Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the resident freemen
Number of voters:
|c. Feb. 1604||SAMUEL LEWKNOR|
|24 Oct. 1610||SIR WILLIAM CAVENDISH I vice Twyneho, deceased|
|c. Mar. 1614||THOMAS HITCHCOCK|
|EDWARD LITTLETON I or II|
|3 Jan. 1621||FRANCIS NICHOLS|
|SIR GILBERT CORNEWALL|
|c. Jan. 1624||SIR ROBERT HOWARD|
|25 Apr. 1625||SIR ROBERT HOWARD|
|20 Jan. 1626||SIR ROBERT HOWARD|
|8 Mar. 1628||SIR ROBERT HOWARD|
|SIR EDWARD FOXE|
Founded in the early twelfth century, Bishop’s Castle failed to prosper due to its distance from the Severn valley, the key communications route in the region; under the Stuarts it was a local market town with a population of little more than 500. The manor belonged to the bishops of Hereford until 1559, when it was sequestrated by the Crown, and in 1573, amid protests that episcopal charters were being disregarded, a royal charter appointed a corporation comprising a bailiff and 14 capital burgesses. No right of parliamentary representation was mentioned, but several boroughs chartered by the early Tudors had made returns under similar circumstances: at the 1584 general election two relatives of the local lawyer Edmund Plowden† were elected, and their return went unchallenged in the Commons.1
With few local gentry families of any standing, electoral patronage at Bishop’s Castle remained fluid until the 1620s. At the end of Elizabeth’s reign the chief influences were Sir Henry Townshend*, the town’s recorder and one of the justices at Ludlow, whose eldest son was returned in 1597 and 1601, and Alexander King†, the Exchequer auditor whose circuit included Shropshire. Townshend’s son probably died shortly before the 1604 election, when the senior seat went to Samuel Lewknor, Townshend’s son-in-law and a nephew of Sir Richard Lewknor†, chief justice of Chester. King is not known to have stood again, and in 1604 the second seat at Bishop’s Castle was filled by William Twyneho, an associate of Robert Sackville*, presumably on the Lewkenor interest, which also secured his return for Midhurst, Sussex.
Twyneho’s death in the summer of 1610 created a vacancy at Bishop’s Castle, which was filled by Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, owner of the neighbouring lordship of Clun. This property had been seized by the Crown in 1572, but restored to the earl in February 1604. Northampton reinforced his local interest in 1608 with the appointment of his secretary John Griffith II* as bailiff of the Crown manor of Bishop’s Castle, while a year later Arthur Ingram* purchased the manor on his behalf. The earl quickly earned the townsmen’s gratitude by helping to quash a potentially damaging grant for a rival market at Church Stretton, Shropshire, and upon his recommendation the borough returned Sir William Cavendish I on 24 Oct. 1610.2
Neither of the 1610 MPs was returned at the 1614 general election, when Northampton nominated the London lawyer Thomas Hitchcock, and the other seat went to Edward Littleton, whose identity remains uncertain. The most likely candidates were two men with strong local connections: Edward Littleton I*, a senior lawyer in the Marches court at Ludlow, whose estates lay in south-eastern Shropshire, and his son Edward II*, then a student at the Inner Temple; both were ideally placed to secure the backing of Lewknor and Townshend.3
Cavendish helped the corporation secure a new charter in 1617, and in return he was granted a nomination at the next election, which he exercised on behalf of Francis Nichols, a relation of his wife by marriage. The second seat in 1621 went to Sir Gilbert Cornewall, whose estates lay some 20 miles east of Bishop’s Castle; his father was a member of the Council in the Marches, and he was presumably elected on Townshend’s interest. After Northampton’s death in June 1614 the Clun lordship passed to his great-nephew Henry Howard*, who died two years later, and thereafter to the latter’s brother Sir Charles Howard, the only one of lord treasurer Suffolk’s sons never to sit in the Commons. At Sir Charles’s death in 1622 these estates devolved upon his younger brother Sir Robert Howard, who represented the borough for the remainder of the decade.4
Sir James Whitelocke* was appointed recorder of Bishop’s Castle after Townshend’s death in 1621, and it was doubtless upon his recommendation that his former secretary, Richard Oakeley, whose own lands lay just outside the borough, was returned in 1624. Whitelocke removed to King’s Bench in October 1624, and the next two elections saw the return of one of the town’s chief landowners, William Blunden. In 1628 Blunden was replaced by Sir Edward Foxe, another member of the Council in the Marches, who held estates worth £300 a year a few miles west of the borough, in Montgomeryshire.5
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. M. Beresford, New Towns of Middle Ages, 479; CPR, 1572-5, pp. 14-5; A.D.K. Hawkyard, ‘The enfranchisement of constituencies, 1504-58’, PH, x. 11.
- 2. Exchequer Officeholders comp. J.C. Sainty (L. and I. soc. spec. ser. xviii), 123; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 77; E315/310, f. 52; E401/2412; C54/1995/1; HMC 10th Rep. iv. 401, 406.
- 3. SP14/77/42; Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 103; Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xc), 62-4; NLW, 9056E/780.
- 4. C66/2149/4; HMC 10th Rep. iv. 402; Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxviii), 147-8; C142/384/161; 142/475/130; 142/559/145.
- 5. Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitelocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 90, 95-7.