Shropshire

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 THOMAS CORNWALL
 JOHN BLOUNT
 (aft. 27 Feb. 1531 not known)
1536RICHARD TRENTHAM 1
 (not known)
1539RICHARD MYTTON 2
 JOHN CORBET I 3
1542(not known)
1545SIR GEORGE BLOUNT
 RICHARD MYTTON
1547SIR GEORGE BLOUNT
 RICHARD NEWPORT
1553 (Mar.)RICHARD MYTTON
 THOMAS VERNON
1553 (Oct.)RICHARD MYTTON
 EDWARD LEIGHTON
1554 (Apr.)WILLIAM CHARLTON
 FRANCIS KYNASTON
1554 (Nov.)RICHARD MYTTON
 WILLIAM GATACRE
1555SIR ANDREW CORBET
 SIR HENRY STAFFORD
1558RICHARD CORBET
 THOMAS FERMOR

Main Article

Shropshire was a largely agricultural county, with increasing emphasis on cattle-rearing. This was promoted by a considerable enclosure movement, which was less extensive than contemporaries claimed and provoked little violent resistance. There were deposits of coal, iron and lead, ‘easily ported by boat into other shires’, and a trade in undressed cloth from Wales and the Oswestry district. Apart from serious epidemics in 1550-1 and 1557-8, both following bad harvests, the county suffered few setbacks to its growing prosperity.4

Several noblemen, among them the earls of Arundel and Shrewsbury and John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, had estates in Shropshire, and the council in the marches of Wales, which Dudley, then Earl of Warwick, presided over in 1549-50, was another potential source of parliamentary patronage. Yet most of the knights were either of a standing sufficient to account for their choice or of influential local connexion: thus William Gatacre’s association with the 12th Earl of Arundel probably counted for less than his kinship with his fellow-Member Richard Mytton and the sheriff (Sir) Adam Mytton. Thomas Vernon and Francis Kynaston may have sought election to further their families’ claims to the barony of Powis: Vernon could have enjoyed Northumberland’s support, while Kynaston was both a tenant of the 3rd Earl of Derby and a kinsman of Mytton. None of the county’s religious houses was of much importance, although before the Dissolution the abbot of Shrewsbury sat in the House of Lords. Shrewsbury was also for a brief period the seat of a suffragan bishopric under the Act for the nomination and consecration of suffragans (26 Hen. VIII, c.14).5

Elections were held at Shrewsbury castle by the sheriff of Shropshire. Indentures, all in Latin, survive for the nine Parliaments between 1542 and 1558; the first of them lacks the names of the knights and several others are in poor condition. The contracting parties are the sheriff and between seven and 30 named electors of varying status: at the two elections that Mytton is recorded as attending his nephew Richard was one of those returned. Others whose names appear are Richard Mytton himself, William Charlton, Edward Leighton and several members of the Corbet family. The writs usually have lengthy endorsements giving the date and time of the shire election, and sometimes including the names of borough Members or recording that a borough had not made its return. Before the Parliament of April 1554 there were two writs, one issued on 17 Feb. calling Members to Oxford, and the second, dated 15 Mar., changing the place to Westminster; the sheriff’s endorsement to the later one stated that he had had the new meeting-place proclaimed in the separate boroughs.6

A letter dated only 9 June from the 10th Earl of Arundel to Sir Thomas Leighton, grandfather of the junior knight in October 1553 and himself a knight in 1485, throws some light on the subject of parliamentary wages. The earl reproved Leighton for making an allegedly unprecedented demand for ‘knight’s pence’ from some of his tenants. Since this earl did not succeed to the dignity until late in 1487, the letter also raises the question whether Leighton did not sit in a later Parliament, perhaps early in the reign of Henry VIII. (It is possible, but less likely, that the letter was addressed to Leighton as sheriff, an office he discharged in 1494-5, and that it related to a demand on behalf of the knights returned to the Parliament of 1495.) Leighton’s son John was also, according to family tradition, a knight of the shire ‘towards the end of that reign ... particularly when the Parliament was held at Blackfriars ... at which time he ... attended the Duke of Suffolk to Calais’. Discounting its reference to the close of the reign, by which time John Leighton was long since dead, this description can only apply to the Parliament of 1523, but its evidence has been judged insufficient to warrant the inclusion of Leighton among the Members for this period.7

Of the 16 men who are known to have been elected, all had residences in the shire, although several were landed and active elsewhere. All save Richard Trentham and Vernon served on the Shropshire commission of the peace and no less than 11 were at some time sheriff of the county. Thirteen sat for Shropshire alone; Mytton and Sir George Blount also sat for Shropshire boroughs, and Mytton and Thomas Fermor, a Shropshire resident in right of his wife, each sat once outside the county. Sir Henry Stafford, later 2nd Baron Stafford, was twice defeated at elections in Staffordshire before achieving a knighthood for Shropshire, and George Blount suffered a less ignominious defeat in Shropshire in 1536. According to his mother this happened because the sheriff, Robert Needham, held the election as usual in Shrewsbury, which was gripped by plague, and because a riotous assembly led to the election of ‘one Trentham’, who is taken to be Richard Trentham of Shrewsbury, against the wishes of ‘the worshipful of the shire’. That there was an electoral contest in 1536 implies that the royal recommendation for the reelection of the previous Members did or could not apply to at least one of the Shropshire seats, perhaps because the vacancy arising from the death of George Blount’s father Sir John had not been filled or had been re-opened: although Sir William ‘Meryan’, Thomas Newport of High Ercall and John Talbot of Albrighton had been considered for it on Cromwell’s list of 1532-3, there is no trace of a by-election.8

At the Union of Wales with England three marcher lordships were annexed to Shropshire. In 1543 Abertanat was also transferred to it under the Act for Wales (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.26) and during Mary’s reign it obtained a private Act annexing Bucknell to the county (1 and 2 Phil. and Mary, no. 19). Shropshire was one of the counties included in the measures passed from 1532 onwards regulating the sale of wool and the building of new gaols.

Author: N. M. Fuidge

Notes

  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, x. 1063.
  • 2. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. J. Thirsk, Agrarian Hist. Eng. and Wales, 99-102; VCH Salop, i. 416-50; Fuller, Worthies (1840), iii. 53; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, v. 18; D. G. Hey, An Eng. Rural Community: Myddle under the Tudors and Stuarts, 49.
  • 5. B. L. Beer, Northumberland, 189-90; VCH Salop, ii. 2, 19-21.
  • 6. C219/18B/69, 18C/92, 92v, 94, 19/79, 80, 20/98, 98v, 99, 21/124, 125, 22/58, 59, 60, 23/105, 105v, 106, 24/130, 131, 25/86, 86v, 87.
  • 7. HP, ed. Wedgwood, 1439-1509 (Biogs.), 535; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. (ser. 4),