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


1386John Clyvessend
 Edward Martham
1388 (Feb.)John Clyvessend
 Edward Martham
1388 (Sept.)Richard Bannok
 John Scott
1390 (Jan.)John Clyvessend
 Richard Wybard
1390 (Nov.)
1391John Clyvessend
 Richard Bannok
1393John Scott
 John Sharp
1395Edward Martham
 John Hokere
1397 (Jan.)John Clyvessend
 John Hokere
1397 (Sept.)
1399Edward Martham
 Henry Mordant
1402John Sharp
 Robert Burgrove
1404 (Jan.)
1404 (Oct.)
1406Henry Mordant
 John Bexle
1407Robert Burgrove
 Thomas Wybard
1410Edward Martham
 John Harry
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)Henry Mordant
 Richard Huntingdon
1414 (Apr.)
1414 (Nov.)John Sharp
 Thomas Julyan
1416 (Mar.)
1416 (Oct.)
1417John Lyvett
 Richard Huntingdon
1419Simon Lymbergh
 John Martham
1420Simon Lymbergh
 William Courthope
1421 (May)John Parker V
 William Courthope
1421 (Dec.)Richard Huntingdon
 William Courthope

Main Article

Hastings, initially one of the foremost of the Cinque Ports, was by this period the furthest decayed of them, owing to the early silting of its harbour. So far as ship-service to the Crown was concerned, it had long since passed on the bulk of its contribution of 21 vessels to its former members, or limbs, Rye and Winchelsea; and, under an agreement made in 1392, it was now required to find only five ships, and even two of these were in fact to be supplied by other members. It had become so insignificant that it hardly appears in the Chancery rolls, except in connexion with the royal chapel in its ruinous castle; and the town’s medieval records have disappeared.1

Hastings was governed at this time by a bailiff and 12 jurats. Probably because the town had lost its importance so early, it had been allowed in practice to elect the King’s bailiff (who was effectively the chief magistrate), a concession not shared by other of the Cinque Ports. According to a copy of the custumal of 1356, this official was elected annually by the men of the Port assembled at their hundred place on the Sunday after Hock Day (the third Sunday after Easter), whereupon he proceeded to choose the 12 jurats. Clearly, this was his own personal responsibility, for the assent of the commonalty as a whole to the choice of the common clerk is specifically stated. That both bailiff and jurats would consent to their election was traditionally ensured, as was customary in certain of the other Ports, by the demolition of their houses if they declined office. In practice, by the 15th century it had become usual for the bailiff to serve for two consecutive years. He was responsible for accounting at the Exchequer for the scanty profits of the town. Hastings possessed no charter expressly granting the townspeople the right to elect their bailiff, but when their authority was challenged in 1448—after Thomas Stoughton, the royal purveyor of fish, had induced Henry VI to appoint him bailiff of Hastings for life—John Tamworth*, the locally elected bailiff, based his defence on the immemorial custom of the town, and the royal justices eventually allowed this claim as founded on prescription.2

Little can be discovered about most of the MPs for Hastings who, in the 20 Parliaments for which returns survive, numbered 19. A fair proportion, 12 of them, were elected to two or more Parliaments, and William Courthope, Edward Martham and John Parker V were each returned six times. Richard Huntingdon stands out for his service in as many as nine of the Parliaments called between 1413 and 1429. In 19 of the 20 Parliaments documented in our period, Hastings is known to have been represented by at least one man with prevous experience of the Lower House; indeed, in six of these assemblies both Members were so qualified. Re-election occurred six times, including the occasion in February 1388 when both Members of the preceding Parliament were again successful at the hustings. Despite the lack of local records, 15 parliamentary barons may be shown to have resided in the town, and the majority owned parcels of land in the surrounding countryside on which, as Portsmen, they claimed exemption from customary taxation. Doubtless most owed much of their income to trade or fishing, and certainly a few are recorded as masters of ships. Richard Huntingdon, whose links with the Sussex gentry suggest that he was a lawyer by training, was clearly an exception to the general rule in this respect as well as in the frequency of his elections to Parliament; and yet the property he owned in Hastings makes it clear that he was no stranger to the community. Seven of the 19 MPs are known to have held office as bailiff of Hastings, although only one appears to have done so before his earliest appearance in the Commons. John Clyvessend was bailiff when returned in February 1388, and so was Henry Mordant (who discharged the bailiffship at least six times) when elected to the Parliaments of 1406 and May 1413.

Author: A. P.M. Wright


  • 1. VCH Suss. ix. 36; CPR, 1364-7, p. 369; K.M.E. Murray, Const. Hist. Cinque Ports, 56-57.
  • 2. Suss. Arch. Colls. xiv. 72; Add. 28530, f. 7; CPR, 1441-6, pp. 358, 427.