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 1510-23


1539(not known)
1542(not known)
1545(not known)
by Jan. 1552RALPH POLLINGTON vice Huntley, deceased3

Main Article

Wallingford owes its origin to a ford across the Thames. Having been held by the earls of Cornwall in the 13th century, the castle, town and honor formed part of the duchy of Cornwall until 1540, when they were annexed to the King’s Oxfordshire manor of Ewelme. The first charter was granted in 1156 and parliamentary representation began in 1295. The records, including the minute book of the corporation which starts in 1507, suggest that the right of election was exercised by the mayor and leading burgesses. It was, however, no longer used to return townsmen: most of the known 15th-century Members for Wallingford after 1439 were either lawyers or royal servants who had no more than an official connexion with the town, while out of the 12 men known to have sat between 1509 and 1558 only four—Thomas Denton, Henry Huntley, Ralph Pollington and Robert Cockson—played any part in municipal life: all four served as mayor and Huntley and Cockson were returned while in office. At first sight, therefore, Wallingford’s electoral pattern appears very different from that of Reading and Windsor, where townsmen are in a narrow majority among the early 16th-century Members. Three out of Windsor’s seven townsmen, however, sat in the first three Parliaments of Henry VIII’s reign and seven out of Reading’s 11 or 12 sat in the first four, whereas Wallingford’s Members in those four Parliaments are not known: if some of those ‘missing’ Members were townsmen, Wallingford could also be thought of as having escaped from the complete dependence of the 15th century, as it was certainly to do again under Edward VI and Mary. A copy of a royal circular letter, probably sent out in 1523, may have both reflected and helped to promote this tendency, for the corporation was urged to return ‘substantial’ local men, preferably resident in the borough.4

The first Members in Henry VIII’s reign whose names are known were Sir Edward Chamberlain, an Oxfordshire gentleman, and Guthlac Overton, a duchy official. Chamberlain was lieutenant of Woodstock, Oxfordshire, which the King visited on 25 Aug. and 4 Sept. 1529, and he and Overton may well have been royal nominees. Chamberlain agreed to serve without wages and as he was financially embarrassed his failure to sit again in 1536 may have been due to a reluctance to incur further expense: his replacement Thomas Denton made the same agreement with the town but no such quittance survives for Overton and no further reference has been found to wages. Denton, although he served a term as mayor of Wallingford, where his father had owned property, was a Buckinghamshire lawyer and not a resident townsman: he had the most extensive parliamentary career of any Member for Wallingford, sitting also for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and for two Oxfordshire boroughs. Others who sat elsewhere were Thomas Parry who was to sit for Hertfordshire in 1559, George Wright who had sat for Bedford in 1547, Edmund Plowden who was to sit for Reading and Wootton Bassett in later Marian Parliaments, and Edmund Ashfield who sat for Oxfordshire in 1559. Most of the eight outsiders (excluding Denton) held land in Berkshire or neighbouring counties. Chamberlain and Ashfield came from established Oxfordshire families and Ashfield, besides holding land in Berkshire, was keeper of Ewelme; Parry, Wright, Edmund Plowden and Anthony Butler all acquired land in Berkshire; only Overton and Thomas Mynd held no land there, although Mynd’s wife may have been a Berkshire woman and he was probably related to Plowden. They were a varied company: Ashfield and Chamberlain were country gentlemen, Overton a duchy official, Parry a servant of Princess Elizabeth, Wright an augmentations official, Plowden, Butler and Mynd lawyers.

The election indentures survive for all the Parliaments between 1542 and 1558 except those of 1545 and April 1554. All the indentures are in Latin and most are in poor condition, the names of the Members being missing from those for 1542 and March 1553 and the christian name of the senior Member in the autumn of 1553 having to be supplied from the dorse of the shire writ. The contracting parties are the mayor and the community or community of burgesses of Wallingford, who attach their common seal, and the sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire. A bill for the maintenance of Wallingford bridge failed in the Commons in two consecutive sessions of the Parliament of 1547.5

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Berks. RO, W/AE p. 31,
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Hatfield, 207.
  • 4. VCH Berks. iii. 518, 523, 525, 528, 532, 535; J. K. Hedges, Wallingford, ii. 41, 228; Berks. RO, W/AC a. 1, AE p. 1.
  • 5. C219/18B/5, 19/6, 20/7, 21/4v, 8, 23/4, 7, 24/5, 25/6; CJ, i. 3, 4, 10.