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|1558/9||WALTER JOBSON 1|
|JOHN OVERSALL 2|
|1566||HENRY FANSHAWE I vice Estofte, deceased3|
|28 Apr. 1572||THOMAS DALTON|
|2 Jan. 1581 (new writ)||THOMAS FLEMING I and JOHN FAWETHER alias FAIRWEATHER, vice Dalton and Clerkson, 'languidi et impotentes'|
|2 Nov. 1584||JOHN THORNTON|
|26 Sept. 1586||EDWARD WAKEFIELD|
|21 Oct. 1588||LEONARD WILLAN|
|26 Sept. 1597||LEONARD WILLAN|
|27 Oct. 1601||JOHN LISTER|
Kingston-upon-Hull was expanding rapidly in the sixteenth century. Its prosperity, based for the most part on trade with Scandinavia and the Netherlands, helped to give the port a vigorous municipal life and a large degree of independence in the conduct of its affairs. Its principal charter was granted by Henry VI in 1440. This mentions a mayor, 12 aldermen (elected for life from the burgesses), a chamberlain, a coroner and other minor officials. It also made Hull a county in its own right, with a sheriff, to whom parliamentary election writs were sent, and an escheator. Queen Elizabeth confirmed the town’s liberties in 1577, and in 1598 granted a new charter in which the mayor and aldermen are referred to as the common council. By that date there were also a recorder and a high steward. It is not known when the office of high steward first appeared, but (Sir) Francis Walsingham’s appointment in 1583 was to replace an unnamed predecessor. Walsingham was followed in 1590 by (Sir) Thomas Heneage, who died in 1595, and then by (Sir) Robert Cecil. A noticeable feature is the strong puritan element in the governing body. Every Elizabethan MP whose religious views are known was radical in outlook.
A Hull charter of 1299 defines burgesses as those who pay ‘scot and lot’, and no later source amends the description. Municipal officers were elected by the burgesses assembled in the guildhall; parliamentary elections were probably conducted in the same way, though it is not clear whether they were, in effect, controlled by the mayor and aldermen. Hull probably paid its MPs in the reign of Elizabeth, since the practice is still to be found in the seventeenth century.
The port was sufficiently large and independent to resist interference by outsiders in its choice of Members of Parliament. Such an attempt was made, probably in 1586, by the 3rd Earl of Huntingdon, lord president of the council in the north. In a letter to the mayor, advising him to elect a ‘religious man’ and one ‘well affected to the Queen and State’, he asked for the nomination of the other Member, but his request was denied. Ten of those who sat for Hull—Jobson, Oversall, Thornton, Clerkson, Dalton, Wakefield, Willan, Cole, Lister and Graves—were leading townsmen who all held the office of mayor at least once. John Aldred, Member in 1584 and 1586, was also a leading resident, his father having sat for Hull in Mary’s last Parliament. William Gee (1589) did not live in Hull, but his father was a leading merchant and alderman. Both these last-named Members may have done legal work for the town. Christopher Estofte (1563) was also a lawyer. He owned property in the port and was related to one of its important families. He died before the 1566 session and was replaced at a by-election by a Henry Fanshawe, who has been identified as the remembrancer of the Exchequer, Henry Fanshawe I.
In January 1581 Thomas Fleming and John Fawether alias Fairweather were elected to replace Thomas Dalton and James Clerkson, both ‘too infirm to serve’. After some uncertainty the House of Commons ruled on 18 Mar., at the end of the session, that Fleming’s return should stand, since Dalton was ‘incurably sick and diseased’, but that Clerkson should continue to serve as the other Member for Hull. John Fawether was a townsman and borough official, but no local man bearing the name of Thomas Fleming has been traced, so the MP has been tentatively identified as Thomas Fleming I, the lawyer and protégé of Sir Francis Walsingham.
The remaining Hull MP, Peter Proby (1593), is the one clear exception to the practice of electing townsmen or near townsmen, since the two other ‘outsiders’, Fanshawe and Fleming, have not been certainly identified. Proby was a servant of Sir Thomas Heneage, and lived in Huntingdonshire and London. He was nominated at Hull by Heneage, who was high steward at the time. He was, however, ‘solicitor by patent’ for Hull in 1596, and perhaps earlier.4