town’s gratitude to Digby for procuring legislation so speedily almost certainly guaranteed his automatic re-election. The susceptibility of the corporation to influence from the Castle, as the town struggled to recover from disaster, seems to have enabled Brooke to negotiate Colemore’s withdrawal, thereby providing an easy entrée for his eldest son, Hon. Francis Greville.4

Following news of the plot to assassinate the King early in 1696 the Association was unanimously welcomed in the borough and was subscribed by the mayor, aldermen and burgesses, ‘and all the male inhabitants of 16 years and upwards within the said borough except two papists and two Quakers’. The document was presented at Kensington on 29 Mar., but as the Duke of Shrewsbury informed Brooke by letter on the 28th, the King had already expressed particular satisfaction with the borough’s impressive display of loyalty. Digby, however, had emerged as a committed opponent of the Association and in the summer resigned from the county lieutenancy. By the time of the 1698 election there was evidently no question of his putting up and he took no steps to retain his seat. Brooke nominated his second son, Hon. Robert Greville, and, as his second candidate in place of Digby, Admiral Sir George Rooke*. Both were supported by the mayor and aldermen, but the assistant burgesses, leading an ‘independent party’ and apparently resenting the consolidation of Brooke’s influence, put forward their own choice of candidate, Sir Thomas Wagstaffe, a mild Tory, whose country seat was a short distance from the borough. The election was fought through to a contest and the strength of feeling in the town was sufficiently weighted against Brooke for Wagstaffe to succeed in defeating Rooke. This rebuff was said to have prompted Brooke as recorder to suppress ‘arbitrarily and corruptly’ the assistant burgesses, who comprised the corporation’s common council or ‘second company’, but in fact they were only very gradually removed from the corporate body after 1698, and aldermen continued to be chosen from their number until 1704. The development none the less turned the corporation into an increasingly oligarchic body which invariably deferred to the Greville family. On news of Robert Greville’s death in July 1699 one of the corporation hastened to Bath to present Brooke with a ‘paper of subscriptions’, presumably asking him to nominate a successor. In due course Brooke’s next surviving son, Hon. Algernon Greville, a naval officer, was returned unchallenged. By the beginning of December 1700 there was ‘great talk’ in and around Warwick of an imminent dissolution of Parliament. Lady Wagstaffe reported to her daughter the widespread belief among her husband’s supporters that Brooke and Greville would ‘do their utmost to cast him out’. However, several leading peers and gentry, including the Whig 2nd Earl of Coventry and even the Tory lords Willoughby de Broke (Richard Verney†) and Leigh, seem to have taken exception to the prospect of Brooke’s growing control over the town’s representation in addition to the influence he already had there, and staged ‘a great entertainment’ specifically to broadcast their support for Wagstaffe. Though invited, wrote Lady Wagstaffe, few of the corporation had the temerity to attend:

those that did they told them they came to encourage their choosing (but not to press them) Mr Wagstaffe [Sir Thomas] for they was sure they would not have any one to serve them more faithfully. They replied that all the town was of that mind, but some durst not own it, but there would be enough to secure him for one of the burgesses.

The rising tide of popular discontent with the furtherance of Castle influence was at odds with aldermanic deference towards Brooke. But in the face of certain adversity Brooke prudently avoided forcing a contest. A return was therefore made of his eldest son Francis, and of Wagstaffe.5

The second election of 1701 was conducted in markedly different circumstances. In November the corporation, in total disregard of the sentiments of both town and local gentry, asked Brooke to nominate to both borough seats. His reply, just four days before the election was due, was a model of carefully poised courtesy, and, since it gives the full sense of his relationship with the corporation, is worth quoting in full:

I have your obliging letter intimating your intention to give my two sons your votes for burgesses to represent you in the Parliament to be called. If the town shall think fit to make choice of them I hope they will do their utmost to serve their country, as becomes true Englishmen, in endeavouring to preserve the established government, our religion, laws and liberties in this dangerous and critical juncture.
I can’t, gentlemen, but take this free offer of yours very kindly, and am very much pleased to find myself not forgot by those for whom I have ever had a cordial and sincere respect and whose interest (however I have been misrepresented) I have and shall constantly advance and promote. I am your loving friend, Brooke.

He had obviously not forgotten the wounding criticisms thrown at him at the beginning of the year, and the letter’s tenor seems to suggest that it had not been his own intention to broach the subject of the election. One commentator afterwards noted that Wagstaffe had been ‘turned out’, but it remains unclear whether he had in fact declined standing, or whether he stood a poll and was defeated. Brooke showed his delight and appreciation at the new turn of events by entertaining the mayor, aldermen and local gentry to a dinner at the Castle costing 3s. 6d. a head, and to no fewer than 390 electors, almost the whole of Warwick’s electorate, he gave 2s. each to treat themselves. Little is known about the 1702 election except that it was contested by Wagstaffe in conjunction with George Lucy, the Whig squire of Charlecote. The polls for the defeated candidates indicate the continuing existence of a sizable body of feeling against the Greville domination of both seats.6

In 1705 electioneering began in February, well in advance of the poll. Initially Lucy intended to stand, going so far as to enlist the support of the Earl of Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), but soon deferred to Sir John Burgoyne, 3rd Bt., of Wroxall Abbey, a man of Whiggish mind, in whom he found ‘some inclination’ to serve. Thereupon, Lucy transferred his sights to a county seat but continued assiduously to support the Whig efforts in the borough. An early house-to-house canvass conducted by Lucy and Burgoyne revealed that ‘the general opinion of the town [is] that Sir Burgoyne will put out one of the two Mr Grevilles’. A few days later, on 25 Feb., Lucy reported further that ‘the chief of the town have sent to my Lord Brooke to persuade him to content himself with the choice of one of his sons, since I am satisfied we have obtained promises of above two thirds of the voices’. About two weeks passed during which the Greville interest ‘lay very quiet’, but on 7 Mar., a week before the prorogation of Parliament, Brooke’s ‘friends’ set up his sons Francis and Dodington. According to Lucy they ‘did endeavour to advance that interest by paying ready money to the electors, [that is] a crown for the two and half a crown for one vote, and this was done publicly without their apprehension of it bordering on bribery’. Lucy seems to have believed that his own manner of netting votes, by offering ‘sealed tickets’ redeemable at public houses, was perfectly innocent. He calculated optimistically that if electors kept their promises Burgoyne would win comfortably. At the poll held in May Burgoyne and his son stood jointly but were outmatched by the Greville brothers; the actual result has not been found. The elder Burgoyne petitioned on 14 Nov., as did separately a group of aggrieved electors, alleging that many persons properly entitled to vote were debarred and that the Grevilles had secured return through ‘illegal practices’. No report on the case was made, however. At the next two elections the Greville paramountcy did not have to contend with any challengers. In 1708 Francis Greville’s total election outlay amounted to a modest £65, though it is not inconceivable that his father laid on his own election hospitality. In June 1710 the corporation received and lavishly hosted Dr Sacheverell, and the euphoric Tory mood was a deterrent to any Whig aspirations. Within days of the return being made for the old Members, however, the Greville interest suffered a double blow. Francis died suddenly of apoplexy and was followed to the grave by his father. Brooke’s death unleashed sources of criticism within the corporate body which had evidently remained in check while he was alive. They now set about regaining control over the town’s finances and property, previously administered by trust under Brooke’s firm hand, arguing that ‘they were not children, but could manage their own estate’. This new assertiveness among the corporate body was almost certainly a primary factor in the defeat of Algernon Greville at the December by-election. The victor was the moderate Tory Hon. Charles Leigh, a brother of the local peer, Lord Leigh, who had succeeded his father only the previous month. Greville’s petition accused Leigh of bribery and treating after the teste, but no report was forthcoming. Before the next election, however, it seems that Leigh’s credit with the town chiefs tumbled owing to his reported disagreement in January 1712 with a motion censuring the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) for accepting money from bread contractors. William Bromley II* believed that Leigh’s ‘interest’ was thereby damaged beyond retrieval and in 1713 he took no steps to retain his seat. Dodington Greville was appointed to the borough’s recordership in succession to his father and appears also to have taken over supervision of the family interests in Warwick during the minorities and absences of his nephews, the next two holders of the Brooke barony. In 1713, however, there was no Greville attempt to nominate for the second seat, but neither, at least initially, did the corporation make clear its own preferences. Early in August there was a line-up of three candidates, each standing ‘singly’: Dodington Greville, William Colemore II, whose father had represented the town during William III’s reign, and one William Stoughton. Their progress was commented upon by a visiting Tory:

the first is right, the second not proved, and the last known to be a little pragmatical Whig and spends too freely. Lord Brooke is come to Warwick to try his utmost for Greville . . . They all spend freely and Lord Brooke keeps open house, promising to make that his constant residence when at age; notwithstanding which ’tis yet dubious how the corporation inclines.

Stoughton later desisted, leaving Greville and Colemore to take the seats unopposed. However, as the contested 1715 election would show, there continued to be in the intervening two years an active, if diminished, Whig minority in the town.7

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. CJ, xx.113-14.
  • 2. Post Boy, 25–27 July 1702.
  • 3. Warws. RO, Warwick Castle mss CR1886/Box 412, ‘accompts. 1686’; VCH Warws. viii. 498; CSP Dom. 1687–9, pp. 261, 265, 271; 1690–1, p. 197; 1691–2, pp. 22, 313; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lix. 16, 39, 59–60.
  • 4. Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. 50; HMC Portland, iii. 555; Warws. Recs. ix. p. xxix; Bodl. Ballard 25, f. 20.
  • 5. Warws. Recs. ix. p.xxv; CSP Dom. 1696, p. 103; J. Parkes, Governing Charter of the Bor. of Warwick, 59; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. 40–43, 54; VCH Warws. 499; Warws. RO, Warwick bor. recs. CR1618/W13/5, accts. 1693–1728; Wm. Salt Lib. Stafford, Bagot mss 141/5/11/60, 12/60, Lady Wagstaffe to Lady Bagot, 2 Dec. [1700], [Dec. 1700].
  • 6. Warwick bor. recs. CR1618/W21/3, ct. order bk. 1696–1720 (enclosure 2), Brooke to the corpn., 20 Nov. 1701; Add. 24475, f.134v; VCH Warws. 499 n.59; Warws. RO, Mordaunt of Walton Hall mss CR1368/iii/9, Sir John Mordaunt, 5th Bt.*, to Bromley, 4 July 1702 [draft]; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. 54.
  • 7. Add. 61496, ff.84–87; Mordaunt mss CR1368/iii/60, Sir Charles Holte, 3rd Bt.†, to Mordaunt, 7 Nov. 1705; Stanhope, Reign of Anne, 417; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. 60; Speck thesis, 56; HMC Portland, v. 209; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/55, Sir Thomas Cave, 3rd Bt.*, to Ld. Fermanagh (John Verney*), 6 Aug. 1713.