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


aft. 1532?WALTER CHANDLER vice Coke, deceased1
 (not known)
 (not known)
1545(not known)

Main Article

By 1509 Winchester had been in decline for two centuries. Leland remarked on the number of old buildings in the city, with its many churches and hospitals, and the ancient walls, and Winchester was included in the Act for urban renewal of 1540 (32 Hen. VIII, c.18). A petition of 1450 claiming that over 900 houses had fallen down was probably exaggerated, but in 1524 the city had only 329 taxpayers with another 266 or more in the suburbs. The main reason for the deterioration appears to have been the gradual removal and decline of the cloth industry; there were few clothiers left at Winchester by the 16th century, and the serges and other new cloths which superseded the old broadcloths and kerseys elsewhere in Hampshire were never taken up in the city on a large scale. In 1516 the mayor and commonalty 15 to 20 petitioned Bishop Fox to obtain permission for them to have the mayor sworn at Winchester rather than before the barons of the Exchequer, a process which the ‘decaying and desolation’ of the city made prohibitively expensive. The annual fee-farm to the crown, fixed in the reign of John at over £140, had been gradually reduced and by 1509 stood at 100 marks. When Edward VI visited Winchester in 1552 he promised to halve the amount, but he died before the grant had passed the great seal and it was left for Mary, who favoured the city and was married there in 1554, to implement it. She also agreed to hand over to the local authorities certain houses and rents in the crown’s hands since the suppression of Hyde abbey and other religious houses, and to halve the custom duties on cloth made in Winchester and shipped from Southampton.8

Winchester’s early medieval charters were granted either to the ‘citizens ... of the guild of merchants’ or to the citizens at large, but by the 16th century the guild merchant was synonymous with the ‘commonalty’ of freemen, which in the 1550s numbered about 45. At the Michaelmas meeting of the burghmote (there was at least one other during the year) the mayor and two bailiffs were elected; in practice the bailiffs generally served for two years, sometimes consecutively, as ‘low’ and then ‘high’ bailiff. Other civic officials were four—later six—aldermen and a group of ‘assistants’ to the mayor, known as the Twenty-Four but usually more numerous than that, who acted in a purely advisory capacity. From at least the early 15th century there was a recorder with some legal duties, whose deputy was the town clerk or keeper of the city records. No high steward was appointed until 1582, but Sir William Paulet had some influence in the borough: in 1551, the year in which he was created Marquess of Winchester, the crown allowed him an annuity from the fee-farm, and he helped to restore the city walls, said in 1564 to have been ‘newly repaired’ at his ‘cost and charges’. In 1555 he asked the mayor and commonalty, then attempting to revive the declining cloth industry, to admit to the freedom of the city one Edward Gascoyne, who was already setting a number of poor people to work in clothmaking.9

As the ancient capital of England and a cathedral city with several neighbouring monasteries—the most important being St. Swithin’s (the cathedral priory) and Hyde abbey—Winchester retained strong royal and ecclesiastical connexions. A succession of visits, from Henry VIII’s and the Emperor Charles V’s in 1522 to Mary’s wedding in 1554, must have severely strained local finances. Since the suburbs of Winchester lay within the bishop’s soke there were occasional administrative and legal conflicts, but the chronic disputes of previous centuries caused by the bishop’s jurisdiction over the city during St. Giles’s fair each year had partially died down. In 1535, however, the civic authorities renewed their request for exemption from the bishop’s pavilion court at the fair, and also petitioned for the removal of his mills and weirs from the river Itchen. Cromwell granted both requests but was overruled by Gardiner, and it was not until Gardiner’s fall in 1551 (when two future Members for the city, William Lawrence and Giles White, testified in his favour) that the city received its exemption from the pavilion court.10

Parliamentary elections were carried out, according to the surviving returns (in English after 1547), with the ‘one’ or ‘unanimous’ consent of the mayor, bailiffs and commonalty, acting ‘by authority of a precept’ received from the sheriff of Hampshire, the other party to the indenture. The only names of voters given are those of the mayor and bailiffs, and there is no indication of how many citizens took part. Winchester paid at least some of its Members, although at what rate is not clear; early in Elizabeth’s reign the amount paid was apparently 1s.6d. a day, 6d. below the statutory requirement. The accounts of St. John’s hospital, Winchester, for 1535-6 show payments of £4 to William Hawles and of £9 to Walter Chandler for their expenses in Parliament: the accounting period covers both the last session of the Parliament of 1529 and its successor of July 1536, but the sums paid suggest that Hawles and Chandler had been returned to both, Chandler as a replacement for Coke in the first of them, and that Winchester thus complied with the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members in 1536. Coke had seemingly died in 1530 but his place had not been filled when Cromwell compiled a list of vacancies late in 1532 or early in 1533, noting that Winchester was at ‘the King’s pleasure’. Chandler also received payment for the Parliament of 1542, and he may have sat in the intervening Parliament of 1539 and the following one of 1545. Hawles, as recorder, and Coke, as town clerk, may likewise have sat in one or more Parliaments before 1529.11

Eight of the ten Members whose names are known were townsmen and most of them also held office under the bishop. The two outsiders, William Honing and John Foster (whose father, however, held property in the city), were returned to Edward VI’s first Parliament when Bishop Gardiner was in disgrace and about to be imprisoned. Honing, clerk of the signet and of the Privy Council, was a kinsman of Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, himself out of favour and no longer chancellor but still a leading figure in Hampshire; Foster was married to a cousin of the Protector Somerset, whose younger brother Sir Henry Seymour was one of the knights for Hampshire in this Parliament. Richard Bethell, the senior Member returned early in 1553, was the serving mayor and his election set the pattern for the remaining Parliaments of the period in each of which the senior Member was the mayor and the junior an ex-mayor. William Lawrence, Bethell’s fellow in both the Parliaments of 1553, sat in eight successive Parliaments. An unsuccessful bill for the city of Winchester was introduced during the first session of the Parliament of 1547. Winchester was allowed three taverns under the Licensing Act of 1553 (7 Edw. VI, c.5), the same number as Southampton.12

Authors: N. M. Fuidge / A. B. Rosen


  • 1. Hants RO, Winchester St John's hosp. accts. 27-28 Hen VIII.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Hants RO, Winchester chamberlains' accts.
  • 5. Ibid. 35-36 Hen. VIII.
  • 6. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 269-71, 279; Archaeologia, i. 91-95; E179/173/172, 174/287; Stowe 846, f. 163v; VCH Hants, v. 23-24; C. Bailey, Transcripts of Municipal Archs. Winchester, 84-85; CPR, 1554-5, pp. 186-7, 200.
  • 9. Black Bk. of Winchester, ed. Bird, 42, 108, 119, 188-9; J. S. Furley, City Govt. Winchester, 67-69; Hants RO, Winchester 1st bk. ordinances, f. 221; CPR, 1550-3, p. 138; VCH Hants, v. 5, 42.
  • 10. CSP Ven. 1520-6, p. 250; LP Hen. VIII, x; Procs. Hants Field Club, xiv. 46-62; Furley, 88-90; HMC 6th Rep. 603-4; SP1/105, ff. 264-5; Strype, Eccles. Memorials, ii(1), 485.
  • 11. C219/19/87, 20/108, 21/139, 22/74, 24/137; LP Hen. VIII, vii. 56 citing SP 1/82, ff. 59-62.
  • 12. CJ, i. 2, 3.