New Shoreham


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 inhabitants


16 Feb. 1621INIGO JONES vice Leedes, expelled the House
13 Jan. 1626JOHN ALFORD

Main Article

Founded at the mouth of the River Adur in the eleventh century, New Shoreham soon became one of the most important of the Channel ports, though it suffered a severe decline in the fourteenth century. In the late sixteenth century Camden reported that ‘the greatest part’ of it was ‘ruined and under water, and the commodiousness of its port … wholly taken away’, and one of its own Jacobean Members called it ‘a town as poor and poorer than any in the realm’. It was nonetheless then entering upon a new period of prosperity. Engaged primarily in the coastal trade, it was also the chief centre in Sussex for shipbuilding.1

New Shoreham had the status of a borough by 1235 and, although not incorporated, evolved sophisticated structures of urban self-government, almost all of which fell into abeyance in the late Middle Ages. By the seventeenth century there was little to distinguish it from an ordinary manor. The principal public officer was the constable elected annually by the manorial court leet, while the borough court dealt only with tenurial business. The borough was represented in Parliament from 1295. Indentures were exchanged between the sheriff of Sussex on the one hand and up to 35 named townsmen (sometimes including the shipbuilder Robert Tranckmore) ‘and other burgesses’ on the other.2

The manor or borough formed part of the barony of Bramber, and as such had been forfeited by Thomas Howard, 4th duke of Norfolk on his attainder in 1572. In the late Elizabethan period the lord admiral, the 2nd Lord Howard of Effingham (Charles Howard†), head of a junior branch of the Howard family based in Surrey, served as lord lieutenant of Sussex and seems to have exercised at least some of his family’s traditional electoral influence, especially in New Shoreham which, as a port, was presumably particularly susceptible to Admiralty influence.3 Norfolk’s grandson, Thomas, earl of Arundel, was restored in blood in 1604, but he had some difficulty in obtaining possession of all of his family’s lands. In 1608 Arundel’s uncles, the 1st earl of Suffolk and Lord William Howard of Naworth were granted various parts of the estates, including the barony of Bramber, and he did not buy them out until 1619.4

The two Members returned in 1604 probably owed their election to Lord Howard, by now 1st earl of Nottingham. Sir Barnard Whetstone, from Essex, was the stepfather of Nottingham’s secretary, Richard Bellingham I*. He also leased the manor of Hangleton, four miles from the borough, and was a member of the county bench. His colleague, Sir Hugh Beeston, was a client of Sir Robert Cecil†, Nottingham’s principal ally at Court, and was the son of a man knighted by Nottingham during the Armada campaign. His election may have represented a favour done by Nottingham for Cecil.5

There is no evidence that Beeston and Whetstone initially sought re-election in 1614, although the former was returned at Liverpool. Instead, the Howard interest went to Nottingham’s second son, Sir Charles Howard. His colleague was Thomas Shelley, the eldest son of Henry Shelley I*, who owned property in the nearby parish of Findon. By 1621 Howard was the heir to the Nottingham earldom and showed no apparent interest in sitting in the Commons again, while Shelley had been outlawed for debt. It is possible that the earl of Arundel, now back in England, nominated Sir John Morley, who had previously sat for the borough in 1601, because Morley’s father-in-law and stepfather, Sir Edward Caryll, had been steward to Arundel’s father. Moreover Morley’s younger brother Edward* was closely connected with the earl, having sat for the borough of Arundel on the earl’s nomination in 1614. The second seat went to Sir John Leedes, a courtier and local landowner. Interestingly, Edward Morley was one of Leedes’ trustees.6 The principal signatory to the indenture was the vicar of New Shoreham, William Greenhill.7

Leedes was expelled from the House on 10 Feb. for taking his seat unsworn, and was replaced by the great architect Inigo Jones, who was presumably nominated by his patron Arundel. Jones’s name is more faded than the main text of the indenture and it is probably in a different hand, suggesting that it was a later insertion. Greenhill again led the electors.8 Morley died before the next election, and Jones does not seem to have sought re-election.

There is no evidence that Arundel tried to influence the election for the 1624 Parliament, when the puritan Anthony Stapley, who lived about nine miles from the borough, took the senior seat. His junior colleague was William Marlott, a New Shoreham merchant. If Marlott was already serving as deputy vice-admiral of Sussex to Sir Charles Howard, by now 2nd earl of Nottingham, it raises the possibility of a revival of the Nottingham interest.

In 1625 Arundel apparently nominated Evan Edwards*, secretary to Arundel’s fellow joint lord lieutenant of Sussex, the 4th earl of Dorset (Sir Edward Sackville*), but the borough re-elected Stapley and Marlott.9 The following year Arundel tried again, this time nominating (Sir) Francis Crane, who had recently participated in the negotiations for the marriage of the earl’s heir, Henry Frederick Howard*, Lord Maltravers. The earl sought the support of Edward Alford*, who was sheriff of Sussex and lived near New Shoreham. However, Alford claimed he had already recommended his son John to the borough and that he did not know of the earl’s nomination of Crane until it was too late. There is no evidence that Stapley sought re-election and John Alford was elected with Marlott.10

In the late 1620s the maritime economy of Sussex was being adversely affected by the war. In July 1626 ‘the inhabitants and fishermen’ of Shoreham called for better protection to be provided against the ravages of the Dunkirkers. In August 1628 Edward Alford wrote to the lord lieutenants complaining that French warships had taken a vessel in Shoreham haven and had anchored off the port all night. The war probably helped to raise the local prominence of Marlott, as deputy vice-admiral, as he was re-elected in 1628. John Alford, however, was returned for Arundel. Marlott’s partner this time was Robert Morley, who lived at Glynde in east Sussex. Unrelated to the 1621 Member, Morley was instead a kinsman of the Alfords and Stapley.11

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, pp. 138, 157-9, 162, 165; W. Camden, Britannia (1695), p. 173; Bowyer Diary, 92; C.E. Brent, ‘Urban employment and population in Suss. between 1550 and 1660’ Suss. Arch. Colls. cxiii. 44; H. Cheal, Story of Shoreham, 32, 149.
  • 2. VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, pp. 164-5, 167; C219/35/2/90; 219/39/207. In February 1628 Tranckmore was contracted to build the Tenth Lion’s Whelp for the Navy: Cheal, 149.
  • 3. VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, p. 149; R.W. Kenny, ‘Parlty. Influence of Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham’, JMH, xxxix. 220-1, 224. Howard had inherited the manor of Eastbrook, two miles east of Shoreham, but sold it in 1595. W. Bray, Collections Relating to Henry Smith (1800), pp. 85-7.
  • 4. M.A. Tierney, Hist. and Antiqs. of Castle and Town of Arundel, 416-17; M.F.S. Hervey, Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, 21-23, 40, 464: Arundel, Suss. deeds, D2838, info. from Mrs. Sara Rodger.
  • 5. G.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Eng. 40.
  • 6. H. Ellis, ‘Certificate concerning Justices of the Peace in 1587’, Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 60; Suss. Manors and Advowsons ed. H.W. Dunkin (Suss. Rec. Soc. xx), 463.
  • 7. C219/37/258.
  • 8. C219/37/254.
  • 9. Cal. N. Wales Letters ed. B.E. Howells (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law ser. xxiii), 218.
  • 10. Arundel, Autograph Letters 1617-32, Peers to Spiller, 16 Jan. 1626.
  • 11. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 390; 1628-9, p. 250; A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 189.