Cambridgeshire

County

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

Elections

DateCandidate
1386Sir William Papworth
 Thomas Hasilden I
1388 (Feb.)Sir John Dengaine
 Sir John Chalers
1388 (Sept.)Sir John Dengaine
 Robert Parys
1390 (Jan.)Henry English
 Simon Burgh
1390 (Nov.)Sir John Colville
 Simon Burgh
1391Sir Robert Denny
 Simon Burgh
1393Sir John Colville
 Sir Robert Denny
1394Sir Baldwin St. George
 Richard Hasilden
1395Sir Edmund de la Pole
 Thomas Hasilden II
1397 (Jan.)Sir Thomas Skelton
 Thomas Hasilden II
1397 (Sept.)John Tyndale
 Thomas Hasilden II
1399Sir Payn Tiptoft
 Richard Hasilden
1401Sir Baldwin St. George
 Thomas Hasilden II
1402Thomas Priour
 John Hobildod
1404 (Jan.)Sir Payn Tiptoft
 John Brunne
1404 (Oct.)Sir Baldwin St. George
 William Standon
1406Sir Baldwin St. George
 William Asenhill 1
1407Sir John Howard
 (Sir) John Rochford
1410William Allington 2
1411Sir Walter de la Pole
 John Hobildod
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)William Porter Ii
 John Burgoyne
1414 (Apr.)Sir Baldwin St. George
 Nicholas Morys
1414 (Nov.)Sir Walter de la Pole
 Thomas Lopham
1415John Hore I
 Nicholas Huish
1416 (Mar.)John Hobildod
 Thomas Wykes 3
1416 (Oct.)William Allington
 Sir William Asenhill 4
1417Sir Walter de la Pole
 Thomas Chalers
1419John Burgoyne
 William Goodred
1420Nicholas Caldecote
 Thomas Camp
1421 (May)Sir Walter de la Pole
 William Freville
1421 (Dec.)John Burgoyne
 William Fulbourn

Main Article

Cambridgeshire returns have survived for 28 of the 32 Parliaments of the period, and the judicial records of the Exchequer have supplied the names of one of the county’s Members in the Parliament of 1410 and of all four of those in the two Parliaments of 1416. Gaps therefore remain for just one seat in 1410 and for two in February 1413. No fewer than 38 men are known to have represented the shire between 1386 and 1421, and more than half—20—did so on only one occasion. The individuals who sat for Cambridgeshire most often were (Sir) William Asenhill and Sir Walter de la Pole, both of them being elected seven times between 1406 and 1429. However, six of those elected for this county just once also represented other constituencies in the course of their careers: William Standon was returned for London, Sir John Howard for Essex and Suffolk, Sir Edmund de la Pole for Buckinghamshire, (Sir) John Rochford for Lincolnshire, Sir Thomas Skelton for Hampshire, and John Tyndale for Northamptonshire. Indeed, the last, Tyndale, sat in nine Parliaments all told. Both John Hore and Sir William Papworth, returned by Cambridgeshire twice and four times respectively, were also elected on other occasions by the neighbouring county of Huntingdonshire. Yet even when all such extraneous parliamentary service is taken into account, the average number of Parliaments per Member still fell short of three. Nor could any of the shire knights for Cambridgeshire be said to have been parliamentarians of especially long standing; the most experienced in this respect was John Tyndale whose nine Parliaments were spread between 1380 and 1407, although in only one of them was he a representative for this constituency. The shire did produce a noted Member of the Commons, however, in the person of William Allington who, twice returned as a shire knight in our period, was to be elected Speaker in 1429.

By and large, the electors of Cambridgeshire do not seem to have set much store by parliamentary experience when it came to making their choice. To only nine of the 30 Parliaments for which our knowledge of the names of Members is complete did they return two men who both had a previous acquaintance with the workings of the Commons, although in 15 more one shire knight was so qualified. They almost certainly elected two novices to six Parliaments of the period: February 1388, 1394, 1402, May 1413, 1415 and 1420. Furthermore, as time went on, so more untried men secured election: thus, during Richard II’s reign only eight of the 22 seats were filled by newcomers, whereas during Henry V’s, 13 of the 22 were so occupied. There was also a marked change in attitude towards re-election; whereas under Richard II there were six instances of men being chosen to represent the shire in consecutive Parliaments (including Simon Burgh and Thomas Hasilden II, who each sat in three Parliaments running, the former between January 1390 and 1391 and the latter between 1395 and September 1397), under Henry IV there was only one such case (in 1406), and under his successor none at all. However, the balance overall was marginally in favour of those with previous experience; and those qualified in this way filled at least 33 of the available 61 seats.

A marked characteristic of the community of Cambridgeshire was its readiness to absorb outsiders and, moreover, to select them as its representatives in Parliament within a few years of their introduction to the region. Little more than half—20—of our men actually inherited property in the county, and only six of them came from families which had been established there for longer than 50 years. A mere five were descended from individuals who had represented the shire earlier in the 14th century, three of them being sons of former shire knights. By contrast, as many as 18 of the 38 knights of the shire had their roots outside the county. Among them were William Allington, who probably came from Cornwall, Simon Burgh from Kent, Sir Robert Denny and William Standon from London, William Porter II from Rutland, John Tyndale from Northamptonshire, and (Sir) John Rochford from Lincolnshire. Sir Thomas Skelton came from a Cumberland family of strong parliamentary traditions, while Sir Edmund de la Pole and Thomas Hasilden I both hailed from Yorkshire (the one from Kingston-upon-Hull, the other from Wakefield), and Robert Parys had most likely been born in Wales. However, all but one of those 18 had acquired landed estates in Cambridgeshire some time before their earliest election to Parliament for the county, having done so either by purchase or else by marrying into local families. Only Rochford, whose interests were firmly centred on his native Lincolnshire, had no known property qualification supporting his single return to Parliament for Cambridgeshire in 1407. Once established in the shire, a few of our Members were emulated by their sons in achieving election to the Commons: thus in our period Thomas Chalers followed his father, Sir John; Sir Walter de la Pole his, Sir Edmund; and Richard and Thomas Hasilden II theirs, Thomas Hasilden I. The sons of six other shire knights sat for Cambridgeshire later in the 15th century, but whereas Sir Payn Tiptoft’s son, Sir John (afterwards Lord Tiptoft), secured a seat in Parliament during our period, distinguishing himself as the Speaker of 1406, it was always in some other constituency. The majority of the Members for Cambridgeshire also had lands in other counties, usually in one or other of the seven bordering on the shire, but sometimes in far distant parts, like Dorset (Richard Hasilden), Somerset (Papworth), the Welsh marches (Parys) and Kent (Colville). Sir Walter de la Pole’s property holdings were the most widespread, being situated in six counties, as well as in the City of London. Yet all but two made their interests in Cambridgeshire their main concern: only Tyndale and Rochford were ‘outsiders’ in this respect.

In terms of wealth, the majority of the shire knights were fairly well to do. No more than a very few (about three) were possessed of lands worth less than £10 a year; and most enjoyed annual incomes of at least £40. The wealthiest among them were Sir John Colville, whose income amounted to £96, (Sir) William Asenhill, with about £140, Sir Walter de la Pole, with £165 or more, and Sir Thomas Skelton with £190; while Sir John Howard was ranked among the relatively few landowners of England with an income exceeding 500 marks a year, according to the assessments for taxation made in 1404. Yet such wealthy individuals in no way dominated the representation of the shire, for their appearances were spread fairly evenly over the period. From the point of view of social standing, the majority (25 out of 38) were ‘esquires’ or ‘gentlemen’, no more than a third—13—being belted knights. (Moreover, one of the latter, Asenhill, had been an esquire when first returned to Parliament, and William Porter II was to attain knighthood only after his single election in 1413.) At least eight of the knights proper had experience of military campaigns in France and Ireland under Edward III and Richard II, and certain of the ‘esquires’ had a similar background. Thus, John Hobildod (noted for his prowess in tournaments) and the brothers Richard and Thomas Hasilden II, all served Henry IV in his expeditions in Scotland and Wales; and William Porter II fought in the Welsh marches under Henry of Monmouth and also in France, following the earl of Arundel, before his single election to Parliament, subsequently distinguishing himself in the siege of Harfleur, at Agincourt and in the later conquest of Normandy. Certain of the ‘esquires’ were seen to greater advantage as administrators than as professional soldiers: for instance, Simon Burgh, who served the archbishops of Canterbury before joining the royal household under Edward III; Henry English, who was steward of the Mortimer lordship of Clare by appointment of Richard II; Thomas Hasilden I, the controller of the household of John of Gaunt; Robert Parys, who, a few years after his only return to Parliament in 1388, was made chamberlain of Chester and North Wales; and, most able of all, William Allington, whose expertise in matters of finance took him from the treasurership of Calais to that of Ireland, and eventually to the highly responsible post of Henry V’s first receiver-general of Normandy and the rest of the conquered territories.

No fewer than nine of the ‘esquires’ had trained to be lawyers. They included John Burgoyne and Nicholas Huish, both of them retained as legal counsel by the borough of Cambridge, Nicholas Caldecote, who acted as Lord Tiptoft’s attorney, and William Fulbourn, defender of all suits touching the liberties of the bishop of Ely. Most outstanding in the group were Thomas Lopham, who served as steward of the estates of Anne, countess of Stafford, most likely also at the time of his election in 1414 as steward of the university of Cambridge, and, shortly afterwards, as a royal serjeant-at-law; Sir Thomas Skelton, who had acted as a judge in South Wales and established an enviable reputation as an apprentice-at-law before his first election to Parliament (for Cambridgeshire) in 1397; and William Goodred, who, following his only Parliament in 1419, rose to be crown attorney in the King’s bench from 1426 to 1434, and then a judge in the same court for the following ten years. Although Sir Edmund de la Pole and Sir Robert Denny both came from merchant stock—the former being a son of Sir William de la Pole of Hull, the latter the offspring of a London fishmonger—Cambridgeshire returned only one man who was himself actively engaged in trade in this period: William Standon, a wealthy member of the Grocers’ Company of London and a former mayor of the City, who had supplied the households of Richard II and Henry IV with his wares, and while successfully establishing himself among the gentry of the shire with purchases of land made about ten years before his election in 1404, nevertheless continued to pursue his vocation as a merchant in the capital.

Regarding the social standing and occupations of those elected, there were marked changes in the parliamentary representation of Cambridgeshire in the course of the period. Whereas, during Richard II’s reign belted knights occupied 11 of the 22 seats available, during Henry V’s men of similar rank filled no more than five of an equal number. Individuals expert in administration could, and quite often did, secure election before 1413, but only one lawyer was returned before that date, and he, Sir Thomas Skelton, was a man of uncommon ability. By contrast, during Henry V’s reign lawyers occupied no fewer than ten of the 22 seats available, and in each of the Parliaments of 1419 and December 1421 the two shire knights were both members of the legal profession.

Thirty-six out of the 38 shire knights were appointed at some time in their careers to royal commissions or offices in the localities and, of those, apparently only six had no such experience before their earliest election to Parliament. The two exceptions were Sir John Chalers who, aged only 26, was returned to the Parliament of February 1388 but died while it was in session, and Thomas Wykes who, although he lived on for at least 15 years after his only appearance in the Commons in 1416, was never selected for local office or commissions, not even as a tax collector. As many as 24 knights of the shire were appointed to commissions of the peace for Cambridgeshire and/or in one or other of the towns of Cambridge and Royston, 14 of them being made justices before first serving in the Lower House. The shire electors chose representatives from the ranks of the local j.p.s on 14 occasions, and, in the case of the Parliaments of January 1404, 1406 and May 1413, sent two men who were currently members of the bench. In addition, eight MPs acted as justices in other counties.5 Roughly one out of four of the Cambridgeshire representatives (nine all told) held office at some time as escheator of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire (two more occupied the same post elsewhere),6 and as many as 15 served as sheriffs of the joint bailiwick. (Two of the latter and four others occupied shrievalties elsewhere.)7 Four of the escheators and eight of the sheriffs had experience of office when first elected to Parliament for Cambridgeshire.

A mere handful of the shire knights returned by Cambridgeshire in the late 14th century could be described as royal retainers. Before his first election in 1381, Simon Burgh had served as joint guardian of the temporalities of the archbishopric of Canterbury and constable of Rochester castle by appointment of Edward III, and he wore the livery of an esquire of the royal household, at least until 1384. Richard II, having used him as a diplomatic envoy, retained him as treasurer of Calais from 1383 to 1387, and he was most likely still in favour with the King at the time of his election to the three consecutive Parliaments of 1390 and 1391. Henry English, who had been appointed by Richard as steward of Clare in 1382, established close connexions both with the treasurer of the Exchequer, Sir Hugh Segrave, and the King’s favourite, Robert de Vere, earl of Oxford, each of whom he served as a trustee of his estates. Neither of these associations can have been at all relevant to his election in January 1390 (for by then one of his patrons was dead and the other in exile), but most likely he was known to have contacts at Court and may well have been elected for that reason. Robert Parys, elected in September 1388, was later to demonstrate his sound qualities as a royal official, while serving as chamberlain of Chester from 1394 until the King’s deposition. Sir Edmund de la Pole, younger brother of Michael, earl of Suffolk, King Richard’s chancellor (1383-6), might be expected to have given the King his whole-hearted support, had it not been for his refusal, in 1387, when captain of Calais castle, to afford shelter to his brother when the latter fled from England, following accusations of treason laid against him by the Lords Appellant; and certainly, there is no clear evidence that he was particularly in favour with the King at the time of his election to Parliament in 1395. To the critical Parliament of September 1397, Cambridgeshire returned John Tyndale (an unusual choice because, although he did own a manor in the county, his principal interests had previously always been in Northamptonshire), and Thomas Hasilden II, a retainer of Henry of Bolingbroke, who was to be rewarded with the dukedom of Hereford for behaving in the first session of the Parliament as a firm supporter of King Richard in his resolve to be revenged upon the chief of the Lords Appellant of 1387-8. It is, however, impossible to say whether or not the Cambridgeshire electors hoped that either Tyndale or Hasilden would actively promote royal policies.

It would seem that Richard II’s uncle, John of Gaunt, could exert a certain influence over the parliamentary representation of Cambridgeshire. In 1384 and 1386 the county returned Thomas Hasilden I, for many years controller of the ducal household, and whose offices by Lancaster’s grant also included stewardships of the local duchy estates at Babraham and Bassingbourn. By the time he was elected as a shire knight, Hasilden was enjoying a life annuity of £20 by the duke’s gift, and had been named not only as a trustee of his Cambridgeshire manors, but also as an executor of the will he had made in 1378. In the autumn of 1386, when Parliament met, he was currently acting as a member of John of Gaunt’s council charged with supervising the duke’s affairs while he was overseas. Hasilden’s sons, Richard and the younger Thomas, both became duchy of Lancaster officials: the former was probably steward of Sutton when he was elected in 1394, while the latter was steward of Soham at the time of his elections in 1395 and to both the Parliaments of 1397. Sir Thomas Skelton, returned as Thomas Hasilden’s companion in January 1397, had been serving as chief steward of the southern and Welsh parts of the duchy since 1393 and, a year after the Parliament, was to be named as an executor of the duke’s last testament. It is worth remarking that retainers of John of Gaunt filled five of the eight seats available between 1394 and their master’s death.

In Henry IV’s reign Cambridgeshire elected to seven of the 17 places for which we know the names of Members men currently in receipt of retaining fees from the monarch. Even before his accession on 30 Sept. 1399, Henry of Bolingbroke had appointed Thomas Hasilden II as sheriff of Cambridgeshire, and Hasilden took the opportunity of returning his own brother, Richard, as one of the shire knights to the assembly of estates which, having deposed Richard II and acclaimed Henry as King, continued in being as the first Parliament of the new reign. Both Hasildens received duchy annuities of 40 marks within a week of the dissolution on 19 Nov. following. The other Member for Cambridgeshire was Sir Payn Tiptoft, who, having earlier in his career been one of the most trusted retainers of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, now joined his son, John, in Bolingbroke’s service, as one of the dozen knights of the King’s chamber. Thomas Hasilden sat for the shire once more in 1401, and Sir Payn did so for the second time in January 1404, the one being a ‘King’s esquire’, the other a ‘King’s knight’. In the meantime (in 1402) and later (in 1411) the shire returned John Hobildod (formerly a retainer of the traitorous John Holand, earl of Huntingdon), who had proved his loyalty in Henry IV’s campaigns in Scotland and Wales and received as reward a life annuity of £20. Then, in 1406 was elected William Asenhill, at that time an usher of the King’s chamber, who shared with his wife a very substantial royal annuity of £40. To this group of five King’s men, there were probably linked in political sympathy two more who were attached to Henry IV’s second son, Thomas of Lancaster. William Allington, elected in 1410, had served, and may even still have been serving, as treasurer of the Irish exchequer by Thomas’s nomination, and, having been made a feoffee of the prince’s estates a few years earlier, was to remain so trusted a counsellor as to be named an executor of his will. Sir Walter de la Pole, who had been made constable of Ireland in 1407 during Thomas of Lancaster’s governorship of the province, was elected to Parliament for the first time in 1411, a Parliament in which the King, with the help of Archbishop Arundel and Prince Thomas, re-asserted his authority against the prince of Wales and the latter’s allies the Beauforts. That de la Pole inclined to the former party is suggested, too, by his enlistment in the following year in the expedition led to France by Thomas, who had by then been created duke of Clarence.

There is considerably less evidence of the election to the Commons of royal retainers under Henry V, although the reign began with Cambridgeshire returning to his first Parliament William Porter II, previously an esquire of the body to Henry as prince of Wales, and regarded by contemporaries as one of his intimate friends. Porter had already received from Henry an annuity of 50 marks for life, along with other special marks of favour, and he was shortly to secure by royal grant the valuable English estates of the abbey of Cluny. The King thought so highly of him as to eventually make him an executor and administrator of his will. No one else so close to Henry V was returned by the county; but Sir Walter de la Pole’s ability had evidently so impressed the King that, by the time of Sir Walter’s fourth election in May 1421, he had employed him on an embassy to Poland, and while that Parliament was still in session he selected him for an even more important diplomatic mission, as envoy to the Emperor Sigismund.

Clearly, the electors of Cambridgeshire were not entirely impervious to the influence of the Lancastrians, from John of Gaunt onwards, in their choice of parliamentary representatives. They may also, at times, have taken into account the interests of the bishop of Ely, perhaps the most important magnate actually living in the county.8For most of the period this was John Fordham, a former keeper of the privy seal and treasurer of the Exchequer. Thus, Sir John Colville, a prominent episcopal tenant, whose home was used by Fordham on at least one ceremonial occasion, was elected to the Parliaments of 1390 (Nov.) and 1393; (Sir) John Rochford, constable of Wisbech castle by the bishop’s appointment, although in all other respects an outsider to the community of Cambridgeshire, was returned in 1407; and William Fulbourn, for many years employed as bailiff of the bishop’s liberty, was elected in December 1421. That there were not still more instances of connexions between shire knights and the local diocesan may be attributed to the ‘graundes debatez et discordez’ prevailing in the early 15th century over contributions towards the parliamentary wages of the knights expected from the inhabitants of the Isle of Ely, a substantial area of the shire over which the bishop had jurisdiction. During our period a number of suits were brought by knights of the shire in the Exchequer of pleas, protesting that they had not received full payment of their wages from the sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire, whose invariable response was that he had been unable to collect the amount due from the Isle. The disputes were not to end until 1430 when the then bishop of Ely, Philip Morgan, and John, Lord Tiptoft, agreed to a settlement whereby the inhabitants of the Isle were to pay those dwelling elsewhere in the shire a flat sum of £200, which money was to be invested in land yielding a sufficient income to exonerate them in future from all liability to contribute to MP’s wages; and this arrangement was given final authorization by Parliament in 1449.9

Elections were always held in the shire court at Cambridge and, up to and including 1406, were recorded on the dorse of the writ of summons, along with the names of the shire knights for Huntingdonshire and the parliamentary burgesses for Cambridge and Huntingdon, each Member finding two mainpernors. From 1407, as required by an Act of the previous Parliament, indentures were drawn up between the sheriff and a number of named electors. This number ranged from 11 to 18 in the period up to 1422. It is a matter for some surprise that no one of the rank of knight was recorded actually attesting an electoral indenture until the spring of 1421 when (Sir) William Asenhill, evidently then present in the county court, did so.

Author: L. S. Woodger

Notes

  • 1. St. George and Asenhill were returned when Parliament was intended to be held at Gloucester, but, after the venue was changed to Westminster, John Hobildod and William Audley were elected: C219/10/3. However, it was the first two to whom writs de expensis were issued when Parliament was dissolved: CCR, 1405-9, p. 282.
  • 2. E13/126 m. 9.
  • 3. E13/132 mm. 1, 3d.
  • 4. E13/133 m. 9d.
  • 5. Burgh and Papworth in Hunts., English in Essex, Rochford in Lincs., Tyndale in Northants., Howard in Suff. and Essex, Porter in Northants. and Rutland, and Goodred in ten other shires (as ex officio j.KB).
  • 6. English in Essex and Herts., and Tyndale in Northants. and Rutland.
  • 7. English and Howard in Essex and Herts., Richard Hasilden in Beds. and Bucks., Rochford in Lincs., Standon in London and Mdx., and Tyndale in Northants.
  • 8. The tax assessments of 1404 reveal no member of the aristocracy with land in Cambridgeshire worth more than 40 marks a year: E179/81/57.
  • 9. E13/126 m. 9, 132 mm. 1, 3d, 133 mm. 9d, 11; RP, iv. 382-3; v. 157.

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