Warwickshire

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 GEORGE THROCKMORTON
 SIR EDWARD FERRERS
 (aft. 29 Aug. 1535 not known)
1536(not known)
1539RICHARD CATESBY 1
 JOHN GREVILLE 2
1542(not known)
1545SIR FULKE GREVILLE
 SIR MARMADUKE CONSTABLE II
1547SIR FULKE GREVILLE
 ROBERT BURDETT
by 23 Jan. 1552SIR MARMADUKE CONSTABLE II vice Burdett, deceased3
1553 (Mar.)(SIR) RICHARD CATESBY
 (aft. 8 Mar. 1553 not known)
 ROBERT THROCKMORTON
1553 (Oct.)ROBERT THROCKMORTON
 THOMAS MARROW
1554 (Apr.)(SIR) WILLIAM WIGSTON
 SIR FULKE GREVILLE
1554 (Nov.)SIR FULKE GREVILLE
 (SIR) WILLIAM WIGSTON
1555(SIR) ROBERT THROCKMORTON
 (SIR) WILLIAM WIGSTON
1558SIR AMBROSE CAVE
 THOMAS THROCKMORTON

Main Article

In marked contrast to its importance during the Wars of the Roses, Warwickshire under the Tudors was little concerned with national politics. John Dudley’s creation as Earl of Warwick in 1547 gave him no outstanding influence in the shire, and his attempt to have Jane Grey proclaimed Queen at Coventry was unsuccessful, the mainly Catholic and conservative gentry being strongly pro-Marian, although one of the knights, Thomas Marrow, was to oppose the initial measures towards the reunion with Rome in Mary’s first Parliament. Agrarian riots in 1548, directed largely against the new parks enclosed by leading families, were the only serious local disturbances between 1509 and 1558.4

Divided between the Arden or woodland in the north and the smaller Felden, the agricultural and pastoral district of the south, the shire suffered from the lack of navigable rivers and good roads. There were many quarries for the local red sandstone; some families, notably the Constables at Nuneaton, had coalmining interests; iron was worked at Coventry; and by Henry VIII’s reign Birmingham was already known for its smiths and cutlers. The leather and cloth trades had flourished in the middle ages, but the manufacture of friezes and other woollen cloth later declined, although it recovered to some extent under Elizabeth. Farming provided so many people with a livelihood that there was understandable hostility to enclosure, a movement already evident at the time of the commission of 1517 and intensified after the dissolution of the monasteries. It is said that by 1547 Warwickshire had more parkland in proportion to its size than any other English county.5

At least from 1547 the election of knights of the shire was a predominantly local affair, involving no resident noblemen or influential politicians. The 3rd Marquess of Dorset, who came to own 12 manors in the county, made an unsuccessful bid to secure the election of his servant Robert Burdett either to the Parliament of 1542 or to its successor: on the first occasion the names of the Warwickshire knights are unknown but Burdett was returned for Leicester, and on the second he was elected for Leicestershire. Burdett, his fellow-knight for Leicestershire Sir Ambrose Cave (re-elected there to the two Parliaments of Edward VI’s reign) and William Wigston, a Member for Leicester in 1539, were the only Warwickshire knights to sit outside that county, and Thomas Throckmorton (returned for Warwick to Elizabeth’s first Parliament) the only one to sit for a borough within it. Dorset may also have had a hand in the earlier returns of Fulke Greville, his kinsman by marriage, but his influence did not compare with his role in Leicestershire, where lay his main seat of Bradgate; while the other two noble houses with Warwickshire interests, the Clintons and the Dudleys (of the Sutton branch) owned little land there and do not appear to have intervened in elections. Between 1536 and 1540 Thomas Cromwell acquired much monastic property in the shire, some of which later came to John Dudley, Earl of Warwick. It was, however, the gentry who wielded the greatest influence, especially the families of Constable, Greville and Throckmorton, and later Cave and Wigston; between them they furnished one knight of the shire in every Parliament for which names are known, while on each occasion the second knight was related to one or more of them. Of the 12 men who thus represented the shire not more than four were at any time courtiers: Sir George Throckmorton, Sir Edward Ferrers, John Greville (in the household of Princess Mary) and Sir Marmaduke Constable; and only (Sir) William Wigston held office in the central government. Except for Thomas Throckmorton, then in his early twenties, all were on the Warwickshire bench when first elected and five, Sir George Throckmorton, Ferrers, Sir Fulke Greville, Wigston and Cave, had served as sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire; two more, Richard Catesby and Robert Throckmorton, did so before their last election. Ferrers, after two terms as sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire, was sheriff of Worcestershire in 1529. He died in 1535 and a by-election was in preparation before the last session of the Parliament, for Roger Wigston wrote to Cromwell on 21 Sept. 1535 that ‘secret labour is made among the freeholders against the coming down of the King’s writ’: of the by-election itself, however, there is no trace.6

Indentures survive for all elections from 1545 to 1558. Written in Latin and sealed in the county court at Warwick, they give the names of between 14 and 50 electors. After 1547, when Sir George Throckmorton, (Sir) Richard Catesby and Sir John Greville all attended the sealing, no knights are listed as electors, perhaps because, the Members being already agreed upon, there was no call for such bigwigs to be present. On several indentures a number of electors (in 1547 as many as 20) are merely called freeholders; that of 1555 is exceptional in having the last five styled yeomen.7

Warwickshire was one of a number of counties included in the Act of 1532 for the rebuilding of gaols (23 Hen. VIII, c.2), which was repeatedly renewed throughout the period.

Author: N. M. Fuidge

Notes

  • 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2]; Dugdale, Warws. ii. 789-90.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Hatfield 207.
  • 4. VCH Warws. ii. 159-60, 441-3.
  • 5. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, ii. 96; v. 11; Camden, Britannia (1806), ii. 443; VCH Warws. ii. 137-8, 159-60, 171, 194-6, 217-20, 251-65, 269.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, vii. 1178.
  • 7. C219/18C/123, 19/113, 20/137, 21/161, 22/87, 23/133, 24/168, 25/119.

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