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|1510||HENRY STRETE 1|
|JOHN BRYAN 2|
|1512||ROBERT BOWRING 3|
|... LEGH 4|
|1515||JOHN ORENGE 5|
|1536||JOHN POLLARD 6|
|1539||JAMES HORSWELL 7|
|WILLIAM HAWKINS 8|
|1542||GEORGE FERRERS 9|
|JAMES HORSWELL 10|
|1547||JOHN PRIDEAUX 11|
|WILLIAM HAWKINS 12|
|1553 (Mar.)||GEORGE FERRERS|
|1553 (Oct.)||ROGER BUTTOCKSHIDE|
|1554 (Apr.)||JOHN MALET|
|1554 (Nov.)||SIR THOMAS KNYVET|
Leland described Plymouth as a very large town with strong fortifications. Shipbuilding and the manufacture of rigging were not yet the flourishing industries they were to become and the town depended on its declining export trade with the Continent, its coastal trade and its fisheries. In the 1530s it was said to have 2,500 communicants, but there were few wealthy residents and in taxable value the town ranked fourth in the county.13
Plymouth had been created in 1439 by the amalgamation of the manors of Sutton Rolf, Sutton Vautort or Valletort and Sutton Prior. The borough thus formed was incorporated as the mayor and community, this action being ratified by a charter of 1440 which defined the new borough’s liberties. Its government was vested in a mayor, 12 aldermen and 24 common councilmen. There was a recorder and a group of local lawyers was retained as counsel. The steward or high steward was by 1539 the local magnate Richard Edgecombe. Accounts and other records survive for the period. Until the Dissolution the manor of Sutton Prior belonged to the priory of Plympton; after prolonged negotiations the corporation obtained the manor and with it exemption from further payment of the fee-farm. Two outlying manors, Millbay and Sutton Pool, were part of the honor of Trematon and thus belonged to the duchy of Cornwall; the extent of the corporation’s jurisdiction there was long questioned by the duchy.14
Little has come to light about parliamentary elections. In 1536 the mayor discussed with Sir Peter Edgecombe and the recorder Andrew Hillersden the ‘writ for the Parliament’ delivered by a servant of the sheriff; the conference may have been occasioned by the royal directive accompanying the writ for the re-election of the previous Members. Three indentures survive, for the Parliaments of October 1553, November 1554 and 1555, the contracting parties being the sheriff and the mayor and community of burgesses. There was no formal limitation of Membership to freemen or residents until 1570, but the admission of John Malet and Humphrey Specote to the freedom about the time of their election implies that such a rule had been observed earlier.15
Of the 20 Members sitting in this period, five—John Bryan, William Hawkins, Richard Hooper, James Horswell and Nicholas Slanning—certainly, and ‘Legh’ possibly, belonged to the town, and John Pollard had been born and bred there. All the townsmen except Bryan held municipal office, Robert Bowring was the recorder and Pollard one of the fee’d counsel. Other lawyer-Members, Malet, John Orenge and John Prideaux, may also have been retained by the corporation; Orenge moved to Plymouth from Exeter after it had elected him. Roger Buttockshide, Thomas Carew, Prideaux and Thomas Vowell were local gentlemen, Malet and Humphrey Specote came from north Devon; Henry Strete is also described as of Devon, but the other strangers came from further afield. Buttockshide and Specote both had property in the town, and Buttockshide was related to the Hawkins and Slanning families. Carew doubtless owed his election to his father-in-law Sir Richard Edgecombe, and Prideaux and Vachell to a connexion with that family. Malet was presumably nominated by Sir John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, perhaps through the same agency. Strete served the Courtenays on their estates and may have benefited from that family’s patronage of Plympton priory. George Ferrers of Hertfordshire had a Devon mother and distant kinship with Pollard and the 2nd Earl of Bath, but he also belonged to the Household and had the ear of Russell; besides sitting three times himself, he could have helped both John Young and Sir Thomas Knyvet to do so once. Another member of the Household, Thomas Sternhold, was a friend and probable relative by marriage of Horswell.
Plymouth seems to have paid its Members regularly until the 1550s, although rarely at the statutory rate. At his election Pollard agreed to accept 13s.4d. and in 1542 Ferrers accepted a satin doublet worth 24s. ‘in recompense of all his fees’. The The town also reimbursed townsmen for payments made to the clerk of the Parliaments, the serjeant-at-arms and the Speaker.
An Act of 1532 (23 Hen. VIII, c.25) empowered Plymouth to pay its fee-farm out of the income from the advowson of two Devon benefices. In the same session the town co-operated with some neighbouring ones in the passage of an Act (23 Hen. VIII, c.8) to prevent further obstruction of rivers and harbours from tin-waste; this measure was confirmed four years later (27 Hen. VIII, c.23) after the defeat of a bill for its repeal. In 1539 Plymouth’s own bill for decayed houses was lost, but the town was included in the Act for re-edifying towns westward passed later in the session (32 Hen. VIII, c.19). Three attempts at legislation in the Parliament of 1542 for a reform of the town’s finances came to nothing.
Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Plymouth receivers' acct. bk. 1509-10.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Ibid. 1513-14.
- 4. Ibid. 1512-13.
- 5. Ibid. 1514-15.
- 6. Ibid. 1536-7.
- 7. Ibid. 1539-40.
- 8. Ibid.
- 9. Ibid. 1541-2.
- 10. Ibid.
- 11. C219/282/2; Hatfield 207.
- 12. Plymouth receivers' acct. bk. 1547-8; Hatfield 207.
- 13. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 212-16; W. G. Hoskins and H. P. R. Finberg, Devonshire Studies, 243; Hoskins, Devon, 109, 212, 213; D. H. Pill, ‘The diocese of Exeter under Bp. Veysey’ (Exeter Univ. M.A. thesis, 1963), 270.
- 14. R. N. Worth, Plymouth, 18, 20, 115, 117, 119, 135, 150-1; Hoskins, 455; L. Jewitt, Plymouth, 87, 92; LP Hen. VIII, xix. g. 610(22); C. W. Bracken, Plymouth, 68-69; Worth, Plymouth Recs. passim; Plymouth receivers’ acct. bk.; black bk.; Thomas Tregarthen’s bk.
- 15. C219/21/45, 23/40, 24/45.