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


1536(not known)
1539(not known)
by 23 Jan. 1552(SIR) ROBERT BOWES vice Brandon, deceased2
1553 (Mar.)(not known)
1554 (Nov.)THOMAS PERCY 3
1555(not known)

Main Article

Almost alone among English counties during this period, Westmoreland returned a number of knights of the shire with no known residence or office in the county, which reflects both its poverty and its remoteness from London. Leland listed only five ‘gentlemen of name’, Lowther, Musgrave, Salkeld, Sandford and Wharton, and there can have been relatively few substantial freeholders. The tenant farmers raised sheep and some cattle, with a little corn in the valleys, but the coal, lead, slate and marble found in some districts could not be marketed at any distance because of poor communications. The north or ‘bottom’, later to be more generally known as the honor or barony of Westmorland or barony of Appleby, had since the 13th century been controlled by the house of Clifford, raised in 1525 to the earldom of Cumberland. Its members were hereditary sheriffs ‘of Westmorland’, with a jurisdiction which they and, in general, the central government took to cover the whole shire, although it was from time to time challenged by leading families from the southern division, the barony of Kendal. In 1539 Henry VIII raised Sir William Parr of Kendal to the barony of Parr, and four years later, when he had become the King’s brother-in-law, to the earldom of Essex; but it was only while his sister remained Queen Consort that Parr presented any challenge to the Cliffords, whose military prowess and marital links with the Nevilles and Percys strengthened their hold on the west marches. When Parr, by then Marquess of Northampton, was attainted in August 1553 the barony of Kendal fell to the crown. There were four high constables in the shire, each administering one of the two wards into which both baronies were divided.5

Election indentures, all in Latin and several in poor condition, survive for the Parliaments of 1542, 1545, October 1553 and 1558. The elections were held at Appleby castle and according to two of the indentures they took place at about nine o’clock in the morning. The contracting parties are the Earl of Cumberland as sheriff and between four and 25 electors, with the consent of others unnamed. Thomas Blenkinsop and Thomas Fallowfield appear most frequently among the electors; others include Sir John Lowther, Thomas Sandford and several members of the Warcop family. The first Marian indenture bears at the foot the signatures of nearly all the named electors; there is one cross in place of a name, unusual on a shire return but perhaps not surprising in so backward a county. The and Earl of Cumberland, or someone empowered to affix his name, endorsed two of the four surviving writs, for December 1544 and August 1553. In 1539 the 3rd Duke of Norfolk assured Cromwell that as commander in the north he had arranged for the return of men amenable to the King, but in the absence of indentures for the county and for Appleby their names are not known.6

Five of the 12 known knights came of Westmorland families, but only one of them, Sir James Leyburn, had his main residence in the barony of Kendal: a kinsman of the Parrs, he was first returned at a time when the Earl of Cumberland’s influence had been weakened by conflict with his tenants. The other four, Blenkinsop, Fallowfield, Sir William Musgrave and Thomas Warcop, were Clifford followers, although Musgrave and Warcop (who was to sit for Westmorland in at least ten Parliaments between 1547 and 1589) also looked to the crown for advancement, belonging as they did to that group of border gentry which, with the support of the crown, was challenging the dominance of the noble houses. The Cliffords were the least affected of the great border families by this aspect of Tudor policy, and there is nothing to show that either Musgrave or Warcop suffered from divided loyalty. Four of the knights were seated in other northern counties, Sir Ingram Clifford, Sir Charles Brandon and (Sir) Robert Bowes in Yorkshire, and Thomas Percy in Northumberland: all save Bowes, a leading royal servant in the north, were related to the Cliffords. Of the three southerners, Nicholas Bacon, a rising lawyer of Suffolk birth, had probably come in with the help of the Earl of Cumberland; Anthony Kempe of Sussex was shortly to marry a granddaughter of the 1st Earl of Cumberland; and Thomas Sackville, likewise of Sussex, was related to the 2nd Earl’s second wife Anne Dacre. (The doubt whether one Thomas ‘Salkeld’ was not Westmorland’s first choice probable arose from the confusion of this familiar name, which Leland spells ‘Sawkille’, with the novel one Sackville.)

When elected Sackville was probably a student at the Inner Temple, and Bowes had trained at Lincoln’s Inn, but unless Nicholas Hare, the Speaker, was returned for Westmorland in 1539, Bacon was the only practising lawyer to sit for the county. At least half the knights had seen military service against the Scots or in France, and several held office in the marches, but only Bowes and Leyburn were on the Westmorland commission of the peace. Blenkinsop was under sheriff by 1529 and may have officiated at his own election.

Under two Acts (25 Hen. VIII, c.17 and 33 Hen. VIII, c.6) controlling the possession of firearms the inhabitants of Westmorland and other border counties were allowed to keep crossbows and handguns for use against the Scots. A proviso in the Act for weavers (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c. 11) exempted men in the area from compliance with the new regulations introduced in the measure.

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. The christian name is missing from the return (C219/18B/105) but there can be no doubt of the Member's identity
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, iv. 32; v. 146; Nicolson and Burn, Westmld. and Cumb. i. 2-21, 265-8, 272-4, 289; Fleming, Westmld. 2-4, 25, 31; Ferguson, Westmld. 3, 29, 95n, 114-21, 194, 197, 200-3.
  • 6. C219/18B/104, 105, 18C/129, 130, 19/116, 117, 21/163, 164, 25/28; LP Hen. VIII, x. 816 citing Cott. Calig. B6, f. 319.