New Romney


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:

18 in 16281


17 Sept. 1610WILLIAM BYNG vice Remington, deceased
9 Jan. 1621SIR PETER MANWOOD vice Thurbarne, refused to serve
 Sir William Twysden , (bt.)*
 Walter Montagu
 Sir Edward Dering , (bt.)*

Main Article

New Romney lost its access to the sea after the violent storm of 1286, and dwindled into a mere market town, often at odds with its ‘limb’ of Lydd. It nevertheless served as the meeting place of the Cinque Ports’ two representative assemblies, the Brotherhood and the Guestling, received a charter in 1352, and in 1563 was incorporated under a governing body consisting of a mayor and a maximum of 12 jurats.3 In this period no more than half this number can be traced at any one time, and most of those recorded as participating in parliamentary elections were mere freemen. This small electorate clung with much determination to its right to return at least one townsman, whom, before the 1620s, it somehow found the means to pay despite the diminished economic status of the town. Only in 1621 and 1628 were both seats conferred on outsiders, and in each case the place normally reserved for a townsman went to men closely associated with the town and its immediate neighbourhood rather than on strangers.

Outsiders were required to take the oath of a freeman each time they were returned. Before the 1620s they were expected to journey to the town for this purpose, but in 1621 Francis Featherstonhaugh was sworn at London by his colleague Sir Peter Manwood, and by the borough’s standing counsel, James Thurbarne. A similar commission was issued in 1625 to swear in Sir Edward Verney. In 1628 Thomas Brett, who had taken the trouble to journey to New Romney two years earlier after his first election by the borough, also took his oath in the capital.4

At the 1604 general election the corporation initially rejected as non-resident the candidate nominated by the newly appointed lord warden of the Cinque Ports, Lord Henry Howard. This was Sir Robert Remington, a Yorkshire-born administrator with a wife in Hampshire and interests chiefly in Ireland. On 13 Feb. the corporation explained that the Brotherhood of the Cinque Ports had resolved only seven months earlier to impose a fine of £20 on any of its members who failed to elect a resident freeman as one of its parliamentary representatives. It also drew attention to the king’s recent Proclamation, which required enfranchised boroughs to observe electoral law, which forbade the return of non-residents.5 Sir Thomas Fane†, lieutenant of Dover Castle and thus deputy to Howard, was shocked at the ‘unkindness’ shown by the corporation to his superior. Other boroughs in Kent, he remarked on 28 Feb., had disregarded the ancient law on non-residence. Moreover, so far as the 1603 instruction was concerned, the borough was at liberty to dispense with any order that it had helped to make. Unless Remington was returned, New Romney would suffer many ‘inconveniences’, as Fane’s nephew, Sir George Fane*, would explain verbally.6 The corporation was so intimidated by these threats that it immediately capitulated, returning Remington along with one of their own number, John Plomer.7 It also fired off an apologetic letter to the lord warden. It had not known how other boroughs had responded to the royal Proclamation, it explained, and had only declined the lord warden’s request out of fear of punishment. Far from entertaining hostile intentions towards Howard, it had delayed its election until it had received a response to its letter of 13 February. These explanations proved so satisfactory that on 4 Mar. the lord warden promised the corporation that ‘hereafter’ he would show ‘care for your good’.8

Plomer’s wages, originally fixed at 2s. a day like those granted to his immediate predecessors, were doubled for the third and fourth sessions.9 The cost of these payments averaged over six per cent of the borough’s total income between 1604 and 1610.10 On Remington’s death during the last recess of this Parliament the freemen accepted without demur one of Northampton’s servants, William Byng, who was at least Kentish-born.11

Plomer and another jurat, Robert Wilcocks, were delegated in 1612 to protest to Northampton against the new charter sought by Lydd because ‘it may be prejudicial to this corporation’.12 They were apparently successful, as no objection was raised to Northampton’s nomination of the parvenu London businessman and concessionaire, Sir Arthur Ingram, to replace Byng, who transferred to Winchelsea, Sussex, in 1614. Since Plomer was in poor health, the remaining seat was conferred on Wilcocks, who received payment at the reduced rate of 3s. a day.13

Plomer and Wilcocks were dead before the next general election, leaving the way clear for the borough’s standing counsel, James Thurbarne, to regain the seat he had occupied in 1597. As a partner of (Sir) Giles Mompesson* in the unpopular alehouse patent, Thurbarne might have had good reason to seek election to the third Jacobean Parliament. He offered his services to the corporation on 5 Nov. 1620, and declared his willingness to accept ‘what wages they think fit’. He was duly adopted ‘with one consent’, and it was agreed to allow him a salary of 4s. a day

because he is a very able and sufficient man to do the Ports goods service at the said Parliament and also this town in particular if there shall be occasion to employ him, and because his charges for himself and his man lying there and attending at the Parliament will be more than former burgesses have been.14

However, on 4 Jan. 1621, having perhaps been advised that it would go better with him in Parliament if he kept his head down, Thurbarne was discharged at his own request ‘because of special occasions’. His withdrawal paved the way for the Kent squire Sir Peter Manwood, who had previously owned property in Romney Marsh and now needed protection from his creditors. On 9 Jan. he was elected at his ‘earnest request’. The remaining seat, which lay in the gift of Northampton’s successor Lord Zouche, was bestowed three days later upon a courtier, Francis Fetherstonhaugh, whose chief interest in Parliament was the enfranchisement of County Durham.15

Fetherstonhaugh was nominated for re-election by Zouche in 1624, and shortly after being returned he wrote to the corporation promising ‘his care in performing that service’.16 The second place was taken by Richard Godfrey, the younger son of a jurat of Lydd, as by this time Manwood had fled overseas. Godfrey was quickly sworn in as freeman and jurat and agreed to serve without wages, to the delight and astonishment of the corporation.17 Not surprisingly, Godfrey was returned to the next two Parliaments. In 1625 the new lord warden, the duke of Buckingham, attempted to take both seats, nominating the courtiers Sir Edmund Verney and Sir William Twysden*. The corporation rejected the Kentish magnate Twysden in favour of the more distant Verney, who could not threaten to establish a personal interest in the borough.18 They also showed their appreciation of Godfrey’s parliamentary services (which remained free but minimal, so far as official records show) by promoting him from ‘gent.’ to ‘esquire’ on the next return, and later by a gift of plate.19 In 1626 the corporation returned Godfrey for a third time, and celebrated the event at a cost of 12s. 10d.20 Godfrey was paired with Thomas Brett, a former soldier and Kentish-born kinsman of Thurbarne, much to the surprise of Buckingham, whose nomination of the aspiring diplomat Walter Montagu (son of Sir Henry Montagu*) came fractionally too late. The corporation explained that it had thought that the duke had decided not to make a nomination, but on its own admission it had waited only three days after it had received formal notification that there was to be a Parliament before proceeding to election.21 Not surprisingly, therefore, this excuse was not accepted, and the town was punished by the billeting of soldiers.22 During the course of the Parliament the corporation sent letters to Godfrey, but their contents are unknown.23

In 1628 Buckingham nominated Sir Edward Dering*, who had already been rejected by the county. Godfrey stood down, to be replaced by his older half-brother Thomas, but Brett, who had sent the corporation a buck following the dissolution of the 1626 assembly,24 held his ground, and Dering was rejected on the poll. This time the corporation aggravated its offence by returning no answer to the lord warden’s letter;25 and Buckingham aggravated its punishment by billeting Irish soldiers previously destined for Hythe on the town.26 The corporation responded by petitioning the Commons, but the troops were not finally removed until the end of July.27 At least one New Romney man was among those who toasted Buckingham’s assassin a few months later.28

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/2, p. 84.
  • 2. Dates of election from New Romney assembly bks.: E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/1, ff. 135v, 191v, 209, 267; NR/AC/2, pp. 27, 41, 51, 84.
  • 3. E. Hasted, Kent, viii. 447; W. Holloway, Romney Marsh, 81; CPR, 1560-3, p. 499; M. Teichman Derville, Annals of New Romney, 5, 10; K.M.E. Murray, Constitutional. Hist. of Cinque Ports, 56.
  • 4. SP14/119/19; Procs. 1628, vi. 156; Top. and Gen. ii. 461.
  • 5. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/1, ff. 134v-5; Cal. of White and Black Bks. of Cinque Ports ed. F. Hull (Kent Recs. xix), 375; Stuart Royal Procs. ed. J.F. Larkin and P.L. Hughes, i. 69.
  • 6. Murray, 98-9. See also E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AEp/41.
  • 7. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/1, f. 135v.
  • 8. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AEp/42-3.
  • 9. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/1, ff. 138v, 152v, 161.
  • 10. V.J. Hodges, ‘The Electoral Influence of the Aristocracy 1604-41’ (Columbia Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1977), p. 143.
  • 11. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/1, f. 191v; NR/AZ32/9.
  • 12. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/ACo/1, f. 28v. See also NR/FA/c8, f. 152.
  • 13. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/1, ff. 209-10v.
  • 14. Ibid. f. 265r-v.
  • 15. Ibid. ff. 266v-7v; NR/AEp/44; SP14/118/26; 14/119/19.
  • 16. E. Kent Archives Cent. NR/AC/2, pp. 27, 30.
  • 17. Ibid. 47.
  • 18. Ibid. 41.
  • 19. Cent. Kent. Stud., PRC 16/240, f. 362.
  • 20. E. Kent Archives Cent. NR/FA/c8, f. 236.
  • 21. Procs. 1626, iv. 246.
  • 22. Add. 37819, f. 17v; E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/CP/c110.
  • 23. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/FA/c8, f. 240.
  • 24. Ibid. f. 242.
  • 25. Procs. 1628, vi. 156.
  • 26. APC, 1627-8, pp. 370, 389.
  • 27. E. Kent Archives Cent., NR/AC/2, f. 45; APC, 1628-9, pp. 29, 57.
  • 28. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 325.