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|9 Jan 1559||THOMAS HAKLUYT|
|THOMAS CONINGSBY I|
|JOHN MORGAN I|
|28 Apr. 1572||NICHOLAS DEPDEN|
|10 Nov. 1584||THOMAS WIGMORE|
|3 Oct. 1586||EDWARD CROFT|
|8 Nov. 1588||THOMAS SHOTER|
|1593||SIR FRANCIS VERE|
|1 Oct. 1597||THOMAS CROMPTON II|
|9 Oct. 1601||THOMAS CONINGSBY II|
After the dissolution of the monasteries Leominster became Crown property and various appurtenances were leased out. During Elizabeth’s reign the tithes were leased to Sir James Croft, and the site of Leominster priory to the Coningsby family. In 1554 Leominster had been granted a charter which placed the government of the town in the hands of a self-perpetuating corporation of 25 capital burgesses, who annually chose a bailiff from their number. Apart from the officials mentioned in the charter, there was, in fact, if not in name, a recorder. Until 1581 the recorder’s work was done by a relation of Sir James Croft, James Warnecombe, MP for the borough in the last reign, who received an annual fee of 26 s. 8 d. The office of high steward, though undefined by Mary’s charter, was in existence throughout Elizabeth’s reign. Sir James Croft held the office until his death in 1590. In 1591 the corporation chose the Earl of Essex as his successor, and, as the post was not a sinecure, he appointed Sir Thomas Coningsby, who served with him in France, as his deputy. Within a few weeks of Essex’s downfall, the corporation raised Coningsby to the office, notwithstanding a recommendation by Sir Robert Cecil, in Javour of Coningsby’s rival, (Sir) Herbert Croft.
The choice of Members at Leominster during Elizabeth’s reign reflected the fortunes of the rival Croft and Coningsby families. In 1559 Humphrey Coningsby I, who had helped the town to obtain its charter, was a man of prestige, while Sir James Croft had yet to be restored in blood. Thomas Coningsby I, the junior 1559 MP, was a relation of Humphrey Coningsby I. Thomas Hakluyt has not been definitely identified, but he was probably a local gentleman and brother-in-law of his fellow-Member. By 1563 however, Humphrey Coningsby was dead, and his heir was a boy. Croft, on the other hand, had become a leading figure in the county. His brother-in-law Thomas Dallowe, a townsman and borough official, was returned in 1563 with John Morgan I, who remains unidentified. He may have been John Morgan of Arkstone, Herefordshire and a relation of the then high steward Henry Carey†, 1st Baron Hunsdon. Obvious Croft nominees appeared again in the next two Parliaments: his son Edward, later deputy steward of Leominster, in 1571, and his great-nephew Fabian Phillips, in 1572. On each occasion they were accompanied by Nicholas Depden of Shropshire, who had married the widow of one of the Hakluyts, living at Eyton near Leominster. 1584 saw the climax of the struggle for power between Croft and Sir Thomas Coningsby, Humphrey Coningsby’s heir, then a man of 34 years. Coningsby had obtained the recordership in preference to Croft’s stepson, Thomas Wigmore, and a month before the election there was a serious affray in Leominster. Coningsby was prosecuted by the attorney-general in the Star Chamber, apparently at Croft’s instigation. Possibly this damaged Coningsby’s reputation in the borough, for two of Croft’s relatives, his son Edward and his stepson Thomas Wigmore, were elected. They were returned again in 1586—possibly the borough was influenced by the Privy Council’s letter advising the re-election of those Members who had sat in 1584—but in 1588, two townsmen were chosen. Thomas Shoter was a borough official, and both Humphrey Wall’s father-in-law and brother-in-law were bailiffs of the borough. Croft and his son Edward had fallen from favour and Coningsby was still involved in lawsuits. Evidently the burgesses decided to eschew both factions.
The influence of the Earl of Essex is apparent in the 1593 and 1597 elections. Sir Francis Vere, 1593, 1593. was a soldier and follower of Essex, and Thomas Crompton II, 1597, was Essex’s close friend. However, it is not clear whether Crompton sat for Leominster in 1597 or whether he took a seat at Beverley where he was also returned and where he was a steward. If he did sit for Beverley, there is no evidence of a by-election to replace him at Leominster. Richard Coningsby (1593) was a courtier and relative of Sir Thomas Coningsby and no doubt owed his return at Leominster to the latter’s influence. John Creswell (1597) was a townsman and borough official, who later became deputy recorder. When, after the fall of Essex, Coningsby became steward, his kinsman Thomas Coningsby II was returned as senior Member. John Warnecombe, the 1601 MP, was a descendant of James Warnecombe, the former recorder.
The right of election in Leominster belonged to the householders but was probably restricted to members of the corporation.
G. F. Townsend, Leominster, passim; J. Price, Leominster, 46, 56, 61, 220-51;CPR, 1553-4, pp. 200, 395-8; 1555-7, p. 491; St. Ch. 5/A9/36; A16/2; HMC Hatfield, iv. 65, 94; xi. 114, 160-1; Collins, Sydney State Pprs. ii. 306.