Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
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The lordship, castle and borough of Haverfordwest, situated at the head of the Cleddau estuary, belonged to the crown. The town perhaps owed its origin to Gilbert de Clare (1110-17) but its first known charter is that of William Marshall (1189-1219). Marshall’s charter was confirmed and modified repeatedly throughout the middle ages and again in 1532, 1547 and 1554. By the early 16th century authority was vested in a mayor and a self-perpetuating council of Twenty-Four, assisted by several municipal officers sworn in before the chancellor of the lordship. Borough records are extant from this period. Edward IV had made the town a county in itself but when the lordship was incorporated into Pembrokeshire at the Union the town lost its own sheriff. Presumably as an ‘ancient borough’ it was entitled to send representatives to take part in the election of the Member for Pembroke Boroughs to the Parliament of 1542, but whether it did so is not known. The second Act of Union (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.26) restored Haverfordwest’s sheriff and enfranchised the town, the Act providing for its representation by one Member, ‘the charges of the same ... to be borne by the mayor, burgesses and inhabitants of the said town and none other’. After the acceptance in the Lords of the proviso for the enfranchisement it was sponsored in the Commons by Thomas Jones, the knight for Pembrokeshire, then living not far from the town. Haverfordwest, with its quay, market and fairs, was probably the most flourishing town in South Wales, where its only rival was Carmarthen. Abuses over the admission of freemen led the town council in 1554 to restrict the freedom to residents, with the exception of members of the Cathern and Perrot families with homes in the locality. Although the proposal by Bishop Barlow of St. David’s to make it the shire town came to nothing, the county court usually met there after the Union.2

In accordance with the Act of 1543 Haverfordwest was summoned to return a Member to the Parliament of 1545, but neither writ nor indenture survives. Indentures written in Latin are extant for all the Parliaments between 1547 and 1555, except for the second Parliament of Mary’s reign. None is in good condition. The contracting parties were the sheriff of the town and the mayor, burgesses and freemen, varying in number between 10 and 60 and with their trades given, but only the sheriff and mayor affixed seals. The mayor presided over the elections held in the guildhall. After his defeat in September 1553 Hugh Carne laid an information in the Exchequer against the sheriff, alleging he had falsely returned Richard Taylor: Carne sought process against the sheriff but with what outcome is not known. All the Members were townsmen, and all save one were merchants with municipal experience.3

Haverfordwest was included in the Act (35 Hen. VIII, c.4) empowering local authorities to repair property if the owners proved unwilling to do so.

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C193/32/1.
  • 2. M. Beresford, New Towns in the Middle Ages, 567; Desc. Pemb. (Cymmrod. rec. ser. i), 1-4; Pemb. Recs. (ibid. vii), i. 32, 123, 143, 144, 156; Cal. Haverfordwest Recs. (Univ. Wales Bd. of Celtic Studies Hist. and Law ser. xxiv), 1-4; Arch. Camb. (ser. 6), iii. 39-47. EHR, lxi. 18-27; LP Hen. VIII, xi. 147.
  • 3. C219/19/160, 20/200, 21/247, 22/136, 23/207, 24/245.