Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 2,000


17 Feb. 1715ALGERNON SEYMOUR, Earl of Hertford 
2 Feb. 1716FRANCIS BLAKE DELAVAL vice Forster, expelled the House832
 Oley Douglas809
5 Apr. 1722ALGERNON SEYMOUR, Earl of Hertford 
20 Feb. 1723WILLIAM WRIGHTSON vice Hertford, called to the Upper House997
 Ralph Jenison963
 JENISON vice Wrightson, on petition, 16 Apr. 1724 
16 May 1734RALPH JENISON1189
 John Fenwick1052
 William Bacon153
7 July 1737JENISON re-elected after appointment to office 
18 Feb. 1748CHARLES BENNET, Lord Ossulston972
 Lancelot Allgood983
 ALLGOOD vice Ossulston, on petition, 14 Feb. 1749 

Main Article

In 1715 Lord Hertford, the Duke of Somerset’s son, a Whig, and Thomas Forster, a Tory, both of whom had held their seats since 1708, were re-elected without opposition. The chief Whigs in the county were the Duke of Somerset, through his marriage to the heiress of the Percy estates; the Earls of Carlisle and Tankerville; and the Liddells. The chief Tories were the Earl of Derwentwater, the Forsters, and the Blacketts, all of whom were Jacobites. There were many Presbyterians, especially among the farmers, who supported the Whigs; and a large and influential Roman Catholic element, who supported the Tories.

The Northumberland Tories were weakened by the 1715 rebellion and its aftermath, the execution of Lord Derwentwater, the forfeiture of his estates, the outlawry of Thomas Forster, and the ensuing recriminations between families who had participated in the rising and those who had not. On Forster’s expulsion from the House of Commons in 1716 his seat was won by a government supporter; at a by-election in 1723, on which the Whigs were said to have spent £8,000,1 a Tory was returned, only to be unseated on petition; and at the general elections of 1722 and 1727 two government supporters were returned without opposition.

In the thirties the government interest was weakened by the defection of the Duke of Somerset, followed by the succession of Lord Morpeth, an opposition Whig, to the earldom of Carlisle in 1738. At the general election of 1734 the sitting Whig members, Sir William Middleton and Ralph Jenison, were opposed by two Tories, John Fenwick and William Bacon. On 29 May 1733 George Liddell reported to Walpole:

In Northumberland, the Tories give out that Mr. Fenwick has got the Duke of Somerset’s interest; if he has it will be a strong contest, and will be entirely in the high sheriff’s [John Reed of Bellingham] power to cast the scale in his favour. But he seems to be well inclined to Sir William Middleton, and I hope we may be able to reconcile him to Mr. Jenison ... He has 140 or 150 votes, and most of them the single; which is more than the great Duke [of Somerset] can command. His interest used always to go with the Tories, and they are very angry at him, that he will not engage with them now ... if this election can be carried without a struggle, I hope the county elections may be peaceable for many years.2

The Whigs were returned after a contest so ruinously expensive that in 1741 both sides agreed to compromise the election, at which Middleton and Fenwick were returned unopposed.

At the general election of 1747 Lord Tankerville, lord lieutenant of Northumberland, proposed to put up his son, Lord Ossulston, as the second government candidate. But when Parliament was dissolved, Sir Henry Liddell wrote to Newcastle, 9 June 1747:

No public motion had been made by his Lordship, to declare his intention for Lord Ossulston, and indeed almost as little done in private, to come at a guess of the sense of the county, so that ... this affair which ought now to be near the end of its course, is yet to start ... I dont know whether the point might not be carried, but as the event is uncertain and the experiment will be very expensive, his Lordship only is proper to decide whether he should risk the trial. If his Lordship does proceed, the interest he has to depend on must be in earnest, and I hope will be so.

Tankerville himself complained on the same day that

the immediate dissolution of the Parliament will be of disservice to me, instead of helping me, as the Tory interest joined with the Duke of Somerset’s, and Lord Carlisle’s, is already in great measure formed and I have not had time to break in upon it.3

In the end he temporarily abandoned the project,4leaving Middleton and Fenwick to be re-elected without opposition.

On Fenwick’s death in 1748 Ossulston stood against Lancelot Allgood, a Tory of the highest standing in the county, who had taken an active part against the Jacobites in the rebellion of 1745.

We have a strong opposition for Allgood [Tankerville wrote to Newcastle, 21 Jan. 1748], Mr. Blackett is the sole occasion of it. The corporation is to a man against me, notwithstanding the great zeal that appeared in them at the late rebellion; in short ’tis made a Jacobite cause, for the Roman Catholics publicly interest themselves for him and publicly do all they can ... ’Twill be a very expensive election and will cost to be sure both sides a great deal of money. I hope your Grace has not forgot the Quakers company ... I hear some of them are at work against us.5

Allgood was supported by the Duke of Somerset, while even government supporters felt that to oppose him might lead to

a reuniting of the Jacobites and Tories whom the latter at the time of the rebellion separated themselves from, and which separation, I hoped, would continue and bring the moderate part of them over to us, if we show a reasonable moderation on our side and a readiness to receive them.6

At the close of the poll Allgood had a majority of 11, but the sheriff rejected 27 of his votes, returning Ossulston, who, however, on a petition, ‘yielded his seat in the House of Commons to Mr. Allgood in order to save the sheriff’.7

Sir Hugh Smithson’s succession to the Percy estates and earldom of Northumberland in 1750 marked the end of the alliance between opposition Whigs and Tories in the county, enabling Henry Pelham to predict that it would henceforth be ‘impossible for any one man to break the Whig interest united, as it is now, under Lord Northumberland.’8

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Bean, Parl. Rep. Six Northern Counties, 474.
  • 2. Cholmondeley (Houghton) mss.
  • 3. Add. 32711, ff.275, 273.
  • 4. See under NORTHUMBERLAND and BENNET, Charles, Lord Ossulston.
  • 5. Add. 32714, f.1.
  • 6. Somerset to Frederick, Prince of Wales, 13 Jan. 1748, Royal archives, Windsor; E. Hughes, N. Country Life in 18th Cent. 266.
  • 7. Tankerville to Newcastle, 28 Feb. 1748, Add. 32714, f.278; Wm. Sturrock to Lady Hertford, 24 Dec. 1748, Northumberland mss in BM.
  • 8. To Newcastle, 20 July 1753, Add. 32732, ff.322-3.