Westminster

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
1545ROBERT SMALLWOOD
 JOHN RUSSELL II
1547(SIR) GEORGE BLAGGE
 JOHN REDE I
by 23 Jan. 1552ROBERT NOWELL vice Blagge, deceased1
1553 (Mar.)(SIR) ROBERT SOUTHWELL
 ARTHUR STOURTON
1553 (Oct.)ROBERT SMALLWOOD
 WILLIAM GYES
1554 (Apr.)WILLIAM GYES
 RICHARD HODGES
1554 (Nov.)WILLIAM JENNINGS
 WILLIAM GYES
1555ARTHUR STOURTON
 RICHARD HODGES
1558NICHOLAS NEWDIGATE
 JOHN BEST II

Main Article

Westminster was given the status of a city by the letters patent of December 1540 which reconstituted the former abbey as a cathedral, but neither then nor later was it incorporated. Between 1540 and 1550 the bishop exercised the powers, including the right to appoint a steward (otherwise under steward) of Westminster, which earlier had been vested in the abbey, and after the suppression of the bishopric these were transferred to the dean and chapter of the collegiate church set up by Edward VI. In January 1555 Mary made Sir Robert Rochester bailiff, steward, escheator and coroner of the city and its liberties under the term of the Act of 1540 (32 Hen. VIII, c.20) which vested in the crown the franchises previously held by the monasteries, together with the right to appoint officers to them. The dean and chapter were unable to challenge the Queen’s right to make this appointment, but after the refoundation of the abbey and the restoration of its privileges in 1556 the abbot granted the reversion of the stewardship to John Throckmorton I. On Rochester’s death a year later Throckmorton succeeded to the post which he held until his own death in 1580. (Sir) Anthony Denny, keeper of Westminster palace, received from the bishopric a fee of 53s.4d. as high steward of Westminster during 1548-9: Denny died in September 1549 but no replacement for him seems to have been named until 1561 when Sir William Cecil was appointed. The bailiffs of the liberty were men of less eminence than the stewards or high stewards of the city but it was they who after the enfranchisement acted as the returning officer: between 1540 and the refoundation of the abbey they were presumably chosen either by the crown or the bishop and after 1556 by the abbot.2

Since no instrument granting Westminster the right to return Members is known, and the earliest election indentures are lost, it cannot be said in which Parliament the city was first represented. Thomas Cromwell as steward to the abbey could have promoted the enfranchisement before his downfall, but the initiative is more likely to have come from either Bishop Thirlby or Henry VIII’s favourite Sir Anthony Denny. The bishop received a writ of summons to the Lords in the Parliament of 1542 but the first known Members were returned to the next Parliament, the last of the reign, when their names were included on the back of the writ for Middlesex and on the indenture for the county electi