Stamford

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Elections

DateCandidate
1510DAVID CECIL 1
 FRANCIS BROWNE 2
1512DAVID CECIL 3
 WILLIAM HUSSEY I 4
1515DAVID CECIL 5
 GEORGE KIRKHAM 6
1523DAVID CECIL 7
 MAURICE JOHNSON 8
1529JOHN HARDGRAVE
 MAURICE JOHNSON
1536HENRY LACY 9
 MAURICE JOHNSON 10
1539RICHARD CECIL 11
 KENELM DIGBY 12
1542HENRY LACY 13
 JOHN ALLEN 14
1545HENRY LACY
 LEONARD IRBY
1547WILLIAM CECIL
 JOHN ALLEN
1553 (Mar.)RICHARD COOKE
 ROBERT LACY
1553 (Oct.)THOMAS HENEAGE
 JOHN ALLEN
1554 (Apr.)JOHN ALLEN
 ROLAND DURRANT
1554 (Nov.)JOHN FENTON
 HENRY LEE
1555FRANCIS YAXLEY
 FRANCIS THORNEFF
1558FRANCIS THORNEFF
 JOHN HOUGHTON

Main Article

Like other market towns in Lincolnshire, Stamford suffered from the decline of the wool trade and in 1542 it was included in an Act (33 Hen. VIII, c.36) for decayed towns. The castle, manor and town belonged to the crown as part of the duchy of York, and formed part of the jointure of each of Henry VIII’s consorts. In 1462 the borough had been incorporated as the alderman and burgesses. Edward IV granted a second charter in 1481 modifying and extending the earlier one. Three years later Richard III confirmed the charter of 1481 and in 1510 Henry VIII confirmed both. During the 16th century the alderman was assisted by 12 comburgesses more usually known as the first Twelve, 12 capital burgesses known as the second Twelve, a town clerk, several municipal officers and a recorder. The proceedings of the alderman’s council were recorded in a minute book kept by the town clerk. Alongside the borough organization the manorial courts continued to function under the steward of the royal manor. Sir John Hussey, later Lord Hussey, who held this office at the beginning of Henry VIII’s reign, was succeeded in 1537 by Thomas Maynard; later stewards were John Harington I, Sir John Russell, Edward Griffin and Edward Fiennes, 9th Lord Clinton.15

Henry VIII visited Stamford in 1532, when the borough presented him with £20, and in 1541 on his way to York. On the second occasion a dispute broke out about rights and privileges, and the King left almost immediately for the Duke of Suffolk’s house at Grimsthorpe. The duke, the greatest landowner in Lincolnshire, had recently been granted the site of the Greyfriars in the town; other recipients of monastic property there were Lord Clinton and the Cecil family. The corporation successfully petitioned Edward VI for various former guild properties, receiving them under a grant made by letters patent in 1549. At the Parliament of 1547 Stamford obtained two Acts, one (2 and 3 Edw. VI, no.50) to reduce the number of parishes and the other (2 and 3 Edw. VI, no.60) to re-establish its grammar school. Another measure for the town passed both Houses in 1555 but did not receive the royal assent.16

On the delivery of a precept from the sheriff of Lincolnshire elections were held under the direction of the alderman. Indentures survive for the last eight Parliaments of the period save that of March 1553. These are in Latin and give the contracting parties as the sheriff and the alderman and burgesses, whose subscriptions vary in number between 24 and 50. The indenture for the autumn of 1554 was written on the back of the royal letter asking for the return of townsmen of the ‘Catholic sort’. The names of the Members of the Parliaments of 1547 and November 1554 are also given on the dorse of the precept; at other times they are found on the sheriff’s schedule or included in the county’s election indenture. On 5 Nov. 1554 the sheriff noted on the dorse of the county writ that Stamford had not returned, yet the indenture for the borough is dated two days before. In 1558, when the Stamford indenture was again late, the names of Members were added at the foot of the sheriff’s schedule in different ink, although probably in the same hand as the rest of the document.17

The town’s choice of Members was largely determined for it by successive stewards of the manor or by the Cecil family. David Cecil was elected five times running between 1504 and 1523, his son Richard once and his grandson William twice, although the last-named was replaced on the second occasion by Thomas Heneage before the Parliament opened. Besides the Cecils, eight Members were natives or residents of Stamford. John Allen, John Fenton, John Hardgrave, John Houghton, Maurice Johnson, Henry Lacy, Henry Lee and Francis Thorneff were all prominent in the town, and Henry Lacy’s son Robert was its clerk of the peace; Thorneff also held a minor household post. As deputy steward of the manor Henry Lacy was especially well placed: he and his son-in-law Maurice Johnson each sat three times, in 1536 together, and his son Robert once. Lacy’s thrustfulness may account for Stamford’s failure to comply fully with the King’s request of 1536 for the reelection of the previous Members, although the town had reacted similarly in 1515 by not re-electing William Hussey. When early in 1553 the younger Lacy’s return was jeopardized by Lord Clinton’s nomination of another, his father asked Sir William Cecil to intervene with the steward. Allen sat four times and Houghton, who married Allen’s widow, twice; Thorneff sat twice in Mary’s reign and, after a break of five years, for a third time under Elizabeth. Nearly all the non-townsmen came from the neighbourhood, but Richard Cooke and Francis Yaxley were from East Anglia; Cooke owed his return in 1553 to the withdrawal of his father Sir Anthony, whom the town had elected at Sir William Cecil’s request.

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard

Notes

  • 1. Stamford hall bk. 1461-1657, f. 88.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid. f. 91.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid. f. 96v.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid. f. 106.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid. f. 125.