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|13 Jan. 1559||JOHN CHESEMAN|
|1562/3||SIR CHRISTOPHER ALLEYN|
|21 July 1574 (new writ)||WILLIAM EPPES vice William Wilcocks, deceased|
|[?14] Nov. 1584||RICHARD WILLIAMS|
|25 Sept. 1588||REGINALD SCOTT 1|
|WILLIAM SOUTHLAND 2|
|22 Oct. 1597||GEORGE COPPYN|
|1601||THOMAS LAKE II|
Although its trade had declined by Elizabeth’s reign because of the silting of the harbour, New Romney was still the venue of the brodhull. The town was governed by a bailiff, probably appointed by the Crown, and 12 jurats, chosen by the freemen. There was a change in 1563, however, when the town was incorporated as the mayor, jurats and commonalty. To establish the new governing body a mayor and a number of life jurats were named in the charter.3
Elections were held at the common assembly of the mayor (or bailiff), jurats and commonalty. For the 1559 Parliament two local men were elected, John Cheseman, who was to become the first mayor in 1563, and William Eppes. Eppes was re-elected in 1563 and 1571. For 1563 his fellow MP was Sir Christopher Alleyn, a country gentleman probably nominated by the lord warden, William, 10th Lord Cobham, who was his neighbour in Kent. Edmund Morrante (1571) may or may not have been nominated by the warden.
The 1572 Members were brothers and both Romney’s own choice, one being the town’s counsel, the other a jurat. William Wilcocks died before the 1576 session of this Parliament and William Eppes was returned to fill the vacancy. A further vacancy occurred on the death of Edward Wilcocks for the final session of the Parliament; his replacement, if any, has not been discovered. Perhaps the seat went to William Southland or one of his faction, who were enjoying a temporary ascendancy in Romney in 1580-1.
In 1584, Lord Cobham received a letter from the Privy Council asking him to ensure that ‘persons well affected to the present government might be chosen burgesses to the Parliament for the Five Ports’. He took advantage of the instructions to choose his estate manager, Richard Williams, to represent Romney, and added that he thought it good ‘that William Southland, one of the jurats of your town, be also chosen’.4 Southland was among those who had complained to the lord warden and to the Privy Council about a former mayor, Thomas Eppes, a relative of William Eppes. In spite of further instructions from the Privy Council to the effect that the 1584 men should be chosen in 1586, Williams was not returned again. Instead Southland procured his own re-election, together with another of his faction, Robert Thurbarne. Next time Southland was chosen again, while the other seat went to a country gentleman, Reginald Scott. The warden’s demand that Romney should dismiss Southland, with whom he was now on bad terms, was refuted by the assembly on lo Feb. 1589 on the grounds that it was ‘contrary to [their] oaths to make a second election’.
By 1593 Southland and his supporters had lost control of the borough to the ex-town clerk, John Mynge, a friend of the lord warden, an opponent of Thomas Eppes as well as Southland, and a man who had been described in 1588 in their minutes as ‘a pernicious enemy’ of Romney corporation. Now, in 1593, he was elected as the town’s senior Member and was accompanied by Robert Bawle who may, or may not, have been the warden’s nominee.5
By the time of the elections in 1597, there was a new lord warden, Henry Brooke alias Cobham II*, 11th Lord Cobham. John Mynge reported to the town:
His lordship taketh it exceedingly kindly that you have given him a nomination of a burgess ... He prayeth you make your return and to send it up with a blank that he may put in his name at his pleasure, for so doth Winchelsea also.6
Mynge had acted as an intermediary between the Romney corporation and the warden and both of them had tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to persuade him to be one of the town’s MPs that year. Romney was at law with the City of London, and was seeking help therein from the warden; also, it had been told by the chancellor of the Exchequer, (Sir) John Fortescue I, that it would have to pay fifteenths and tenths. The warden promised to nominate someone who would defend the rights of the Ports, and said he would discuss the matter with his brother-in-law, Robert Cecil. Meanwhile, Cecil had written to Cobham, asking for parliamentary nominations, and Cobham handed on to him the seat at New Romney. It was filled by George Coppyn, clerk of the Crown in Chancery.7 The other seat went to James Thurbarne, town clerk and of counsel to Romney.
In 1601, the warden, through his lieutenant and election agent (Sir) Thomas Fane, again asked Romney for a nomination. At a common assembly, held in September, it was agreed that
his lordship should have the nomination of one of our burgesses. And if the rest of the Ports do desire and obtain that the gentlemen by his lordship appointed burgesses for them shall be sworn to maintain the charters, liberties, customs and usages of the Cinque Ports and their members, then it is the humble request of the whole corporation that your worship will be pleased to be the means for them, that the gentleman whom his honour shall nominate for our port may likewise take the same oath.8
The warden, perhaps in consultation with his brother-in-law once more, chose Thomas Lake II, the Queen’s Latin secretary, while Mynge was elected again as the town’s nominee.
From 1584, at least, Romney paid wages to those MPs who were members of the corporation, though Williams seems to have pressed, unsuccessfully, for payment for his services. Southland was paid 4s. a day, but his successors, Mynge and James Thurbarne, received only 2s. daily. In 1588 the assembly would promise nothing to Reginald Scott, ‘because they are poor at this time, but ... agreed that when the town is in better state, the said Mr. Scott shall be in some reasonable sort recompensed for his pains’.9
- 1. Romney common assembly bk.