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


 (aft. 6 Sept. 1515 not known)
 (aft. Dec. 1535 not known)
by 18 Feb. 1533WILLIAM BOWYER vice Petyt, deceased
27 Oct. 1534ROBERT PAKINGTON vice Bowyer, disqualified17
by Apr. 1536SIR ROGER CHOLMLEY vice Baker, disqualified18
1536(not known)
 (not known)
 (not known)
4 Mar. 1552JOHN BLUNDELL vice Curteys, disqualified26
1553 (Oct.)SIR ROWLAND HILL 27

Main Article

Until 1550 London was governed by a court of 25 aldermen, elected for life and presided over by the lord mayor, and a common council numbering almost 200 and chosen annually. After the purchase of the manor of Southwark from the King, Bridge Ward Without was established and the court of aldermen named the ward’s first alderman, thus increasing its own number to 26. The City employed a recorder and numerous civic officers, including after the Dissolution the administrators of the hospitals of St. Bartholomew, Bethlehem, Christ and St. Thomas, and after the acquisition of Bridewell palace in 1552 the workhouse staff there. It elected each year two sheriffs whose area of jurisdiction extended beyond London to the county of Middlesex. It also retained the services of numerous lawyers and others in government service to protect and promote its interests. The City paid a fee-farm of £300 to the crown and a further £10 for the bailiwick of Southwark. Journals and repertories record the business of the aldermen and common councilmen, but the accounts of the chamberlain and his subordinates, apart from those of the bridgewarden, are lost for the period.31

The bearers of parliamentary writs and prorogations received small rewards for their tasks. The sheriffs delivered each writ to the court of aldermen which fixed a date, almost invariably a Monday but in March 1539 and July 1553 a Tuesday, and ordered the electors to attend in ‘their grand livery’. The elections were held in Guildhall at eight o’clock in the morning. The aldermen meeting in the council chamber first chose one of their own number and the recorder as two of the City’s Members and then nominated 12 candidates below the rank of alderman for election by the commonalty assembled in pleno hustengo in the great hall. After the aldermen’s nominees (called by analogy with counties the knights) had been approved by the commonalty, a poll was held to decide the commoners’ choice (called the burgesses). Indentures written in Latin survive for by-elections in 1534 and February 1545 and for all the Parliaments between 1542 and 1558, apart from that of April 1554. The contracting parties are the two sheriffs and the mayor, between 30 and 50 named citizens, usually representatives of the leading companies, and many others who witnessed the sealing. The sheriffs endorsed the writs, supplying the names of fictitious sureties and signing them. In 1542, on the day after Parliament had assembled, the aldermen sent three Londoners to Chancellor Audley ‘to know his pleasure touching the putting in of the writ of the Parliament’. One of the secondaries of the Compter usually delivered the return into Chancery, paying the clerk of the crown 12s. to include the names of the City’s Members on the list compiled by him from the returns. London obeyed the writ issued shortly before Edward VI’s death summoning a Parliament for September 1553: the four men elected to it were re-elected to the first Parliament of Mary’s reign which met three weeks later.32

If one of the Members elected by the commonalty later became an alderman he forfeited his seat and a by-election was held; thus in 1510 the mercer James Yarford was replaced by Thomas More, in 1534 William Bowyer by Robert Pakington and during 1551-2 Thomas Curteys by John Blundell. The recorder ceased to be a Member on resigning his office; it was for this reason that John Baker was superseded during 1535-6 by Sir Roger Cholmley, and Cholmley in 1545 by Robert Broke. In 1535 Sir Thomas Seymour resigned his Membership on account of ill-health but no by-election to replace him is known. (Sir) William Roche’s behaviour at Baynard’s castle in January 1545 led the King to order his replacement; early in the following month Sir William Forman was elected in his stead, but before Parliament assembled Forman pleaded sickness and was in turn replaced by Sir Richard Gresham.

The names of one of the London Members of the Parliament of 1529 and three of those of its successor in 1536 have been lost, and Richard Fermor’s Membership in 1539 is a matter of inference. This gives a total of thirty-five men, or if Fermor is included 36, sitting in 16 Parliaments. Of these, nine were lawyers, seven (John Baker, Richard and Robert Broke, John Chaloner, Ralph and Sir Roger Cholmley and William Shelley) being recorders, Richard Burnell common pleader and Thomas More under sheriff. The rest were merchants drawn largely from the twelve great livery companies, Philip Bold being a clothworker, six (William Bowyer, John Brydges, William Calley, Sir William Capell, George Monoux and (Sir) William Roche) drapers, Sir Martin Bowes a goldsmith, three (Richard Fermor, Richard Grafton and John Petyt) grocers, two (Nicholas Chowne and John Sturgeon) haberdashers, nine (John Blundell, Sir Richard Gresham, John Hewster alias Brampton, Sir Rowland Hill, John Kyme, John Marshe, Robert Pakington, Sir Thomas Seymour and Sir John Tate) mercers, two (Nicholas Wilford and Paul Withypoll) merchant taylors, Thomas Curteys a pewterer and Thomas Bacon a salter. Except for Bacon, Grafton and Sturgeon, all had served as wardens of their companies before being returned to Parliament, and Grafton became warden before his re-election in 1558. Both Bacon and Sturgeon seem to have been assiduous politicians and were involved in the City’s parliamentary programme even when not Members, Bacon perhaps having access to the King and Council through his younger brother Nicholas. In addition, two of the lawyers were honorary members of companies, Burnell of the vintners and More of the mercers. All the merchant-Members had civic experience apart from Bold, and 11 of them (Bowes, Bowyer, Brydges, Capell, Curteys, Garrard, Gresham, Hill, Monoux, Roche and Tate) had been or were to become mayor. Bold’s return in 1555 is presumably to be explained by his membership of the Merchant Adventurers and their anxiety over a bill to repeal the Act of 1497 (12 Hen. VII, c.6) favouring them: Bowyer, Garrard, Hewster, Kyme, Marshe and Sturgeon were also members of the company, and Marshe was a merchant of the Staple, as were Capell, Seymour and Tate. The origins of all the Members save Bold and Burnell are known: 25 were migrants to the capital, eight (Curteys, Garrard, Grafton, Marshe, More, Seymour, Sturgeon and Wilford) were Londoners born and Shelley of London descent. Only Ralph Cholmley, Marshe and More are known to have had any previous parliamentary experience before being returned for London, and only Baker, Sir Roger Cholmley and Sturgeon were to sit elsewhere later. Robert Broke was Speaker-designate as well as recorder at his last election. Two former recorders (Baker and Sir Robert Sheffield) and two ex-under sheriffs (More and Sir Thomas Neville) also became Speakers during the period.

London came second only to the crown in its promotion of legislation and followed the progress through Parliament of any measure touching its interests. Committees appointed by the court of aldermen heard matters which the various companies or other bodies wished to raise in Parliament and advised on their suitability. Particular issues were referred to men with knowledge or to the companies involved before the recorder or another lawyer was asked to draft a bill. The draft was submitted to the court of aldermen for approval and after scrutiny several of their number were deputed to raise points for clarification with the drafters. After further consultation a bill answering to the City’s purpose emerged and the Members were summoned on the eve of the assembly for instructions. Sometimes the mayor, recorder and others were ordered to solicit the support of the King, Council or office-holders. While Parliament was in session the recorder, or less frequently one or more of the other Members, reported on the progress of bills and sought directions. The mayor and aldermen occasionally travelled to Westminster to speak with the Members, to lobby the Lords or to consult the Council. In 1542 the aldermen rebuked the grocer Thomas Nott for introducing a measure without their approval and the Clothworkers for a similar misdemeanour. Only once during the period did the City obtain royal approval for a measure, and then in advance of the next meeting of Parliament: this was when during the prorogation in 1551 the bill assuring London of certain lands sold to it by the crown was signed by the King. Two issues absorbed much of the City’s energies in Parliament: during the 1510s and 1520s it tried without avail to repeal the Corporation Act of 1504 (19 Hen. VII, c.7) and during the 30s and 40s it sought more successfully a re-assessment of the tithe-rating.33

The measures in which London was interested throughout the period were:

1510Act for tonnage and poundage (1 Hen. VIII, c.20)
first session
Act repealing the statute of York for the selling of victuals (3 Hen. VIII, c.8)
Act for searching of oils within the City (3 Hen. VIII, c.14)
bill concerning juries
bill concerning buying and selling in gross
second sessionAct for juries within the City (4 Hen. VIII, c.3)
Act for pewterers (4 Hen. VIII, c.7) corporation bill
third sessionAct for juries in London (5 Hen. VIII, c.5)
Act ratifying letters patent granted to the City by Edward IV giving to it the packership of woollen cloths within London (5 Hen. VIII, c.16)
Act for the surveyorship in the port of London (5 Hen. VIII, c.19)
corporation bill
bill of wines
bill of cloth
first session
Act concerning watermen on the Thames (6 Hen. VIII, c.7)
bill for payment of scavage
bill to prevent the repacking of merchandise after shipping and having received its docket
bill to regulate the making of bills of assurance
bill to allow ducats, crowns and other foreign coin to be current
bill to prevent foreign merchants standing surety for each other
second sessionAct for labourers and artificers within the City (7 Hen. VIII, c.5)
Act for the Staple (7 Hen. VIII, c.10)
bill on the export of wool
1523Act for the export of cloth (14 and 15 Hen. VIII, c.1)
Act for cordwainers (14 and 15 Hen. VIII, c.9)
Act for the Hanse (14 and 15 Hen. VIII, c.29)
bill of petition confirming the City’s right to appoint certain officers
first session
Act for probate of testaments (21 Hen. VIII, c.5)
Act for mortuaries (21 Hen. VIII, c.6)
Act for hats, bonnets and caps (21 Hen VIII, c.9)
Act for linen drapers (21 Hen. VIII, c.14)
bill against recognition of protections
second sessionAct for denizens to pay customs (22 Hen. VIII, c.8)
third and fourth sessionsAct protecting coopers against brewers (23 Hen. VIII, c.4)
Act for recognizances (23 Hen. VIII, c.6)
bills for tithes
fifth sessionAct concerning true tanning and currying of leather (24 Hen. VIII, c.1)
Act licensing the butchers to kill cattle within the City (24 Hen. VIII, c.16)
sixth sessionAct concerning graziers and butchers (25 Hen. VIII, c.1)
Act for paving of Holborn (25 Hen. VIII, c.8)
bill to corroborate and confirm the court of requests used in the City
seventh sessionproviso for the steelyard
book detailing tithes
eighth sessionAct for true making of woollen cloths (27 Hen. VIII, c.12)
Act concerning the custom of leather (27 Hen. VIII, c.14)
Act for the preservation of the river Thames (27 Hen. VIII, c.18)
Act limiting an order for payment of tithes within the City (27 Hen. VIII, c.21)
Act for recontinuing of certain liberties (27 Hen. VIII, c.24)
Act for partition of Wapping Marsh (27 Hen. VIII, c.35)
1536Act declaring the church of Elsing Spital from henceforth to be the parish church of St. Alphage Cripplegate (28 Hen. VIII, c.27)
first session
bill to limit the sanctuary of St. Martin’s-le-Grand
bill defining the City’s liberties in Southwark
bill for the bourse
second sessionbill for assize of fuel
third sessionAct for tithes (32 Hen. VIII, c.7)
Act for paving of Holborn (32 Hen. VIII, c.17)
Act concerning physicians (32 Hen. VIII, c.51)
Act concerning barbers and surgeons (32 Hen. VIII, c.52)
first session
Act concerning pewterers (33 Hen. VIII, c.4)
Act concerning crossbows and handguns (33 Hen. VIII, c.6)
bill for tithes
bill for weavers (recte clothworkers)
bill for cleansing of the Fleet ditch
bill for haberdashers
second sessionAct for assize of fuel (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.3)
Act for paving of certain lanes in London and Westminster (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.12)
bill for tithes
bill for pikemongers
bill for butchers
bill for river Thames
third sessionAct concerning coopers (35 Hen. VIII, c.8
Act for partition of Wapping Marsh (35 Hen. VIII, c.9)
Act concerning the conduits in London (35 Hen. VIII, c. 10)
bill for repeal of Act against untrue verdicts (23 Hen. VIII, c.3)
bill for river Thames
bill against (merchant) strangers
bill against deceitful packing of woollen cloth
bill for cordwainers bill for ironmongers
bill to lower property qualification of jurors in London
bill for tithes
bill for paving of St. Katharine’s and other places
bill concerning houses and tenements in towns corporate not to be converted into habitations for beggars
first session
Act for the inhabitants of London having goods worth 400 marks to pass in attaints (37 Hen. VIII, c.5)
Act for tithes (37 Hen. VIII, c.12)
bill concerning sanctuaries
bill for conveyance of wool
bill resuming all libertieswith in London into the King’s hands preparatory to their incorporation into the City
bill for (merchant) strangers
bill for conservancy of river Thames
bill concerning houses and tenements in towns corporate
bill for repeal of Act concerning perjury and punishment of untrue verdicts (23 Hen. VIII, c.2)
first session
book for the assurance of certain lands given by Henry VIII for St. Bartholomew’s
bill forbidding foreigners to live by the river Thames
bill for the brewers or against malt makers
bill for the garbling of spices in London etc.
bill for wax-chandlers of London
bill for the bakers of London, Stafford and Westminster, etc.
second sessionAct to release fee-farms in cities and towns for three years (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.5)
Act for the true currying of leather (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.9)
Act touching victuallers and handicraftsmen (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.15)
bill for the appraising of orphans’ and testators’ goods in London
bill for curriers and cordwainers
bill for enrolment of deeds with proclamation in London
bill for conveyance of waters in St. Nicholas’ shambles
bill against dyers and clothiers or false making of woollen cloths
proviso for the saving of such corporations of this City as are in danger to pass to the King’s majesty under the Chantries Act
third sessionAct touching the repeal of a certain branch of an Act passed in the last session ... concerning victuallers and artificers (3 and 4 Edw. VI, c.20)
bill for the glaziers, freemen and foreigners in London
bill for the removal of kennels in St. Nicholas’ shambles and in St. Paul’s churchyard
bill for the paving of streets at Cowcross and Turnmill
fourth sessionAct for the assurance of certain lands sold by the King’s majesty to the mayor and city of London (5 and 6 Edw. VI, no. 28)
bill touching the city of London
bill touching the bowyers of London
bill for apprentices and journeymen of clothiers
bill for the assize of fuel
bill for the passage from Gravesend to London
bill to avoid iron mills within 24 miles of London
Act to avoid the great price and excess of wines (7 Edw. VI, c.5)
1553 (Mar.)Act for the assize of fuel (7 Edw. VI, c.7)
bill for and concerning the discharge of the taking of the orphanage
bill for curriers
1553 (Oct.)Act touching the incorporation of the physicians in London (1 Mary st. 2, c.9)
bills touching the custom of attachments in London
bill for the wax-chandlers of London
bill for the curing of leather in London and suburbs
bill touching tallow-chandlers of London
bill against bowling alleys
bills to repeal the Act to avoid the great price and excess of wines (7 Edw. VI, c.5)
1554 (Apr.)bill that inhabitants in cities shall bear like charges as citizens in cities do bill to avoid placards for unlawful games
1554 (Nov.)bill that part of St. Martin’s-le-Grand in London may be in the parish of St. Leonard’s next
bill that the inhabitants of St. Martin’s-le-Grand may be in the parish of Christchurch
bill that the inhabitants of St. Martin’s-le-Grand may be parishioners to St. Botolph’s without Aldersgate
1555Act touching watermen and bargemen upon the Thames (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary c.16)
bill for silk workers
bill that the Blackfriars may be in the jurisdiction of the City
1558none known

London obtained copies of nearly all Acts, some being copied into the journal, and the court of aldermen authorized their printing and proclamtion and followed this up with repeated orders for enforcement.34

In the Commons the Members for London sat with those for York besides the Privy Councillors on the front bench. In the absence of chamberlains' accounts for the early 16th century little is known about payment of wages but the repertories contain directions to the chamberlain for 'wages and fees' to the knights and burgesses 'according to the ancient custom of their labour'. The Members were also entitled to a clothing allowance for themselves and their servants and to boat hire between London and Westminster. One of the secondaries of the Compter sometimes went with the Members to the opening to pay 'such fees as are to be paid for the said knights and burgesses'. Rewards, usually in cash, were given in return for help from the Speaker, the clerk of the Parliaments, the clerk of the Commons, their clerks, the serjeant-at-arms and the keeper of the Parliament House.

In 1523 and 1529 Parliament was summoned to meet in London at the Blackfriars, but the Parliament of 1529 was prorogued to Westminster before its assmebly. During a scarcity of food late in 1531 the King asked 12 counties to help London provide victuals for those attending Parliament. In 1542 the court of aldermen ordered a watch to be kept thereafter during Parliament time and in April 1554 both Houses instructed their servants not to cause trouble at Smithfield.35

Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard


  • 1. City of London RO, Guildhall, jnl. 11, f. 90.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid. f. 93.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Ibid. f. 147v; rep. 2, f. 125v.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid. jnl. 11, f. 204v.
  • 10. Ibid.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. Ibid.
  • 13. Ibid. jnl. 12, f. 213v; rep. 4, f. 144.
  • 14. Ibid.
  • 15. Ibid. jnl. 12, f. 213v; rep. 4, f. 144v.
  • 16. Ibid.
  • 17. House of Lords RO, Original Acts, 28 Hen. VIII, nos. 1, 9.
  • 18. SP12/86/23; House of Lords RO, Original Acts, 27 Hen. VIII, no. 53.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 21. Ibid.
  • 22. PRO transcripts from Paris, Baschet 1540 (Marillac to Montmorency, ptd. LP Hen. VIII, xv. 697.
  • 23. Ibid.
  • 24. City of London RO, rep. 11, f. 244.
  • 25. Wroithesley's Chron. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xi), 162.
  • 26. Hatfield 207.
  • 27. Bodl. e Museo 17; City of London RO, jnl. 16, f. 244.
  • 28. Ibid.
  • 29. Ibid.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Stow’s Survey of London, ed. Kingsford, passim; W. K. Jordan, Charities of London, 186-96; P. E. Jones and R. Smith, Recs. in Corp. London RO and Guildhall Lib.
  • 32. C219/18A/6, 7, 18B/47v, 48, 18C/68v-70, 19/123, 20/156v, 157, 23/171v, 172, 24/210v, 211, 25/140v, 141.
  • 33. H. Miller, ‘London and Parlt. in the reign of Hen. VIII’, Bull. IHR, xxxv. 129-49.
  • 34. CJ, i. 2-4, 7, 12, 13, 17-19, 25, 28, 29, 39, 40, 43, 44.
  • 35. Ibid. 36.