KS3 > The Reformation > Constituencies

A Guide for Travellers and the Plaine Mans Map (1654)
© The Trustees of the British Museum

This section contains nine articles on Tudor constituencies. You can also download a shorter version of all these articles in our 'For Teachers' section.

Today, Members of Parliament are elected by voters divided into 650 constituencies. Each constituency is made up of roughly the same number of voters. In Tudor times, things were rather different. Each county elected two members (except for Wales, whose counties only elected one) and some boroughs (often towns) also elected MPs.

MPs were not elected in secret as they are today, and you could not vote unless you owned property. Many owed their seats to powerful landowners or patrons who wanted MPs to represent their own interests in Parliament. Some towns, such as Newcastle, were able to pay their MPs salaries, which meant these MPs were more independent and elected by the leading men in the town. It was a very different system than it is now!

This section contains articles on different constituencies across England and Wales. They show how differently the Reformation happened across the country. For example, Protestantism gained more followers in the South, East, and in the towns. Many areas in the North and West had large numbers of Catholics well into Elizabeth’s reign.

We have tried to show the effect the Reformation had on ordinary people, although this is not always easy as the evidence is limited. In some areas the Reformation brought about major changes to local politics. There were rebellions: some pro-Catholic (such as the Pilgrimage of Grace in Lincolnshire and Knaresborough, Yorkshire), some more Protestant (such as Wyatt’s rebellion in Kent).

What is clear is that in most of England and Wales the Reformation caused a lot of upheaval. The greatest change was the dissolution of the monasteries. Whilst many Protestant reformers argued that England’s monasteries and religious houses (such as the convents, friaries and priories) were corrupt, they did provide schools, poor relief and hospitals for ordinary people. Sometimes the proceeds of their sale went into founding schools or hospitals, but more often they did not. Aside from the changes in religious beliefs that affected how people thought about God, the alteration in the structure of the church also had a major impact on local communities.




The History of Parliament runs annual competitions in the spring and summer for 11-14 and 16-18 year olds. For information this year’s competition, and how you can enter,
please click here.