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 freemen

Number of voters:



9 Mar. 1604JOHN MORE I , recorder
 EDWARD COLE , alderman
 WILLIAM SAVAGE , recorder
19 Jan. 1624JAMES WRIOTHESLEY , Lord Wriothesley
 WILLIAM SAVAGE , recorder
17 Jan. 16252Sir Richard TICHBORNE vice Wriothesley, deceased
21 Apr. 1625SIR THOMAS PHELIPS , bt.
 ROBERT MASON I , recorder

Main Article

Winchester, the county capital of Hampshire and seat of England’s richest bishopric, received a charter in 1290 and first sent Members to Parliament seven years later. The city’s clothing and leather industries, and annual fair, fell into a prolonged period of economic decline after the Black Death, and throughout the Tudor period the corporation repeatedly applied for remission of its fee farm, and for royal subsidies to repair the walls.3 The corporation, created by charter in 1588, comprised a mayor, recorder, two bailiffs and 24 assistants or aldermen, and controlled admission to the guild merchant or roll of freemen.4 In practice the number of aldermen fluctuated, as did that of the freemen.

By 1623 Winchester was so decayed and thinly populated that the water poet John Taylor likened it to ‘a body without a soul’.5 Its economic difficulties may explain why the borough ceased to pay parliamentary wages in this period, and why it increasingly looked to members of the local gentry, who were expected to serve without remuneration, to fill at least one of its parliamentary seats. From 1620 Sir Richard Tichborne, who lived at the castle, was able to acquire such a dominant interest that he twice succeeded in engrossing both seats, thereby squeezing out the recorder who, with the single exception of 1614, had previously always been returned.6

In 1604 Winchester was represented by its recorder, John More, and Alderman Edward Cole. In the Commons ‘the burgesses of Winchester’ were appointed in the first session of James’s first Parliament to consider a bill for the charitable relief of parishes infected with the plague (18 May 1604).7 In November the city provided the venue for a number of state trials arising out of the Bye and Main Plots. When More welcomed the king to Winchester in 1605, and presented a cup from the corporation, he pointed out the decay of the city and asked for a ‘restoration’ of its liberties.8 By 1614 More was chiefly concerned with his London legal practice, which earned him advancement to the coif. Following his resignation it took the corporation another four years to find a recorder who would undertake to reside. Two country gentlemen were elected to the Addled Parliament. Sir William Sandys, though a resident and an alderman, was probably the nominee of his kinsman, Hampshire’s lord lieutenant, the 3rd earl of Southampton, while the junior Member, Sir Thomas Bilson, was the bishop’s son.

William Savage was appointed recorder in succession to More in 1618, and was returned to the 1621 Parliament, though in second place, with Tichborne as the senior Member. Savage was re-elected in 1624 as junior partner to the 18 year-old Lord Wriothesley, son of the earl of Southampton, who had been appointed Winchester’s high steward in 1618.9 Wriothesley died in November 1624, and in anticipation of a further session Tichborne was chosen to replace him at a by-election in January 1625. However, he had no opportunity to take his seat before the Parliament was automatically dissolved by the king’s death.

In 1624 the corporation had instructed Savage to promote an Itchen navigation bill and a bill to confirm the charter.10 His failure to do either may explain why he did not sit again. At the general election of 1625 Savage was replaced by Sir Thomas Phelips, 1st bt., a distant kinsman to Tichborne, who claimed the second seat. Phelips was also a client of the duke of Buckingham, Southampton’s successor as high steward.11 In 1626 Tichborne sat again and was probably responsible for the choice of Sir Henry Whithed, a conscientious local magistrate, for the second seat. Savage died in 1627 and his successor, Robert Mason, was elected in 1628 though forced to take second place behind Tichborne.

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. C219/37/213.
  • 2. Hants RO, W/B1/4, f. 39v.
  • 3. VCH Hants, v. 4, 24, 39-40, 42-3.
  • 4. M. Weinbaum, Brit. Bor. Charters, 50.
  • 5. Travels Throughout Stuart Britain: the Adventures of John Taylor, the Water Poet ed. J. Chandler, 127.
  • 6. T. Atkinson, Elizabethan Winchester, 98, 101.
  • 7. CJ, i. 213b.
  • 8. Harl. 852, f. 5.
  • 9. Hants RO, W/B1/4, f. 6v.
  • 10. Ibid. f. 35v.
  • 11. V. Hodges, ‘The Electoral Influence of the Aristocracy 1604-41’ (Columbia Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1977), pp. 235-6, 453; Hants RO, W/B1/4, ff. 41v, 51v.