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


1386Sir Bernard Brocas
 Sir John Sandys
1388 (Feb.)Sir Thomas Worting
 Henry Popham
1388 (Sept.)Sir Thomas Worting
 Henry Popham
1390 (Jan.)Sir John Sandys
 John Bettesthorne
1390 (Nov.)Sir William Sturmy
 Henry Popham
1391Sir John Sandys
 Robert Cholmley
1393Sir Bernard Brocas
 Sir John Sandys
1394Henry Popham
 John Hampton
1395Sir Bernard Brocas
 Robert Cholmley
1397 (Jan.)Sir John Popham
 Robert Cholmley
1397 (Sept.)Robert More II
 Robert Cholmley
1399Sir Thomas Skelton
 Sir Nicholas Dabrichecourt
1401Sir John Lisle
 Robert Cholmley
1402Sir John Popham
 Edward Cowdray
1404 (Jan.)Sir John Lisle
 Sir John Popham
1404 (Oct.)Henry Popham 1
1406Sir John Berkeley I
 Sir Thomas Skelton
1407Sir John Popham
 William Fauconer
1411John Uvedale
 William Fauconer
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)John Uvedale
 John Arnold II
1414 (Apr.)Sir Walter Sandys
 William Brocas
1414 (Nov.)Lewis John
 Thomas Wallop
1415William Brocas
 John Harris
1416 (Mar.)Bernard Brocas
 John Uvedale 2
1416 (Oct.)
1417Edward Cowdray
 John Lisle 3
1419John Uvedale
 Thomas Wallop
1420Sir Stephen Popham
 John Kirkby I
1421 (May)John Uvedale
 Robert Dingley II
1421 (Dec.)William Brocas
 Richard Wallop

Main Article

The returns for Hampshire are missing for three of the 32 Parliaments of the period (those of 1410, 1413 (Feb.) and 1416 (Oct.)), and the name of only one of the knights of the shire for the Parliament of 1404 (Oct.) is known. From the surviving evidence, it is clear that parliamentary experience was more concentrated in the first half of the period; thus, although in ten out of the 29 Parliaments for which returns are extant both Members had already been tried, all but three of these Parliaments assembled before 1399. In 17 out of the 29 Parliaments an experienced man accompanied a novice, and this was the usual pattern under Henry IV and Henry V, although on possibly two occasions (1414 (Apr.) and 1420) both Members were newcomers to the House. In addition, reelection occurred more often during Richard II’s reign than under the Lancastrians: both the Members of 1388 (Feb.) were returned to the next Parliament, and re-election of one Member took place in 1393, 1397 (Jan.) and 1397 (Sept.); but only one instance of re-election is known after 1399 (occurring in 1404).

When we consider the distribution of seats among the 29 men known to have represented Hampshire in this period, it becomes apparent that those who sat most often for this county did so before 1399. Sir Bernard Brocas sat eight times between 1369 and 1395, Sir John Sandys the same number between 1381 and 1393, Henry Popham seven between 1383 and 1404, and Robert Cholmley five between 1391 and 1401. Indeed, of the six men returned to five or more Parliaments for Hampshire, only two—John Uvedale (six between 1411 and 1429) and Sir Stephen Popham (five between 1420 and 1422)—belong to the later part of the period. As many as 13 of the 29 Members, nearly half of the total, represented Hampshire only once, and of this group no fewer than nine sat after 1399.

Not all of the knights of the shire restricted their parliamentary service to this constituency. Six also represented other shires or even boroughs: Sir Bernard Brocas and John Bettesthorne both sat once for Wiltshire; Sir Thomas Skelton once for Cambridgeshire; Sir John Berkeley I once for Wiltshire, twice for Somerset and three times for Gloucestershire; and Lewis John once (in the same Parliament) for Taunton and Wallingford, and five times for Essex. But most outstanding in this as in other respects was Sir William Sturmy, who, elected to 12 Parliaments between 1384 and 1422, represented both Hampshire and Devon twice and Wiltshire eight times. Sturmy was the only one of the 29 ever to be elected Speaker of the Commons, although this occurred, in the Parliament of 1404 (Oct.), when he was sitting for Devon. When the full parliamentary experience of every shire knight is taken into account, the average number of Parliaments per Member works out at roughly four.

In only a few cases did parliamentary service cover long stretches of time. The period between Sir Bernard Brocas’s first and last Parliaments was 26 years, that between Sir Stephen Popham’s 22, Henry Popham’s 21, and John Uvedale’s 19. Sturmy was again outstanding in that his participation lasted nearly 40 years. There were several families which in this period either perpetuated or began a tradition of parliamentary service for Hampshire: notably those of Uvedale, Popham, Brocas, Sandys and Lisle. But there is no hint of domination of the representation of the shire by any one particular family, comparable with, say, that of Hungerford in Wiltshire. A Popham sat in ten Parliaments of the period, a Brocas in seven, a Sandys in five, and a Lisle in three. But for the most part they were gentry of the ‘middling sort’, apparently content to share the representation of the county among themselves and their peers. The only family that might have become of outstanding importance in this respect, not only in Hampshire but in the kingdom at large, was that of Brocas. But this family’s rise to prominence was halted in 1400 with the execution of the second Sir Bernard Brocas for treason, and the spheres of activity of his sons, William and Bernard (who both sat in Parliament), were otherwise limited to local affairs. In this they resembled the majority of the Members for Hampshire, and like them they only appeared in the Commons infrequently.

All 29 knights of the shire held property in Hampshire, and were, therefore, qualified to represent the county. But by no means all of them were indigenous to the region. Sir John Sandys probably hailed from Cheshire, Sir Thomas Skelton (who married Sandys’s widow) came from Cumberland, and Sir John Berkeley I was born in Gloucestershire; while Sir Nicholas Dabrichecourt was of Flemish extraction, and Lewis John, Welsh. These five all acquired their estates in Hampshire through marriage to wealthy widows or heiresses. Although Sir Thomas Worting was a native of the shire he, too, owed his substantial landed holdings there to his wife. The Members may be loosely divided into two groups with regard to their incomes from land. No fewer than ten seem to have received annual revenues of less than £40 from properties which were for the most part confined within the boundaries of the shire. Nearly all of this group sat only in the later half of the period, and had comparatively little parliamentary experience. The larger group enjoyed much more substantial incomes: Sir Bernard Brocas, Sir John Lisle, Sir John Berkeley I and Sir Thomas Worting must each have received at least £200 p.a. (in Berkeley’s case some £350), and Sir John Sandys, Sir Thomas Skelton, Sir William Sturmy, and John Uvedale were not much less wealthy. Furthermore, the landed holdings of this larger group were considerably more widespread, being situated not only in the neighbouring shires of Dorset, Wiltshire, Berkshire and Sussex, but even further away, for example, in Northamptonshire (Brocas and Lisle), Essex (Henry Popham and Lewis John), and Cumberland (Skelton). Nevertheless, all but a few of even this wealthier group were purely Hampshire men in respect of their principal interests and preoccupations. The exceptions were Sir Bernard Brocas, Sir William Sturmy, Sir Thomas Skelton and Lewis John, all of whom, though each in his very different way, achieved some prominence in national affairs: Brocas as a courtier, Sturmy as a diplomat, Skelton as a leading apprentice-at-law, and John as a financier and supplier of wine to the Household.

There are few instances where the Crown may be suspected of taking an undue interest in the elections for Hampshire. Sir Bernard Brocas spent a long career at the royal court, as a member of the households of Edward III and Richard II and as chamberlain to Queen Anne, but his high social standing in Hampshire (founded on extensive territorial holdings), would doubtless have ensured his frequent election for the county even had he not been so closely connected with royalty. More significant was the return to four of the Parliaments of the 1390s of Robert Cholmley, a King’s esquire appointed by Richard II as constable of Winchester castle for life, who possessed only small landed holdings in the county and was not a member of one of the established gentry families. Then, to the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.), which in its second session at Shrewsbury was to reverse the acts of the Merciless Parliament and reinforce Richard II’s personal rule, Hampshire returned, along with this same esquire of the Household, an obscure man named Robert More, about whom the only known fact of interest is that he was a close associate of the family of Brocas, whose loyalty to Richard II was such that it resulted eventually in the execution of the head of the family for plotting to restore him to the throne. By contrast, to the next Parliament, that of 1399, which sanctioned the deposition of Richard II and acclaimed Henry IV, Hampshire returned two knights whose sympathies were undoubtedly with the new regime. Sir Nicholas Dabrichecourt had been a member of Edward III’s household for the last 15 years of his reign, but his promising career had been cut short on the accession of Richard II, who removed him from his offices and deprived him of his annuities. Perhaps as a consequence, he had attached himself to John of Gaunt, and it was not until his new patron’s son mounted the throne that he was returned to Parliament. Dabrichecourt’s fellow Member was Sir Thomas Skelton, the chief steward of the southern and Welsh parts of the duchy of Lancaster, who was currently engaged in carrying out the wishes expressed in Gaunt’s will, of which he was an executor. Yet, while there can be no doubt that the electors of Hampshire chose supporters of Richard II to represent them in most of the Parliaments of the 1390s, and followers of the house of Lancaster to serve them in 1399, there is no tangible evidence of direct royal interference in any of the elections of this period.

Nor is there any sign of aristocratic influence on the electoral returns for Hampshire; and no significant connexions have been discovered between the largest landowners in the county (the duke of York and the earls of Salisbury and March) and the knights of the shire. On the other hand there were definitely close links between some of the Members and the bishops of Winchester of the period: William of Wykeham and Henry Beaufort. Sir Bernard Brocas and Henry Popham were both friends of Wykeham, and Edward Cowdray, William Fauconer, John Hampton and Richard Wallop all held administrative offices on the episcopal estates by his appointment. There is, however, no evidence that Wykeham actively influenced the outcome of parliamentary elections, and in any case only Hampton and Cowdray were occupying their posts at the time of their return to the Lower House (in 1394 and 1402, respectively). During Beaufort’s episcopate, Fauconer and Cowdray, who retained offices on the estates, both represented the shire in the Commons: the former in 1407 and 1411, and the latter in 1417. But of much greater significance was the election to Henry V’s first Parliament, that of 1413 (May), of John Arnold II, who was not only Beaufort’s bailiff of the Soke of Winchester, but also the receiver-general for the episcopal estates as a whole. Beaufort himself opened the Parliament as chancellor, and it is known that the Commons included several others besides Arnold who were closely connected with him and his cousin, Thomas Chaucer* of Ewelme—men who had formed an attachment to the new King while he was still prince of Wales. But this was Arnold’s first and only Parliament. Then again, and also out of the ordinary, there was the return to the second Parliament of 1414 of Lewis John, a Welsh adventurer who, although he had recently acquired property in Hampshire through marriage to a widow, had established no real contact with the gentry of the shire. There can, in fact, be no doubt that Lewis John owed his seat directly to his friend Chaucer, who, as sheriff of the county, was responsible for holding the election (just as had been the case in 1413 when he had been returned for both Taunton and Wallingford, places in which he himself had no interest at all, but where Chaucer held sway as constable of the local castles). In 1414, the year of his only election for Hampshire, Lewis John was acting as master worker of the Mints in London and Calais, a post won for him through the patronage of Chaucer and Bishop Beaufort.

The majority of the 29 Members played some part in the administration of the shire, but as many as three (John Hampton, John Arnold II and Thomas Wallop) were never appointed to a royal commission throughout their careers. The explanation for the election of Hampton (in 1394) and of Arnold (in 1413) may be found in their respective connexions with Bishop Wykeham and Bishop Beaufort, but Wallop’s elections in 1414 and 1419 are less easy to explain, though may have owed something to his relationship to Richard Wallop, one of the most active members of the Hampshire bench. Robert More II and Bernard Brocas had no experience of royal service before their single returns in 1397 and 1416, respectively, nor were they appointed to more than one or two commissions subsequently. As eight others were lacking experience of such duties at the time of their earliest elections to Parliament, there was altogether a total of 13 men so untried out of the 29. Fourteen Members served at some time in their careers as j.p.s in Hampshire, and four more elsewhere (John Bettesthorne and Robert Cholmley in Wiltshire, Lewis John in Essex, and Sir John Berkeley I in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire), but only six had appeared on the bench before they first sat in the Commons. Most outstanding in this respect was Richard Wallop, who served as a j.p. in Hampshire for 22 years before being elected to his one and only Parliament in 1421. Indeed, membership of the local commission of the peace appears to have carried weight with the electors for Hampshire: in 17 of the 29 Parliaments for which returns have survived the shire was represented by one of its current members of the bench, and in 1386 and 1393 both of the knights elected were j.p.s. Fifteen knights of the shire were sometime sheriffs of Hampshire, and eight sheriffs of other counties. (Sir Bernard Brocas, Sir John Lisle, and Sir William Sturmy served only in Wiltshire, and Lewis John only in Essex and Hertfordshire.) No fewer than eight had been employed in this office before they were first elected for Hampshire. Four instances of contravention of the spirit, if not the letter, of the statutory prohibition of election of sheriffs to Parliament, have come to light: Robert Cholmley, who was appointed sheriff on 21 Oct. 1391, nevertheless sat in the Parliament which assembled on 3 Nov.; Sir John Popham and Sir John Berkeley I were so appointed when sitting in the Parliaments of 1404 (Jan.) and 1406, respectively; and Edward Cowdray, made sheriff on 10 Nov. 1417, had already been elected to the assembly due to meet six days later. Popham’s dismissal from the post only a month after his appointment may have been because of the irregularity of his position, though it seems more likely that he relinquished his office to become eligible for that of constable of Southampton castle, which he obtained shortly afterwards. Only one knight of the shire (John Uvedale) was ever made escheator, and only one (Sir John Sandys) is known to have served as a coroner. Five Members held hereditary offices under the Crown: Sir Bernard Brocas and his grandson, William, as masters of the King’s buckhounds, Sir John Lisle and his son, John, as wardens of Chute forest, and Sir William Sturmy as warden of Savernake. Such positions can, by their nature, have had little bearing on parliamentary elections.

It would seem that, especially in the earlier part of our period, the Hampshire electors showed a preference for men with some experience of royal service, albeit perhaps only in the military sphere, who were also quite well advanced in their careers. All of those whose ages may be computed with reasonable accuracy were over 30 when first elected. The youngest, so far as is known, was John Lisle, who was about 31 when returned in 1417. On the other hand, Sir Nicholas Dabrichecourt was at least 57 and in the last year of his life when he entered the Commons for the only time in 1399. The representation of Hampshire was not restricted, however, to those whose careers followed a set pattern of military service and/or land ownership. Three Members were lawyers: Sir Thomas Skelton, who by the time of his first election for Hampshire in 1399 was an able apprentice-at-law, with experience of service as a judge in South Wales and of many judicial commissions elsewhere, a man whose learned opinion had been solicited at the Shrewsbury session of the Parliament of 1397 (Sept.); Richard Wallop, who, although of lesser calibre than Skelton, had nevertheless long served as a j.p. before his only election in 1421; and the latter’s obscure kinsman, Thomas Wallop, who made occasional appearances at the assizes as an attorney. John Arnold II and William Fauconer both developed interests in the cloth trade, while Lewis John was a vintner. Then, too, there was a noticeable change in the representation of the county during this period with regard to the social status of those elected. Thus, whereas in the 11 Parliaments between 1386 and 1397 (Sept.) Hampshire was represented by 11 knights by rank and 11 ‘esquires’, and in the eight Parliaments of Henry IV’s reign for which returns have survived the ratio was 9:6, in the ten of Henry V’s reign the ratio swung radically to 2:18. Furthermore, while most of the ‘esquires’ who sat in the 1380s enjoyed incomes and social positions which warranted knighthood (indeed, one of them, John Bettesthorne, is known to have refused that honour), this was not the case in the later part of the period: only three of the ‘esquires’ returned under Henry V were of comparable stature (William Brocas, John Uvedale and John Lisle). Over the period as a whole there was an increasing influx of men of lower calibre: in the 1390s there were Cholmley, Hampton and More; in Henry IV’s reign Cowdray and Fauconer; and in Henry V’s many more of their sort. The reasons for the change are obscure, although the absence of many persons of high rank in the King’s armies in France may well have been a factor. It should be noted, however, that although members of the older Hampshire families did not sit in the Commons so often in the later part of the period as at the beginning, they still liked to be present at elections. The number of electors named on the indentures drawn up at the county court meeting at Winchester varied from between 13 and 36 in the period 1411 to 1421. The most regular participants at these and later elections were Sir Stephen Popham, William Brocas, John Lisle and John Uvedale, yet they, all leading figures in the community, were only infrequently returned to Parliament themselves: Popham only sat five times between 1420 and his death in 1444; Brocas did not sit at all after 1422 although he lived on until 1456; Lisle only ever sat in two Parliaments; and although Uvedale was elected six times his last appearance occurred in 1429, at least 11 years before his death.

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. The return has not survived, and the writ de expensis (CCR, 1402-5, p. 521) names only one MP: Popham.
  • 2. C219/11/8.
  • 3. W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva, iii. 81.