Cumberland

County

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 1510-15

Elections

DateCandidate
1523?SIR CHRISTOPHER DACRE 1
 (not known)
1529SIR CHRISTOPHER DACRE
 JOHN LEE I
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542?(SIR) THOMAS WHARTON I 2
 ?THOMAS WHARTON II 3
1545(SIR) THOMAS WHARTON II
 CUTHBERT HUTTON
1547(SIR) THOMAS WHARTON II
 RICHARD MUSGRAVE
1553 (Mar.)(SIR) RICHARD MUSGRAVE
 HENRY CURWEN
1553 (Oct.)(SIR) THOMAS WHARTON II
 SIR THOMAS DACRE
1554 (Apr.)JOHN LEE II
 ROBERT PENRUDDOCK
1554 (Nov.)JOHN LEE II 4
 ROBERT PENRUDDOCK
1555THOMAS THRELKELD 5
 HENRY CURWEN
1558LEONARD DACRE
 JOHN DALSTON

Main Article

During the early 16th century, and especially under Henry VIII, the old border families, Clifford, Dacre, Neville and Percy, came under mounting pressure from the central government, chiefly through the agency of the elder Sir Thomas Wharton. How far this is reflected in the choice of knights for Cumberland it is not easy to say, both because of the loss of a number of names and because of the degree of intermarriage and interdependence prevailing in the region. The fact that nine or ten of the 13 known Members between 1529 and 1558 can be accommodated comfortably on the same genealogical table complicates the task of distinguishing between them in terms of patronage, but it is tempting to divide them into two groups: a ‘Dacre group’ comprising, in addition to three members of that noble family (an uncle and two nephews), three of its dependants in John Lee I and II and Thomas Threlkeld, and perhaps, through the younger Lee, Robert Penruddock; and a ‘Wharton group’ consisting of the 1st Baron and his son, their kinsmen and followers Henry Curwen and (Sir) Richard Musgrave, and probably John Dalston and Cuthbert Hutton. Such a division would award each group about one half of the seats whose occupants are known and show the Dacre interest, presumably at its strongest during the earlier years, later surviving the impact of Wharton influence.

Elections were held at the county court at Carlisle. Indentures written in Latin survive for all the Parliaments between 1542 and 1553 and for those of November 1554 and 1555: none is in good condition. The contracting parties are the sheriff and between ten and 28 named electors, who also witnessed the sheriff affixing his seal: in 1547 ‘many other freeholders’ are said to have voted.6

No names survive from before 1523, but to the obscurity surrounding the shire elections of that year Cumberland affords a partial exception, since it is known that the King designated Sir Christopher Dacre and John Pennington as its knights. Whether they were elected is not clear, for on learning of the nomination Dacre’s brother, the 2nd Baron of Gilsland, wrote to Wolsey to ask that Dacre, who was urgently needed in the west march, should be replaced by one of the cardinal’s servants; Lord Dacre also questioned the propriety of Pennington’s election in view of his office of sheriff. Sir Christopher Dacre was to be elected in 1529, with John Lee of Isel, a Dacre follower; both may have been re-elected in 1536, unless Dacre’s trial in 1534 was held to have unfitted him, and either or both could have sat in 1539, when the Duke of Norfolk assured the King of the return of men willing to do ‘his pleasure’, but when the names are again lost. By 1542 Dacre was almost certainly dead and the way clear for the elder Wharton to take one of the shire seats; he may even have had as his fellow-knight his son and namesake.7

From 1545, with all names known (if Thomas Threlkeld’s is included), it is possible to glimpse a Wharton-Dacre pattern. Until early 1553 the Wharton interest seems to have prevailed, the younger Wharton himself being twice returned with associates in Cuthbert Hutton and Richard Musgrave, and Musgrave in turn being joined by his own and Wharton’s kinsman Henry Curwen, but when Wharton himself reappeared in the first Marian Parliament it was with Sir Thomas Dacre, the young heir to the barony and Sir Christopher’s great-nephew. This sharing of representation was to recur in the last two Parliaments of the reign, the first seat going in succession to a Dacre supporter, Thomas Threlkeld, and to Leonard Dacre himself, and the second to Curwen and John Dalston. At the two intervening elections of 1554, when John Lee II and Robert Penruddock were twice returned (and to their only Parliaments), the decisive influence is likely to have been the sheriff’s, who bore Lee’s name and was doubtless a kinsman.

Under the Act (25 Hen. VIII, c.17) of 1534 the inhabitants of Cumberland and the other border counties were allowed to keep crossbows and handguns for use against the Scots. This Act was renewed eight years later. A proviso in the general Act for weaving (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c.11) exempted men in the area from compliance with the new regulations introduced in the measure.

Author: N. M. Fuidge

Notes

  • 1. Orig. Letters ed. Ellis (ser. 3), ii. 35-37; LP Hen. VIII, iii. 2931.
  • 2. Of the names of the knights only 'Thom ... harton' ... [et]. homa ...' is legible on the damaged indenture, C219/18B/15.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 5. Only 'Thomas Th ...' is legible on the return, C219/24/36; Browne Willis, Notitia Parl. iii(2), 48.
  • 6. C219/18B/15, 18C/24, 19/21, 20/36, 21/34, 23/35, 24/36.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, x. 816 citing Cott. Calig. B6, f. 319.

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