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


 (not known)
 (not known)
 (aft. 1 Dec. 1529 not known)
 (aft. 1 Dec. 1529 not known)
1536(not known)
1542(not known)
1553 (Mar.)?(SIR) WILLIAM CECIL 5

Main Article

At the end of his progress through Lincolnshire in 1532 Henry VIII described the county as ‘one of the most brute and beastly of the whole realm’. Its poverty was largely the result of erosion and inadequate provision against flooding in the marshlands. The county obtained an Act in 1532 (23 Hen. VIII, c.5) revising the commission for sewers and another in 1550 (3 and 4 Edw. VI, c.8) empowering the commissioners to distrain for money necessary for their work, but these piecemeal reforms achieved little. Much of the county, especially in the southern division of Holland, remained fenland, where the chief occupation was the breeding of geese for their feathers; since there were considerable flocks of sheep on the higher ground, and a flourishing trade in rabbits, a popular proverb had it that ‘the fenman’s dowry is three-score geese and a pelt’. Further north, in Lindsey and Kesteven, there had been a prosperous wool trade under the control of the Merchant Staplers, but the growth of the cloth industry and the overtaking of the Staplers by the Merchant Adventurers had led to a decline in many towns; by 1541 Grantham, Grimsby, Lincoln and Stamford were describing themselves as ‘decayed’, and when the Easterling merchants left Boston that town also lost much of its prosperity. For most of the 16th century Lincolnshire remained a predominantly agricultural and pastoral county.8

The rebellion of 1536 was the climax of a spell of hardship for the poor and stagnation for the well-to-do, aggravated by mistrust of the government’s motives and policies. Order was restored by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, but nothing was done to remedy the underlying grievances. For the remainder of the period there were no serious disturbances in Lincolnshire, although in the summer of 1558 some ‘lewd disordered persons’ who ‘went about to stir a commotion’ there were promptly dealt with by the lord lieutenant William Willoughby, Lord Willoughby of Parham.9

The Dissolution, together with the execution of Lord Hussey in 1537 and the confiscation of his lands, altered the balance of power among the noble families in the shire. Hussey had owned 20 manors there, more than any other peer except the Duke of Suffolk, who between 1538 and 1545 added to his previous 21 manors nearly 100 more from former monastic property. Suffolk was thus the unchallenged leader in the shire until his death in August 1545, but his three sons all died as minors before 1552 and the next duke was Henry Grey, 3rd Marquess of Dorset, husband of his daughter Frances. Other peers with significant property were the earls of Rutland and the Lords Burgh, Clinton, Tailboys (a dignity which became extinct in 1540) and Willoughby. The relationship of these magnates to one another and to the local gentry was an important factor in the elections of knights of the shire.

Elections were held in county court at Lincoln castle. Occasionally the custom of holding the county court six-weekly instead of monthly resulted in late returns. A complete set of indentures survives for the Parliaments between 1545 and 1558, all but the last of them being in Latin. The earliest sheriff concerned included the names of county and borough Members in his endorsement of the writ, but in February 1553 those returned by boroughs are listed in the county indenture itself and for the Parliaments of 1555 and 1558 there are separate schedules of names, together with those of fictitious sureties. The named electors number from 12 to 34 and are usually headed by half-a-dozen or more esquires and gentlemen; few knights appear, and only once (in 1555) does a peer, William Lord Willoughby. The lists of electors often end with the names of yeomen and freeholders and a reference to ‘many other freeholders’ whose property was valued at 40s. or more; the indenture for 1558 mentions ‘the freeholders above-named having their free election’. The coroners are sometimes mentioned as present ex officio.10

During the period almost all the Lincolnshire knights were relatives or followers of the chief noble families in the county. Lords Clinton, Hussey, Tailboys and Willoughby of Parham were related to one another and so to the Dymokes, Heneages, Skipwiths and Tyrwhitts, while Charles Brandon’s marriage to the Baroness Willoughby de Eresby in 1534 connected him also with this group. The 3rd Lord Burgh, a minor peer in the shire from 1528 to 1550, and a relative by marriage of Catherine Parr, married a Tyrwhitt, and his successor married Clinton’s daughter by Elizabeth, the dowager Baroness Tailboys. Although there were from time to time quarrels among the members of this powerful coterie there is no evidence, except in 1510, of contested or disputed elections; however inconclusive the argument from silence, such a group could scarcely have failed to impose its wishes on the freeholders. Its own adaptability to political change and responsiveness to direction seem to have ensured the return of men acceptable to successive regimes. Most of the 16 knights of the shire (if Sir Robert Sheffield is included) came from the division of Lindsey; probably all were Lincolnshire justices of the peace at the time of their first election for the county and seven had already served as sheriff. Seven or eight were or had been courtiers with posts of importance in the Household or on the Council, and Sheffield and George St. Poll were lawyers. Seven of the knights are known to have sat in Parliament only once, and four of the others were returned for the county on a single occasion after having sat for boroughs within it. Cecil, with similar experience, and Sir John Hussey took the knighthood of the shire at least twice and Sir Edward Dymoke and Sir Robert Tyrwhitt II thrice.

Two elections call for notice. The election to the Parliament of 1510 had to be postponed following disturbances at the county court, and on 5 Jan. two commissions, one for ‘the liberty of Lincoln’ and the other for ‘the parts of Lindsey’, were ordered to investigate the matter. Sir William Tyrwhitt, who was named to one of the commissions, used the occasion to promote his own candidature (although he had already been elected for Great Grimsby), but whether successfully is not known. The elevation of Sir John Hussey and Sir Gilbert Tailboys shortly after the opening of the Parliament of 1529 created two vacancies which remained until at least the autumn of 1532. It was then or early in 1533 that Hussey’s brother Robert and Tailboys’s kinsmen the brothers-in-law William Skipwith and Sir Robert Tyrwhitt were nominated to fill them; Cromwell signified his choice of the last two, but in the absence of a return it is not known whether they were elected.11

Lincolnshire was one of the counties where new gaols were to be built under an Act of 1532 (23 Hen. VIII, c.2), renewed in 1536, 1545 and 1553. Nothing came of a bill for the wapentake of Kirton introduced in the Parliament of 1510.12

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. House of Lords RO, LJ ms i. 103. LJ, i. 46 gives 'Thomas' in error for John.
  • 2. Hall, Chron. 657.
  • 3. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. CJ, i. 18-19.
  • 6. Christian name missing from the torn indenture (C219/20/77) but styled knight and described as 'junior'.
  • 7. Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 8. VCH Lincs. ii. 49, 78, 274, 293, 319-20, 324-8, 384-5, 387, 397; Lincoln Rec. Soc. liv. pp. xi, xxii, 3 seq.; Lincs. Historian, i. 330-42; ii. 23-30; T. Allen, Lincs. i. 17, 36, 53, 57-60.
  • 9. M. H. and R. Dodds, Pilgrimage of Grace, i. 89-140 passim; VCH Lincs. ii. 270-4; APC, vi. 336.
  • 10. C219/18C/58, 60, 19/55, 56, 20/76, 77, 21/91, 92, 22/39, 40, 23/76, 78, 24/94, 95, 97, 25/63, 64, 65.
  • 11. LP Hen. VIII, i. g. 357(6); vii. 56 citing SP1/82, ff. 59-62.
  • 12. LJ, i. 7.