Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the burgage-holders
Number of voters:
|c. Feb. 1604||SIR EDWARD SWIFT|
|c. Mar. 1614||SIR THOMAS BELASYSE|
|SIR ROBERT YAXLEY|
|12 Dec. 1620||SIR THOMAS BELASYSE|
|SIR JOHN GIBSON|
|22 Jan. 1624||WILLIAM SHEFFIELD|
|SIR THOMAS BELASYSE|
|19 Apr. 1625||HENRY BELASYSE|
|17 Jan. 1626||HENRY BELASYSE|
|12 Mar. 1628||CHRISTOPHER WANDESFORD|
Thirsk had returned Members to the Parliament of 1295, but was not permanently enfranchised until the reign of Edward VI, shortly after the Crown acquired former monastic property within the town. The town was unincorporated, but earls of Derby, lords of the manor, had little influence on borough politics during the early Stuart period because of a dispute between the 6th earl and his sister-in-law, the dowager countess, over the manorial stewardship: in 1609 there was violence when the countess’s choice as steward, Sir John Mallory*, attempted to overthrow the earl’s nominee, his ‘mortal enemy’ Sir Stephen Procter. This dispute was eventually resolved, as by 1627 the manor was settled on James (Stanley*) Lord Strange, the heir to the earldom. Electoral influence was divided between the Council in the North and a group of local gentry, by far the most significant of which was the Belasyse family, resident at Newborough Priory since its dissolution. Returns were made by the bailiff, elected annually by a variable number of free burgesses at the manorial court.1
In 1604 Sir Henry Belasyse (Bellasis†) was serving as sheriff, while his heir Sir Thomas was under suspicion for his clandestine marriage to a Catholic daughter of Henry Cholmley†. In this year the borough returned Sir Edward Swift, a son-in-law of Lord President Sheffield, and Procter’s friend Timothy Whittingham, who owned a small Yorkshire estate and controlled the rectory of Thirsk as guardian of his wife’s nephew William Askwith. By the time of the 1614 election Swift had quarrelled with his father and gone into hiding, while Whittingham had moved to his new estate in county Durham. Sir Thomas Belasyse was returned on the family interest, while Sir Robert Carey* probably secured the Council in the North’s backing for Sir Robert Yaxley, a soldier from the Low Countries garrisons. Belasyse was elected again in 1621, the bailiff and 18 others signing his return, while the other MP, for whom no indenture survives, was Sir John Gibson, who lived near Malton, 20 miles from Thirsk; a member of the Council in the North, he was presumably its nominee.2
In 1624 Belasyse was re-elected, but Gibson, probably suffering from ill-health, was replaced by a near neighbour, Sir William Sheffield, a relative of Belasyse’s uncle Sir Thomas Fairfax II*. Belasyse, who inherited the family estates later in the year, probably considered the representation of such a minor borough beneath his newly enhanced dignity, and at the 1625 election he procured the return of his eldest son in his stead. The other Member on this occasion, Henry Stanley, was auditor of the Mint and a distant relative of the earl of Derby. His return was signed by two men who may have been the earl’s manorial steward and his deputy, but his patron is likely to have been Henry Belasyse, who had recently married his niece. Belasyse was re-elected in 1626, his partner on this occasion being the Exchequer official William Cholmley, who was father-in-law to William Askwith, lay rector of Thirsk.3 At the next election in 1628, Sir Thomas Belasyse, newly created Lord Fauconberg, secured his son’s return as knight of the shire in partnership with Sir Thomas Wentworth* on the understanding that Wentworth’s ally Christopher Wandesford, whose electoral interest at Richmond was in doubt, should fill the vacancy at Thirsk. On this occasion the second seat went to William Frankland, a recent arrival in the area whose descendants came to dominate the borough’s representation. The return was the only one from the period to name both Members on a single indenture.4
Author: Simon Healy
- 1. VCH Yorks (N. Riding), ii. 19, 61, 64; A.D.K. Hawkyard ‘Enfranchisement of Constituencies, 1504-58’, PH, x. 20; W. Grainge, Vale of Mowbray, 62-3, 91, 93, 109; SP14/47/104.
- 2. H. Aveling, Northern Catholics, 183; HMC Hatfield, xi. 379; xvii. 45; Grainge, 100, 136-7; Chamberlain Letters ed. N.E. McClure, i. 547; Surtees, Co. Pal. Dur. ii. 326; C219/37/229.
- 3. C219/39/290; APC, 1623-5, p. 223; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiv), 602-3; E. Baines, County Palatine of Lancs. iii. 157; Mdx. Peds. (Harl. Soc. lxv), 140.
- 4. C219/41B/40; Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 278-9, 287.