Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
inhabitants paying scot and lot
Number of voters:
148 in 16241
|aft. 7 May 1624||WILLIAM HAKEWILL|
|c. Apr. 1625||JOHN CREWE|
|c. Jan. 1626||WILLIAM CLARKE|
|c. Feb. 1628||WILLIAM HAKEWILL|
Amersham, situated 26 miles from London on the road to Aylesbury, was well established by the time of the Domesday survey.2 Although granted a fair and market by the Crown in 1200, it was never incorporated. The chief municipal officers were two constables, appointed by a borough court; however, no borough records survive that might shed further light on the town’s institutions and administration.3 In the early sixteenth century Amersham was described by John Leland as ‘a right pretty market town … of one street well built with timber’.4 By 1601 there were around 988 inhabitants.5 Having previously been a notorious centre of Lollardy, Amersham retained a reputation for puritan nonconformity: in 1624 it was reported that ‘the people still lie in their pews, sit with their hats on, and neither kneel at the litany nor bow at the name of Jesus’, despite orders to the contrary at the last ecclesiastical visitation.6
Amersham first sent Members to Parliament during the reign of Edward I; the earliest surviving returns are dated 1301, but the town’s representation lapsed after 1309, most probably as a result of ‘decay and poverty’.7 Efforts to restore the franchise to Amersham, Wendover, Great Marlow, and Hertford were first mooted in the Commons in 1621, Sir George More reporting on 18 May that the privileges committee ‘thinketh fit new writs should be granted for these boroughs’.8 However, the four towns were first required to submit their charters for consideration by the king’s counsel.9 A hearing was assigned for all four boroughs on 24 Nov. 1621, but no further progress was achieved before the abrupt end of the session a few weeks later.10
In the next Parliament, in 1624, new petitions were prepared by the lawyer William Hakewill*, who lived near Wendover and was retained as counsel by the three Buckinghamshire boroughs.11 A precedent had been set by the re-enfranchisement of Pontefract and Ilchester in 1621, and on 4 May 1624 the privileges committee again signalled its support for re-enfranchising Amersham and the other towns which had lobbied in 1621.12 By this time it was well known that the king was not favourably disposed to increase the size of an already unmanageably large institution, and therefore everything depended on the claim that all four towns had previously sent Members, since ‘a borough cannot forfeit this liberty of sending burgesses by non-user’. After searching the archives, John Selden* provided assurances that no other boroughs were eligible for re-enfranchisement on such grounds. Despite its lack of a charter, Amersham was held to deserve full borough status and representation because, in respect of parliamentary money grants, it had always paid tenths rather than fifteenths.13 Writs were accordingly issued on 7 May.14 No election indentures survive from this period, but Crown Office lists indicate that the borough was officially described as Agmondesham alias Amersham, the former name being that employed in the fourteenth-century returns.15
The choice of Members reflects the town’s gratitude to Hakewill, who was elected in first place, and the influence of the 3rd earl of Bedford, to whom the manor of Amersham had been granted in 1610.16 The junior seat was bestowed on John Crewe, the nephew of Sir Ranulphe Crewe* who, from the spring of 1624, assisted Bedford after the latter entered into lengthy negotiations for selling the manor to William Tothill, owner of the adjacent manor of Shardeloes.17 The precise date of the election is unknown, as the indenture is not extant, but Hakewill had certainly taken his seat by 28 May, when he was appointed to present a petition to the king.
John Crewe was re-elected in 1625, alongside Tothill’s son-in-law Francis Drake. In 1626 the senior seat was awarded to William Clarke, a local magistrate and deputy lieutenant based at Hitcham, about eight miles south of the borough, while Drake, who inherited Shardeloes later in 1626, took second place. In 1628 Hakewill was returned again, and the junior seat went to another wealthy Buckinghamshire magnate, Edmund Waller of Beaconsfield, four miles south of Amersham. There is no evidence that Amersham paid the expenses of its Members during the early Stuart period, and probably did not do so since the men returned were all wealthy members of the local gentry.
Author: Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. Anon. ‘The Shardeloes Muniments’, Bucks. Recs. xiv. 282-5.
- 2. W.H. Hastings Kelle, ‘Amersham’, Bucks. Recs. ii. 333-53.
- 3. VCH Bucks. iii. 145.
- 4. Lipscomb, Bucks. iii. 146-67.
- 5. M. Mullins, Amersham through the Ages, unfol.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 347.
- 7. Bucks. Misc. ed. R. Gibbs, 239-40; M. McKisack, Parl. Rep. of Eng. Bors. during Middle Ages, 10; CD 1621, iii. 285-6; v. 380.
- 8. CJ, i. 624a, b.
- 9. CD 1621, ii. 380; iv. 360.
- 10. CJ, i. 643b; CD 1621, iv. 434.
- 11. J. Glanville, Reps. of Certain Cases (1775), p. 88.
- 12. CJ, i. 697b.
- 13. ‘Earle 1624’, f. 169r-v; SP15/43/62, ff. 150-2.
- 14. B. Willis, Notitia Parliamentaria Bucks. 34-5; C231/4, f. 165.
- 15. OR.
- 16. Hastings Kelle, 336.
- 17. Anon. ‘The Shardeloes Muniments’, Bucks. Recs. xiv. 281-97.