Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:




Main Article

Grantham, a market and postal town on the Great North Road, was incorporated in 1463 and first sent representatives to Parliament in 1467.1 The corporation consisted of one annually elected alderman and 12 ‘comburgesses’.2 However, the town also remained under manorial rule, and after the accession of James I it became part of Anne of Denmark’s dower.3 Influence over elections was traditionally dominated by the Manners family, earls of Rutland, seated at Belvoir Castle some seven miles distant; Roger, 5th earl of Rutland, who was both steward of the manor and lord lieutenant of the county, confirmed his interest in the borough with regular gifts of money for the poor.4 The population of Grantham has been estimated at around 1,500 at the turn of the seventeenth century. The town had experienced a long period of stagnation due to the decline of its cloth trade during the preceding century, but nevertheless experienced, and tried to reverse, a ‘great confluence and resort of poor people from foreign parts’ during the early Stuart period. This arose due to the drainage and enclosure of the fens, which had displaced agricultural labour from the surrounding hinterland.5 During the 1620s the townsmen became divided over religion, following the appointment of an unpopular Arminian vicar. The bishop of Lincoln, John Williams, overruled the latter’s attempts to move the communion table and replace it with a stone altar; the majority on the corporation inclined towards puritanism, a factor which perhaps bolstered the influence of Sir William Armyne in the later elections of the period.6 No corporation records survive prior to 1633.

In 1604 Sir George Manners, Rutland’s younger brother, was returned as the senior Member, while Thomas Horsman, a local gentleman who had represented Grantham in the last three Parliaments, was re-elected in second place. Though of different generations, both had been brought up in the household of the 1st Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†), and may have been able to use their connections with the secretary of state, Sir Robert Cecil†, to obtain a new charter for Grantham. Dated 29 May 1604, this contained substantial new privileges, notably a wool market to provide funds and employment for the poor, and a weekly court of record.7 Horsman died on 26 Nov. 1610, during the last session of this Parliament, but no writ for a by election appears to have been issued, probably because the Parliament was prorogued prior to its dissolution just ten days later.

Rutland died in 1612 and was succeeded by his brother Francis as 6th earl. The latter was probably responsible for the return of his brother-in-law, Richard Tufton, at the next general election, althought the first seat went to Queen Anne’s carver, Sir George Reynell, who had married into a Lincolnshire family. Ahead of the elections to the 1621 Parliament, Sir George Manners wrote commending himself to an eminent local barrister, (Sir) Thomas Ellis†, who resided at Grantham, requesting ‘that in regard I am a freeman and of never a corporation else, I shall take it very kindly … if at this time they will bestow a burgess place upon me, and the more kindly for that it proceeds from my own motion’. The exact date of the election is unknown as the return does not survive, but Manners had almost certainly already been returned as knight of the shire for Lincolnshire by the time it took place. The senior seat was taken by Sir William Armyne, who had represented the borough as long ago as 1589 and whose seat of Osgodby lay some seven miles from Grantham. His political re-emergence was probably less the result of his own inclination than the desire of his son to establish an interest by appealing to the growing number of puritans within the town and among the corporation. Sir Clement Cotterell, vice admiral of Lincolnshire and the owner of a small estate at nearby Wilsford, was returned in second place, perhaps having been recommended to Rutland by his patron, Buckingham, the earl’s son-in-law. Sir George Manners claimed the senior seat at Grantham in 1624, with Cotterell re-elected in second place. Cotterell had also been returned for Boston two days previously, and when he plumped for Grantham it was presumably as part of a deal whereby his place at Boston was taken by Armyne’s son and successor, the first baronet.

Manners and the younger Armyne were returned together to Charles I’s first Parliament in 1625. The senior seat in 1626 went to an outsider, John Wingfield, while the second seat went to the baronet’s younger brother, Evers Armyne. Wingfield may have been recommended by his kinsman, the 2nd earl of Exeter (William Cecil†), Rutland’s brother-in-law. Aristocratic influence seems to have been absent from the elections to the 1628 Parliament, when a local gentleman who shared the Armynes’ radical puritan views, Thomas Hatcher of Careby, was returned in first place, and the second seat went to a townsman, Alexander More junior. After the dissolution the corporation petitioned for a new charter in order to resolve ambiguities that had arisen following the grant of the manor to Queen Henrietta Maria. Their request was finally granted in 1631.8

Authors: Paula Watson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. E. Turnor, Colls. for Hist. Grantham, 56.
  • 2. G.H. Martin, Charters of Grantham, 14-16, 24-47; C. Holmes, Seventeenth-Cent. Lincs. 32-3.
  • 3. B. Street, Notes on Grantham, 28
  • 4. HMC Rutland, i. 454; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 318.
  • 5. J.B. Manterfield, ‘Top. development of Grantham, Lincs. 1535-1835’ (Exeter Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1981), p. 140; Holmes, 20, 37.
  • 6. Holmes, 114-16; Street, 82-3, 85; HMC 3rd Rep. 214.
  • 7. Martin, 109-19; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 115.
  • 8. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 545; 1629-31, p. 37; S. Bond and N. Evans, ‘The process of granting charters to Eng. bors. 1547-1649’, EHR, xci. 105-6, 110.