Aldeburgh

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Elections

DateCandidate
1571ROGER WOODHOUSE
 ROBERT HIGFORD
1572FRANCIS BEAUMONT
 CHARLES SECKFORD
4 Nov. 1584PETER OSBORNE
 JOHN FOXE
1586PETER OSBORNE
 EDMUND BELL
6 Nov. 1588EDWARD COKE
 WILLIAM BENCE
1593THOMAS KNYVET II
 WILLIAM BENCE
22 Sept. 1597FRANCIS HARVEY II
 FRANCIS JOHNSON
2 Oct. 1601MARTIN STUTTEVILLE
 FRANCIS CORBET

Main Article

Aldeburgh was incorporated in 1547 and was governed by two bailiffs assisted by ‘the twelve’ and ‘the twenty-four’. The Duke of Norfolk was lord of the borough, and presumably it was he who secured its enfranchisement in 1571. Its right to return Members was challenged in the House and referred to the returns committee, 6 Apr. 1571.1 Parliamentary election indentures were made between the sheriff and the bailiffs, whose names were given on the returns.2

The Duke of Norfolk’s influence is obvious at the 1571 election, Roger Woodhouse being a Norfolk gentleman related to the Howards, and Robert Higford a household servant of the Duke. After 1571 the Howards may still have controlled at least one seat for a time, although Philip, Earl of Arundel, who seems, on coming of age in 1578, to have succeeded his father at Aldeburgh, was never as influential in East Anglia as Norfolk had been. In 1572, when Norfolk was in the Tower, Francis Beaumont, a Leicestershire lawyer, took the senior seat. His patron is not evident, but he was well connected, being a brother-in-law of the 3rd Lord Vaux, and may have been returned through Howard influence. Charles Seckford, the junior Member for 1572, was a courtier, related by marriage to the Howards, and he too may have owed his nomination to Howard influence, although it seems more likely that he relied on the local prestige of his uncle Thomas Seckford I, master of requests, whose estate at Woodbridge was about 15 miles from Aldeburgh.

After 1572 at least one seat went to a townsman or a local gentleman. Only one Member, however, Francis Harvey II, in 1597, appears to have been entirely unconnected with East Anglia: he was a Northamptonshire man, heir of a duchy of Lancaster official, and a barrister of the Middle Temple who later became a judge. Unless he held some legal office at Aldeburgh, he must presumably have relied on a court connexion for his seat. In most other cases local influence would have been sufficient to gain election. John Foxe (1584), William Bence (1593) and Francis Johnson (1597) were townsmen. Edward Coke was by 1589 holding legal offices in both Ipswich and Norwich, and may also have been of counsel to Aldeburgh: in any case he was married to Bridget Paston, of a well known East Anglian family, and had a house at Huntingfield, ten miles from Aldeburgh. It looks as though the Woodhouses of Kimberley, Norfolk, who provided one of the original Members in 1571, may have taken over some of the Howard patronage at Aldeburgh. Thomas Knyvet II (1593) and Francis Corbet (1601) were both related to this family, though Corbet, a Norfolk gentleman, possibly owed his election to Edward Coke, a close friend of his father Sir Miles Corbet. The return described Francis as ‘son of Sir Miles’.

Peter Osborne, the Exchequer official who represented the borough in 1584 and 1586, had earlier sat for Horsham, where the Duke of Norfolk must presumably have been his patron: however, he is not known to have had any connexion with the Howards, and it seems likely that Sir William Cecil had asked Norfolk for a nomination in 1563. On balance, Cecil was also probably responsible for Osborne’s return at Aldeburgh. In 1586 Osborne shared the Aldeburgh representation with Edmund Bell, a Norfolk gentleman who may already have been his son-in-law, and whose father,