In April 1679 news arrived in Norwich that, following Sir John Hobart’s petition against the return for the county election in February, the Commons had ordered a fresh election. The peaceable Sir Thomas Browne wrote sadly: ‘There is like to be very great endeavouring for the places, which will keep open divisions which were too wide before and make it a country of Guelphs and Ghibellines.’ 1 In comparing Norfolk’s divisions with the bloody faction-fighting of medieval Italy, he was not being unduly melodramatic. The 1675 by-election had polarized the county and that polarization had been extended by Lord Yarmouth’s appointment as lord lieutenant. In 1678 Norwich had threatened to become similarly divided. The corporation had been purged in 1662, but there had since been little evidence of contention; the Corporation Act was laxly enforced. 2 There was little effort to suppress nonconformity and relations between corporation and cathedral were generally good. Townshend’s disgrace and Reynolds’s death threatened to change the situation, but the corporation (whose financial problems did not allow it the luxury of making enemies) was quick to wait on both Yarmouth and Sparrow. 3