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What came in the 18th century to be regarded as the most important function of the corporation was the election of a member of the House of Commons. From 1554 to 1832 Banbury was one of only five single-member boroughs. From the beginning Banbury's M.P. belonged to the local country gentry. In March 1554 the town was represented by Thomas Denton of Hillesden (Bucks.), one of the petitioners for the first charter, and he was succeeded by his brother John. Sir Francis Walsingham was elected in 1562 but chose to sit instead for Lyme Regis (Dorset). The 'unadulterated Puritan' Sir Anthony Cope of Hanwell was member for most of the reign of Elizabeth I, and a Cope of Hanwell or a Fiennes of Broughton (or one of their relations) usually held the seat in the period up to 1660. No members were summoned from Banbury to the parliaments of 1653, 1654, and 1656 but Nathaniel Fiennes represented Banbury throughout the Long Parliament in 1659. He was the last Fiennes to sit for the borough but the Cope interest survived longer: four of the family held the seat for short periods between 1660 and 1727. One of them, Sir Jonathan, was a Tory despite his family's tradition.

Between 1661 and 1681 Banbury's M.P. was Sir John Holman of Weston Favell (Northants.), whose father owned Warkworth and Grimsbury (Northants.). The borough first returned a Tory under James II when in 1685 Sir Dudley North 'the king's unofficial chancellor of the exchequer' became the first of seven Norths to hold the seat in the period 1685–1818. He chose to serve for Banbury, where, 'on account of the young Lord Guilford's trust' he had a sure interest, but it was not until much later that the Norths of Wroxton fully established their hold. Sir Dudley was obliged to retire at the Revolution in 1688 but was succeeded by another Tory, Sir Robert Dashwood.

The reigns of William III and Anne were periods of continuous struggle between the borough's Whigs and Tories, in which the latter, backed by the Norths and by the Dashwoods, lords of Wickham manor, usually won the day. In 1698 the Whigs managed to return as member James Isaacson, a man without local connexions, and when he was unseated the following year for holding an office of profit under the Crown he was succeeded by another Whig, Sir John Cope of Hanwell. There followed a disputed mayoral election after the death of a mayor during his year of office, and in 1700, despite an effort by Isaacson and Cope to settle matters by a petition to the Privy Council, two rival mayors fought for the chair of state in Banbury church. The following year the mayors made rival returns of candidates to parliament; the House of Commons finally decided in favour of Charles North, who held the seat at the next four elections. The Whigs made unsuccessful attempts to widen the franchise, which at that time, and probably from the beginning, was restricted to the 18 aldermen and chief burgesses.

Probably the Tory interest was damaged by the charter of 1718, since neither Norths nor Dashwoods were named as assistants, and Sir Jonathan Cope, who had Lord Guilford's support, was succeeded as M.P. in 1722 by Monnoux Cope, a Whig, who defeated a Court Whig favoured by Sir Francis Page. In 1727 a North candidate again appeared and Francis North, later Earl of Guilford (d. 1790), 'bought the seat, and paid for it, for seven years'; it is not known what he paid or how the money was spent. The mayor and aldermen had stated in 1722 that 'most corporations made a considerable advantage of their elections, and they knew no reason why they should not do it as well as their neighbours'. At that time they wanted to have their streets paved, the vicarage augmented, and a school built and they felt that their candidate 'should be at that expense, which in all might amount to five or six hundred pounds'. When Francis North became Lord Guilford in 1729 he had not then enough 'interest' to get his candidate in, and Toby Chauncy of Edgcott (Northants.) beat the North candidate, Lord Wallingford, by one vote. Chauncy may have won because Lord Wallingford took too little trouble in personally securing votes and because the corporation and many of the local gentry evidently had strong feelings about having a local man. Chauncy died three years later and Lord Wallingford was successful at his second attempt.

Source: www.british-history.ac.uk
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