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|13 Jan. 1559||RICHARD FLETCHER I|
|1562/3||GEORGE REYNOLDS I|
|1571||JOHN DONNING 1|
|THOMAS FANSHAWE I 2|
|8 July 1575||ROBERT CARPENTER vice Cobbe, deceased|
|[?14] Nov. 1534||JOHN HAMMOND|
|22 Oct. 1597||SAMPSON LENNARD|
|1601||(SIR) ARTHUR GORGES|
Rye was governed by a mayor, elected at an assembly of the commonalty, and by 12 jurats, appointed each year by the new mayor. Parliamentary elections were held at an assembly of the freemen, about 100 in number, at the cross in the churchyard. Between 1575 and 1590 the commonalty was gradually replaced by a common council of 14 chosen by the mayor and jurats.
Parliamentary elections were less influenced by the lord warden than in some other Ports. Between 1559 and 1593 not more than three Members were the 10th Lord Cobham’s nominees: Thomas Fanshawe I, John Hammond and Audley Dannett. The eight remaining Members up to that date were all jurats, often holding the mayoralty at the time of their election. Lord Cobham made his first real attempt to obtain seats from the Cinque Ports in 1571, when Rye gave one of its seats to his nominee Thomas Fanshawe I, the Queen’s remembrancer. In 1584, when the Privy Council urged Cobham to ensure a ‘good choice’ of Members throughout the Ports, Rye chose John Hammond, a civil lawyer, whose family may have had some link with the town. He was not paid wages and may have been the warden’s nominee. So, no doubt, was Audley Dannett, a minor court official and relative of Burghley, chosen for the 1589 Parliament. Only the day before his election, the Rye chamberlains paid 1s.4d. to a messenger who brought a letter from Dover castle, the warden’s headquarters, and returned with the answer.
Henry, 11th Lord Cobham, who succeeded his father as lord warden in 1597, acquired one seat at Rye, for Sampson Lennard, who was to be returned to Parliament by Liskeard in 1601 at the request of (Sir) Robert Cecil, and it is reasonable to suppose that Cobham agreed to a similar request from his brother-in-law in 1597. The Rye common assembly resolved that Lennard should ‘take the oath of a freeman, otherwise the election concerning him to be void’. However, ‘by reason of his lameness and other his great affairs’ he could not come to Rye and they had to be content with his ‘faithful promises’ by letter. The other Member was the mayor, Thomas Hamon.
In 1601 Rye granted the lord warden a blank indenture in which to insert the name of his nominee, and the name of (Sir) Arthur Gorges duly appears in the minutes in a different hand from the rest of the entry concerning the election. Indeed, so little did the townsmen know of him, that the name was twice written incorrectly in the hundred book. Like Sampson Lennard, Gorges was a friend of Sir Robert Cecil. The junior Member, Thomas Colepeper, came from a Sussex family with interests in the town. The decay of the harbour, and the resulting economic decline, probably encouraged the election of outsiders. Judging by a letter from Cobham to the town in 1603, the election of at least one outsider was accepted by them as the usual procedure: ‘I expect you should yield me the nomination of one of your burgesses for the next Parliament’.
The chamberlains’ accounts contain details of the payment of wages to most of the MPs. The usual sum in the early part of the reign was 2s. a day, later this was raised to 4s. and, in 1593 and 1597, because of extra duties imposed on the Members, the assembly agreed to pay 5s. a day. If Parliament lasted for any length of time this would have imposed a considerable strain on the town’s resources; indeed, in 1597 a levy of 1d. in the £ was imposed to help meet the costs. The Rye records also show some of the other expenses involved in sending representatives to Westminster. Such items as payment for the messenger who brought the writ, for the return to the clerk of the Crown and to the clerk at Dover castle, for the wax to seal the return, for the ‘fees for the serjeant of the parliament house’, for solicitors to canvass support to further the town’s interests in Parliament, and for the hiring of horses for the Members, all contributed to the financial burden of being a parliamentary borough.3