New Windsor


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 corporation

Number of voters:



 THOMAS DURDENT , under steward
1 Feb. 1610SIR FRANCIS HOWARD vice Durdent, deceased
 THOMAS WOODWARD , under steward
 THOMAS WOODWARD , under steward
14 Sept. 1624SIR WILLIAM HEWETT vice Woodward, deceased
 HUMPHREY NEWBERY , under steward

Main Article

New Windsor developed as a royal borough in the shadow of the castle. It received its first charter in 1277 and returned Members intermittently from 1302 and regularly from 1447.1 A new charter issued in August 1603, on the ‘humble petition and request’ of Charles Howard, 1st earl of Nottingham, entrusted its government to some 30 brothers of the guildhall, ‘of the better and more approved inhabitants’, of whom 13 were to be styled ‘benchers’ and to include the ten aldermen from among whom the mayor was to be chosen.2 Both Nottingham and George Villiers, 1st duke of Buckingham, successive constables of the castle, served as high stewards of the borough, and could expect the nomination to one seat, but on the whole Windsor stood by its resolution of 1572 that the other should go to a townsman, often its under-steward or recorder.3 The indentures were exchanged between the sheriff of Berkshire and the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses. There is no evidence that the borough paid wages to its Members.

In 1604 Nottingham may have exercised his interest in favour of Samuel Backhouse, a London merchant’s son who had settled in Berkshire and served as sheriff in 1600. The other Member, Thomas Durdent, was the under-steward. Durdent died in 1607, and was replaced shortly before the fourth session by one of Nottingham’s nephews, Sir Francis Howard, a young man of 24 but already an experienced naval officer. By the time of the next election, in 1614, he was at sea, while Backhouse transferred to Aylesbury, leaving his former seat to a more distinguished Berkshire gentleman, Sir Richard Lovelace, who had just replaced Nottingham as high steward.4 The junior place went to the new under-steward, Thomas Woodward, whose father had been clerk of the works at the castle and a Member for the borough in 1586. Lovelace took a county seat in the third Jacobean Parliament, making room at Windsor for another of Nottingham’s nephews, (Sir) Charles Howard, who held several of ‘the offices of Windsor’, at the castle and in the forest. Woodward gave way to Sir Robert Bennett, nephew of a former dean of Windsor and later clerk of the works at the castle. Bennett fell ‘very desperately ill’ during the Parliament, which may explain his failure to sit in 1624. The senior Member then, Edmund Sawyer, was an auditor in the Exchequer whose circuit included Berkshire and who had recently purchased a manor some six miles from Windsor. Woodward regained the junior seat, but died after Parliament was prorogued for the summer. At the ensuing by-election he was replaced by the keeper of Windsor Little Park, Sir William Hewett, who wanted a seat because his conduct as receiver-general for purveyance compositions was under investigation by the Commons. However, the House did not meet again before the death of James I.

When a fresh Parliament was summoned in 1625, Hewett was re-elected, together with the by now recovered Bennett. This was despite a letter of 8 Apr. 1625 from the new high steward, Buckingham, craving Windsor’s

favour in a request which I trust you will not think unreasonable, which is that on my recommendations you will elect Sir William Russell the treasurer of His Majesty’s Navy for one of the burgesses to serve in this approaching Parliament for your town. His known worth and merits speak so well for him that I shall not need to tell you what I believe of him, and being born not far from you, I doubt not you will easily grow confident that he will be very tender of the trust you shall repose in him for the good of your town.5

Russell, however, whose father had lived some five miles away and who had himself inherited property in Old Windsor, was chosen in 1626, together with the under-steward, Humphrey Newbery, who was to prove an active Member. Early in the following year Newbery and the mayor were summoned before the Privy Council to account for their arrest of a castle servant. The mayor was immediately discharged, but Newbery, held ‘more to be blamed’ and accused of ‘divers other misdemeanours’, was obliged to keep himself ready for further attendance until April 1628.6 He was accordingly unavailable for election to the third Caroline Parliament. Russell, having resigned his treasurership of the Navy, was replaced in the senior seat by the Buckingham client and clerk of the Privy Council (Sir) William Beecher, for whom the duke had failed to find a seat at Dover; he was the only complete outsider to sit for Windsor in the period. The junior seat went to Thomas Hewett, eldest son of Sir William, who had just completed his education. Neither Beecher nor Hewett is known to have taken notice of the complaint made in Parliament against Richard Montagu, who was said to have kicked out ‘the bonfires in Windsor Castle’ after the king yielded to the Petition of Right.7

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. VCH Berks. iii. 58.
  • 2. Ibid. 61; Bodl. Ashmole 1126, ff. 83-95v.
  • 3. R.R. Tighe and J.E. Davis, Annals of Windsor, ii. 47; Bodl. Ashmole 1126, f. 46.
  • 4. Tighe and Davis, 47.
  • 5. Add. 37819, f. 11.
  • 6. APC, 1627, pp. 66, 114, 416; 1627-8, p. 372.
  • 7. CD 1628, iv. 291, 298.