Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of voters:

32 in 1660-84, 1689; 24 in 1685


2 Apr. 1660CAPEL LUCKYN 
 John Sicklemore 1 
3 Apr. 1661(SIR) HENRY WRIGHT 
4 Apr. 1664(SIR) CAPEL LUCKYN vice Wright deceased 
  Double return. LUCKYN seated by 9 Dec. 1664 
23 Aug. 1679SIR PHILIP PARKER, Bt. 
18 Feb. 1681SIR PHILIP PARKER, Bt.28
 Samuel Pepys62

Main Article

At Harwich the franchise was limited to the corporation, consisting of eight aldermen and 24 ‘capital burgesses’. A contemporary observer noted that the extremes of wealth and poverty were both absent from the town. This modest prosperity was founded on the dockyard and the packet station; hence in quiet times the corporation was usually content for the Government to nominate one Member. In 1660 Edward Montagu I, who was in control of the Admiralty interest, secured the election of his kinsman Henry Wright, who owned property in the neighbourhood. John Sicklemore, who had sat in 1659, was reported elected in the London press. But the other Member was Capel Luckyn who doubtless owed his return to his father-in-law, Sir Harbottle Grimston, another local landowner and a former recorder of the borough. This connexion with a prominent Presbyterian was decidedly less valuable in 1661, and Luckyn probably chose not to seek re-election. Wright, on the other hand, despite his Cromwellian past, was recommended by the Duke of York, the lord high admiral, and returned ‘with one assent and voice’, together with Thomas King, who held property in the dockyard. On Wright’s death the Duke wrote to the corporation on behalf of Sir William Turner, an Admiralty lawyer; but Grimston’s star was now in the ascendant, and his son-in-law Luckyn regained the seat. Although Turner procured a second indenture, and pursued his claim to the seat until the Oxford session, his petition was smothered in committee, no doubt thanks to Grimston who had meanwhile regained his recordership under the charter of 1665. In 1674 Grimston proposed his deputy recorder, John Eldred, as MP in case Luckyn ‘should happen to die’. In the following year, to the corporation’s horror, King entered a claim for £238 6s. parliamentary wages which the corporation took sufficiently seriously to deposit £90 at interest with their mayor, Sir Anthony Deane, until £200 had been accumulated.3

Luckyn did not stand again, and the corporation ‘were minded to make another choice’ in place of King. The Members in the first Exclusion Parliament were two high Admiralty officials, Deane and Samuel Pepys. They were returned, according to the latter, after a ‘free, speedy, and almost charge-less election ... with a unanimity and excess of courtesy hardly to be equalled in the case of two (both of court dependence) within the whole kingdom’. Their triumph was of brief duration, however, for the first Exclusion Parliament sent them both to the Tower on a charge of betraying naval secrets to the French. They were released on bail after the dissolution, and it was even reported that they would stand for re-election, but Pepys wisely declined, though reflecting smugly ‘how few seaports had two burgesses to serve them in Parliament qualified like Sir A.D. and me’. With the Admiralty in chaos, the government interest in the next two elections was managed by the 2nd Duke of Albemarle (Christopher Monck), who procured the return of two moderates, Sir Philip Parker of Erwarton, just across the estuary, and Sir Thomas Middleton. It was forecast that Middleton at least, who had just been defeated in the county election, would find as much opposition at Harwich. On 2 Dec. 1679 King sued out a writ against the corporation for payment of £383 6s. as parliamentary wages, allegedly because he had not been re-elected. The writ was granted on 5 Feb. 1680, and on Eldred’s suggestion the corporation applied to Albemarle for his mediation. With the assistance of the sitting and previous Members he compounded with King on the corporation’s behalf out of his own pocket. The corporation sent a letter of thanks to Parker and Middleton in 1681, asking them to accept re-selection in their absence. Henceforth it was careful to exact a legally binding promise from its representatives not to demand their wages.4

Harwich sent an address in 1681 thanking the King for dissolving the late Parliament, and another in 1683 abhorring the Rye House Plot. Nevertheless the corporation were obliged to surrender their charter in August 1684. Albermarle obtained a replacement, in which he was named recorder, but the corporation could meet the expense only by withdrawing their deposit with Deane. Their privileges were confirmed, but the crown reserved the usual right to remove officials, and the electorate was reduced by the substitution of 16 ‘assistants’ for 24 ‘capital burgesses’. Albermarle earmarked a seat for his secretary and kinsman, Arthur Farwell, but at Sunderland’s request in 1685 he nominated Pepys, who was duly elected with Deane. Middleton, who had Whiggish sympathies, was apparently content to lie low at this election; but the aggrieved Parker complained to the King in person. However, a seat was found for him at Sandwich, for which Pepys had also been returned.5

In April 1688 James II’s agents reported that the Harwich electors were resolved to choose Deane and Pepys, but the situation later changed dramatically. Deane received a warning from the vicar of Harwich, de Luzancy, that the electors were planning to supplant them at the last moment because they were believed to have promised to vote for repeal of the Test Act. Both were advised to visit the town more frequently if they wished to make headway. The King’s agents were thus unduly sanguine in September when they declared that ‘it is supposed none will stand against them’, though Pepys himself, who had offered to obtain the transfer of the customs house from Ipswich, was still confident. Harwich regained its old charter on 30 Oct. 1688. Pepys renewed his application to represent the borough on 1 Jan. 1689 and was informed that Middleton, ‘a very worthy gentleman’, was now agreed upon by all parties. Parker’s candidature was not seriously considered, and Deane, after some hesitation, refused to stand. The second seat thus seemed available for Pepys; but the corporation ominously failed to invite him to visit the town, and it soon became clear that some of them were inclined to set up the dissenter and former deputy recorder Eldred. Reports of Pepys’s attendance at Mass were again in circulation, perhaps assisted by the fact that his chief supporter, the vicar, was himself a convert in the opposite direction, whose forced recantation had aroused the indignation of the Commons in 1675. On 12 Jan. Pepys wrote to the mayor, who was alleged to be secretly working against him:

What it is that has wrought a change in any of them I neither know nor think decent for me to inquire into. ... I am very loath to believe what I have on this occasion had suggested to me, that there are not wanting some to whom my profession on behalf of the Church of England are made matters of offence. ... I do again pray you not to let my friends want anything of the respect that would be paid them by way of entertainment, were I myself there.

According to the vicar, Pepys would have been successful on a freeman franchise, for the seamen in particular were at his devotion. He went on, rather inconsistently, to complain that some dissenters among the freemen, including ‘a kind of Quaker’, had insisted on recording their votes, overriding the mayor’s objections ‘by noise and tumult’; but perhaps they were merely asserting their rights as members of the corporation under the old charter. The town clerk ‘in an arbitrary manner’ declared Eldred elected with Middleton by a margin of over three to one. While he was being chaired, one of his supporters raised the cry of ‘No Tower men’, but it was not taken up. As an intimate of the exiled King, with his days of office obviously numbered, Pepys could scarcely have expected a better fate; but it may have been some consolation that his election bills totalled a mere £8 5s.6d.6

Authors: Gillian Hampson / Geoffrey Jaggar


  • 1. Pub. Intell. 2 Apr. 1660.
  • 2. Harwich Guildhall, bor. recs. 68/8; 70/2, 4.
  • 3. Harwich Charters (1798), 7-8, 29-31, 57-58; VCH Essex, ii. 286-92, 295; S. Dale, Harwich, 215, 240; Adm. 1745, f. 29; CJ, viii. 558, 623; Harwich bon recs. 57/3; 98/4/26, 113.
  • 4. Bryant, Pepys, ii. 244-5, 277; Pepys Further Corresp. ed. Tanner, 331-5, 338, 343, 346, 347-8; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxii), 187; CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 221; Pepys Naval Mires. (Navy Rec. Soc. lx), 229; HMC Lindsey, 26, 27-28; Harwich bor. recs. 57/5, 17; 68/1, 5; 98/4/66, 82; 133/8; G. W. Sanders, Orders in Chancery, i. 353; EHR, lxvi. 47-48; Prot. Dom. Intell. 22 Feb. 1681.
  • 5. London Gazette, 1 Aug. 1681, 30 Aug. 1683; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 110; SP 44/335/241; C. H. Cooper, Annals of Cambridge, iii. 610; Harwich bor. recs. 98/4/113, 135; E. F. Ward, Christopher Monck, Duke of Albemarle, 119; HMC Buccleuch, i. 341; CJ, ix. 722; HMC Montagu, 190.
  • 6. Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 410; Bodl. Rawl., A 179, f. 179; Bryant, iii. 269, 325-6; 365-8, 372-4; Pepys Life, Jnls. and Corresp. ed. Smith, ii. 142, 144, 170-2, 180-1; Rawl. A 179, ff. 140-225; Harwich bon. recs. 98/4/144.