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|1558/9||THOMAS COPLEY 1|
|THOMAS FARNHAM 2|
|1562/3||SIR ROBERT LANE|
|24 Apr. 1572||EDMUND TILNEY|
|21 Nov. 1584||FRANCIS BACON|
|n.d.||EDWARD BROWNE vice Bacon, chose to sit for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis|
|11 Oct. 1586||JOHN PUCKERING|
|8 Oct. 1588||RICHARD BROWNE I|
|1593||WILLIAM LANE II|
|14 Sept. 1597||GEORGE BUC|
|28 Sept. 1601||SIR MATTHEW BROWNE|
At the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign the borough of Gatton was owned by the Copley family and patronage there was in the hands of Sir Roger Copley’s widow. Thomas Copley, her son, who had already represented Gatton in 1554 and 1558, returned himself in 1559 and 1563. It is not known how Thomas Farnham, a Leicestershire country gentleman and a court of wards official, came to be returned for Gatton in 1559. Sir Robert Lane (1563) was Thomas Copley’s brother-in-law from Northamptonshire.
By 1569 Thomas Copley had become a Catholic and fled abroad. In the two following Parliaments, the Howards of Effingham assumed the power to nominate. The 1st Lord Howard, lord lieutenant of Surrey, had been instructed by the Privy Council to ensure a ‘good choice of knights and burgesses’ for that county. He returned Edmund Slyfield, a Surrey gentleman connected with his family in 1571, Edmund Tilney, a relative and Rowland Maylard, a servant, in 1572. Edward Whitton’s wife owned an estate at Limpsfield, ten miles from the borough, and he was returned on the strength of his own local standing.
Thomas Copley died in the Netherlands in September 1584. His eldest surviving son was then a minor, so Burghley, the master of the wards, seizing the opportunity, wrote to the sheriff that as Copley and his lands came ‘within the survey and rule of the court of wards’, the sheriff was to ‘forbear to make return of any for the said town, without direction first’ from himself. A few days later Burghley nominated his nephew, Francis Bacon, and the former ward of Lord Buckhurst, Thomas Bishop, a Sussex gentleman. When Bacon chose to sit for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, Burghley chose a certain Edward Browne, about whom little is known, to replace him.
Thomas Copley’s widow, who does not appear to have taken any interest in parliamentary patronage at Gatton, became involved in the Babington plot. Sir Francis Walsingham wrote to three of his friends in the county, Sir Thomas Brown, (Sir) William More I and Richard Bostock that
whereas my lords of the council do understand that Mistress Copley hath the nomination of the two burgesses for the town of Gatton, being a parcel of her jointure, it is not thought convenient, for that she is known to be evil affected, that she should bear any sway in the choice of the said burgesses.
He drew attention to the letters recommending the choice of ‘fit persons, known to be well affected in religion and towards the estate’ and ostensibly on the council’s behalf recommended William Waad, clerk of the council, and Nicholas Fuller, a puritan lawyer. His advice was followed in spirit but not to the letter. Gatton sent a blank return to Lord Burghley who, in his own hand, filled in the names of John Puckering, already chosen by the government for the Speakership, and once more, Edward Browne. Burghley was also responsible for the return of his secretary, Michael Hickes, in 1597. John Herbert (1589) of Neath Abbey, Glamorganshire, was master of requests and a distant relation of the Howard family. George Buc (1593, 1597) of the revels office, also had connexions with the Howards and no doubt owed his return for Gatton to their influence. Richard Browne I (1589) of Knowle, Surrey, a country gentleman, and Sir Matthew Browne (1601), deputy lieutenant for the county, came in for Gatton through their own local standing. Sir Matthew Browne was also probably responsible for the return of his fellow-Member and neighbour, Richard Sondes, a Kent landowner. William Lane II (1593), the son of the 1563 MP, was the only Member in the latter half of the period to be returned for Gatton through his connexions with the Copleys.3