Available from Boydell and Brewer
|John Prentice I 1|
|1388 (Feb.)||William Pakeman|
|1388 (Sept.)||William Pakeman|
|1390 (Jan.)||John Stokkes|
|1397 (Jan.)||William Groos|
|Thomas Shore 2|
|1397 (Sept.)||William Groos|
|1404 (Oct.)||John Prentice II|
|1413 (May)||Elias Stokkes 3|
|1414 (Apr.)||John Prentice II|
|1414 (Nov.)||Elias Stokkes|
|1416 (Mar.)||Elias Stokkes|
|Robert Smith II|
|1421 (May)||Ralph Shore|
|Thomas Stokkes 4|
|1421 (Dec.)||Ralph Shore|
|John Spicer III|
Derby, situated in the open valley formed by the river Derwent, in 1377 had an estimated population of 1,569. Clearly somewhat smaller than its neighbour, Nottingham, the town was nevertheless comparable in size with Newark and Lichfield; and by 1428 it contained four parish churches. Perhaps the oldest most important occupation of the townspeople was dyeing; in 1204 they had purchased for 60 marks a monopoly of this industry within a radius of ten miles, although as the burgesses of Nottingham already enjoyed the same privilege, the effect was limited. Malt produced in the region, wool from the High Peak, and the local lead mining industry all gave the inhabitants other profitable trading interests. Derby became a centre for brewing, while wool and lead were sold there before being carried to the ports of Kingston-upon-Hull and Boston.5 The royal charter of 1204 confirmed the townsmen’s right to form a guild merchant, membership of which was restricted to burgesses. In 1330 this body was accused in the King’s bench of oppressing the poorer inhabitants of Derby, in so far as merchants who came into the town from other places were only permitted to sell their wares wholesale and to members of the guild, so that the latter profited rather than the community as a whole. The guild was then convicted of unjust practices and also of taking excessive tolls. By this time weekly markets, lasting for four days, and two annual fairs, one going on for 17 days, were regularly held at Derby.6
The 1204 charter, modelled upon that of Nottingham, also established that Derby was to be governed by a bailiff chosen by the burgesses, subject to the approbation of the King, and in 1256 the borough secured other privileges from the Crown, including the right of ‘return of writs’. The 1330 case, in addition to investigating the excessive power of the guild, questioned several other liberties, including the burgesses’ authority to take tolls, their claim to the exclusive privilege of dyeing cloth in the area, and their right to elect their own bailiff, but none of these liberties were apparently affected by the court’s decision. In 1378 previous charters were confirmed to the burgesses of Derby and Nottingham in return for their agreement jointly to foot the cost of building a balinger for royal service. Subsequently, in 1402, the people of the two towns were allies in a dispute with those of Leicester. But, constitutionally, Nottingham was much more advanced than its neighbour, being governed in this period by a major and two bailiffs and before too long obtaining incorporation as a shire. Derby lagged behind. Nevertheless, it was not only the county town but the most important one in Derbyshire. In 1380 the burgesses protested in Parliament about the holding of the assizes elsewhere, for, they claimed, Derby was ‘la mellioure ville du dite countee’, and the most conveniently situated for the people of the shire in general.7 As a royal borough, Derby paid an annual fee farm, by then amounting to as much as £52. For several years of our period the farm formed part of the queen’s dower, following grants made to Anne of Bohemia in 1382 and to Joan of Navarre in 1403 and 1408, although the latter received slightly less than her predecessor (£46 10s. p.a.). These sums were paid to the bailiff of the queen’s liberty in Derbyshire, a post filled from 1391 to 1394 by John Stokkes. The latter sat for Derby in the Parliament of 1393 while holding office, but this was his fourth appearance in the Commons and there is nothing else to suggest that either queen had any interest in, still less any influence upon, this or any other parliamentary election. During the period under review elections of the local officials were held on Michaelmas Day, with the burgesses collectively choosing four aldermen, who together appointed 24 others to elect a bailiff to levy the green wax (‘de faire la leve de vert cere’) and to collect and account for the fee farm.8 Presumably at the same time, they also chose an under bailiff and a borough coroner. It was stipulated that no bailiff was to be re-elected within seven years of relinquishing office.
Derby had regularly sent representatives to Parliament from Edward I’s reign. The mode of their election, however, is obscure. Up to and including 1406 the names of the knights and burgesses for both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were merely entered on the dorse of the parliamentary writ returned by their common sheriff, with no indication as to how they had been selected. For the Parliaments of 1407, 1413 (May) and 1414 separate indentures of election were drawn up for the two shires, but none such are recorded for either Derby or Nottingham. The suggestion that, from 1407 onwards, there once existed indentures for the boroughs, since lost, is reinforced by the returns of 1411, 1425, 1426, 1427 and 1429, from each of which occasions four indentures survive, one for each shire and borough. It transpires from these that in 1411 the hustings for the borough of Derby took place on a different day (15 Oct.) from those for the shire (which were held at the county court meeting in the town on the 19th), and although only six of the burgesses were actually named as present, ‘multi alii de communitate’ were also stated to have taken part in electing the representatives. Following the election of 1425, which took place six days after that for the shire, the indenture was drawn up between the sheriff and eight named burgesses, and stated that Derby’s Members had been chosen by them and all other burgesses of the town by unanimous assent. For the next three Parliaments the shire and borough elections were held on the same day, although, as the separate indentures make clear, they had different participants. However, at each of the elections of 1417, 1419, 1420 and 1421, the two knights and the two burgesses had been named on the same indenture, the electors (numbering between 12 and 27 and not including any burgesses at all) apparently choosing all four indiscriminately. The same was to happen in the 1430s, although in both 1432 and 1437 those named as present included two bailiffs and five burgesses. On all these occasions the election was said to have been made ‘in pleno comitatu tento apud Derby’.9 It is mistaken to accept the phraseology of the indentures at its face value. Although the terms point to the parliamentary burgesses being elected in the county court, the election for the borough, judging from the returns of 1411 and 1425, must in fact have been made independently ‘in plena curia burgi’, and, presumably, merely reported to the assembled community of the shire.
Returns for Derby for nine of the 32 Parliaments that met between 1386 and 1421 are missing. If the John Prentice who sat in 1386 is to be distinguished from his namesake of 1404 and 1414, the names of 27 representatives are known for this period. It was almost the rule for the borough to send as one of its Members someone with previous experience of attending the Lower House; this was the case certainly in 19 out of the 23 Parliaments for which evidence survives. It should be noted, however, that in 1406 and the consecutive Parliaments of 1417, 1419 and 1420 it is possible, and on the last three occasions even probable, that both men returned were novices. Of the 27 MPs, perhaps 11 sat only once and six just twice; but all the rest were returned quite frequently, and John Stokkes had seven Parliaments to his credit. Five instances of re-election stand recorded: William Pakeman was elected to both Parliaments of 1388, William Groos and Thomas Shore together to both those of 1397 (Groos having sat as well in the immediately preceding Parliament of 1395), and Ralph Shore to both Parliaments of 1421. There is also some evidence of a tradition of parliamentary service running in families, for example, among the Trowells. Thomas and Ralph Shore were probably father and son, while three members of the Stokkes family (John, Elias and Thomas) represented Derby in this period, and another John was returned in 1422 and 1427.
A large majority of the parliamentary burgesses, 22 out of 27, resided in Derby; and three more probably did so (Thomas Goldsmith, Thomas Ridgeway and Thomas Steppingstones, who each sat in only one Parliament and remain unidentified). Only two MPs certainly lived outside the town, although both dwelt within the county: Robert Ireland at Locko and Yeldersley, and Richard Brown at Repton. Both of these sat late in the period and, in any case, only once each (in 1417 and 1420, respectively); their appearance hardly indicates that the later tendency of shire gentry to take over borough seats had so far made much of an impression here. Complete lists of local officers cannot now be compiled, for no borough records of this period survived the 19th-century fire at the town hall, and the more recent flood. What evidence is available from other sources suggests, however, that it was usual for Members to serve as bailiff at some point in their careers, more often than not before their earliest election to the Commons. Seventeen MPs certainly held this office, most, perhaps because of the rule imposing a seven-year exclusion, only once, but four served twice, another three times, and Thomas Shore four times. Only in the case of one parliamentary burgess was the seven-year rule broken in this period, that is when Thomas Docking was re-elected a mere two years after his first bailiff-ship ended in 1398. Occasionally, as was the case with Richard Sherman, John Brasier and Thomas Stokkes (in 1384, 1411 and 1435, respectively), an outgoing bailiff would be returned to the very next Parliament. (In Stokkes’s case he even put his seal to his own election indenture.) Two instances are known of a bailiff being returned to Parliament when actually holding office: John Stokkes in 1399 and Thomas Shore in 1411. The names of just four aldermen of the period are known (including William Groos and William Pakeman) and then only as a consequence of their illegal interruption of the elections of borough officials in 1391. Groos served as coroner in the borough for at least 11 years from 1378, but whether he was still in office when returned to the Parliament of 1395 must remain doubtful.
Not surprisingly, most of the Derby MPs traded in local products. They included a butcher, a brewer, a smith, an ironmonger and a spicer. At least seven were engaged in the manufacture of cloth, one as a dyer and another as a draper. Five were merchants on a larger scale. Of this last group the most important were the woolmen: William Pakeman, who exported to the Netherlands, and Elias Stokkes, a merchant of the Staple of Calais, who shipped wool from Kingston-upon-Hull. There was only one lawyer, Richard Brown of Repton, who, along with Robert Ireland, figured among the landowning gentry of the shire. Ireland was armigerous: like Brown he had links with some of the knights of the shire of the period, and, being something of a military man, he served under Thomas, Lord Berkeley, admiral of the south and west. But some of the resident burgesses, too, formed important associations outside the town. William Pakeman was a friend of the Tuchet family, as such being made a feoffee of the widespread Audley estates; and three MPs were to be included among the Derbyshire gentry sworn in 1434 not to maintain breakers of the peace: John Spicer III, Thomas Stokkes and Roger Wolley. The last named, a draper, married the widow of John Ireland of Hartshorn, thus acquiring land outside the borough. It was through marriage, too, that Stokkes acquired the manor of Arleston, and that William Groos extended his landed interests beyond the county boundaries, into Staffordshire. Although 12 Members were appointed to occasional royal commissions in the shire or, more usually, in the borough of Derby, only one, Richard Brown, ever occupied any royal offices of note. He acted as clerk of the peace for Derbyshire for the three years preceding his sole return to Parliament, in 1420, and as a county coroner for an unspecified period before his death in 1443.