Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the burgesses of Flint, Rhuddlan, Hope, Caerwys and Overton.
Number of voters:
|27 Feb. 1604||ROGER BRERETON|
|c. Mar. 1614||JOHN EYTON|
|11 Dec. 1620||WILLIAM RAVENSCROFT|
|2 Feb. 1624||WILLIAM RAVENSCROFT|
|c.28 Apr. 1625||WILLIAM RAVENSCROFT|
|c.30 Jan. 1626||WILLIAM RAVENSCROFT|
|26 Feb. 1628||WILLIAM RAVENSCROFT|
|1 Dec. 1628||PETER WYNNE vice Ravenscroft, deceased|
|?a Ravenscroft candidate|
The 1536 Act of Union enfranchised the shire town of each Welsh county except Merioneth; in the case of Flintshire, representation was extended to include four other boroughs, only one of which, Rhuddlan, was of any consequence.1 The extent to which the ‘contributory boroughs’ were involved in the electoral process is an open question, as surviving election returns are inconsistent in their description of the electors: that of 1604 described those named as burgesses of ‘the town called the shire town’; while that of 1624 mentioned four gentlemen, none of whom lived in Flint, ‘and many other burgesses of the towns of the aforementioned county’, some 14 of whom signed the return.2 Those who attested the returns may have owned or leased property in the contributory boroughs, but in practice, patronage was dominated by local landowners, and the franchise was not so carefully defined as in some other Welsh borough constituencies.
Flint boroughs was habitually represented by minor figures among the county gentry, although outsiders may have exercised some influence. These included the Stanley family, whose extensive Flintshire estates included the two contributory boroughs of Hope and Overton, and lord chancellor Ellesmere (Sir Thomas Egerton†), whose chief estates lay in the adjacent counties of Cheshire and Shropshire, and whose first wife had been a member of the Ravenscroft family of Bretton; it was under his patronage that the Ravenscrofts were first appointed to the office of custos rotulorum in Flintshire, which they held from 1596 until the Civil War. Ellesmere’s third wife had a local interest of her own in the form of an extensive jointure estate from her first husband, Ferdinando Stanley, 5th earl of Derby.3
Unusually, the 1604 MP, Roger Brereton, came from a Denbighshire family, albeit one which owned 150 acres in a detached part of Flintshire in the parish of Marchwiel, near Wrexham.4 Brereton lived at Halghton in Maelor Saesneg (the eastern portion of Flintshire), and Hinton, just over the Shropshire border, where he leased lands from Ellesmere, who may conceivably have backed his candidacy.5 In 1614 the seat went to John Eyton, who had just succeeded to a small estate in the parish of Mold and was related by marriage to Brereton and Roger Puleston, the 1604 shire knight.6
Brereton and Puleston were both dead by the time of the next election in December 1620, which saw the return of William Ravenscroft, clerk of the Petty Bag, who had spent many years in Ellesmere’s service; he was also closely involved with Ellesmere’s son John [Egerton†], 1st earl of Bridgewater, who wrote him a letter of recommendation when the Parliament was first called in November 1620.7 However, the key factor behind Ravenscroft’s return at five successive general elections was almost certainly his family: Bridgewater addressed his nomination letter to Ravenscroft’s eldest brother Thomas, his cousin George Hope and his brother-in-law Robert Davies, and it was probably read to the voters on the day of the election by the MP’s nephew Robert Ravenscroft*, who signed the surviving returns of 1620, 1624 and 1628.8
William Ravenscroft died in October 1628. The subsequent by-election saw the return of Peter Wynne, the owner of a small amount of property in Mold and a neighbour of John Eyton, one of the signatories of the election indenture. Wynne had recently been appointed steward of the contributory borough of Caerwys, but his chief patron was undoubtedly James Stanley, Lord Strange*, heir to the earldom of Derby, whom he served as an estate steward.9 This intrusion probably upset the Ravenscrofts, who may have fielded a rival candidate: the family, most unusually, were not listed among the electors on the return. They were probably also responsible for the protest ‘that the writ was unduly executed’ which reached the committee for privileges at the start of the 1629 session. William Hakewill* reported the case on 9 Feb., but this dealt only with a separate allegation that the clerks in the Crown Office had issued the writ for the by-election without a written warrant from the lord keeper. As a result of the early dissolution, the charge of electoral malpractice was never aired on the floor of the House.10
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. SR, iii. 568, 935-6.
- 2. C219/35/2/44; 219/38/147.
- 3. CHES 3/84/2; Dwnn, Vis. Wales ed. S.R. Meyrick, ii. 315-16; JPs in Wales and Monm. ed. Phillips, 99-111.
- 4. C142/282/47.
- 5. STAC 5/B39/27; STAC 8/61/62; E179/221/223; 179/264/42.
- 6. Dwnn, ii. 310, 320, 353.
- 7. Lansd. 163, f. 278; HEHL, EL6470, 6701; PROB 11/154, f. 269; NLW, Gwysaney typescript.
- 8. C219/37/356; 219/38/147; 219/41B/19.
- 9. C219/41B/124; C66/2440/17; C2/Chas.I/S89/20; 2/Chas.I/W43/69.
- 10. CJ, i. 917b; CD 1629, p. 181.