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


 (aft. 24 July 1532 not known)
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)
by 23 Jan. 1552WILLIAM WARD I vice Vaughan, deceased2
1553 (Mar.)JOHN CARYLL

Main Article

Lancaster’s importance as the chief administrative centre of the duchy in the north was not matched by material prosperity. An Act of 1544 (35 Hen. VIII, c.4) included it among the towns where ‘divers ... beautiful houses of habitation have been ... which now are fallen down, decayed’, and half a century later Camden was to describe it as not populous nor much frequented, the inhabitants ‘being all husbandmen’. In 1362 the crown had directed that the county sessions must always be held there, but with the growth of more prosperous boroughs in the south of Lancashire this order was increasingly ignored. In 1557 Queen Mary granted a petition from the inhabitants, presented by Thomas Carus, by issuing a new charter with a clause that all law courts in the county, including general and quarter sessions and gaol delivery, must henceforth be held at Lancaster.3

The town had received its first charter before the end of the 12th century, and frequent confirmations had granted additional privileges including a weekly market and two fairs a year. The yearly fee-farm remained constant at £13 6s.8d., but from 1511 the borough paid an extra £2 10s. as rent for 80 acres enclosed from Quernmore forest. The charter incorporating the town, granted as late as 1604, evidently described the existing governing body when it spoke of the mayor as being assisted by two bailiffs and 24 capital burgesses, although a list of town customs drawn up in 1572 had mentioned only 12 ‘burgesses’, to be chosen with the mayor and bailiffs at the ‘head court’ on the Thursday after St. Luke’s day (18 Oct.). None of the surviving charters before 1684 refers to aldermen or ‘benchers’, an alternative term used locally for the office, but from February 1553 the surviving election indentures describe the elections as carried out by the mayor, bailiffs and all ‘older men’ and burgesses. Presumably the parliamentary franchise was thought to reside in the freemen.4

The greatest power in the area was the house of Stanley. The Monteagle branch of the family owned Hornby castle, about eight miles away, and both they and the earls of Derby had property within the borough. Until the Dissolution the monasteries of Cartmel, Cockersand, Conishead and Furness, together with the order of St. John of Jerusalem, all held burgages or land there. In the circumstances it is not surprising to find little or no electoral independence at Lancaster. The large number of lawyers among the Members—at least seven out of 18 and all but one of them from the Inner or Middle Temple—and the high incidence of those holding crown or court office show that Lancaster was one of the boroughs most amenable to influence. The chief patron was evidently the chancellor of the duchy, sometimes acting directly for the crown and sometimes on his own. It was probably to uphold the authority of the crown as duke of Lancaster, rather than for the ostensible reason of helping the inhabitants, that in 1556 a crown precept forbade the ‘taking of liveries and ... retaining with several lords and gentlemen’ which was apparently common at Lancaster; henceforth there were to be no ‘assemblies but only by our commission under the seal of the duchy of Lancaster or of our chancellor’.5

No election indentures survive from the 16th century before 1547, although in January 1545 the sheriff included in his county return the names of Members for the Lancashire boroughs. From 1547 the Lancaster indentures, all in English, are complete except for the Parliaments of April 1554 and 1558. The first of them is in the usual form, the contracting parties being the sheriff of the county palatine and the mayor and inhabitants of the borough; the name of the second Member, Stephen Vaughan, was possibly entered in a different hand from that of the rest of the document. The later indentures do not mention the sheriff but give the names of the mayor and bailiffs. In February 1553 John Caryll’s name has been inserted over an erasure; the original choice for the senior seat was (Sir) Walter Mildmay, a duchy auditor whose name appears without alteration later in the indenture, but he chose to sit for Maldon. At the following election the town presumably sent in a ‘blank’, the names of the Members being entered in an old-fashioned court hand, and this practice seems to have obtained again in October 1554, when the indenture lacks the day of the month. In 1555 Carus’s name was inserted over an erasure each time it was mentioned, and the second Member’s is in the hand which added Carus’s, not that of the writer of the document.6

At least 13 of the 18 known Members came from outside Lancashire and only two or three lived in Lancaster itself. Yet it may have been local influence which secured the borough’s re-enfranchisement. It had returned Members between 1295 and 1331 but is not known to have done so again until the election of William Banester in 1523. According to a plaintiff in the duchy court Banester’s father-in-law Lawrence Starkey, mayor of Lancaster, had secured his admission to the freedom and ‘incontinent after[wards]’ his election to Parliament in order to protect him against the plaintiff’s suit. Banester’s rebuttal that he had been freely chosen ‘as other burgesses [here]tofore there hath been’ seems to imply that Lancaster had begun to return again before 1523, but it is not included in the list of constituencies drawn up for the Parliament of 1512 in connexion with the issue of writs de expensis. Starkey was a friend and relative by marriage of Edward Stanley, 1st Lord Monteagle, and for many years was his deputy as sheriff of Lancashire, an office to which Stanley had been appointed for life in 1485. He could have moved Monteagle to have the borough re-enfranchised in 1523 (when the chancellorship of the duchy was probably in commission) or perhaps in 1515. Starkey himself was in London during part of the Parliament of 1523 and may well have been Banester’s partner; he was to be returned to the following Parliament. On that occasion he sat with the obscure Richard Southworth, perhaps one of the family seated at Highfield, Lancaster, and one of the two bailiffs of Lancaster accused of levying an illegal toll in 1529. Southworth’s patron may have been the 2nd Lord Monteagle, the 3rd Earl of Derby or even Starkey himself.7

By 1545, the next Parliament for which the Members are known, the duchy had established its complete control, perhaps as a result of the activities of Sir William Fitzwilliam I, created Earl of Southampton in 1537, who was chancellor of the duchy from November 1529 until his death in October 1542. Only two of the Members returned thereafter, Carus and Sir Thomas Tresham, are likely to have enjoyed any measure of Stanley support and even they were probably more beholden to the duchy, Carus as one of its officers and Tresham as a Catholic in high favour with Queen Mary. Some of the remaining Members owed their nomination to their official position, either in the duchy or elsewhere, and others to a personal connexion with the chancellor, notably John Heywood, George Felton and Richard Weston as fellow countrymen of Sir Robert Rochester: in 1561 Felton and the household official William Rice were imprisoned ‘for the mass’ with Sir Edward Waldegrave, Rochester’s nephew and successor in the chancellorship. Clement Heigham, a Marian Privy Councillor and a kinsman of Waldegrave, may have vacated his seat after his appointment as chief baron of the Exchequer on 2 Mar. 1558.

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. DL1/18, T9-a (cited in Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, lxxiii. 192-4).
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, iv. 11; VCH Lancs. viii. 14; Camden, Britannia, col. 795; M. M. Schofield, Outlines of an Econ. Hist. Lancaster, i (Trans. Lancaster Hist. Assoc. 1), 7; T. Pape, Chs. Lancaster, 24, 46.
  • 4. Pape, 6-46; VCH Lancs. viii. 44; Lancaster, Recs. 3-18.
  • 5. Leland, v. 45; VCH Lancs. viii. 40 and n, 41, 80-81; Pape, 46.
  • 6. C219/1C8/54, 19/48, 20/69, 21/86, 23/72, 24/88.
  • 7. Stowe 501, ff. 129-31.