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


aft. 1532?JOHN UVEDALE vice Cooper, deceased1
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Main Article

Long in contention between England and Scotland, Berwick-upon-Tweed passed finally under English rule in 1482. It was incorporated by the reign of David I and its charters, granted by English and Scottish kings, were confirmed in 1510, 1547 and 1554. A market town with a guild and a civilian population of probably over a thousand, dependent upon fishing and the wool industry, Berwick was also a fortress, with the largest garrison in the country; its leading official was the captain or governor, whose authority was recognized in a grant of privileges from Henry VIII in 1533, but there were sometimes two captains, one for the town and one for the castle. The government of the town also included a mayor, a paid official of the crown but probably elected annually by the guild, an alderman, four bailiffs, a coroner, a town clerk (at least after 1554) and the Twelve, a body sometimes also known as the ‘feryngmen’ and seemingly not limited to 12 Members. In 1548-9 two councils were set up, a mayor’s council composed of former mayors and aldermen and a common council of 12 ‘other of the most ancient bailiffs and discreet men’. These councils, however, rarely appear in the records of the guild books after this date, whereas the mayor, aldermen and the Twelve, which included many of those who would have served on them, figure prominently. It is not clear whether yet another council, composed of officials of both the garrison and municipality (the governor or captain, the marshal, the master porter, the treasurer, the mayor and two or three aldermen), was part of the government of the town in this period.4

Berwick had been intermittently represented in Scottish Parliaments but it was probably first enfranchised as an English borough between 1491 and 1512. Unmentioned in the list of Members for the Parliament of 1491, it is included in the list of constituencies drawn up for that of 1512 in connexion with the issue of writs de expensis, where its placing suggests that it was not then returning for the first time. Only one election indenture, that of 1555, survives and that in poor condition. Made at ‘our commons [?commune] house’ at Berwick, it mentions the alderman and ‘all other the brethren and commonalty’.5

The guild books, which are incomplete for the period, show that the Twelve sometimes nominated one Member, sometimes perhaps both. It was probably in 1552 that the captain of Berwick, Sir Nicholas Strelley, complained to the Privy Council that ‘the burgesses chosen by the freemen little regard the profit of the soldiers’ and asked that the captain and his council should have the nomination of one Member as at Calais. Only seven Members are known for the period, but three of them may have had the backing of the military authorities, John Martin and John Cooper, as possible followers of the 5th Earl of Northumberland, warden-general of the east and middle marches in 1529, and Charles Wharton as a kinsman, possibly a son, of Thomas Wharton I, 1st Baron Wharton, captain of Berwick in 1555; moreover, the vacancy caused by Cooper’s death could have been filled by John Uvedale, a prominent government servant in the north. Three Members were leading burgesses, Odinel Selby, George Browne and Thomas Bradford; another, John Watson, whose Membership is known only from the list compiled for the final session of the Parliament of 1547, has not been certainly identified. If he was the man admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1550 and returned as such for Newcastle-upon-Tyne four years later, he had almost certainly been by-elected. He could have replaced George Willoughby, a member of the council of John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, who died in August 1550: as lieutenant of the north, Warwick was at Berwick at about the time of the election in 1547.6

Berwick paid parliamentary wages to at least the townsmen among its Members and at a rate in excess of the statutory 2s. a day. At meetings of the guild held on 16 Feb. 1553 and 12 Oct. 1555 it was decreed that a levy should be made for this purpose: the mayor was to pay 8s., aldermen 6s., a bailiff 4s., a ‘single share’ (probably a freeman) 2s. and a stallenger (one trading within the town but not a freeman) ‘what thing may be gotten’. In 1553 it was further decreed that any member of the guild who did not pay his share should be punished ‘according to Mr Mayor’s discretion’.

In 1539 Berwick was in dispute with Newcastle-upon-Tyne over the shipping of wool and hides. The captain, Sir William Eure, wrote to Cromwell that ‘now by such as they have authorized by their proxy to make answer in the parliament house for the town mindeth by your lordship’s pleasure to labour not only for the confirmation of this said grant but also for the annulling of the town of Newcastle for buying any of the premises’. It is not known whether the matter was raised in the House. Bills for Berwick’s other major industry, fishing, were introduced in 1550 and 1555 but not enacted. The town became the seat of a suffragan bishop under the Act for the nomination and consecration of suffragans (26 Hen. VIII, c.14). In an effort to improve the efficiency of the garrison and the customs, an Act (32 Hen. VIII, c.27) backed by the Council revoked all licences to be absent from Berwick.7

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, vii. 1522(ii) citing SP1/87, f. 106v.
  • 2. Berwick guide bk. 1508-68, unfoliated.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. J. Scott, Berwick, 105, 238-56, 470-2, 480-1; HMC 3rd Rep. 308; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, v. 63.
  • 5. Bull. IHR, iii. 168-75; Stowe 501, ff. 129-31; C219/24/192.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1601-3, Add. 1547-65, p. 421.
  • 7. SP1 150/167-8; CJ, i. 15, 44.