Bedford

Borough

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

Elections

DateCandidate
1529JOHN BAKER III
 WILLIAM BOURNE
1536(not known)
1539WILLIAM JOHNSON I 1
 (not known)
1542WILLIAM JOHNSON I
 MICHAEL THRALE
1545GEORGE BLAGGE
 HENRY PARKER
1547GERARD HARVEY alias SMART
 GEORGE WRIGHT
1553 (Mar.)THOMAS LEIGH
 WILLIAM GODOLPHIN II
1553 (Oct.)EDMUND MORDAUNT
 THOMAS LEIGH
1554 (Apr.)EDMUND MORDAUNT
 THOMAS LEIGH
1554 (Nov.)WILLIAM HALL
 JOHN WILLIAMS alias SCOTT
1555EDMUND MORDAUNT 2
 THOMAS LEIGH 3
1558GEORGE GASCOIGNE
 THOMAS LEIGH

Main Article

The burgesses of Bedford held the town of the crown at a fee-farm said to be £46 in 1447, when it was reduced by £22 for 60 years. In 1504 the remission (then stated to be £26) was made permanent, the burgesses arguing that if they had to pay in full ‘they would necessarily be obliged to retire from thence and leave the town totally destitute’. Bedford was included in the Act of 1540 for re-edifying of towns (32 Hen. VIII, c. 18). A borough by prescription, it had charters dating back at least to the 12th century and these were confirmed in 1509, 1515, 1547 and 1557. When the arms ‘belonging and appertaining to the mayor, bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty of the town and borough of Bedford’ were confirmed in 1566 the mayor was assisted by eight former mayors. There were also a recorder, two bailiffs, two chamberlains and a steward of the court leet.4

Bedford had returned Members since 1295: they were chosen ostensibly by the ‘one consent’ of all the burgesses, meeting in the council chamber. Election indentures, all in Latin, survive for every Parliament between 1542 and 1558 except those of 1545 and 1555. The contracting parties were the sheriff of Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire and the mayor, bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty of Bedford.5

Bedford’s poverty made it susceptible to the influence of the same handful of landed families as controlled the shire elections. Five of its 14 known Members were none the less townsmen, all of whom served as mayor, although the most often elected