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|30 Jan. 1559||SIR WILLIAM WOODHOUSE|
|THOMAS SOTHERTON I|
|1566||JOHN BLENNERHASSET vice Michell, deceased|
|5 May 1572||JOHN ALDRICH|
|1581||EDWARD FLOWERDEW vice Beaumont, sick|
|2 Nov. 1584||CHRISTOPHER LAYER 1|
|SIMON BOWDE 2|
|3 Oct. 1586||ROBERT SUCKLING|
|28 Oct. 1588||FRANCIS RUGGE|
|19 Sept. 1597||CHRISTOPHER LAYER|
|THOMAS SOTHERTON II|
|12 Oct. 1601||ALEXANDER THURSTON|
Charters had been granted to the city of Norwich since the time of Henry II, but the sixteenth-century constitution was based in part upon the charter of 1404, which gave the city the status of an independent county and exempted it from the jurisdiction of the sheriff of Norfolk, and in part upon that of 1417 which re-stated in detail the form of the city’s government. There were no important changes during the sixteenth century.
Government was in the hands of a mayor, two sheriffs,a4 aldermen and a common council of 60. The aldermen were chosen for lite by the sub-wards and the council yearly by the four great wards into which the city was divided. The mayor was chosen by the aldermen from two of their number nominated by the common council, who also elected one of the sheriffs, the other being chosen by the mayor and aldermen.
Writs for parliamentary elections were addressed to the sheriffs and formal election took place at a shire court at the guildhall, where the proclamation was read and indentures drawn up (as in county elections) between the sheriffs on the one hand and the mayor and a varying number of citizens—usually about 30—on the other. Writs and indentures were then returned direct to Chancery.
Among the largest English cities, Norwich usually returned her own citizens to Parliament, and rarely had to fear outside influence. However, during the first dozen years of Elizabeth’s reign, when the Duke of Norfolk’s power in East Anglia was at its height, two of his followers were returned for Norwich. Sir William Woodhouse, returned in 1559, had a house in Norwich and a local estate, but it may be suspected that the Duke had a hand in his election. There can be little doubt that the Duke was responsible for the election of John Blennerhasset, his servant, to the second session of the 1563 Parliament and in 1571, though Blennerhasset was steward of the mayor’s court and such officials had been elected to Parliament by the city earlier in the century. The only other non-citizen returned during Elizabeth’s reign was Edward Flowerdew, the recorder, at a by-election in 1581.
With these exceptions all the Elizabethan Members were drawn from the aldermanic body, itself recruited from the group of richel merchants which had been gradually increasing its power during the last one hundred and fifty years. This city aristocracy constantly inter-married and many of the MPs were related to one another. Most of them were members of the merchant companies. If there was ever any contest for a seat no evidence of it has survived.
Norwich paid parliamentary wages throughout the period. In 1563 and 1571 the Members received 2s. a day, by 1571 this had risen to 3s., and in 1584 to 5s. On at least one occasion, payments fell into arrears and some £23 was ‘owing for the Parliament money’ in 1579.3