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|1388 (Feb.)||John Andrew|
|1390 (Jan.)||?John Crouch|
|?William Plomer II 1|
|1399||Robert Andrew II|
|1413 (May)||Thomas Cricklade|
|1421 (Dec.)||[Thomas] Cricklade|
Cricklade is situated near the Wiltshire border with Gloucestershire, at the point where Ermine Street crossed the Thames on its way from Gloucester and Cirencester to Marlborough, Newbury and further south. During the period under consideration, it ranked among the smaller Wiltshire boroughs, the size of its taxable population in 1377 suggesting that it was then a little larger than Calne, but less than half the size of neighbouring Malmesbury. It was doubtless partly because of the need to cater for travellers on the main road that more than half of the 53 burgesses whose occupations are given in the poll tax return of 1379 were victuallers, the most numerous of these being brewers and butchers. Others were employed as weavers, tailors and leather-workers. (Glove making, for which Cricklade was later to be famous, had perhaps already begun.) At the end of the 14th century the town seems to have been only moderately prosperous, for although less than half of its inhabitants paid the minimum rate of 4d. per head to the poll tax of 1379, none was assessed at more than 1s.2
Though now no more than a medium-sized market town, Cricklade had formerly been of far greater importance, due to its position on the crossing of the Thames. The Romans built a camp there, surrounded by an earthen bank which was later utilized to protect a Saxon royal borough, probably founded as such by King Alfred as a border fortress between Wessex and Mercia. By the time of the Domesday survey, Cricklade contained a royal mint. With its related hundred, it remained in royal hands until 1156, when both town and hundred were granted to the first of a series of tenants. At the beginning of our period they were in the hands of John, duke of Brittany, but in 1391 the reversionary interest was granted to Richard II’s uncle, Edmund, duke of York, who duly took possession six years later and subsequently passed the lordship to his son, Edward (d.1415). For a while Cricklade was then held by a group of feoffees headed by Henry Beaufort, bishop of Winchester, but these eventually resigned it to Edward’s nephew and heir, Richard, duke of York.3 Part of the borough lay within the manor of Abingdon Court (to which was attached the advowson of St. Sampson’s, the principal church of the locality) and this manor was held of the lords of Cricklade in 1386 by Richard Horne*, from whom it descended by 1405 to his daughter, Joan, wife of Robert More III*. The latter retained it until her death in 1435, when it was sold to Sir Walter (now Lord) Hungerford*.4
The borough of Cricklade possessed certain liberties, but seemingly few institutions. Henry II had granted the burgesses a charter in 1155, whereby they and their goods were to be quit of all tolls throughout England; and this privilege was confirmed in 1267 and, after our period, in 1422 and 1442. It is not known whether a guild merchant existed, but if so it can hardly have been important, for the lords of the borough and hundred apparently retained the profits of the local courts, the markets, and the annual fair (held for three days around St. Andrew’s day), and these profits were never farmed by the townsmen. The burgesses of Cricklade proper seem to have been only those townsmen who owned or leased the 30 or more burgage tenements, and it was probably they who elected (in the lord’s court) the borough’s chief officer, the constable.5
The paucity of local records and the complete lack of electoral indentures relating to Cricklade in our period make it difficult to ascertain what (if any) external influences were brought to bear on the election of MPs. Interest on the part of either the lords of the borough and hundred, or of the lords of the manor of Abingdon Court, is nowhere apparent. Little can be said, except that, with the exception of Robert Newman, who dwelt a few miles away at Charlton, all the identified Members of this period either lived at Cricklade or at least held burgage tenements there.
Cricklade’s representation in Parliament dates back to the reign of Edward I. When, in 1275, the sheriff of Wiltshire was directed to cause six or four citizens or burgesses to come to Parliament from every city, borough orvilla mercatoria, Cricklade, which fell into the last-mentioned category, sent three representatives. Summoned again in 1295, this time as a borough proper, it returned two Members. Thereafter, representation would appear to have been at best intermittent, for the borough is known to have sent burgesses to only ten of the 64 Parliaments meeting between 1298 and the end of Edward III’s reign. On five occasions during that period (in 1307, 1351, 1358, 1360 and 1361) it was called upon to make a return, but failed to do so. Representation became somewhat less irregular in the reign of Richard II. Very little is known about the conduct of Cricklade’s parliamentary elections, but we may safely assume that these followed the practice of other Wiltshire boroughs. It seems likely that they were carried out in the court of the borough and hundred, and that the franchise was restricted to burgesses. No separate indentures for any of the Wiltshire boroughs exist before 1453, when the constables of the hundred and town of Cricklade were party to the local election. Perhaps they had played a significant role earlier.6
No more than five returns—those for the Parliaments of 1386, 1388 (Feb.), 1399, 1413 (May) and 1421 (Dec.)—survive for our period. In addition, the name of the MPs of January 1390 are furnished, perhaps inaccurately, by Prynne. It is not known whether the borough was required to hold elections at other times, but failed to do so: if, however, this is the case, no record of such dereliction remains in the surviving documentation for Wiltshire. The number of parliamentary burgesses recorded during the period is ten, of whom seven would appear to have only represented Cricklade once. But of these Robert Newman had previously sat twice for Malmesbury, and Robert Andrew II subsequently appeared four times in the Commons as a knight of the shire. Thomas Cricklade, having sat for Cricklade three times, was later elected for Calne. The most experienced of Cricklade’s Members were John Andrew and Thomas Weston, who between them had taken over much of the borough’s representation in the 1380s: even disregarding the gaps in the returns, the former sat nine times between 1378 and 1388, being elected to consecutive Parliaments in 1381 and 1382 (May) and again in 1385, 1386 and 1388 (Feb.), while Weston appeared on six occasions between 1369 and 1388 (Sept.).
At least two MPs came from families with a record of parliamentary service. John Andrew was probably the son of the man of the same name who represented Cricklade in 1369, and may well have been the father of Robert II. More remarkable was Thomas Cricklade, members of whose family sat on no less than 16 occasions for either Cricklade or Calne between 1413 and 1442. Five of the eight identified parliamentary burgesses probably resided within the town of Cricklade. Of the others, Geoffrey Cowbridge lived some two miles to the north at Marston Meysey, while Robert Andrew established homes both at Castle Eton, within the parish of Cricklade, and at Blunsdon St. Andrew, three miles to the south; but both Cowbridge and Andrew did own burgage tenements in the borough itself. The only outsider, apparently neither owning property at Cricklade nor being resident there, was Robert Newman, who lived near Malmesbury and whose closest links may have been with that place, which he represented in the Parliaments of January 1397 and 1399.
The lack of local records makes it impossible to discover which MPs held office in Cricklade and what occupations they followed, although we do know that Andrew Jones was either a butcher or a brewer, and Geoffrey Cowbridge a yeoman. Robert Andrew II and Thomas Cricklade, who were both to emerge as substantial country gentlemen, achieved prominence through their practices as lawyers, and in addition Andrew proved to be a highly competent estate manager for the duchy of Lancaster and the earl of Warwick. These two, Cricklade and Andrew, are the only two Members known to have served the Crown outside the borough, although neither was appointed to public office before he first entered the Commons. Cricklade served on two royal commissions, and acted as county coroner for at least 28 years (in the course of which he represented the borough in the Parliaments of December 1421 and 1422). But his achievements were far excelled by those of Andrew, who (albeit not until after his parliamentary service for Cricklade was over) was appointed to no less than 26 royal commissions (relating mostly to the south-western counties), acted twice as escheator in Hampshire and Wiltshire and once in Gloucestershire, sat on the Wiltshire bench for over 20 years, and occupied successively the shrievalties of Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire, and Gloucestershire. From small beginnings Andrew became a substantial landowner with manorial holdings in five counties as well as property in London. Though not so affluent, Thomas Cricklade acquired considerable interests in north Wiltshire, and also owned, jure uxoris, the manors of Langridge, Somerset, and Llandough, Glamorganshire, Robert Newman likewise held land in north Wiltshire, and Geoffrey Cowbridge evidently owned property in Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, some two miles from Cricklade.
From what little information that remains, it appears that the representation of Cricklade in the last quarter of the 14th century was undertaken by a few local men, probably tradesmen or farmers on a small scale. At the beginning of the 15th century, individuals of a higher social class, though still local residents, began to be elected, the first of these being Robert Andrew, returned in 1399 when at the very beginning of his professional career. Thomas Cricklade and Robert Newman, chosen in May 1413, were members of the local gentry, Cricklade, like Andrew, being a lawyer. The tendency to elect men from the immediate vicinity rather than outsiders continued after 1422, five of the nine known MPs returned between that date and 1440 being from Cricklade itself, with two more coming from other parts of the county. Three of the nine—Robert Cricklade, John Cricklade and John Ludwell—were lawyers, and these, with John Bailey, William Gatcombe and John Selwood illustrate the increasing tendency, begun by Andrew and Newman, for Cricklade MPs to offer their services to other Wiltshire constituencies.7
Author: Charles Kightly
- 1. The return has not survived. According to W. Prynne (Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, iv. 994), John Crouch and William Plomer sat for Cricklade in this Parliament, but no trace of men of either name has been found in local records.
- 2. VCH Wilts. iv. 308; E179/239/193 m. 7.
- 3. Materials for Hist. Cricklade ed. Thomson (1958-61 edn.), 43-44, 63-73; CPR, 1388-92, p. 377; 1396-9, p. 177; 1413-16, pp. 349-50; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlviii. 78; lviii. 7-17.
- 4. CCR, 1402-5, pp. 436-7; CPR, 1422-9, p. 390; SC2/208/37, 38.
- 5. CPR, 1266-72, p. 30; 1441-6, p. 54; CChR, i. 470.
- 6. C219/16/2. This seems to have been the case in the 18th century: Wilts. Arch. Mag. lii. 370; Wilts. Arch. Soc. Recs. Branch, v. p. xi.
- 7. J.T. Driver, ‘Burgess Repn. Wilts.’ (Oxf. Univ. B. Litt. thesis, 1951), sub nomine.