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


by 13 Jan. 1533GEORGE GALE vice Jackson, deceased9
1553 (Mar.)WILLIAM WATSON 14
1553 (Oct.)JOHN NORTH
1554 (Apr.)JOHN BEANE
1554 (Nov.)WILLIAM HOLME 16
 (aft. 18 Oct. 1558 not known)

Main Article

York, a county of itself from 1396, with two sheriffs, was in this period the seventh largest city in England, with a population of some 8,000. It was governed by a mayor (beginning to be called a lord mayor), 12 aldermen and a council of ex-sheriffs called the Twenty-Four although their actual numbers fluctuated and were usually below this figure. Day-to-day administration was in the hands of the city council so constituted, and a common council representing the freemen was also summoned for elections and for occasional consultation. In 1517 this larger body was reorganized by royal charter: 13 specified major craft guilds were to elect two members each and 15 minor guilds one each and the 41 so chosen were to join with the 28 senior searchers of the crafts to nominate candidates for the offices of mayor, sheriff and alderman, the final choice being made by the city council.18

Parliamentary writs were directed to the city’s sheriffs and in theory the Members were elected by the freeholders in the county court of the city. In practice the city council chose the Members and only in Mary’s reign did it trouble to acknowledge that a formal election need follow. In October 1554, when the writ had been accompanied by a ‘special letter’ doubtless recommending the choice of Catholic residents, it decided, ‘by most voices’, that William Holme and William Coupland were most fit ‘to be elect burgesses ... at the next county day’ and in December 1557 Holme and Robert Paycock were ‘most meet and sufficient for to be chosen’, those present promising ‘to give the said two their voices at the next court day’. The court records are lost but it is clear that the city council’s choice was always accepted. Election indentures, all in Latin, survive for all the Parliaments between 1542 and 1555 except those of March 1553 and November 1554. They were made in full county court between the sheriffs on the one part and the mayor, between six and ten aldermen and up to 11 lesser figures on the other: both parties affixed their various seals. The Members were paid 4s. a day, twice the statutory rate; the usual procedure was for the city to advance the two Members £10 at the start of a session, the balance (if any) to be paid on their return. The payments were meant to cover the expenses of a Member and his two servants, for whom further sums for new liveries were sometimes provided ‘for the worship of the city’; in 1534, when George Gale was mayor, the corporation arranged for him to be attended by the city swordbearer and others. The Members for York customarily sat in the Commons with those of London next to the Privy Councillors.19

They left York after receiving detailed instructions on matters to be dealt with in and out of Parliament: in 1555 and 1558 the common council was consulted before these were prepared but earlier they seem to have been drawn up by the city council alone. Among the orders given Gale on 24 Jan. 1533 was one ‘to speak with ... the Earl of Rutland and to take a perpetual order and stay with him if it be possible as touching the £100 by year parcel of the King’s fee-farm’, and he was required to write as soon as possible to the mayor and council about what he had done. The fee-farm had been granted by Edward II to William Ros and was still payable to his descendant the 1st Earl of Rutland who had been suing in the Exchequer for the full sum even though the city had for some time paid only so marks. The matter was finally resolved with the help of Chancellor Audley and Secretary Cromwell by an Act of 1536 (27 Hen. VIII, c.32) which, besides recording the earl’s agreement to accept only £40, abolished or reduced some of the city’s other obligations, notably that of maintaining nine chantries and three obits. Notwithstanding this relief, in 1547 York’s Members were told to ‘remember that the citizens of York are greatly charged when any tax is granted to the King’s majesty’. Henry See, a Member for Bramber and solicitor to the corporation of York, was instrumental in securing the Act’s passage. Earlier measures concerning York passed in the same Parliament were an Act of 1529 (21 Hen. VIII, c.17) repealing letters patent issued in 1523 for the regulation of the wool trade through Kingston-upon-Hull, one of 1532 for the pulling down and avoiding of fishgarths in the river and water of Ouse and Humber (23 Hen. VIII, c.18) and another of 1536 for reducing tolls at Hull (27 Hen. VIII, c.3). Two Acts of 1540 affected York; one (32 Hen. VIII, c.12) designated it a sanctuary town and the other (32 Hen. VIII, c.18) allowed the corporation to compel the repair of houses within the walls. An Act of 1543 (34 and 35 Hen. VIII, c.18) gave the city a monopoly of coverlet making in Yorkshire: the corporation paid half the costs of this Act, the other half being paid by the coverlet weavers themselves. Later measures were an Act of 1547 for the uniting of certain churches in the city (I Edw. VI, c.9) and one of 1553 for the re-edifying of St. Helen’s, Stonegate (1 Mary st. 2, c.15), but a bill for the York bakers introduced into the Commons in 1553 proceeded no further than its second reading on 3 Nov. When it reported the illness of its Members on 16 Oct. 1558 (two days before the death of one of them, Holme), the city asked the Speaker that ‘if any matter chance to be put in at this said Parliament against this said city’ he would ‘be a mean to stay it’. One of the demands of the northern rebels of 1536 was for a Parliament to meet at Nottingham or York; it was promised for York, but after the suppression of the rebellion no more was heard of it.20

Seventeen of York’s Members in this period were aldermen; Brian Palmes and William Tancred were recorders, although Palmes resigned the office on his election to Parliament; Reginald Beseley was the city’s solicitor and clerk of the county and castle of York. Only Sir Thomas Gargrave, a member of the council in the north, was an outsider and he was admitted a freeman before being elected. Another recorder, Richard Page, was elected on 27 Sept. 1529 with George Lawson but by 19 Nov., only 15 days after the Parliament met, the Members were given as Peter Jackson and Lawson, Page having stood down or perhaps been set aside as a dependent of Cardinal Wolsey. An earlier change in Membership is also recorded in the minutes of the city council: on 17 Jan. 1515 Alan Staveley and William Wright were chosen ‘as knights of the shire’, but a week later Staveley was replaced by William Nelson in partial compliance with the King’s letter requiring the reselection of the previous Members, which had been received in the interval. Thomas Drawswerd, Nelson’s former partner, was then mayor-designate, a fact which may account for the city’s failure to re-elect him.21

Author: D. M. Palliser


  • 1. York Civic Recs. iii (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cvi), 31.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Ibid. 37; York arch. B9, f. 62.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Yorks. Civic Recs. iii. 45-46.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. Ibid. 86.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Ibid. 145.
  • 10. Ibid. iv (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cviii), 3.
  • 11. Ibid.
  • 12. York archs. B14, ff. 6, 7; E159/319, brev. ret. Mich. r. [1-2].
  • 13. Ibid.
  • 14. York Civic Recs. v. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cx), 87.
  • 15. Ibid.
  • 16. Ibid. 109; Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 17. Ibid.
  • 18. D. M. Palliser, Tudor York, 10, 60-76; VCH York, 137-40.
  • 19. York Civic Recs. iii. 37, 86, 119, 152, 169, 174; iv. 4, 72, 73, 76, 91, 96, 123, 148, 164n; v. 1, 87, 92, 102, 103, 109, 130, 167; York archs. B9, f. 62; B10, f. 68; B11, f. 136; B14, f. 7; B16, f. 44v; C219/18B/31, 18/156, 19/122, 21/193, 22/115, 24/200; Palliser, 72-73.
  • 20. York Civic Recs. iii. 145-6; iv. 3, 4, 73-74, 88-89, 91-92, 97, 133, 165-7, 182-3; v. 2, 24-25, 87, 93-96, 103-4, 129-34, 168, 172, 189; VCH York, 123; Elton, Reform and Renewal, 77-78; CJ, i. 29; LP Hen. VIII, xii.
  • 21. York Civic Recs. iii. 45, 119, 127.