Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the burgesses and commonalty
Number of voters:
at least 8 in 1620
|26 Feb. 1604||SIR JOHN HOBART I|
|c. Mar. 1614||SIR JOHN DACKOMBE|
|aft. 9 Apr. 16141||SIR THOMAS TRACY vice Whitelocke, chose to sit for New Woodstock|
|31 Dec. 1620||SIR THOMAS HATTON|
|SIR THOMAS HAMMON|
|31 Jan. 1624||SIR FRANCIS NETHERSOLE|
|SIR PETER OSBORNE|
|10 May 1625||SIR PETER OSBORNE|
|SIR FRANCIS NETHERSOLE|
|27 Jan. 1626||SIR ROBERT NAPIER|
|13 Mar. 1628||SIR FRANCIS NETHERSOLE|
The little town of Corfe was dominated by its castle, which Elizabeth I granted to her favourite Sir Christopher Hatton†. At his request the town was enfranchised in 1572 and incorporated four years later. The corporation consisted of a mayor and a bailiff, elected annually, and an uncertain number of ‘barons’, the title given to all those who had served as mayor. The Isle of Purbeck, in which Corfe is situated, still provided excellent sport, including red deer, and there were a number of resident gentry families, notably the Dackombes. The franchise was broad; although election indentures during this period typically listed around six corporation members, returns were made ‘with the consent, assent, express agreement and nomination of all and singular the other barons and burgesses with the commonalty’.2
The dominant electoral patron during this period was Lady Hatton, the widow of Sir Christopher’s nephew and heir. In 1604 she still seems to have been on reasonable terms with her second husband, Sir Edward Coke*, and they agreed on Sir John Hobart, a Norfolk man like Coke, who frequently acted as Lady Hatton’s London agent. On 10 Mar. the corporation, describing themselves as ‘your worship’s unknown yet kind poor friends’, wrote to Hobart to say that they had elected him at Coke’s request. They hoped that by Sir Edward’s ‘good counsel and direction a grant from his excellent Majesty may (if possible) be had for the corroboration and confirmation of the ancient liberties of our borough’. However, nothing came of this implied request.3 In 1614 Lady Hatton nominated James Whitelocke without his privity, as he recorded: ‘I was absent in the circuit when she sent my name, and when I came to her to take notice of it she told me she did it lest an honest man should be left out’. Whitelocke ‘gave her thanks for it, and yielded up the place to her again’, preferring to sit on his own interest for Woodstock, where he had defeated a candidate of the 1st earl of Montgomery (Sir Philip Herbert*), probably Sir Thomas Tracy. Perhaps by arrangement with Montgomery, Tracy replaced Whitelocke at Corfe.4
In 1617 Coke agreed to abandon all his claims to Corfe Castle in his wife’s favour. 5 Left entirely to her own devices, at the 1620 election Lady Hatton presented a seat to her first husband’s cousin, Sir Thomas Hatton. In 1624 and 1625 she won control of both seats, which she handed to Sir Peter Osborne, one of Sir Thomas’s friends, and the diplomat Sir Francis Nethersole. The latter was nominated by the duke of Buckingham, who was then trying to induce Lady Hatton to hand over her Purbeck property to her son-in-law, Sir John Villiers. In 1626 Lady Hatton’s hold over the borough was temporarily broken, but she again apparently swept the board in 1628, when Nethersole was once more returned, this time with Giles Greene, one of Lady Hatton’s tenants and local agents.6
Corfe’s other principal patron was a townsman, Edward Dackombe, described by the corporation as ‘a man of sufficient ability and livelihood’ when he was himself elected in 1604. Ten years later he arranged the return of his distant cousin, John Dackombe, while in 1620 he nominated Sir Thomas Hammon, who had married his mother-in-law. Thereafter, his local influence declined, but he again took the second seat in 1626. The other Member in that year was Sir Robert Napier, who may have relied on the backing of another Dorset gentleman, his kinsman Sir Nathaniel Napper*.7
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 37.
- 2. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 471-2; T. Gerard, Survey of Dorset, 54; C219/40/210.
- 3. Not. Parl. ii. 98-99.
- 4. Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 40-1.
- 5. APC, 1616-17, p. 274.
- 6. CB, ii. 97; PROB 11/236, f. 264; R.E. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, pp. 82-3; SP16/20/23; CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 564.
- 7. Not. Parl. ii. 498-9; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 35; The Ancestor, ii. 212; Burke Commoners, ii. 639-41.