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|12 Jan 1559||EDMUND GASCOIGNE|
|THOMAS POLEY I|
|1562/3||(SIR) RICHARD FULMERSTON|
|THOMAS COLBY II|
|26 Jan. 1576||SIR VALENTINE BROWNE vice Humberston, deceased|
|2 Nov. 1584||EDWARD EDEN|
|9 Oct. 1586||(SIR) ROGER WOODHOUSE|
|THOMAS POLEY II|
|BASSINCBOURNE GAWDY II|
|3 Oct. 1597||JOHN CROFTS|
|16 Oct. 1601||HENRY WARNER|
|THOMAS KNYVET II|
Thetford was run by a ‘congregation’ consisting of a mayor, 10 principal and 20 inferior burgesses. The returns were in the form of indentures between the mayor and burgesses on the one hand and the sheriff on the other, and sometimes contained the phrase ‘we have assembled and congregated’ for the election.
As with other Norfolk boroughs, the 4th Duke of Norfolk was the electoral patron at the beginning of this period. As lord of the manor he could nominate when he wished. (Sir) Richard Fulmerston (1563) was the Duke’s treasurer, and held a lease of the borough from him. On Fulmerston’s death in 1567, his property passed to his daughter, wife of the other 1563 MP, Edward Clere. However, at Thetford as elsewhere, the great patrons left room both for local gentlemen and for borough officials who wished to represent the town; indeed, these patrons often went out of their way to return local men rather than impose a stranger. The live and let live attitude of both borough and patron is illustrated at Thetford in 1584 when a local gentleman asked for a place. The mayor, Edward Eden, replied that they intended to return the recorder to one seat and we expect a letter from our very good lord the Earl of Arundel for the commending of one other, which if he shall do and that he be a gent. near about us and well known unto us, we cannot but grant his request.In the event not the recorder, but Eden himself; was elected, together with Arundel’s candidate Robert Whitney. Edmund Cascoigne (1559) was another borough man returned in this period, but, for the most part, Thetford returned local country gentlemen. These were the two Thomas Poleys (1559, 1586), whose identities have been inferred from their status; Philip Appleyard (1571), who had the Duke of Norfolk’s backing; Thomas Hogan (1571); Thomas Colby II (1572), who was Archbishop Parker’s steward; (Sir) Roger Woodhouse, a relative of the Earl of Arundel (1586); members of the Gawdy family (1589, 1593, 1597) and Henry Warner (1601). Thetford’s connexion with the duchy of Lancaster was responsible for the return of William Humberston in 1572, when the Duke of Norfolk was in the Tower; also for William Waad (1588), Charles Chewte (1593), and possibly Sir Valentine Browne, a man with good Norfolk connexions recently ttisnlissed from the treasurership of Berwick for peculation. The junior 1601 man, Thomas Knyvet II, was related to (Sir) John Fortescue I recently acting and soon to be chancellor of the duchy.
Two incidents should be mentioned in connexion with Thetford elections. In 1566 when it appeared that Fulmerston was to sit for the county, the Duke of Norfolk suggested Clement Paston for the vacancy at Thetford, but the proposed rearrangement did not in fact take place. The other was in 1586 when, if the identification of the second MP is correct, it appears that the recorder’s brother sat for Thetford, while the recorder himself sat for the duchy of Lancaster borough of Clitheroe. Possibly Thetford had intended to elect the recorder, who, perhaps without the knowledge of the congregation, obtained a seat at Clitheroe before the relatively late date of the Thetford election, and then, not needing the Thetford seat himself, brought in his brother.
John Crofts (1597), a Bedfordshire gentleman whose return is otherwise unexplained, was related to the Poleys.
Weinbaum, Charters, 85; HMC Var. vii. 119; Thetford hall bk., passim; Bodl. Douce 393, f. 94; Add. 27960, f. 2; Gawdy letter bk. in Norf. Arch. Soc. Lib., Norwich; Egerton 2713, f. 170; Letters of Philip Gawdy (Roxburghe Club), 127.