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)
1542(not known)
1553 (Mar.)(not known)

Main Article

Like nearby Calne, the market town of Chippenham was founded on ancient demesne land of the crown. Although it returned Members intermittently from 1295 it was a borough only by prescription until its incorporation in 1554, and even then it remained manorial. The royal manor had eventually been split up, but from the early 15th century the two chief manors were united in the possession of the Hungerford family which held them until the attainder in 1540 of Walter, Lord Hungerford of Heytesbury. In 1540 two courtiers, Robert Serle and Lawrence Walmesley, were appointed to the office of bailiff of Chippenham in survivorship and four years later the lordship, manor and hundred of Chippenham were granted to Queen Catherine Parr in jointure. The lordship and manor, less certain lands which had been vested in the borough, were restored to Walter Hungerford immediately after the grant of the charter of incorporation, but the hundred had already passed to Sir Thomas Darcy, Lord Darcy of Chiche, and been sold by him to (Sir) William Sharington, whose brother and heir was to start a long dispute with the burgesses over the freehold of the guildhall. The forest of Chippenham, which had remained in crown hands throughout, was also held by Queen Catherine and by her last husband Sir Thomas Seymour II, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. Another ‘manor of Chippenham’, late of Stanley abbey, was granted to Edward Seymour, Viscount Beauchamp, in 1536 and to Sir Edward Baynton in 1537, and yet another was held by the earls of Huntingdon, perhaps by descent from the Hungerfords.3

Queen Mary’s charter of 2 May 1554 confirmed the government of the borough by a single bailiff, which seems to have been the formula adopted during the reign of Edward VI. Under Henry VIII, to judge by the election indenture of 1545, the town had been administered by two bailiffs assisted by two constables and ten burgesses; for that election the precept was directed by the sheriff of Wiltshire to the two bailiffs but in the autumn of 1553 it was sent only to one. The charter named 12 burgesses who were to co-opt new members of their own body and nominate two of their number each year from whom the others and the inhabitants were to elect the bailiff at Michaelmas. It granted lands in the borough ‘for the maintenance of two burgesses ... at our Parliament’ and for other purposes, but since the earliest accounts begin in 1559 it is impossible to say whether Chippenham paid parliamentary wages. Besides the one for 1545, election indentures survive for all the Marian Parliaments except that of April 1554, and for the by-election of November 1554; apart from the last they are all in Latin. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Wiltshire and the bailiff and burgesses. The names of the Members in 1545, 1555 and 1558 are added in different hands from the greater part of the documents concerned.4

Few of the 16 known Members were townsmen. Henry Goldney alias Fernell, a farmer and clothier, was named bailiff in the charter of 1554 and his partner Robert Wrastley may then have been of the Twelve. Thomas Wilkes was presumably a local man of yeoman status with some connexion with his fellow-Member William Button, himself probably a Hungerford nominee. The two Smiths have not been identified but could have sprung from a neighbouring family of prosperous clothiers, the Smiths of Corsham. Robert Warner, Francis Goldsmith and perhaps John Bonham were servants of Catherine Parr and John Astley was a member of the households of Prince Edward and Princess Elizabeth. Nicholas Snell was a Wiltshire gentleman and a servant of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, once steward for his sister-in-law Queen Catherine’s Wiltshire lands and high steward of Chippenham (a title previously unrecorded) by 1568. The Members in 1558 could also have owed their seats to the earl’s favour: William Neville was almost certainly a younger brother of Pembroke’s friend the 5th Earl of Westmorland, and (Sir) John Sulyard, standard-bearer of the gentlemen pensioners, had doubtless served with Pembroke on the St. Quentin campaign, although he was also a relative of the Bayntons and had sat earlier for Bodmin, a borough represented in 1558 by his fellow-pensioner Sir Walter Hungerford, then sheriff of Wiltshire. John Pollard was returned only 15 days before the opening of the Parliament in which he was to be named Speaker for the second time: he had sat for Oxfordshire in the three previous Parliaments and may have sought election there again and perhaps also at Gloucester before turning to Chippenham. Another ex-Speaker, Sir Thomas Moyle, had been elected for Chippenham on 3 Nov. 1554, probably through his official links with Wiltshire, but had preferred to sit for Lynn, leaving a vacancy which was filled later in the month by the return of his earlier associate Cyriak Petyt from Kent. The dating of the indenture only one day after the issue of the writ on 19 Nov. (seven days after the opening of Parliament), if not an error, suggests that Chippenham’s wishes were not even formally consulted. John Proctor, the junior Member in this Parliament, may also have been from Kent and a protégé of Moyle.5

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. HMC Var. iv. 128; Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Wilts. Bor. Recs. (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. v), 4; J. J. Daniell, Chippenham, 21-22, 56-57, 63-64; LP Hen. VIII, v. 1361; x, g. 1256(6); xii(1), g. 311(33); xix(1), g. 141(65); xxi(1), g. 149(40); CPR, 1547-8, p. 32; 1553, pp. 98, 109; 1554-5, p. 94.
  • 4. CPR, 1554-5, pp. 103-5; C219/18C/142, 21/178, 23/139, 141, 24/188, 25/138.
  • 5. Daniell, 66-67.