Directory section details

Directory: 1791 Universal British Directory.

Pages: 745 - 758.

Name: Lewes.

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Lewes is a market and borough town, situated about fifty miles from London, and six from the sea. It is by some writers said to have derived its name from Lewsa, which in the Saxon tongue signifies Pastures. Two mints were established here by Athelstan; and in the reign of Edward the Confessor, this town had one hundred and twenty-seven burgesses. It now sends two member to parliament, and the right of voting is in the resident inhabitants paying scot and lot.

This town was never incorporated. The borough was formerly under the absolute controul of the Duke of Newcastle. This influence his grace acquired from the weight of property which he possessed here, and from the distribution of some employments under government, of which he was at that time sole manager. In 1768 the late Colonel Hay, of Glynde Bourne, near this town, was recommended by the duke as one of the candidates for his representation; in consequence of which he obtained from the voters a promise of their suffrages. Immediately after this transaction the duke thought proper to countermand his former recommendation, and accordingly withdrew his sanction from Colonel Hay and gave it to Sir Thomas Miller. The people however thought themselves bound in honour to abide by their promises; and Colonel Hay, conceiving himself ill-treated in the business, resolved to stand the poll. Upon the day of election he was firmly supported by his friends, who gave him sixty single votes, and obtained for him so great a majority over his opponent, as to make him finally successful. - In 1780 there was a cross-poll, when the honourable Henry Pelham, Colonel Hay, and Thomas Kemp, Esq. of this borough, were candidates, each of whom stood upon his own separate interest. In this contest Mr. Hay was unsuccessful; and Mr. Kemp was returned by the interest which had always shewn itself hostile to that of Lord Pelham. - In 1784 Sir Henry Blackman, knight, was put in nomination, to represent this town, by the famous Mr. Harben, of upstart notoriety, who, notwithstanding this profession of frienship, on the day of election deserted and cruelly betrayed him: upon which Sir Henry represented to the people the situation into which he had been led by the artifices of this man, in so pathetic and convincing a manner, that Mr. Harben was obliged instantly to quit the hall, amidst the hisses and murmurs of his fellow townsmen. - At the last general election there was an union between the leading men in the independent party and those in the interest of Lord Pelham, which Mr. Shelly, who was countenanced by administration, opposed. - At the close of the poll the numbers were,.

For the hon. Henry Pelham 154; Thomas Kemp, Esq. 149; Henry Shelly, jun. Esq. 88.

Mr. Kemp, when he first offered himself a candidate, agreeable to the principles of the constitution, pledged himself to the constituents, as the late Alderman Bull did to the city of London, and he would accept of neither place, pension, gratuity, nor reward, of any kind, from any administration, while he should have the honour of representing them in parliament.

It is a borough by prescription, governed by two constables, annually chosen at the court-leet. It sent to parliament 23 Edw. I. The returning-officers are the constables; the number of voters about 240.

Here William de Warren earl of Surrey, and the lady Gundreda his wife, in the year 1078, founded a priory of Cluniac monks, which was the first and principal house of the order in England; in after-times it had many noble benefactors, namely, the succeeding earls of Surrey and others, several of whom, with their ladies, were interred here. It continued a cell to the abbey of Cluny in Burgundy, till King Edward III. made it independent. At the general dissolution its revenues were valued by Dugdale at 920l. 4s. 6d. a year, and at 1091l. 9s. 6d. by Speed. It was granted, with all its appendages, to Thomas lord Cromwell; since which time it has been in the possession of the Dukes of Dorset and Earls of Thanet, and lately belonged to Edward Trayton, Esq. Some remains of the priory are to be seen at this day. - It had also a priory of grey friars, a monastery dedicated to St. James, for thirteen poor brethren and sisters, and an hospital dedicated to St. Nicholas, which at the time of the dissolution had thirteen poor brothers and sisters.

This town is also famous in history for a bloody battle fought here between Henry III. and the barons, on the 14th May, 1264. The royal army was divided into three bodies; that on the right commanded by Prince Edward, the King of the Romans on the left, and Henry himself headed the main body. The barons' army was divided into four bodies: the first was led by Henry de Montford, the Earl of Leicester's son; the Earl of Gloucester commanded the second; the Earl of Leicester the third; and the fourth, consisting of Londoners, was commanded by Nicholas Seagrave. Prince Edward began the fight by attacking the Londoners, who, not being able to stand so vigorous a charge, immediately fled, when the prince, resolving to revenge an affront ordered to the queen his mother by the London mob, pursed them about four miles without giving them any quarter. Mean while the Earls of Leicester and Gloucester gained the same advantage over Henry and the King of the Romans, whose troops being put to flight, Henry surrendered himself to the Earl of Leicester. and Richard to the Earl of Gloucester, and were instantly conducted to the priory of Lewes, situated at the foot of the castle, which was kept by some of the king's troops. To this place the soldiers of the royal army fled, in order to secure themselves in the castle; but, seeing the town in the power of the barons, the two kings made prisoners, and themselves surrounded on all sides, they threw down their arms, and surrendered at discretion. Prince Edward, returning in triumph from the pursuit of the Londoners, finding, to his great amazement, the royal army dispersed, and the two kings taken prisoners, resolved to exert himself to set them at liberty; but his troops being too much intimidated to second his ardour, he was obliged to accept of conditions, and consent that himself, and Henry his cousin, son to the King of the Romans, should remain as hostages in the custody of the barons, till all their differences were settled by the authority of parliament.

The castle, which flourished under the Saxons, commands a most delightful prospect of the sea and the weald.

Lewes is built on the margin of the South Downs, and on the banks of the river Ouse, which is navigable for barges from the harbour at Newhaven to many miles up the country beyond the bridge. On this river are several iron-works, where cannon are cast for merchant-ships, besides other useful works of that kind. The town was formerly inclosed with very thick high walls, parts and fragments of which are still to be seen at both the north and south sides of it. It is a pleasant town, and one of the largest and most populous in the county. It stands in an open champaign country. It has handsome streets, and two fair suburbs. A charity-school was opened here in 1711, where twenty boys are taught, clothed, and maintained, at the expence of a private gentleman, by whom they are also furnished with books; and eight more boys are taught here at the expence of other gentlemen. Here are horse-races, almost ever summer, for the king's plate of one hundred pounds. The roads here are deep and dirty, but then it is the richest soil in this part of England.

Lewes had originally twelve parish-churches, but of which there are now only six remaining, namely, St. Peter's and St Mary's Westout, certified by the name of St. Ann's, St. Michael's in Foro, St John's sub Castro, All Saints, St. John the Baptist's, Southover, and St. Thomas's in the Cliffe, a peculiar belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This last-mentioned church is reckoned one of the neatest parish-churches in the whole county: its altar is remarkably pretty; it has two pillars in the middle, between which are the ten commandments, and two pilasters on the outside, all in the Doric order, with architrave, cornish, and frize, neatly carved and gilt; and between the pillar and pilaster on the north side the Lord's Prayer, and on the south side, between the other pillar and pilaster, the Creed. It is exceedingly well pewed, and has a small gilt organ.

The market here is on Saturday, and the fairs May 6, Whit-Tuesday, and October 6.

Two coaches go from Lewes to London every morning. - Waggons every Tuesday and Friday.

The following is a list of the principle inhabitants:.


Rev. - Dale.

Rev. J. Delap LL. D.

Rev. W. Gwynne, Master of the free grammar-school.

Rev. J. Hutchens.

Rev. J. Jenkins, Dissenting minister.

Rev. Joseph Middleton, Dissenting minister.

Rev. E. R. Raynes.

Rev. J. Rideout.


- Ansell, Apothecary.

- Blair, Physician.

- Davey, Apothecary.

- Hendersen, Physician.

Tho. Hodson, Surgeon and apothecary.

James Moore, Apothecary.

Charles Pitt, Druggist.

Joseph Ridge, Man-midwife.

John Turner, Surgeon and apothecary.


William Cooper, Attorney.

Charles Gilbert, Attorney.

John Hooper, Attorney.

William Langridge, Attorney.

Josias Smith, Attorney.

Richard Turner, Attorney.

Richard Watts, Attorney.

William Wheeler, Coroner.

Traders, &c.

Miss - Adams, Boarding school.

John Ade, Coachmaker.

Samuel Ade, Coachmaker.

Samuel Ade, Shoemaker.

Thomas Allwork, Victualler of Stag.

- Amber, Banker.

William Arnold, Taylor.

Rob. Ashdown, Draper and slop-seller.

John Attersall, Timber-merchant.

Joseph Attree, Patten-maker.

William Attwood, Ironmonger.

Thomas Avery, Sadler.

William Bennett, Taylor.

Sir Henry Blackman, Wine-merchant.

Charles Boore, Cabinet-maker.

Thomas Boore, Taylor.

Arthur Brook, Sadler.

Richard Broughton, Cooper.

- Brown, Whitesmith.

Henry Brown, Draper and slop-seller.

Thomas Budgen, Land-surveyor, book-seller, and stationer.

William Budgen, Butcher.

John Button, Schoolmaster.

- Carpenter, Victualler.

John Chatfield, Tanner and fellmonger.

Alexander Cheal, Carpenter.

John Chilton, Auctioneer.

- Chitty, Brewer.

Richard Comber, Watchmaker.

Robert Chester Cooper, Brewer.

Daniel Cullen, Victualler of Swan.

John Curtis, Flax-dresser.

Evan Davies, Victualler.

John Davis, Maltster.

John Dennett, Coal-merchant.

James Diggens, Butcher.

John Duford, Victualler.

William Dumbrell, Cooper.

Robert Dunn of Star Inn.

Samuel Dunstone, Post-master, and shoe-warehouse.

- Durrant, Merchant.

John Edwards, Upholsterer.

Edward Egles, Draper.

Gabriel Egles, Draper.

John Elliott, Hair-dresser.

William Elphick, Breeches-maker.

Joseph English, Cutler.

Thomas English, Cutler.

William Ewen, Currier.

- Farnes, Grocer.

John Farnes, Miller.

William Figg, Baker.

Henry Freeman, Grocer.

- Fuller, Tanner and fellmonger.

- Fuller, Draper.

John Fuller Jun., Butcher.

Joseph Fuller, Butcher.

Thomas Fuller, Currier.

William Gaston, Timber-merchant.

Thomas Gates, Victualler of Dolphin.

John Gell, Haberdasher and milliner.

Richard Goddard, Victualler.

Joseph Goldsmith, Joiner.

William Goldsmith, Shoemaker.

George Grantham, Basket-maker.

William Grayling, Hair-dresser.

Daniel Grover, Victualler of Fountain.

George Grover, Common crier.

John Grover Sen., Blacksmith.

John Grover Jun., Draper.

Joseph Grover, Teaman.

- Harben, Ironmonger.

James Harben, Hatter.

Isaac Hargrave, Stone-mason.

William Harman, Blacksmith.

- Harvey, Hatter.

W. F. Hick, Corn-merchant.

Thomas Hill, Baker.

- Holland, Farrier.

- Holman, Watchmaker.

- Holmwood, (inn keeper) of Bear Inn.

John Holt, Turner.

John Hook, Taylor.

James Hutchens, China-man.

Thomas Illman, Taylor.

- Jesse, Ironmonger.

- Johnston, Grocer.

John Jones, Dyer.

- Kemp, Watchmaker.

John Kennard, Miller.

Thomas Kennard, Baker.

William Kennard, Baker.

William Kennard, Collar-maker.

- Kid, Victualler.

- King, Tallow-chandler.

James Lambert, Coach-painter.

Abraham Larwill, Wire-worker.

Arthur Lee, Printers and proprietors of the lewes journal.

William Lee, Bookseller, stationer, and medicinal-warehouse.

Wm. Lee, Printers and proprietors of the lewes journal.

John Leighton Sen., Cow-keeper.

John Leighton Jun., Taylor.

Aaron Lempriere, Glazier.

William Madgwick, Grocer.

Thomas Mantel, Shoemaker.

Eliz. Marten, Draper and slop-seller.

John Marten, Carpet-warehouse.

William Marten, Draper and slop-seller.

- Maxfield, Carpenter.

Edward May, Bricklayer.

William Meesley, Shoemaker.

- Molineux, Spirituous-liquor warehouse.

Joseph Molineux, Ironmonger.

James Moore, Butcher.

- Morris, Tallow-chandler.

John Morris, Stone-mason.

Joseph Morris, Butcher.

Richard Neve, Pipe-maker.

James Newton, Plane-maker.

Robert Osmont, Taylor.

Trayton Pain, Butcher.

George Palmer, Hatter.

Francis Pawsen, Taylor.

Thomas Pescod, Shoemaker.

George Philcox, Cabinet-maker.

James Piddington, (inn keeper) of White Hard Inn.

Isaac Piercey, Bricklayer.

Rich. Postle, Victualler of Lewes Arms.

C. Rand, Schoolmaster.

J. Raymond, Schoolmaster.

- Raynham, Draper.

Thomas Read, Hair-dresser.

Mary Reeves, Haberdasher.

Thomas Reeves, Weaver.

Ann Relf, Glazier.

- Rickman, Merchant.

William Robinson, Bargeman.

Stephen Rusbridge, Bricklayer.

John Sawyer, Glazier.

Charles Scrase, Brewer.

Henry Scrase, Draper.

John Shelley, Carrier.

Joseph Sims, Taylor.

John Smart, Hair-dresser.

William Smart, Baker.

John Smith, Butcher.

William Smith, Butcher.

Christopher Spencer, Basket-maker.

John Spittle, Victualler of Crown.

Thomas Stanley, Bricklayer.

Jeremiah Steel, Baker.

Wm. Symonds, Bookseller and stationer.

John Thring, Dancing-master.

William Thunder, Shoemaker.

Edward Tooth, Farrier.

Elizabeth Tutty, Shopkeeper.

A. Verrall, Agent to the sun fire-office.

George Verrall Jun., Upholsterer and auctioneer.

John Verrall, Maltster.

Thomas Verrall, Tallow.

William Verrall, Brewer.

- Weller, Draper.

John Weller, Grocer.

- Weston, Victualler.

Abraham Weston, Gunsmith.

Thomas Weston, Hair-dresser.

John Whapham, Cooper.

- Whiteman, Shoemaker.

John Whiteman, Blacksmith.

- Whitfield, Banker.

- Whitfield, Spirituous-liquor warehouse.

John Whitfield, Wine-merchant.

John Wilbar, Cider-merchant.

Simon Wild, Carpenter.

George Wille, Carpenter.

Richard William, Victualler.

John Wimble, Smith & ironmonger.

- Winter, Carpenter.

Robert Wisdom, Sieve-maker.

Jas. Wood, Victualler of Brewers Arms.

- Woolger, Draper.

Other People Mentioned

Mr Tho. Alves Esq. of Harley Street.

William Baker, Freeman, riding officer.

Robert Spearman Bates, Freeman, well known east india captain of Lymington.

Henry Bean, Freeman, riding officer.

James Brooke, Freeman.

Gabriel Burrowes, Freeman.

Mr - Chambers, Returning officer.

Henry Chambers, Freeman.

Thomas Chambers, Jurat, bailiff, supervisor of riding-officers.

Thomas Chambers, Jurat.

William Chambers.

William Chambers, Jurat, patent waiter in the port of london, farmer of Bletchington.

Turner Chatfield, Town clerk of Lewes.

Mr - Chetwoode, Petitioner.

John Coggan, Freeman.

- Curtis, Alderman.

William Evelyn Esq., Parliamentary candidate.

Mr - Flood.

Rt. Hon. Henry Flood, Parliamentary candidate.

Lord Viscount - Gage, Parliamentary candidate.

Charles Gilbert, Freeman.

John Gorringe, Freeman, reprimand of parliamentary committee.

William Green, Freeman, magistrate of Lewes.

Rev. William Gwynne, Freeman of Lewes.

Sir - Harben, Of upstart notoriety.

James Harben, Freeman, mr harben's brother.

Thomas Harben, Jurat of Lewes.

Thomas H. Harben, Freeman.

Mr - Harison of West Dean.

Launcelot Harison Esq. of West Dean.

William Harmer Jun., Freeman, cow-boy.

Colonel - Hay of Glynde Bourne.

Willam Hay Esq., Parliamentary candidate.

Sir John Hendersen, Parliamentary candidate.

William (turpin) Hide, Assistant to chambers the bailiff.

Thomas Holman, Freeman, industrious labourer.

John Hood, Schoolmaster (& honest man!).

Arthur Hughes, Freeman.

Thomas Hughes, Freeman, superannuated boatman.

Rev. Arthur Iredel, Freeman.

R. P. Joddrel Esq., Loser of parliamentary seat.

Thomas Kemp Esq., Parliamentary candidate.

Mr Serjeant Kempe, Recorder of borough.

Hon. Charles Lenox, Freeman, nephew to duke of richmond.

George Medley Esq., Parliamentary candidate.

Philip Mighill, Freeman.

Sir Thoms Miller, Parliamentary candidate.

Mr - Molesworth, Petitioner.

Lord - Mountmorres, Parliamentary candidate.

Lord - Neville, Parliamentary candidate.

Duke of - Newcastle, Abolute controller!

Nathaniel Pain, Freeman.

Sir Peter Parker, Parliamentary candidate.

Sir Laurence Parsons Bart., Parliamentary candidate.

Sir James Peachey Bart., Parliamentary candidate.

Hon. Henry Pelham, Parliamentary candidate.

Rt. Hon. William Pitt, Parliamentary candidate.

Harry Plaisted, Freeman, mr harben's cousin.

Henry Plaisted, Freeman, mr harben's brother in law.

Henry Putland, Freeman, drunken disorderly fellow!

John Robinson.

Robert Rosam, Freeman.

Samuel Sage Sen., Freeman, broken tide-waiter and beggar-whipper to the magistrates.

Mr - Sayre, Petitioner.

Henry Shelley Jun. Esq., Parliamentary candidate.

John Simmons.

Thomas Simmons, Freeman, bricklayer, boatman.

William Simmons, Freeman.

Robert Steele Esq., Freeman, brother to secretary of the treasury.

Joseph Stevens, Freeman, mate of the revenue boat.

Joseph Stevens Jun., Freeman.

Robert Stone, Jurat.

Richard Talmage, Freeman, itinerant carpenter.

Richard Thatcher, Freeman.

Sir William Thomas of West Dean.

Thomas Verrall, Freeman.

Goldsmoth Walker, Freeman.

Hon. L. T. Watson, Parliamentary candidate.

Sir Godfrey Webster, Parliamentary candidate.

Charles Wood, Freeman, superannuated revenue-officer.

John Wood Jun., Freeman.

John (roper) Wood, Freeman, boatman.

Thomas Wood, Freeman, boatman.

Wm. (tippler) Wood, Freeman, bum-bailiff.

John Young, Freeman, jack-ass driver.

From a wind-mill near this town there is a prospect which is hardly to be matched in Europe; for it takes in the sea for thirty miles west, and an uninterrupted view of Bansted-downs, which is full forty miles. Between this town and the sea, there is the best winter-game that can be for a gun, and several gentlemen here keep packs of dogs; but the hills hereabouts are so steep, that it is extremely dangerous to follow them, though their horses will naturally run down a precipice safely with a bold and skilful rider. On the east side of this town there has been a camp, and it had formerly a wall, of which few remains are now to be seen. The timber of this part of the county is prodigiously large. The trees are sometimes drawn to Maidstone, and other places on the Medway, on a sort of carriage called a tug, drawn by twenty-two oxen a little way, and then left there for other tugs to carry it on; so that a tree is sometimes two or three years drawing to Chatham; because, after the rain is once set in, it stirs no more that year, and sometimes a whole summer is not dry enough to make the roads passable.

Newhaven, in this neighbourhood, was formerly noted for its safe and good harbour for ships of considerable burden; but, for want of a provision for maintaining the timber piers which it had for time immemorial, it was quite neglected, the harbour choaked up with sand and beach, and the piers were rotten and decayed. To remedy these evils, an act passed, anno 1731, for repairing, and keeping in repair, the said piers and harbour; and this is so far brought to effect, that it becomes very thriving both in commerce and ship-building. Small vessels of different sizes are built here; and, in proportion as the port improves, its trade will increase.

Seaford, also in the neighbourhood of Lewes, enjoys the privilege of sending two representatives to parliament, as one of the members of the cinque ports. - The influence of this borough, or port, has been exercised for near two centuries by the family of the late Sir William Thomas, of West Dean, near this place, whose title became extinct for want of male heirs; but his estate, together with the patronage of the borough, descended to the late Mr. Harison, of Sutton-place, and from him to the present Launcelot Harison, Esq. This gentleman, at the age of fourteen, was put into possession of the lucrative sinecure of comptroller of cloth and petty customs in the port of London, which produces him a net salary of 200l. per annum; to this place was afterwards added that of supervisor of the riding-officers, worth 150l. per annum, and captain of the custom-house boat, with an income of 120l. per annum more; all those places Mr. Harison was allowed to hold as sinecures. Not having ever been at sea, an additional 60l. per annum was allowed for a deputy captain, or chief-mate, of the boat; and as the only duty of the riding-officers, in this district, was to support the interest of the patron at an election, the supervising of them did not require any great vigilance.

From the year 1747 to the present time, the right of election has been the subject of continual litigation. In 1670 the house determined it to be in the populacy, and in 1760 teh word populacy was explained to mean inhabitants housekeepers paying scot and lot. The use made of this explanation was, to rate such of the housekeepers only as were revenue-officers or dependants on the will of the patron; the number of rateable houses within the borough was one hundred and thirty-two, though not more than twenty-four had ever been known to have been taxed previous to Mr. Flood's successful opposition in 1786; out of this number seventeen were revenue-officers when Mr. Crew's disqualifying bill was passed in 1782.

The first petition which is deserving the attention of our readers, was occasioned by the interference of the late Duke of Newcastle, at the election in 1747, when the late Rt. Hon. William Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham, and William Hay, Esq. were candidates on the ministerial interest of that day, and the Earl of Middlesex, uncle to the present Duke of Dorsetm and the Hon. W. H. Gage, afterwards Lord-viscount Gage, opposed them on the opposition, or what was termed the Prince of Wales's interest. The petition set forth, that at the last election of barons to serve in this present parliament for the town and port of Seaford, in the county of Sussex, the petitioners, together with the Rt. Hon. William Pitt, and William Hay, Esq. were candidates. That on the day before the said election, a noble peer of this realm did invite to, and entertain at his house, most of the voters of the said town and port; and in the room where they were assembled, spoke to them one by one, and did solicit and influence them, with respect to giving their votes at the said election; by means whereof several persons who had promised to vote, and would have voted, for the petitioners, were prevailed upon by the said noble peer to vote for the said Mr. Pitt and Mr. Hay; which proceedings the petitioners conceive is an high infringement of the liberties and privileges of the commons of Great Britain. That on the day of election, in order to awe and influence the voters in favour of the sitting members, and deter them from voting for the petitioners, the said noble peer came into court accompanied by other peers of the realm; and, being seated near to the returning-officer, did continue there until the poll was closed; notwithstanding the presence of him, and the said other peers, was objected to by one of the petitioners, and the returning officer applied to him not to take the poll while the peers remained present in the court. In all which the said petitioners thought themselves fully justified, as they apprehended their presence obstructed the freedom of the election, and, from the several declared resolutions of the house of commons, was a violation of the rights and privileges of the commons of Great Britain; and that by these and other illegal practices, the petitioners lost a great number of votes, which would otherwise have been given for the petitioners: and therefore praying the house to take the premises into consideration, and to grant the petitioners such relief as the house shall seem meet. The house moved, That the resolution of the 16th day of this instant November, "That it is an high infringement of the liberties and privileges of the commons of Great Britain, for any lord of parliament, or any lor-lieutenant of any county, to concern themselves in election of members to serve for the commons in parliament," might be read. And the same was read accordingly. - A motion was made, and the question being put, That the matter of the said petition be heard at the bar of this house: upon which a debate arose. In this debate, Mr. Pitt, one of the sitting members, treated the petition with great contempt, and turned it into a mere jest. On this occasion also, Mr. Potter (son of the archbishop) made an excellent speech of great length; but the petition was dismissed by 247 against 96.

The next contest of importance was in 1761, when Sir James Peachey, Bart. and Lord Viscount Gage (the latter having changed his party since the last election), were supported by the Duke of Newcastle and the ministerial interest, and George Medley, Esq. and William Evelyn, Esq. opposed them. At this election the distinction of populacy and tax-payers, which has since been the subject of so much expence and litigation, first took place. - Under the denomination of "populacy," every man who had a legal parochial settlement, and resided within the parish, claimed, as in pot-walloping boroughs, the right of voting; and, having exercised it upon all former occasions, they were deemed the legal constituent body. - A majority of the "populacy" were in the interest of Medley and Evelyn, and precluded every chance of success from their opponents or their suffrages. The subterfuge of seeing up a distinct right was, therefore, resorted to by the ministerial candidates, as the only method by which they might, with the assistance of the house of commons, found any hopes of succeeding. - The returning-officer, Mr. Chambers, father of teh immaculate character who filled that station at the last general election, being in the ministerial interest, and the tax-payers, by a rate fabricated for the purpose, devoted to the same party, every elector, whose name was not upon the rate, was rejected when he tendered his vote. A majority being obtained by these means for Peachy and Gage, they were returned to parliament, and Mr. Medley and Mr. Evelyn were left to seek their redress by petitioning the house. - Upon hearing of this petition, the house of commons, who were precluded by the 2d of George II. from altering the right of election, contented themselves with explaining it away, by resolving, that by the word "populacy," in the last resolution of the house of commons, was meant inhabitants housekeepers paying scot and lot, and that Sir James Peachy and Lord Viscount Gage were duly elected.

From this period, until the year 1786, the practice of taxing only the revenue officers, and four or five other individuals, who were sure to obey the word of command, prevailed, to the exclusion of all other inhabitants. Petitions aginst this arbitrary execution were presented in 1774 by Messr. Sayre and Chetwoode, and in 1780 by Mr. Molesworth, but were not attended with success; the committees of the house of commons not choosing to admit the rateability of men who the Seaford magistrates in their justice had deemed ineligible.

In 1774, the Rt. Hon. Thomas Pelham, whose father, Lord Pelham, owns the tythes and about half the landed property in the borough, attempted to revive the political interest of the family, which had been neglected ever since the death of the late Duke of Newcastle; and the honourable L. T. Watson became a candidate under Mr. Pelham's patronage. A Mr. Alves, who then resided in Harley-street, had succeeded in compelling the overseers of the parish to add seven of the non-rated inhabitants to the poor-rate; became a candidate upon their suffrages; and, by good management, brought over eight out of the remaining seventeen electors to his interest. With this majority he must have succeeded, even against the united interests of the oppositional and ministerial parties; but as the talent of managing was not confined to Mr. Alves. and the attachment of this description of electors being neither to the person or principles of their candidates, the means were soon resorted to of detaching one half of Mr. Alves's confederated club from his interest, and uniting them with the staunch friends of the government. A junction then became necessary between the remaining supporters of Mr. Alves and the interest of Mr. Pelham; but the bewitching allurements of treasury-temptation were continually assailing this little party, and, by the day of election, reduced them to nearly one half of their original number. - Mr. Aldreman Curtis was at this time the candidate on the ministerial interest, and had obtained promises of a majority of these virtuous electors, the whole number being at this time only twenty-four; and, in endeavouring to prevent any prejudice which his education in the presbyterian principles might create in the minds of his orthodox constituents, embraced the opportunity, which a saint's day presented, of attending episcopal worship; but, as Satan is never so alert in his mischievous propensities as when an opportunity presents itself of resisting the purposes of the righteous, he so managed it, as to improve this unlucky moment of confounding all the parliamentary schemes of the convivial alderman; for, before he had finished his devotions, a new candidate was introduced, under the recommendation of the celebrated John Robinson, who had formerly represented this borough, when every elector in Mr. Curtis's interest received absolution from his first engagement, and embraced the more powerful interest of a greater favourite. - Several other candidates appeared at this election with ministerial recommendation; but Lord Neville and Sir Peter Parker, having confidence of those in the secret, we forbear to mention the names of the gentlemen whose chagrin must have been severely irritated at finding themselves the dupes of ministerial intrigue and duplicity. - At the election, which came on in March, 1784, the numbers on the poll were,.

For the ministerial candidates: Lord Neville, 12; Sir Peter Parker, 12; For the opposition candidates. Hon. L. T. Watson, 11; Tho. Alves, Esq. 11.

One elector did not vote, who it has since been discovered, was in the ministerial interest; but having a majority without him, he was kept back, that he might not avow his principles to the opposite party, into whose meetings he had always been admitted as a friend.

An informality was observed in this election, which, being of importance to future contests, we must not omit to mention. The 7th and 8th of William III, ch. 25. enact, that the returning-officer, after the receipt of the precept from the sheriff, or the proper officer authorised to issue the same, shall proceed to the election within eight days after the receipt of the precept, giving four days notice thereof. The bailiff of Seaford proceeded to the election on the fourth day after proclamation; and it being considered that the letter of the act was not complied with, only three days having intervened since the proclamation, a petition of two of the electors who voted for MR. Watson was presented to the house, complaining of this irregularity; which being heard before a committe in the month of March, 1785, it was determined that the said election was void.

Lord Neville, who had been returned with Sir Peter Parker, had also been elected for the county of Monmouth. This circumstance made a vacancy for the borough of Seaford certain, before the event of the above petition was known; to supply which, no less than six-and-twenty candidates offered themselves, between the time of the election, in March 1784, and the hearing of the petition, in March 1785. The number of electors being, at that time, only twenty-four, in could not supply a single vote to each of these gentlemen, if they had persevered in the contest to the end of the poll. - One of these candidates was the late Rt. Hon. Henry Flood, who was introduced not with a view of obtaining his seat by the suffrages of the twenty-four existing voters, who were to a man engaged in the interest of Mr. Pelham, or that of administration, though it appeared that a decided majority of them was to be obtained on what they called honourable terms, but on the right of twice that number of inhabitant housekeepers, whose names had been omitted in the poor-rate for near thirty years, on purpose to preclude them from the exercise of their franchises.

Amongst the persons whom the overseers of the poor had placed in the legal description of paupers, by charitably disburthening them of their taxes, were the vicar of the parish, and fourteen county freeholders, besides others, who could afford, and actually had, at the time, lent money to some of the parish officers, and even to one of the magistrates who allowed the rents. These non-rated inhabitants commenced their claim to redress by appealing to the quarter-sessions of the borough, on the ground of being excluded to answer election purposes. Upon hearing this appeal, it appeared not to have been lodged at the sessions next ensuing the making of the rate, as the law directs, and the magistrates availed themselves of that pretence to dismiss it. - The overseers took care to prevent a second appeal on this complaint by maintaining the poor themselves, and making no rate, till the election (which was suspended for a year by petition then before the house of commons) was disposed of.

Sir Godfrey Webster had declared himself a candidate, on the interest of Mr. Pelham, for the vacancy occasioned by Lord Neville making his election for Monmouthshire; and Lord Mountmorres, in opposition, had been recommended by the treasure. - The petition being heard, and the election declared void, in March 1785, there became two vacancies; in consequence of which, Sir Godfrey Webster united his interest Mr. Alves, as the Hon. Mr. Watson had done at the former election; Sir Peter Parker and Lord Mountmorres appeared under the treasure influence, and Sir Laurence Parsons, Bart. the present member for King's County in Ireland, became a candidate on the suffrages of the non-rated housekeepers, in conjunction with Mr. Flood.

The day preceding the election, a third treasury candidate appeared, in the person of Sir John Henderson, and exhibited similar official recommendations to those already produced by Sir Peter Parker and Lord Mountmorres. The government voters, who had all engaged to support the two last, were at first a little staggered how to act under these contradictory orders; but, receiving the instructions from a proper person, they dismissed Lord Mountmorres, with as little ceremony as they had, upon a former occasion, done Mr. Alderman Curtis under similar circumstances. His lordship, however, did not acquiesce in this treatment with quite so much indifference and condescension; a very serious meeting had nearly taken place between him and Sir John Henderson, and which was only prevented by the intervention of friends, who suggested the propriety of an interview with a person high in office, that they might know to whom the blame was imputable. This meeting actually took place a few days after, which terminated so little to the satisfaction of the noble viscount, that he took the first opportunity, in a dignified place in a neighbouring kingdom, to make some strong comments in his speech, on the impropriety of a minister's not paying the most scurpulous attention to the observance of his word. We do not recollect that he pledged himself "as a man, and as a minister;" but it appears that his lordship considered the obligation as equally binding.

On the day of the election, seven candidates appeared on the hustings, (if the miserable place in which the public business of the borough is transacted may be understood by that name;) but Lord Mountmorres, finding himself deserted by every voter who had promised him, and by the men who had received him with cordiality, and announced him to the electors as the government candidate, in a speech of manly indignation, declined any further connection with this consistent body of electors. - At the close of the poll the numbers were,.

For the Rt. Hon. Henry Flood 28; Sir Laurence Parsons 24; Sir Godfrey Webster 19; For Thomas Alves, Esq. 18; Sir Peter Parker 17; Sir John Henderson 14;.

The returning-officer, however, thought proper to reject every vote for Flood and Parsons; eight of Sir Godfrey Webster's; Seven of Mr. Alves's; two of Sir Peter Parker's; and then made a return of the treasury candidates.

At this election the celebrated Mr. Harben made his first appearance in this borough, in a political character, having taken a lodging-house forty-days, to qualify himself for an occasional voter. Mr. Harison, who, for the last thirty years, had been considered as the government agent and patron, was still looked up to as preserving that situation.

Four petitions were presented to parliament against the return of Sir Peter Parker and Sir John Henderson; one by Mess. Flood and Parsons, a second by certain electors in their interest, a third by Mess. Webster and Alves, and a fourth by other electors who had voted for these gentlemen. - These petitions were tried by a committee of the house of commons, in February 1786, when, after a full investigation of the claims of those who voted for Flood and Parsons, the committee determined not to admit evidence to invalidate the resolution of 1761, by which the word populacy was explained to mean inhabitant housekeepers, paying scot and lot. The counsel then endeavoured to prove, that those persons were rateable housekeepers, within the meaning of the last resolution of 1761; but, their appeal to the Seaford sessions not having been made within the time directed by law, the committee also resolved not to admit evidence to prove that fact. The petition of these gentlemen being thus disposed of, the committee proceeded upon that of Sir Godfrey Webster and Mr. Alves, who objected to three of the votes for the sitting members, amongst whom was Mr. Harben, who voted for a lodging-house, upon a pretended residence of forty days. The whole three being deemed bad, the numbers for both parties became equal. The committee, therefore, upon the equality of numbers, declared this second election void. - At the third election, the numbers on the poll were,.

For the Rt. Hon. Henry Flood 32; Sir Godfrey Webster, Bart. 32; For Sir Peter Parker, Bart. 16; Sir John Henderson Bart. 16.

The returning-officer again struck off all votes such as did not appear on the poor-rate, though that rate had been rejected by the committee as corrupt one; and, admitting the whole sixteen votes for Parker and Henderson, and only half that number for Flood and Webster, made his return to parliament accordingly.

These proceedings were too flagrant to meet the eye of a committee of the house of commons; for, however desperate the imbecility and ignorance of a routed party of borough-mongers might make them, the characters of Sir Peter Parker and Sir John Henderson were not to be sported with, to gratify the chagrin of such people. A petition of Mr. Flood and Sir Godfrey Webster was presented to the house; and, when the day of hearing arrived, the counsel for the sitting members informed the committee, that, their clients being sensible that the petitioners had a majority of legal votes, they would give them no farther trouble. The committee reported to the house the same day, March 13. 1786, "That the Rt. Hon. Henry Flood and Sir Godfrey Webster, Bart. were duly elected, and ought to have been returned.".

Thus was the cause of independence, in this little borough, triumphant over the most unprecedented oppression, an in opposition to the influence of the treasury, to a family junto of borough-magistrates or jurats, and to the united exertion of seventeen sinecure placement, pensioned on purpose to support the cause of tyranny.

The system of politics in this place now took an entire change; the whole of Mr. Flood's friends, together with the other inhabitants, who had taken no part in the election, were put upon the poor-rates, and Mr. Harison, who had for thirty years enjoyed the confidence of government, had been the acknowledged patron of the borough, from the ill success that attended his late management, or from a determination to introduce a manager of less scruple into the dashing concerns of the party, was treated with coolness by the treasury; but as he full retained the absolute command of the corporation, which consisted of a bailiff, three jurats, and seventeen freemen, matters were not yet quite ripe for openly insulting and dismissing him.

Mr. Harben, the present hero of these political myrmidons, had therefore time to inveigle himself into the confidence of Mr. Harison; and by an offer, apparently liberal, of undertaking to be at the expense of reinstating Mr. Harison's influence, upon being permitted to share with him in the advantages attached to it, he obtained the purchase of several acres of land within the borough, from Mr. Harison's estate, on which he soon erected a stately house; and, having once got an establishment with the limits of its privileges, his next advance was upon the corporation. This body consisted mostly of revenue-officers, whose places were all sinecures, and were originally created here, as in the other cinque ports, for the establishment of government interest. Each individual owed his place to the recommendation of Mr. Harison; and it was at first apprehended, that the moral tie of gratitude might make such an impression upon the minds of some of them, as to create a difficulty in the attempt of not only detaching them from the interest of their benefactor, but in inducing them, at the same time, to support that of his avowed opponent; for, whenever the experiment was made, the mask of friendship must be taken off. Treasury mandates were however obtained, and the freemen were founded one by one. On the Michaelmas day following the late election defeat, this master-piece of political craft was to be played off. In commenced with electing a creature of Harison's, but who was no privately in the interest of Harben, into the office of bailiff, and then the cloven-foot appeared in Mr. Harben's being proposed to be elected a freeman. Mr. Harison, who was present, fired with indignation at the plot which was unfolding itself, intreated the freemen, as they valued their own interest, and if they felt a spark of attachment to him for the places they held, or the patronage he had ever afforded them, not to suffer this attempt to succeed against his political existence, and their security. The freemen, however, hear this harangue with stoic apathy, and, when the question was put, to a man voted against their benefactor!

We have been particular in our relation of these circumstances of political persidy, in order to display the pernicious consequences which the present system of borough representation must have upon the morals of the parties interested; not doubting but it will be an argument of much weight with the established clergy, whose zeal in the cause of virtue and good government will exert itself with redoubled vigour, to obtain that reform in the representation of the people, which is so immediately connected with the cause of religion and morality.

Mr. Harben having now erected a country-seat in the borough, and obtained another in the corporation, felt his importance sufficiently established to commence open hostilities with Mr. Harison. The first act of his reign, for he now became the avowed and ostensible agent of government, was to procure Mr. Harison's dismission from the sinecure places of supervisor of the riding-officers, and captain of the custom-house boat, worth together 270l. per annum; the first of which he disposed to Thomas Chambers, the late returning-officer, and the other he kept open for the most hungry of the opposite party to bite at. Mr. Harison's other sinecure, of comptroller of cloth and petty customs in the port of London, being a patent place for life, was out of the reach of Mr. Harben's grasp. - Mr. Harben was not all this while negligent of his own interest, having procured the exise of the eastern part of the county to be paid into his hands, in its passage to the treasury, (an object of no little importance to a country banker,) and obtained the place of receiver-general of the stamp-duties for Sussex, worth 600l. per annum, for his eldest son; his next care was to procure the office of warehouse-keeper of the stamp-office in London, with a salary of 200l. per annum, for his second son, which he is allowed to hold as a sinecure, and to continue his residence at Lewes.

From this period to the present, this insignificant little place has exhibited the most disgusting scene of profligacy, in all its shades of deformity. - Our readers will naturally be led to imagine, from the number of tide-waiters, boatmen, &c. who reside here, that there must be a harbour commodious for shipping; that the imports and exports must be great, and the revenues arising to government proportional thereto; but so far is this from being the real situation of the place, that the only business done here throughout the whole year, is the discharging one solitary cargo of coals. Newhaven, which is a considerable port, where much business is done, with a third part of the number of officers, is only four miles distant from hence; a convincing proof that these vermin are suffered to feed on the earnings of the laborious part of the public, only because their influence may have some weight at the election of the treasury members. The patronage of the custom-house at Newhaven, on account of its vicinity, is added as an appendage to the treasury agent of this place. The revenue-offices of Rotten Dean, East Dean, and the custom-house of East Bourne, are also supplied with placement amongst the electors of this place.

Mr. Harben being still unable, with all his influence, to ascertain a strength that would constitute a majority of electors, had recourse to a new expedient, which was not only contrary to the charter of the borough, but to its custom, practice, and constitution; this was, to create nineteen non-resident freemen, which Mr. Harben and his advisers were weak enough to believe would invest them with the rights of election. A meeting of the corporation was accordingly convened at an ale-house in the borough, when the following persons were admitted to their freedom:.

1. Hon. Charles Lenox, nephew to the Duke of Richmond.

2. Robert Steele, Esq. brother to the secretary of the treasury.

3. Walker Goldsmith, brother to one of the jurats.

4. Henry Chambers, ditto.

5. Nathaniel Pain, ditto.

6. Henry Plaisted, brother-in-law to Harben.

7. Harry Plaisted, cousin to ditto.

8. James Harben, brother to ditto.

9. Robert Rosam.

10. Rev. William Gwynne, of Lewes.

11. Rev. Arthur Iredel, a relation of Serjeant Kempe.

12. William Green, a magistrate at Lewes, and crier of the court of King's Bench.

13. Charles Gilbert.

14. Philip Mighill.

15. John Coggan.

16. James Brooke, brother-in-law to one of the jurats.

17. Gabriel Burrowes, father to the overseer.

18. Richard Talmage, an itinerant carpenter.

19. Richard Thatcher, brother-in-law to the town-clerk.

Soon after which were added the following:.

20. Rt. Hon. William Pitt!

21. Duke of Richmond!

22. John Young, a jack-ass driver.

23. William Chambers, brother to two of the jurats.

The jurats in the above list were non-resident, and selected from different parts of the kingdom.

The resident freeman and jurats, forming a list equally curious, it may not be amiss to add them in this place.


1. Thomas Chambers, bailiff, supervisor of the riding-officers, 150l. per annum.

2. James Chambers, brother to the former.

3. William Chambers, ditto, a patent waiter in the customs of the port of London, 150l. per annum. resides at Bletchingdon, and carries on the business of a farmer.

4. Thomas Harben, who resides at Lewes, has the public taxes paid into his bank, and his two eldest sons have places worth 800l. per annum.

5. Duke of Richmond, master-general of the ordnance, &c. &c. &c. who never was within the borough but once.

6. Lancelot Harison, residing at Brighthelmstone, comptroller of cloth and petty customs in the port of London, 200l. per annum.

7. Robert Stone, a tenant of Lord Pelham.


8. Sir James Peachey, master of the robes to the king.

9. Chatfield Turner, town-clerk, who resides at Lewes, and is said to be a rider, at 100l. per annum, upon a revenue-officer.

10. Thomas H. Harben, son of the jurat, and collector of stamp-duties, 600l. per anum.

11. Joseph Stevens, mate of the revenue-boat, 60l. per annum, but a landsman.

12. Charles Wood, a superannuated revenue-officer, who has resigned his pay to be maintained by the parish.

13. Henry Bean, a riding-officer, 60l. per annum.

14. William Baker, ditto, and brother-in-law to the bailiff.

15. Thomas Wood, a boatman, 30l. per annum.

16 John Wood, sen. nicknamed Roper, a boatman, 30l. per annum, and bully to the corporation.

17. John Hood, a schoolmaster, and an honest man.

18. Thomas Hughes, a superannuated boatman.

19. Samuel Sage, sen. a broken tide-waiter, and beggar-whipper to the magistrates.

20. Thomas Holman, an industrious labourer.

21. Robert Spearman Bates, a well-known East-India captain, resident at Lymington.

22. Thomas Simmons, a bricklayer, and a boatman, 30l. per annum.

23. William Simmons, father to the former.

24. John Simmons.

25. Wm Wood, son to John Wood, a bum-bailiff, nicknamed Tippler.

26. William Harmer, jun. a cow-boy.

27. Henry Putland, a drunken disorderly fellow.

28. John Wood, jun. brother to Tippler.

29. Thomas Verral.

30. John Gorringe, the person reprimanded by the committee of the house of commons for prevarication.

31. Arthur Hughes, son to Thomas Hughes.

32. Joseph Stevens, jun. son to the man, No. 11.

33. William Hide, nicknamed Turpin, assistant to Chambers the bailiff, 30l. per annum.

34. Mr. Serjeant Kempe, recorder of this borough.

The interest of Mr. Harben, with the assistance of so many non-resident freemen, not being yet deemed secure, another very extraordinary expedient was resorted to. Twenty-six persons, most of whom were in the employment of Mr. Harben, as diggers of chalk, at eight shillings per week each, were brought into the borough on the eve of Christmas day, 1789; when, a new poor-rate being made the same evening, every one of them were taxed for such houses as were occupied by widows, custom-house officers who could not vote, or freemen whom they presumed had a right of suffrages by virtue of their freedom; and one was rated for the poor-house of the parish. - These twenty-six chalk-diggers, together with the twenty-four non-resident freemen, making together fifty surreptitious votes, amounted to more than half of the whole number of legal electors in the borough; and, if a returning-officer could be found to admit persons of such descriptions to poll, little doubt could now be entertained of the treasure party succeeding at the ensuing election, as far at least as obtaining the return.

The dissolution of parliament happened to take place seventeen days before the six months residence, required by the statute of 26 George III. chap. 100, was completed; in consequence of which the treasury junto found themselves involved in what appeared to be an insurmountable dilemma. The craft and contrivance of their managers, however, hit upon a scheme for extricating them. The returning-officer was not compelled, by law, to proceed to election till the eighth day after proclamation, which happening to be Saturday, and adjournment took place till Monday, which manoeuvre carried them over to the tenth day, when it was agreed to dispose of the remaining seven in the following manner: - The candidates to insist on the six oaths required by the statute, being administered to each voter, which would take up half an hour in repeating by each individual. The six oaths are as follow:- 1. Oath of allegiance. 2. Oath of supremacy. 3. Declaration of test. 4. Oath of abjuration. 5. Oath of residence. 6. Bribery oath. - The candidates and the counsel to object to every voter, objectionable or not, and to make a speech of half an hour each on his ineligibility; which mode would occupy one hour and a half more upon each vote separately.

Under these obstacles, it was deemed impossible to poll more than four votes each day, till the seven days were expired; at which time six-and-twenty chalk-diggers might be brought forward, and polled, as having completed their six months residence. This plan was actually put in practice, and this ridiculous and reproachful farce was absolutely played off for the whole seven days. - The scene exhibited candidates speaking against time, counsel pleading against law, clergymen abjuring poverty, and the immaculate electors of Seaford purging themselves of bribery and corruption.

The seven days being at last got over by this management, the six-and-twenty chalk-diggers were brought forward on the eight day, and every on of whom were admitted to the poll, and received as good votes by the returning-officer; and the ministerial candidates, in the interest of Mr. Harben, were declared duly elected.

A petition was presented to parliament by the opposition candidates in Mr. Pelham's interest, immediately on its meeting, complaining of the above return, and the partiality of the returning officer, &c. which did not come to a hearing till the March following; when the twenty-four non-resident freemen, and the twenty-six chalk-diggers were declared bad votes, and ordered to be struck off the poll, without subjecting the petitioners to the trouble of examining a single witness; and this petition caused R. P. Joddrel, Esq. to lose his seat.

The right of election, by a resolution of the 19th of March, 1792, is in the inhabitants housekeepeers of the said town and port, paying scot and lot, and in them only. - The number of voters, eighty three. - The bailiff is the returning-officer, and ought to be chosen by the tenants and inhabitants, resident and abiding, on Michaelmas-day in every year. - The patronage of this borough is at present disputed between the Rt. Hon. Thomas Pelham and the treasury.

Seaford was formerly a large town, and had four churches and chapels, till it was burnt by the enemy. It is now only a small fishing-place, defended by a weak fort, erected rather for political than military purposes.

This place having sent members 26 and 30 Edward I. 16 and 19 Edward II. 18, 20, and 21, Richard II. and I Edward IV. not as a port, but as a borough, ceased sending till it was restored 16 Charles I. 1640; when it was made a member of the cinque ports. - The corporation consists of a bailiff, twelve jurats (which are generally half or two-thirds kept vacant), and an indefinite number of freemen.

Transcription details

The text for this section was transcribed by: Mark Collins.

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