Lyme Regis


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


aft. 1532?JOHN TUDOLL vice Pyne, deceased1
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)
1553 (Mar.)(not known)

Main Article

Described by Leland as ‘a pretty market town, set in the roots of a high rocky hill down to the hard shore’, having ‘good ships’ and a considerable cloth trade with Brittany, Lyme Regis was in fact a declining port which sought government help with increasing urgency from the middle of Henry VIII’s reign. In 1526 Lord Lisle confirmed an earlier grant of admiralty jurisdiction to the mayor and burgesses, but there was never enough money to fortify the town against threatened attack by the French. In 1533 Thomas Arundell petitioned Cromwell on its behalf and two years later the borough was granted £20 a year for ten years out of the customs of Poole for the repair of its Cobb or breakwater. In 1549 a bill for re-edifying of decayed houses in Lyme Regis got no further than a first reading. Edward VI renewed the £20 annuity, but according to an Elizabethan petition Mary revoked it ‘for that the ... inhabitants were then reputed as heretics for their religion’.4

At the opening of the 16th century the borough was under crown lordship and the dissolution of Sherborne abbey made the King also the largest landowner there. Borough charters existed from the late 13th century; several of them reduced the fee-farm because of ‘devastation by the sea’ or other disasters, and the confirmations of 1510, 1543 and 1547 also recognized the town’s poverty. In 1554 Mary granted a market and two fairs and in the following year confirmed the Edwardian charter. The incorporation granted in 1559 provided for a mayor, 15 capital burgesses, a recorder and a common clerk; this was probably the existing establishment, although there is no earlier evidence for the number of capital burgesses. The borough also had a high steward, an office in which Sir Giles Strangways I was succeeded on his death in 1546 by Sir John Paulet, later 2nd Marquess of Winchester.5

The names of the Members for 1545 appear on the sheriff’s schedule for the county, those for both Lyme Regis and Melcombe Regis being inserted in a hand different from that of the rest of the document. Election indentures survive for the Parliaments of October 1553, November 1554, 1555 and 1558. They are in English, even to the form ‘King’s Lyme’, and are between the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset and the mayor and burgesses, who ‘by one assent and consent [or ‘by the assent and consent of one whole mind’] have elected, chosen and deputed and by this indenture do present ... to be our burgesses for the borough and town’. The town’s record or court books (1514-1687) and the surviving mayor’s accounts contain only one entry relating to parliamentary wages during the period, the payment to John Mallock in 1554 of 3s.4d. ‘for his charges to be burgess of Parliament’. The acknowledgement in October 1536 of a debt of nearly £60 to John Tudoll may refer only to Tudoll’s expenses as ‘factor and attorney’ for the borough in its suit to the King and Council for financial assistance.6

Tudoll’s opportunity to sit had come with the death of John Pyne before the summer of 1532. Lyme appears on a list of vacancies of about that time with one William Symonds (probably the son of John Simon of Exeter) as the suggested replacement, but there is nothing to show that Symonds was elected, whereas Tudoll was in London during a parliamentary session and seems to have heard Cromwell speak in the House. He was mayor when he was made the borough’s attorney in April 1532, and his precursor in office had been Pyne’s fellow-Member Thomas Burgh. No other official is known to have sat during the period, for which, however, the names of the Members of only eight Parliaments have survived. To judge from these, Lyme seems to have enjoyed a measure of independence in its choice; several Members had property in the borough and four lived less than ten miles away over the Devon border. Pyne may have been a London scrivener of Devon origin with interests in Axmouth, some five miles distant from Lyme, and he was perhaps also related to his contemporary in the town Robert Pyne. The lawyers John Fry and William Pole were also from Devon. Fry was keeper of Wycroft park, Devon, for George Brooke, 9th Lord Cobham, who owned property in Lyme and was a friend of its high steward Strangways; Pole had already been employed by the borough and was shortly to marry Tudoll’s daughter Thomasin, the mother of another Member, John Strowbridge, by her first marriage. Strowbridge lived at Streathayne in the Devon parish of Colyton but he also held at least one tenement in Lyme. A third Member from this family circle was Pole’s brother-in-law John Popham, a lawyer otherwise unconnected with Lyme.7

Fry and Pole were followed by two Members with no such personal connexion: both seem to have been Seymour nominees, Sir Francis Fleming as lieutenant general of the Ordnance under Thomas Seymour, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, and Henry Leke probably as deputy auditor of augmentations in the west country to Matthew Colthurst, a client of the Seymours. The Members in Edward VI’s second Parliament are unknown but to the first of Mary’s reign Lyme again returned two Devon men known in the borough, Thomas Goodwin and his uncle John Mallock. Goodwin, a speculator in monastic lands and a client and London neighbour of (Sir) William Petre, had held land in Lyme for a short while in 1544 and Mallock, who became collector of customs at Poole in December 1553, owned property in and around the borough, including a house which he leased from Tudoll, of whose will he was an overseer and witness. They sat in both the Parliaments of 1554 but Mallock absented himself without leave from the second of them. The junior Member in 1555, Jasper Pounte, a London resident with interests in Dorset, had been an augmentations official and may have owed his return to Colthurst, now an associate of William Herbert I, Earl of Pembroke. John Foster III, another former augmentations official, sat for Pembroke’s borough of Shaftesbury in 1555 and it was as a replacement for Foster, who preferred to sit as senior knight for Hertfordshire, that Pounte procured his second election.

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. SP 1/238, pt.3, f. 233.
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Wm. Salt Lib. SMS 264.
  • 4. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 244-5; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 38, 68; Lyme Regis recs. N23/2, no. 9; LP Hen. VIII, vi. 55; viii. 149; x. 179; xiv(1), 655; xviii. 547; Add. i(1), 911; VCH Dorset, ii. 195, 197; G. Roberts, Lyme Regis, 62; APC, ii. 166; CJ, i. 12.
  • 5. Hutchins, ii. 38-50; Roberts, 24, 27-28; Lyme Regis recs. D3/1, f. 14.
  • 6. C219/18C/36, 21/49, 23/52, 24/53, 25/32, 40.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, vii. 56 citing SP1/82, ff. 59-62.