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)
1542(not known)
1553 (Mar.)(not known)
1554 (Nov.)JOHN STORY 5
 (not known)

Main Article

As lords of the manor of Wells the bishops of Bath and Wells exercised considerable authority within that city, but by the 16th century all that they retained in Bath (where their palace was let out) was the fee-farm, amounting in 1535 to £8 10 s.2 d., and even this was surrendered to the crown by Bishop Barlow in 1548. The city’s privileges rested on charters dating back to 1189 and it had first returned Members in 1295; it was not formally incorporated until 1590 when authority was vested in a mayor, eight to ten aldermen and 20 capital burgesses or common councilmen, the whole body being known as the chamber. Earlier in the century there are said to have been from four to ten aldermen and a common council of up to 23 members.7

Apart from the sheriff’s schedule for 1545, the only surviving election records are three Marian indentures, all in Latin and in poor condition. The contracting parties in November 1554 were the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset and the citizens of Bath, and in 1558 the mayor and citizens and the sheriff. The election was held at the guildhall; in 1558 it was said to have been made by the mayor and citizens, but as the House of Commons was later to find probably the chamber alone took part. The book of chamberlains’ accounts for 1568-1602 records the payment of Members and there is no reason to think that this was a novelty. The city’s ability to pay wages, notwithstanding its decline as a clothing town, combined with its relative freedom from episcopal control, gave Bath a measure of independence in its choice of Members. Of the 13 (or, if the inference about Henry Hodgkins’s constituency is correct, 14) Members whose names are known, six are taken to have been members of the civic hierarchy, although John Clement and John Bale may be identifiable with namesakes elsewhere. These six were all aldermen, probably from before their election, and four of them gained the mayoralty; they included at least three clothiers. It was only in 1529, October 1553 and 1558, however, that two citizens were elected. Five of the remaining Members were Somerset men, of whom two, Matthew Colthurst and William Crowche, had property in Bath.8

John Reynold was probably of Keynsham, Somerset, some ten miles from Bath, and may have had both a minor office at court and a connexion with Bishop Clerke. Colthurst was a servant of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and later Duke of Somerset, and an officer in the court of augmentations, but both he and Silvester Sedborough may have been recommended for election by Catherine Parr’s chancellor Sir Thomas Arundell. Richard Denys was a Gloucestershire man whose influential kinsmen included Sir John Rogers, a knight for Dorset in 1547. Denys may already have been holding a post under the dean and chapter of Wells; his partner John Clerke was a nephew of Bishop Clerke ( d.1541), and his father Thomas Clerke, a Member for Wells in this Parliament, remained in the service of successive bishops until his own death in 1555. The election of 1547 must have then place about the time that Bishop Knight died. Crowche, a former servant of William Holloway, prior of Bath, and of the Protector Somerset, was a powerful but unpopular figure in the neighbourhood of Bath. John Story, a leading civil lawyer and chancellor of the dioceses of London and Oxford, was evidently the nominee of Bishop Bourne. Henry Hodgkins from Gloucestershire might have received some diocesan support, while Crowche and Sir Walter Denys, the father of Richard Denys, could have lent their influence.

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Hatfield 207.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Huntingdon Lib. Hastings mss. Parl. pprs.
  • 6. Guildford mus. Loseley 1331/2.
  • 7. P. M. Hembry, Bps. Bath and Wells, 1540-1640 , pp. 11, 21, 30, 105; Municipal Recs. Bath , ed. King and Watts, 4, 6, 10, 37, 42-45.
  • 8. C219/18C/101, 21/134, 23/113, 25/96; CJ , xv. 255-6; Bath Chamberlains’ Accts. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxxviii), 21, 73, 103, 116, 121, 131, 164, 187; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 143.