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 corporation and freemen

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

about 701


21 Feb. 1690HENRY GUY
24 Oct. 1695CHARLES SPENCER, Ld. Spencer
 HUGH BETHELL vice Trumbull, chose to sit for Oxford, and Ld. Spencer, chose to sit for Tiverton
23 Nov. 1702ANTHONY DUNCOMBE vice Duncombe, chose to sit for Downton
1 Dec. 1707ANTHONY DUNCOMBE re-elected after appointment to office
 William Wickham

Main Article

Browne Willis* described Hedon as no longer ‘a fair haven town’, but one standing about a mile within a creek overgrown ‘with flags and reeds and the haven is very sadly decayed’. Defoe’s prediction that its former prosperity as a port might be revived, so that it would one day rival the neighbouring town of Kingston-upon-Hull, was never realized, and it owed its prosperity to elections rather than to trade. Members of Parliament had to purchase their freedom before being chosen – at a price set by the corporation. The chief patron was Henry Guy, secretary to the Treasury, an immensely wealthy man, who built a town hall for Hedon at his own expense in 1698, and gave a large mace, as well as other benefactions, to the borough. Hedon also benefited from the fact that Guy was in charge of the distribution of secret service money in the Treasury, so that in February 1694 £500 of that fund was allocated for repairing the town. (Sir) Charles Duncombe, a wealthy banker who had purchased Yorkshire estates near the borough and was Guy’s financial associate, was the other significant patron of the borough during the period, giving a set of bells to the church in 1690, as well as other gifts of money.2

In 1690 Guy was returned unopposed with Matthew Appleyard, a customs official of nearby Hull, and son of the late Sir Matthew Appleyard, who had sat for the borough during the 1660s. In 1695, despite the parliamentary inquiry into Guy’s activities in the Treasury and a brief period spent by him in the Tower, he did not decide against standing for re-election until late in the summer. Initially he had intended standing with his ‘nephew’, but at the end of July chose to join with Sir William Trumbull, the secretary of state, who had been looking for a safe constituency, having tried several other boroughs unsuccessfully. Guy believed ‘it more for the King’s service to make Trumbull certain of a place’ in Parliament. However, the matter of the King signing a warrant for the appointment of Guy’s nominee as Hedon town clerk took precedence over Trumbull’s candidature. Guy wrote to Portland requesting that he press the King to sign the warrant

and that it be dispatched back again with all speed, for this is my corporation, and this man being town clerk will much help to their choosing Sir William Trumbull, and I intend this person shall be chosen mayor of the corporation Michaelmas day, so that if he have not his warrant returned to be sworn town clerk before he is elected mayor, he cannot be town clerk till the year of his mayoralty is expired, which will be a great inconvenience to Sir William’s election.

Following further solicitation from Trumbull to the King, the warrant was signed in September. By the following month Trumbull had been admitted as a freeman of the borough. At the election, Guy, having decided not to stand, secured the unopposed return of Lord Spencer, son of his own patron the Earl of Sunderland, alongside Trumbull. When both Members chose to sit for other constituencies, Thomas Frankland I, joint postmaster-general, was returned with Hugh Bethell, whose family had an interest of their own at Hedon.3

In 1698 Anthony Duncombe, brother of Charles, was returned with Bethell. Guy did not like Bethell, and wrote that he would ‘spare no cost or pains to vindicate the people of Hedon from that oppression, which . . . they will perpetually lie under’, and which was used to ‘get in Bethell’. By the time of the first 1701 election Guy had regained control of the borough. Initially he offered to support the candidature of the attorney-general, Sir Thomas Trevor*. However, Trevor declined the offer once he knew he was himself ‘secure’ for a seat at Lewes, in Sussex. Guy then ‘pitched upon’ the Tory Sir Robert Bedingfield, a London alderman, whom he considered to be a man of sense and one who could be trusted. In January Bedingfield was returned unopposed with Duncombe. In the second 1701 election, the Earl of Shaftesbury (Anthony Ashley*) attempted to get a Mr Micklethwayt nominated on Guy’s interest, writing to Lord Spencer,

knowing my Lord Sunderland and your lordship’s interest in Mr Guy, I would beg you to use it on this occasion if you should find it both for the public and Mr Guy’s particular interest at this time to have such a person recommended by him to Hedon as would be extremely agreeable to the country and neighbourhood there, and a gentleman worthy of his obliging.

However, at the election Duncombe was chosen with Sir Robert Hildyard, a Court supporter, whose family had an estate nearby, and had a long association with the borough. In 1702 Guy chose to stand once more, and was returned unopposed with his friend, Sir Charles Duncombe. When Sir Charles chose to sit for Downton, Anthony Duncombe was returned in an uncontested by-election. Duncombe retained his seat in 1705, being returned unopposed with William Pulteney, Guy’s heir-presumptive and protégé. For the rest of the period Pulteney shared the representation with Hugh Cholmley, a Whig whose family had represented Scarborough, and who apparently enjoyed Pulteney’s support. In 1708 it was reported that Sir Charles Duncombe, who had opposed the election of Sir Arthur Kaye, 3rd Bt.*, for the county, ‘was as bad for Hedon’. However, it is not evident what action Duncombe may have taken in relation to the Hedon election. In 1710 a Tory, William Wickham, contested the election, but was defeated and petitioned unsuccessfully. Thereafter the Pulteney interest was totally dominant in all elections, the next contest not occurring until 1741.4

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Ivar McGrath


  • 1. Quinn thesis, 52.
  • 2. Bodl. Willis 15, f. 114; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 654; Quinn, 52; M. T. Craven, Hist. Hedon, 115–16, 168; G.R. Park, Parl. Rep. Yorks. 251; Park, Hedon, 97, 125, 300; Ralph, Hist. Eng. ii. 473.
  • 3. Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Bentinck) mss PwA 510, 514, Guy to Portland, 30 July, 6 Sept. 1695; BL, Trumbull Misc. mss 30, W. Remington to Trumbull, 25 Oct., Guy to same, [Nov.] 1695; Add. mss 117, Trumbull to William Blathwayt*, 6, 10, 17 Sept. 1695; Add. 70018, ff. 94–95; 70070, newsletter 29 Oct. 1695; H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 158–9.
  • 4. Portland (Harley) mss Pw2 Hy 819, Guy to [Robert Harley*], 9 Aug.; HMC Portland, iii. 631, 640; PRO 30/24/20/83; Add. 70501, f. 43; Craven, 160; Bull. IHR, xxxvii. 34; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Sir John Bland, 4th Bt.*, to James Grahme*, 25 May 1708.