Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer


1388 (Feb.)William Wichampton
 Richard Roude
1388 (Sept.)
1390 (Jan.)
1390 (Nov.)
1397 (Jan.)
1397 (Sept.)
1399Robert Salman
 John Felawe
1404 (Jan.)
1404 (Oct.)
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)Robert Salman
 Robert Roude 1
1414 (Apr.)Robert Salman
 Robert Roude
1414 (Nov.)Robert Salman
 Robert Roude
1415William Clerk III
 John Blake II
1416 (Mar.)
1416 (Oct.)
1417Robert Long
 Robert Salman
1420John Bailey
 Richard Chamberlain
1421 (May)Robert Blake
 Walter Studley
1421 (Dec.)John Justice
 Robert Green

Main Article

Calne is situated in the northern half of Wiltshire, on the edge of downland and at the confluence of several small streams which form the river Marden or Calne, a tributary of the Avon. These streams were employed from an early date to work the fulling mills which supplied the town’s staple industry, the manufacture of cloth. Calne was among the smallest of the Wiltshire boroughs, its taxable population of just over 150 in 1377 making it considerably smaller than either Cricklade or nearby Chippenham, and less than half the size of Malmesbury or Devizes. But being surrounded by a number of large villages (like Compton Bassett, Calstone and Quemerford) for which it acted as a trading centre, it had, in fact, achieved relative prosperity. For the poll tax of 1379 well over half the adult population of Calne was assessed at more than the minimum rate of 4d., five burgesses each contributing at least 3s.4d. Though the largest group of townsmen whose occupations were noted on that occasion were involved in various branches of the clothing industry or trade, others were employed as victuallers and leather-workers. There is no evidence of any sudden rise or decline in Calne’s fortunes during our period, and it apparently continued as a small but prosperous clothing town throughout the 15th and into the 16th centuries.2

Calne was founded on demesne land of the West Saxon kings before the year 955. By the time of Edward the Confessor, it apparently enjoyed some form of burghal status by prescription, for it was described in the Domesday Book as a borough. Agriculture, however, still bulked large in its economy. By 1086 the estate had been divided: one part, which remained under secular control, comprising a third of the borough, and the other, which belonged throughout the Middle Ages to Salisbury cathedral, containing the rest. The lay manor stayed in royal hands until Henry III granted it to the Cantilupe family, from whom it passed in 1274 to the Zouches, in return for an annual fee farm of £15 payable to the Crown.3 At the beginning of our period it was held first by William, 3rd Lord Zouche, then, after 1396, by his son, another William, who died in November 1415, leaving his heir a minor. Meanwhile, the fee farm of £15 had been awarded to various royal servants, but in 1409 it was made over to Queen Joan, consort of Henry IV, as part of her dower. Between 1415 and 1425, during the minority of the Zouche heir, she obtained custody of the manor itself, which she leased jointly to her steward in Wiltshire, John Bird*, and Robert Salman, a burgess of Calne. The Zouches, and probably Queen Joan during her occupation, administered the liberty and borough of Calne through a bailiff, who was also responsible for making the electoral returns of the borough’s MPs.4

In the complete absence of any municipal records for Calne during our period, it is difficult to discover much about the liberties and institutions of the borough. From earlier and later survivals it is evident that the town could boast neither charter nor mayor at this time, although there may have already been in existence a guild merchant which, presided over by two annually elected stewards, it certainly possessed by the 16th century. But even if that were the case, the guild can only have been of relatively minor importance, for the lords of the lay manor still retained the profits of the town’s markets and of one of its two annual fairs, those of the other being handed over to the prebendaries of Calne.5

It is difficult to say whether, and if so to what extent, Calne’s lords exerted any influence over the election of its MPs. The bailiff of the Zouches acted, in conformity with the practice generally obtaining in Wiltshire before 1407, as the borough’s returning officer; and, moreover, on at least four of the eight occasions between 1378 and 1386 when Calne sent representatives to Parliament himself stood surety for the attendance of one of them.6 Apart, from this however, the Zouche interest is nowhere evident. Burgesses from Calne had first made an appearance in the Commons in the ‘model’ Parliament of 1295, and during what remained of Edward I’s reign returns from this borough were made more often than not. Thereafter, Calne is known to have elected Members in 1361 and 1362, but it was not until 1378 that representation became a more frequent occurrence, and then only for a time. The borough sent representatives to at least eight of the 14 Parliaments held between then and September 1388; but even during that period there were three occasions—1382 (May), 1383 (Oct.) and 1388 (Sept.)—when no response was made to the sheriff’s precept ordering elections to be held. Between 1388 and 1413 Calne was apparently represented only once, namely in 1399. Whether at other times it did, in fact, make returns, which have since been lost, or else failed to respond after receiving instructions to do so, we have no means of knowing. After the beginning of Henry V’s reign, however, Members for Calne appeared in Parliament with a fair degree of regularity for the rest of the 15th century.

After 1406, the role of the bailiff of the liberty in supervising parliamentary elections at Calne becomes less apparent, for Calne, in common with the other Wiltshire boroughs, then adopted the practice of sending a deputation to the county court formally to present the names of its elected representatives for inclusion in the indenture for the knights of the shire. As no separate indentures for the boroughs exist before 1453, it is difficult to say how, when, where, and by whom the elections at Calne were actually carried out, but to judge from the number of local men chosen as MPs, there can be little doubt that they took place in the town itself, most likely (in the absence of an independent borough court) at the lord of the manor’s court of the liberty and under the direction of his bailiff.

No more than nine returns survive for the 32 Parliaments of our period, although evidence supplied by Prynne raises the total to ten. Of the 14 parliamentary burgesses thus recorded, as many as nine would appear to have sat for Calne only once. However, this group included Walter Studley and John Bailey, who were both later returned by other Wiltshire boroughs (Malmesbury and Cricklade, respectively), and Robert Long, who had previously represented Old Sarum and was subsequently to be elected five times as a knight of the shire, as well as once as a citizen of Salisbury. Of those who only represented Calne, John Justice sat three times, Richard Roude four, and the latter’s son, Robert, who also made four appearances, was returned to the consecutive Parliaments of 1413 (May), 1414 (Apr.) and 1414 (Nov.). To each of these first three Parliaments of Henry V’s reign, Roude was accompanied by Robert Salman, who sat not less than five times in all, his first election, in 1399, having been for Malmesbury as well as Calne. The most experienced Member, judging from the surviving evidence, was William Wichampton, who was chosen on no fewer than eight occasions (mostly before 1386), including for the three consecutive Parliaments assembled in 1384 and 1385.

No less than nine of the 14 were members of families long established in the area, and several of them had inherited a tradition of parliamentary service. John Blake was the son of the man of the same name who had sat for Calne in the early 1380s, and Robert Blake was probably their kinsman. As has already been noted, Robert Roude was the son of Richard. Robert Salman was stepfather to William Temse (who was to sit for Calne in 1432 and Devizes in 1453) and Thomas Temse (MP for Salisbury in 1447). Most widely connected of all was Walter Studley, whose sister had married the influential lawyer, Thomas Cricklade*, and who was thus the uncle of Robert*, William and John.

At least ten of Calne’s MPs lived either in the borough itself or in villages nearby. The only ‘outsiders’ (if they may be so called) were John Bailey, a Cricklade man who sat for both boroughs, and Robert Long, an influential lawyer who was a servant and feoffee of the Hungerfords and resided some 12 miles out from Calne at South Wraxall. The lack of local records relating to Calne makes it impossible to discover which parliamentary burgesses held office in the borough. Nor, for the most part, do we know what occupations they followed. The general economy of the area suggests that at least some of them would be engaged in the wool trade, either as farmers or clothiers, but it has not been possible to substantiate this conclusively. Robert Salman may well have followed the same vocation as Robert Long, albeit without a similar degree of success.

Several of the MPs for Calne in this period are known to have served the Crown outside the borough. John Justice, Robert Salman and Walter Studley were all appointed to act as collectors of parliamentary subsidies in the county at large. John Bailey and Salman were employed as verderers in the royal forest of Bradon and that of Pewsham and Melksham, respectively. Bailey and Studley held office before their first election to Parliament, and Salman and Justice afterwards. The public services of these men were, of course, far excelled by those of Robert Long, who was appointed over the years to at least 13 royal commissions, once (in Henry VI’s reign), acted as escheator in Hampshire and Wiltshire, and was a j.p. in the latter county for the last 25 years of his life. Hardly surprisingly, Long was also the most substantial landowner among the MPs for Calne, holding extensive estates in west Wiltshire, with property in Berkshire, Hampshire and Somerset in addition. Robert Salman possessed lands of his own in both Wiltshire and Somerset, while of the remainder Walter Studley, John Justice, and John and Robert Blake all had holdings in villages round Calne. The tendency for Calne to return men who lived in the town, or at least had strong local connexions, continued to characterize its representation in the Parliaments of Henry VI.7

Author: Charles Kightly


  • 1. W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, iv. 937.
  • 2. A.E.W. Marsh, Hist. Calne, 1-3; VCH Wilts. iv. 119-20, 307; E179/196/52a.
  • 3. Marsh, 23-26, 33; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlviii. 80; Wilts. Arch. Soc. Recs. Branch, v. p. viii.
  • 4. CPR, 1377-81, p. 231; 1388-92, p. 322; 1399-1401, p. 342; 1408-13, p. 87; CCR, 1381-5, p. 197; 1413-19, p. 301; CFR, xi. 45, 178, 227; SC/1062/ 25-27, 1093/4, 1295/1, 2; Marsh, 35.
  • 5. Wilts. Arch. Soc. Recs. Branch, vii. pp. xi, xii, xv; Marsh, 35, 38, 61, 124.
  • 6. C219/8/2, 5, 11, 12.
  • 7. J.T. Driver, ‘Burgess Repn. Wilts.’ (Oxf. Univ. B. Litt. thesis, 1951), passim.