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

Number of voters:



 Sir Francis Leigh II
c. Feb. 1628SIR AMBROSE BROWNE , bt.

Main Article

Writing in 1627 the deputy lieutenants of Surrey complained of the ‘smallness and poverty of this county’. An Elizabethan petition from some of Surrey’s inhabitants also described the county as ‘one of the least shires’ and ‘one of the barrenest’.1 However, both of these complaints were made in order to reduce financial burdens on the county. Camden, by contrast, stated that Surrey was ‘wealthy enough’, especially around the Thames valley and towards the border with Sussex, although he admitted that the centre of the county was infertile.2 Speed, too, described Surrey as ‘better stored with game than with grain’ and also praised the ‘sweet and delectable’ air, which he thought explained why the county contained so many royal palaces and parks, including Nonsuch, Oatlands and Richmond.3

Surrey’s attractiveness to the English monarchy had disadvantages for the local inhabitants, particularly as it was heavily burdened with purveyance. As a consequence the county was one of the first to compound with the Household in the Elizabethan period, though this arrangement only mitigated that burden. Counties close to London had to pay a higher price for their agreements than those more distant, and they did not cover all forms of purveyance. In particular Surrey suffered from a high demand for carts, excluded from the county agreements, not only for moving the royal Household between various palaces but also for transporting goods to government departments, including timber and iron from the Weald to the Ordnance Office in the Tower. In addition, during the Elizabethan period the inhabitants complained of being heavily burdened by the subsidy. This they attributed to their proximity to the centre of authority, which made ‘both gentlemen’s living and others … very well known’ to the officials of the Exchequer.4

Surrey contained the London suburb of Southwark and was consequently affected by the rapid growth of the metropolis. Several Surrey Members in this period, including Sir Edmund Bowyer and Sir Thomas Crymes, who both lived close to Southwark, had important connections with the City of London. The growth of Southwark presumably explains why the Surrey Members were appointed to consider a bill to regulate new building and lodgers on 27 Apr. 1604, and another concerning lodgers on 16 May 1610. Surrey’s position on the doorstep of London may also explain why its Members were included in the committee to consider the bill concerning retailing brokers 11 days later.5

The surviving indentures indicate that county elections were held at Guildford.6 Until the end of this period the senior seat was monopolized by the More family from neighbouring Loseley. Between 1597 and 1626 Sir George More, the head of the family, generally took the senior place on the return. However, every third Parliament his eldest son Sir Robert replaced him, and he sat for Guildford instead. Consequently, in 1604 it was Sir Robert More who was elected for the senior seat, Sir George having been returned for the two last Elizabethan parliaments. Sir Robert’s partner on this occasion was Sir Edmund Bowyer of Camberwell, who probably owed his place to Surrey’s lord lieutenant, lord admiral Nottingham (Charles Howard†). Though not then knight of the shire, it was Sir George More who nevertheless spoke up during the first Jacobean Parliament for the Surrey clothiers on 27 Mar. 1604,7 and who took a lively interest in the issue of purveyance.8 On this latter subject he was aided by Bowyer, who was one of the Members named on 7 May to ‘make more pregnant proof’ of the articles drafted by the Commons against the abuses of the purveyors.9

As well as its demands for composition money and carts, the Crown seems to have contributed to the deterioration in the county’s roads. In the 1605-6 session a bill was introduced for the repair of part of the highway between Nonsuch and Kingston-upon-Thames, which was said to be virtually impassable. According to the preamble to the Act, the road was the main thoroughfare for supplying the royal palaces in the county and for bringing timber and other provisions to the Tower. On 2 Apr. 1606 the Surrey Members were appointed to the committee to consider the bill, which was subsequently enacted.10

In 1614 Sir George More was re-elected for the county and his son sat for Guildford. Bowyer was also returned again, but on 20 Apr. More had to ask leave of the House for him to go to Bath ‘for prevention of the palsy’.11 He recovered sufficiently to be elected for Gatton in 1624, but there is no evidence that he ever sought re-election for the county, possibly due to the declining status of his patron, Nottingham, who relinquished the Admiralty to the marquess of Buckingham in 1619.

The last two Jacobean elections were dominated by the Mores. In 1620 Sir George More was re-elected along with his former son-in-law, Sir Nicholas Carew, who had inherited extensive Surrey estates. Sir Robert More was the first of the 20 or so freeholders to sign the 1620 indenture.12 Carew seems to have been absent from the election as More wrote to him informing him of the outcome six days later.13 In 1624 Sir Robert More was re-elected with his brother-in-law Sir Thomas Crymes.

In the following three elections a new interest emerged centred on the Browne family of Betchworth castle near Dorking. In 1625 Sir George More’s colleague was Sir Francis Leigh II, the grandson of (Sir) Thomas Browne† who came from an old but undistinguished Surrey family. In 1626 More was elected for the last time with Sir Francis Vincent, the first Surrey baronet whose sister had married Sir Thomas’s son Sir Matthew†.

Surrey was the second county, after Middlesex, in which the Forced Loan was implemented in late 1626.14 On 24 Nov. the first receipts from the Loan were paid into the Exchequer, and over the following 12 months nearly £3,000 was received from the county.15 Sir George More, Sir Francis Carew and Sir Francis Vincent served as collectors, and Sir Thomas Crymes was an active commissioner.16 There is no sign of a purge of Loan refusers on the county magistracy. Nevertheless, the response of the deputy lieutenants in December 1627 to orders from the Council for billeting soldiers sent from the West Country shows that the ‘great sums lately disbursed for the Loan’, coming on top of military charges and the existing burden of purveyance, had increased tensions within the county. The deputy lieutenants stated that the inhabitants of the county complained of ‘want of monies’ and also referred to the ‘great difficulty to raise money for necessary and ordinary services’.17 The complaints proved unavailing, and in the 1628 Parliament Edward Bysshe, sitting for Bletchingley, protested at the disorder of the soldiers billeted in the county.18

There is no sign that either the Forced Loan or billeting were significant issues at the 1628 Surrey election, which was distinguished by the fact that, for the first time since 1588, no member of the More family secured a county seat. Sir Robert More was now dead, and his father Sir George, being in his mid-70s and in poor health, did not seek re-election. Instead, he appears to have tried to secure the return of his friend Sir Richard Onslow, a wealthy deputy lieutenant. Sir Ambrose Browne, the son of Sir Matthew, also sought election and some kind of meeting, presumably of the Surrey gentry, seems to have been convened at Dorking, near Browne’s residence. Browne agreed to stand with Onslow, fully expecting More’s support, but on 16 Feb. Browne wrote to the latter accusing him of endeavouring ‘by all means possible to oppose me’. Browne stated that he had acted ‘fairly and respectfully’ at the ‘election’ at Dorking, although it had been ‘in my power to have done otherwise’, by which he was presumably referring to his acquiescence to Onslow’s candidacy. Although Browne said he could not ‘certainly know’ on whose behalf More was opposing his candidacy, he may have suspected either that More had changed his mind about standing himself or that he wanted a seat for his grandson Poynings More*. However, Browne secured the senior seat anyway, leaving Onslow to take the junior place. Poynings More had to settle for Guildford.19

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 669-70.
  • 2. W. Camden, Britain trans. P. Holland (1610), p. 294.
  • 3. J. Speed, Theatre of the Empire of Great Britaine (1611), p. 11.
  • 4. VCH Surr. i. 367-8, 398; Manning and Bray, iii. 669-70; E.N. Lindquist, ‘King, the People and the House of Commons: the Problems of early Jacobean Purveyance’, HJ, xxxi. 551, 554, 555; A. Woodworth, ‘Purveyance for the Royal Household in the Reign of Queen Elizabeth’, Trans. Am. Phil. Soc. n.s. xxxv. 39, 41, 52, 71-2.
  • 5. CJ, i. 188a, 429a, 444a.
  • 6. C219/37/242.
  • 7. CJ, i. 154a-155b.
  • 8. P. Croft, ‘Parl., Purveyance and the City of London 1589-1608’, PH, iv. 18.
  • 9. CJ, i. 202a.
  • 10. Ibid. i. 288a, 292a; SR, iv. 1094-5.
  • 11. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 109.
  • 12. C219/37/242.
  • 13. Berks. RO, D/ELL/C1/111.
  • 14. Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, i. 455.
  • 15. E407/1386, m. 32; SP16/84/89.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 31; SP16/67/4.
  • 17. Manning and Bray, iii. 669-70.
  • 18. CD 1628, ii. 127-8.
  • 19. HMC 7th Rep 676; Surr. Hist. Cent. LM/6729/1/23.