Winchelsea

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
1510THOMAS ASHBURNHAM 1
 ROBERT SPARROW 2
1512?JOHN ASHBURNHAM I 3
 ?ROBERT SPARROW 4
1515?JOHN ASHBURNHAM I 5
 ?ROBERT SPARROW 6
1523THOMAS ASHBURNHAM 7
 (aft. 27 June 1523 not known)
 ROBERT SPARROW 8
1529THOMAS ENSING
 GEORGE LOWYS
1536?THOMAS ENSING
 ?GEORGE LOWYS
1539(not known)
1542JOHN BELL II
 PHILIP CHUTE 9
1545PHILIP CHUTE 10
 THOMAS HYNXSTEND 11
 (aft. 10 Dec. 1545 not known)
1547JOHN ROWLAND 12
 (aft. 29 Dec. 1549 not known)
 JOHN MORE 13
1553 (Mar.)WILLIAM EGLESTON 14
 MICHAEL BLOUNT 15
1553 (Oct.)(SIR) HENRY CRISPE 16
 WILLIAM ROPER 17
1554 (Apr.)CYRIAK PETYT
 JOSEPH BEVERLEY
1554 (Nov.)WILLIAM EGLESTON
 JOHN CHEYNE II
1555THOMAS SMITH II
 JOHN PEYTON
1558SIR GEORGE HOWARD
 JOHN FOWLER

Main Article

By the 16th century Winchelsea was the least important of the Cinque Ports. Originally a member or ‘limb’ of Hastings, it had achieved, like Rye, the status of an ‘ancient town’ with the standing of a ‘head port’, but the silting up of its harbour had ruined its trade. Although an Act of 1549 for the towns of Rye and Winchelsea (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.30) forbade the dumping of ballast in the Camber, only Rye profited even temporarily, since the creeks leading to Winchelsea were already almost blocked.18

Winchelsea was held of the crown from its surrender by the abbey of Fécamp in the first half of the 13th century and was governed largely by a crown bailiff, but in 1506 the bailiwick and the manor of Higham or Iham (in which the liberty of the town lay) were granted to Sir Richard Guildford in tail male and they remained in Guildford hands until 1663. Sir Richard’s eldest son Sir Edward Guildford was also lord warden of the Cinque Ports from 1521 to 1534. The town had charters dating back at least to the reign of Henry II and there was an elected governing body headed by a mayor and about 12 jurats. Parliamentary elections were carried out by the freemen in the hundred court.19

Despite the ordinance of the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports restricting Membership to jurats, bailiffs or mayors, only nine of Winchelsea’s 20 known Members were jurats and only one of them, William Egleston, was returned after 1547. Six of the jurats also served as mayor, five of them being in office at their election or during their Membership. One, John Ashburnham, was not made a jurat until the prorogation of 1515, possibly during his second Parliament: he may have owed his return to his father Thomas Ashburnham but he was also one of several Members engaged in customs administration at Chichester (with jurisdiction over Winchelsea). The first two outsiders returned, John Rowland and John More, were customs officials and may have been nominated by the Protector Somerset, who as treasurer was head of the customs administration. Philip Chute’s appointment in the customs following the death of Rowland in 1549 raises the possibility that he also replaced him in Parliament, but no by-election is recorded.20

John Ashburnham’s return with Robert Sparrow is known from a list of Members for the Cinque Ports compiled in the 17th century: it is dated only ‘Henry VIII’ but since the Members for Winchelsea are known for the other Parliaments which met before their death they can only have sat together in 1512 or 1515 and are likely to have done so on both occasions in view of Henry VIII’s request for the re-election in 1515 of the previous Members. Winchelsea probably complied with the similar recommendation of 1536; where the Members for other Cinque Ports are known in this Parliament they are those who had sat previously.

Sir Edward Guildford may have exercised influence in the earlier Parliaments of the period, either as lord warden or bailiff, although those returned were otherwise qualified, but when his nephew Sir John Guildford procured his own election to Mary’s first Parliament together with the jurat Egleston it seems to have been set aside through the arbitrary interference of Sir Thomas Cheyne as lord warden. Cheyne obtained almost complete control of the port’s representation during Mary’s reign, being granted both nominations to the Parliament of April 1554, one to that of November 1554 and both again to that of 1558: there is no direct evidence concerning the Parliament of 1555 but one Member, John Peyton, had been nominated by Cheyne at Hastings for the previous Parliament and the other, Thomas Smith, was probably the future ‘Customer Smith’ and already possessed of a house at Westenhanger, Kent, wher