Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
?in the inhabitants
|14 Feb. 1604||SIR JOHN SHURLEY|
|HENRY SHELLEY I|
|c. Mar. 1614||SIR JOHN LEEDES|
|HENRY SHELLEY II|
|16 Dec. 1620||THOMAS BOWYER|
|23 Jan. 1624||THOMAS BOWYER|
|c. Apr. 1625||THOMAS BOWYER|
|16 Jan. 1626||WALTER BARTTELOT|
|23 Feb. 1628||(SIR) THOMAS BOWYER , (bt.)|
|(SIR) SACKVILLE CROWE , (bt.)|
Situated four miles from the sea on the west bank of the River Adur, Bramber gave its name to one of the six rapes of Sussex, at a time when it was presumably the principal settlement in the Adur valley. Its prosperity was not of long duration as a port: New Shoreham, situated at the mouth of the river, replaced it and by 1595 it had ceased even to be a market town. Unincorporated, it came under the lordship of the barony of Bramber, and the administration of the borough was in the hands of a constable, chosen annually by the steward at the manorial court leet from two candidates put forward by the borough jury and the retiring constable.1
In the early Elizabethan period the barony belonged to the 4th earl of Norfolk, but was confiscated by the Crown on his downfall in 1572. The duke’s grandson, Thomas Howard, was restored to the lesser title of earl of Arundel in 1604 but had difficulty recovering the family estates. In 1608 the barony was granted to the 1st earl of Suffolk and Lord William Howard of Naworth, younger sons of the last duke, who in turn sold it to Arundel in 1619.2
Bramber returned Members to Parliament in 1295, but subsequently enjoyed only intermittent representation, sometimes in conjunction with the adjoining borough of Steyning, and was only consistently represented from 1453.3 Indentures were exchanged between the sheriff of Sussex and up to 18 named ‘burgesses’ headed by the constable, who were described in the returns for 1604 and 1628 as acting with others. In an election dispute in 1640 the Commons ruled that the franchise lay with all the inhabitants, including lodgers, and this may have been the practice earlier.4
In the later Elizabethan period, in the absence of the Howard interest, the 1st Lord Buckhurst (Thomas Sackville†), one of the lord lieutenants of Sussex, emerged as a significant electoral patron in Bramber.5 He may have been responsible for the election of his kinsman, Henry Shelley I, in 1604, but Shelley owned significant property in adjoining parishes and may not have needed outside support. Shelley’s partner was Sir John Shurley, who, though he lived in east Sussex, was also the son-in-law of Sir Thomas Shirley I*, another important local landowner.
Neither Shelley nor Shurley seem to have sought re-election in 1614. The senior place in the Addled Parliament went to Sir John Leedes, who owned property in Bramber and was the son-in-law of the Howard client, Sir Thomas Monson*. The junior place was bestowed upon Shelley’s second son and namesake, as Shelley himself was then sick. The sale of lands to meet Thomas Shelley’s debts had destroyed the Shelley interest by 1620, when Leedes was returned for New Shoreham. Thomas Bowyer, who took the senior seat, lived over 20 miles to the west and had no obvious connection with Bramber, but he was nonetheless re-elected to the next six parliaments. In 1620 and 1624 Robert Morley, a member of the east Sussex gentry, who may have owed his return to his neighbour Sir John Shurley, took the junior seat. Meanwhile John Middleton* had taken control of the Shelley property and in the next two elections it was presumably he who was responsible for nominating his son-in-law Walter Barttelot, first as junior Member in 1625 and then as senior Member in 1626. Barttelot may also have had the support of Arundel, who almost certainly employed his brother. In 1628 Middleton apparently transferred his interest to (Sir) Sackville Crowe (bt.), who was one of his trustees.6
Author: Alan Davidson
- 1. VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, pp. 206, 210; Add. 28252, f. 110.
- 2. Ibid. 5; M.A. Tierney, Hist. and Antiqs. of Castle and Town of Arundel, 416-17; Arundel, Suss. deeds, D2838, info. from Mrs. Sara Rodger.
- 3. VCH Suss. vi. pt. 1, 211.
- 4. C219/35/2/86; 219/41B/85; D. Hirst, Representative of the People?, 99.
- 5. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 257.
- 6. C.F. Trower, ‘Findon’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xxvii. 17.