Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen
|by 11 Mar. 1604||SIR MICHAEL STANHOPE|
|SIR WILLIAM CORNWALLIS 1|
|1614||SIR WILLIAM CORNWALLIS|
|SIR FRANCIS BAILDON|
|23 Dec. 1620||SIR LIONEL TOLLEMACHE , bt.|
|SIR ROGER TOWNSHEND , bt.|
|28 Jan. 1624||SIR ROBERT HITCHAM|
|9 May 1625||SIR ROBERT HITCHAM|
|SIR WILLIAM WITHYPOLL|
|28 Jan. 1626||SIR ROBERT HITCHAM|
|SIR CHARLES LE GROS|
|1628||SIR CHARLES LE GROS|
|SIR LIONEL TOLLEMACHE , bt.|
Orford was an important East Anglian port in the early Middle Ages and had received its first its charter in 1256.2 It was represented in the reign of Edward I, but subsequently ceased to return Members until the early sixteenth century.3 Incorporated in 1579, with a mayor, recorder, town clerk, eight portmen and 12 ‘capital burgesses’, it enjoyed the privilege of a weekly market, but was no longer of economic significance, being described as ‘now lying in the greatest ruin and decay.4 The returns were made in the name of the mayor and commonality.5
By the accession of James I the dominant interest in the borough belonged to Sir Michael Stanhope, who owned the manor and castle of Orford and lived two miles away at Sudbourne.6 Stanhope presumably had little difficulty in securing his return in 1604, when he may also have been responsible for the election of Sir William Cornwallis. The latter had no obvious connection with the borough, but was, like Stanhope, a gentleman of the privy chamber. Moreover, the two men may have been distantly related, for in his will Stanhope described Cornwallis’ second cousin, Thomas Cornwallis I*, whom he appointed one of his executors, as his friend and kinsman.7 Neither Member seems to have attended the election, for they were afterwards sworn in as freemen by the recorder of the borough, Sir Edward Coke*, in the Middle Temple on 11 March.8
The charter was confirmed in 1605, and in the following year Thomas Shaw, Stanhope’s steward, was elected town clerk.9 Shaw was unable to prevent disputes arising between his master and the corporation,10 which may explain why Stanhope was not re-elected in 1614. In addition to Cornwallis, who was chosen again, the borough elected Stanhope’s friend Sir Francis Baildon, a Yorkshireman who had married a Suffolk heiress. Cornwallis, who had moved up to the senior seat, died soon after the dissolution, and Baildon was outlawed for debt in 1617.11
Whatever loss of influence Stanhope had suffered seems to have proved purely temporary, as he agreed to endow six almshouses and pay compensation to the corporation for demolishing without permission St. Leonard’s Hospital. Consequently, he was almost certainly responsible for nominating both Members elected in 1620.12 The senior place on the return was taken by his niece’s husband, Sir Lionel Tollemache, bt., Stanhope’s colleague as joint vice-admiral of Suffolk, who was subsequently appointed one of the executors of his will.13 Stanhope’s great-nephew and trustee Sir Roger Townshend was returned for the second seat.14
On 3 Dec. 1621 Sir Robert Hitcham, who was closely connected with Stanhope’s son-in-law, Sir William Withypoll, replaced Coke as recorder of Orford. It seems likely that Withypoll, a partisan of Coke’s estranged wife, Lady Hatton, engineered Coke’s removal.15 Withypoll inherited Stanhope’s Suffolk estates on the latter’s death 17 days later. However, by the terms of the latter’s will, the executors, Thomas Cornwallis and Tollemache, were given considerable control over the estate for three years following Stanhope’s decease. This may explain how William Glover, a local man who had appointed Cornwallis trustee of his son’s marriage settlement, came to be returned in 1624 alongside Hitcham.16
Presumably on Hitcham’s advice, the corporation instituted a Chancery suit against Withypoll on 10 May 1624; this seems to have been a collusive action, designed to confirm the diversion of a highway through ‘Chapman’s tenement’ (renamed Sudbourne Park by Stanhope). They alleged that the new half-mile detour was ‘scarce passable in summer-time … for carts with any reasonable lading’, and that the effect on their market in winter would be so disastrous to the economy of the borough that they could not wait for ‘the ordinary remedy which the course of the common laws of this realm doth afford’. Withypoll replied by citing letters patent of 4 Aug. 1597, under which he had acted, and assured the court that the sandy subsoil of the new road would be good for all seasons.17
Withypoll had presumably secured control over his wife’s inheritance by 1625, when he was returned to the first Caroline Parliament with Hitcham. He was not re-elected the following year, but was probably responsible for the return of his friend Sir Charles Le Gros. Le Gros’s Suffolk connections were slight, but he was re-elected at every subsequent election until his death. Hitcham was returned again in 1626, but not in 1628, when Le Gros secured the first seat despite the higher rank of his colleague, Tollemache.18
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Suff. RO (Ipswich), EE5/2/2, f. 70.
- 2. R.A. Roberts, ‘Bor. Business of a Suff. town’, TRHS (ser. 4), xiv. 95; HMC Var. iv. 256.
- 3. OR; HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 192.
- 4. Roberts, 97-102.
- 5. C219/37/238; 219/38/229; 219/39/193.
- 6. W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. v. 150.
- 7. PROB 11/139, f. 77.
- 8. Suff. RO (Ipswich), EE5/2/2, f. 70.
- 9. HMC Var. iv. 257, 267; PROB 11/139, f. 76v.
- 10. Roberts, 113-14.
- 11. Bodl. Tanner 283, f. 83v; W.P. Baildon, Baildon and the Baildons, iii. 31.
- 12. HMC Var. iv. 277.
- 13. Vice-Admirals of the Coast comp. J.C. Sainty and A.D. Thrush (L. and I. Soc. cccxxi), 44; PROB 11/139, f. 77.
- 14. WARD 7/68/178.
- 15. HMC Var. iv. 268; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 151.
- 16. PROB 11/139, f. 77; Suff. RO (Ipswich), IC/AA1/65/102.
- 17. C2/Jas.I/03/67.
- 18. Knyvett Letters ed. B. Schofield (Norf. Rec. Soc. xx), 75.