Chester

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
1547RICHARD SNEYD 1
 WILLIAM ALDERSEY 2
1553 (Mar.)RICHARD SNEYD
 RANDALL MAINWARING
1553 (Oct.)RICHARD SNEYD
 THOMAS MASSEY
1554 (Apr.)RICHARD SNEYD
 WILLIAM ALDERSEY
1554 (Nov.)RICHARD SNEYD
 THOMAS MASSEY
1555WILLIAM GERARD
 WILLIAM ALDERSEY
1558SIR LAWRENCE SMITH
 WILLIAM GERARD

Main Article

In 1506 Henry VII granted Chester a charter of incorporation and the status of a county in itself: except for the castle no part of the city remained within the jurisdiction of the chamberlain of the county palatine. The governing body consisted of a mayor, 24 aldermen and 40 common councilmen, who were elected annually. The recorder was ex officio an alderman. One of the sheriffs was chosen by the mayor, aldermen and the retiring pair of sheriffs, the other by the commonalty. Minutes of the proceedings of the governing body were kept, as were copies of its orders, and the various courts and officials maintained separate records. Until 1541 Cheshire formed part of the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield but in that year a new see was established at Chester: its cathedral was the church of the ex-abbey of St. Werburgh, not the college of St. John the Baptist which had been a cathedral under the Norman kings.3

In 1283 Chester had received a special summons to send two Members to the Parliament at Shrewsbury which passed sentence on David of Wales, but as part of a county palatine with a parliamentum of its own until the early 16th century Chester received no further summons until enfranchised by the Act of 1543. Although the names of its Members are not known before 1547, the city had presumably been represented in the Parliament of two years before, when an Act for the maintenance of highways leading there (37 Hen. VIII, c.37) was passed. The writs for the elections were delivered by the chamberlain of the county palatine’s lieutenant to the sheriffs who acted as returning officers. The elections held in county court were attended by about 60 electors, whose names were listed on the election indentures. The description of the electors as the mayor, aldermen and citizens, and the total involved on each occasion, leave little doubt that the franchise was limited to the governing body. Four indentures written in Latin survive for the period before 1558. Neither the bishop nor the chamberlain’s lieutenant is known to have intervened in elections.4

During the reigns of Edward VI and Mary only six men filled the 14 seats available. Two of them, Richard Sneyd and William Gerard, were probably recorders when first elected, the remainder prominent citizens, all except Thomas Massey with known i