Much Wenlock

Borough

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
1529JOHN FOSTER I
 EDWARD HALL I
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542WILLIAM BLOUNT
 REGINALD CORBET
1545RICHARD CORNWALL
 RICHARD LAWLEY
1547RICHARD LAWLEY
 THOMAS LAWLEY
1553 (Mar.)JOHN HERBERT
 THOMAS LAWLEY
1553 (Oct.)RICHARD LEE
 ROBERT EYTON
1554 (Apr.)THOMAS FOSTER
 EDWARD LACON
1554 (Nov.)SIR GEORGE BLOUNT
 JOHN EVANS
1555SIR GEORGE BLOUNT
 THOMAS RIDLEY
1558SIR GEORGE BLOUNT
 GEORGE BROMLEY

Main Article

Wenlock, a market town ‘environed with hills’, was the trading centre of a predominantly agricultural district, with a weekly market and a three-day fair in June. The town had grown up under the lordship of a Cluniac priory, and at least until the mid 14th century it paid a fee-farm to the crown on the ground that the priory was ‘still in the King’s hand’. In 1468, at the instance of John Wenlock, Lord Wenlock, ‘the parish of the Holy Trinity of Wenlock’ was incorporated as the bailiff, burgesses and community. The burgesses, who had to elect a bailiff on each 2 Oct., were also empowered to choose ‘out of themselves or others’ one Member of Parliament, being on this account exempt from contributing towards the expenses of the knights of the shire. By 1491 they were returning the customary two Members. The term ‘burgess’, although presumably at one time synonymous with freeman, is not defined in the charter, and the scanty references to the election of borough officials leave it uncertain whether the whole body of freemen voted or whether, as in other Shropshire boroughs, only a limited group did so: the uncertainty extends to the parliamentary franchise. At the election of a bailiff in October 1540, the first after the suppression of the priory, it was recorded that one elector or two (the wording is ambiguous) was ‘placed among the electors for our lord the King by Rowland lord bishop of Lichfield and president of the council of our lord the King as in law the prior of Wenlock’. The town’s minute-book for 1545-6 records 50s. as laid out for a confirmation of the charter, but this had to await the reign of Charles I.1

Election indentures survive for all the Parliaments from 1542 to 1558: the first (which is in similar form to that for Ludlow and almost certainly in the same hand) and the last two are in Latin, the others in English. The town is named ‘Wenlock Magna’ or ‘Much Wenlock