Pembroke Boroughs


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


1553 (Mar.)HENRY ADAMS
1553 (Oct.)HENRY ADAMS
1554 (Apr.)JOHN HERLE

Main Article

Although Pembroke had been the administrative centre for the earldom of that name since the 12th century, it was not declared the shire town at the Union. The King rejected the proposal by Bishop Barlow of St. David’s that Haverfordwest should be so designated on the score of its geographical convenience, but it was there that the county court usually met. Henry VII, who had been born at Pembroke, had incorporated it in 1485 as the mayor, bailiffs and burgesses, thus making it the first corporate borough in Wales. The mayor was assisted by a council made up of two bailiffs and 12 ‘honest men of the town and precinct’. Henry VIII confirmed his father’s charter in 1527, and Edward VI did so in 1547. Leland noted the good repair of the castle and of the town with its two churches, but observed that the once flourishing east suburb was ruinous. Of the other ‘ancient boroughs’ in the shire Haverfordwest, Newport and Tenby possessed charters, whereas Cilgerran, Llawhaden, Narberth, New Moat, Templeton and Wiston did not; Haverfordwest and Tenby were the only prosperous ones. In 1543 Haverfordwest was enfranchised.2

Indentures for Pembroke Boroughs survive for all the Parliaments between 1542 and 1558, except for the second Parliament of Mary’s reign. All are in Latin save that for 1547. None is in good condition. The first election may have been held at Haverfordwest, but thereafter elections were held at Pembroke under the mayor’s supervision, although in the autumn of 1553 the indenture was made at a meeting of the county court at Haverfordwest. The sheriff of Pembrokeshire was always the first contracting party but the description of the second varies: in 1542 and early in 1553 it is the burgesses; in 1547 the mayor of the ‘shire town’ with the ‘consent of the whole burgesses and commonalty of the said ... town’, and in the autumn of 1553 the mayor and ten named burgesses. The fact that the electors’ residences are not given when they themselves are named supports the view that no representatives from the contributory boroughs took part until the reign of Elizabeth.3

Of the Members returned only the Adams father and son lived at Pembroke and were allied to the influential Perrot and Wogan families. When the elder Adams was returned as the first Member for the Boroughs it was with his kinsman Thomas Jones as knight of the shire, but his own affiliations perhaps mattered less than his service under the crown: in 1542 he was receiver of the lordships of Angle, Burton, Carew and Upton, and as such was involved in the building of the new forts along Milford Haven. He was succeeded as receiver in 1543 and as Member in 1545, by Lewis Watkins from Breconshire who also qualified as customer of Haverfordwest, Pembroke and Tenby. Official support presumably accounts for the return of John Harington a servant of Admiral Seymour, and of John Herle, an equerry in the Household. John Garnons of the Middle Temple was no stranger to the locality, where he acted as an attorney at the Pembrokeshire great sessions, but his election in late 1554 hardly complied with the Queen’s request for residents and could have disappointed Sir John Price, secretary of the council in the marches. Richard Philipps was a younger son of the influential family domiciled at Picton, some eight miles away from the town. The William Watkin returned in 1558 has not been identified, but one or more bearers of this name had ties with some of the ‘ancient boroughs’ in the county. Both Pembroke and Tenby were included in the Act of 1544 for urban renewal (35 Hen. VIII, c.4).

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. C219/330/28, pt. 1.
  • 2. Desc. Pemb. (Cymmrod. rec. ser. i), i. 2-12; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, iii. 115-16; M. Beresford, New Towns in the Middle Ages, 566-70, 574; O. E. Craster, Cilgerran Castle, Pemb. 5-6; Boroughs in Med. Wales, ed. Griffith, 289-320.
  • 3. C219/18B/139, 18C/187, 19/157, 20/198, 21/243, 245, 23/205, 25/156, 34/250, 330/28, pt. i.