Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer


1555(not known)

Main Article

Banbury owed its importance to a bridge across the river Cherwell, which divided Oxfordshire from Northamptonshire, and to a castle built there by the bishops of Lincoln. The population has been estimated at about 1,000 at the beginning of Edward VI’s reign, when a chantry certificate recorded that 460 inhabitants were of age to receive the eucharist: in 1549 12 townsmen were assessed for subsidy.2

The bishop of Lincoln surrendered the castle, manor and hundred of Banbury to the crown in 1547. It was granted first to the Duke of Somerset and then to the Earl of Warwick, who as Duke of Northumberland conveyed it again to the King in December 1551. Banbury was thus a royal borough when it was incorporated and enfranchised by Mary on 26 Jan. 1554 as a reward for its ‘strong resistence’ to Northumberland in the previous year. Municipal government was vested in a bailiff, 12 aldermen and 12 capital burgesses, who were to form a common council; all were named in the charter but thereafter the aldermen were to recruit their ranks from the capital burgesses and the capital burgesses to do so from the townspeople.3

The town clerk recorded that Banbury owed its charter to the ‘labour and diligent suit’ of Henry, 1st Baron Stafford, Thomas Denton and seven inhabitants headed by William Barnesley, the first bailiff. Both Stafford, son of the attainted 3rd Duke of Buckingham, and Denton, a successful lawyer whose father had been one of the duke’s annuitants, stood well with the Marian government, Stafford as a brother-in-law of Cardinal Pole and Denton as a son-in-law of the 1st Baron Mordaunt, himself a relative of Stafford by marriage. Stafford may have been high steward of Banbury, an office mentioned in the charter, while Denton received many messages from the new corporation; he was paid 20s. for his ‘half year’s fee’ in 1556 and 1558, but there is no trace in the surviving accounts of the payment of parliamentary wages. The names of its Members reflect the early ascendancy of Stafford and Denton, although it has been suggested that Sir William Cecil and (Sir) Thomas Pope may also have had a hand in the granting of the charter: Cecil’s second wife was descended from a Banbury man, and Pope, who had been educated at Banbury school, had a younger brother domiciled at Wroxton, three miles from Banbury. Another local man, Richard Fiennes, is unlikely to have had any influence in Mary’s reign but is known to have looked with favour on the newly incorporated borough: through his marriage to Ursula Fermor he, too, belonged to the Mordaunt circle.4

The bailiff, aldermen and burgesses of Banbury were empowered to elect ‘one discreet burgess of the said borough’ to sit in Parliament. It is not known why Banbury was a single-Member constituency when Aylesbury, a smaller town and also a royal borough, was enfranchised in the same month with the right to return two Members. Banbury and Monmouth remained the only English single-Member constituencies until joined by Abingdon and Higham Ferrers in 1556: Banbury continued to return only one Member until 1832. Denton took the Banbury seat in the first Parliament of 1554 and was replaced in the second by Stafford’s fourth son Edward, then aged 18: in the circumstances neither is likely to have needed any assistance from the sheriff Sir John Brome, father-in-law of Denton’s older brother John. John Denton, sheriff in 1557-8, presumably returned himself to the Parliament of 1558. It is not known who sat in the intervening Parliament. No election indentures for Banbury survive for the period; the sheriff’s schedule for November 1554 lists it among the Oxfordshire boroughs but no Members are named.5

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 2. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, ii. 38; A. Beesley, Banbury, 211; E179/162/276.
  • 3. Beesley, 212, 215, 219-20; CPR, 1553-4, pp. 246-7; VCH Oxon. x. 73.
  • 4. Beesley, 219, 222, 225-7.
  • 5. C219/23/99.