Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen
|4 Mar. 1604||SIR HENRY WILLIAMS|
|c. Mar. 1614||SIR JOHN CROMPTON|
|18 Dec. 1620||WALTER PYE I|
|14 Jan. 1624||(SIR) WALTER PYE I|
|4 May 1625||(SIR) WALTER PYE I|
|12 Jan. 1626||(SIR) WALTER PYE I|
|aft. 11 Feb. 16261||SIR HUMPHREY LYNDE vice (Sir) Walter Pye I, chose to sit for Herefordshire|
|18 Feb. 1628||WALTER PYE I|
|31 Mar. 1628||WALTER PYE II vice (Sir) Walter Pye I, chose to sit for Herefordshire|
The county town, Brecon was a fairly prosperous market town located in the centre of post-union Breconshire at the confluence of the Honddu and the Usk. Its liberties ran in a rough ellipse outside the walled town some three miles in length and one mile in width, but they also comprehended the detached ward of Llywel, some 11 miles to the east. In the early seventeenth century Brecon’s population numbered around 2,000, making it one of the largest of early modern Wales’s small urban centres.2 It held three markets a week, including a cattle market every Friday, and hosted three fairs per year.3 The preponderant trades of the town, which supported six guilds, were the production of leather goods, textiles and cloth.4 Brecon was also the administrative centre of south-east Wales. Forming the hub of the judicial circuit which encompassed Glamorgan and Radnorshire, it housed the Chancery and Exchequer of these three counties as decreed by the Acts of Union. The town’s governing structure was established by a charter of 1556, which provided for a bailiff and two aldermen to be elected annually from among 15 capital burgesses, who constituted the town’s common council.5
Unlike most other Welsh boroughs, Brecon was evidently able to elect its Member without reference to any of its ‘contributory boroughs’. Returns were made by the bailiff in the presence of the aldermen, and a small number of burgesses – probably the capital burgesses – also witnessed returns. The loss of its records makes it difficult to be sure, but Brecon seems not to have enjoyed an energetic or autonomous political life. The Member in the first Jacobean Parliament, Sir Henry Williams, was son of the borough’s recorder, Sir David, who had represented the town in 1601. Thereafter, outsiders were chosen. Sir John Crompton was son of the 1593 Member for New Radnor, and his connection with the lingering remnants of an Essex interest in mid-Wales (which would have included the New Radnor Member in the Addled Parliament, Rowland Meyrick) probably accounts for his return in 1614.
During the 1620s the chief justice of the Brecon circuit, Walter Pye I*, became the key figure in Brecon’s parliamentary politics. In choosing Pye or his associates the borough probably wished to keep on the right side of a powerful local figure, but it also thereby obtained a powerful advocate at the centre, as Pye was a client of lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) and the duke of Buckingham. Another consideration may have been the fact that Pye seems to have established good contacts with the leading gentry figure in Breconshire, Sir Henry Williams of Gwernyfed, who had represented the borough in 1604. At any rate, an important marriage was contracted between the two families in 1631. Pye himself was elected for all the Parliaments of the 1620s, but does not appear to have lobbied on behalf of his constituents. Indeed, his eye was on the greater prize of a county seat in his native Herefordshire, and when he succeeded in obtaining this, both in 1626 and 1628, he chose it over Brecon.6 In his stead came his eldest son (in 1628) and Sir Humphrey Lynde (in 1626). Lynde was a scholar and theologian, whose interests lay in Surrey and Middlesex, but he also had contacts with officials in the Court of Wards, where Pye was attorney. In 1623 Lynde dedicated a volume to Pye, whom he described as ‘my much honoured friend’.7
Author: Lloyd Bowen
- 1. CJ, i. 818a.
- 2. N.M. Powell, Urban Hist. xxxii. 50.
- 3. Hugh Thomas’ Essay Towards the Hist. of Brec. 1698 ed. J. Jones-Davies, 23.
- 4. W.S.K. Thomas, Brecon, 1066-1660, pp. 63-4, 115.
- 5. CPR, 1555-7, pp. 76-81.
- 6. Add. 70001, ff. 195-6; Add. 70108, no. 39(i).
- 7. Sir Humphrey Lynde, The Book of Bertram the Priest (1623), sig. A2.