Roger Whitley

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Royalist Roger Whitley fought through the Civil War for Charles I, was exiled, and became an MP after the Restoration of Charles II, being rewarded with the grant of the wardenship of St John's Hospital. Whitley was elected a Member (for the north-east Welsh borough constituency of Flint) in the Convention Parliament of 1660. He represented Flint from 1660 until 1681, when he moved to Chester. He was rumoured to be embroiled in many plots, including the schemes of the Duke of Monmouth. He served as Whig MP for Chester 1681-1685 (when he was disenfranchised) and, after the death of Charles II, recovered his fortunes and served as Chester MP, briefly, from 1689-1690. The early 1690's saw an at times violent battle between the Whig's (led by Whitley) and the Tory's (led by the Grosvenors) for power in Chester. Whitley returned to represent Chester in 1695 (having accepted a deal with the Grosvenor faction), until his death two years later.

From 1664 until 1697 Roger Whitley kept a dairy which still survives and which details his day to day activities. He entertains others to dinner frequently, often most nights a week. He is obviously pious (and records those Sundays when he neglects to go to church), and bemoan's his son's debts (which appear extensive). As well as his country seat at Peel Hall he also keeps a house in Chester itself (from 1692). Whitley seems fond of a tipple, frequently drinking "a pint of wine" or sharing a bottle (or three) with visitors. His drinking haunts included the Cross Keys and the Sun (Sunne), which were both towards the High Cross end of Northgate Street in what was then Shoemaker's Row, and the Ship, in upper Northgate Street.

During his long life Chester changed from a City largely ignored by a distant royal earl, and thus run by a somewhat corrupt Corporation controlled by the guilds and burghers, to a City dominated by the local landed gentry, the Grosvenors. Pike and musket warfare gave way to rather more mobile warfare with the simple invention of the bayonet, and by Whitley's death Britain was at the eve of the Industrial Revolution.

Some things didn't change:

Cooke records the events of those early times:

  • "In the year 1662, Lord Biereton, Sir Peter Leicester, Sir Richard Grosvenor, and Sir Geoffry Shackerby, acting as commissioners, for regulating the corporation, endeavored to remove several aldermen and common councilmen, who appeared too much attached to the interests of their fellow citizens to be the avowed tools of governments. To this origin may be traced those divisions and animosities, which have frequently risen to such an alarming height in this city, and which can scarcely be said to have subsided."

Hemingway, writing in 1826, reported:

  • "Of all the places in the kingdom which have heen contested during the late general Election, the city of Chestet has heen distinguished ahove most others for the virulence of party feeling, the acrimony of personal hostility, and the violence of popular outrage."


Civil War

Roger Whitley (?1618-97) for a long time of Peel Hall, Cheshire, was a Royalist, Deputy Postmaster General, and an MP. The Whitleys had been settled in Flintshire since Tudor times, but Whitley’s father, sheriff in 1637-8, and a commissioner of array, seems to have been the first of the family to attain county office.

Porch sculpture from Town Hall - Charles I arrives in Chester. The next day he lost a battle and then left.

Roger Whitley’s own career was largely determined for him by his early marriage, probably before the Civil War, to the sister of the 1st Lord Gerard, one of the most prominent royalist commanders in the field. The Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians ("Roundheads") and Royalists ("Cavaliers") over the manner of England's government. The first (1642–46) and second (1648–49) wars pitted the supporters of King Charles I against the supporters of the Long Parliament, while the third (1649–51) saw fighting between supporters of King Charles II and supporters of the Rump Parliament. The war ended with the Parliamentarian victory at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September 1651, the trial and execution of Charles I having taken place in 1649.

Whitley took up arms for the King, and two of his brothers were killed in action. Little is known of Whitley's exact activities during the Civil War, but his brother-in-law was carried from the field desperately wounded at the Battle of Rowton Heath, near Chester (23rd September 1645). Whitley became a captain of horse in 1642, was a colonel 1644-46, but also governor of Aberystwyth from 1644-46. Most likely he was possibly besieged in Aberystwyth Castle together with his Regiment of Foot.

Whitley was also involved in the series of Royalist uprisings throughout England and a Scottish invasion which occurred in the summer of 1648. Forces loyal to Parliament put down most of the uprisings in England after little more than skirmishes, but uprisings in Kent, Essex and Cumberland, the rebellion in Wales, and the Scottish invasion involved the fighting of pitched battles and prolonged sieges.

A tireless conspirator, at home and abroad, from the surrender of Aberystwyth in 1646 till the Restoration, Whitley took part in the royalist rising in North Wales in 1648 and the Worcester campaign. At Brussels in 1658 he drew up an elaborate memorandum for a royalist-presbyterian alliance, to which he appended a long list of potential supporters, principally in Wales and the north-west.

Restoration

In 1660 Charles II was restored to the throne. Having served under Sir George Booth as major-general of horse in 1659, Whitley was:

Charles II - This affable character had most of those involved in his father's death beheaded, including those who had since died and were dug-up especially to be "executed".
  • "confident that his Majesty’s chief joy in the Restoration is the rewarding of those that have been faithful to him".

The grant of St John's Hospital in Chester (1660), gave him an interest in the city, and served as a foretaste of more substantial rewards to come. Roger embodied the Whig faction in Chester, which originally promoted the supremacy of Parliament (as opposed to that of the king), toleration for Protestant dissenters, and opposition to a Catholic (especially a Stuart) on the throne. Whitley was elected a Member (for Fflint) of the Convention Parliament of 1660. He represented the north-east Welsh borough constituency of Flint from 1660 until 1681. By 1674 Whitley was a thriving man able to purchase £3,670 of East India Company stock.

He was elected in Chester and served as MP 1681-1685 and 1689-1690. He returned to represent Chester in 1695, until his death two years later. Whitley was a prominent Whig politician and a powerful figure in Chester. He was made a Freeman of Chester in 1666, an alderman from 1680 to 1684 and from August 1688 to his death, treasurer for 1688–89 and mayor from 1692–96. However in coming to Chester, Whitley had walked into the midst of a pending political storm.

Who follows Charles II?

Charles II faced a political storm over who would become monarch upon his death. The normal choice would be James, Duke of York, the second surviving son of King Charles I and his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. Unfortunately, James's time in French exile had exposed him to the beliefs and ceremonies of Catholicism; he and his wife, Anne, became drawn to that faith, and around 1668 had become a convert. The prospect of a Catholic monarch was strongly opposed by the plot-steeped Anthony Ashley Cooper, 1st Earl of Shaftesbury. Shaftesbury's candidate for succcession was Charles II's illegitimate Protestant son, James Scott, later the Duke of Monmouth. Born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, to Lucy Walter, and her lover, Charles II (who was living in continental exile following his father's execution), James Scott spent his early life in Schiedam. As an illegitimate son, James was not eligible to succeed to the English or Scottish thrones, though there were rumours that Charles and Lucy did, in fact, marry secretly. On 14 February 1663, at the age of 13, shortly after having been brought to England, James was created Duke of Monmouth.

The was another contender: after his marriage to Mary (James' daughter) in November 1677, William of Orange became a strong candidate for the English throne should his father-in-law (and uncle) James be excluded because of his Catholicism. During the crisis concerning the Exclusion Bill in 1680, Charles at first invited William to come to England to bolster the king's position against the exclusionists, then withdrew his invitation—after which Lord Sunderland also tried unsuccessfully to bring William over, but now to put pressure on Charles. Nevertheless, William secretly induced the States General to send Charles the "Insinuation", a plea beseeching the king to prevent any Catholics from succeeding him, without explicitly naming James. After receiving indignant reactions from Charles and James, William denied any involvement.

In May 1682 Charles II fell ill and Shaftesbury's plots thickened. He convened a plot with Monmouth, Russell, Ford Grey, 3rd Baron Grey of Werke, and Sir Thomas Armstrong to determine what to do if the king died, but the king recovered. By mid-year the plotters were actively considering simultaneous rebellions in several parts of the country. Shaftesbury grew desperate. He arranged for the apparently charming but not too savvy Monmouth to tour Cheshire in the autumn of 1682. It is clear that this tour of Cheshire had one purpose, to lay the ground for a "Cheshire Rising" similar to that of the early 1400's in favour of Richard II. Hemingway writes:

  • "In 1683 (sic) the kingdom was again threatened with civil commotion from the restless ambition of the Duke of Monmouth a natural son of Charles II who had entered into a conspiracy with Lord Russel Algernon Sydney and other malcontents. The following relation of this young gentleman's visit to Chester is taken from the Cowper MSS which places the loyalty of the citizens of that day in a somewhat questionable shape: "In the middle of August James Duke of Monmouth came to Chester greatly affecting popularity and giving countenance to riotous assemblies and tumultuous mobs whose violence was such as to pelt with stones the windows of several gentlemen's houses in the city and otherwise to damage the same. They likewise furiously forced the doors of the Cathedral church and destroyed most of the painted glass burst open the little vestries and cupboards wherein were the surplices and hoods belonging to the clergy which they rent to rags and carried away, they beat to pieces the baptismal font pulled down some monuments attempted to demolish the organ and committed other enormous outrages. On Thursday the 25th of the said month the duke went to the horse races at Wallasey in Wirral which meeting served as a rendezvous for his friends in this part of the kingdom, a junto of whom sat in consultation in the summer house at Bidston where was concerted that insurrection which was afterwards attended with such fatal consequences"."

News of the general junketings and riots quickly reached London - Peter Shakerley was sending hourly reports from Chester by courier - and Charles II was not pleased. Monmouth is said to have entered Chester at the head of "a great column of 700 men", although that may have been exaggerated by those who had the king's ear. It is said that there were no church bells to greet the arrival of Monmouth in Chester, as the Dean, a loyalist, had concealed the keys to all the churches. While the Duke dined at the Feathers, a mob broke into the Cathedral and did much damage as described above. The reports sent back to London show that Monmouth met many people with whom Whitley had an association:

  • "The names returned by the court spies of the country gentlemen who attended the Duke are - Gower, Offley, Sir John Bowyer, Macclesfield, Brandon, his son. Sir Robert Cotton and his eldest son. Sir Willoughby Aston, Mr Henry Booth son of Lord Delamere, Mr John Maynwaring son of Sir Thomas Maynwaring, Sir John Bellatt, Mr Thomas Whitley, Mr Lawton, and his son, Mr Roger Maynwaring of Calingham - all Cheshire men."
  • "The Duke next went to Rocksavage a house of Lord Rivers thence to Lord Delamere's at Dunham, attended by Lord Gerard, Mr Crew, and others. As they passed over Stoaken Heath, they were met by the principal persons of Warrington, who entertained his party. On the 17th, the Earl of Macclesfield received the Duke; who proceeded the next day once more to Trentham Hall. In the afternoon he came to Newcastle and the next day to Stafford."

At Stafford, Monmouth was arrested. With his plots having proved unsuccessful, Shaftesbury determined to flee the country and soon found himself in Amsterdam. Monmouth himself went into self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, and gathered supporters in The Hague.

Trouble in Chester

The following table shows when Whitley was an MP for Chester:

Election Year First member Second member
1660 John Ratcliffe William Ince
1661 John Ratcliffe Thomas Smith
1673 Robert Werden Thomas Smith
1675 Robert Werden William Williams
1679 Thomas Grosvenor (3bt) William Williams
1681 Roger Whitley William Williams
1685 Thomas Grosvenor (3bt) Robert Werden
1689 Roger Whitley George Mainwaring
1690 Thomas Grosvenor (3bt) Richard Levinge
1695 Thomas Grosvenor (3bt) Roger Whitley
Jan 1698 Thomas Grosvenor (3bt) Thomas Cowper
Lettice Whitley (Roger's sister-in-law) lived at what was to become St Michael's Rectory in Bridge Street.

At the age of around 60, Whitley purchased Peel Hall, some five miles from Chester, to which constituency he transferred himself unopposed in 1681, with the support of his brother-in-law, now Earl of Macclesfield, leaving his son Thomas to succeed him as MP at Flint. He was prominent in the Duke of Monmouth’s rapturous reception at Chester in September 1682, and stood for the mayoralty a few weeks later, following the term of his friend George Mainwaring. It is clear that he enjoyed much popular support and "was cocksure of being elected"; great exertions were made to defeat him by the court party, and Peter Shakerley, "over a glass of wine", persuaded the aldermen, by the narrowest possible majority, to elect his opponent (Peter Edwards). In 1682 Shakerley succeeded his father as governor of Chester Castle, and in the coming years demonstrated his loyalty to the crown by gathering information concerning the Duke of Monmouth’s visit to Cheshire in September 1682. Three years later, in the aftermath of the Monmouth rebellion, Shakerley gathered evidence on individuals suspected of disaffection, some of which was used at the trial of Lord Delamer (Henry Booth) in 1685. Booth was aquitted - the presiding judge in the case was (Hanging) Judge Jeffreys, as Lord High Steward, sitting with thirty other peers.

After the Rye House Plot (1683) Whitley's house was searched for arms, and he was presented at the assizes as a danger to the peace of the county and required to furnish security for his good behaviour. He was lucky to escape with his life, like his brother-in-law, 1st Lord Gerard, who was sentenced to death, but later pardoned. Whitley's son Thomas also had his house searched: 50 muskets were found, but he explained that they had been given him by his father to arm his militia company. He was also bound over to keep the peace, and when a new charter was issued to Chester in 1683 he was specifically barred from the freedom of the city.

Under the November 1683 charter, Whitley was expressly excluded from municipal office in Chester, although he continued as an MP. The new charter was procured in 1683 (28th August) through the then 27 year old Sir Thomas Grosvenor (1655-1700 see: Grosvenors). It largely confirmed the city's constitution, also empowering the mayor to appoint a deputy, but with a clause, normal at the time, allowing the Crown to remove civic office-holders. The charter disfranchised eight men, including Recorder Williams and Aldermen Street, Mainwaring, and Roger Whitley, and made Sir Thomas Grosvenor mayor and Sir Edward Lutwyche, a newcomer, recorder; it also named the sheriffs, the clerk of the Pentice, and 22 aldermen, of whom six were new to the Assembly, and made changes among the Forty. In 1683 the corporation of Chester also secured the reversion of the wardenship of St John's Hospital with all the hospital lands but, although Whitley died in 1697, the corporation did not obtain the hospital seal and records until 1703.

In 1684 Whitley was tried in the Exchequer for embezzling post office funds. He pleaded that the money he had received was to cover the costs of franked letters in accordance with his contract as Deputy Postmaster General, but was sentenced to pay over £20,000. It is posssible that these charges were constructed for political reasons. At the time Whitley was already trying to distance himself from Monmouth. As recorded in the first month of his diary (27th April 1684) he seems wary of discussing certain matters:

  • Sonday, I went twice to church in the Parish Church; dined at home (my sonne onely with me) went afterwards to Sir Edward Wood and thence to Mrs Jones where I sent to desire Mr Yard to come speake with me; I told him of the Exchequer suite againe that there would be a necessity upon me, when we came to a tryall, to enquire into the Secretary's offices whether all letters they franckt there were on the King's businesse & for his service and desired him as an old acquaintance not be bee offended but recollect himself & doe me right as occasion offerd &c; he then asked me about Lord Maxfeild's businesse & concernes in the contrey; I gave him a short, wary answer (for I thought he lookd a little strange); I told him I was bringing an informacion of perjury against a person that had sworne falsely against me that I kneeled to the D[uke] of M[onmouth] &c. I wished all the reports of me (both of words and deeds) were refered to be examined that his M[ajes]ty might truely know my integrity; I sayd I durst make him chancelor in the case; he sayd in a short time he hoped all would be well; I sayd I never did nor never would give just cause of offence to his Majesty but would live and dye, praying for him and serving him; soe drank his Majesty's health with hearty prayers for him and desired Mr Yard to have that charity as not to believe ill of me without evident proofe; in the meanetyme to do me good offices as occasion should require and till he found that I should deserve the contrary which I am sure would never be, & soe we parted.
The Duke of Monmouth's execution, possibly as represented in a pack of cards. Possibly with reference to the number of blows it took to behead him.

In 1685 came the unsuccessful Monmouth Rebellion, an attempt to depose King James II and VII. Monmouth attempted to capitalise on his position as the son of Charles II, and his Protestantism, in opposition to James, who was a Roman Catholic. The rebellion failed, and Monmouth was beheaded for treason on 15 July 1685. Whitley makes no mention of the execution in his diary. Whitley only notes the rebellion briefly (June):

  • 12. Friday, Humfreys came to me, then Mr Wilson, he sayd he would goe homewards on Monday if Lord Darbys businesse did not come on. I went to the Crowne in Bloomsbury; there was Sir G.G., Birch, Bridges & some Clothyers; they talked that Monmouth was landed in the west; I went to Whitehall met Captaine W.

This entry was cancelled and replaced with:

  • 12. Friday, I went to the Crowne in Bloomsbury; there was Sir G.G., Birch, Bridges & severall Clothyers; we dined there then went with Sir G.G. to the Committee; it was ajourned; met Sir Robert Cotton, Mainwaring, Lewes, Mr Parkhurst &c in the Court of Requests; went back with Sir G. to the Crowne, Birch & the clothyers; then went to the Cyder House by Kings Gate; there was Auditor Done (who sent for me), his brother, Sir Philip, Lord Buekley, Sir Hugh Owen; Mr Hawtrey, Kt of Middlesex & one more a stranger; I left them, went home at 9.
  • 13. Satorday, Humfreys came to see me, then Mr Wilson; I went to the Crowne; there was Sir G.G., Birch, Bridge & some clothyers; they talked that Monmouth was landed; I met Captaine Winde at Whitehall, he spoke to me about his debenter; I went to Coling, to speake with Lord Arlington; called at Kents, saw his partner; went home, dined; my sonne came to us, after him, Lewes; in the evening came Mr Cokayne; I went to Cosens, was trimmed at his shop; I went with Saladine & Jones to the Sunne; drank 2 pintes of wine with them; then went behinde the bar to my sonne & Lewes; drank a bottle of wine; met Val Duncombe as he came out; onely bad him good night; went home, sonne & Lewes with me.

Then on the 23rd July (shortly after the execution of Monmouth):

  • Thursday, I dined at home; went in the evening to Lord Clarendon; then to Bishop of St Asaphs; he was abroad then to Jones there was Sir Edward Wood, Captaine Gladston & Sir Thomas Duppa; we parted about 9; Gladston went in my coach to Covent Garden; I called on Sir G. G.; his sonne & one Mr Wren came to us, he gave us a bottle of wine; I left them neare 10; in the afternoone Warburton came to me; he asked many questions; I gave him few answers; he talked of Goodenough, Fergerson, & others of that gang, men I knew not, & that Cornish & Ramsey were clapt up; at last sayd he heard Lord Delamere was come to towne to render himselfe; I told him I heard nothing of it nor had I seene him of above a yeare nor ever had any correspondence with him, only civility when I saw him &c; I hoped, he knew nothing of the rebellion which was as foolish & mad as wicked; I called for my coach, &c. then he told me he came to take his leave, was going into the contry &c. that Mr.Chomondley promised to be at some charge to put up brim bowling greene; I sayd I should be glad of it; that neighbours & contrymen might meete there as an indifferent place; it might be a meanes to reconcile all againe amongst ourselfes & that we might live in love and charity together; he drank 2 glasses of wine; found me not free to talke, soe left me.

Just why Whitley's fortunes should have taken such a sudden downturn after his move to Chester is not entirely clear. One theory is that it was his association with Monmouth and those of Monmouth's party: the Earl of Macclesfield was his brother in law, and he has associations with both Lord Rivers and Lord Delamere. His son Thomas is perhaps expressley listed as one of "the country gentlemen who attended the Duke" in Cheshire (Whitley's son Thomas could be confused with his cousin Thomas Whitley of Aston). Another theory is that Whitley simply meddled too much in Chester politics.

Recovery

Charles suffered a sudden apoplectic fit on the morning of 2 February 1685, and died aged 54 at 11:45 am four days later at Whitehall Palace. Charles was succeeded by his brother, who became James II of England and Ireland and James VII of Scotland. Members of Britain's Protestant political elite increasingly suspected him of being pro-French and pro-Catholic and of having designs on becoming an absolute monarch. In March 1685 Grosvenor and Werden were returned unopposed to James II’s Parliament, and the latter carried up an address from the corporation congratulating him on his accession. Later in the same month the bishop of Chester and the dean and chapter thanked the King for his promise to preserve the established religion, sentiments which they repeated in May 1687.

Whitley makes a further mention of Monmouth (19th March 1686):

  • "Friday, Kent came to me about Rogers debt; complained of the hardness of the times, no money to be got; I told him I was disabled by my late great payments to the Exchequer &c. but I must submit to the King's pleasure in this & all things; we discoursed of redeeming some of Roger's goods that were pawned, I promised to send Houseman to him with 10 li. &c. I dined at Mr Millingtons where was he, his wife, sisters & daughter, Sir Edward Mansell, his sonne, Alderman Jeffreys, Mr Morgan & myself; we parted about 9; I put Millington downe at the Vulture; I went to the Bull Head; there was Oneby, 2 Tims, Sandford sonne, Richardson, Smith, Mitton & 2 or 3 more, I know not their names; they went away all but Oneby, Smith, Sandford & selfe; they pressed wine upon me; fell into discourse of Monmouth's rebellion; I blamed Sir Thomas Armstrong for his drawing him first into his disloyal practices; look't upon his attempts all along as perfect madness; could not hope to prevaile; no considerable sober people would joyne with him; they must needs see that consequence if he had prevailed would have entayled a perpetual war & armyes upon us; the Prince of Orange would have pursued his Princesses-right; if she failed Princesse Anne would have mainteyned her right; if she failed the Prince of Orange & Madame's issue would have their pretentions soe that nothing but continuall troubles could have bin the consequence; it was perfect madnesse & brought destruction to a great many poore people &c. then they talked of the Black Box with reflexions on Sir G.G.; I sayd he was my intimate old acquaintance & had often solemnly swore to me there was nothing in it; he never had or heard of any such thing; they fell upon severall other discourses but I still stood on my guard, finding them pressing drink upon me & having no acquaintance with them (except Oneby) & having no very good opinion of their conversation we parted past 11 20. Satorday, next barber trimmed me; dined at home; went to Humfreys; he was abroad; I came home; about 8 my sonne, his wife & children & Mainwaring &c. came to towne, supt with us; Lea & Bedisford came with them but did not stay; Minshall came & supt; they parted past 10."

..and then in February 1687 records the following (Monmouth had been excecuted by this time):

  • " 7th Monday, Mainwaring, Biddolph, Morgan, Mrs Mainwaring, Kenrick &c dined, supt &c; after supper my daughters told me that there had bin an idle vagrant fellow at the doore (in the evening) had told severall of the servants that he came from beyond seas, had letters sewed in his coate, some for me & others that Monmouth was living, was at sea with a fleete & severall such mad storyes; that he pretended he would come agen the next day to deliver letters to my owne hand &c; I immediatly sent Hughson to look after him & to call the constable to aprehend him & bring him before some Justice of Peace to be examined, searched. 8th Tuesday, Hughson brought me word early that they aprhended the man; that he talked like a mad man; had attempted to cutt his owne throate; I ordered him to goe with the Constable & others to some Justice &c; they brought him to Chester; the Governor committed him to the Castle."

On 9 April 1687 Bishop of Chester Thomas Cartwright recommended Whitley to James II:

  • "as a penitent, and one who would strive to deserve his favour for the time to come", later proposing him as a deputy lieutenant of Cheshire "if they thought to make use of him".
James II visits Chester as depicted at the Town Hall. The only problem was that he was not made welcome!

Mistrust of James II was evident during his visit to Chester in August 1687, to the extent that the Governor of Chester Castle was unable to procure a loyal address from the corporation - not much of a welcome really.

In 1687, James issued the Declaration of Indulgence, also known as the Declaration for Liberty of Conscience, in which he used his dispensing power to negate the effect of laws punishing Catholics and Protestant Dissenters. He attempted to garner support for his tolerationist policy by giving a speaking tour in the West of England in the summer of 1687. As part of this tour, he gave a speech at Chester where he said:

  • "suppose... there should be a law made that all black men should be imprisoned, it would be unreasonable and we had as little reason to quarrel with other men for being of different [religious] opinions as for being of different complexions."
James II - his attempts to create religious liberty for English Roman Catholics and Protestant nonconformists were against the wishes of the Anglican establishment, so he had to go.

The King saw the Quaker, William Penn preach at the Quaker meeting house. Bishop Cartwright of Chester wrote: "I was at his majesty's leave and accompanied him to the choir where he healed 350 persons" (presumably of the "king's evil").

Cooke records the attitude of the Corporation at the time:

  • So venal and dependent the corporation became afterwards, that, when James the Second visited this city, the recorder, Leving, at the head of the corporation, thus addressed him: "The corporation is your majesty’s creature, and depends merely on the will of its creator; and the sole intimation of your majesty’s pleasure shall ever have with us the force of a fundamental law." When James made an alteration in most of the charters in the kingdom, the like attempt was made on the city of Chester; but the independent citizens, conceiving, that this offer was only made to seduce them into a resignation of their religious liberty, unanimously refused its acceptance, and desired to have their ancient charter of Henry the Seventh restored. Thus, through the dismission of the corporation created by Charles’s charter, and the non-acceptance of that of James, the city was destitute, nearly three months, of magistrates, and the election-day passed, without any officers being chosen.

Worse was to come for James II. William of Orange at first opposed the prospect of invasion, but he began to assemble an expeditionary force in April 1688. In May 1688 Whitley declared to a fellow Whig that:

  • "Monmouth’s designs were mad, so would [be] any design from Holland. They that remembered former troubles were well pleased with the Government; that all parties were at ease, enjoyed their liberties, paid no taxes, had no grievances. I believe that the Parliament would be very inclinable to comply with his Majesty; those that would not were fools to endeavour to be chosen."

In August 1688 the 70 year-old Whitley was nominated as alderman under the new charter. Interference with borough charters by Charles II and James II had been one of the most controversial features of English politics in the 1680s. In 1688 the government removed the entire Assembly and obliged the city to petition for a new charter, which named the corporation and principal officers, reserved the Crown's right to dismiss individuals, dispensed all members from the prescribed oaths, and restricted the franchise to the corporation. Of the 24 aldermen named in addition to the mayor and recorder only 11 had already served as aldermen and four as sheriffs. Grosvenor and William Stanley, earl of Derby, were among those displaced. Members removed in the purge of 1685 and restored in 1688 included Mainwaring, Roger Whitley, and Peter Edwards. The attempt to conciliate Whigs and those with nonconformist connexions was fruitless: the nominated corporation apparently never met.

In October 1688 the charters of 1685 and 1688 were annulled and the city resumed its earlier privileges. When it became clear that the Prince of Orange would invade, a panic-stricken James II had turned about-faceand on 17 Oct. 1688 he gave orders to restore immediately all former charters in cases which were legally pending, that is to say where deeds of surrender had not been enrolled or judgments recorded; promised restoration to the remainder; and issued instructions for the dismissal of all magistrates and corporators holding office by virtue of charters issued since 1679. Great confusion ensued. Some of the boroughs which had been promised restoration duly recovered their charters, as happened in Chester, Exeter, Winchester, and York.

1688 brought the "Glorious Revolution" when William of Orange, landed (5th November 1688) an invasion army from the Netherlands. Chester was the scene of the only spontaneous resistance to the Revolution. On the news of the landing of William of Orange, the Roman Catholic Lord Molyneux with two Irish regiments seized Chester Castle, but on 18 December 1688 the Earl of Derby entered the city, which had declared for the Prince, and Molyneux’s forces were disarmed and disbanded. Whitley signed the declaration produced by the Earl of Derby at Chester on 18 Dec. "for adhering to the Prince of Orange for our religion, laws, etc.", and was again returned to the Convention.

Election in Chester

The second half of his diary is concerned with the Whig v. Tory battle for power in Cheshire but is also an account of Whitley's management of his estates and his activities as a Justice of the Peace and Mayor of Chester.

The Mainwaring's are frequently mentioned by Whitley. This 1816 print by Batenham shows the Mainwaring mansion in Watergate Street, with a vestigial Row and a warehouse on the site of present day number 58. The mansion was demolished in 1851.

It begins:

  • Feb: 11. Tuesday, we set out past 8; dined at the Swan in Newport; lay at Whitchurch (at the Red Lyon) that night; there Mr Cotton, Mr Taylor, Captain Mainwaring, Goldsmith, Delves, Savage, &c. met us; (the 3 first retorned that night after supper) one Eddows & another townesman came to see G:Mainwaring. I left them past 9.
  • 12. Wednesday, cosen Brereton (the widdow) came to visit us; we set out about 9; called at Hampton Post; there parted with G:Mainwaring (he went to Chester) we called at Utkington; did not alight; saw Sir John, his lady, Mrs Hurlestone, &c. at the Gates; dranck wine, &c. came to Peele before 6; Hardware met us at Tarporly, or Utkinton, brought us home; where we found my 2 sisters,&c. the Stage coach went to Chester that night.
  • 13. Thursday, I took phisick; Mainwaring went to a meeting of Deputy Lieutenants at Middlewich; G:Mainwaring & Mr Hunt sent a man with a letter about the next Election at Chester; the 2 other London coachmen went to Chester about 10 of the clock; I sent Hughson to Chester for my Plate & to waite on the Mayor, &c. after dinner came Mr Gerard, stayd not long; Mainwaring retorned at night.
  • 14. Friday, dined at home, Angell, Anderson & Ely with us; after dinner came Grantham, &c. Mainwaring went to Chester, stayd all night..
  • 15. Satorday, I went to Chester, light at Wrights, went to the Pentise; there was the Mayor & severall Aldermen, Sheriffe,&c. saw my sister, dined with G:Mainwaring there was Streete, Mainwaring Farington, the women, &c. Johnson & severall others came to us; about 4, I went with G:Mainwaring to visit Mr Booth; then to the Sunne; there was 2 Mainwarings, Streete, Edwards, Lloyd, 2 Andersons, Wright, Sparks, Croxon, Murrey, Farington, Deane, &c. about 7, we went (many of us) to Jacksons, there came Warburton, Taylor, &c. we parted past 10; lay at Angells.
Thomas Grosvenor in 1678 by (or after) Peter Lely. At his early death aged 43, his surviving sons were under-age, but the Grosvenors returned to politics in 1715.

In 1689 there was a sharp contest for the city's seats in the Convention Parliament. This was the irregular assembly of the Parliament of England which transferred the Crowns of England and Ireland from James II to William III. Roger Whitley and the Whig alderman George Mainwaring were opposed unsuccessfully by Thomas Grosvenor and Richard Levinge, the former recorder.

1690 saw new elections. The Grosvenor party's prospects of success had been strengthened by a combination of the election of eight of their allies to the assembly in 1689 and the support of the lord lieutenant Lord Cholmondeley, so that on 17 Feb. Whitley’s and Mainwaring’s supporters attempted to hold the election before Grosvenor and Levinge had been able to organize their interest. Whitley himself seems to have wanted to play fair:

  • February 16: Michael Biddolph writes from Lichfeild that they had theire writ on Friday & the messenger told them there that he would be at Chester on Satorday & we might reasonably conclude that the messenger would be with us in a few houers; not that we desired a spedy Election (by surprise) but to be possessed of the writ & then to ajourne to a convenient day for the Election but the Sherffe would not consent to it; I went that evening to the Sunne with 2 Mainwarings, Streete & Robert Anderson; parted about 10.

This effort proved unsuccessful and a bitter campaign ensued, allegations being made that while canvassing Grosvenor had spoken against the new monarchs. Much to the disgust of Whitley, Mainwaring and their interest, agents for the Tory candidates, including the recently removed governor of Chester Castle, Peter Shakerley, began enrolling large numbers of freemen, their entry fees allegedly being paid by Grosvenor, so that over 120 freemen were created in late February and early March. As Whitley noted in his diary:

  • March 15. Satorday, Bidolph & I went to Chester, also Mainwaring & my sonne; I went to the Penthouse to speake with the Mayor & Sheriffe about the Election; they were busy making new freemen, Grosvenor and Leeming with them; I would not stay to see any made; we dined at Streetes; went in the evening to the Sunne; many frinds with us; parted before 10.

Polling began on 17 Mar. and was soon beset by complaints from Whitley and Mainwaring against taking the votes of the recently created freemen, and by disputes between the borough’s two sheriffs, acting as returning officers. The complaints of the Whitley and Mainwaring interest reached a crescendo when the senior sheriff closed the poll, as the Whig candidates claimed they had ‘several in the crowd that called out to be polled’. When the court of election reassembled the following day requests for the poll to be re-opened were rejected. Whitley notes in his diary that Grosvenor had brought "Pemberton, the madman" to vote. Both pairs of candidates were declared elected by separate sheriffs. Grosvenor and Levinge, who had led the poll at the end of the 17th, were returned. Whitley's version of events is recorded as follows:

  • "The mayor said he would take his poll, but would not then resolve to return him (the use and practice being against it), unless he would bring it under the hand of some able lawyers that he might safely do it and would leave him harmless. The poll was demanded; there polled two for Grosvenor and two for Levinge and four or five for me and George Mainwaring. Then the poll was adjourned to a convenient place in the Row in the Bridge Street; some hundreds now polled for me and Mainwaring, but not a man more for the other two, neither would they nor Cholmondeley come to the place, though the mayor sent his officers three several times to let them know the poll was begun, and to journey to it, but they refused. Also proclamation was made that if anybody would poll for them, they should be received; but none appearing for them and some hundreds being polled for Mainwaring and myself, the court was again adjourned to the Common Hall, and notice sent (from the mayor) that if they or any would appear for them they should be received. But they still refusing to come or send, the poll was ended, and in open court George Mainwaring and myself declared to be duly elected, and the return was accordingly made by the mayor under hand and seal, and many aldermen, citizens and gentlemen witnesses."

The poll had been very close with Grosvenor/Levinge getting 498/494 votes and Whitley/Mainwaring getting 484/457.

The fight back

Roger Whitley's home: Peel Hall at Ashton Heyes as photographed by Mike Harris (all rights reserved).

Whitley and his supporters were not, however, prepared to accept a Tory ascendancy in Chester, and in 1690 the then 72 year old Whitley launched a campaign to gain control of the corporation, in order to establish the dominance of the Whig interest in the borough. By this time he was still powerful and influential as he entertained William III while the king was on his way to the Battle of the Boyne. The annual election of Chester’s mayor proved ideal for Whitley’s purposes. Mayoral elections were conducted in a number of separate rounds, voters having two votes in all but the last round. Having been previously restricted to various combinations of corporation officials, in the penultimate round voting was thrown open to the freemen, who were permitted to nominate new candidates if unhappy with those put to them by the corporation, and the two candidates with most votes in this round were then ‘housed’. In the final round of voting the aldermen chose one of the ‘housed’ candidates as mayor. The role of the freemen in this procedure encouraged Whitley and his supporters to nurture their interest among the freemen in an attempt to secure the mayoralty for their interest. Whitley stood unsuccessfully for the mayoralty in October 1690. The following year he stood in alliance with Lord Warrington (Henry Booth) and although defeated in the early, closed rounds of voting Whitley and Warrington comfortably carried the popular vote. Forced to choose between the two Whigs, the aldermen elected Warrington mayor. October 1692 saw Whitley finally chosen mayor. He was to hold this post for the next four years.

In 1692 Whitley purchased a house in Chester:

  • 21st October, Friday, I went to Chester with daughters, sisters, Mainwaring, sonne, &c. about 11; sent the cart with goods &c. lighted & dined at Angell's; went to new house &c. lay at Angells; (Mainwaring & I interl.) visited the Bishop at 5; the Deane & Antwisle were with him; went then to the Ship; there were Mainwarings, 22. Satorday, went to the Penthouse; dined at Jackson's with 2 Mainwarings, Streete, Whitby &c. went in the evening to the house & G.Mainwaring's; Bellot came to us; I left them before 9.

It was in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution that many Whigs had embraced a radical approach to the issue of disputed borough franchises. Just as activists in London and some other corporations, including Bristol, Chester, and Liverpool, were pressing for the reform of municipal institutions in order to increase popular participation in civic government. Shortly after he was elected Mayor, Whitley began to question the authority of his opponents in the assembly, and in the spring of 1693 rumours began to circulate that Whitley, with the assistance of Chester’s former Member and current recorder, Sir William Williams, intended to establish annual, popular elections of the borough’s common councillors, claiming that this right had been granted to Chester in the charters of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and had not been revoked in subsequent charters. A petition requesting annual elections, signed by 400 citizens, was presented on 5 June 1693 and, despite opposition from Tories, including Levinge and Shakerley, such an election was held ten days later, establishing a majority of Whitley’s supporters in the assembly. Whitley was to remain Mayor from 1692 until 1696, an unprecidented four-year term.

Whitley’s opponents petitioned the Privy Council and initiated a legal case against the mayor, but the Council refused to involve itself, preferring that ‘the whole matter [be] left to the determination of the law’, and the mayoral election of October saw Whitley, Williams, Warrington succeed in Whitley’s re-election despite opposition led by Grosvenor and Shakerley. A mandamus for the restoration of the old common councillors and the swearing of a Grosvenor supporter as mayor was twice rejected by Whitley in the winter of 1693, and in June the following year between 200 and 300 ‘citizens’ participated in a common council election which strengthened the position of Whitley and his interest in the assembly. The case against popular election initiated by nine of the common councillors removed by popular election reached the court of King’s bench in the Michaelmas term of 1694, but was dismissed as the unseated councillors had filed a single, collective writ rather than individual ones. Bolstered by this victory, the dominance of the corporation by Whitley’s interest was confirmed in the common council election of 1695.

Given the position Whitley and his supporters had established, the prospects of Tory success at the 1695 MP election appeared bleak and the likely MP's seemed to be Whitley and Williams however Whitley appears to have "deserted" Williams. As Whitley records in his diary:

  • October. 17, about 5 the Macebearer told me he had summoned the aldermen to be at the Assembly to morrow as Sir Thomas Grosvenor sent him word by his servant that he would wayte on the Mayor tomorrow; soone after Johnson came & told me (that Sir Thomas crossed out) that the discourse over the towne was that Sir Thomas & I were agreed & that he would onely oppose Sir William Williams; then came Major Hickman about 7 from Sir Thomas to let me know he intended to stand for Parlement man; that he found there were many frinds would be for me; that he would not oppose me, onely would oppose Sir William Williams; I desired him to thank Sir Thomas for his civility to me; that all I could say (at present) was that when Sir William was in towne I promised him my vote which I could not recede from; but I had not the vanity to pretend to. nor to think, I could dispose of others who were equally free with myselfe; but all must be left as theire inclinations or interests led them; soe we parted; 3 Linendrapers came agen to me this night to complaine againe of the aldermen of theire company; I told them I could not take upon me (by my self) to determine the differences of the company; but on Satorday (when we met at the Penthouse with the other aldermen we would heare both partyes & endeavor to compose the businesse); Nixon went to Peele (about 7) for provision for to morrow & Houseman went about 12 to Kelsall Court; stayd out all night; about 6 came Recorder, Kinaston & Johnson about the election.

It may be that Grosvenor decided not to stand against Whitley as Whitley was now a very old man and Whitley would be unlikely to travel to Westminster often. Whatever the reason for Whitley’s desertion, Williams was clearly angered by it and his petition, heard by the Commons on 13 December, attributed his defeat to clandestine arrangements between Whitley, Grosvenor and Mainwaring, and to the improper use of the mayor’s powers by Whitley. Whitley stood down from the mayoralty in October 1696, probably due to his declining health, and, though two of his supporters comfortably carried the closed rounds of voting, the freemen returned two of Grosvenor’s supporters in the subsequent round, forcing the aldermen to elect a Tory mayor. The Groosvenor faction scoured the city for supporters eligible for the freedom who had not yet exercised this right resulting in the admission of over 120 new freemen in the two weeks before the contest, a possible repetition of the Grosvenor interest’s tactic from the 1690 parliamentary election. Whitley attempted to rally his supporters, but failed.

Death

The diary ends:

  • 14. Thursday, I sent Hickson for Cottrell about 5 to be with me by the bed. he dressed me before 8. he dined with sister Sydney in the next roome; Johnson, Sheriffe Mainwaring, Morgan dined with me; left me past 3. Mainwaring & Morgan went with them.

Roger Whitley died 3 days later, on the 17th July 1697, aged 79. Whitley's death signalled the demise of the Whig interest at Chester. Grosvenor’s supporters dominated the common council election of June 1697, and in October the same year annual popular election of the common council was replaced by co-option to the assembly for life. January 1698 saw the Tory Thomas Cowper (of Bridge Street) chosen unopposed to replace Whitley, and the newly established Tory domination of Chester was confirmed in the general election later the same year when Grosvenor and Shakerley were returned in opposition to Francis Gell (who had proposed a scheme for the navigation of the River Dee).

The Whigs took full control of the government in 1715, and remained totally dominant until King George III, coming to the throne in 1760, allowed Tories back in. The "Whig Supremacy" (1715–1760) was enabled by the Hanoverian succession of George I in 1714 and the failed Jacobite rising of 1715 by Tory rebels. The Whigs thoroughly purged the Tories from all major positions in government, the army, the Church of England, the legal profession, and local offices. However, during this period Chester remained securely in Tory hands. Attention to the city’s economic interests remained vital to the maintenance of an electoral interest at Chester, and the borough’s Members, particularly Shakerley, went to great efforts to defend these interests. It was to be Shakerley and Grosvenor who piloted a bill through Parliament in the 1699–1700 session granting the corporation the authority to embark upon the navigation of the River Dee. Grosvenor died in 1700 (aged 43). Tory dominance of Chester’s parliamentary representation was unchallenged in queen Anne’s reign. The removal of nine common councillors in August 1702 for refusing to abjure the Pretender appears to have had little impact upon Tory control of the corporation, Chester’s Dissenting minister complaining in 1705 that ‘our city is so modelled as to be condemned to its old tacking Members without opposition’. Opposition to the unchallenged return of Henry Bunbury and Peter Shakerley emerged in 1715 when another Grosvenor pressed his claims to a seat at Chester, causing a vigorous contest between the three Tories. Bunbury and Grosvenor emerged victorious, and the Grosvenor interest, having reasserted itself, held at least one of the Chester seats continuously until 1874.

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