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


16 Nov. 1584JOHN BRETON 1

Main Article

Tamworth, partly in Warwickshire and partly in Staffordshire, had never returned Members to Parliament when it received a charter of incorporation in 1560. The charter itself made no mention of parliamentary burgesses. Nevertheless two men were sent up by the borough to the 1563 Parliament, probably at the suggestion of Simon Harcourt, who, a few months after the election, married the widow of William Robinson, owner of the manor of Drayton Bassett which bordered on Tamworth.3 The House challenged the Tamworth burgesses in 1563 along with those sent by other boroughs which had not returned Members to the previous Parliament. The Tamworth burgesses were again challenged in 1571 because they ‘were not ... returned by the clerk of the Crown’. After this, however, they were not challenged for the rest of the period.4

The high stewardship of the borough was hereditary in the branch of the Ferrers family which resided at Tamworth castle, but the owner of Drayton Bassett had the main influence in elections. Tamworth’s first two MPs were thus both younger brothers of Simon Harcourt, but Harcourt’s influence had waned by the next Parliament. Perhaps the manor of Drayton Bassett had already passed into the hands of the Earl of Leicester by 1571. Leicester can certainly be suggested as a likely patron for both Edward Lewknor and John Bullock, elected in that year. Lancelot Bostock (1572), a gentleman pensioner, is another likely Leicester nominee. John Nutall (1572) had no known connexions with either Tamworth or the Earl of Leicester.

Leicester certainly nominated Clement Fisher in 1584, but he then shared his patronage with his stepson, the Earl of Essex, the leading nobleman of Staffordshire, who, still not 18, nominated the townsman John Breton. Presented with two such nominees, Tamworth corporation was obliged to disappoint its recorder, Richard Broughton, who had hoped for a seat in that Parliament. Bagot, returned in 1586, was almost certainly Essex’s man. In that year Leicester was absent in the Netherlands, and Sir Humphrey Ferrers of Tamworth castle, who had succeeded to the high stewardship ten years before, obtained the return of his son, John Ferrers, for the second seat. Two years later, a month after Leicester had died, leaving Drayton Bassett to Essex’s mother, the young Earl dislodged Ferrers from the high stewardship. In October 1588, he obtained a new charter for the town which named him as high steward, and Ferrers, pleading his earlier patent, was advised by Burghley not to oppose the Earl’ for an office of so little value’. Both the Members for Tamworth in the Parliament of 1589 were Essex’s followers. Broughton, his legal adviser as well as Tamworth’s recorder, was this time provided for at Lichfield, but John Ferrers went without a seat.

In 1593, however, Essex—perhaps seeing some advantage in a compromise with John Ferrers, newly married to the daughter of Lord Keeper Puckering—nominated only one of the Tamworth Members, Thomas Smith. The townsmen accepted Ferrers as one Member, but tried vainly in a letter to Essex to persuade him to withdraw his nomination, by referring to him a choice between Smith and their cherished recorder, Broughton, who in the event sat once again for Lichfield.

First Mr. Broughton is and of long time hath been our recorder, who hath painfully dealt in all causes that hath concerned us, and in the parliament holden in the xxviith year of her Majesty’s reign. Upon my lord of Leicester’s great favour showed us, we well liked of a burgess of his commendation, and likewise willing to gratify your Lordship’s first commendation, did allow of Mr. Breton; by which occasion Mr. Broughton, relying upon us, being our recorder was disappointed, and for other place, he, making no suit, was quite out, for which we had good cause to be sorry relying in all our actions upon his friendly and painful travails. Moreover and it may please your lordship Sir Humphrey Ferrers’ son, my Ld. Keeper’s son in law, hath heretofore been burgess for the parliament for our town and we have found both his father and him thankful for our good liking of the then choosing of him who cloth now likewise make suit unto us to be one of our burgesses. Unto whom we have given our consents if it may be with your lordship’s good liking for the nomination and choice of the other burgess, either to be Mr. Broughton or Mr. Smith, we wholly refer to your lordship’s discretion, and will remain to be certified of your lordship’s choice against such time as choice shall be made and thus humbly we pray for your lordship’s happy estate.

Your lordship’s poor friends.

In the Parliament of 1597, William Temple, a follower of Essex occupied one seat, and the other was taken by George Hyde, John Ferrers’s brother-in-law.

On the execution of Essex in February 1601, Sir Humphrey Ferrers resumed the high stewardship under his original patent, only to lose it again in the following year to Sir John Egerton. Robert Burdett, one of the Members chosen in 1601 was a Warwickshire gentleman living near Tamworth. The other Member, George Egiocke, also had lands in Warwickshire, but far from Tamworth: through his wife he was distantly related to Sir Christopher Blount, third husband of Essex’s mother, the owner of Drayton Bassett, though, since Blount had died with Essex, it would be surprising if this connexion was advantageous.

Tamworth often made a separate return, containing the name of one Member, for each of the two counties in which it lay. For the Parliaments of 1563, 1571 and 1572, the election indentures do not survive, and the Crown Office lists normally give the two names together under Staffordshire; but the presence of only one name for Tamworth in one of the 1563 lists suggests that the method of a divided return was used from the beginning. For the election of 1584 two indentures do survive, and they record that Breton was returned for the part of Tamworth in Staffordshire, and Fisher for the part in Warwickshire: this was an appropriate allocation of seats, since Breton was the nominee of Essex, the chief landowner in the first county, and Fisher was the nominee of Leicester, dominant in the second. Similarly in 1597, Temple, Essex’s follower, sat for the Staffordshire part; and Hyde, kinsman of Ferrers, whose property lay in Warwickshire, sat for the part in Warwickshire. There are no returns but only Crown Office lists for the Parliaments of 1586 and 1593; presumably John Ferrers sat for the Warwickshire part, Essex’s servants again for the part in Staffordshire. In 1589, when Essex had both nominations, the two names were included in one indenture, of which there was a copy for each of the two sheriffs. The return of Egiocke for the Staffordshire part in 1601 somewhat strengthens the suggestion that he was supported by Essex’s mother.5

Author: Alan Harding


  • 1. Browne Willis.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. CPR, 1560-3, pp. 7-8.
  • 4. D’Ewes, 80; CJ, i. 83.
  • 5. C. J. Palmer, Hist. Tamworth, 105, 111, 368-9; Erdeswick’s Surv. Staffs. 418; Add. 28175, f. 51; HMC Hatfield, xii. 441; xv. 51.