Restoration – Part Two

There was another general election in April 1661. Phineas Andrews stood for Hythe again, but faced opposition from no fewer than four other candidates. John Hervey (not to be confused with John Harvey, the by now dead parliamentarian) was the Lord Warden’s nomination; the mayor of Hythe, William Knight was another candidate, and Sir Edward Dering probably a third. The identity of the fourth man is unknown. Andrews, who had expected to spend about £20 on his election campaign, complained that he had to lay out seven times as much. He would have complained more if he had known how short his triumph would be:  he died on 23 September 1661.

The other successful candidate was John Hervey, a courtier with ambitions that went beyond representing a decaying Cinque Port, and his time in parliament was marked by his almost complete inactivity. He was ill at the time of Charles I’s coronation and unable to carry the canopy, so Elias Bassett, landlord of ‘The George’ stepped in. Phineas Andrews also represented the town at the ceremony. According to his tombstone in Denton church, his exertions on the occasion led directly to his illness and death.

At the ensuing by-election, on 26 October, Sir Henry Wood another courtier, was returned unopposed.  The corporation had obviously had enough of these placemen, and ordered that he should be returned ‘after he shall have first made his appearance at Hythe to take the oath of Freeman of this town and not before’.  A struggle of will ensued. Twice the corporation reminded him that they expected him to make the journey; twice he refused. At last, on 8 December, six weeks after the election, three jurats travelled to the capital to swear him in.

The fact was that they also wanted to ask him for money to fund some new boats for the town’s fishermen, but as he only offered £40, the fishermen were not interested.  The corporation could offer nothing: the town chest was empty and they finished the year more than £25 in the red.

Suspicions and accusations were still flying around Hythe. In 1662, William Adcock, a grocer who had already been thrown off the corporation was arrested in connection with the escape of Colonel Edmund Ludlow, against whom an arrest warrant had been issued in September 1660.  Ludlow was a radical parliamentarian, who had been one of the judges who condemned Charles I to death.  Charles II, although he had granted amnesty to most of Cromwell’s supporters, did not extend his clemency to regicides.  Ludlow was a wanted man, but managed to escape to Switzerland in 1660.  The government believed that he had escaped through one of the Cinque Ports, but Adcock’s supposed involvement is unknown. After being interrogated in the Tower of London, he was released and returned to Hythe.

Then on 26 August of the same year, six Commissioners for the Well Governing and Regulating of Corporations, a sort of mini-Inquisition, visited Hythe. Parliament had passed a Corporation Act in 1661 which sought to exclude religious dissenters from the governing bodies of corporate towns. It demanded the taking of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and office holders also had to receive the Sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England.  However, the king and parliament thought it likely that many would do so solely to satisfy the law, so the Act provided for commissioners to examine and purge the corporations, even of those who took their oaths. Charles chose country gentlemen with their local knowledge, not courtiers, as Commissioners.

Twenty-six of the Hythe jurats and freemen swore the oaths. The Commissioners still disenfranchised five of them, together with another twelve who refused to take the oaths. Altogether seventeen freemen and jurats were banned from the corporation or holding office either for political or religious reasons. John Finch and Ferdinando Bassett were also obliged to resign as wardens of St Bartholomew’s Hospital, as this was a corporation office.  It is a wonder the corporation was able to function at all.

Throughout the 1660s the corporation struggled to keep afloat financially. It is not impossible that the loss of so many experienced jurats led to mistakes being made. Their solution to the problem was to sell their capital assets. Land was sold to Elias Bassett and Julius Deedes.  Other land was mortgaged. Penny House and Grayfields were also sold, together with some land know as St Clare’s, again to Elias Bassett. The mayor, who was the same Elias Bassett three times during the decade, refused to accept his traditional salary. It was only £10 a year, and a man of Elias’s evident wealth could easily afford to forego it.

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