Lancashire

County

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

Elections

DateCandidate
16 Jan. 1559SIR JOHN ATHERTON
 SIR ROBERT WORSLEY
1562/3SIR THOMAS GERARD
 SIR JOHN SOUTHWORTH
1571JOHN RATCLIFFE
 THOMAS BUTLER
1572JOHN RATCLIFFE
 EDMUND TRAFFORD I
16 Nov. 1584SIR GILBERT GERARD
 RICHARD MOLYNEUX II
11 Jan. 1585RICHARD BOLD vice Gerard, called to the Upper House1
17 Oct. 1586JOHN ATHERTON
 RICHARD HOLLAND
14 Oct. 1588THOMAS GERARD I
 THOMAS WALMESLEY
7 Feb. 1589 (new writ )unknown vice Gerard, chose to sit for Staffordshire
1593(SIR) RICHARD MOLYNEUX II
 (SIR) THOMAS GERARD I
28 Nov. 1597(SIR) THOMAS GERARD I
 ROBERT HESKETH
1601SIR RICHARD HOUGHTON
 THOMAS HESKETH

Main Article

The earls of Derby held the lord lieutenancy of Lancashire without a break from 1559 to 1594. The county election writ, instead of being sent direct to the sheriff, went via the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. Thus both the earls of Derby and the chancellors of the duchy had the opportunity to influence Lancashire elections. In practice neither exerted much patronage, though consultation was expected. Without exception the Lancashire MPs were landed gentry resident in the county. Many of them were Catholics or at least conservative in religion: Sir John Atherton (1559) of Atherton Hall, a j.p. and duchy of Lancaster official; Sir Thomas Gerard (1563) of Bryn, who was probably removed from the commission of the peace in 1571; Sir John Southworth (1563) of Samlesbury, many times imprisoned for his recusancy; John Ratcliffe (1571, 1572) of Ordsall, j.p. and deputy lieutenant, a duchy official and follower of the 3rd Earl of Derby, who nevertheless in 1586 was described as a ‘dangerous temporiser’ in religion; Richard Bold of Bold, who replaced Sir Gilbert Gerard at a by-election in January 1585, and Thomas Walmesley (1589) of Dunkenhalgh, a duchy of Lancaster lawyer, who, despite being elevated to the bench after the 1589 Parliament, was also suspect in religion. Most of the remaining county MPs came from families tinged with Catholicism.

Only one MP, Richard Holland of Denton Hall, owed his seat directly to the 4th Earl of Derby, whose servant he was. However, Holland was eligible as knight of the shire in his own right, being a j.p. in the county and having already served two terms as sheriff. Robert Hesketh of Rufford (1597) had connexions with the Stanleys, having married into the family. Sir Gilbert Gerard, vice-chancellor at Lancaster, was returned senior knight in 1584 despite being master of the rolls; he was replaced in the following January. His eldest son, Thomas Gerard I, sat as senior knight in 1593, the year he succeeded his father, and also sat again in 1597. He had been elected as senior knight in 1589, but had chosen to sit for Staffordshire, where his wife’s estates were. A new writ was ordered but no evidence of a by-election to replace him has been found. Sir Robert Worsley (1559) of Booths, Thomas Butler (1571) of Bewsey, Edmund Trafford I (1572) of Trafford, John Atherton (1586), eldest son of the 1559 MP and heir to Atherton Hall, but, unlike his father, a protestant, Sir Richard Houghton (1601) of Houghton and Thomas Hesketh (1601) of Whitehill (no apparent relation to the 1597 MP) were all Lancashire country gentlemen taking their turns as knight of the shire.

The only electo