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

Number of voters:

about 2,700 in 16141


 Sir Henry Wallop10283

Main Article

Often referred to as the county of Southampton, Hampshire was of great strategic importance, both for its port and naval base at Portsmouth, and for its extensive forests which supplied timber for the dockyard. Its chalky soil and heath land provided for a local economy based on pasture and arable farming. The cloth industry of Winchester, erstwhile capital of England following the Conquest, declined after the Black Death, but the cathedral city remained the regional centre for local government and administration.4 County elections were held at Winchester Castle, leased in this period by Sir Richard Tichborne*, who, despite his family’s reputed Catholicism, afforded hospitality to James I several times. Traditionally the bishop and the Paulet marquess of Winchester had each nominated candidates for the knights of the shire. However, neither did so under the early Stuarts. In the case of the Paulets this was a result of the imbecility of the fourth marquess of Winchester and the recusancy of the fifth. The indifference of the bishop is harder to explain. Thomas Bilson, bishop between 1597 and 1616, may have exercised an indirect influence through his son-in-law and steward, Sir Richard Norton*, but there is no evidence that his successor, Lancelot Andrewes, showed any interest in the elections of the 1620s. During James’s reign the mantle of electoral patron passed instead to Hampshire’s lord lieutenant, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd earl of Southampton, who held office from 1604 until his death in November 1624. The next lord lieutenant, the 1st Viscount Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*) was less successful, however, and even found it difficult to obtain borough seats for his sons.5

Since early Elizabethan times the county gentry had been divided on religious lines. Those of a puritan persuasion were pitted against a mixture of less godly Protestants and those who still inclined to Catholicism. These differences came to a head in 1614, when, in the only contested election of the period, the church papist Sir Richard Tichborne* bested the wealthy puritan Sir Henry Wallop*, an upset that closely mirrored the defeat of Wallop’s father in a by-election in 1566. Thereafter the puritans gained the upper hand, and Wallop, the richest commoner in the county, who had refused a peerage in 1610, ultimately established a firm hold on the senior seat.6

In 1604 both Members came from relatively new and minor families. Sir Robert Oxenbridge, a courtier’s son-in-law, had recently been honoured with a royal visit; although an Anglican himself his family connections probably made him acceptable to the old Catholic gentry.7 Sir William Jephson, who took the second seat, was presumably nominated by Southampton, with whom he had longstanding connections.8 Ahead of the 1614 election Sir Richard Tichborne announced his intention to stand, and according to his later testimony, he approached various local gentlemen of ‘worth and quality’, all of whom declined to compete except Wallop, who gave ‘an uncertain and doubtful answer’.9 Tichborne then secured the support of Southampton, as did Sir William Uvedale, a well-connected courtier whose cousin, Sir Richard Norton, was sheriff. Wallop himself approached Southampton only to find that he had left it too late to obtain the latter’s nomination. He therefore decided to canvass his own support, and on 10 Feb. wrote to one of his kinsmen: ‘there is a resolution for a Parliament speedily, and never more need of sending honest men thither, and persons well affected in religion. I pray reserve your freeholders’ and friends’ voices undisposed of till I may advise you of these things’.10 Wallop’s reference to religion was clearly aimed at Tichborne, who later complained of ‘slanderous rumours’. Wallop in return alleged that the sheriff, Norton, as the bishop of Winchester’s steward, had so far abandoned impartiality during the campaign as to extract pledges of support for Tichborne from suitors at the bishop’s manorial courts, and was prepared to risk a £100 fine for a rigged election. Even copyholders were approached, according to Wallop’s account, and when some objected that this was illegal, the canvassers threatened ‘that they would be even with them, and would sit on their skirts, with many other words of terror’.11 The increasing bitterness of the contest alarmed the gentry, and a meeting was held to persuade one of the candidates to stand down, ‘for the maintenance of love and amity’. The drawing of lots was suggested, to which Tichborne agreed, but Wallop refused to co-operate. On 2 Mar. some of the gentry drafted a letter to Southampton, informing him that

the most part of us now assembled at the assizes for this county have conferred of our election for the Parliament, and moved Sir Henry Wallop, whom the freeholders generally affect for that employment, to be one. We doubt not but your lordship will approve our choice in respect of his own worth and the common opinion conceived of his love to the country, yet gladly if time would have given us leave [would we] have been advised by your lordship.

The letter was never sent because of Tichborne’s understandable objection to the postscript, which suggested that ‘your lordship may dispose of him’.12 The canvas therefore continued with undiminished vigour, attracting the attention of London gossipmongers, including John Chamberlain.13 Southampton wrote to the deputy lieutenants regretting that he could not endorse Wallop without breaking his word to Tichborne and Uvedale, and urging them to support his candidates.14 Wallop nevertheless seemed to have amassed a large following, as he informed his ally Sir Henry Whithed* on 11 Mar. that he had already mustered 1,000 voters. Six days later his friend Sir Daniel Norton* had pledged 130 freeholders, and Sir William Dodington I* a further 40, ‘notwithstanding many threats used by the other’.15

On the day of the election Tichborne allegedly used his control of the castle to admit his supporters at an early hour, so that 500 of Wallop’s voters were physically unable to enter. Tichborne countered that, on the contrary, his electors could gain access only through a side door because Wallop’s supporters were blocking the main entrance. His story was corroborated by Norton, who testified that when he tried to read the writ at 8 a.m. Wallop’s supporters raised ‘a little banner or flag wherein was made the letter W’, and began an incessant chant of ‘Wallop, Wallop, Wallop’, so that it was an hour before he could make himself heard. On the view, Norton was prepared to declare Tichborne and Uvedale elected, but he acceded to Wallop’s demand for a poll. During this protracted process 500 of Wallop’s supporters, hungry and exhausted, left the hustings unpolled and were denied readmission, or so it was claimed. The sheriff was further charged with admitting unqualified and plural votes for Tichborne, to which he replied that all had been obliged to file through a wicket gate under the scrutiny of Oxenbridge and Whithed. Wallop was absent when the result was declared on the following morning. Although he was first said to have polled 1,283 votes, this was subsequently reduced to 1,028, over 600 behind Tichborne and Uvedale.16

Although defeated, Wallop was assured of a seat in the Commons, having obtained a place at Stockbridge under controversial circumstances. He nevertheless immediately commenced proceedings against Norton in Star Chamber, thereby echoing the aftermath of the 1566 by-election, in which his father had been defeated in similar circumstances and had likewise sued the sheriff. However, this lawsuit contravened the Commons’ right to determine the validity of all returns, and consequently, when the Stockbridge election result was challenged in the Commons, William Beecher* magnified the case against Wallop by bringing it to the attention of the House. He also tried to obtain an order requiring Wallop to petition the Commons instead.17 The case outlasted the Parliament, with no known result. In the long term it probably had the effect of deterring future opposition to Wallop, who was returned for Hampshire unchallenged in 1620, together with Southampton’s nominee, Sir John Jephson.

In 1624 the puritan Sir Daniel Norton took the first seat while the second went to Oxenbridge’s son.18 Wallop reasserted his electoral influence in 1625 by securing the return of his son, Robert Wallop, at the unusually young age of 24, together with Whithed, his friend and kinsman. This triumph was consolidated in 1626 when the two Wallops, father and son, achieved the unusual feat of monopolizing both seats. No doubt they were responsible for presenting Tichborne and his father as unfit for county office because of their recusant wives. In 1628 Wallop was re-elected with Sir Daniel Norton, whose house, conveniently close to Portsmouth, was Charles I’s residence during the preparation of the Ile de RĂ© expedition in the summer of 1627, and again in 1628 when Buckingham was assassinated while assembling his forces to relieve La Rochelle. No county was worse affected than Hampshire by the problems of billeting and military disorder in 1627-8, and both knights of the shire protested in the Commons about this, and about the recent appointment of the Arminian Richard Neile as bishop of Winchester.19

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. STAC 8/293/11.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. D.A Hinton and A.N. Insole, Hants and I.o.W., 1-16; J.S. Furley, Hants Q. Sess. in Seventeenth Cent. 16.
  • 5. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 51.
  • 6. E179/175/486.
  • 7. J. Nichols, Progs. of Jas. I, i. 250.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, xi. 20.
  • 9. STAC 8/293/11.
  • 10. Hants RO, 19M61/1317.
  • 11. STAC 8/293/11.
  • 12. Whithed Letter Bk. (Hants Recs. Ser. i), 113.
  • 13. Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 518, 521; T.L. Moir, Addled Parl. 35-6; Hants RO, 44M69/E4/28, f. 39v.
  • 14. Whithed Letter Bk. (Hants Recs. Ser. i), 114.
  • 15. Ibid. 115.
  • 16. STAC 8/293/11.
  • 17. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 397.
  • 18. R.E. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, p. 126.
  • 19. L. Boynton, ‘Billeting in I.o.W.’, EHR, lxxiv. 23-40; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 122-5.