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:

about 40


 SIR JOHN JEFFERY , alderman
c. Dec. 1605SIR THOMAS FLEMING II vice Fleming, appointed to office
26 Jan. 1624SIR JOHN MILL , bt.
9 Mar. 1624THOMAS BOND vice Sherfield, chose to sit for Salisbury
c. Apr. 1625SIR JOHN MILL , bt.
 GEORGE GOLLOP , alderman
16 Jan. 1626SIR JOHN MILL , bt.
 GEORGE GOLLOP , alderman
10 Mar. 1628JOHN MAJOR , alderman
 GEORGE GOLLOP , alderman

Main Article

Southampton, once a major trading port, received its first charter in the reign of Henry II, and sent Members to the Model Parliament in 1295.1 Incorporated in 1445, the town’s government was vested in a mayor, sheriff, recorder, two bailiffs, a steward, two constables, and a fluctuating number of aldermen, or ex-mayors.2 The franchise was extended to all freemen, but admission to the freedom, which conferred the right to trade, was tightly controlled, and the electorate never rose above 40 in this period.3 Although described in 1635 as a ‘rich merchant and sweet maritime town’, whose ‘fabrics and inhabitants are fair, neat, beautiful, straight and handsome’, Southampton’s prosperous appearance masked a prolonged period of economic decline, exacerbated in the later years of the sixteenth century by the war with Spain.4 The monopoly of sweet wine imports, vigorously defended throughout the period, brought a steady income but no real wealth, most merchants preferring to pay the forfeiture and trade elsewhere. Although dissatisfied with their charter, the corporation seems to have been unable to afford the cost (estimated at up to £350) of a new grant, preferring instead to confirm their privileges by Act of Parliament and inspeximus.5 The corporation controlled nominations to both seats and only once, under protest, returned a Member with no official or residential connection with the town.6

A royal visit on 20 Oct. 1603 brought no enlargement of the town’s privileges, and the corporation’s attempt two months later to negotiate a monopoly of trade with Venice proved fruitless.7 At the general election of 1604 the former recorder, solicitor general Sir Thomas Fleming I, a nearby resident who had represented the borough in 1601, was returned while the second seat was taken by Sir John Jeffery, the most enterprising Southampton merchant of the age. The Commons declared Fleming’s seat vacant on 9 Nov. 1605, following his appointment as lord chief baron, and at the ensuing by-election his son was returned as his replacement.8 On 9 Apr. 1606 the imposition on serges at Southampton was included in a list of grievances considered by the Commons; and the town’s sergemakers also petitioned lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†).9

In the next session the corporation decided to procure statutory confirmation of the freemen’s exclusive right to trade. They were motivated to do so by a protracted and costly lawsuit brought against them by a London citizen, John Davies, whom the corporation had fined for attempting to trade goods they described as ‘foreign bought and sold’ in Southampton some six or seven years previously. Although Fleming was doubtless useful in obtaining his father’s support, he seems to have taken no part in securing the passage of the bill, which was entrusted to the recorder, William Brocke*, who sat for St. Ives, and Jeffery. It received its first reading on 29 Apr. 1607 and, after substantial amendments in committee, it was reported by Brocke on 5 June.10 The measure proved so contentious that Southampton retained Thomas Richardson* to answer the objections of London’s merchants, who claimed that under their charter they had the right to buy and sell in all cities of England. The corporation also spent £22 14s. on ‘a piece of plate given to an honourable person’ to further the bill.11 Despite the Londoners’ attempts to delay the bill until it ‘may fall asleep and die’, the borough ultimately proved successful, probably because of the strength of the free trade lobby in the Commons at this time.12 The bill was sent up to the Lords on 11 June, where the 3rd earl of Southampton assisted its progress by ensuring it was read immediately and by ensuring that he was named to the committee.13 It finally received the Royal Assent on 25 July.14 In total the corporation had spent over £100, which was raised by a levy on local merchants.15 However, the Act afforded no protection to Southampton merchants when, in 1608, the new royal butler, Sir Thomas Waller*, sued for arrears of prisage, a long-neglected duty, on wine imports. At first no exception was made, but Brocke managed to negotiate a composition of 500 marks, to be financed by loans from the leading merchants.16 After petitioning the king, the town was granted, on 6 Feb. 1609, an exemption for the future.17

Brocke died in 1611 and was succeeded as recorder by Thomas Cheke I, who took the second seat in the Addled Parliament, while the younger Fleming was re-elected in first place. In 1615 Cheke secured confirmation of Southampton’s monopoly of sweet wine imports, which was threatened by the Levant Company’s charter.18 Nevertheless the town’s concerted defence of its commercial privileges did little to improve its fortunes in the long term. This is evidenced by Southampton’s failure to raise £300 demanded by the Privy Council in February 1619 to help pay for an expedition to suppress the pirates of Algiers; the borough at first yielded only £92 3s. 4d., and eventually struggled to raise their contribution to £150.19

By the end of 1615 many observers expected the king to summon another Parliament to meet in the New Year, and consequently the corporation wrote in December 1615, and again in February 1616, offering the senior seat to Sir Thomas Lake I*, a native of the town and a privy councillor, who had assisted them in the prisage negotiations.20 However, by the time the election actually took place, in December 1620, Lake was out of office and did not stand for the Parliament. Fleming II was therefore re-elected, accompanied by the town’s new recorder, Henry Sherfield. Southampton’s sweet wine monopoly was mentioned during the monopolies debates, when on 15 Mar. it was reported that Southampton’s previously more extensive privileges had been found void by the judges early in Elizabeth’s reign, and since then allowed only for sweet wines imported by strangers.21 On 21 Apr. 1621 a delegation of Southampton traders presented a petition against the alnage patentees to the committee for trade, which was already considering various measures concerning the manufacture and export of cloth, and may have incorporated the Southampton merchants’ points into a general bill ‘for the true making of woollen cloths’.22

At the next election, in 1624, the senior seat went to Fleming’s brother-in-law Sir John Mill, who lived two miles away on the other side of the Test estuary. Sherfield, returned for the junior seat, opted to sit for Salisbury in Wiltshire, and recommended William Peaseley, the son-in-law of the secretary of state, (Sir) George Calvert*, in his stead. The corporation’s response was initially favourable, but after second thoughts they informed Sherfield on 15 Feb. 1624 that ‘if we should elect a stranger we must nevertheless send up a solicitor for the town, which would be chargeable, we think it therefore more convenient to make choice of one of our own company’.23 It is ironic therefore that the seat eventually went to Thomas Bond, a minor government official with no local connections who, as an investor in the Virginia Company, may have been recommended by the Company’s governor, the earl of Southampton, or by Sir Edward Conway I*, secretary of state, whom he had recently helped after a traffic accident.24 The corporation seems to have soon regretted this decision, for they resolved on 9 Apr. that in future any freeman who voted for an outsider would be expelled. They reiterated their resolution on 15 Apr. 1625, and returned Alderman George Gollop to the first two Caroline parliaments, together with Mill, who may have been reckoned a part-time resident.25

The billeting of troops in 1627-8 was deeply unpopular in Southampton as throughout the county, and the borough therefore reacted with predictable hostility when Conway, now a viscount, who had succeeded the earl of Southampton as lord lieutenant of Hampshire, wrote recommending an outsider, Sir Francis Annesley*, ahead of the elections in 1628.26 Sir Henry Whithed*, a Hampshire magistrate and former knight of the shire, also requested a seat; but as a commissioner for both the Forced Loan and billeting he had won no friends in Southampton. The corporation immediately rebuffed both, and when Conway restated his request they responded on 26 Feb. that ‘we cannot herein satisfy your lordship’s expectation without apparent breach of our oaths and exposing ourselves to public disgrace’, having sworn that ‘none of us shall give our voices for any person whatsoever … but only for a burgess here resident (the recorder for the time being only excepted), upon pain of degrading and expulsion’.27 Gollop was returned with another alderman, John Major, as his senior colleague. Major died on 21 Feb. 1629, but no fresh writ was ordered, and the Parliament ended shortly thereafter.

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. J.S. Davies, Hist. Soton, 152, 199.
  • 2. Assembly Bks. 1602-8 ed. J.W. Horrocks (Soton Rec. Soc. xix), pp. vi-ix, xvi-xviii, xx.
  • 3. Davies, 164, 190, 197, 208-9.
  • 4. ‘Relation of a Short Survey of the Western Counties’ ed. L.G. Wickham Legg Cam. Misc. xvi. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3, lii), pt. 3, pp. 55-7; HMC Hatfield, iv. 120-1.
  • 5. Soton City Charters ed. E. Welch (Soton Pprs. iv), 15.
  • 6. VCH Hants, iii. 517.
  • 7. HMC Southampton and King’s Lynn Corp. 23; CSP Ven. 1603-7, p. 124.
  • 8. CJ, i. 257a.
  • 9. Ibid. 295b; HMC Hatfield, xxiv. 74-5.
  • 10. CJ, i. 346b, 365b, 372a, 376b, 379a.
  • 11. Soton City Archives, SC5/2/2, f. 112v.
  • 12. HMC Hatfield, xix. 475-7.
  • 13. CJ, i. 380a, 382a; LJ, ii. 523b, 526a.
  • 14. CJ, i. 390a; C.C. Stopes, Henry, 3rd Earl of Southampton, 520.
  • 15. Soton City Archives, SC5/2/2, f. 112v; Welch, 16.
  • 16. Assembly Bks. 1602-8, xxvii, 88.
  • 17. Assembly Bks. 1609-10 ed. J.W. Horrocks (Soton Rec. Soc. xxi), 16; Welch, 16.
  • 18. Assembly Bks. 1615-16 ed. J.W. Horrocks (Soton Rec. Soc. xxv), 13, 22, 26-7, 44; APC, 1625-6, p. 352.
  • 19. HMC Southampton and King’s Lynn Corp. 130-1; CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 387.
  • 20. SP14/84/17; Assembly Bks. 1609-10, pp. 4, 6; Assembly Bks. 1615-16, p. 33; A. Thrush, ‘The Personal Rule of Jas. I, 1611-20’, in Pols., Religion and Popularity ed. T. Cogswell et al. 91.
  • 21. CJ, i. 555; CD 1621, iv. 157.
  • 22. HMC Var. iv. 168-9; CD 1621, iii. 46, vii. 126-7, 129.
  • 23. R.E. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, p. 62.
  • 24. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, iv. 966.
  • 25. VCH Hants, iii. 517.
  • 26. HMC Cowper, i. 344; Procs. 1628, vi. 165-6.
  • 27. Procs. 1628, vi. 166-7.