Stafford

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
19 Jan. 1559EDWARD STAFFORD I
 WILLIAM BOWYER I 1
1562/3WILLIAM TWYNEHO
 HENRY GOODERE
1571WALTER STAFFORD
 WILLIAM KNOLLYS
25 Apr. 1572RICHARD BROUGHTON
 THOMAS PURSLOW
19 Nov. 1584JOHN STAFFORD
 FRANCIS CRADOCK
1586JOHN STAFFORD
 FRANCIS CRADOCK
4 Oct. 1588FRANCIS CRADOCK
 HENRY BOURCHIER
1593HENRY BOURCHIER
 FRANCIS CRADOCK
6 Oct. 1597(SIR) EDWARD STAFFORD II
 HENRY BOURCHIER
16 Oct. 1601(SIR) EDWARD STAFFORD II
 WILLIAM ESSEX

Main Article

The borough of Stafford, associated for a long time with the family of the same name, may not have had a clearly defined municipal organisation in the sixteenth century. Though the town was incorporated by Edward VI in 1550, it was not until 1605 that the composition of the common council was laid down by charter.2 Prior to that date the evidence is scanty, but it is likely that Stafford was governed by two bailiffs, chosen annually, and an indefinite number of burgesses. There were 17 burgesses, referred to as brethren, at the time of the 1583 visitation of Staffordshire.3 Between about 15 and 30 townsmen, also called burgesses, are known to have attended parliamentary elections in the Elizabethan period: presumably not all of these were members of the governing body. The elections were conducted by the bailiffs in the guildhall, though in 1601 only one bailiff was present. Several of the Members’ names have been added to ‘blank’ returns.4

Only one townsman, Francis Cradock, is to be found among its Members during the Elizabethan period. As recorder of the town, he was elected to the four Parliaments between 1584 and his death ten years later. Stafford, however, surrendered most of its parliamentary seats to outside pressure, particularly from noble patrons living in the county. Among these were the Barons Stafford of Stafford castle, lords of the manor. Henry, the 1st Baron of a new creation, was lord lieutenant of the county in 1559 and recorder of Stafford from 1542. He must have been responsible for the election of his son Edward Stafford I for a second time in 1559, while the latter, succeeding to the barony in 1566, presumably secured the returns of his brother Walter Stafford (1571) and his nephews John Stafford (1584, 1586) and (Sir) Edward Stafford II, the diplomat (1597, 1601).

Another important local family were the Devereux, earls of Essex: their Staffordshire seat was at Chartley, barely half a dozen miles from Stafford. Both Walter Devereux, created 1st Earl of Essex in 1572, and his son and heir Robert, looked to Stafford, among other boroughs, to return their nominees to Parliament. Walter Devereux no doubt secured the returns of his brother-in-law William Knollys, son of Sir Francis, in 1571 and of Richard Broughton, who served him as a legal adviser, in 1572. Broughton, a Shropshire man, later married a daughter of Richard Bagot, one of the Devereux’ leading allies in the county. The 2nd Earl of Essex may have secured the election of his relative Henry Bourchier, though that family’s connexions with the county date back to at least 1400. At the end of 1592 Essex told Bagot that he wished to nominate Bourchier and Edward Reynolds as the two Stafford Members, but the borough held on to the junior seat for the recorder, Cradock.5

The remaining Stafford Members were all country gentlemen, but it is not always easy to identify their patrons. William Bowyer I (1559) came from a well-established North Staffordshire family. He may have sought his own election or had the backing of Lord Stafford. William Twyneho (1563), probably from Berkshire, remains an obscure figure, but his election may have been due to a connexion with the 1st Lord Paget, another Staffordshire peer. Henry Goodere (1563), a Warwickshire gentleman, was related by marriage to Sir Robert Dudley*, later Earl of Leicester, and may have been his servant. Little is known about Thomas Purslow (1572). William Essex (1601), the owner of large estates in Berkshire, was perhaps elected at the request of his father-in-law (Sir) Walter Harcourt, twice knight of the shire for Staffordshire. When the return was drawn up a space was left for the insertion of Essex’s Christian name later: evidently he was not known to the Stafford authorities.6

Author: M.R.P.

Notes

  • 1. E371/402(1).
  • 2. J. Bradley, Stafford Charters, 79-132; CPR, 1550-53, p. 21; J. Cherry, Stafford in Olden Times, 68.
  • 3. Vis. Staffs. 1583 (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. iii), 28.
  • 4. C219/26/89; 28/115; 29/133; 31/159; 33/178; 34/166.
  • 5. Neale, Commons, 237-8.
  • 6. C219/34/166.

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