Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

No names known for 1510


1523(not known)
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1545(not known)
by 23 Jan. 1552JOHN WARNECOMBE vice Berkeley, deceased5
1553 (Mar.)HUGH WELSHE 6
 (not known)

Main Article

Leland noticed that the walls and gates of Hereford ‘be right well maintained by the burgesses of the town’, although the castle ‘tendeth toward ruin’. By 1509 the city was a flourishing market for the produce of the surrounding arable and orchard districts and for the renowned Herefordshire wool; early in the 16th century clothmaking was an industry there. The destruction about 1526, on crown orders, of four corn and fulling mills on the Wye less than a mile from the city caused considerable unemployment and poverty; it was not until 1555 that a joint petition from the city council and the dean and chapter produced an Act (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c.14) permitting their re-erection.7

Richard I had granted Hereford certain privileges in return for an annual fee-farm of £40, and although formal incorporation as the mayor, aldermen and community was not achieved until 1597—perhaps because of objections from the bishops, whose fee covered a considerable part of the city—self-government had been in operation long before the 16th century. A charter of 1383 changed the title of the chief magistrate from bailiff to mayor, and confirmations between 1393 and 1547 added further privileges, usually with a saving of the bishop’s rights. A royal letter of 1511 rebuked the mayor and citizens for allowing ecclesiastical officials to be ‘encroached, vexed and troubled’ on their way to and from the bishop’s courts. It is at first sight surprising that Hereford, with potential parliamentary patrons in bishops, presidents of the council in the marches of Wales and county families such as the Coningsbys, Crofts and Scudamores, should have remained so strongly local in its representation. One reason may have been the lack of a leading peer resident in the county. Walter Devereux, 3rd Lord Ferrers, created Viscount Hereford in 1550, had a seat at Weobley castle, seven miles from Hereford, and his name appears several times during Henry VIII’s reign as ‘seneschal’ in the city—the term probably referring to his stewardship of the bishop’s lands there—but he spent much of his time at court or as a soldier in France and Scotland and was otherwise most active in Wales. Another factor was the independent attitude of the citizens, shown in an undated document, possibly from 1509 or 1547, concerning the admission of strangers to trade in the city. What may have begun as a courteous petition to the mayor and council ended with straight defiance:

For we ascertain you if we may not enjoy such privileges and customs which the King and his noble progenitors hath granted unto the citizens of this city, we will not be contributors nor bear scot nor lot to the confirmation of our charter nor to none other manner of charge when we be called upon.

A city ordinance, said to be of the tenth year of Henry VIII and cited in detail during the mayoral year 1558-9, enacted that no one should be chosen Member of Parliament ‘except he were of the ... election and common council of the city’.8

The fact that any freeman who offended against this ordinance was to be disfranchised suggests that all freemen were otherwise eligible to vote in parliamentary elections: the Latin election indenture for November 1554 speaks of the mayor and communitas having met in the full court of the city and made their choice by common assent and consent. Only seven indentures survive for the period 1509 to 1558, and several of them are in bad condition. The contracting parties are the mayor, or mayor and citizens, and the sheriff of Herefordshire. The governing body of the city was a common council of 31 (reduced in 1494 from 37) which included the mayor and six aldermen; as no electors’ signatures appear on the indentures it is impossible to say whether more than the 31 took part in elections. The scanty evidence surviving shows that the Members expected wages, probably the statutory 2s. a day. The money was raised by a special tax assessed on each ward of the city; during Henry VIII’s reign it was laid down by the council in the marches that citizens living in the bishop’s fee were liable to taxation for this purpose. A dispute over payment provides the evidence for the Membership of Roland Brydges and Reginald Mynors, and in or about 1549 Thomas Havard shared £24 with his fellow William Berkeley for their ‘maintenance and expenses’.9

Brydges and Mynors were probably both Herefordshire lawyers of gentle origin and Brydges may have been a neighbour of Lord Ferrers at Weobley. It was perhaps as a consequence of the dispute over their wages that the city passed the ordinance confining Membership to common councilmen: all the remaining 13 Members whose names have been ascertained were at least residents, even the Welshman Sir John Price, secretary of the council in the marches, having his chief seat just outside the city. Seven had served one or more terms as mayor before their first election and two, Henry Dudeston and John Gibbs, held that office later; Hugh Gebons was recorder and son-in-law of the incumbent mayor Hugh Welshe; Morgan Owgan had served as an under collector of relief; and only Leonard Boldyng is not known to have held office or to have performed any duties in the city. Havard and Price alone sat elsewhere, Havard perhaps owing his knighthood of the shire in Mary’s third Parliament to his friend Price as sheriff; when they were returned together to her first Parliament Havard was serving his third term as mayor and may have helped Price to the seat. Before each of the Parliaments of November 1554 and 1555 Hereford received a message from Bishop Heath, president of the council in the marches. The letter of 13 Oct. 1554 asked that men of the ‘wise, grave and Catholic sort’ should be chosen and a postscript in a different hand recommended the re-election of Havard and Thomas Bromwich. Havard was returned for the county on 20 Oct. and the delay of two weeks before the return of William Smothye and Boldyng would have sufficed to secure Heath’s approval for the substitution or could reflect some disagreement over the election of the obscure Boldyng in place of Bromwich. It may be significant that the second letter, written before the election of September 1555, merely required the city to choose ‘grave men of good heart and honest [be]haviour and conversation, and especially of Catholic religion’, without making any nomination. There is no reason to think that Hereford was likely to elect Protestants. In August 1553 the city received a letter of thanks from the Privy Council for its support of Mary, together with a promise that all its privileges would be maintained, and in the following reign Bishop Scory was to complain of the strongly Catholic bias of the city magistrates. Under the Act (7 Edw. VI, c.5) controlling the sale of wine Hereford was allowed to have three taverns.10

When compiling the list of vacancies in the Parliament of 1529 Thomas Wriothesley included ‘Hereford’ among the boroughs with vacancies, but it was the county that he meant.11

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 306-7.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Hatfield 207.
  • 6. Hereford pub. lib., city muniments, bag 2 ex inf. Dr. M. G. Price.
  • 7. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, ii. 64-66; W. Collins, Hereford, 23, 25, 127; R. Johnson, Anct. Customs, Hereford, 121-3; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 322-3; CJ, i.1.
  • 8. Collins, 33; Johnson, 8, 9, 48, 181; Duncumb, Herefs. i. 293, 306-7, 348; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 317.
  • 9. C219/18B/34, 19/40, 21/71, 23/61, 24/73, 25/53; HMC 13th Rep. IV, 301, 319; Hereford pub. lib., city muniments, bag 3, bdle. 4; Johnson, 181-2.
  • 10. HMC 13th Rep. IV, 319-20; APC, iv. 334-5; Cam. Misc. ix(3), 19-21.
  • 11. LP Hen. VIII, vii. 56 citing SP1/82, ff. 59-62.