Surrey

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 James Berners
 John Newdigate
1388 (Feb.)John Hathersham I
 Hugh Quecche
1388 (Sept.)John Thorpe
 Thomas Kynnersley
1390 (Jan.)John Thorpe
 John Hathersham I
1390 (Nov.)William Weston I
 John Bentley
1391Sir Thomas Brewes
 Ralph Cuddington
1393Sir Thomas Brewes
 William Weston I
1394Nicholas Carew
 William Weston I
1395Nicholas Carew
 Robert Loxley
1397 (Jan.)Nicholas Carew
 William Weston I
1397 (Sept.)Nicholas Carew
 Thomas Wintershall
1399John Hathersham II
 Ralph Cuddington
1401William Weston I
 John Wintershall
1402John Waterton
 Ralph Cuddington
1404 (Jan.)Sir William Brantingham
 John Wintershall
1404 (Oct.)Sir William Brantingham
 William Croyser
1406John Wintershall
 John Gravesend
1407Ralph Cuddington
 Robert Bussebrigge
1410
1411
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)John Burgh II
 William Yerde
1414 (Apr.)John Bonet
 John Clipsham
1414 (Nov.)John Burgh II
 John Wintershall
1415John Burgh II
 William Weston I
1416 (Mar.)John Burgh II
 William Yerde
1416 (Oct.)
1417Nicholas Carew
 John Clipsham
1419William Weston I
 William Yerde
1420Robert Skerne
 William Ottworth
1421 (May)John Clipsham
 John Bonet
1421 (Dec.)John Clipsham
 William Ottworth

Main Article

The parliamentary representation of Surrey is comparatively well documented for our period, since 28 of the returns to the 32 Parliaments held between 1386 and December 1421 have survived. It is not known who sat for the county in the Commons of 1410, 1411, February 1413 and October 1416, so we cannot be entirely certain about the experience of the 26 Members whose names are recorded. That the majority of these men did not embark upon parliamentary ‘careers’, but were elected only once or twice during their lives is however clear from the general pattern which emerges from a study of the returns. Eleven shire knights appear to have attended only one Parliament, although Sir James Berners was elected in 1383 and 1386, and would have sat both times had he not been awarded royal letters patent exempting him from service on the former occasion. Four of the Members under review were returned twice, Hugh Quecche sitting once for Surrey and once for Sussex during the late 14th century. Sir William Brantingham alone had three terms of parliamentary experience to his credit, but he represented Surrey only twice, 25 years after he first entered the Commons as Member for Northamptonshire. Three men served in at least four Parliaments, and two, William Ottworth and Nicholas Carew, in five. Carew was sent to each of the four Parliaments summoned between 1394 and 1397 (Sept.) and thus established a record of continuous attendance unequalled during the period under review. A further three Members (John Wintershall, John Hathersham I and John Bonet) were elected six times. Bonet is unique in being the only shire knight for Surrey to have represented a borough, four of his returns being for Guildford. John Clipsham and William Weston I had rather more distinguished records than their colleagues, since the former sat in seven Parliaments and the latter in eight. Weston could boast not only the highest number of returns, but also the longest record of parliamentary service which covered the period 1380 to 1419. Bonet’s appearances in the Commons were spread over 36 years, but he did not become a shire knight until slightly later in life. It was clearly not unusual for MPs to sit when quite young and then to return to Parliament towards the end of their active careers. John Wintershall, William Ottworth, Ralph Cuddington, Nicholas Carew and Sir William Brantingham all provide examples of this trend.

Although the electors of Surrey either preferred—or were obliged to accept—a sizeable number of novices or near novices in terms of parliamentary service, from 1393 onwards they seem to have adopted a conscious policy of returning at least one man with previous experience. Whereas both shire knights were newcomers to the parliamentary scene in 1386, 1388 (Sept.), 1390 (Nov.) and 1391, two apparent novices did not again sit together until 1413 (May). However, the gaps in the returns make it more than likely that at least one of these men had already attended Parliament—a fact which also throws some doubt upon the evident inexperience of the two Members chosen in 1420. Between 1386 and the summer of 1414, Surrey was represented on five occasions by two MPs who had sat before, and on at least ten by one novice with a more experienced colleague. Given that in seven of the ten subsequent Parliaments here under review (November 1414 to December 1421) both Members had previous knowledge of the Commons, we may perhaps discern a gradual change in the pattern of representation, and a greater readiness on the part of some men to appear regularly in Parliament. Ten cases of re-election occurred during our period, most notably in the 1390s, when, as we have seen, Nicholas Carew was returned four times in succession. The only other shire knight to be re-elected more than once was John Burgh II, who sat in 1414 (Nov.), 1415 and 1416 (Mar.). There are no known cases of complete representative continuity during our period, nor did any of the Members considered here ever occupy the Speakership.

One of the many striking features of the parliamentary representation of Surrey is the almost complete domination of the returns by esquires and gentlemen rather than knights by rank. Only three knights (Sir James Berners, Sir William Brantingham and Sir Thomas Brewes) were elected during the late 14th and early 15th centuries, and between them they attended no more than five Parliaments (1386, 1391, 1393 and January and October 1404). None of them ever sat together as a pair. Yet a substantial number of their colleagues were clearly eligible for knighthood, being members of wealthy landowning families, and, indeed, three (William Croyser, Ralph Cuddington and William Weston I) were distrained at various times for refusing to take up the rank. All the Members here under review owned property in Surrey at the time of their first return to Parliament, and at least 17 of them had inherited part, if not all, of their holdings in the county. The courtiers, John Bentley and John Waterton, both acquired their sizeable estates through marriage to the widows of other Surrey MPs (John Newdigate and Thomas Wintershall), while John Burgh II and John Clipsham, who were likewise servants of the Crown, seem also to have settled in Surrey because of their wives. Sir William Brantingham bought his manor of Catteshull on the death of its previous owner, his close friend John Legge, and several other shire knights took advantage of the flourishing property market to consolidate their Surrey estates.

At least 20 of them owned land elsewhere in England, which in most cases was theirs by marriage or inheritance. No less than nine had possessions across the border in Sussex, which is hardly surprising in view of the geographical, administrative and social connexions which bound the two counties together. Although only one MP (Hugh Quecche) sat for both Surrey and Sussex at this time, the gentry were closely linked by a number of common ties. On the other hand, at least one quarter of the men considered here held property in more distant parts of the country such as Suffolk, Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Gloucestershire, Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall. In contrast to Middlesex, which returned a number of the sons or grandsons of London merchants, Surrey was represented almost exclusively by a combination of courtiers, government officials and members of established county families (categories which were not mutually exclusive). Only three shire knights appear to have owned shops or tenements in London, and of these Hugh Quecche alone had any connexions with the world of commerce. He did business as a mercer, but was in fact the son of a local landowner with property in both Surrey and Sussex. Sir William Brantingham occupied the most widely scattered estates, which lay as far apart as Yorkshire and Dorset; but Sir James Berners, Sir Thomas Brewes, Nicholas Carew, Robert Skerne and John Waterton also built up impressive holdings spread over four or more counties.

It is now impossible to do more than estimate the minimum landed income enjoyed by some of our Members. Carew appears to have been the richest with at least £158 a year; Berners’s inheritance (as opposed to the various manors which he leased from the Crown) produced about £153 p.a.; and Brewes was sure of £71 a year or more. On the evidence of taxation returns and inquisitions post mortem, alone, 12 of our Members received between £20 and £55 annually from their property, but information about certain men, such as John Waterton and Sir William Brantingham, is incomplete, and we can only guess at their financial position. Given that most of Surrey’s parliamentary representatives were royal officeholders or the farmers of land leased out at the Exchequer, the overall level of affluence must have been far higher than even these figures suggest. The general absence of lawyers is also worthy of remark. The county returned members of the legal profession on only two occasions—in 1407 (Robert Bussebrigge) and 1420 (Robert Skerne)—the close proximity of Westminster no doubt lessening the general incentive to stand for election.

Most of our Members possessed some type of administrative experience on first entering the Commons, although some, like John Bentley, were versed in the business of central rather than local government. Eight held office as sheriff of Surrey and Sussex,1 of whom three (Nicholas Carew, John Clipsham and William Yerde) first did so before being returned, and four were appointed during the course of their parliamentary careers. John Waterton spent a year as sheriff of Hampshire not long before his election to Parliament in 1402, and John Burgh II occupied the shrievalty of Kent a few years after he last sat in the Commons. Of the eight Members who served as escheators of Surrey and Sussex only two (William Yerde and John Clipsham) did so before being made shire knights, although five assumed office before their last election, and John Gravesend attended the Parliament of 1406 actually during his tenure of the escheatorship.2 With four terms as sheriff and six as escheator to his credit, John Wintershall was by far the most experienced of these men, having also established himself locally by sitting on the Surrey bench. Almost half of the Members here under review were made j.p.s at some point in their careers,3 but no more than five took up this office before they first represented Surrey. The same number were appointed to the bench between terms of parliamentary service, with the result that during our period ten men who were currently holding commissions of the peace sat for the county at least once in the Lower House. Two justices together attended the Parliaments of 1386, 1397 (Jan.), 1414 (Nov.), 1415 and 1417, and one did so on a further eight occasions. Even allowing for the gaps in the returns, it is evident that members of the local bench were more frequently chosen during the reign of Henry V, when either they or their colleagues were almost without exception courtiers or government employees.

All but four of our MPs (Robert Bussebrigge, John Gravesend, Thomas Kynnersley and Robert Loxley) served on ad hoc royal commissions, and of this number roughly two out of three did so before they first sat in Parliament. During the course of a long and distinguished career, Nicholas Carew was appointed to no less than 32 such commissions, John Wintershall to 16, and Sir William Brantingham to 11. Posts as collectors and surveyors of taxes were awarded to 12 shire knights, of whom all but three were active before entering Parliament. A small group of men were employed as customs officers, usually by way of reward for their services to the Crown. William Yerde, for example, was collector of customs at London and Chichester before he became an MP, and Sir William Brantingham had served as tronager of wools and clerk of the recognizances at Kingston-upon-Hull during his youth. John Clipsham combined the offices of deputy butler and collector of customs at Chichester, which he held at the time of his election to the Parliaments of May and December 1421. John Wintershall and John Gravesend were also customers at Chichester, while their colleague, William Weston I, became alnager of Surrey and Sussex.

The greatest landowner in Surrey was without doubt the King himself, especially after 1399 when the duchy of Lancaster estates there became the personal property of the sovereign. The latter’s influence was even further strengthened by the proximity of Westminster, and largely because of this a considerable number of courtiers and government officials took up residence in Surrey, while at the same time members of leading county families were attracted to the Court. At least 11 of the 26 shire knights considered here were crown servants of one kind or another, and of these all but one (John Gravesend) sat in Parliament when currently in receipt of a fee or annuity from the reigning monarch. Although not themselves retained by the Crown, Sir Thomas Brewes, Nicholas Carew and William Croyser were the sons of men who had served Edward III with distinction for most of their lives. The most celebrated courtier to represent Surrey during our period was the ill-fated Sir James Berners, who fell victim to the Lords Appellant in 1388 because of his position as an intimate friend of Richard II. Sir William Brantingham, the putative younger brother of Thomas Brantingham, bishop of Exeter (d.1394), showed far greater skill in weathering the political storms of the late 14th century: he held office in the royal household under Henry IV as well as the two previous monarchs, and he was still at Court when elected to the two Parliaments of 1404. John Bentley took his seat in November 1390 as a former Exchequer official and chamberlain of Chester who was still in receipt of a substantial pension. Five leading supporters of the house of Lancaster entered the Commons after 1399. John Waterton was Henry of Monmouth’s receiver for the duchy of Cornwall properties in Devon and Cornwall, and an esquire of the body to Henry IV at the time of his election; and John Burgh’s four returns to Parliament all took place during his tenure of the deputy treasurership of England. John Clipsham, John Wintershall and William Yerde (who was harbinger of the royal household) were likewise committed—and well remunerated—adherents of the house of Lancaster. To be more specific, an analysis of the surviving returns shows that two crown servants attended the Parliaments of 1390 (Nov.), 1413 (May) and 1416 (Mar.), and one such servant no less than 17 of the others which met during our period. It is thus evident that in two-thirds (if not more) of the Parliaments for which we have evidence at least one of the Surrey shire knights might have been expected to support the government. Moreover, from May 1413 onwards both MPs tended, almost invariably, to hold office in either local or central government, or at Court.

As the most powerful family in Sussex the Fitzalans, earls of Arundel, were well placed to extend their influence across the county border into Surrey, and at least three of our Members became associated with them. Hugh Quecche, whose estates lay partly in Sussex, was one of Richard, earl of Arundel’s attorneys, and possibly secured his return to the Merciless Parliament of February 1388 through this connexion. Since he was one of the Lords Appellant, Arundel undoubtedly wished to gain as much support as possible in the Commons, although it is interesting to note that Quecche’s colleague on this occasion was the courtier, John Thorpe. Both Nicholas Carew and John Burgh II were feoffees-to-uses for Arundel’s son, Thomas, who became treasurer of England on the accession of Henry V. It was clearly through his patronage that Burgh obtained the deputy treasurership at this time, having already become closely involved in the earl’s personal finances. This important attachment, together, of course, with Burgh’s own personal standing as an Exchequer official, can hardly have passed unnoticed by the Surrey electors (although we have no means of telling how far it worked to his advantage). We may be reasonably certain, too, that Thomas Wintershall’s return to the Parliament of September 1397 owed something to Thomas, earl of Kent, Richard II’s nephew and one of the chief protagonists in the King’s attack upon the Lords Appellant of 1387-8. Wintershall, whose previous obscurity lends further credence to the idea that he was a placeman, subsequently went to the block for supporting the earl’s uprising against Henry IV. Richard’s half-brother, John Holand, earl of Huntingdon, was also executed for his part in this unsuccessful coup, although his retainer and councillor, William Yerde, managed to escape the potentially fatal consequences of his own involvement in the rebellion. Notwithstanding his unusually rapid (and somewhat suspicious) change of allegiance to the house of Lancaster, Yerde took up service with the earl’s son, John, on his coming of age in 1417, and was made his auditor and advisor, besides deputizing for him as constable of the Tower of London. For most of his life, Yerde also received an annuity from the 2nd and 3rd Lords Botreaux, who paid him a fee from their manor of Coddiford Farleigh in Cornwall, where he himself owned land. Robert Bussebrigge belonged to a family noted for its attachment to successive bishops of Chichester, and it was thanks to Richard Metford (who was translated from Chichester to Salisbury) that he became bailiff of the bishop of Salisbury’s liberty in Surrey.

Many MPs had connexions which brought social as well as financial rewards. Both John Newdigate and Thomas Kynnersley were trustees of the Poynings estates, Kynnersley in particular being close to Richard, Lord Poynings, and also to his son, whom he assisted as a ‘friend and attorney’. The two Hathershams, uncle and nephew, were involved in the property transactions of their neighbours, the Lords Cobham of Sterborough; and John Clipsham was similarly connected with William, Lord Clinton and Say. Whereas William Croyser derived no apparent benefit from his marriage to a member of Bishop Wykeham’s family, and Sir Thomas Brewes had little to do with his kinsmen, the Mortimers, earls of March, Sir William Brantingham made the most of his two distinguished kinsmen, Ralph (a clerk of the royal wardrobe) and Thomas (bishop of Exeter and treasurer of England). Robert Skerne clearly prospered as a result of his marriage to Joan, the stepdaughter (or even illegitimate child) of Richard II’s friend, William, Lord Windsor, not least because her mother, the notorious Alice Perrers, had grown rich during her time as mistress to the aged Edward III.

Elections for Surrey were held in the county court at Guildford.4 Until the advent of indented returns, which first appeared in August 1407 in response to the statute of the previous year, the sheriff submitted a composite schedule bearing the names of all the shire knights and burgesses chosen in both Surrey and Sussex. Only in 1399—a time of emergency and confusion—were separate writs sent and separate returns dispatched for the two counties. From 1407 onwards a return was made for Surrey alone, bearing the names of some of the persons involved in the election. These witnesses ranged in number from six (December 1421) to 19 (November 1414 and 1419), the average being 12. At least one of them was either a past or future shire knight, and a substantial number of others belonged to ‘parliamentary’ families, albeit those which provided representatives for Guildford rather than for the county itself. On two occasions the returns were witnessed by one of the borough’s current MPs (Ralph Wimbledon in May 1413 and William Weston III in 1419, when his father was returned for Surrey). It is a further matter of interest that the collection and payment of parliamentary expenses posed certain local problems during our period. The tenants of the royal manor of Witley were, for instance, involved in a protracted dispute over their claim for exemption from contributions of this kind, and were obliged to fight their case repeatedly throughout the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV.5 Not every MP was paid on time, although only one, John Hathersham I, is known to have gone to law for the recovery of overdue expenses. He sued the sheriff, Thomas Jardyn*, for withholding £4 12s. of the money awarded to him for attending the Merciless Parliament, and despite the reduction in damages from £10 to £2, was successful in his suit.6

Author: C.R.

Notes

  • 1. That is Carew, Clipsham, Cuddington, John Hathersham I, Waterton, William Weston I, John Wintershall and Yerde.
  • 2. The eight escheators were John Burgh II, Carew, Clipsham, Gravesend, Ottworth, William Weston I, John Wintershall and Yerde.
  • 3. Berners, John Burgh II, Bussebrigge, Clipsham, John Hathersham I, John Hathersham II, Kynnersley, Newdigate, Ottworth, Skerne, William Weston I and John Wintershall all served as j.p.s.
  • 4. Further details about elections may be found in A. Rogers, ‘Parl. Repn. Surr. and Suss.’ (Nottingham Univ. M.A. thesis, 1957), app. I.
  • 5. Add. Chs. 27744-7.
  • 6. E13/106, f. 17v.

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