Available from Boydell and Brewer
|26 Apr. 1572||DOMINICK CHESTER|
|13 Oct. 1578||ANDREW HEMMERFORD 1 vice Chester, deceased|
|Jan. 1581||GEORGE LUTTRELL vice Hemmerford, deceased|
|1584||EDWARD ROGERS 2|
|GEORGE LUTTRELL 3|
|6 Nov. 1589||BENEDICT BARNHAM|
|11 Oct. 1597||AMIAS BAMPFIELD|
|5 Nov. 1597 (writ)||unknown vice Bampfield, chose to sit for Devon4|
Minehead was dominated by the Luttrells of Dunster castle, who no doubt were responsible for obtaining the 1559 charter and the enfranchisement of the borough. The government of the borough was placed in the hands of a common council consisting of a portreeve and 12 principal burgesses. Although the charter made no reference to Parliament, Minehead returned Members in 1563, the first possible occasion after the charter had been granted. Along with other boroughs sending MPs for the first time in 1563, Minehead’s right to return was challenged in the House of Commons.
The method of choosing burgesses in Parliament was similar to that used for the election of the portreeve: the names of selected candidates were submitted by the common council to the inhabitants who made their choice from them. In 1601 about 50 inhabitants attended the election.
Until 1589 Luttrell influence was dominant at Minehead elections. Thomas Luttrell himself was the first senior burgess in the 1563 Parliament. By the time of the 1571 Parliament, however, he was dead. Since his son and heir, George, was at the time only ten years old, two relatives of the Luttrell family, John Colles and Thomas Mallett, were returned. George Luttrell eventually took his seat in time for the last session of the 1572 Parliament, and retained it in 1584. His younger brother John took his turn in 1586 and 1589. After this, neither brother sat again. Luttrell influence was responsible for the return of the following MPs: Edward Rogers (1584), Robert Crosse (1586), Francis James (1601), and perhaps Thomas Fitzwilliams (1563) who has not been identified.
Several Minehead MPs have no obvious connexions with the borough. Dominick Chester, a Bristol merchant, and Richard Cabell, a servant of Sir John Thynne, were returned in 1572. Andrew Hemmerford, who replaced Chester in 1578, never took his seat. Benedict Barnham (1589) and Richard Hanbury (1593) were Londoners. Amias Bampfield was a Devonshire gentleman elected for his own county a few days after the Minehead return, but the name of the man who replaced him has not been found.
The remaining three MPs, James Quirke, Conrad Prowse and Lewis Lashbrooke, are linked in a curious story. James Quirke was ‘a poor burgess’ returned in 1593 and chosen by the inhabitants for the junior seat in 1601. Lewis Lashbrooke, who actually obtained the junior seat in 1601, was Quirke’s friend. Conrad Prowse, who took both Quirke and Lashbrooke to the Star Chamber over the 1601 election proceedings, was a London attorney who had quarrelled with George Luttrell while at Gray’s Inn. A protracted vendetta ensued. As his relationship with Luttrell was his only known connexion with Minehead, Prowse’s return for the borough in 1597 must be seen against the background of their quarrel. Prowse’s version of the 1601 election as presented to the Star Chamber was that on the day of the election 40 or 50 of the inhabitants had chosen George Luttrell and Quirke, with the proviso that if Luttrell did not wish to sit, Dr. Francis James should replace him. But the portreeve ‘being a man of small understanding’ had been persuaded by Lashbrooke to insert the latter’ s name instead of Quirke’s. Collusion between Lashbrooke and Quirke may be assumed.5