Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

over 200 in 16191


20 Dec. 1620SIR HENRY VANE
10 Feb. 1624SIR HENRY VANE
c. Jan. 1626SIR HENRY VANE
 ?Sir Henry Vane

Main Article

Carlisle, situated on the river Eden about six miles from the north-west coast, had long served as a strategic point on the border with Scotland, as the administrative centre of the West March, and as a port of trade with Ireland. The city’s governing body, established by an ordinance of 1445 and confirmed on 1 May 1604, consisted of a mayor, 11 other ‘worshipful persons’ or aldermen, and 24 councillors.2 Admission to the freedom, which gave the right to vote in parliamentary elections, was controlled by eight guilds, but was apparently easily obtained; a list dated 1619 contains over 200 names, including some local gentry, of whom the most prominent was Sir John Dalston†.3 Carlisle seems to have been reasonably prosperous in the early seventeenth century, since the omission of the port of Carlisle from the great farm of the customs cost the Crown over £700 a year, according to the estimate of (Sir) Lionel Cranfield* in 1612; great quantities of hides, it was later alleged, passed through on their way to Scotland.4 Furthermore, relations between the cathedral and corporation were harmonious; when the lecturer’s annual stipend was doubled in 1627 to £40, two-thirds of the increase was provided by the dean and chapter and the remainder by the municipality, with two aldermen, Edward Aglionby and William Barwicke, acting as trustees.5

Although Carlisle’s military importance ceased with the Union of the crowns in 1603, gunners continued to be appointed to the castle, which was leased by George Clifford, 3rd earl of Cumberland, the warden of the West and Middle marches. The Crown held considerable property in the borough, which for much of the period was in jointure to successive queens.6 For this reason parliamentary patronage was shared between the Cliffords and the Court and so, with the exceptions of 1604 and 1628, at least one outsider was returned to each Parliament of the period.

In 1604 the borough returned two townsmen, Thomas Blennerhassett and William Barwicke, to the first Stuart Parliament. The names of the mayor and both bailiffs, with about 40 other citizens, appear on the indenture. It can only be assumed that Cumberland, who died in the following year, had declined to nominate any candidate. His brother Francis Clifford*, who succeeded as 4th earl, never resided at Carlisle, nor did the earl of Dunbar, the next warden of the marches; local victualling trades were therefore hard hit by the absence of great households, as they complained in 1606.7 The corporation attempted to buy out the Crown rights in the demesne and socage lands attached to the castle in 1610, but were thwarted by Henry, Lord Clifford*, with the help of his father-in-law, lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†).8

No doubt the expense of sending and maintaining two citizens in distant Westminster for five sessions took its toll on the city’s finances, and at the next election two outsiders were returned. Henry, Lord Clifford presumably nominated his friend George Boteler for the first seat, and the second went to a courtier, Nathaniel Tomkins. Before the king visited the city on his way back from Scotland in 1617, the merchant guild met, and agreed upon a list of four demands, for ‘a licence for transporting of wool and woolfells … to have a nobleman to live in Carlisle Castle … to have one of the three sittings of [the Council in the North at] York once a year to be kept in Carlisle … and to create one university in this poor city’.9 However, only one of their wishes was granted; Clifford did inhabit the castle for a time in 1618, but his real interests were distant, and there is no indication that his visit was repeated.10

Boteler was re-elected in 1620, while the second seat went to another courtier, Sir Henry Vane, who was also chosen to serve in the next three Parliaments. In 1624 and 1625 he was accompanied by a prominent townsman, Edward Aglionby. The latter served his fourth term as mayor in 1625-6, and as returning officer at the next general election no doubt assisted the return of his kinsman Richard Graham, who had risen in the service of the duke of Buckingham. Graham was re-elected in 1628, but Vane lost the senior seat, perhaps after a contest, to Richard Barwis, a local gentleman of puritan leanings who had recently been admitted to the freedom of the city.

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Cumb. RO (Carlisle), Ca2/319.
  • 2. Royal Charters of Carlisle ed. R.S. Ferguson, 3, 112-13.
  • 3. Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iii. 260, 263, 266.
  • 4. HMC Sackville, i. 288; E134/21Jas.I/Mich.24; APC, 1626, pp. 401-2.
  • 5. Cumb. RO (Carlisle), Ca 2/120.
  • 6. SP14/50/93; C.B. Phillips, ‘Gentry in Cumb. and Westmld. 1600-65’, (Lancaster Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1973), p. 240.
  • 7. SP14/22/3.
  • 8. Ferguson, 128; E134/22Jas.I/Mich.25.
  • 9. Carlisle Mun. Recs. ed. R.S. Ferguson and W. Nanson (Cumb. and Westmld. Antiq. and Arch. Soc. extra ser. iv), 95.
  • 10. CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 480, 537; APC, 1618-19, p. 445.