The Poll for the Election of Burgesses for the Burrough of Stamford

Item date: 1734
Grant Value: £992
Item cost: £992
Item date acquired: 2014
Item institution: Spalding Gentlemen's Society
Town/City: Spalding
County: Lincolnshire

This poll-book, which was owned by Maurice Johnson (founder of the Society) illustrates a most interesting episode in England’s history and further illumates the friendship between Johnson and William Stukeley, Vicar of All Saints’ in Stamford, a staunch Whig in a Tory, if not Jacobite, town. The 1734 general election took place in the wake of a crisis in Sir Robert Walpole’s administration, when public outcry had forced him to withdraw his Excise Bill, which included proposals to give revenue officers exceptionally wide powers of search. Stamford was a pocket borough under the control of the Earls of Exeter of nearby Burghley House. The poll book, listing voters and the way they voted, was printed after the election, in answer to the cries of corruption from the defeated Whigs, to show that the Tory candidates had won the election fairly; but it was printed by Francis Howgrave, proprietor of the Stamford Mercury, whom Stukeley said was 'set up by Lord Exeter’, from prepared lists compiled at Burghley.

The poll book may be better understood in the light of the manuscript pamphlet by Stukeley, 'The Historical Part of Stamford Election 1734’, the Whig answer to the Tory produced poll book.  Presented by Stukeley to Sir Robert Walpole, it now resides in Cambridge University Library. Stukeley claimed that the earl had introduced 200 ‘foreigners’, i.e. men from across the river in St Martin’s parish, into the town to vote for his candidates, and had cajoled, bribed or threatened those who intended to vote for Cust and Fonnereau, the Whig candidates.