Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
‘in the 12 aldermen, the 25 common councillors and the rest of the sworn burgesses at large’1
Estimated number qualified to vote:
Number of voters:
16 in 18263
4,820 (1821); 5,253 (1831)4
|8 Mar. 1820||EDWARD HERBERT, Visct. Clive|
|HON. ROBERT HENRY CLIVE|
|9 June 1826||EDWARD HERBERT, Visct. Clive||14|
|HON. ROBERT HENRY CLIVE||14|
|Edmund Lechmere Charlton||3|
|31 July 1830||EDWARD HERBERT, Visct. Clive|
|HON. ROBERT HENRY CLIVE|
|29 Apr. 1831||EDWARD HERBERT, Visct. Clive|
|HON. ROBERT HENRY CLIVE|
Ludlow, the former seat of the council of the Marches, was a castellated town overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Corve and Teme, 24 miles north of Hereford and 25 south of Shrewsbury on the Herefordshire-Shropshire border. Its principal industry, glove making, was in decline.5 The borough had not polled since the Oakly Park interest, held by the Herberts and Clives, began its long ascendancy in 1727, and representation was generally reserved for their family members and close connections. In 1806 Richard Payne Knight of nearby Downton Castle had been obliged to make way for the borough’s patron and recorder the 1st earl of Powis’s heir Lord Clive. Powis’s second son Robert was substituted in 1818 for their kinsman, the home office under-secretary Henry Clive*.6 The Clives retained both seats until 1832 notwithstanding extensive litigation, a contest in 1826 and hostile petitions, all aimed at undermining their ability to control the corporation and burgess admissions.7 Opposition emanated from disaffected corporators and residents excluded from the corporation and the franchise, who, to promote their cause, looked to local families of rank who had previously shared in the representation, namely Charlton of Ludford, Cornewall of Delbury, Knight of Downton and Salwey of Overton. Powis also courted their support by admitting them to the corporation of 12 aldermen and 25 common burgesses alongside his relations and members of the Acton, Baugh, Hodson, Prodgers, Rogers, Russell, Vashon and Wellings families, prominent locally in banking, the church and the law. Common burgesses who became aldermen served, almost by rotation, as high and low bailiffs (returning officers) and shared an annual income of £817 8s.8
In November 1813, and acting though the St. Lawrence parish vestry, opponents of the Clives had instigated proceedings against Powis and the corporation for demolishing St. Lawrence’s chapel in breach of the terms of Foxe’s charity of 1590. Chancery ruled in their favour, 17 Nov. 1815, and on 9 Feb. 1819 the master of the rolls Sir Thomas Plumer† directed ‘the bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty of Ludlow’ to convey the charity estate to new trustees and to contribute £1,200 towards the erection of a new chapel. The corporation rejected the trustees nominated by the vestry, and their appeal to the Lords against the ruling was still pending at the dissolution following the death of George III. (Plumer’s judgment was confirmed, 12 Sept. 1821.)9 Meanwhile the anti-Clive faction planned litigation that exploited anomalies in and possible breaches of the borough charters: the poor definition of the borough boundaries, particularly relating to Ludford; the admission of ‘strangers’ to the corporation, and Powis’s appointment as recorder, an office supposedly reserved for an ‘able lawyer’. They also hoped to revive the question of the franchise, for legal assurance obtained by Powis confirming the validity of non-resident votes when opposition was threatened in 1802 remained untested.10 Excluding 12 creations in 1829, most of the 141 freemen sworn between 1800 and 1831 were non-residents whose petitions for admission by birth, by marriage to a freeman’s daughter or by gift were accepted by the corporation.11
In 1820 the radical Edmund Lechmere Charlton† of Ludford, who had recently displayed largesse, was expected to stand on the ‘independent’ or anti-Clive interest. He estimated the electorate at only 51 (12 aldermen, 21 common burgesses and 18 resident burgesses) and ‘had very confident hopes of success, if not the first time, certainly the second’.12 Powis again sought counsel’s opinion and Lechmere Charlton desisted following negotiations with another disaffected common burgess, Edward Rogers* of Stanage Park, whose candidature for Bishop’s Castle Powis now endorsed, and the Clives, whose joint notices made no statement of policy, were quietly returned.13 They sponsored the Ludlow and Woofferton roads bills, which received royal assent, 22 June 1820.14 That summer, dissatisfaction with them as Tory ministerialists merged with strong popular support for Queen Caroline, who, according to the Grenvillite leader in the Commons Charles Williams Wynn, replied to a loyal address from Ludlow ‘which she discovers’ to have been ‘the regal seat of the Principality [Wales]’ as to a ‘Dissertatio de Bardis who are invited to sing her woes to every mountain and vale and torrent’. After her prosecution was abandoned, Lechmere Charlton and his political allies William Bach, Edward Hodson, Witney and Edward Wellings illuminated their properties and the inhabitants petitioned the Commons objecting to her treatment and for the restoration of her name to the liturgy, 26 Jan. 1821.15 A new paving bill, introduced by Rogers, 16 Feb., was abandoned in April 1821, after 600 burgesses petitioned against the attendant enclosure of Whitcliffe Common by Charlton and the Clives, through which it was to be financed.16 Robert Clive moved the 1822 address and, ignoring a personal appeal by Lord Clive, a public meeting addressed by Lechmere Charlton and Knight’s brother and heir, the horticulturist and radical Thomas Andrew Knight of Downton Castle, 1 Mar. 1822, petitioned protesting at the inadequacy of the government’s proposals to alleviate distress.17 The anti-Clive party had not responded to Powis and the corporation’s appeal to the Lords to have the orders of 1815 and 1817 reversed, and Lechmere Charlton’s negotiations with Lord Clive that month, for which the radical Whig Henry Grey Bennet* and the secretary at war Lord Palmerston* were the intermediaries, failed to secure a lasting compromise.18 The Ludlow and Severn railroad scheme, promoted by Knight and the Clives, had to be abandoned in February 1825 after Prodgers’ Bank foundered.19 It paid 6s. in the pound on debts totalling £161,681 in December 1825, but difficulties were compounded by the failure in March 1826 of the Ludlow Old Bank of Coleman and Wellings, whose liabilities extended to the Leominster bank and were subject to lengthy chancery proceedings.20 In April 1826 Robert Clive secured concessions for the borough on excise and revenue collection.21
Clive control of the corporation was confirmed by the appointment as bailiffs in October 1825 of Rogers and the bishop of Worcester’s heir Frederick Cornewall of Delbury, Powis’s Member for Bishop’s Castle, 1830-2. Lechmere Charlton, who with Knight failed to carry a resolution extending burgess status to the tradesmen, 28 Oct. 1825, spent almost £600 on publicizing their cause. They were strongly supported by the Hereford Independent, the voice of the anti-corporation parties in Hereford, Ludlow and Monmouth, but in May 1826 it became a casualty of the temporary collapse of the Whig Hereford City and County Bank of Bodenham, Jay, Cusack and Company.22 Lechmere Charlton, who was belatedly training as a barrister, tried to remove non-resident burgesses from the corporation through quo warranto actions in king’s bench, but Knight, with whom he engaged in acrimonious exchanges in the Hereford papers, still sought to reform the corporation from within, preferably with Powis’s co-operation or through chancery.23 Meanwhile the corporation’s appeal to the Lords languished.24 When quo warranto proceedings against Knight’s son and John Salwey as non-residents failed shortly before the dissolution in 1826, Lechmere Charlton resolved to test the franchise in a contest against the Clives fought entirely on local issues. His addresses stressed his family’s long association with Ludlow and the claim of the inhabitant householders to vote and were countered by notices from the Clives opposing ‘all innovations’. Thirty-two freemen (from 58 applicants) had been admitted since 1820.25 Knight and Admiral James Vashon nominated the Clives. Lechmere Charlton, who immediately ‘entered his protest to the mode of proceeding, the precept not being delivered legally’, was proposed by the Rev. Richard Sprott Corbet and seconded by William Gardner. Lechmere Charlton and Robert Clive received 15 votes each and Lord Clive 14, but the votes of one resident householder for Robert Clive and of 12 for Charlton were rejected. The short poll was ‘closed by agreement’ and the Clives entertained 300 in the town hall. Lechmere Charlton dined his supporters at the Charlton Arms and promised to petition.26
By the time his petition was presented, 5 Dec. 1826, Lechmere Charlton had ‘resumed the turf’, repaired to his residence at Down House, near Epsom, and fought a duel with Rogers, who resented his criticism of the corporation.27 The petition alleged that as Ludlow lay in both Herefordshire and Shropshire the election had been illegally called before a precept from Hereford was received, and claimed that Cornewall and Rogers had rejected legal votes in order to provide a majority for the Clives. Before it was considered, 1 May 1827, the Lords reversed their judgment in the St. Lawrence Chapel case, 26 Feb., and Lechmere Charlton published his acrimonious correspondence with Powis in the local press.28 Conducting his own case, Lechmere Charlton cited the Commons rulings of 1661 and 1690, which held the right of election to be ‘in all the resident common burgesses, as well as the twelve and the five-and-twenty, being inhabitant householders’. The Clives relied on that of 1698, vesting it ‘in the twelve aldermen, the twenty-five common councilmen and the rest of the sworn burgesses at large’. The committee, chaired by the Tory Thomas Wood, examined maps and copies of the charters, found for the Clives, and confirmed their election and that the franchise was legitimately vested in the burgesses at large, 8 May.29 A petition from Lechmere Charlton claiming that the committee had failed to report on his allegation of a void election was presented but withdrawn, 14 May 1827.30 His supporters at the Crown Inn, Ludlow, 5 Oct. 1827, resolved to petition further, and on the 13th the corporation, acting on counsel’s opinion of William Elias Taunton, 26 Oct. 1826, ‘that the body corporate had a clear right to take from the bailiffs any part or the whole’ of the borough revenues, resolved to restrict the bailiff’s allowance to £100.31 Pro and anti-Clive declarations were published and circulated for signature and Lechmere Charlton instigated fresh quo warranto proceedings against Knight, Salwey and Powis’s son-in-law Sir Watkin Williams Wynn* as non-resident burgesses.32 He also exploited Powis’s uncertain allegiance to the Canning and Goderich ministries by announcing in December 1827:
Of the politics of my opponents, if by politics is meant parliamentary conduct, I do not complain; and for the most simple reason, because I know not to which side they belong. Nay, I believe it would not be difficult to prove that they have, at this critical juncture, for some reason or other best known to themselves, promised their support to both parties.33
His petition against the 1827 Commons ruling was presented, 11 Feb., and considered, 22 Apr. 1828, with a counter-petition from three non-resident burgesses, William Lacon Childe*, his father-in-law William Cludde of Orleton and Rogers’s brother-in-law, Benjamin Brown of Clapham. Their claim that the right of election was in the corporation and freemen was upheld, 24 Apr.34 Lechmere Charlton’s petition accusing the corporation of the misappropriation of funds and seeking financial redress had to be withdrawn on submission because it invoked the Lords judgment in the St. Leonard’s chapel case, 21 Apr., but his public altercations with the Clives continued.35 The Commons received petitions from Ludlow for repeal of the 1827 Malt Act, 27 Feb., and protection for the depressed glove trade, 30 June 1828.36 Others against the concession of Catholic emancipation in 1829, which the Clives favoured and Lechmere Charton opposed, were received by the Commons, 9 Mar. King’s bench ruled on 19 May 1829 that Salwey was not disqualified by non-residence from holding corporate office, and by June 1829 a local campaign for further turnpike legislation was under way.37 The tradesmen petitioned the corporation for protection from unfair competition from market and street-traders, 16 July 1830.38 At Ludlow shortly before the nomination at the general election that month, Charles Williams Wynn and the privy council secretary Charles Greville persuaded Lechmere Charlton to stand down and to refrain from intervening in corporation elections. He in turn received £1,125 towards his litigation costs and a promise that Lord Clive would not oppose inquiry into the disputed franchise.39
Although they no longer considered the duke’s hard line against parliamentary reform appropriate, the Clives divided with the Wellington administration when they were brought down on the civil list, 15 Nov. 1830. Both houses received petitions from the bailiff, burgesses and inhabitants for decisive and effective measures to secure the abolition of colonial slavery, 14, 15 Apr. 1831.40 Lechmere Charlton and Knight advocated reform at meetings throughout Herefordshire and Shropshire in the winter of 1830-1, and 300 attended that in Ludlow, 22 Jan. 1831, when in Lechmere Charlton’s absence (on account of a family bereavement) a petition proposed by the attorney George Anderson for reform, including the enfranchisement of large towns, the ballot, triennial parliaments and ‘the enactment of such new law or laws as shall seem meet or proper for restoring or extending the right of election to the householders of the borough ... paying taxes and poor rates’, was adopted and sent to both Houses.41 The Ludlow reform meeting of 12 Mar. spared little time for Lechmere Charlton’s resolutions for reform of tithes and the corporation, preferring the simple declaration of support for the Grey ministry’s bill proposed by Anderson, which the Commons received, 19 Mar.42 The Clives divided against the measure, whose successful second reading was celebrated ‘by a snug little party’ at the Crown Inn, 30 Mar., and their explanatory address to the electors at the dissolution precipitated by its defeat, 19 Apr., made no mention of local concerns. Edward Romilly†, an ardent reformer and son of the former Whig solicitor-general Sir Samuel Romilly†, arrived to canvass, but a contest was deemed futile. Accordingly, two chimney sweeps, ‘sweeping reformers’ with blackened faces, were nominated ‘knights of the soot bag’ and chaired with the Clives on election day.43 Local newspapers were informed that the number of resident burgesses had dwindled to 35.44 The Tories dined at the Bowling Green Inn, Whitcliffe, to celebrate the Clives’ return and the reformers sent a delegation to the county reform dinner in Shrewsbury, 1 June 1831.45
The Clives sponsored the Ludlow roads bill, which received royal assent, 2 Aug. 1831, and opposed the reintroduced reform bill.46 The burgesses and inhabitant householders petitioned the Lords urging its passage, 30 Sept., 3 Oct. 1831, and following its defeat that month, 1,500 of them signed an address requesting the king to promote it and to retain his ministers.47 Knight now publicly resigned from the corporation, stating that he had become a member as a family friend, at a time when Powis supported the Whigs, and now retired ‘on account of the vote given by ... Powis for rejecting the reform bill’.48 When, following its further defeat in the Lords, a ministry headed by Wellington was contemplated in May 1832, the inhabitants adopted a petition for withholding supplies pending its enactment, but it remained unpresented until 13 July 1832, after the bill’s passage had been celebrated in the streets and ‘pranks’ played against anti-reformers.49
By the Boundary Act Ludlow became a polling town for the South Shropshire constituency and, as the commissioners had recommended, Ludford, part of Oakly Park and Whitcliffe were included in the new borough constituency and the River Teme became its south-western boundary.50 Charlton was high bailiff and returning officer at the general election in December 1832, when the registered electorate comprised 59 freemen and 300 £10 voters, a low total reflecting the town’s high proportion of female-headed households.51 Party allegiance was promoted at increasingly boisterous reform and Conservative dinners, and the Clives, who provided Ludlow with a museum and new house of industry, and their opponents Edward Romilly (represented initially by his brother Charles) and the Radnorshire radical William Davies of Caebalfa canvassed early.52 Lord Clive and Romilly topped the poll in what proved to be the first of eight violent and costly contests before the Clives regained control of both seats in 1852.53 Lechmere Charlton, whose politics veered between radicalism and Conservatism following his election for a single Parliament in 1835, was responsible for the corporation’s formal protest in December 1833 that the municipal corporation commissioners’ inquiry was ‘illegal and unconstitutional’. The charities were reformed by the Ludlow Estate Act of 1842.54
Author: Margaret Escott
- 1. CJ, lxxxii. 439; PP (1831-2), xxxix. 209.
- 2. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 547. The December 1831 parliamentary return estimated the number of freemen at 500 and noted that ‘in the event of a severe contest, many persons are of opinion that near 1,000 voters could be brought together’.
- 3. Ibid. xxxix. 209.
- 4. Excluding Ludford, which had a population of 85 in 1821 and 79 in 1831.
- 5. Parl. Gazetteer of England and Wales (1844), iii. 312, 313.
- 6. HP Commons, 1715-54, i. 311; HP Commons, 1754-90, i. 363; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 336.
- 7. VCH Salop, iii. 287-91; iv. 205, 206; Salop Archives, Ludlow Borough LB3/1/863-962. Of 99 applicants, 74 were sworn as freemen between Sept. 1818 and Dec. 1831.
- 8. Ludlow Borough 2/1/7, pp. 322-500; PP (1835), xxvi. 713-16.
- 9. Procs. in Chancery v. Corporation of Ludlow (1821).
- 10. [T. Wright], Charters and Grants to Ludlow; The Times, 13 Sept. 1819; Ludlow Borough 3/1/386, 387; PP (1831-2), xxxix. 207; (1835), xxvi. 712-29; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 336.
- 11. PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 547; (1835), xxvi. 720, 721; Ludlow Borough 3/1/800-962.
- 12. Salop Archives, Ludford Park mss 11/985, 1101; Salopian Jnl. 2 Feb.; Shrewsbury Chron. 11 Feb 1820.
- 13. Ludlow Borough 3/1/386, 387; 7/1892, 1893, 1916, 1917; Shrewsbury Chron. 3, 17 Mar. 1820.
- 14. CJ, lxxv. 140, 216, 221, 222, 234, 306, 342.
- 15. Shrewsbury Chron. 17 May, 17, 24 Nov.; The Times, 18 Sept., 23 Nov. 1820; NLW, Coedymaen mss 183; CJ, lxxvi. 12.
- 16. CJ, lxxvi. 42, 62, 77, 127; T. Wright, Ludlow, 245, 246.
- 17. Shrewsbury Chron. 8, 29 Mar.; Salopian Jnl. 13, 27 Mar. 1822; CJ, lxxvii. 103.
- 18. LJ, lv. 771, 816; lvi. 47, 461; lvii. 28, 40; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 14, 15; Herefs. RO, Pateshall mss A95/V/EB/465.
- 19. Hereford Independent, 4 Oct. 1824; The Times, 5 Jan., 21 Feb. Hereford Jnl. 16 Feb. 1825.
- 20. Shrewsbury Chron. 23, 30 Dec. 1825, 11 Feb. 1831; Ludford Park mss 11/916; The Times, 4 Apr. 1826, 8, 12 Nov. 1827, 12 Feb. 1828; London Gazette, 4, 8, 29 Apr., 25 Aug., 24, 28 Nov. 1826, 9 Mar., 4 Sept. 1827.
- 21. Shrewsbury Chron. 14 Apr. 1826.
- 22. Ludlow Borough 3/2/493; Shrewsbury Chron. 4, 11 Nov.; Hereford Independent, 5, 12 Nov. 1825; Ludford Park mss 11/1015.
- 23. Hereford Jnl. 30 Nov. 1825, 4 Jan.-29 Mar. 1826; Hereford Independent, 19 Nov. 1825-1 Apr. 1826.
- 24. LJ, lvi. 47, 461; lvii. 28, 40.
- 25. Hereford Jnl. 7 June; Salopian Jnl. 7 June; Shrewsbury Chron. 9 June 1826; Ludlow Borough 3/1/877-935; PP (1831-2), xxxvi. 547.
- 26. Ludlow Borough 3/1/933; 7/1847, 1893; Salopian Jnl. 14, 21 June; Shrewsbury Chron. 16 June 1826; J.P. Ellidge, Procs. at Ludlow Election (1826).
- 27. Shrewsbury Chron. 6 Oct., 10, 17 Nov.; Salopian Jnl. 18 Oct. 1826.
- 28. CJ, lxxxii. 81, 120, 121, 416, 420; LJ, lix. 21, 54, 80, 88, 92, 101; Ludlow Borough 7/806a; Add. 28730, ff. 47-92; Shrewsbury Chron. 5, 12 Jan. 1827.
- 29. The Times, 9 May 1827; CJ, lxxxii. 439; Ludford Park mss 11/943; PRO NI, Rossmore mss T.2929/4/16-19.
- 30. CJ, lxxxii. 456.
- 31. Hereford Jnl. 3 Oct.; Hereford Independent, 20, 27 Oct. 1827.
- 32. Shrewsbury Chron. 26 Oct., 2, 9, 16 Nov.; Hereford Independent, 3, 10, 17, 24 Nov. 1827, 1, 8 Mar. 1828.
- 33. Hereford Independent, 1 Dec. 1827.
- 34. CJ, lxxxiii. 37, 145, 251, 252, 256, 257, 263; Hereford Independent, 16 Feb.; The Times, 22, 24 Apr. 1828.
- 35. CJ, lxxxiii. 255, 256; Add. 36465, f. 181; Ludlow Borough 3/2/494.
- 36. CJ, xxxiii. 109, 412; The Times, 28 Feb., 1 July 1828.
- 37. CJ, xxxiv. 115; Salopian Jnl. 11 Mar.; The Times, 20 May 1829; Ludlow Borough 7/463.
- 38. Salop Archives 11/991.
- 39. NLW, Aston Hall mss C.599; VCH Salop, iii. 291; Salopian Jnl. 21, 28 July, 4 Aug. 1830.
- 40. LJ, lxiii. 435; CJ, lxxxvi. 487.
- 41. Shrewsbury Chron. 28 Jan.; Salopian Jnl. 2 Feb.; The Times, 3, 5 Feb. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 309; LJ, lxiii. 291.
- 42. Hereford Jnl. 16 Mar. 1831; CJ, lxxxvi. 402, 407; Ludford Park mss 11/992.
- 43. Salopian Jnl. 27 Apr., 4 May; Shrewsbury Chron. 29 Apr. 1831.
- 44. Shrewsbury Chron. 6 May; Wolverhampton Chron. 11 May 1831.
- 45. Shrewsbury Chron. 4 June 1831.
- 46. CJ, lxxxvi. 555, 565, 685, 717; Ludford Park mss 11/994-7.
- 47. Shrewsbury Chron. 4 June, 7, 14 Oct. 1831; Aston Hall mss C.235; LJ, lxiii. 1021, 1034.
- 48. The Times, 4 Nov. 1831.
- 49. CJ, lxxxvii. 488; Shrewsbury Chron. 8, 15 June; Hereford Jnl. 20, 27 June 1832.
- 50. PP (1831-2), xxxix. 207, 208.
- 51. Ibid.(1835), xxvi. 719; Shrewsbury Chron. 3 Nov. 1832.
- 52. Salop Archives, Clive-Powis mss 552/26/6; Shrewsbury Chron. 29 June, 6 July, 28 Sept., 5 Oct.; Hereford Jnl. 11 July 1832.
- 53. Coedymaen mss 235; Salopian Jnl. 12 Dec.; Shrewsbury Chron. 14, 21 Dec.; The Times, 14 Dec. 1832; 4, 15 Jan. 1833; Life and Corresp. of T.S. Duncombe (1868), ii. 368-9; VCH Salop, iii. 336-9.
- 54. PP (1835), xxvi. 711; Add. 28730, ff. 93, 94.