Ripon

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
7 Jan. 1559FRANCIS KEMPE 1
 JOHN SAPCOTE 2
1562/3GEORGE LEIGHE
 RICHARD PRATT
1571MARTIN BIRKHEAD
 ANTHONY ROANE
19 Apr. 1572MARTIN BIRKHEAD
 JOHN SCOTT II
1584WILLIAM SPENCER 3
 GERVASE LEE 4
6 Oct. 1586WILLIAM SPENCER
 SAMUEL SANDYS
10 Oct. 1588PETER YORK
 WILLIAM SMITH II
1593ANTHONY WINGFIELD II
 WILLIAM BENNET
16 Sept. 1597JOHN BENNET
 CHRISTOPHER PARKINS
21 Oct. 1601JOHN THORNBOROUGH
 CHRISTOPHER PARKINS

Main Article

Ripon, ‘a town within the liberty of the archbishopric’ of York, was governed during the Elizabethan period by a ‘wakeman’ and his assistants. The archbishop’s officer in the borough was the high steward of the liberty of Ripon. Sir William Mallory held the post probably from 1570 and certainly by 1598. The electorate was small. The 1558/9 return mentions the wakeman, six burgesses and commons; that of 1572 was signed by about 12 persons, while the 1588 return was by the wakeman, nine other named persons and ‘other inhabitants’. Towards the end of the reign several ‘blank’ returns were used. The name of William Smith II is written in a different hand from the rest of the 1588 return, and in 1597 the names of both MPs are in a different hand.

The parliamentary representation of Ripon was dominated throughout the period by the successive archbishops of York. Both the 1559 MPs owed their seats to the Catholic archbishop, Nicholas Heath, who was still in office at the time of the elections. John Sapcote was a member of Heath’s household and Francis Kempe was his mace-bearer. George Leighe (1563) was an executor of Archbishop Young’s will. John Scott II (1572) was steward of Archbishop Grindal’s household. While Edwin Sandys was archbishop he nominated his son Samuel in 1586, and his friend and neighbour at Southwell, Gervase Lee, in 1584. John Bennet was nominated by Archbishop Hutton in 1597. Bennet was vicar-general and chancellor at York and had no doubt used his influence with Hutton’s predecessor, Archbishop Piers, to get William Bennet, his brother, a seat at Ripon in 1593.

There is evidence on several occasions of archbishops of York obliging great noblemen by finding seats for their followers and friends at Ripon. A letter, dated 19 Jan. 1593 from Archbishop Piers to the 7th Earl of Shrewsbury, promised that Bess of Hardwick’s nephew, Anthony Wingfield II should be ‘returned a burgess for one of the towns belonging to the see’. In 1597 Archbishop Hutton offered a seat at Ripon to Cecil, who nominated Christopher Parkins, a minor diplomat. Parkins sat again in 1601. Some such arrangement probably explains the return of William Smith II of Mounthall, Essex, in 1588. The use of a ‘blank’ return clearly indicates an outside patron. Peter York, a substantial county landowner, was probably returned in 1588 through the good offices of his wife’s uncle, Sir William Mallory, the archbishop’s high steward of the borough.

The remaining MPs for Ripon do not conform to any pattern. Martin Birkhead (1571, 1572), a Yorkshire lawyer, owed his seat at Ripon to the 3rd Earl of Sussex, lord president of the council in the north. William Spencer (1584, 1586), an auditor of the Exchequer, was related by marriage to the Carey family, and so to the powerful Lord Hunsdon, governor of Berwick. Anthony Roane (1571), another Exchequer auditor, had no known connexions with Ripon but his work, which took him frequently to the north, must have provided him with a patron. Neither Richard Pratt (1563) nor John Thornborough (1601) has been identified.5

Author: R.C.G.

Notes

  • 1. E371/402(1).
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Browne Willis.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxxii. 394-416; W. Harrison, Ripon Millenary (1892), app. i-xi, passim; C219/282/18, 28, 31, 33; Lodge, Illus. iii. app. I. 158; HMC Hatfield, vii. 404.

Go To Section