Great Yarmouth

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
1558/9SIR THOMAS WOODHOUSE
 WILLIAM BARKER
28 Dec. 1562WILLIAM GRICE
 THOMAS TIMPERLEY
1571WILLIAM BARKER
 WILLIAM GRICE
1572WILLIAM GRICE
 JOHN BACON
18 Feb. 1576 (new writ)EDWARD BACON vice Bacon, deceased
29 Oct. 1584WILLIAM GRICE
 THOMAS DAMET
1 Oct. 1586WILLIAM GRICE
 THOMAS DAMET
24 Oct. 1588JOHN STUBBE
 ROGER DRURY
1593THOMAS DAMET
 JOHN FELTON
16 Sept. 1597HENRY HOBART
 JOHN FELTON
21 Oct. 1601HENRY HOBART
 THOMAS DAMET

Main Article

Great Yarmouth was governed by an inner council of 24, including the two bailiffs, and a common council of 48, and these two bodies, constituting the ‘assembly’ or ‘house’, were responsible for parliamentary elections. On several occasions during Elizabeth’s reign they appointed a committee to give instructions to the MPs. The returns are in the form of an indenture between the sheriff and the bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty, the names of 24 ‘comburgenses’ being given in the return of 1597. The town assembly books record no payments of wages to MPs in this period.

At the beginning of the reign the 4th Duke of Norfolk was high steward of the borough, and he appears to have been responsible for the choice of the 1559 MPs, both of whom had previously represented the borough. William Barker, who sat again in 1571, was specifically described in the Yarmouth records as ‘servant to my lord of Norfolk’. Unlike Barker, Sir Thomas Woodhouse had local connexions. At Yarmouth, as elsewhere, it is impossible to draw a distinction between local nomination and central patronage. Thomas Timperley (1563), besides being related to Norfolk, was his servant, and nominated by him, but was made a freeman of Yarmouth before the election. William Grice (1563, 1571, 1572, 1584, 1586), a follower of the Earl of Leicester, high steward after Norfolk’s fall, was a London attorney as well as a member of the Yarmouth corporation. John Bacon (1572) was a townsman, no relation (as far as is known) to his 1576 replacement, Edward Bacon, younger son of Sir Nicholast, who was brought in by Leicester. The borough had, indeed, first chosen one William Harborne, but a week later agreed, ‘by the greater part of the whole house, being divided’, to choose Edward Bacon instead. During the interval between the second and third sessions, Bacon went to Germany, and in March 1578 the borough authorities wrote to his father to ask if they might elect another burgess; the request was refused.

On 11 Mar. 1584 the Yarmouth assembly passed a resolution that at least one MP should be ‘of the 24’, and it does seem that thenceforth the high stewards ceased to influence elections there. Burghley followed Leicester in September 1588 and Essex Burghley in late September 1597, after the election of that year. Essex had been executed by the time of the next election, so at no time was the borough subjected to the pressure for seats which he would doubtless have exerted, for he was an active parliamentary patron. The last high steward of the reign was the Earl of Nottingham, appointed in April 1600, but the 1601 Members were a lawyer who had sat in the previous Parliament and who was the corporation’s under-steward (Henry Hobart) and the townsman Thomas Damet who had sat in 1584, 1586 and 1593. Other Great Yarmouth MPs in this period were Roger Drury (1589) and John Felton (1593), both townsmen, and the unfortunate John Stubbe (1589), Hobart’s predecessor as under-steward. Thus, stretching a point in respect of Hobart, who worked for the town though he was not of it, it can be said that the Yarmouth corporation returned its own men on all occasions from 1584 to the end of the reign.

Weinbaum, Charters, 85-86; Manship’s Hist. Gt. Yarmouth, ed. Palmer, ii. 202; C219/33/132; 34/69; Gt. Yarmouth a