Wiltshire

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 EDWARD DARRELL
 SIR EDWARD BAYNTON
1532/33?SIR HENRY LONG vice Darrell, deceased1
1536(not known)
1539SIR EDWARD BAYNTON 2
 ROBERT LONG 3
1542(not known)
1545SIR THOMAS SEYMOUR II
 (SIR) WILLIAM HERBERT I
1547(SIR) WILLIAM HERBERT I
 SIR WILLIAM WROUGHTON 4
19 Jan. 1552(SIR) WILLIAM SHARINGTON vice Herbert, summoned to the Lords
1553 (Mar.)(not known)
 SIR JAMES STUMPE 5
1553 (Oct.)SIR EDWARD WALDEGRAVE 6
 SIR HENRY LONG 7
1554 (Apr.)SIR WILLIAM WROUGHTON
 SIR JOHN MARVYN
1554 (Nov)SIR WALTER HUNGERFORD 8
 CHRISTOPHER WILLOUGHBY 9
1555HENRY BODENHAM
 WILLIAM BASELEY
1558GEORGE PENRUDDOCK
 NICHOLAS SNELL

Main Article

In the early 16th century Wiltshire was one of the chief industrial centres of England, with a flourishing cloth trade, mainly in the west of the shire but extending south-east to Salisbury and Wilton. Two important statutes, one in 1552 fixing the size and weight of Wiltshire cloth (5 and 6 Edw. VI, c.6 amended in 1558), and the Weavers’ Act of 1555 (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c.11), attempting to encourage the industry in corporate and market towns and to maintain old standards of apprenticeship, reflect the problems and impending decline of the great urban clothiers of the county. North Wiltshire, the famous cheese country, and the extreme south-west, well known for its butter, were devoted almost entirely to dairy farming and enclosure had already begun there; by contrast the chalk downland of the middle and south remained largely unenclosed and given over to sheep pasture and arable. In general the Wiltshire enclosures, although there was a rising against them in 1549, seem to have been relatively amicable. A considerable acreage of the county fell within royal forests, notably Savernake and Clarendon in the east.10

Before the Dissolution the Hastings, Hungerford, Stourton, West and Willoughby de Broke families were the largest landowners, but Herberts and Seymours then became dominant until 1550, when Sir William Herbert, who had shrewdly changed his allegiance from the Protector Somerset to the Earl of Warwick, became lord lieutenant of Wiltshire and 1st Earl of Pembroke and thus the leading magnate. Unlike their precursors, the Herberts and Seymours exercised considerable parliamentary patronage, the only other important patron being the bishop of Winchester, who owned the boroughs of Downton and Hindon.

With the city of Salisbury and 15 boroughs, Wiltshire returned more Members than any other shire, and the local gentry were already encroaching on borough seats. Bayntons, Hungerfords, Longs, Marvyns, Penruddocks and Thynnes were the most active parliamentary families in the 16th century, and most of them became for a time clients of either Herbert or Seymour: on occasion this might lead to a contest over the election of knights of the shire, the most celebrated being the dispute in 1359 between George Penruddock and Sir John Thynne. But in general the local families which could aspire to a seat seem to have reached agreement in the matter of rotation. As the 2nd Earl of Pembroke was to write in Elizabeth’s reign:

I would have all gentlemen to have their due reserved unto them, which is from time to time as Parliaments fall out to be chosen: now some, and then some, as they are fit, to the end they may be experimented in the affairs and state of their country.

Of the 17 knights of the shire only four are known to have sat more than once for the county (including Penruddock who achieved his second return in 1572), although Sir Henry Long had almost certainly been by-elected there after the death of his uncle Sir Edward Darrell in 1532, some 20 years before his next return; his name appears for Wiltshire on Cromwell’s list of vacancies of 1532-3, and another of the minister’s lists shows him to have been a Member by the spring of 1533. Thirteen of the knights sat elsewhere, 11 for Wiltshire boroughs.11

The period saw a decrease in the number of courtiers or officials of the central government elected for the shire. Until Mary’s reign every knight except Robert Long was in the service of the crown—if two (Sir William Wroughton and Sir James Stumpe) whose only such office was in the administration of forests or parks in Wiltshire are included. From April 1554 to 1558, however, only Wroughton and Sir Walter Hungerford had any known court connexions, and in 1558 the two knights, although like all the other Members (except perhaps Sir Edward Waldegrave) they owned land in Wiltshire, undoubtedly gained election as servants of the 1st Earl of Pembroke. The more important families representing the county between 1529 and 1558 belonged to two related groups, one (which included Sir Thomas Seymour and Sir William Herbert) comprising Darrell, Hungerford, the two Longs and Sir John Marvyn, while the other was made up of Sir Edward Baynton, Sir William Sharington and Stumpe; by marrying the widow of Stumpe’s father, William Baseley also joined this group. The majority lived in the north or centre of the county; almost all the exceptions (in every case Marian Members) were connected in some way with the 1st Earl of Pembroke, whose main estates centred on Wilton.

Elections were held in the county court at Wilton, a convenient centre for the Herbert interest. Only five indentures (all in Latin) survive, those for 1545, the by-election of January 1552, February 1553, 1555 and 1558. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Wiltshire and between ten and 39 electors with others ‘commorant and resident’. Several knights were present in 1545, and in 1555 the 12 electors named, including the mayor of Wilton, were headed by S