Morpeth

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
1558/9WILLIAM WARD 1
 NICHOLAS PURSLOW 2
28 Dec. 1562WILLIAM WARD
 ARTHUR WELSHE
1571FRANCIS GAWDY
 NICHOLAS MYNN
23 Apr. 1572SIR GEORGE BOWES
 RICHARD WROTH
28 Dec. 1580RICHARD DRAKE vice Bowes, deceased
1584WILLIAM CAREY 3
 GEORGE GIFFORD 4
1586ROBERT CAREY
 ANTHONY FELTON
1588/9ROBERT CAREY
 HENRY NOEL
1593ROBERT CAREY
 FRANCIS TYNDALE
1593EDMUND BOWYER vice Carey, chose to sit for Callington
Sept. 1597ROBERT PRINTIS
 THOMAS CARLETON
16 Oct. 1601GEORGE SAVILE II
 JOHN BROWNE

Main Article

Enfranchised Mary in 1553, Morpeth was not incorporated. Municipal affairs were conducted by two bailiffs, appointed annually, seven aldermen, representing the town’s crafts or guilds, and the burgesses. The bailiffs were chosen by the lord of the borough or his steward from burgesses nominated by the seven guilds.5

During the 50 years following its enfranchisement, the ownership of Morpeth borough was subjected to several involved changes. Part of the great estate of the Dacres of Gilsland, it remained in their possession until the death of George, 5th Lord Dacre in 1569. The Dacre estates were then divided among the three Dacre coheirs, whose stepfather, the 4th Duke of Norfolk, arranged their marriages with his three sons. In 1577, when the youngest daughter, Elizabeth, married Lord William Howard, younger son of the Duke of Norfolk, Morpeth became his borough. He continued in undisputed possession until 1584, when Francis Dacre, the last male representative of his line, claimed the estates in tail-male. The lengthy and complex litigation which followed favoured Howard’s title, but in 1589 the Queen set up a rival claim and by about 1594 all the Dacre property had passed to the Crown. Morpeth thus became a royal borough until December 1601, when it again passed to Howard’s possession.6

The electoral pattern of Morpeth constituency is complicated by these changes in ownership and obscured by the uncertain identification of some of its Members. William Ward (1559, 1563) has been tentatively identified as a beneficiary named in the will of Dorothy Dacre, in which case he would have owed his return to her father, William 3rd Lord Dacre, lord of the borough. Nicholas Purslow (1559) was an Inner Temple lawyer who had represented Appleby in 1558 with John Eltoftes, and it may have been Eltoftes who secured him the seat at Morpeth. Arthur Welshe (1563) may have been a local man, as his surname frequently occurs in the neighbourhood of the borough; if so, he was the only one at Morpeth during this period.Both 1571 men reflect the influence of the Duke of Norfolk, Nicholas Mynn being his servant and Francis Gawdy a Norfolk landowner and lawyer. The next borough owner, William Howard, appears to have exercised patronage on only one occasion, when he nominated his steward, Anthony Felton, in 1586.

In 1572, with Norfolk in custody and William Howard not yet in possession, both MPs had affiliations with the council in the north. Sir George Bowes was on the council, and Richard Wroth was servant of the lord president. Richard Drake, who had no known connexion with Morpeth, may have owed his by-election in 1581 to the same patronage. Alternatively, he may have been a nominee of Henry Carey, 1st Baron Hunsdon, warden of the east march, who, although Morpeth lay outside his wardenry, was the chief patron from 1584 until his death in 1596. Two of his younger sons, William and Robert Carey, were the senior Members from 1584 until 1593, when Robert preferred, for no known reason, to sit for Callington. Edmund Bowyer, who was elected vice Carey, was presumably also Hunsdon’s nominee. Of the junior Members, George Gifford and Henry Nowell seem likely nominees of the warden, as may also have been Francis Tyndale, whose identity remains uncertain.

After Hunsdon’s death, by which time the borough had passed to the Crown, patronage seems to have devolved, at least in part, upon the wardens of the middle march, where Morpeth was situated. Ralph Eure, 3rd Lord Eure, warden 1595-8, probably nominated Thomas Carleton in 1597, and Sir Robert Carey, who succeeded Eure, may have influenced the election of John Browne, recorder of Berwick, where Carey’s brother, Sir John Carey, was governor. The choice of Robert Printis, however, cannot be ascribed to any particular patron. George Savile II, as his letter to the borough officials of Morpeth dated 21 Oct. 1601 suggests, probably needed no other patron than his uncle, Edward Talbot, who lived nearby.

Author: B.D.

Notes

  • 1. E371/402(1).
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Add. 33823, ff. 17-21.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Hodgson, Hist. Northumb. ii(2), p. 454 et passim.
  • 6. Household Bks. of Lord William Howard (Surtees Soc. lxviii), p