Oxford

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 LATTON
 WILLIAM FLEMING
1536?JOHN LATTON 1
 ?WILLIAM FLEMING 2
1539THOMAS DENTON 3
 RICHARD GUNTER 4
1542(not known) 5
1545(not known)
1547RALPH FLAXNEY
 EDWARD FRERE
1553 (Mar.)CHRISTOPHER EDMONDS
 EDWARD GLYNTON
1553 (Oct.)JOHN WAYTE
 THOMAS WILLIAMS I
1554 (Apr.)THOMAS MALLINSON
 EDWARD GLYNTON
1554 (Nov.)JOHN WAYTE
 WILLIAM TYLCOCK
1555JOHN WAYTE
 WILLIAM PANTRE
1558JOHN BARTON
 RICHARD WILLIAMS

Main Article

Oxford, which received its first charter in 1156, was constituted a city in November 1546. At this time municipal authority was exercised by a mayor and two bailiffs, with two chamberlains who were chosen from among 24 common councilmen, and by a number of lesser officials: four aldermen formed an inner council with the mayor and were joined by eight assistants to the mayor in 1554. The customs of Oxford resembled those of the city of London, and its mayor, who was elected annually on the Monday before St. Matthew’s day (21 Sept.) ‘by scouting in the house and by the commons’, had to be presented to the barons of the Exchequer before taking up his duties: the bailiffs were chosen on the same day as the mayor and the chamberlains on 30 Sept., while the aldermen (and later the assistants) held office for life. The electorate consisted of the ‘hanasters’ or freemen, who had entered Oxford’s guild merchant by purchase, inheritance or apprenticeship: their choice, however, was limited to candidates recommended by the council. Membership of a craft guild seems to have been accorded only to those who had already been admitted to the guild merchant and the number of craft guilds, some of which represented several trades, fluctuated considerably, being nine in 1533-4 and four at the end of the century. The brewers’ and bakers’ guilds were controlled by the university which had the assize of bread and ale.6

Parliamentary elections were held at the guildhall. The sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire and the mayor and the whole community of Oxford are the contracting parties to the surviving indentures— those for all the Parliaments from 1542 to 1555 except 1545 and October 1553: they are in Latin and several, especially that for the Parliament of 1542, are in poor condition. In practice, as in municipal elections, the freemen were limited to approval of the choice made by the mayor and corporation but there is little evidence of outside interference. Of the 15 Members whose names are known 12 were townsmen: one of these, William Fleming, was elected while mayor, ten were former bailiffs at their first or only election (six of them were later to serve as mayor), and only one, Edward Frere, later an assistant to the mayor, had held no office before election. Two of the three outsiders, John Latton and Thomas Denton, were lawyers and the third, Christopher Edmonds, had received a legal education. Latton was a brother-in-law of Sir John Dauntesey, knight for Oxfordshire in the Parliament of 1529, and Denton, who was to succeed Sir John Pollard as recorder of Oxford in 1557, was related by marriage to the Brome family of Holton, six miles from Oxford. Edmonds had a more obvious patron in his stepfather Sir John Williams, knight of the shire in the spring of 1553 and perhaps already high steward of Oxford: in the reign of Elizabeth the high stewards were to exercise considerable control over the city’s choice of Members but neither Williams nor Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, who held the office in the 1530s, is known to have interfered except possibly on this occasion.7

Relations between the university and the town or city of Oxford were poor and were worsened by the charter secured for the university by Wolsey in 1523, but at least five of the Members had been ‘privileged persons’ (those not scholars but otherwise entitled to the privileges conferred by membership of the university) before being admitted to the freedom, Edward Glynton and Richard Gunter as college manciples, William Fleming, William Pantre and Thomas Williams as the servants of scholars. This did not affect their loyalty as townsmen and Fleming and Gunter were particularly staunch upholders of the town’s rights. Fleming’s stand during his two years as mayor (1527-9) may have influenced the election of 1529. This appears from the reference in the council books to his claim for wages to have been a contested one, with William Frere (father of Edward) and John Pye as the defeated candidates; Latton’s connexion with Sir Thomas More may also have been a factor since More had been high steward of the university since 1524 and Cromwell was to class Latton with others of the More circle as ‘of Chelsea’ on a list thought to be of Members opposed to the bill in restraint of appeals to Rome. Whatever the background, they presumably had a hand in the bill against the university’s charter which was put forward in the first session but not enacted.8

In 1536 the King’s general request for the reelection of the Members of the previous Parliament was transmitted to Oxford by Cromwell and the lord chamberlain. The mayor replied that Fleming was too old and blind to sit and asked if someone else should be elected with Latton or if two new men should be chosen. The question was perhaps disingenuous, since the mayor was the same Frere who may have been a defeated candidate in 1529, and the answer is unknown. Fleming later claimed £56 10s. in parliamentary wages and expenses but the council book gives no indication whether this was for both the Parliaments of 1529 and 1536 or for the first only. When the claim was rejected in April 1537 Fleming was reminded that he had promised ‘to do as others did, and so William Frere and John Pye at the election day holden in the guildhall’ in 1529 ‘did promise to give their costs and expenses’. The Oxford records are reasonably full for the period and include a council book (1528-92) and the hanaster’s book (1514-91), but this is the earliest parliamentary item and the only reference to wages.

Under the Licensing Act of 1553 (7 Edw. VI, c.5) Oxford was allowed three taverns. The Act (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c.15) that purveyors should not take victuals within five miles of Cambridge and Oxford may have benefited the citizens, but its preamble states that it was passed at the instance of the scholars only. Nothing came of a bill introduced in December 1547 for the bounds and liberties of the city, or of another in November 1555 for paving the city.9

Author: T. F.T. Baker

Notes

  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, x. 903; Oxf. Recs. 148.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. OR gives Lenthall as the surname of one Member but the indenture from which this is derived (C219/18B/151) is not for Oxford and the name is that of an elector.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, xxi(2), g.476(9); Oxf. Recs. pp. xiii-xvi, 204-9