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No names known for 1510-23
|1529||SIR GILES STRANGWAYS I|
|1539||SIR GILES STRANGWAYS I 1|
|(SIR) JOHN HORSEY 2|
|1545||SIR THOMAS ARUNDELL|
|SIR JOHN ROGERS|
|1547||SIR THOMAS ARUNDELL 3|
|(aft. 26 Feb. 1552 not known)|
|SIR JOHN ROGERS 4|
|1553 (Mar.)||(not known)|
|1553 (Oct.)||SIR JOHN HORSEY|
|SIR GILES STRANGWAYS II|
|1554 (Apr.)||SIR GILES STRANGWAYS II|
|1554 (Nov.)||(SIR) HENRY ASHLEY|
|1555||SIR GILES STRANGWAYS II|
|SIR JOHN ROGERS|
|1558||SIR GILES STRANGWAYS II|
|(SIR) OLIVER LAWRENCE|
Under the early Tudors Dorset was a more peaceable county than Devon or Cornwall although there was some slight trouble at the dissolution of the monasteries and rumours (apparently unfounded) circulated about disaffection in 1554 and 1557. A French fleet is said to have appeared off the Dorset coast in 1544, Lyme Regis apparently bearing the brunt of the attack, but Dorset men were rarely found among the leading seamen of the period; during the French war of 1557, when former pirates took the opportunity to become legal privateers, only six of them were listed for Dorset as compared with 22 in Devon. The contrast may have been due to geographical factors; the estuary of the Frome is difficult to navigate, and there are marshy flats running west from Chesil, so that Dorset, unlike Hampshire, is not centred on its main water system, and its economy tends to look north rather than south. This in turn helps to explain why, in a county where every parliamentary borough except Shaftesbury was in the south, eight of the ten known knights of the shire came from the north and one only, Sir Oliver Lawrence, from the extreme south. Apart from providing for a new county gaol the few Acts of Parliament relating to Dorset between 1509 and 1558 were concerned either with its wool and cloth industries or with the upkeep of the road from Sherborne to Shaftesbury. The shortlived council in the west (1539-40) was meant to make Dorchester one of its four regular centres, but there is no evidence that it ever met there.5
Dorset had no nobleman comparable in standing to the Marquess of Exeter in Devon. Charles, 8th Baron Stourton, lord lieutenant for the early part of Mary’s reign, was probably the peer with most land, but he exerted no obvious parliamentary patronage. Others were Lord Thomas Howard, later 1st Viscount Howard of Bindon, the lords Mountjoy and their relatives by marriage the 1st Marquess of Dorset, the 2nd Lord Willoughby de Broke and the Paulet marquesses of Winchester. Although the Russell family came originally from Dorset, and during the 1550s both the 1st and 2nd Earls of Bedford held the lord lieutenancy, its influence was until Elizabeth’s reign concentrated in Devon and Cornwall. In north Dorset William Herbert I, 1st Earl of Pembroke, a friend of the Strangways family, was beginning to be influential in the Shaftesbury area.
Few parliamentary returns survive, all but one from the reign of Mary, and only in 1545 is there evidence that the sheriff sent in a schedule of Members’ names like those for Devon. The return of 18 Sept. 1553, which is in English (as are some of the others) and takes the form of an indenture between the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset and the electors, gives the names of 15 of those present at Dorchester, beginning with ‘the right honourable Lord Thomas Howard’, and adds, exceptionally, that there were ‘others to the number of 500 being freeholders within the said shire’ who ‘with one assent hath [sic] nominated, appointed, elected and chosen’ the Members. The number of electors’ names on other Dorset returns varies from seven to 25 or more.6
The names of the knights are known for only nine out of the 16 Parliaments which met in the period. Of the ten men who shared these 18 seats the elder Sir Giles Strangways, Sir Thomas Arundell and Sir Oliver Lawrence were the only courtiers unless Richard Phelips, who had become a yeoman of the chamber by 1509, is accounted one, and four out of the ten—John Leweston, Sir Henry Ashley, Phelips and Lawrence—had sat for one or more Dorset boroughs before doing so for the shire. These four came from families of no great wealth or standing and only Ashley was to serve as knight a second time, in 1563: by contrast, the elder Strangways and his grandson and the two Horseys, father and son, between them were returned at least nine times before 1559. Except for the younger Strangways, who was only 25 when he was returned to Mary’s first Parliament, all were on the commission of the peace for Dorset when they were first elected for the county, but there seems much less overlapping between the shrievalty and the knighthood of the shire than in many other counties. Only two men, Arundell and the elder Strangways, had served as sheriff before becoming knight of the shire, and half of the other eight never held the office—a high proportion even for a county which shared a shrievalty.
Arundell was the only knight for Dorset with significant interests outside the shire and as chancellor to Queen Catherine Parr he influenced elections in the south-west for Henry VIII’s last Parliament. Himself re-elected in 1547, he was to be executed on 26 Feb. 1552, less than three weeks before the Parliament was dissolved, and he is not known to have been replaced. Under Mary several knights for Dorset joined the parliamentary opposition, and the result of the second election of 1554 may reflect a government effort to procure a change of representation. The senior knight, Sir Henry Ashley, who had earlier sat for Shaftesbury under the patronage of Sir Thomas Arundell, was in 1554 serving as deputy vice-admiral for Dorset, although not at this time a leading landowner there; knighted at Mary’s coronation, he was evidently a trusted crown servant and his brother-in-law was the Catholic courtier James Bassett, returned to this Parliament for Devon. His partner Richard Phelips, father-in-law of the younger Sir John Horsey, was some 70 years old and is last known to have sat as a Member for Melcombe Regis in 1529, although he could have been returned later, for instance to the Parliament of March 1553 for a Dorset borough.
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Hatfield 207.
- 4. Ibid.
- 5. VCH Dorset, ii. 123, 197, 199; LP Hen. VIII, xiii(2), 1134; APC, v. 168-9; vi. 87; CJ, i. 11, 13, 28-31, 34, 35; 22 Hen, VIII, c.1; 23 Hen. VIII, c.2; 37 Hen. VIII, c.15; 5 and 6 Edw. VI, c.6; 1 Mary st.2, no. 24, st. 3, c.5; Trans. Hist. Soc. (ser. 5), x. 42-49, 55.
- 6. C219/18C/35, 36, 21/52, 23/47, 24/50, 25/31.