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

Background Information

No names known for 1510-23


1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1553 (Mar.)ROBERT RAGG

Main Article

A self-governing royal borough from an early date, with charters dating back to at least 1327, Derby had two bailiffs from 1337 and a recorder by 1446. The charters of 1511 and 1547 were merely confirmatory, and little more is known of the government of the town until 1612, when it was formally incorporated under the bailiffs, 24 ‘burgesses’, a recorder, town clerk and chamberlain. During the early 16th century the 4th and 5th Earls of Shrewsbury were influential in the borough, but there is little trace of interference in parliamentary elections, which were carried out, at least nominally, by the freemen in the common or moot hall, although in practice they were probably managed by the governing body.1

The returns for 1542, 1545 and 1547 are in the form of Latin indentures between the sheriff and the bailiffs; they bear the names of six to 15 men who although called burgenses were all ex-bailiffs. This was also the form adopted for the Parliament of October 1553, although with only three electors named and the addition et multos alios, whereas at the previous election of that year, when Robert Ragg’s name had been substituted on the return for another now illegible, the second party to the indenture consisted solely of the bailiffs, who claimed to have delivered the names of the Members to the sheriff with the consent of ‘the greater part of the burgesses of the town’. This form recurred in both the elections of 1554, but in 1555 the second party was ‘the bailiffs [unnamed] and burgesses’. These differences may reflect the persistence of the 15th-century practice by which Derby, in common with a number of boroughs, ‘elected’ its Members in the shire hall, in the sense that, after the election in the moot hall, either the bailiffs alone or a small delegation notified the sheriff at the shire hall; thus some returns may record the election proper and some its formal declaration. The dates of the elections for the borough and the shire, when these are given, are the same.2

The majority of the 11 known Members were townsmen who held municipal office. Seven served as bailiff (all but William Bainbridge before or during their first Membership), Thomas Sutton was recorder and George Cherneley town clerk; Henry Ainsworth, an obscure figure, may also have held office in the borough before his return, as probably did George Stringer. The meagreness of the town records obscures the succession to legal or minor offices.

In 1546 the Privy Council referred to the 5th Earl of Shrewsbury as ‘having rule’ in Derby; besides owning extensive property there and elsewhere in the county, Shrewsbury was steward of the duchy of Lancaster honor of Tutbury. Thus in 1529 Ainsworth, elected with an ex-bailiff in Thomas Ward, may have been the earl’s nominee, with Sir John Porte, father of the future knight of the shire for Derbyshire, as the intermediary; the fact that the King had asked for the election writ for the county suggests that the only parliamentary borough there may have been brought within the royal purview and Shrewsbury have secured the nomination. After the gap of 1536-9, the only two men who were to sit more than twice for the borough throughout the period, Thomas Sutton and William Allestry, were returned in 1542. Sutton was almost certainly in Shrewsbury’s service and may already have become recorder of Derby, while Allestry was long a leading figure there. In 1545, when he and Sutton were re-elected, Allestry became involved in a local dispute which led to his being ordered to remain in or near London until Shrewsbury had pacified the town. The episode may explain why Allestry was passed over for the Parliament of 1547 in favour of Robert Ragg, although in March 1553 he was re-elected with Ragg; no reason is known for the erasure of the name over which Ragg’s has been written on the return.3

In October 1553 Sutton, still presumably recorder, sat again, this time with the town clerk George Cherneley. For the rest of Mary’s reign Derby returned corporation officials all but continuously, and the one apparent exception, George Stringer, almost certainly owed his return to his family’s influence in the borough: although some of his descendants were to serve Elizabethan earls of Shrewsbury, no connexion has been found between him and the 5th Earl. The two prominent merchants who sat in November 1554, William More and William Bainbridge, ‘seceded’ before the end of the session, as did the knights of the shire. During the second session of the Parliament of this year the senior Member, the serving bailiff James Thatcher, was given a licence to return home after reporting that Derby was ‘sore infected’ with sickness; it is not clear why Bainbridge, who had been elected for the second time, was not similarly treated.4

Derby was made a sanctuary town under the Act of 1540 (32 Hen. VIII, c.12).

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. This survey rests on C. J. Black, ‘Admin. and parlty. rep. Notts. and Derbys. 1529-58’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1966); W. Hutton, Derby, 70, 76-77; M. McKisack, Parlty. Rep. Eng. Bors. during the Middle Ages, 54, 56.
  • 2. C219/18B/20, 18C/29, 19/26, 20/40, 21/38, 22/17, 23/37, 24/40.
  • 3. APC, i. 29, 34, 304; SP1/55, f. 188.
  • 4. CJ, i. 51.