Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

38 in 16281


6 Mar. 1604WALTER HURDMAN , alderman
29 Oct. 1605ANTHONY PEMBRUGGE vice Hurdman, deceased
6 Nov. 1610JOHN WARDEN vice Pembrugge, deceased
12 Dec. 1620JAMES RODD
27 Apr. 1625SIR JOHN SCUDAMORE , bt.
26 Feb. 1628SIR JOHN SCUDAMORE , bt.

Main Article

Described as ‘seated among most pleasant meadows and as plentiful corn fields, compassed almost round by rivers’,2 Hereford is situated on the River Wye at the point where it could be forded at two separate places.3 The population grew from about 4,000 in the 1520s to about 5,000 in 1700, even though Speed’s map suggests that by 1610 there had been little suburban development.4 In the early sixteenth century Hereford was a moderately prosperous country town, but the cloth industry, which specialized in high quality woollens, never recovered from the destruction of the fulling mills in 1527, although the city seems still to have been counted among the ‘clothing towns’ in the Commons as late as 1607. The later sixteenth century was a period of economic stagnation and in 1603 the corporation complained that ‘merchandise and trade is decayed amongst us and the endeavours of the greatest part and chiefest of our city are converted to husbandry, malting and other occupations unfit to sustain the … credit of so ancient a city’.5 However, Hereford continued to benefit economically from its position as a county town and cathedral city, and acted as a significant social centre, with large numbers of gentlemen attending horse races held at the city in the early years of the seventeenth century.6

In 1603 the corporation of Hereford described the city as ‘the ancientest and endowed with the greatest privileges of any town in the marches of Wales’.7 It received its first charter from Henry II, and was regularly represented in Parliament from 1295. It was not incorporated until 1597, although the charter of that year seems largely to have confirmed existing practice. The government of the city was vested in a self-selecting council consisting of six aldermen and 25 common councillors. The council annually elected one of their number as mayor and also elected the high steward. The latter appointed a deputy who was required to be qualified in the law and served in practice as the city’s recorder. The aldermen, deputy steward, the present and former mayors constituted the city’s bench. A new charter was issued in 1619 but did not change the structure of the government.8

Elections were held in the guildhall with the mayor acting as returning officer. The returns were made in the name of the citizens of Hereford and subscribed by between 17 and 38 men.9 In 1618 the corporation appealed to the lord chancellor, Sir Francis Bacon*, to avoid paying £92 demanded by one of its former Members, John Hoskins, for over 900 days parliamentary service at 2s. a day, but Bacon replied that ‘he would give them no help, neither in law nor equity’, and later the same year the mayor and common council had to levy a local rate to raise the money. Whether other Members were paid in this period is unknown.10

In 1605 the bishop of Hereford informed the 1st earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†), that the mayor and aldermen had taken ‘a special oath not to choose any man but an inhabitant and member of their city’, and added that even the 2nd earl of Essex ‘in his best fortunes’, when he was high steward, could not prevail on them to elect Sir Herbert Croft*. The bishop was probably referring to the city ordinance, said to date from 1518-19 and reaffirmed in 1559, restricting the city’s representation to members of the council and threatening any citizen who voted for any other candidate with disenfranchisement. The lack of a complete list of councillors for this period makes it impossible to tell whether this ordinance was rigorously executed, but all the Members chosen were closely connected with the city government, and certainly belonged to the council at some stage in their lives.11 The Members elected in this period consisted of three barristers (Hoskins, Pembrugge and Clarke), three mercers (Hurdman, Weaver and Rodd), a brewer (Warden) and a Herefordshire baronet (Scudamore). The prominence of lawyers and mercers reflects the importance of administration and retailing in the city’s government.

After the execution of the 2nd earl of Essex in 1601, Sir John Scudamore†, who lived five miles away at Holme Lacey, was nominated to succeed Essex as high steward. However, William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke, was also put forward. Pembroke had inherited a following in the county from his father, who had been president of the Council in the Marches, but it seems likely that he was nominated because he was a prestigious but conveniently distant figure who would not threaten the independence of the corporation. Scudamore proved victorious but the libel dispersed in the city in 1608, a copy of which was affixed to the door of one of Pembroke’s leading supporters, Anthony Pembrugge, suggests that the contest may have left a legacy of bitterness and political division in the city for several years.12

The evidence for the impact of the dispute over the stewardship on the parliamentary elections in Hereford is ambiguous. At first sight the 1604 election was a triumph for the Scudamore faction, as it witnessed the return of Walter Hurdman, who had been one of Scudamore’s supporters on the corporation in 1601, and John Hoskins, Scudamore’s deputy steward. However, members of the Pembroke faction, including Pembrugge, also signed the return. The first place was awarded to Hurdman, an alderman who had twice previously served as mayor, but in 1605 a fresh election became necessary as Hurdman died.13 In August 1605 Salisbury approached the bishop of Hereford seeking the nomination of Hurdman’s replacement. The bishop subsequently ‘laboured in it with all my might’, but had eventually to report that the freemen, who constituted the voters, would not elect an outsider. Indeed, the opposition to outsiders was so strong that he thought it pointless even to approach Sir John Scudamore ‘to have used his authority over them’. The bishop’s suspicion that not even Scudamore would be able to prevail proved well-founded, for when the by-election was held in October 1605 the former Pembroke supporter Anthony Pembrugge was returned, despite the fact that he had recently been purged from the Herefordshire bench for his wife’s recusancy. It seems likely that Pembrugge enjoyed the support of the mayor, James Russell, who was also a former Pembroke supporter. As in 1604, members of the two opposing faction signed the return. After Pembrugge died in 1610, he was replaced by John Warden, a former Scudamore supporter, even though Thomas Crumpe, who had backed Pembroke in 1601, then held the mayoralty.14

In 1614 Hoskins was re-elected along with Warden, but on this occasion the former took the first place. In the aftermath of the Parliament Hoskins was imprisoned in the Tower for his ‘Sicilian Vespers’ speech attacking the king’s Scottish courtiers, and was removed by Sir John Scudamore from his position as deputy steward. Hoskins still retained support on the city council, however, and consequently he was elected mayor in 1616. However the election was rescinded after an angry letter from James I was received, which stated that Hoskins had been elected ‘by faction and underhand practices’, and James Rodd* was elected instead. As the king’s letter survives among the Scudamore papers, it seems likely that it was Sir John Scudamore, as high steward, who effected Hoskins’ removal. Not long after Scudamore himself was replaced as high steward by the earl of Pembroke, possibly as an act of revenge committed by Hoskins’ supporters.15

Pembroke’s position as high steward was confirmed in the 1619 charter, which also named Sir John Scudamore and John Hoskins among the common councillors. The new charter was procured by John Clarke, who served as both town clerk and mayor, and his brother the barrister James Clarke. Their father had been one of the foremost supporters of Sir John Scudamore in 1601, but the Clarke brothers themselves were very close to Hoskins. The cost of procuring the charter came to £300, but when the Council considered how to levy the money to reimburse the Clarkes ‘much opposition and tumult [was] raised’ by Philip Traherne, a common councillor and client of the Scudamores, who was thereupon disenfranchised. Eventually the Privy Council became involved, which ordered the expenses of obtaining the charter to be audited and instructed that Traherne be restored to office. The mayor and council were further ordered to ‘take into their due and equal consideration without favour or partiality all such further controversies and questions as have grown by this occasion, and thereupon give such as end thereunto, … as shall be just and equal’. Any further complaints were to be referred to the Council in the Marches. However, the dispute rumbled on. As late as 1621 James Clarke complained that he was still owed £200 for renewing the charter, even though the corporation had authorized a rate to pay the charge, and in March 1622 the corporation asked Pembroke to summon the non-payers before him. During the course of this quarrel, John Hoskins was restored to favour.16 In addition to requesting Pembroke’s aid the corporation also procured the earl’s support in its conflict with Herefordshire’s deputy lieutenants.17 However Pembroke seems to have had no influence on Hereford’s parliamentary elections.

In 1620 James Rodd was elected alongside Richard Weaver, a common councillor and prominent member of the Hereford Mercers’ Company. Weaver was subsequently re-elected to every Parliament in the 1620s except that of 1628, when he was ineligible as he was then serving as mayor. In 1624 and 1626 Weaver was returned with James Clarke. Sir John Scudamore died in 1623 but his grandson and namesake inherited his network of clients and friends in the city, and probably his seat on the Council in the Marches. He was consequently able to secure election in 1625, although in 1626 his financial problems forced him to remain in Herefordshire.18 Warden was an active commissioner for the Forced Loan in 1627 whereas the Clarkes tried to find excuses to avoid payment.19 The following year Scudamore, who had been an active Forced Loan commissioner in the county, was re-elected with John Hoskins.

In the Jacobean period Hereford’s principal parliamentary interest was in legislation to improve the navigability of the River Wye by removing the weirs and other obstructions, which the corporation described in 1624 as ‘the great good we can ever expect to happen to this city’.20 In 1603 the corporation argued that removing the weirs was the key to restoring the local economy, as it would improve the salmon fisheries, enable the goods of the surrounding countryside to be shipped through the city to the west country and Wales and remedy the local fuel shortage caused by the growth of iron smelting and glassworks in the county.21 Although the corporation had support among the county’s gentry, many landowners had economic interests in the weirs, including the Scudamores. Rowland Vaughan, a Herefordshire justice of the peace and opponent of the weirs, wrote in 1610 that Sir John Scudamore† ‘hath ever said, if there were any hope that the over-throw of the weirs would make the river [Wye] navigable, portable or salmonable, he would pull down his first, to give an instance to others’, but others, including the bishop of Hereford and Edward, 4th earl of Worcester, a prominent privy councillor who had a grant of weirs belonging to the Crown, were less sympathetic. In July 1603 the corporation procured a commission of sewers for the Wye, but its work was hampered by internal divisions and legal challenges. It was subsequently reported that the supporters of the weirs had appealed to lord chancellor Ellesmere (Thomas Egerton†), arguing that the weirs were necessary to power the watermills on the Wye, which ground the county’s corn. In September 1603 Ellesmere wrote to Sir John Scudamore’s son Sir James* and other members of the commission stating that he and Worcester had received complaints ‘of very partial dealing, and indirect courses used by you towards some particular persons, in the execution of a commission of sewers’, including a petition from the bishop and a certificate signed by the sheriff and other members of the country gentry. Faced with this opposition the work of the commission seems to have been stymied.22

In April 1604 a bill was introduced into the Commons ‘for the abating, and to restrain, the new erection of all weirs, … and other obstructions in great and navigable rivers’. It was supported by Hoskins at second reading on 23 June but was opposed by Robert Johnson on behalf of his patron, the earl of Worcester. The bill was committed but did not emerge again before the session was prorogued on 7 July.23 In 1606 the bill was reintroduced, when it passed all its stages in the Commons, although at the report stage on 13 Mar. Johnson brought in a proviso, which was opposed by Hoskins.24 However in the Lords the bill failed to emerge from committee, whose members included the earl of Worcester and the bishop of Hereford.25

Hoskins was a prominent supporter of a bill introduced by Sir Herbert Croft* on 6 Feb. 1606, which sought to remove the jurisdiction of the Council in the Marches over Herefordshire, Shropshire, Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. However (Sir) Richard Lewknor†, a member of the Council, procured a certificate signed by the mayor of Hereford, James Russell, and several of the city’s aldermen opposing the bill, which Hoskins was forced to acknowledge bore the mayoral seal at the third reading on 10 March. In the same debate Pembrugge attacked a similar certificate from the Ludlow corporation, suggesting that he too was an opponent of the Council, although he had only recently been returned by Russell.26

The shortage of fuel in Herefordshire, of which the corporation had complained in 1603, may explain why the city’s burgesses were appointed to the committee for the bill ‘touching assize of fuel’ on 8 Apr. 1606.27 In 1607 a proviso was added to the bill for the true making of cloth during the committee stage to enable the freemen of Hereford, Leominster, Bewdley and Coventry to enter the cloth trade without first serving an apprenticeship. The amended bill was approved when it was reported on 31 Mar. and was ordered to be engrossed, but the proviso was challenged at the bill’s third reading on 11 May. Pembrugge and Hoskins argued in favour of the proviso and were supported by the county Member Sir Herbert Croft, but were unable to prevent the bill’s recommitment. The following day Hoskins reported that the committee had disliked the proviso, whereupon the House ordered the proviso to be scraped out.28

On 6 June 1610 Hoskins introduced another bill against weirs, but it failed to proceed even to a first reading.29 A bill against weirs was laid before the Addled Parliament on 17 May 1614, but neither of the Hereford Members were recorded as contributing to the second reading debate four days later, although both were appointed to the committee. No subsequent proceedings are recorded.30 There were no proceedings against weirs in the first sitting of the 1621 Parliament, but in July of that year a new commission of the sewers was issued for the River Wye. Once again the proceedings of the commission rapidly became bogged down in controversy. On 10 Aug., at the request of the earl of Worcester, lord keeper Williams instructed the commissioners not to take action against the weirs granted by the Crown to Worcester before he had given a hearing to the earl’s representatives. Moreover, the Duchy of Lancaster Court overturned an order of the commission to pull down a weir leased from the duchy. Faced with these obstructions the corporation and its supporters among the Herefordshire gentry seem to have decided to raise the issue in Parliament during the second sitting. On 14 Nov. it was reported that Richard Weaver* was ‘retained to follow and solicit the cause’ and attempts were being made to recruit the support of Sir Edward Sackville*. However there is no evidence that that matter was brought before the Commons before the dissolution. In 1622 Hereford’s corporation complained to the king that it had waited a year for the hearing of the earl of Worcester’s cause, which had not yet occurred as Worcester’s solicitor had refused to fix a day. It also offered to compensate the Crown for any loss of rent if the weirs were pulled down. James I’s response to the petition is unknown, but the issue of the weirs was still outstanding when the 1624 Parliament met.31

On 25 Mar. 1624 a bill was introduced specifically to remove the weirs on the Wye, despite the fact that the bill for the preservation of salmon, which had been introduced ten days earlier, also included provisions to enable magistrates to order the destruction of weirs.32 On 3 Apr. the bill concerning the weirs on the Wye received its second reading and was committed. Sir Robert Harley*, one of the county Members, was specifically named to the committee and the Members for Herefordshire were appointed en bloc.33 Two days latter the corporation wrote identical letters to the county Members, stating that it had been ‘given to understand by our citizens how freely it pleaseth you to afford your assistance in Parliament to the forwarding of the cause there for prostrating of the weirs’. After emphasizing the importance of the bill to the welfare of the city, the corporation requested that the county Members ‘will continue your love towards us in that behalf’.34 A two-page tract which was probably produced in response to the bill argued that it was not practicable to make the Wye navigable and that the Welsh counties upriver of Herefordshire had ‘no commodities of any reckoning to be brought’. It also opposed the corporation’s assertion that removing the weirs would improve the city’s fuel supplies.35 On 15 May Harley reported the bill with amendments and a proviso, but the House remained dissatisfied and the measure was recommitted after a division. He reported it again 11 days later, when it was ordered to be engrossed, but the measure was lost when the House was prorogued on the 29 May.36 After the failure of the 1624 bill to reach the statute books, Hereford corporation made no recorded attempts to raise the issue in Parliament during this period. In 1626 a further bill for the preservation of salmon, which was also intended to improve river navigation, included provisions against weirs, but there is no evidence that it was supported by the Hereford corporation or the city’s Members.37

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Ben Coates


  • 1. Herefs. RO, Hereford city misc. pprs. 4, f. 56.
  • 2. W. Camden, Britain (1610) trans. P. Holland, 618.
  • 3. M.D. Lobel, ‘Hereford’, in Historic Towns, ed. M.D. Lobel, 1.
  • 4. A. Dyer, Decline and Growth in English Towns, 73; P. Corfield, ‘Urban development in England and Wales’, Trade, Government and Economy in Pre-Industrial Eng. ed. D.C. Coleman and A.H. John, 224; Lobel, 9.
  • 5. Lobel, 9; E. Kerridge, Textile Manufactures in Early Modern England, 21; G.D. Ramsay, English Woollen Industry, 29; CJ, i. 372a; Add. 11053, ff. 70v-1.
  • 6. Old Meg of Hereford-shire (1609), sigs. A4-B
  • 7. Add. 11053, ff. 70v-1.
  • 8. I.M. Slocombe, ‘Government of Hereford in the Sixteenth Cent.’, Trans. Woolhope Field Club, xl. 367; C66/1466, mm. 7-16; Duncumb, Co. of Hereford, i. 355-9.
  • 9. C219/35/1/80; Herefs. RO, Hereford city misc. pprs. 4, f. 56.
  • 10. L.B. Osborn, Life, Letters and Writings of John Hoskyns, 82-3; R. Johnson, Ancient Customs of Hereford, 181.
  • 11. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 360; HP Commons 1558-1601, i. 175.
  • 12. W.J. Tighe, ‘Country into Court, Court into Country: John Scudamore of Holme Lacy (c.1542-1623) and his circles’, Tudor Political Culture ed. D. Hoak, 167, 171-3; Add. 11053, f. 67; R. Vaughan, Most Approved, and Long Experienced Waterworkes, (1610) sig. D4v; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 339.
  • 13. C219/35/1/77; Add. 11042, f. 10.
  • 14. HMC Hatfield, xvii. 360; C219/35/1/75; Add. 11042, f. 10.
  • 15. Add. 11053, f. 77; Johnson, 229.
  • 16. Duncumb, 356-7; APC, 1619-21, pp. 45, 50, 75; I. Atherton, Ambition and Failure in Stuart Eng. 96; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 206, 357, 398, 401; SP14/130/116.
  • 17. Add. 11053, f. 91.
  • 18. Atherton, 152.
  • 19. SP16/78/46.I.
  • 20. C115/101/7636.
  • 21. Add. 11053, ff. 70v-1.
  • 22. Ibid. ff. 72, 80r-v; Vaughan, sigs. G3-H3; River Wye (in True Examination) Very Difficult and Chargeable to be Reduced Portable Beneath Hereford ([1624]).
  • 23. CD 1604-7, p. 73; CJ, i. 997a.
  • 24. Ibid. 262a, 265a, 284a, 288a, 290a.
  • 25. LJ, ii. 410.
  • 26. Bowyer Diary, 49; CJ, i. 264a, 281b; HMC Hatfield, xviii. 27.
  • 27. CJ, i. 295b.
  • 28. Ibid. 357b, 372a, 372b, 373a, 1043a; Bowyer Diary, 291-2.
  • 29. CJ, i. 435b.
  • 30. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 266, 309.
  • 31. C181/3, f. 33; C115/107/8520; R. Callis, Reading of Famous and Learned Gentleman (1647), pp. 209-10; Herefs. RO, W15/2; HMC 7th Rep. 682; Add. 11052, f. 80r-v.
  • 32. CJ, i. 737a, 749b; ‘Pym 1624’, f. 41.
  • 33. CJ, i. 753a.
  • 34. Add. 70086/5/4; C115/101/7636.
  • 35. River Wye (in True Examination) Very Difficult and Chargeable to be Reduced Portable Beneath Hereford ([1624]).
  • 36. CJ, i. 704a, 789b, 795b.
  • 37. Procs. 1626, iii. 135, 139.