Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer


30 Oct. 1584JOHN HOTHAM
15 Oct. 1601William Eure
 Edward Stanhope III

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After Henry VII quashed Scarborough’s short-lived charter of incorporation of 1485, the governing body of the town reverted to its earlier form, namely, two bailiffs, four chamberlains, two coroners, and 36 capital burgesses. The town also had a recorder and, in the last years of the sixteenth century at least, a high steward. Parliamentary returns were made by the bailiffs, burgesses and ‘communitas’. In 1572 the return was made with the under-sheriff, but in all the surviving returns from 1584 the indenture was made between the bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty and the two elected Members. The latter, however, were not necessarily present when the indenture was sealed, as (Sir) Thomas Posthumous Hoby pointed out to the bailiff when he was returned in 1597.

In no Elizabethan election did Scarborough enjoy any electoral independence. It is true that the recorder, Reginald Beseley, was returned in 1559, but he lived at York. Only one townsman was returned, William Fish (1588), but the circumstances suggest that he was the nominee of the single most important influence in Scarborough, the Gates family. Sir Henry Gates acquired the neighbouring estate of Seamer at the beginning of Elizabeth’s reign and by 1570 he was governor of Scarborough castle. He returned himself in 1563 and 1572, missing the 1571 Parliament when he sat for the county, but returning his son Edward in his place. In 1572 he probably secured the junior seat for Edward Carey at the request of Francis Walsingham, a relative of both families. William Strickland, however, who represented Scarborough four times at the beginning of the reign, did not need Gates to secure his seat there. Strickland lived at Boynton nearby, was a Yorkshire j.p. and held some office at Scarborough himself. He was also the puritan leader in the House of Commons.

In 1584 and 1586, the influence of the Gates family was in decline, probably on account of the quarrel between Sir Henry Gates and the borough over the rival market Gates had set up at Seamer. The quarrel was taken up by Edward Gates after his father’s death, and the matter was not settled until the beginning of the next reign. In any case, none of the Members in 1584 or 1586 depended on the Gates family for their seats. All four MPs were Yorkshire landowners who had sufficient influence locally to secure their own returns for the borough.

By 1589, however, the Gates family had succeeded in reasserting their patronage at Scarborough, and all four seats in 1589 and 1593 were filled through their influence. Edward Gates took the senior seat on both occasions. William Fish accompanied him to Parliament in 1589 as his nominee, although he was a townsman, as he had forfeited the goodwill of his fellow burgesses by opening a shop at Seamer. Roger Dalton, a local gentleman of Kirby Misperton, was an agent in Walsingham’s employ, and it was no doubt Walsingham who recommended him to his relative, Edward Gates.

Simultaneous pressure from the Earl of Nottingham and (Sir) Thomas Posthumous Hoby ousted Gates from his position as borough patron in 1597. Nottingham was elected high steward of the borough in the summer of that year. Hoby, who had only recently moved to his wife’s estates at Hackness, at first tried for the county seat in 1597. He seems, however, to have taken precautions against defeat, for in a letter (tentatively dated 4 Oct. 1597, the day after the county elections) he asked Scarborough corporation for a seat for himself and for John Mansfield ‘by reason of your promise passed unto me ... for now I must rely on you’. He argued that his arrangement with the borough was standing before they received letters from London—probably from the Earl of Nottingham—also requesting seats for the Parliament. A third candidate, who not surprisingly failed to get a seat in face of such opposition, was Anthony Atkinson, searcher of the port of Hull. He had written to Mr. Peacock, a bailiff of Scarborough, and William Conyers, the deputy searcher there, nominating himself and suggesting Conyers as the second Member. In the event, Hoby got his senior seat, but Manfield was rejected in favour of Walter Pye, a complete outsider from Herefordshire and the Middle Temple, who must be presumed to have been the nominee of the Earl of Nottingham.

The 1601 election is not as well documented as that of 1597, but it seems unlikely that it could have passed off smoothly in view of the feud between Hoby and the son of the 3rd Lord Eure. It is not known whether Hoby tried for a seat at Scarborough in 1601, but since he did not sit elsewhere and knew that his enemy, Eure, was putting himself forward, it is quite possible that he did. William Eure’s success in obtaining the senior seat in that case would have been a humiliating blow to Hoby’s prestige in the borough.

The junior Member in 1601 does not fit readily into the electoral pattern. Stanhope was connected, mainly through his family, with all three patrons. His strongest connexion was with Hoby, but it is unlikely that Hoby succeeded in any nomination to that Parliament. The Eures, whom Stanhope’s father knew well through his work on the council in the north and in border politics, might also have been disposed to support his nomination, though not, presumably, if he was linked with Hoby. Another possibility is that the Stanhopes’ influence at court, particularly through Sir John Stanhope, made the election acceptable to the Earl of Nottingham.3

Authors: M.A.P. / B.D.


  • 1. E371/402(1).
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. VCH Yorks. N. Riding, ii. 551; J. B. Baker, Scarborough, 41 passim; C219/28/53; 29/50; 30/159, 160; 31/234; 33/78; Scarborough borough recs. bdle. C1.