Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the burgage-holders
Number of voters:
24 in 1620
|27 Feb. 1604||SIR CAREW RALEGH|
|c. Mar. 1614||GILBERT RALEGH|
|28 Dec. 1620||SIR CAREW RALEGH|
|Sir Thomas Hinton|
|19 Jan. 1624||SIR WILLIAM DODINGTON II|
|SIR CLIPPESBY CREWE|
|3 Jan. 1625||EDWARD HERBERT vice Dodington, deceased|
|19 Apr. 1625||SIR CLIPPESBY CREWE|
|16 Jan. 1626||HERBERT DODINGTON|
|16 Feb. 1626||WILLIAM TRUMBULL vice Dodington, chose to sit for Lymington|
|11 Mar. 1628||SIR BENJAMIN RUDYARD|
Located on the banks of the Avon in Wiltshire’s south-east corner, Downton was owned from Saxon times by the bishops of Winchester, who founded a settlement there in the early 1200s. With few medieval privileges, the town developed slowly. At the start of the seventeenth century, Downton was still only a borough by prescription, presided over by an alderman, a tithingman and a constable. Its market and fairs had apparently fallen into abeyance, and the local economy was almost entirely agricultural, with little discernible industry apart from the small-scale manufacture of leather goods.1
Downton first returned Members to Parliament in 1275, but the borough was regularly represented in the Commons only from 1442. The franchise was vested in the burgage-holders. Their actual number in the early Stuart period is unclear, but 24 voters were listed on the 1620 election return.2 By long-established custom, the returning officer was the bishop’s local bailiff. This office was held by the owners of the minor local manor of Barford, who at this juncture were the Stockman family. Nevertheless, there is no evidence that the bishops made nominations at Downton in the opening decades of the seventeenth century, the borough’s most important patron instead being the 3rd earl of Pembroke, the lessee of Downton manor.3
Surprisingly, the earl’s influence was not greatly felt in the first three Jacobean elections. On each occasion, the senior seat was taken by a member of the Ralegh family, who owned the local rectory and a significant quantity of property within the borough.4 In 1604 the junior place went to William Stockman, owner of Barford manor, whose father had been a servant to the 2nd earl of Pembroke.5 Ten years later Stockman was replaced by John Ryves, a lawyer with a Dorset gentry background, who may have been resident in the borough. In 1620 the second seat was taken by another outsider, Sir Thomas Hinton, whose seat lay in north-east Wiltshire. His connection with Downton has not been established, but he was presumably a Pembroke nominee.6
In 1624 the borough’s senior Member was Sir William Dodington II, whose father was a major landowner at Breamore, three miles away across the Hampshire border. However, the second seat was awarded to Sir Clippesby Crewe, almost certainly the choice of Pembroke, who is known to have placed him at Callington, Cornwall in 1626.7 When Dodington died between the prorogation and dissolution of the 1624 Parliament, he was replaced by the earl’s kinsman, Edward Herbert, who, because the Parliament never reconvened, did not actually take his seat on this occasion. However, Herbert continued to represent the borough for the remainder of the period. Crewe sat again in 1625. In the following year the senior place was briefly taken by Dodington’s brother, Herbert, but after he opted to sit for Lymington, Hampshire, the vacancy was filled by William Trumbull, another outsider who was probably nominated by Pembroke. Edward Herbert’s colleague in 1628 was Sir Benjamin Rudyard, one of the earl’s most prominent clients.8
Author: Henry Lancaster
- 1. R.C. Hoare, Hist. Modern Wilts. iii. ‘Downton’, 13-14, 19; VCH Wilts. xi. 41-4.
- 2. VCH Wilts. xi. 45; C219/37/292.
- 3. Hoare, iii. ‘Downton’, 38-9; VCH Wilts. 28-9, 45.
- 4. Hoare, iii. ‘Downton’, 36-7.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 218; Harl. 7186, f. 27v.
- 6. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. xx), 80-1; E115/193/11.
- 7. Cardiff Recs. ed. J.H. Matthews, iii. 512; SP16/523/77.
- 8. V.A. Rowe, ‘Influence of the Earls of Pembroke on Parlty. Elections’, EHR, l. 242-4, 251.