Go To Section
Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Number of voters:
|26 Feb. 1604||WILLIAM SHERSTON , alderman|
|CHRISTOPHER STONE , town clerk2|
|28 Mar. 16143||SIR JAMES LEY|
|NICHOLAS HYDE , recorder|
|5 Jan. 1621||SIR ROBERT PHELIPS|
|ROBERT PYE 4|
|30 Jan. 1624||(SIR) ROBERT PYE|
|1625||NICHOLAS HYDE , recorder|
|c.June/July 1625||RALPH HOPTON vice Hyde, chose to sit for Bristol|
|20 Jan. 1626||RICHARD GAY , alderman|
|WILLIAM CHAPMAN , ?alderman|
|3 Mar. 1628||JOHN POPHAM|
|WALTER LONG II|
Situated on the Avon 12 miles south-east of Bristol, and described by a local doctor in 1628 as ‘a well compacted city, … beautified with very fair and goodly buildings for the receipt of strangers’, Bath was already famous for the healing powers of its waters, which were visited by Anne of Denmark in 1613 and 1615, and by Charles I in 1628.5 Under the terms of a charter granted in 1590, a mayor, between four and ten aldermen and a council of 20 governed Bath.6 Little can be said about the town’s activities for, other than the chamberlains’ accounts, few municipal records survive for this period. The parliamentary franchise was vested in the corporation, although this only becomes clear from post-Restoration evidence noted by William Prynne†, when various inhabitants who witnessed Jacobean parliamentary elections testified to this effect.7 The indentures made in the name of the (unnamed) mayor, aldermen and citizens were not signed.8 Throughout the period Bath paid 2s. per day in parliamentary wages, although it appears that payments were made to townsmen only, and not to gentry Members. Some of the latter were made free: in the case of Sir James Ley, the taking of the oath of a freeman occurred at the election, but Sir Robert Phelips’ enfranchisement seems to have been delayed until the year after his return.9
In the sixteenth century the majority of Bath’s Members were local townsmen and/or borough officials. This pattern was repeated in 1604, when Alderman William Sherston, then approaching his sixth Parliament, was joined by the town clerk, Christopher Stone. Ten years later the town elected its recorder, Nicholas Hyde, and Sir James Ley, a prominent lawyer and future lord treasurer. Ley had no apparent connection with Bath and the town’s reason for electing him in preference to a local man is unknown. During the 1620s a strong puritan faction dominated Bath, and the neighbouring godly gentry families of Popham, Horner, Harrington, and Hungerford generally influenced elections.10 In 1621 Sir Robert Phelips, a leading member of the Somerset gentry, took the first seat while Robert Pye, an Exchequer official and client of George Villiers, marquess of Buckingham, sat as the junior Member. Pye occupied the senior position in 1624, and was joined by John Malet, whose mother was a Popham. Ahead of the first Caroline Parliament, Bath re-elected its recorder, Hyde, but the latter chose to sit for Bristol, whereupon Ralph Hopton took his place. It is not known why Hopton was elected, nor is it clear when he was chosen. Serving overseas with Mansfeld’s expedition, he only returned to England on 20 July 1625, eight days after the Westminster sitting of Parliament had ended.11 The puritan Edward Hungerford, who owned a house and messuage in the town, took the junior place.12 In 1626 Bath reverted to electing townsmen, choosing Richard Gay for the first and William Chapman for the second seat. However, in a reversal of policy, the corporation elected two members of the local puritan gentry in 1628, John Popham and Walter Long II. Popham lived on his father’s estate in Hunstrete, five miles west of Bath, while Long resided nine miles west of Bath.13 The town does not appear to have introduced any legislation during the period but the corporation complained to the Commons in 1621 that Giles Mompesson’s abuses of his patent for licensing inns had led to a three-fold increase of inns in Bath, many of which were unsuitable to be licensed.14
Author: Chris Kyle
- 1. A.J King and B.H. Watts, Municipal Recs. of Bath, 43; W. Prynne, Brevia Parliamentaria Rediviva (1662), 317-19.
- 2. Prynne, 310.
- 3. Bath RO, Transcript of Council Mins. i. p. 6. Hyde was named first in the corp. records.
- 4. Prynne, 311, where Phelips’ knighthood is omitted.
- 5. T. Vennner, Baths of Bathe (1628), p. 1; Bath RO, ‘Elevation of the status of the mayor of Bath’.
- 6. J. Collinson, Hist. and Antiqs. of Co. of Som. (1791), i. pt. 2, pp. 22-3.
- 7. Prynne, 317-19.
- 8. Ibid. 310-13; C219/38/207; 219/41A/61.
- 9. Bath RO, chamberlains’ accts. transcripts, nos. 45, 64; council mins. i. 6.
- 10. D. Underdown, Som. in Civil War and Interregnum, 143; J. Wroughton, ‘Puritanism and Traditionalism: Cultural and Political Divisions in Bath’, Bath Hist. iv. 53.
- 11. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 71.
- 12. J.F. Meecham, Famous Houses of Bath, 5.
- 13. C2/Chas.I/P63/62.
- 14. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 66, 71.