Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen 1604; in the corporation 16081
Number of voters:
24 in 1608
|13 Mar. 1604||RICHARD JAMES|
|30 Mar. 1614||SIR RICHARD WORSLEY , bt.|
|3 Jan. 1621||SIR RICHARD WORSLEY , bt.|
|SIR WILLIAM UVEDALE|
|6 Dec. 1621||PHILIP FLEMING vice Worsley, deceased|
|27 Jan. 1624||CHRISTOPHER BROOKE|
|9 Mar. 1624||SIR JOHN DANVERS vice Brooke, chose to sit for York|
|5 May 1625||(SIR) NATHANIEL RICH|
|16 Jan. 1626||SIR CHRISTOPHER YELVERTON|
|18 Feb. 1628||SIR CHRISTOPHER YELVERTON|
|Sir Edward Conway II*|
|Sir Edward Dennys*|
Lying at the head of the Medina estuary, adjacent to Carisbrooke Castle, where the captain of the Isle of Wight resided, Newport was the most populous and prosperous of the three island boroughs.2 Its seigneurial charter, confirmed by Queen Elizabeth in 1559, vested authority in two bailiffs and an indeterminate number of ‘burgesses’ or freemen.3 Newport had returned one Member to the Model Parliament, but the franchise thereafter lapsed until 1584, when it was restored at the suit of the captain.4 In gratitude the borough gave him the right to nominate one Member, and extended the privilege to his successors until 1626, when they ignored the recommendation of the 1st Viscount Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*). Elections were held in the guildhall.5
In 1604 an obscure lawyer, John Astell, was returned for the junior seat, perhaps at the behest of the then captain, the 3rd earl of Southampton. The senior seat was taken by a townsman, Richard James, who had represented the borough in the previous two parliaments. In 1608 the borough was incorporated at the insistence of Southampton and Sir Thomas Fleming I*, a native of the town and now lord chief justice, but against the wishes of the principal gentlemen of the Isle, such as Sir John Oglander*, who resented the growing independence of the townsmen.6 Henceforth the common council, consisting of the mayor and 23 ‘chief burgesses’, engrossed the franchise. Under the new charter Astell was appointed recorder for life and John Searle, a local barrister, continued as town clerk, although he was later suspended from office for attempting to prove that the Crown owned certain of the town’s lands.7 On 30 June 1610 a petition about wages was received by the Commons, probably from James, who had been arrested for debt during the previous recess. As the House did nothing James began an action for £74 in the courts; but after the dissolution he accepted the corporation’s offer of £32.8 By 1611 Astell, whose finances were scarcely less desperate, had ceased to function as recorder, though he could not be removed from office without his own consent.9
In 1614 Sir Richard Worsley stood for election, perhaps with the backing of the earl of Southampton. On 19 Mar. 1614 the corporation unanimously resolved to grant him the freedom. There may initially have been disagreement over the choice of the faithless Searle as his colleague; but 11 days later it was decided that he should ‘absolutely stand burgess’, and he was returned with Worsley ‘with a general consent’.10 On his return from Westminster, Worsley presented the corporation with a buck, and he subscribed generously in October 1614 to the building fund for a free grammar school on a site given by Sir Thomas Fleming II*.11 He was re-elected to the third Stuart Parliament ‘with a general consent’. The mayor had to cross the Solent to Titchfield (charging the town 20s. for his expenses) to receive Southampton’s nomination for the other seat, which, it transpired, was for Sir William Uvedale, a rising courtier from a great Hampshire family.12 Perhaps in recompense for according the junior seat to Uvedale, the corporation afterwards spent £3 on gifts for Southampton.13
Shortly after the end of the first sitting, on 26 June 1621, Worsley died of smallpox, and on 13 Nov., ahead of Parliament’s recall, Newport held an assembly to decide whether to replace him with Fleming’s brother Philip, a town resident, or with an outsider. ‘A general answer was made by the whole company above-named that they thought no man so fit as Mr. Fleming’, and he was duly returned.14 Subsequently appointed deputy-steward of the Isle, he was re-elected to every Parliament of the 1620s. In December 1623 Newport voted to give Southampton a hogshead of wine for Christmas, and at the following election his nominee Christopher Brooke, a director of the Virginia Company, was ‘freely elected and chosen’ with Fleming.15 When Brooke opted for York, he was replaced ‘by a general consent’ with Sir John Danvers, also prominent in the Company. Both Members were returned in their absence with the proviso that they should take out the freedom as soon as possible, but neither seems to have done so.16
Southampton died later in the year, and was immediately succeeded as captain by Conway, although the appointment was not ratified until 8 Dec. 1625. Conway had no previous ties with the island, and his management of electoral patronage there proved inept. On 14 Apr. 1625 Newport voted him ‘the courtesy of a choice of a burgess for the Parliament for this present’.17 Too busy as secretary of state to visit the island himself, Conway relied on his deputy lieutenants, Oglander and Sir Edward Dennys*, to promote his candidates. By 2 May they were able to assure him of the boroughs’ compliance, and Newport duly returned his nominee (Sir) Nathaniel Rich.18
On hearing ahead of the 1625 Parliament that the corporation intended to renew its charter, probably to enable it to replace Astell, Oglander drafted a furious letter berating the townsmen for neglecting to consult him, and adding ‘I have been persuaded to write unto my Lord [Conway] to cause a stop therein till his Lordship or some of us his officers may know and be made acquainted with your intentions’.19 The charter was not renewed, though Oglander’s hostility probably reduced the influence which as a freeman and part-time resident he might have expected to exercise in elections. He incurred further unpopularity by rating the island for the Forced Loan.20 On 12 Jan. 1626 Fleming complained to Conway that ‘the poor town of Newport … is more charged with privy seals than Southampton or Salisbury’.21 Conway promised an impartial hearing, and informed him that he had nominated (Sir) John Suckling* for the next Parliament at Newport, threatening reprisals if he were refused. He added that he had already asked Oglander and Dennys to inform the borough of his recommendation.22 According to Oglander, however, Francis Beale*, a new resident who was ‘wont to drink sack’ with the corporation, persuaded them to return his nephew Sir Christopher Yelverton.23 The townspeople may have hoped that Beale’s brother-in-law (Sir) Henry Yelverton* would as a judge be able to assist them with their charter. It was recorded in the ledger-book on 16 Jan. that Yelverton and Fleming had been returned ‘by a general consent’ as required by the writ of summons, which was transcribed in full.24 Fleming protested to Conway that the election had taken place during his absence, and proposed that ‘rather than it shall frustrate my lord’s desires, that interest which I have shall be rendered back, and I will gladly stand down if a new election may be made’.25 This unorthodox offer proved unnecessary, however, since Suckling was successful at both Sandwich and Norwich.
The Isle of Wight was heavily burdened with the billeting of soldiers during the summer of 1627, leaving the inhabitants less inclined than ever to defer to the captain’s wishes at the next election.26 By nominating his own son, a colonel whose regiment was stationed just across the Solent, as candidate for Newport, Conway demonstrated his complete insensitivity to the strength of local feelings.27 He informed the corporation on 1 Feb. 1628 that his patronage was ‘rather for your good and benefit than any other respects’, and assured them that his son had ‘a good affection to serve you, and he shall have my best assistance to put that forward for your good’.28 He also informed Oglander and Dennys the following day that ‘I rely on Newport for my son, and make no other provision for him’, expecting them to prevail upon the townsmen.29 However, Dennys had redeemed his popularity by his tireless efforts to free the island from troops, and on 6 Feb. 1628 the corporation recorded that ‘upon motion made by Sir Edward Dennys to be a burgess of the Parliament House no man contradicteth’.30 Eleven days later Oglander lamented Conway’s decision to transfer his son’s nomination from Yarmouth to Newport, ‘where (do what I can) he will, I fear, miss it’. He relayed that the mayor ‘after a churlish manner’ claimed to have received Conway’s nomination too late; ‘and to myself on the 16th of this month, being importunate with him, his answer was, they were resolved not to choose your son – other reason I could have none of him’.31 Instead Newport resolved on Yelverton and Dennys, despite the absence of the former in Italy. Oglander mistakenly reported that Fleming had been chosen by Yarmouth, but at the election the following day Yelverton and Fleming were ‘freely and indifferently’ returned for Newport, and Dennys, probably smarting at his rejection, for Yarmouth. The corporation again recorded that the election was in conformity with the writ of summons, which it appended in translation from the original Latin.32 An angry response from Conway warning that ‘I cannot be of so gentle disposition as to do courtesies where I receive disrespect and discourtesies’ arrived too late to make any difference.33 According to Oglander he made good the implied threat by authorizing the billeting of the Scottish regiment in the island, ‘which was the greatest revenge (and slavery to the inhabitants) that ever was’.34
Conway may have hoped that Yelverton’s enforced absence abroad would necessitate a fresh election. He bore Yelverton no grudge, and soon afterwards helped him to secure a post in Queen Henrietta Maria’s Household.35 The prospect of a further election receded, however, after Conway’s son was summoned to the Lords, an unprecedented honour for a viscount’s heir, and on 19 May the Commons refused a motion for a fresh writ, despite being informed that Yelverton was in France.36
Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi
- 1. C66/1735; I.o.W. RO, NBC 45/2, f. 20.
- 2. VCH Hants, v. 253, 256, 257, 259.
- 3. I.o.W. RO, NBC 45/2, f. 11.
- 4. Ibid. f. 39.
- 5. Ibid. f. 16.
- 6. I.o.W. RO, NBC/1/31; C66/1735; Oglander Mems. ed. W.H. Long, 107, 108.
- 7. I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, ff. 5, 21v.
- 8. CJ, i. 444b; I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, f. 9.
- 9. I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, f. 22; STAC 8/71/11.
- 10. I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, ff. 35, 37.
- 11. Ibid. f. 38; VCH Hants, ii. 391; v. 264.
- 12. I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, f. 153.
- 13. Ibid. f. 151.
- 14. Ibid. ff. 164v, 165.
- 15. Ibid. f. 190v; I.o.W. RO, NBC 45/2, f. 52v.
- 16. I.o.W. RO, NBC 45/2, ff. 55, 55v.
- 17. I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, f. 205.
- 18. I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/74.
- 19. I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/73.
- 20. Royalist’s Notebk. ed. F. Bamford, 12-13.
- 21. SP16/523/13.
- 22. SP16/523/14.
- 23. L. Boynton, ‘Billeting in the I.o.W.’, EHR, lxxiv. 29.
- 24. I.o.W. RO, NBC 45/2, f. 59; 16a/30, f. 215.
- 25. SP16/523/27.
- 26. Boynton, 29.
- 27. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 181.
- 28. SP16/92/4.
- 29. Procs. 1628, vi. 156-7.
- 30. I.o.W. RO, 16a/30, f. 225.
- 31. Procs. 1628, vi. 172-3.
- 32. Ibid, 173; I.o.W. RO, NBC 45/2, f. 60.
- 33. Procs. 1628, vi. 157.
- 34. I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/155.
- 35. SP16/100/93.
- 36. CJ, i. 900a.