Available from Boydell and Brewer
|3 Jan. 1559||THOMAS LEIGH|
|1562/3||OLIVER ST. JOHN I|
|2 Nov. 1584||JOHN PUCKERING 1|
|NICHOLAS POTTS 2|
|THOMAS SNAGGE II|
|1588/9||THOMAS SNAGGE I|
|29 Sept. 1597||HUMPHREY WINCH|
|7 Oct. 1601||HUMPHREY WINCH|
|THOMAS FANSHAWE II|
The charter of 1559 confirmed that the government of Bedford was in the hands of a mayor, recorder, two bailiffs, two chamberlains and a steward. Choice of MPs was made by the ‘one consent’ of all the burgesses at a meeting in the council chamber. It is probable that some dissension arose at the election of 1588, for on 18 Dec. of that year it was suggested that canvassing prior to the meeting should be forbidden.
Thomas Leigh, a former MP and mayor who took the senior seat in 1559, was the only Elizabethan Member who can properly be described as a townsman. The majority of MPs during this period were local country gentlemen, the most eminent family being the St. Johns of Bletsoe. Oliver St. John I (1563) was one of two men, uncle or nephew, both of whom were related to the 1st Baron St. John, whose grandson was Oliver Luke (1597). By 1596 Oliver St. John II, the 3rd Baron St. John, had been appointed recorder of Bedford, though the actual work was done by his deputy, Humphrey Winch, who represented the borough in the last three Parliaments of the reign and had an estate in the county.
Two outsiders represented Bedford during this period, neither of whom had any known connexion with the place. These were Thomas Fanshaw II (1601) of Essex, an Exchequer official, and John Puckering, a judge intended for the Speakership in 1584. This same office was held in 1589 by another Bedford MP, Thomas Snagge I, a London lawyer, recorder of Bedford, who held property in the county through his marriage; his son Thomas Snagge II sat for the borough in 1586. Another man who represented Bedford through having acquired estates there by a fortunate marriage was Henry Cheke (1571, 1572). Michael Hawtrey (1572) may have owed his return to the 2nd Earl of Bedford.3