Available from Boydell and Brewer
No names known for 1510-23
|1529||SIR JOHN GAGE|
|SIR RICHARD SHIRLEY|
|1539||SIR JOHN GAGE 1|
|SIR WILLIAM GORING 2|
|1542||?SIR JOHN GAGE 3|
|1545||?SIR JOHN GAGE 4|
|1547||SIR WILLIAM GORING|
|1553 (Mar.)||?(SIR) RICHARD SACKVILLE II 5|
|1553 (Oct.)||JOHN CARYLL|
|1554 (Apr.)||SIR ROBERT OXENBRIDGE|
|SIR THOMAS PALMER|
|1554 (Nov.)||JOHN COVERT|
|JOHN ASHBURNHAM II|
|1555||SIR ROBERT OXENBRIDGE|
|1558||(SIR) NICHOLAS PELHAM|
|SIR ROBERT OXENBRIDGE|
The gentlemen of Sussex lived near enough to London to be able to frequent the court and the City without lengthy absences from home, but far enough away to prevent the shire from being dominated by the capital. As a maritime county Sussex needed efficient government and adequate defence, both seen to by its combination of resident noblemen and wealthy commoners. Apart from minor disturbances over enclosure and the events leading up to the Pole conspiracy in the late 1530s, the only serious threat to the county’s tranquillity arose in 1549, when the 12th Earl of Arundel suppressed incipient rebellion without bloodshed. French raids in 1545 caused more alarm than damage.6
The leading industry was ironmaking in the Weald. During the French wars, particularly during the admiralty of Sir Thomas Seymour II, Baron Seymour of Sudeley, Buxted became a centre for the manufacture of guns and shot. Little cloth was woven, although some was exported from the Chichester area. From 1504 county courts were held alternately at Chichester and Lewes. Ecclesiastically, the county was conterminous with the diocese of Chichester.7
During most of the period five noble families had lands and residences in the county, the dukes of Norfolk, the earls of Arundel and the barons Bergavenny, Dacre and la Warr; to these were added, for short spells, the important figures of Sir William Fitzwilliam I, Earl of Southampton, and Thomas, Baron Seymour of Sudeley. Parliamentary patronage in the boroughs was divided between several of these magnates, but the connexion between peers and knights of the shire is more complicated. Some local gentlemen, notably early in the period Sir John Gage and later Sir Richard Sackville, were of sufficient standing to secure their own election. In 1539 the Earl of Southampton assured Cromwell that during his recent journey through the county he had done his best to ‘accomplish’ the return of Sir John Gage and William Goring and that he would continue to do so: both men were elected.8
In 1547 and 1555 the elections were held at Chichester and in September 1553 and in the spring and autumn of 1554 at Lewes. Owing to the imperfect state of several of the eight indentures surviving from 1542 to 1558 (that for 1545 is lost), less is known of Sussex elections than for many other shires. Only the indenture of 18 Oct. 1554 is in good condition. All are in Latin except that of 1547. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Surrey and Sussex and about 30 named electors and other liberi et legales homines. The electors whose names are given usually lived in the area of the shire where the election took place, but in 1547 they were equally representative of both. Apart from Sir Nicholas Pelham (named twice), no men of front rank are listed among the electors, but the names of several lesser figures recur, those of Edward Gage, John Michelborne and Thomas Newdigate each appearing four times. In 1547 the sheriff endorsed the writ with the names of those chosen for both shire and boroughs, but in general the endorsements are statements that the writ has been executed and indentures attached; in 1558 the names of sureties or manucaptors for the knights of the shire are included.9
All the knights for Sussex came from a close-knit group and had estates in the county. Several of them were assisted by kinship with the sheriff: Sir Richard Shirley was brother-in-law to Richard Bellingham, and Sir Nicholas Pelham’s wife sister-in-law to John Ashburnham. There seems to have been a convention that one knight should come from the west and the other from the east, the only exceptions occurring in 1547, when both lived in west Sussex, and in November 1554 and 1558, when both came from the east.
The sale of wool and the production of cloth in Sussex were regulated by a series of Acts from 1531 onwards (22 Hen. VIII, c.1; 37 Hen. VIII, c.15 and 5 and 6 Edw. VI, c.6). Provision for the rebuilding of the county gaol was included in an Act of 1532 (23 Hen. VIII, c.2), which was repeatedly renewed during the next 25 years, and for the upkeep of roads there in an Act of 1534 (26 Hen. VIII, c.7).
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. r. [1-2].
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 10, f. 242v.
- 4. LJ, i. 282.
- 5. CJ, i. 25.
- 6. This survey rests on R. J. W. Swales, ‘Local pol. and parlty, rep. of Suss. 1529-58’ (Bristol Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1964) and ‘The Howard interest in Suss. elections 1529-58’, Suss. Arch. Colls. cxiv, 49-60, and J. E. Mousley, ‘Suss. country gent. in the reign of Eliz.’ (London Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1956).
- 7. Suss. Arch. Colls. vii. 88-89; xcii. 67; Camden, Britannia (1806), i. 267; Meynell, Suss. 16.
- 8. LP Hen. VIII, xiv(1), 520 citing Cott. Cleop. E4, f. 176.
- 9. C219/18B/92, 19/104, 105, 20/125, 126, 21/150, 22/81, 82, 23/124, 125, 24/156, 157, 25/113, 114.