Newtown I.o.W.


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 burgage-holders

Number of voters:

19 in 16401


c. Dec. 1605THOMAS WILSON vice Stanhope, called to the Upper House
c. Apr. 1614WILLIAM HIGFORD vice Stoughton, chose to sit for Guildford2
8 Jan. 1621JOHN FERRAR
19 Feb. 1621SIR WILLIAM HARINGTON vice Ferrar, chose to sit for Tamworth
c. Jan. 1624(SIR) GILBERT GERARD , (bt.)
22 Mar. 1624SIR THOMAS BARRINGTON vice Gerard, chose to sit for Middlesex
 Thomas Malet

Main Article

Newtown, lying east of Yarmouth on the north coast of the Isle of Wight, was sustained mainly by its oyster fishery and saltern.3 Under the town’s seigneurial charter of 1393, which was confirmed in 1598, the governing body consisted of the mayor, town clerk, sergeant, constable, and an indeterminate number of ‘chief burgesses’, from whose number the mayor was chosen annually.4 The chief burgesses were themselves recruited from the burgage holders who, since 1584, when the three Isle of Wight boroughs were enfranchised, formed the electorate.5 At first the captain of the Isle controlled both seats: in 1601, for example, Lord Hunsdon (Sir George Carey†) requested blank indentures so that he could return two nominees on the town’s behalf.6 However, under James I, Hunsdon’s successor as captain, the 3rd earl of Southampton, shared his patronage at Newtown with members of the local gentry, notably Sir John Meux of Kingston.7 By the end of the period Meux’s relations by marriage, the Barringtons, an Essex-based family that owned substantial properties on the Isle of Wight, had acquired a dominant interest in the borough’s elections. There is no evidence that Newtown paid wages to any of its MPs during this period.

On 4 Feb. 1604 Southampton wrote to Meux recommending ‘my two good friends whose names [I] shall send you very shortly’.8 The courtier Sir John Stanhope I was presumably one of these nominees, but the junior seat was taken by Meux’s son William, the only islander to sit during this period. When Stanhope was raised to the peerage in 1605 he was succeeded by Thomas Wilson, secretary to the earl of Salisbury (Sir Robert Cecil†) and the translator of Gorge de Montemayor’s Diana, which he had dedicated to Southampton. At the general election in 1614 Southampton presumably supported the nomination of George Stoughton, nephew to the chief steward of the Isle of Wight, Adrian Stoughton*.9 The senior seat was taken by Sir Henry Berkeley, whose wife was sister-in-law to a prominent member of the island gentry, Sir Richard Worsley*. When Stoughton opted to sit for his native borough of Guildford, Southampton does not appear to have made any further nominations, and the place was filled by Meux’s brother-in-law, William Higford.10

In 1621 Southampton nominated John Ferrar, a London merchant, who shared his concern to defend the Virginia Company against anticipated attacks in the Parliament. Ferrar was returned as the senior Member, pushing Sir Thomas Barrington, Meux’s brother-in-law, into second place despite his status as the heir to several burgages in the town and to ‘the best manor in our Island’.11 When Ferrar chose to sit for another constituency, he was replaced by a servant of Prince Charles, Sir William Harington, who had failed to obtain a seat at Leicester. Southampton nominated another Virginia Company member, George Garrard, at the next general election in 1624, but was only able to secure him the second seat at Newtown. The first went to Barrington’s brother-in-law Sir Gilbert Gerard, in case he was defeated in his own Middlesex constituency. This turned out to be unnecessary, and Barrington was elected to replace Gerard on 22 Mar. 1624.

Southampton died later in the year, and in the remaining elections of the period his successor Viscount Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*) nominated Thomas Malet, his legal adviser, who was returned in second place alongside Barrington in both 1625 and 1626.12 Malet, however, emerged from the second Caroline Parliament branded as a supporter of the duke of Buckingham, and his future electoral prospects were further weakened by the unpopularity of billeting in the Isle. Nevertheless, it was with undiminished confidence that Conway wrote on 2 Feb. 1628 to the island’s deputy lieutenants nominating ‘my cousin Malet for Newtown … with some such other as I shall hereafter think of, or you find cause to name for the good of the island’. That same day Conway also wrote to the mayor and townsmen asking them to ‘make choice of such burgesses as I have thought of to be both able, willing, and ready to advance anything that shall be for the good of the island or that particular corporation’. He did not think it necessary to name the candidates whose identities would be disclosed by his deputies:

And as you shall perceive that I do principally respect your advantage and good in furnishing you with so good ministers to serve you usefully and profitably, so I shall take your application to me in this as a testimony of your good wills to me and confidence in me, and an obligation upon me to endeavour the welfare of your town.13

Sir John Oglander*, who had the thankless task of managing Conway’s patronage, informed Conway on 17 Feb. that ‘the mayor of Newtown is not yet come home, but divers of the burgesses were very willing to grant your lordship’s desire’.14 In the event Newtown, in common with the other boroughs on the Isle of Wight, defied Conway’s recommendations and instead returned Barrington and his brother Robert. Both men undoubtedly benefited from the fact that their father, Sir Francis Barrington*, had stoutly resisted the Forced Loan.

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. I.o.W. RO, JER/BAR/3/9/8.
  • 2. Procs. 1614, pp. 459, 467; OR Index, app. pp. xxxix, xl.
  • 3. VCH Hants, v. 265, 266, 267.
  • 4. I.o.W. RO, JER/BAR/3/9/1-5.
  • 5. M. Weinbaum, Borough Charters, 47.
  • 6. Oglander Mems. ed. W.H. Long, p. xiii.
  • 7. Add. 46501, ff. 142-5v.
  • 8. Add. 46501, f. 202.
  • 9. I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/26.
  • 10. Vis. Berks. (Harl. Soc. lvi), 249
  • 11. Royalist’s Notebk. ed. F. Bamford, 137.
  • 12. SP16/523/14.
  • 13. Procs. 1628, vi. 157, 158.
  • 14. Ibid. 173.