Worcestershire

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 GILBERT TALBOT
 JOHN RUSSELL I
1536(not known)
1539(SIR) JOHN RUSSELL 1
 JOHN PAKINGTON 2
1542SIR GILBERT TALBOT
 WILLIAM SHELDON 3
27 Dec. 1542THOMAS RUSSELL vice Talbot, deceased
1545(not known)
1547THOMAS RUSSELL 4
 WILLIAM SHELDON 5
1553 (Mar.)WALTER BLOUNT II
 FRANCIS SAVAGE
1553 (Oct.)(SIR) THOMAS RUSSELL
 JOHN LYTTELTON
1554 (Apr.)(SIR) JOHN BOURNE I
 WILLIAM SHELDON
1554 (Nov.)(SIR) JOHN BOURNE I
 WALTER BLOUNT II
1555(SIR) JOHN BOURNE I
 WILLIAM SHELDON
1558(SIR) JOHN BOURNE I
 SIR THOMAS BASKERVILLE

Main Article

Worcestershire fell within the jurisdiction of the council in the marches of Wales, but this met only rarely at Worcester and few Worcestershire men sat on it, although in 1553-5 the bishop of Worcester, Nicholas Heath, was lord president. The crown, the bishop and the duchy of Lancaster held land in the shire, the bishop’s property including Oswaldslow, the largest hundred, but there was no resident temporal peer. Some local families, notably those of Dudley, Lyttelton, Sheldon and Windsor, profited from the Dissolution.6

Leland remarked on the number of castles, some already ruinous, but others, such as Hartlebury where the bishops preferred to live, still in good repair. He listed as flourishing market centres the city of Worcester and the towns of Bromsgrove, Evesham, Kidderminster and Pershore, with Bewdley, ‘the sanctuary town’. The main artery was the river Severn, along which trade flowed to and from Bristol: in 1532 earlier statutes forbidding the taking of tolls along the Severn were re-enacted (23 Hen. VIII, c.12). The river also marked the boundary between two different types of farming; to the west and north, where most of the forestland remained, the country was predominantly pastoral and by the mid 16th century largely enclosed, while the remainder of the shire was more urbanized and largely arable, with an open-field system still prevailing, although the enclosures later to be a great grievance had already begun. Clothmaking flourished, and a number of statutes sought to regulate it: in 1534, following the growth of the industry in the countryside, it was enacted (25 Hen. VIII, c.18) that cloth might be made in the shire only at Worcester and four other towns; in the second Parliament of Edward VI the Act for the making of woollen cloth (5 and 6 Edw. VI, c.6) specified the length and weight of ‘long and short Worcesters’; and in 1558 a further general Act (4 and 5 Phil. and Mary, c.5) met the complaints of local clothiers by reducing the weight of ‘long Worcesters’. Other bills for cloth making in the county failed in 1542, 1547 and 1555. The sale of wool to Worcestershire clothiers was controlled by an Act of 1531 (22 Hen. VIII, c.1) which was renewed in 1545.7

The shire elections were held at Worcester castle by the sheriff of Worcestershire. Election indentures, all in Latin and several in poor condition, survive for the Parliament of 1542, the by-election of the same year, and all the Parliaments from March 1553 to 1558. The contracting parties are the sheriff and between about 20 and 50 named electors, to whom are sometimes addedet pluresalii oralii valentes. One or more knights, often (Sir) John or (Sir) Thomas Russell and (Sir) Robert Acton, head most of the lists, and members of the Sheldon family occur frequently, three of them in the by-election indenture of 27 Dec. 1542, where the names both of the knights of the shire and of the electors have been inserted in a hand different from the rest of the document. Most of the writs have the usual brief endorsement by the sheriff, and some endorsements include the names of the Members elected for the shire and for the city of Worcester. In March 1554, when the Worcester return is dated after that for the shire, no names for the city appear on the endorsement. The one for August 1553 designates two sureties; this was a declining custom found only here among the Worcestershire returns. From November 1554 Droitwich was represented, and the dorse of the writ for this Parliament states that the sheriff had sent a precept to the town.8

Until the Privy Councillor (Sir) John Bourne preempted the senior seat, there seems to have been an understanding that one knight should be chosen from the north of the county and the other from the south, although this pattern is confused by such families as the Russells and Talbots with estates in both. All of the known Members were appointed to the Worcestershire bench, some not until after their first election, and seven served as sheriff, Sir Thomas Baskerville being the only one to do so before his first election; John Pakington, a lawyer and a member of the council in the marches, was sheriff of Herefordshire when elected in 1539 and was pricked for Worcestershire in the following year. Sir John Russell’s second shrievalty precluded his election to the Parliament of 1542 but when the death of Sir Gilbert Talbot created a vacancy he chose, although by then eligible, to stand down in favour of his son; the sheriff at the by-election, Sir George Throckmorton, shared with the