Eye

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
1571RICHARD BEDELL
 CHARLES CUTTER I
1572CHARLES CALTHROPE
 CHARLES CUTLER
10 Nov. 1584BASSINGBOURNE GAWDY I
 GEORGE BROOKE
1 Oct. 1586BARTHOLOMEW KEMP
 THOMAS BEDINGFIELD
22 Oct. 1588EDWARD GRIMSTON
 EDMUND BACON
1593EDWARD HONING
 PHILIP GAWDY
17 Sept. 1597ANTHONY GAWDY
 EDWARD HONING
1601EDWARD HONING
 ANTHONY GAWDY

Main Article

The borough was included in the royal honour of Eye, where in Elizabeth’s reign the Crown still appointed the keeper, or constable, of the castle. The government of the borough was confirmed by a charter of 1559, but partly owing to overlapping jurisdictions, disputes broke out, and following a Star Chamber case, ordinances for ‘better government’ were drawn up in 1565. Confirmed by a new charter ten years later, these described the governing body as 12 principal burgesses, including the two bailiffs, and 24 common councilmen. The charter contained a clause granting the bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty the right of returning MPs (though Eye had already done so), and this formula was used in the parliamentary returns. In 1597, though not on other occasions in Elizabeth’s reign, the bailiffs signed their names at the foot of the return.

The borough first sent Members to Parliament in 1571. Perhaps the lord keeper, Sir Nicholas Bacon, was behind this. If so, it did not prevent the matter being referred to the returns committee on 6 Apr. 1571. Bacon influence, exercised by the lord keeper in 1571 and 1572, and by his heir Nicholas in subsequent Parliaments, can be seen in every Elizabethan election. By the end of the reign it was taken for granted that the family controlled one seat for the borough.

One of the first two Members for the borough was Richard Bedell, who was not a Suffolk man, but was connected with the 2nd Earl of Bedford’s circle, and probably owed his seat to Bedford’s friend the lord keeper; in the following Parliament Charles Calthrope, a lawyer who worked for the Earl of Leicester in Norfolk, looks like a Bacon nominee; while in later Parliaments there can be no doubt about the patron for Edmund Bacon, grandson of the lord keeper, or about the three Gawdys, members of a Norfolk family which had marriage ties with the Bacons. Both 1586 Members were connected with Bacon: Bartholomew Kemp had been a treasurer of the lord keeper, while Thomas Bedingfield’s son married into the family. However, Bedingfield owned property in and around Eye, and may have secured his own election.

The other seat at Eye was held by a man with local connexions. Charles Cutler (1571, 1572) was from a local family and held a royal appointment as keeper of Eye castle and park. His nephew, Edward Honing (1593, 1597 and 1601) inherited property in the borough and came into possession of the manor of Eye in 1598. George Brooke, who leased land from Nathaniel Bacon and who was related to the Gawdys, may have relied either on his friendship with Bacon for his seat, or on his own local standin