Available from Boydell and Brewer
|John Bernard I|
|1388 (Feb.)||John Dyne I|
|1388 (Sept.)||Walter Fisher|
|1390 (Jan.)||John Dyne I|
|1393||John French I|
|1395||John Dyne I|
|1397 (Jan.)||John Dyne I|
|1411||William Canoun 1|
|1413 (Feb.)||Henry Philpot|
|Stephen Rye 2|
|1413 (May)||Thomas Casebourne|
|1414 (Apr.)||William Canoun|
|Stephen Rye 3|
|1414 (Nov.)||Robert Bannok|
|John Skinner IV 4|
|1421 (May)||Thomas Bromlegh|
|1421 (Dec.)||John Overhaven|
In Anglo-Saxon times the port had been situated at West Hythe, but the retreat of the coastline prompted the development of Hythe itself some time before the Conquest. Hythe was unable as a consequence of poverty to produce a warship for the King’s service in 1341, but thereafter it apparently maintained a modest prosperity as a market town and fishing port until, in May 1401, it suffered a severe fire in which, it was reported, more than 200 houses were burnt down and goods to the value of £600 destroyed. At the same time five ships from Hythe with a total of 100 men on board were lost at sea. In order to help the local people, Henry IV released the Port from its duty of providing five vessels for ship-service, at least for the next five times of asking.5
Hythe, like its neighbour New Romney, was under the lordship of the archbishop of Canterbury, as it had been since the 11th century; but unlike New Romney it does not seem to have had trouble on this account. Indeed, when in 1395 the then warden of the Cinque Ports, John, Lord Beaumont, tried to claim the town as royal land and to prevent Archbishop Courtenay from installing a new bailiff, a deputation from Hythe swore in Chancery that the archbishop had always been the borough’s lord, chosen the bailiff to hold its courts, and taken the profits of courts, market and fair. The delegates declared that they had no intention of opposing his jurisdiction. Nevertheless, Hythe’s jurats did claim the right to admit the bailiff to his office. Down to 1399 conflict between Hythe and its lord seems to have been avoided by the archbishops’ usual practice of selecting townsmen to discharge the bailiffship, and thereafter their nominees, nearly all strangers, seldom visited the town, leaving their work to deputies drawn from the locality. Ill-feeling was evidently aroused in 1414, when Archbishop Chichele appointed as bailiff the unpopular John Smalwode, whom the jurats had ousted from his post as common clerk of Hythe seven years earlier on account of his machinations against them. However, trouble was averted by Smalwode’s removal after only five months in office. The 12 jurats were chosen by the commonalty on 2 Feb. every year to govern the town and manage its finances.6
Electoral returns have not survived for 12 of the 32 Parliaments of the period, but the local records fill some of the gaps by supplying the names of both Members of the Parliaments of 1413 (Feb.) and 1414 (Apr.) and of one of those of 1411. Of the 25 individuals thus known to have represented Hythe as many as 12 apparently sat just once, and to possibly as many as four Parliaments the Port returned two men lacking any recorded experience of the Lower House. During the reign of Richard II the most active barons were Henry Browning, elected to nine Parliaments between 1368 and 1391, and John Dyne I, elected to eight between 1377 and 1397; while in the early 15th century Stephen Rye and Henry Philpot, with five appearances each, played a leading role. On six occasions Hythe returned two men with previous parliamentary experience, and on 12 a tried man accompanied a newcomer. Re-election is known to have happened six times in the period, the most notable instances being the choice of Stephen Rye to sit in three Parliaments running in 1413 and 1414.
All 25 of Hythe’s MPs were resident in the town. However, although some of them came from old, established families, there is no indication that particular related groups ever dominated the parliamentary representation. Indeed, while the Cundys, Frenches, and Honywodes each produced two parliamentary barons in our period, they filled no more than six seats altogether. The maltolts reveal that most of the barons were engaged either in dealing in sheep and cattle from the pastures of Romney Marsh, as well as in their produce, or in fishing with the port’s fleet for herring and mackerel. Among the Members were a barber, a stonemason and two butchers, but these, like the rest, often diversified their interests in order to earn a modest income derived in equal measure from land and sea. Eleven are known to have owned land outside the towel, but few were wealthy. Indeed, the richest recorded, William Canoun, possessed only £50 worth of moveable goods, and many of the others had less than £20 worth. Twenty-two of the 25 served as jurats of Hythe (the exceptions being William Cundy, John French I and John Honywode), and all but one of these proved his ability in local affairs before achieving success at the hustings. It was quite usual for Hythe to return an active member of the governing body: a jurat was elected to 17 of the 23 Parliaments for which we know the names of Members; and in five (1386, 1390 (Jan.), 1407, 1419 and 1420) both barons were so engaged. William Cundy and John French I, although apparently never made jurats, did serve as deputy bailiffs of Hythe, as also did John Dyne I and William Yoklete; and Dyne and John Bernard I both held the office of bailiff itself. However, it never happened that Hythe returned to Parliament any one of these while he was so employed.
Hythe usually paid its Members 2s.6d. a day under Henry V, although later in the 15th century this was reduced to 2s. and even on occasion (as in 1449) to 1s.6d. By the middle of Henry VI’s reign election by bailiff, jurats and commonalty assembled in the hundred place was the normal way of choosing parliamentary representatives, and although the evidence is lacking, it seems likely that the same practice pertained earlier.7
Author: A. P.M. Wright
- 1. Hythe jurats’ bk. C, f. 6.
- 2. Ibid. ff. 17, 69.
- 3. Ibid. f. 75.
- 4. The return lists Henry Philpot and Henry Tropham (OR, i. 293), but it was Philpot and John Skinner who were paid for attending the Parliament: jurats’ bk. D, ff. 10, 41.
- 5. M.W. Beresford, New Towns, 457; CCR, 1341-3, p. 263; CPR, 1399-1401, p. 477; SC8/250/12465.
- 6. E. Hasted, Kent ed. Drake, viii. 232-3; CCR, 1396-9, pp. 11-12; Hythe Reg. 1, f. 22; Reg. Chichele, iv. 97, 111.
- 7. Jurats’ bk. C, f. 54; D, f. 41; E, ff. 6, 28.