Kent

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

Elections

DateCandidate
1512?SIR EDWARD POYNINGS
 (not known)
1515?THOMAS NEVILLE
 (not known)
1523(not known)
1529SIR EDWARD GUILDFORD
 SIR HENRY GUILDFORD
 (aft May 1532 not known)
19 Oct. 1534SIR JOHN DUDLEY vice Sir Edward Guildford, deceased
1536?THOMAS CROMWELL 1
 (not known)
1539SIR THOMAS CHEYNE 2
 GREGORY CROMWELL 3
1542SIR THOMAS CHEYNE
 SIR THOMAS WYATT I
1 Jan. 1543(SIR) JOHN GUILDFORD vice Wyatt, deceased
1545SIR THOMAS CHEYNE
 GEORGE HARPER
1547SIR THOMAS CHEYNE 4
 SIR THOMAS WYATT II 5
1553 (Mar.)SIR THOMAS CHEYNE
 (SIR) HENRY SIDNEY
1553 (Oct.)SIR THOMAS CHEYNE
 (SIR) ROBERT SOUTHWELL
1554 (Apr.)SIR THOMAS CHEYNE
 (SIR) JOHN BAKER I
1554 (Nov.)SIR THOMAS CHEYNE
 (SIR) JOHN BAKER I
1555(SIR) JOHN BAKER I
 (SIR) ROBERT SOUTHWELL
1558SIR THOMAS CHEYNE
 (SIR) JOHN BAKER I

Main Article

John Leland’s enumeration of the ‘commodities’ of Kent as ‘fertility ... rivers, havens with ships ... royal castles and towns’, to which he added ‘the faith of Christ there first restored’, touched on features which helped to shape the county’s history in the Tudor period. Besides prosperous farming and fisheries, the county had a flourishing cloth industry based on its native sheep, while its long coastline and many harbours, nodal points of traffic with the Continent, made it of first importance in maritime affairs. Defence by sea and land loomed large during the period. Under Henry VIII Deptford and Woolwich largely superseded Portsmouth as royal dockyards and required the protection of forts. In another respect proximity to the Continent was a mixed blessing: a stream of visiting dignitaries had to be entertained, with Henry VIII’s fondness for displaying the dockyards an added burden.6

In a county where the custom of gavelkind survived, the noblemen and gentlemen who were not excluded from its provisions by the general Acts of 1539 and 1549 (31 Hen. VIII, c.3, and 2 and 3 Edw. VI, no.40) were often unable to transmit large estates. In any case, under Henry VIII and Edward VI few large landowners in Kent (and hence few knights of the shire) were without court connexions. Furthermore the government was alert to the dangers of disaffection in so notoriously restless and strategically important an area. Still, direct intervention in county elections was not always successful, and even approved candidates did not always toe the line.

Every known knight of the shire during the period had a residence in Kent, and only two, the comparatively youthful Gregory Cromwell and Sir John Guildford, were without crown or court office before their election. Of the remainder, seven (if Thomas Cromwell is included) were or had been Councillors. Although the incompleteness of the list rules out certainty in the matter, the warden of the Cinque Ports, when a commoner, seems to have had a lien on one of the seats, and Sir Thomas Cheyne’s record is unmatched in any other shire.

The eight surviving election indentures for this period give the location as Pennenden Heath, near Maidstone, on six occasions and as Rochester once. The sheriff was in the habit of endorsing the writ with the names not only of the knights of the shire but also of those of the Members for Rochester, and on one occasion he added those for Maidstone. (Canterbury, which had its own sheriff, was never included.) The indentures contain the names of electors, varying in number from 14 to 34, and at times up to ten of them appended their signatures. The sheriff’s schedules sometimes maintain the old practice of giving the names of the (probably mythical) ‘pledges’ or sureties.7

A list compiled by Thomas Cromwell probably in 1532 and containing nominations for by-elections has the names of Sir Thomas Cheyne and Sir Edward Neville (who was to succeed Sir Edward Guildford as constable of Leeds castle) for Kent, while the circle which appears against Cheyne’s name suggests that he was the one adopted. Cheyne was not to become lord warden for another four years, but as constable of Queenborough and Rochester castles and a gentleman of the privy chamber he was already a leading figure. In 1547 the Privy Council sought the election of Sir John Baker, Speaker of the previous House and Speaker-designate of the new one, but Cheyne and the sheriff, his kinsman or kinsman-to-be Henry Crispe, were evidently too heavy-handed in their attempt to procure this result and Baker had to be found a seat elsewhere. Who joined Cheyne at the assembly in November is not known, but on the list of Members as revised for the last session, held from January to April 1552, it is the younger Sir Thomas Wyatt who appears as the junior knight, and he could have sat since 1547. In December 1557 the Council directed the sheriff to notify Cheyne of the day appointed for the shire election to the forthcoming Parliament: this was perhaps a move to ensure Cheyne’s own return as what seems to have become a monopoly by him on one of the two county places had been broken two years before.8

It was in 1539 that Gregory Cromwell took up residence at Leeds Castle, where his father was constable, but unless some property had been settled on him on his marriage two years earlier he was the only knight for Kent to have lacked land of his own in the county. His election is to be seen as one move in Thomas Cromwell’s campaign to ensure a ‘tractable’ Parliament. If the minister himself had been Sir Henry Guildford’s replacement in the Parliament of 1529 and he had been re-elected (or transferred) there in 1536, the Cromwells father and son belong to a pattern of kinship to be detected among the knights for Kent. The two Sir Thomas Wyatts were another father-and-son team, the two Guildfords elected in 1529 were half-brothers, and the vacancy caused by Sir Edward Guildford’s death in 1534 was filled by his son-in-law Sir John Dudley; one of Dudley’s own sons-in-law was (Sir) Henry Sidney, and Thomas Neville was father-in-law to (Sir) R