Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the corporation
Number of voters:
|23 Feb. 1604||WILLIAM JONES I , recorder|
|c. Mar. 1614||WILLIAM JONES I , recorder|
|c. Jan. 1621||SAMPSON EURE|
|c. Jan. 1624||CHARLES JONES|
|21 Apr. 1625||CHARLES JONES , recorder|
|23 Feb. 1626||CHARLES JONES , recorder|
|21 Feb. 1628||CHARLES JONES , recorder|
Sited at the eastern end of the Menai straits, Beaumaris was the last of the Welsh fortresses to be founded by Edward I. Sacked and then captured by Owen Glynd?r in 1403-5, it was quickly repaired. By the sixteenth century the borough, which commanded ‘a fair, safe, and capacious haven and road’, had become the main port on the north coast of Wales, trading with Lancashire for grain, general merchandise from Chester and salt and wine from France, Ireland and Scotland.1 The borough’s government evolved rapidly after the Union of 1536-43: a hall book was probably commenced around 1550,2 and a recorder and town clerk were appointed under Elizabeth.3
Beaumaris was not enfranchised in 1536, as Newborough had been designated the county town under Henry VII. This arrangement was overturned by an Act of 1549, which awarded Beaumaris parliamentary representation, though Newborough remained a contributory borough.4 In 1562, following a promise to maintain the town walls and sea defences at their own charge, the townsmen secured a charter appointing a mayor and two bailiffs, to be elected annually by the incumbents and the 21 chief burgesses. It also confirmed that the borough was ‘to have a burgess in Parliament, elected by the bailiffs and chief burgesses’. Subsequent indentures suggest that this franchise was taken to include the mayor, but it excluded Newborough, making Beaumaris the only corporation franchise in Wales.5 There is no explicit evidence that the borough’s MPs lobbied on behalf of its interests under the early Stuarts, although Owen Wynn, broker for the Gwydir electoral interest, made inquiries about the town charter in 1622.6
Throughout the later Elizabethan and Jacobean periods, the borough was dominated by the local magnate, Sir Richard Bulkeley*, who was both constable of the castle and the owner of extensive property within the town. Several of his relatives were chief burgesses, and, perhaps most significantly, he leased over one-third of the town lands.7 He wielded his electoral influence on behalf of his brother, Thomas†, but after the latter’s death in 1593 the seat was held by his lawyer, William Jones of Castellmarch, Caernarvonshire. Jones’s father may have been town clerk from 1585, and Jones had probably succeeded Thomas Bulkeley as recorder by the time of his election in 1597, though the indenture merely cited him as ‘learned in law’.8 On his return for Caernarvonshire in 1601, Jones was replaced by another Caernarvonshire squire, Sir William Maurice*, but the pair swapped seats in 1604, when the Beaumaris return referred to Jones as ‘burgess and recorder’.9
Jones sat for Beaumaris again in 1614, but declined to seek re-election in the autumn of 1620. On this occasion Sir Richard Wynn* offered him first refusal of the Caernarvonshire seat; Jones declined, and initially agreed to support to Wynn as knight for Caernarvonshire, but changed his mind when he learned that his first wife’s nephew, John Griffith III*, was a rival contender.10 Jones may have intended to keep Beaumaris free for Griffith in case he was defeated at the Caernarvonshire election, but Griffith’s resounding victory allowed the Beaumaris seat to go to an outsider, Sampson Eure. The latter’s father was chief justice of the Anglesey circuit, and his stepmother, Maurice’s granddaughter, had been Griffith’s most energetic lobbyist. In 1624, with both Maurice and Sir Francis Eure* dead, Jones replaced Eure’s son with his own, who, as recorder, continued to represent the borough until his death in 1640.11
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. I. Soulsby, Towns of Medieval Wales, 78-80; E.A. Lewis, Medieval Bors. Snowdonia, 204, 206; L. Roberts, The Merchants Mappe of Commerce (1638/9), pp. 219-20; Welsh Port Books, 1550-1603 (Cymmrodorion Soc. rec. ser. xii), pp. xix-xxxviii.
- 2. Fragments of which survive in UCNW, Bangor 478D; NLW, 1546E/iii; NLW, 9081D.
- 3. UCNW, Bangor 478B, ff. 36v, 43; NLW, 9081D, pp. 122-3.
- 4. A.D.K. Hawkyard, ‘Enfranchisement of Constituencies’, PH, x. 9-10.
- 5. CSP Dom., 1547-80, pp. 194-5; CPR, 1560-63, pp. 346-50; Hawkyard, 9-10.
- 6. NLW, 9058E/1050.
- 7. CPR, 1560-3, pp. 130, 347; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 443; UCNW, Baron Hill 4694; NLW, 9081D, pp. 137-46.
- 8. UCNW, Baron Hill 28; UCNW, Bangor 478B, f. 43; C219/33/253.
- 9. NLW, Brogyntyn 468; C219/35/2/182.
- 10. NLW, 9057E/916; Brogyntyn 399.
- 11. CAERNARVONSHIRE; NLW, 9081D, pp. 122-3.