Oxfordshire

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 1510-23

Elections

DateCandidate
1529SIR JOHN DAUNTESEY
 SIR WILLIAM BARENTYNE
1536(not known)
1539WILLIAM FERMOR 1
 JOHN WELSBORNE 2
1542SIR JOHN WILLIAMS
 EDWARD ...
1545(not known)
1547SIR JOHN WILLIAMS
 RICHARD FIENNES
1553 (Mar.)SIR ANDREW DUDLEY
 SIR JOHN WILLIAMS
1553 (Oct.)SIR JOHN WILLIAMS
 JOHN POLLARD
1554 (Apr.)SIR LEONARD CHAMBERLAIN
 JOHN POLLARD
1554 (Nov.)SIR LEONARD CHAMBERLAIN
 JOHN POLLARD
1555SIR THOMAS WENMAN
 EDMUND POWELL
1558GEORGE OWEN
 (aft. 18 Oct. 1558 not known)
 THOMAS DENTON
 (aft. 3 Oct. 1558 not known)

Main Article

A number of courtiers and government officials sat for Oxfordshire in the early 16th century but the most prominent of them, Sir John Williams, was ennobled after he had sat four times and the county was thus saved from the difficulties facing shires where one man, generally a Privy Councillor, established a virtual lien on the senior seat. Apart from Williams, only John Pollard and Sir Leonard Chamberlain are known to have represented Oxfordshire more than once, but since the names of the knights have not been recovered for six of the 16 Parliaments which met between 1509 and 1558 this may be misleading.

Of the 13 knights whose names are known only four, Sir William Barentyne, Richard Fiennes, Chamberlain and Thomas Denton, came of established Oxfordshire families, although three more, Sir John Dauntesey, William Fermor and Sir Thomas Wenman, were of humbler birth within the county. John Welsborne was almost certainly descended from a Buckinghamshire family, but he was related through his mother to many leading Oxfordshire families. Williams and Edmund Powell were the sons of Welsh fathers who had sought their fortunes in England; Pollard migrated from Devon, whether as a cause or as a result of his marriage to Barentyne’s stepdaughter is not clear; and George Owen, the royal physician, born in the diocese of Worcester, studied at and settled in Oxford. These diverse origins notwithstanding, the Oxfordshire knights all belonged to the community of the shire and even the intrusive Sir Andrew Dudley, a younger brother of the Duke of Northumberland, had a landed interest there. Dudley’s election to the second Parliament of Edward VI’s reign was evidently the result of a last-minute decision by the Council, which in January 1553 had recommended Williams and Fiennes for re-election.3

Edmund Powell is the only one of the Oxfordshire knights whose standing and service appear inadequate to the position, especially as he replaced Pollard who after taking the junior seat in the previous three Parliaments was returned for Chippenham on 8 Oct. 1555, only 13 days before the meeting of the Parliament in which the government had doubtless decided to name him Speaker for the second time. Pollard may have begun by contesting Oxfordshire again, where the election was held on 24 Sept., and perhaps have tried Gloucester, where the election a week later is known to have been disputed. Yet his continued amity with Williams, whom in 1557 he named overseer of his will, is hardly consonant with his ousting by the Oxfordshire freeholders, so that the election of Powell may reflect a lack of competition for seats rather than a desire to recover Pollard’s: it may even be that he had not intended to sit again before he was designated Speaker. As for Powell, although he may have been related by marriage to Williams, he probably owed his return to the sheriff, Sir Richard Brydges, under whose patronage he had already sat twice for Ludgershall. In the following Parliament Thomas Denton may have benefited similarly by having his elder brother John Denton as sheriff, but he could also have been helped by his marriage connexion with the Mordaunts and Fermors. Other significant connexions of Oxfordshire knights were Dauntesey’s relationship to Sir Thomas More and Welsborne’s friendship with Cromwell, but Barentyne’s election came too early and Williams’s too late to be credited to the minister.

The election indentures, which survive for the two Parliaments of Edward VI’s reign and for all but the first two of Mary’s, are uniformly in Latin before that for the Parliament of 1558 and poorly preserved. The elections were held at Oxford castle and the parties to the indentures were the sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire and named electors numbering between 12 and 20. In October 1547 these were headed by Barentyne and included Pollard. There is also a fragmentary schedule for Oxfordshire to the Parliament of March 1553 bearing the names of the knights of the shire and of the Members for the city of Oxford and for New Windsor in Berkshire. The other schedule extant from the period relates to the Parliament of November 1554 and has the names of the Members for Banbury, Oxford and New Woodstock.4

Two Acts passed in the Parliament of 1529 and repeatedly renewed thereafter affected Oxfordshire, one (22 Hen. VIII, c.1) regulating the sale of cloth there, and the other (23 Hen. VIII, c.2) providing for the erection of a new county gaol.

Author: N. M. Fuidge

Notes

  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Strype, Eccles. Memorials, ii(2), 65-66.