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 common council 1603-20; in the freemen from 1621

Number of voters:

37 in 1620; c.250 in 16401


2 Mar. 16042SIR GEORGE FANE 
11 Jan. 1608JOHN GRIFFITH II vice Peake, deceased 
 William Wood 
 John Jacob 
 John Borough 
 Francis Drake 
 Sir Peter Manwood* 
 Sir Samuel Peyton , bt. 
 Sir Thomas Smythe 
12 Apr. 1621JOHN BOROUGH vice Hatton, election declared void 
27 Jan. 1624(SIR) ROBERT HATTON 
 Henry Sandys* 
27 Jan. 1626(SIR) JOHN SUCKLING 
21 Feb. 1626SIR EDWARD BOYS vice Suckling, chose to sit for Norwich 
 Sir Henry Mildmay* 
29 Feb. 1628JOHN PHILIPOT 
 Sir Edwin Sandys 

Main Article

Sandwich was a chartered borough before Domesday. The easternmost of the Cinque Ports, its limbs included Deal, Fordwich, Ramsgate and even Brightlingsea in Essex. Its harbour decayed in Tudor times because of the growth of a sandbank across the entrance, preventing the entry of all but the smallest ships.3 During the early seventeenth century the borough frequently lobbied for a new haven to be built, but the estimated cost – more than £50,000 – was prohibitive.4 Despite its decline, Sandwich remained, with Dover and Rye, Sussex, one of the three authorized passenger ports for the short sea crossing to the Continent.5 From 1561 religious refugees from the Continent began to arrive in large numbers. Welcomed by the government as ‘men of knowledge in sundry handicrafts’, they were allowed their own church, which attracted Englishmen who found the Elizabethan settlement insufficiently radical, including separatists living in the United Provinces.6 The Hispanophile Sir William Monson† declared ‘their religion truly Hollandish’ and complained that ‘the country thereabouts swarms as much with sects as Amsterdam’. In May 1605 the people of Sandwich allegedly cursed Monson for intervening with his naval warship to prevent a Dutch squadron from seizing the departing Spanish ambassador.7 Crown dues were collected by a bailiff, whose office was sufficiently profitable to generate considerable competition. Owing to the disorder of the commonalty at municipal elections, the lord warden and Privy Council ordered in 1603 that the franchise be confined to the governing body, which was reduced to a mayor, 12 jurats and a self-renewing common council of 24 rather than the 48 which had been established in the mid-1590s.8 These changes had a marked effect on the parliamentary representation of the port, which throughout the Elizabethan period had never accepted a stranger. Between 1604 and 1629 only Edward Peake and his son Peter could be classed as residents; the lord warden (who began to demand the right at the end of the Elizabethan period) was usually able to nominate to the senior seat, while the other fell into the hands of the East Kent magnates (including the archbishop of Canterbury).

Elections were held at the ‘Court Hall’, to which voters were summoned by ‘the sound of the Common Horn’.9 Although the borough’s limbs were excluded from the franchise, they were evidently expected to contribute financially, for in 1622 Brightlingsea paid £3 ‘for charge of Parliament wages for the last session of Parliament’.10 Often the borough swore in their parliamentary representatives as freemen on the hustings, but in 1626 the absentee Sir John Suckling’s oath ‘was respited until another time’. Those elected seem also to have been required to swear an additional oath, whether or not they were freemen. In February 1626, for instance, Sir Edward Boys took ‘the oath of an advocate of this town’, and ‘also the oath of a baron to the Parliament’.11

At the 1604 general election the earl of Northampton was still new to his office as lord warden, and so it was left to his lieutenant, Thomas Fane†, to nominate his own nephew and heir Sir George for the senior seat. The remaining place was bestowed upon the jurat Edward Peake, who was returned ‘according to the ancient custom of pricking’ to his eighth successive parliament and granted wages of 4s. a day.12 On Peake’s death in 1607 one of his colleagues on the town council, William Wood, aspired to succeed him, but at the by-election in January 1608 he was rejected in favour of Northampton’s secretary, John Griffith II. Northampton thanked the electorate for choosing his dependant ‘before one of your own’, as he was not entitled to fill the second seat, and promised that it should not constitute a precedent.13 Such harmonious relations could scarcely endure, and by 1609 Northampton’s staff were complaining of lack of co-operation from the municipal authorities.14 When Fane was nominated by the lord warden for re-election in 1614, Northampton was told that ‘we know he is so disliked of the most part of our assembly as that upon nomination he was no way pleasing to them’, and was asked to substitute Griffith, ‘who is well-affected and beloved among us’. Perhaps the councillors were unaware that Griffth had already been returned for Portsmouth, but Northampton was visibly annoyed. He nominated instead his ‘dear friend’ Sir Thomas Smythe, a leading figure in most of the great London trading companies and a younger brother of the Westenhanger family, who owned property in the town but lived on the other side of the county, at Sutton-at-Hone, near Gravesend. The second seat was conferred on Sir Samuel Peyton, bt., of Knowlton, a much closer neighbour, who also seems to have owned property in Sandwich.15

By the 1620 general election Northampton was dead and Smythe’s brother, Sir Richard*, was engaged in a boundary dispute with the corporation. This quarrel may have suggested to Smythe’s principal business rival, Sir Edwin Sandys, the idea of supplanting Smythe at Sandwich. Sandys had been living at nearby Northbourne since 1602, and in 1608 had offered to cut a new channel for the haven.16 Well-informed about Sandwich’s problems, he seems to have hoped to carry both seats at the next election as his late wife’s brother, Sir Roger Nevinson of nearby Eastry, obtained a recommendation for the senior seat from the crypto-Catholic Lord Wotton to Northampton’s successor, Lord Zouche. However, Zouche preferred to nominate the archbishop’s steward, (Sir) Robert Hatton, and placed Nevinson on his reserve list of candidates for seats in the Cinque Ports, along with the former Sandwich Member, Sir Samuel Peyton.17 Nothing more was heard of Nevinson. For the remaining seat the first choice of the corporation seems to have fallen on one of their own number, John Jacob, ‘a man generally there beloved’.18

As the second seat was now apparently unavailable, it became clear that Sandys and Hatton would have to fight over the senior burgess-ship. In the run-up to the election, however, Sandys was in London, engaged upon Virginia Company business. He did not write to Sandwich for the place, and even affected an air of casual indifference, saying that ‘he could have been for a town in Yorkshire’. However, he sent down Thomas Gookyn of Ripple Court, Kent, a man ‘very conversant in Sandwich and a great talker’ who ‘laboured all his acquaintance for Sir Edwin, even jurats as well as others’. Through Gookyn, Sandys resorted to the populist arguments that had enabled him to win control of the Virginia Company from Smythe. He announced that he held Sandwich in great affection, and was saddened that the townsmen had ‘lost some of their liberties’, which, he assured them, ‘would be recovered again’. So far as a new haven was concerned, he said ‘there was hope some good might be done for them by their good friends’. He also announced through Gookyn his opposition to the East India Company, which he described as ‘a pernicious matter to them and the whole kingdom’.19 Support for Sandys was also canvassed by Thomas Brewer, a wealthy Kent Brownist, who until recently had lived at Leiden and who was exploring with Sandys the possibility of settling members of the Leiden congregation in Virginia.20 Without Brewer, Sandys’s credentials as a radical Protestant would have been unconvincing. Instead it was reported that Sandys stood ‘in the good liking of the rabble … of schismatical sectaries with whom that town aboundeth’.21

Sandys’s electioneering greatly alarmed the mayor, who wanted the senior seat to go to the lord warden’s candidate as custom required. Consequently, on the day of the election he altered the procedure, directing the voters ‘to choose one burgess first and not both together’. In this way he hoped that ‘my lord would be respected for Sir Robert to have the first place, or if not, yet that Jacob should have carried the place from Sir Edwin’. His decision was challenged by the previous mayor, Peake’s eldest son, who also objected that the word ‘commonalty’ had been omitted from the writ. These complaints were ignored by the mayor, who nominated Hatton, Sandys and Jacob for the first seat, but his plan backfired, as Sandys triumphed easily.

The mayor then turned his attention to the junior seat and announced that Jacob could not resubmit his name. Jacob himself ‘utterly disclaimed to stand again’, whereupon ‘some of the company would no further proceed’. Hatton, however, was again proposed in his absence, although he too had been defeated for the first seat. Also nominated were Smythe, Peyton (who may by now have been seriously ill),22 Sir Peter Manwood* (who had represented the borough in the last four Elizabethan Parliaments), Francis Drake and John Borough. Drake had no known local connection, but may have been backed by the town lecturer, Thomas Marston, ‘a precise preacher’ who ‘gaddeth up and down’ and ‘cannot abide a bishop’. Marston’s influence probably weakened support for Hatton, the archbishop of Canterbury’s household steward, but perhaps his most serious challenger was John Borough, secretary to the lord chancellor (Francis Bacon*), as he had been born in the town, the son of a Dutch immigrant. The mayor, unable to prevent the commonalty from participating in the election for the senior seat, now made one last effort on behalf of the lord warden’s candidate by insisting, in accordance with the Privy Council’s ruling of 1603, that only corporation members could vote. In the ensuing tumult 18 electors gave their votes for Hatton, six chose other candidates and seven abstained. Those excluded from voting were furious: ‘Some raved of breach of liberties, others plainly told the mayor they would make a certificate to the Parliament against him, and that he should, or deserved to be, fined at £100’.23

These were not idle threats. On 3 Feb. 1621 the town clerk, Edward Kelk, wrote to Lord Zouche that a petition to the Commons (which he incorrectly described as a bill) had been set on foot by Borough’s supporters ‘to disannul our late choice of burgesses, which was done (as they say) both against our charters and the law, because they were not admitted to have any voice in the election’. Kelk had assisted the mayor at the election, and had been abused after the election for the second seat, being told by one member of the commonalty that ‘he deserved to have his ears nailed’ for ‘breaking their liberties’. Kelk was unrepentant, and sent Zouche a copy of the 1603 Council order, along with a judicial decision reported by Sir Edward Coke* approving the restriction of the franchise in corporations ‘for avoiding of popular disorder and confusion’.24 However, the petitioners were not alone in wanting to quash the return. Sir Edwin Sandys, having belatedly concluded that his Virginia Company business precluded him from serving in the Commons, disingenuously announced on 7 Feb. that he had been chosen without his knowledge or consent, and claimed that his election was invalid as he had refused to be sworn a freeman.25 However, the House was unwilling to lose one of its most important Members. On 22 Mar. Sir George More, reporting from the committee for privileges and returns, upheld the petitioners’ claim to a wider franchise but dismissed Sandys’s objections. The freemen had assented to Sandys’s election, he stated, and would have chosen Borough had they not been denied further participation, but he recommended that the second election should be declared void rather than reversed. The House accepted these findings, and thereby widened the franchise, although Sir Dudley Digges argued that no new writ should be issued until Borough had been cleared of the charge of corruption brought against him as one of Bacon’s secretaries.26 It is not known whether Hatton, Peyton or Drake stood in the ensuing election, when Borough was returned ‘by most voices by the pricking of the mayor, jurats, and commonalty’.27

Shortly after this election Sandwich joined the parliamentary clamour for free trade. On 23 Apr. the corporation ordered that a petition concerning restrictions on buying and selling cloth in Blackwell Hall and the prisage of wine should be followed in Parliament by its author, Arthur Rucke, a former mayor of the borough, assisted by Mr. Raworth of Dover. One week later Sandwich proposed that the Cinque Ports should apply to Parliament for statutory confirmation of their privileges, and use the services of Rucke and Raworth, ‘who are already both there employed about some affairs’. Most of the Ports agreed to help, and on 16 May Sir Edwin Sandys preferred one petition from the Cinque Ports in general complaining, inter alia, that the Merchant Adventurers excluded them from Blackwell Hall, and another from the mayor and jurats of Sandwich.28 Sandys also spoke for his constituents during the subsidy debate on 12 Mar., when he argued for the continuation of the Cinque Ports’ traditional exemption because of their decayed condition. Sandwich in particular was unable to afford to contribute, he said, as many of the Dutch settler families there, ‘such as did set the poor a work’, had quit the town because of its unwholesome air.29

By the time of the 1624 general election, when Sandwich was in the midst of a smallpox epidemic,30 the number of candidates requiring seats in the borough had lessened. Peyton was now dead and Smythe was living in retirement, while Sandys moved up to represent the county, and Borough transferred to Horsham, Sussex, having found a new patron, the earl of Arundel. Relations between Sandwich and the lord warden were now strained, as they had quarrelled over the choice of a town clerk on Kelk’s death. In June 1623 Zouche’s recommendation of one of the turbulent Verrall family was rejected by 19 votes to eight in favour of Peake’s youngest son, Peter, although the corporation subsequently tried to heal the breach by sending Zouche a present.31 On 23 Jan. 1624 the corporation noted that they had received a letter from Zouche ‘touching the choosing of a burgess’. Its members seem to have been dissatisfied with its contents, however, as Peter Peake was chosen, rather tactlessly, to ‘confer with him about the matter’. Four days later the borough chose ‘by the major part of the voices’ Robert Hatton (presumably Zouche’s nominee) for the senior seat and Drake as his colleague ‘by pricking’. So transient was the effect of the earlier Commons resolution that they were returned in the name of the mayor, jurats, and common council only.32

At the first general election held after Buckingham became lord warden, the duke sought to capture both seats at Sandwich through the interest of his henchman Sandys, who stood for the county. On 8 Apr. 1625 he wrote to the corporation that he had been

entreated by Sir Edwin Sandys to desire you to elect his son a burgess to this Parliament to serve in the second place for the town (reserving still to me, as you have done to my predecessors, the nomination of the first). I have not been forward to yield to his request in regard you might [fear] that I purpose by this to gain too much ground on your liberty and freedom. … But being credibly informed how hopeful and likely his son is to merit your respect, and considering how well his father hath deserved of you, and his good neighbourhood and readiness at all times to further the good of your town, I thought I could do no less than desire you to add to the consideration of these reasons … the esteem I hold of them both.

His esteem was now shared by very few in Kent; Sandys was defeated in the county election, and the candidature of his son, who was still under age, so cautiously propounded, was hardly likely to be taken seriously in Sandwich, even though the way had been partially cleared by Drake’s decision to transfer to the newly enfranchised borough of Amersham, Buckinghamshire. Buckingham’s motive was to exclude Hatton, as servant of his enemy Archbishop Abbot, and consequently he nominated Lord Wotton’s Protestant half-brother, Sir Henry, for the senior seat. However, with the franchise reverting to the commonalty he could not prevent them from electing Hatton for the other.33

By the next election Wotton had determined to take orders and it was rumoured, probably falsely, that Hatton would stand for the county. Buckingham nominated (Sir) John Suckling, the comptroller of the Household, who was elected ‘with great applause’, and Peter Peake, who had resigned the town clerkship, was chosen for the second place. When Suckling opted for Norwich, Norfolk, the duke complimented Sandwich for ‘the better measure of respect’ shown to him ‘than from most of the Cinque Ports’, and nominated Sir Henry Mildmay*, master of the Jewel House, instead. However, Mildmay was rejected in favour of Sir Edward Boys the younger, who lived nearby and owned property in the borough.34 Consequently, in the second Caroline Parliament Sandwich was for the only time in this period represented by two local men.

The 1628 election occurred against a backdrop of renewed tension between the corporation and commonalty. Although the commonalty had by now been restored to the franchise in both municipal and parliamentary elections, the corporation refused to allow them a say when the living of St. Peter’s, which was in their gift, fell vacant in November 1627. Secretary Conway and the dean of Rochester pressed them to appoint the former chaplain of Sir Henry Mervyn*, who was acceptable to the commonalty, but the corporation installed Thomas Warren, ‘a most seditious man’ who had given much trouble as town preacher at Rye.35 At the general election in February 1628, the commonalty, which may also have been incensed at the billeting of Irish troops in the town,36 exacted its revenge. Buckingham, who was closely associated with the billeting of troops, nominated for the senior seat Sir Edwin Sandys, no longer widely popular, who wrote from London on his own behalf. ‘We spared no pains’, the mayor and jurats replied, ‘to incite so many as we could to join with us therein; but the generality of voices amongst the commons bred such a distraction that we could have no power over them’.37 Instead, Peake was re-elected, with a new colleague, John Philipot, the Herald, whose father had been mayor of Folkestone. His ‘particular interest’ in the borough, however, arose from his place as bailiff for the Crown, which he had held since 1623, and he promised to serve ‘at my own charge, and so save the town’s exhibition’.38

Authors: Peter Lefevre / Andrew Thrush


  • 1. W. Boys, Sandwich, 702; CD 1621, vii. 568; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 77.
  • 2. Dates of elections from Boys, 410-11.
  • 3. Boys, 684.
  • 4. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 49v; SP16/154/31.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 473.
  • 6. Boys, 740; D. Gardiner, Historic Haven, 174, 183; APC, 1613-14, pp. 304, 614; Add. 33512, ff. 18-19.
  • 7. Naval Tracts of Sir William Monson III ed. M. Oppenheim (Navy Recs. Soc. xliii), 29-31.
  • 8. CJ, i. 568b; Boys, 702.
  • 9. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC6, f. 329; Sa/AC7, f. 85v.
  • 10. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 96.
  • 11. Ibid. ff. 127v, 132A.
  • 12. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC6, f. 329.
  • 13. Ibid. ff. 370, 373.
  • 14. SP14/57/31.
  • 15. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, ff. 31v-2.
  • 16. Boys, 703.
  • 17. SP14/117/72; 14/118/26.
  • 18. CD 1621, vii. 568.
  • 19. Ibid. 567, 569. On Gookyn’s identity, see Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. xlii), 48.
  • 20. P. Clark, Eng. Prov. Soc. 327, 332; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, ii. app.
  • 21. CD 1621, vii. 567.
  • 22. WARD 7/68/8.
  • 23. CD 1621, vii. 568-9. For Marston’s appointment as town lecturer, see E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 66r-v.
  • 24. CD 1621, vii. 568, 571-2.
  • 25. CJ, i. 513a; CD 1621, iv. 26.
  • 26. CD 1621, iv. 181; CJ, i. 568b.
  • 27. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 87.
  • 28. Ibid. f. 88r-v; CJ, i. 620a-b; CD 1621, iv. 337-8; vii. 593-6, 598-9.
  • 29. CJ, i. 550b; CD 1621, iv. 146.
  • 30. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 146.
  • 31. Gardiner, 157-8; E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 107; SP14/146/46; 14/153/100.
  • 32. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 115.
  • 33. Add. 37819, f. 11v; E. Kent AO, Sa/AC7, f. 125v.
  • 34. E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, ff. 127v, 132A; SP16/19/17; Add. 37819, f. 19v.
  • 35. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 433, 436; E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, ff. 150, 156v; SP14/91/22, 27.
  • 36. APC, 1627-8, p. 384; Procs. 1628, vi. 114; CD 1628, iv. 164.
  • 37. Procs. 1628, vi. 162-3.
  • 38. Ibid. 162; E. Kent Archives Cent. Sa/AC7, f. 154.