William Holloway.

The history and antiquities of the ancient town and port of Rye, in the county of Sussex. With incidental notices of the Cinque Ports online

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Online LibraryWilliam HollowayThe history and antiquities of the ancient town and port of Rye, in the county of Sussex. With incidental notices of the Cinque Ports → online text (page 26 of 66)
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vote, from non-residency, was not a good one ; and that six
others were rejected by the mayor, from the parties not having
received the sacrament within the year, and who had voted
for the petitioners.

The committee came to the following resolutions, viz. :

1st. That Edward Southwell, Esq., is not duly elected.

2d. That Philip Herbert, Esq., is not duly elected.

3d. That Thomas Fagg, Esq., is duly elected.

4th. That Philips Gibbon, Esq., is duly elected.

The first two resolutions, being read a second time, were dis-
agreed unto by the House; and thus the decision of the com-
mittee was overturned, while the House was guilty of great
inconsistency and of great injustice. The committee, in accord-
ance with the principle already established, that the right of
voting was only in the resident freemen, of course rejected the
vote of Martin, and equally in accordance with the principle
admitted in the contest of 1090, allowed the votes of the six who
had not received the sacrament ; and thus, adding these six to
the petitioners, they would have 25 votes, while, taking one from
the sitting members, they would only have 20 votes, and be
in a minority of 5 votes.

In the year 1707 an act was passed to disable certain officers
from sitting in parliament, by which Mr. Herbert was deprived
of his seat, he being a commissioner of the sick and wounded.
A new writ was ordered to be issued, but whether another
member was then elected does not appear ; the probability is,
that as a dissolution took place the following year, under the
Triennial Act, no new election was held until November 5,
1708, when Philips Gibbon, Esq., and Sir John Norris were
returned, and Edward Southwell and John Ellis, Esqs., peti-
tioned against them ; but no report seems to have been made

In 1710 Sir John Norris and Philips Gibbon, Esq., were
again returned, when Edward Southwell and John Ellis, Esqs.,
petitioned again. The sitting members had each 29 votes ; the
petitioners each 17 votes.

The committee resolved

1st. That no person, having been proposed to be made free
and rejected, could afterwards be made free during the same

Under the operation of this resolution six votes were struck off
from the sitting members, and theirs were reduced to 23.

The petitioners' counsel objected to four others, as being
made free by a majority of freemen who were dissenters, and


had not qualified themselves by receiving the sacrament. On
this the. committee passed another resolution :

2d. That it is not necessary that the freemen of this Port
should qualify themselves according to the Corporation Act,
before they are allowed to vote in the assembly court of the said

The petitioners' counsel then excepted to five others, but on
what grounds it does not appear ; let them have been what they
will, they were not admitted, for the committee wound up
their report with declaring the sitting members duly elected,
and which was confirmed by the House.

This decision, though favorable so far as it established the
right of freemen to vote for members, although not qualified
by having received the sacrament, marks great inconsistency
in the committees of the House of Commons, for'this last com-
pletely reverses the judgment of the preceding one.

After the next election, which occurred March 3, 1713,
Samuel Lynn and John Chamberlain, Esqs., presented a peti-
tion to parliament, complaining of an undue return of Sir John
Norris and Philips Gibbon, lisq., by Mr. Walter Walters, not
a legal mayor, who admitted and procured, by threats, bribery,
and undue practices, several persons to vote for Norris and
Gibbon who had no right, and denied several who had an un-
doubted right to vote for the petitioners ; and of other illegal

This petition was withdrawn, and thus all contested elections
ceased for upwards of a century, when, in due time, we shall see
the long downcast spirit of the town was aroused, nor was it
laid again until it had completed its task of emancipation. For
the present we must be content to see the town settle down
in quiet acquiescence^ taking it for granted, that although no
Act of Incorporation ever could be produced, still it was now
governed by a corporation which, casting aside the denomina-
tion which for so many generations it had received from its
ancient Charters, that of " Mayor, Jurats, Barons, and good
men of the ancient town of Rye," assumed the modern one of
" Mayor, Jurats, and Freemen of the ancient town of Rye/'
under which it continued to trample on the liberties of the town
until the Reform Bill of 1832, which restored its long-lost
freedom, and gave it a new birth, under the new name of
" The Mayor, Aldermen, and Commonalty of the town of Rye."

In 1689 an act passed to restrain the lord wardens of the
Cinque Ports from interfering with the election of their mem-
bers of parliament ; but whether they did entirely refrain after-
wards may be subject to conjecture, for in 1694 we observe that
the Honorable Colonel Smyth, their Majesties' Lieutenant of


Dover Castle, was elected a freeman of the town of Rye. He
was the lord warden's inferior officer, and, of course, under his
command, and one is puzzled to know for what purpose, unless
for a political one, he was thus admitted. However, judging
from what took place in Hastings, we may conclude that the
lord warden did not give up his power without a struggle. In
this Port, in 1689, Colonel Beaumont, the Lieutenant- Governor
of Dover Castle, was returned, although it was necessary that
he, or the governor, should issue the writ, and sign the return
to it.

Among the names of the representatives of Rye during this
reign, we can only detect one as being a native or inhabitant of
the town, and this is Thomas Fagg ; the others were strangers,
but some of them neighbours. Sir John Norris and Philips
Gibbon, Esq., were inhabitants of Benenden, Kent; the former
was an admiral, and resided at Hempstead House, the present
seat of Thomas Law Hodges, Esq. There is a tradition con-
nected with his name, that when he lay with his fleet in some
port in Norway, the rats of that country got into his ships, and
were thus introduced into England. These rats burrow in the
ground, whereas the original one of this country used to make
its nest in the thatch of barns and other buildings. Mr. Gibbon
belonged to an old family of the same place, from which has
since descended Edward Gibbon, the celebrated historian of
Rome, and to which the Moneypennys of Rolvenden also claim
relationship, the late member for Rye, Thomas Gibbon Money-
penny, Esq., taking the name of Gibbon on this account.

Mr. Southwell must have been a man of wealth and note,
for he seems to have been about the court ; and hence was
recommended to the notice of the freemen of Rye by Lord
Ashburnham, as likely to have influence to get their harbour
improved and procure convoys for their vessels. He showed
his munificence by the presents he made to the church, of
which we shall speak more at large when we come to treat of
the ecclesiastical affairs of the town.


Name.-*. How admitted. When admitted.

Thomas Thompson

John Doild
Gabriel Keirhy
Thomas Grebbell, jun.
Robert Houn^ell
William Osborne
Edward Swaina
Joseph Breades, sen.
Robert Smith

Election April 10th, 1705.

Mayor Nov. 12th, 170;*.

John Colemnn do. Aug. 9th, 1704.




Edward Southwell, Esq.

Philip Herbert, Esq.
These were elected members I
of parliament, and Herbert, \
being present, took the oath /
of a freeman, the oath of a
burgess, and the oath to the
Queen, according to law. )

Leonard Breads

William Horsfteld

Willliam Holstone

Henry Parker

Thomas Sargent

Moses Peadle

Henry Brockman "}

Stephen Barnes

John Taylor )

Edward Lee

Capt. Nathaniel Pigram

Ralph Norton

Robert Walsh

John Slade

Thomas Moore

How admitted.











When admitted.

May 14th, 1705.

Aug. 25th, 1705.
Aug. 24th, 1706.
May 14th, 1707.
Oct. 15th, 1707.
Jan. 21st, 1708.
Aug. 4th, 1708.

Jan. 21st, 1709.

July 20th, 1709.
Oct. 8th, 1711.

Nov. 22d, 1712.

Dec. 3d, 1712.
June2d, 1713.

In these eleven years twenty-six new freemen were admitted
(the members are not reckoned), being an average of more than
two yearly, in the following manner, viz. :

By election
By mayor
By birth



Seeing there were no less than nine elected in one day, in
1702, we might be led to believe that a more liberal spirit had
sprung up in the town ; but then again, when we see only
seventeen admitted altogether in the next ten years, it makes
us pause before we too hastily jump to this conclusion, and we
naturally inquire whether it was a spirit of liberality or of
policy, which caused this sudden ebullition of patriotism. We
have seen it stated before the committee of 1702, that the
mayor had imbibed an opinion, it was the wish of the House
of Commons that, in all boroughs, in which the number of
freemen was under fifty, enough should be added to supply
the deficiency. Now these nine freemen were elected before
the election of representatives, and in accordance with this
opinion ; but this opinion (proving to have been an erroneous
one) was as quickly abandoned as it had been taken up. Rotten
boroughs had grown into fashion with the government of this
day; the future mayors were not slow to take the hint, and
henceforward the contractive principle was adopted in pre-
ference to the expansive. We are now advanced into the


heart of that system which so decidedly marks the second
epoch in the existence of the Cinque Ports and ancient towns.



1715. Sir John Norris, Knt., Philips Gibbon, Esq.
1722. Henry Lord Ajlmer, Philips Gibbon, Esq.

In the year 1716 was passed the Septennial Act, which is
still the law of the land. Thus parliaments, which were
originally elected yearly, and even sometimes twice in a year,
were, during the civil wars, extended to a most unconstitutional
length by that distinguished by the name of the Long Parlia-
ment ; while, in 1 694, they were not allowed to sit for more
than three years; but, in 1716, their existence was protracted
to seven. We see the immediate operation of this last Act in
the lapse of seven years between the first and second election
in the reign of George I, while the duration of the last was
only cut short, in all probability, by the death of the king in


Names. How admitted. When admitted.

Allen Grebbell Birthright Nov. 16th, 1714.

William Osbourne Mayor May 2d, 1715.

Thomas Cook do. Feb. 23d, 1716.

Joseph Cooper Birthrisrbt Aug. 21st, 1717.

Thomas Piggins Mayor Oct. 16th, 1717.

Samuel Jeake Birthright Aug. 10th, 1719.

James Lamb Mayor Aug. ]7th, 1720.

Love Luckett do. Aug. ISth, 1721.

William Waylett Birthright Aug. 26tb, 1721.

John Eastern do. Jan. 16th, 1722.

Wil.sb.ire Slade Mayor May 8th, 1722.

Edward Swaine Birthright March llth, 1723.

Daniel Davis Mayor March 25tb, 1724.

Thomas Kennett Birthright Dec. 2d, 1724.

John Wright do.^ Dec. 30th, 1724.

Thomas Gowen do. June 16lb, 1 725.

Richard Lamb Mayor July 25th, 1725.

John Welsh Election Feb. 25th, 1726.

Henry Carleton Mayor March 9th, 172.

Walter Waters, jun. Birthright Aug. 24th, 1726.

Joseph Tucker, jun. do. March 8th, 1727.

Of these twenty-one freemen we find only one elected, while
nine are made by the mayor, and eleven were admitted by
birthright. Out of these last eleven no less than six were sons
of those who were admitted in the reign of William, when the
mayor fell into the unfortunate error of supposing the House
of Commons wished to have the number of freemen increased,
and thus the work of curtailment was spread over a greater
lapse of years than would otherwise have been the case.





1727. John Norris, Esq., Philips Gibbon, Esq.

1734. Sir John Norris, Philips Gibbon, Esq.

1711. Sir John Norris, Philips Gibbon, Esq.

1747. Sir John Norris, Philips Gibbon, Esq.

1749. Thomas Pelham, in the room of Norris, who died.

1754. George Onslow, Philips Gibbon, Esq.



Thomas Thompson

Robert Smith

James Hope

Elias Rowe

James Welch

Cbiswell Slade

William Allen

Charles Martin

Moses Peadle

Walter Elmstone

George Cooper

Thomas Lamb

James Lamb

Arthur Moore

John Lamb

David Swaine

Stephen Fryman

Love Luckett ]

William Lamb ]

William Prosser

William Davis

Henry Pearch

Thomas Cook

Thomas Procter

John Davis

Allen Grebbell

William Dansays

Needier Chamberlain Watson

Richard Wright

John Swaine j

William Kennett J

Thomas Owens

William Waylett

Daniel Davis

Thomas Smith

Samuel Miller

Edwin Wardroper

John Hogben

John Chrismas

How admitted.

When admitted.


July 2d, 1727.


July 16tb, 1727.


July 16th,1727.


July 16th, 1728.


June 10th, 1737.


Sept. 7tb, 1737. 1

M ayor

Aug. 23d, 1738.


May 16th, 1739,


Aug. 22d, 1739.


April 29th, 1741.


Aug. 18th, 1741.


June 9th, 1742.


April 25th, 1743.


June 19th, 1745.


July 30th, 1746.


Aug. 25th, 1747.


May 3lst, 1749.


Aug. 9th, 1749.


June 13th, 1750.


Aug. 21st, 1751.


May 13th, 1752.


Aug. 19th, 1752.


Aug. 15th, 1753.


March 27tb, 1754.


Aug. 14th, 1754.


Jan. 15th, 1755.


May 21st, 1755.


April 2 1st, 1756.


July 14th, 1756.


Aug. 24th, 1757.



Sept. 7th, 1757.

Aug. 23d, 1T58.
Nov. 25th, 1758.
Aug. 20th, 1759.
Aug. 19th, 1760.

We have inserted the list of freemen in this reign immediately
after that of the members of parliament, as we have some
observations to offer in relation both to the represented and
the representatives, the thread of which we are anxious should
not be broken ; for now the plot had begun to thicken ; the
nature of a rotten borough was fully understood; patronage


was no longer a secret to be sought after ; the discovery was
now made also (and which was acted upon afterwards, not only
in this, but in every other borough similarly circumstanced)
that, at an election, it was an advantage to that party of the
electors on whose side, in politics, the returning officer hap-
pened to be ; while the gradual diminution of the freemen
showed, but too plainly, that now the contractive principle was
fully established. These were the baneful ingredients which
the witches of those days cast into the boiling cauldron, and,
being well stirred and mixed, we will pi'oceed to see how they

In the year 1742 the corporation, having found it necessary
to build a new town-hall, were obliged to borrow money to
enable them to do it ; when the two members, Sir John Norris
ami Philips Gibbon, Esq., kindly lent them 450 each at 3
per cent, per annum ; and in return, of course, the corporation
could not, in gratitude, do less than continue them as their
representatives, which they faithfully did up to the time of
their respective deaths. Sir John Norris died in 1749, when
his executors, John Norris and Henry Norris, Esqs., demanded
the payment of his 450. In this same year Thomas Pelham,
Esq., of Stanmer, near Lewes, was elected in the room of the
deceased member, and, in taking his seat, he at the same time
took upon him his debt also; thus, at once becoming both
the representative and the creditor of the corporation. This
Thomas Pelham was a relative of the celebrated Duke of New-
castle, who now gained considerable influence in the town. In
1754 \vas another election, when George Onslow, Esq., was
chosen in the room of Thomas Pelham, and in this same
year the noble duke paid off both the bonds of 450 each,
originally granted to Norris and Gibbon, and made the corpo-
ration a present of them ; while, in return, the latter sent his
grace a letter of thanks signed by all the freemen. Now,
although these transactions do not, at first sight, appear
deserving of very severe censure, nevertheless they are repre-
hensible as destroying the liberty of the electors and giving an
unfair bias to their opinions, which, in the exercise of the elective
franchise, ought ever to be free and uncontrolled, except by
a due sense of the high duty each has to perform in sending a
representative to the great council of the nation. This sum of
nine hundred pounds was not put into any patron's private
pocket, but spent on the erection of a court-hall for the general
benefit of the town ; still it created a sense of dependency, for,
though we may dignify it by calling it gratitude, the freemen
became bound in the fetters of the Duke of Newcastle, and
were considered so completely his slaves, that a saying arose


in the town, that " if the duke sent one of his coach-horses as
their representative, the freemen would elect him."

So far back as Oct. 4th, 1613, Allen Grebbell was made a
freeman by the mayor. On Jan. 17th, 1659, Allen, his son,
was admitted by birthright, and afterwards was ejected from
the corporation, in the reign of Charles II. His son Thomas,
having been admitted by birthright, although his father, at
the time, was not a corporator, had nevertheless his vote
for a representative allowed by the committee on the con-
tested election of 1690. On Dec. 20th, 1 700, Jeremiah Grebbell
was chosen the mayor's freeman. On April 10th, 1702, Thomas
Grebbell, jun., was elected a freeman. Nov. 16th, 1714, Allen,
son of Thomas Grebbell, was made free by birthright; and, final!
on March 27, 1754, Allen, son of Allen Grebbell, was likewi:
made free by birthright.

Thus the Grebbells were an ancient and respectable family in
the town of Rye, and became men of authority in the corpora-
tion ; for although one was ejected from it in the reign of
Charles II, yet afterwards the office of mayor was repeatedly
held by them ; thereby proving the saying of King David,
" The stone which the builders refused is become the headstone
of the corner."

Thomas Grebbell, whose vote was allowed in 1690, having
been restored to his freedom, was several times mayor ; while
Allen; his son, held the office in the years 1728, 1730, 1732,
1735, 1737, 1739, and 1741. In 1727 we find James Lamb,
Esq., mayor. He was connected by marriage with the Grebbells ;
and when this latter family became extinct, the mantle of their
power fell on the shoulders of that of the Lambs, and was worn
by them down to the period of the passing of the Reform Bill
in 1832. The thirty-four mayoralties which occurred from
1727 to 1760 (both inclusive) were held as under, viz.:

By Allen Grebbell , 7 times

By James Lamb, sen. ...... 12

By James Lamb, jun. - - -..3

By Thomas Lamb - - - - 3

By Chiswell Slade ... ... 2

By William Davis 2

By others ....... -5

Total - - - 34

The Grebbells, the Lambs, the Slades, and the Davises, were
all related by blood or marriage. Therefore, when \ve see that
twenty-nine out of thirty-four mayoralties were filled by them,
we may fairly conclude their influence in the corporation was
very considerable.

There were thirty-nine freemen admitted in the thirty-four


years, included under the reign of George II ; eighteen of which
were by birthright, and the other twenty-one were chosen by
different mayors ; not one was elected in all this time, and thus
the commonalty tacitly gave up one more of the public high-
ways by which they might, when they pleased, conduct others
into the corporation, and considerably narrowed the only re-
maining one of birthright ; for as the mayors were always now
chosen from the jurats, these became one and the same body,
centering in themselves, by the nomination of such men as they
chose to admit to the enjoyment of the freedom, all the power
of enlarging or lessening the members of the corporate body,
taking due care, as we shall see, only to choose such persons as
should be subservient to their wishes, or who, from age or other
causes, were not likely to rear up successors who might here-
after enter the corporate ranks as a matter of right. The great
object was to have none admitted by right, but all by favour.
But let us analyse this body of freemen, and so the more
clearly exemplify our meaning.

Of the eighteen admitted by birthright, the following, viz.
James Lamb, William Lamb, Chiswell Slade, Allen Grebbell,
and Daniel Davis were family connexions ; and of the twenty-
one chosen the following six (Thomas Lamb, John Lamb,
William Davis, John Davis, Thomas Procter, and Needier C.
Watson) were alliejl by blood or marriage : while, of the re-
maining fifteen, only four left sons to inherit their freedom.

Thus quietly, but surely and successfully, did this family
party spread their toils ; when, in the important year of 1 7.38,
seeing the game within them, they drew their nets, and, as they
thought, secui'ed them for ever.

In speaking of 1758, we allude to a document which was
then drawn up, and signed by several of these parties, the pur-
port of which was to keep the power they had obtained in their
own hands, and not to allow any one to enter the corporation
who was likely to be disobedient to their will and dictation.
In the heat of political contest which afterwards took place,
this compact was printed and placarded throughout the town
of Rye, was embodied in a petition to the House of Commons
in 1827, produced before the committee which tried the con-
tested election of 1830, and, finally, published in the Parlia-
mentary Addenda to Horsfield's e History of Sussex/ But
as those heats have passed away, and as some of the living
might have their feelings wounded by an unnecessary publica-
tion of the deeds of the dead, we forbear to publish it here, con-
tenting ourselves with remarking that the object of the compact
was fully attained. Rye was made a complete rotten borough.
It was the finishing stroke, that gave the coup de grace for the


next seventy years to the last expiring liberties of this ancient



1761. Philips Gibbon, John Bentinck.

1762. John Norris, in room of Gibbon, who died.
1768. John Norris, Rose Fuller.

1774. Middleton Onslow, Rose Fuller.

1775. Hon. Thomas Onslow, in room of Middleton Onslow, who ncccpted Ihe

Chiltern Hundreds.

1776. William Dickinson, in room of Rose Fuller, who died.
1780. Thomas Onslow, William Dickenson.

1784. The Right Hon. Charles Wolfran Cornwall, William Dickenson.
1788. Charles Long takes Cornwall's sent, the latter having died.
J790. Charles Long, Hon. Robert Banks Jenkinson.
1798. Robert Dundas, Robert Lord Hawkesbury.
1801. Lord de Blaquiere, Lord Hawkesbury.

v-,.. Thomas Davis Lamb, Lord Hawkesbury.

. 1802. Hon. Sir Arthur Wellesley, Sir Charles Talbot, Bart

1806. Patrick Crawford Bruce, Michael Angelo Taylor.
J807. May. Sir John Nichol, Earl of Clancarty.

1807. July. Sir William Elford, Bart, F.R.S., Stephen Rumbold Lushington.

1808. July. William Jacob, vice Elford.

1812. Thomas Phillips Lamb, Sir Henry Sullivan, Bart.

^13. John Maberley, vice Lamb, Richard Arkwright, jun., vice Sullivan.

1818. Right Hon. Charles Arbuthnot, Peter Brown.

John Dodson, LL.D., vice Arbuthnot.

In 1762 died Philips Gibbon, Esq., having represented the
borough of Rye in eleven successive parliaments, running over
the long period of fifty-three years. At the time of his decease
he was the father of the House of Commons, having sat there
longer than any other member then within its walls. There
still exists a memorial of this representative, in a portrait which
he had painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, during his connexion
with the town, and which is now in the possession of the Lamb

Mr. Gibbon's vacant seat was filled by John Norris, Esq., a
relative of the late Sir John Norris. A memento of him still
remains in several large, handsomely-bound Prayer-books, which
he presented to the Corporation, and which yet grace the pew
in the church set apart for the use of the mayor and aldermen
of the borough. On one cover are these Avords : "The gift of

Online LibraryWilliam HollowayThe history and antiquities of the ancient town and port of Rye, in the county of Sussex. With incidental notices of the Cinque Ports → online text (page 26 of 66)