Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

No names known for 1510-23


1536(not known)
1539(not known)
by 23 Jan. 1552GEORGE CLIFFORD vice Jolye, deceased1
1553 (Mar.)(not known)
1554 (Nov.)JOHN ELTOFTES 2
1555(not known)

Main Article

Although it was the shire town where assizes and sessions were held, Appleby seemed to Leland ‘but a poor village, having a ruinous castle wherein the prisoners be kept’. Except where it adjoined the castle, the town was almost surrounded by the river Eden and by swampland; the only highroad ran on the other side of the river. Unlike Carlisle, Appleby had never been of much strategic value, and being unwalled it had suffered severely during Scottish raids; following one of these in 1388 the borough had had its fee-farm reduced from 20 marks to two. There is no evidence of any flourishing local industry: the weekly markets dealt mainly in agricultural produce, the Whitsun fair and fortnightly sales from Whitsun to Michaelmas were concerned with sheep and cattle, and the St. Lawrence fair in August was perhaps already on the way to becoming the great horse fair of more recent times.4

A number of gentle families such as Lowther, Sandford and Wharton, some of whose members were connected with the town’s grammar school, had houses in Appleby; these were almost certainly burgage tenements which carried the parliamentary franchise. Earlier, out of nearly 200 burgages, 28 were said to lie within the castle park, which was held of the crown by the Clifford earls of Cumberland. Since the Cliffords were also hereditary sheriffs of Westmorland they exercised strong influence on elections. Their claim as lords of the barony of Appleby to services from the town had been disallowed since the reign of Edward I, the townsmen insisting that they were crown tenants, responsible through their chosen bailiffs for collecting the fee-farm. Henry II’s charter granting the town the same liberties and privileges as enjoyed by the citizens of York was modified in 1286 and confirmed in the 14th century and in 1528 and 1553. In the absence of municipal records little is known about the town’s government beyond its being vested in a mayor, two bailiffs and several lesser officials, and having a common seal.5

Appleby is first known to have sent Members to Parliament in 1295, but its representation had occasionally been interrupted by Scottish incursions. From the early 16th century indentures survive for the Parliments of 1542, 1545, 1547 and October 1553. All are in Latin and in the same hand as that used for the county indentures; the contracting parties are the Earl of Cumberland as sheriff and up to 12 electors. In the last of them George Clifford’s name is inserted over an erasure.6

Seven of the ten known Members were evidently Clifford nominees. Of the remainder, John Eltoftes probably recommended his fellow Inner Templar and partner in 1558, Nicholas Purslow, to the 2nd Earl, and the other two were connected with border magnates related to the Cliffords: Cuthbert Horsley, a Lincoln’s Inn man active in northern administration, was sprung from a Northumberland family associated with the Percys, and Robert Wheatley, an obscure figure who may have trained at the Middle Temple, was later to sit for Carlisle and Morpeth, presumably on the nomination of William, 3rd Lord Dacre. In January 1549 Thomas Jolye, a Clifford servant, organized opposition to Richard Musgrave’s bill ‘for sheriffs of England to be but one year’.

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, v. 47; C219/25/28; Ferguson, Westmld. 148-51, 154, 156, 193; Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 321, 327-30; Fleming, Westmld. 21.