Caernarvon Boroughs

Borough

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

Elections

DateCandidate
1542JOHN PULESTON
1545ROBERT GRUFFYDD
1547ROBERT PULESTON
1553 (Mar.)GRUFFYDD DAVIES
1553 (Oct.)HENRY ROBINS
1554 (Apr.)HENRY ROBINS
1554 (Nov.)SIR RHYS GRUFFYDD 1
1555(not known)
1558ROBERT GRUFFYDD

Main Article

The castle, town and borough of Caernarvon were founded by Edward I following the destruction of the residence there of the princes of Gwynedd at the conquest of Wales. The constable of the castle was ex officio mayor, and as constable from 1523 until his death in 1551 John Puleston more or less controlled the town. His successor John Harington II is not known to have visited Caernarvon and during his term of office the constableship was exercised by a local deputy, Robert Gruffydd. In 1547 Edward VI confirmed the town’s medieval charters which provided for two bailiffs, elected annually by the burgesses. There was a ‘general assembly’ of burgesses, but no details of its composition and functions survive. With a good harbour and a flourishing market Caernarvon outstripped commercially any other town in the county. Its status as the administrative centre for North Wales was unaffected by the Union, and the presence in the town of the exchequer, chancery and common law courts for the region ensured its continuing importance.2

Poor roads and the mountainous terrain may explain why the other ‘ancient boroughs’ in the shire, Conway, Criccieth, Nevin and Pwllheli, do not seem to have taken part in the elections at Caernarvon until late in the century; there is no evidence that they were summoned to send representatives earlier than the reign of Elizabeth, unless the four men from Conway among the witnesses to elections between 1545 and 1554 count as such. Nonresidents could be burgesses of Caernarvon, and one of the two Richard Stodarts mentioned served as bailiff there as well as at Conway. The borough elections were held on the same day as those for the shire. Indentures written in Latin survive for all the Parliaments apart from that of 1555. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Caernarvonshire and a group of between nine and 20 burgesses who in September 1553 and November 1554 elected the Member ‘for themselves and the whole community of le shire town’. In 1545 and in 1547 John Puleston’s name heads the list, and in September 1553 the first named is Robert Gruffydd, ‘deputy to John Harington, constable of the castle in the town of Caernarvon and mayor’. Gruffydd also appears as the first elector in November 1554.3

All the Members lived in or owned property in the town. Until his death John Puleston dominated the elections: he himself was returned in 1542, his stepson Robert Gruffydd in 1545 and his son Robert Puleston in 1547. Sir Rhys Gruffydd with a domicile some ten miles away was a kinsman of Robert Gruffydd. Both Gruffydd Davies and Henry Robins had served as bailiff before election. None had any previous parliamentary experience but the Pulestons father and son and Sir Rhys Gruffydd sat afterwards as knights for Caernarvonshire and Denbighshire.

Author: N. M.