Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the burgesses and commonalty
Number of voters:
at least 11 in 1620
|Mar. 16041||EDWARD MAN|
|c. Mar. 1614||WALTER EARLE|
|SIR THOMAS WALSINGHAM II|
|18 Dec. 1620||(SIR) WALTER EARLE|
|(SIR) GEORGE HORSEY|
|Jan. 1624||(SIR) WALTER EARLE|
|9 May 1625||SIR JOHN COOPER , bt.|
|c. Jan. 1626||CHRISTOPHER EARLE|
|3 Mar. 1628||SIR JOHN COOPER , bt.|
Poole received its first charter in 1248, and was represented in Parliament from 1362, though the borough did not return Members regularly until the mid-fifteenth century. Under its 1568 charter of incorporation, Poole also achieved administrative independence from the county of Dorset, the lord lieutenant alone retaining authority over the town.2 The largest and wealthiest port in early Stuart Dorset, it was described by one contemporary as ‘handsomely built and well provided with shipping’. Poole’s prosperity derived primarily from its involvement in the Newfoundland fisheries; by comparison, the town struggled to compete in the wine trade with Southampton, Hampshire, which was exempt from prisage.3 However, this heavy reliance on one industry carried risks. Much of the processed fish was sold to France and Spain, and the town was badly affected when war and piracy disrupted this trade at the start of Charles I’s reign. In just two or three years, around 20 ships and over 200 mariners were lost, with the port’s customs receipts in 1626 reportedly reduced to a mere 8s. Although some merchants like Thomas Robarts* profited from privateering, that can have done little to stem the general economic decline. The Dorset antiquarian Thomas Gerard, writing around 1630, considered Poole to be ‘much fallen from the pristine glory, yea, and so much that now the houses begin to decay for want of dwellers’.4
Under the Elizabethan charter, the corporation consisted of a mayor and 11 assistants, a recorder, and – because of Poole’s county status – a sheriff. This body also leased the impropriate rectory and advowson from the Crown for an annual rent of £12, giving it additional influence over the town’s religious life. Parliamentary elections were held at the guildhall, presided over by the sheriff, who made his returns direct to the clerk of the Crown in Chancery. The size of the electorate during this period is uncertain, but there were reportedly around 80 voters as early as 1568, and the number is unlikely to have fallen at least until the crisis of the late 1620s. Nevertheless, the participants listed in the returns were generally corporation members, who evidently mediated electoral patronage in the borough.5
In the 1604-10 Parliament Poole was represented by two resident merchants. Edward Man was actually referred to as ‘gentleman’ on the election indenture, but it is he, rather than his colleague Thomas Robarts, who is known to have received wages ‘for attendance at Parliament’. The small recorded sum of £14 10s. was presumably only a part payment, but its precise timing is unclear.6 Thereafter, the borough invariably returned outsiders. In 1614 Man was apparently prevailed upon by his brother Bartholomew, a resident of Rochester, Kent, to arrange the election of Sir Thomas Walsingham, the heir to a great Kentish estate.7 The junior seat that year went to Walter Earle, one of Dorset’s wealthiest gentlemen, who lived just five miles from the borough, and had recently come of age. Earle, who was knighted in 1616, sat again in 1621 and 1624, and successfully nominated his brother Christopher in 1626.8
The second place in 1621 was taken by (Sir) George Horsey, whose wife was the great-niece of Poole’s recorder, Richard Swayne†.9 The recorder also exerted influence over the following election. On 11 Jan. 1624 Edward Pitt informed his father, (Sir) William Pitt*, that he was seeking a seat at Poole:
thither hath my uncle Swayne written on my behalf, but as yet received no answer. But I perceive by a letter from my uncle [John] Bramble … that there is a good inclination in five or six of the chief [men] of the town (whereof the mayor is one) to join me with Sir Walter Earle, who is undoubtedly to be one [Member]; but there are two or three strong competitors that hope and labour to be joined with him, Sir Nathaniel Napper*, and young Mr. Christopher Anketill who liveth in the town.
Four days later, Pitt reported that the corporation had responded positively to Swayne’s approach, ‘and put by their other suitors, with answer that they are already resolved for the disposing of their places’.10 Napper duly opted to contest a county seat instead, though Anketill conceivably possessed enough local standing to persist with his candidacy. A cousin of John Anketill*, and the heir to a debt-racked Dorset gentry family, he held municipal office at Poole, and a little later arranged for his brother Henry to obtain the perpetual curacy. Nevertheless, it was Earle and Pitt who finally prevailed that year.11
With the new reign began John Pyne’s long connection with the borough, which was broken only by the expulsion of the Rump in 1653. Although a Somerset resident, he had strong local associations through his mother’s family, the Hanhams of Wimborne Minster, Dorset, and had also shared chambers at the Middle Temple with Christopher Earle.12 Pyne took the junior seat in the first three Caroline Parliaments, his colleague in 1625 and 1628 being Sir John Cooper, a Hampshire gentleman who was most likely recommended by his wife’s uncle, Sir Francis Ashley*. Cooper’s successes ostensibly interrupted the Earle interest at Poole, but Sir Walter and Ashley were both prominent figures in the Dorset puritan community, and possibly reached an understanding on these two occasions.13
Authors: John. P. Ferris / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. C219/35/174 (mislabelled as Pembroke).
- 2. British Bor. Charters 1307-1660 ed. M. Weinbaum, 31-2; OR; J. Sydenham, Poole, 179.
- 3. J.H. Bettey, Dorset, 67, 80; ‘Description of a Journey Made into the Western Counties’ ed. L.G. Wickham Legg, Cam. Misc. XVI (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. lii), 68; E134/7 Jas.I/Mich. 27.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 25; SP16/51/55-6; 16/61/13; 16/103/43; T. Gerard, Survey of Dorset, 85.
- 5. Sydenham, 177, 189, 294-5; C219/37/96; 219/41A/108.
- 6. C219/35/2/174; Dorset RO, Poole corp. audit bk. 1587-1637.
- 7. MTR, 611; Arch. Cant. xx. 10.
- 8. C142/251/169; Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 502.
- 9. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 1, 41; Hutchins, ii. 453.
- 10. Add. 29974, ff. 74, 76.
- 11. Gerard, 92; Sydenham, 236, 303; Hutchins, iii. 61; Som. and Dorset N and Q, iii. 1, 48; A.G. Matthews, Walker Revised, 308-9.
- 12. Som. and Dorset N and Q, xxxi. 29; MTR, 634.
- 13. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 233.