Hampshire

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 1510-23

Elections

DateCandidate
1529SIR WILLIAM PAULET
 SIR RICHARD SANDYS
1536(not known)
1539THOMAS WRIOTHESLEY 1
 RICHARD WORSLEY 2
1542(SIR) THOMAS WRIOTHESLEY
 (aft. 1 Jan. 1544 not known)
 SIR THOMAS LISLE
 (aft. 1 Feb. 1542 not known)
1545(not known)
1547SIR HENRY SEYMOUR
 THOMAS WHITE II
1553 (Mar.)SIR RICHARD COTTON
 (not known)
1553 (Oct.)(SIR) THOMAS WHITE II
 NICHOLAS TICHBORNE
1554 (Apr.)(SIR) THOMAS WHITE II
 SIR JOHN MASON
1554 (Nov.)(SIR) THOMAS WHITE II 3
 JOHN NORTON 4
1555(SIR) THOMAS WHITE II
 JOHN NORTON
1558(SIR) THOMAS WHITE II
 SIR JOHN MASON

Main Article

Until the middle years of Henry VIII’s reign Hampshire was a relatively wealthy county. The trade of the two chief ports was flourishing and in 1513 the entire royal navy of 25 ships was based at Portsmouth. The Portsmouth dockyard, however, declined in importance with the growth of other yards less vulnerable to attack, while Southampton decayed with the diminution of the wool trade and also lost much of its subsidiary source of income, the victualling of the royal ships. A major cause of the decline was the difficulty of fortifying such a long and indented coastline. Hampshire therefore remained largely a rural county although there was a cloth industry which began to produce serges, friscadoes and other new fabrics to take the place of the ‘old draperies’; the county was one of the six which in 1536 protested against the Act (27 Hen. VIII, c.12) regulating the width of kerseys, complaining that it would harm the trade with Spain, Italy and the Levant. The sale of wool in Hampshire was regulated by two Acts (22 Hen. VIII, c.1 and 37 Hen. VIII, c.15).5

Socially and administratively the shire was centred on the ancient cathedral city of Winchester and this was reflected in its conservatism. There was a strong radical element, as was to be shown in the by-election of 1566, but the Hampshire gentry remained loyal in most of the risings of the period, the only exceptions before Mary’s reign being that a few Southampton men, followers of the Poles, were convicted of complicity in the Marquess of Exeter’s treason, and that some smaller local disturbances broke out against the Duke of Northumberland’s rule. The dissolution of the monasteries led to the rise of Thomas Wriothesley as the premier landowner in Hampshire; by 1547 he owned over 70 manors there. Others who profited extensively from the Dissolution were Sir William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton, Sir William Paulet, later Marquess of Winchester, and the Sandys and West families. Since there were relatively few endowed chantries in the county, their disappearance caused no agitation. However, the existence of a growing Protestant faction and the support shown by some Hampshire gentlemen for the Dudley conspiracy of 1556 caused the government to make another attempt to improve the defences of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.6

Parliamentary elections took place in the county court at Winchester, ‘between the hours of eight and nine of the clock’, as the indenture for 1555 notes. The surviving indentures, six in number between 1542 and 1558, are from March 1553 in English. They contain the names of between 20 and 65 electors, many of them styled simply ‘freeholders’; in 1547 a later insertion by the clerk states that the freeholds were to the value of 40s. a year. Those present included John Kingsmill and Nicholas Tichborne in 1547 and Sir Henry Seymour in the spring of 1554 and in 1555.7

The names of 11 knights are known, sitting in ten of the Parliaments which met between 1510 and 1558. All of them held land in Hampshire and except for the newcomer Sir Henry Seymour and the young Richard Worsley all were on the commission of the peace there when first elected. Only five served as sheriff in the period, but nine had held office in the central government or Household before their election, the two exceptions being Worsley, a servant of Cromwell and probably his deputy in the captaincy of the Isle of Wight, an office previously held by Worsley’s courtier father, and Nicholas Tichborne, a nephew of the leading Marian Thomas White, with whom he sat in the Queen’s first Parliament. The influence of the bishop of Winchester, especially during Gardiner’s two tenures of the see, is also apparent: Paulet was steward of the bishopric and White treasurer, Sir John Mason had been dean of Winchester under Edward VI, Sir Henry Seymour discharged minor duties for successive bishops and John Norton was a client of Gardiner. The crown may have intervened to secure the election of Paulet and Sandys in 1529, since the Hampshire writ was one of those sent to Henry VIII at Windsor, and certainly did so in 1539 when the election was supervised by William Fitzwilliam, Earl of Southampton, with the assistance of Paulet, then Baron St. John. The crown’s original nominees were Wriothesley and John Kingsmill but the latter was debarred by his shrievalty and on 19 Mar. St. John wrote that, as Cromwell was ‘not perfectly ascertained of the King’s pleasure’, Southampton had deferred the next shire day until the minister should have picked one from a ‘schedule of the best men of the county’, sent separately by the earl. On 1 Apr. Kingsmill wrote to tell Wriothesley, recently returned from a mission to Brussels, that he had been elected with Worsley; he had earlier explained that Wriothesley’s candidature was opposed by Bishop Gardiner who resented his Protestant tendencies and in particular his role in the demolition of St. Swithin’s shrine at Winchester. Wriothesley and Worsley were the two youngest men returned for Hampshire in the period. Early in 1553 Sir Richard Cotton, then comptroller of the Household, was recommended for election, nominally by the King, as ‘one whom we need not to commend’. Nothing is known about the payment of the knights but the exemption obtained by the inhabitants of Faccombe in 1514 from contributing towards their expenses seems to imply that it was then still expected.8

Author: N. M. Fuidge