Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer


1386Sir Edmund Fitzherbert
 Sir Edward Dallingridge
1388 (Feb.)Sir William Waleys
 Sir Edward Dallingridge
1388 (Sept.)Nicholas Wilcombe
 Robert Ore 1
1390 (Jan.)Sir William Percy
 Thomas Jardyn
1390 (Nov.)Sir William Percy
 Sir William Waleys
1391Sir William Percy
 Robert Tauk
1393Sir William Percy
 John Broke
1394Sir William Percy
 Sir Thomas Sackville II
1395Hugh Quecche
 Sir Thomas Sackville II
1397 (Jan.)Sir William Percy
 John Ashburnham
1397 (Sept.)Sir Thomas Sackville II
 John Ashburnham
1399John Pelham
 John Preston
1401(Sir) John Pelham
 Sir Henry Hussey
1402Sir John Dallingridge
 Sir Henry Hussey
1404 (Jan.)(Sir) John Pelham
 Robert Lewknor
1404 (Oct.)Sir John Dallingridge
 (Sir) John Pelham
1406Sir John Dallingridge
 (Sir) John Pelham
1407Sir John Dallingridge
 (Sir) John Pelham
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)Richard Wayville
 Richard Wakehurst
1414 (Apr.)William Bramshott
 Thomas St. Cler
1414 (Nov.)Richard Wayville
 John Babelake
1415Richard Styuecle
 William Weston II
1416 (Mar.)Richard Styuecle
 Sir Roger Fiennes
1416 (Oct.)
1417John Halle II
 Richard Styuecle
1419Richard Bannebury
 Richard Bitterley
1420William Ryman
 Ralph Rademylde
1421 (May)William Ryman
 John Halle II
1421 (Dec.)Ralph Rademylde
 Richard Bitterley

Main Article

Returns for Sussex are missing for the last three Parliaments of Henry IV’s reign and for that of October 1416. To the remaining 28 Parliaments the county elected 30 different individuals. A dozen are known to have represented the shire in just one Parliament, and eight more in only two; but the more sustained service of the remainder brings the average number of Parliaments up to three per Member. Outstanding in this respect were (Sir) John Pelham with at least eight appearances to his credit, Sir Edward Dallingridge with ten, and Sir William Percy with 12. Dallingridge’s service, concentrated into just nine years (1379-88) consisted of two groups of five consecutive Parliaments each, divided by a break of two years (1382-4). Percy’s elections were more widely spaced out: between 1377 and 1397 he was returned 13 times (although he only sat in 12 Parliaments, being elected but subsequently excused attendance in September 1388), finishing with a run of six out of the seven Parliaments summoned between 1390 and 1397. These two figures dominated the Sussex hustings in the reign of Richard II; indeed, they accounted for nearly half of the seats available. On five occasions in the 1390s a novice was elected to accompany Percy to the Lower House, but it never happened that both men elected were newcomers until 1399, after the return from exile of Henry of Bolingbroke.

To the assembly of estates which deposed Richard II and witnessed the accession of Henry IV, and to five of the remaining six Parliaments of the new reign for which returns have survived, Sussex elected the staunch Lancastrian, (Sir) John Pelham. (The exception was the Parliament of 1402 which met during Pelham’s shrievalty, although he attended the session, nevertheless, as a parliamentary proxy for the abbot of Battle.) On three consecutive occasions he was accompanied by Sir John Dallingridge, his fellow knight of the King’s chamber. To half of the 18 Parliaments assembled between 1386 and 1407 (from when, until the beginning of Henry V’s reign, a gap occurs) the shire elected two men with previous parliamentary experience, and in all but one of the remainder a novice was always accompanied by a more experienced partner. In no Parliament save that of 1399 were both representatives newcomers to the Commons. Re-election occurred 15 times in that period, culminating in a run of three Parliaments (1404-7) in which Sussex was represented by the same two men (Dallingridge and Pelham). Indeed, it only happened five times in this period that neither of the shire knights of the previous Parliament was re-elected. The gap in the returns at the end of Henry IV’s reign introduces uncertainty into any analysis of parliamentary experience in later years, and yet there does seem to have been a marked change in the shire’s representation under Henry V. To the first eight Parliaments of the reign for which we know the names of the shire knights, perhaps as many as 13 novices were elected; and on possibly five occasions (May 1413, April 1414, 1415, 1419 and 1420) both Members were newcomers. Furthermore, six of the eight knights of the shire who were returned to Henry V’s first five Parliaments were, so far as is known, elected only that one time in their entire careers. In only two of Henry’s Parliaments were both of the Sussex knights of the shire men who had entered the House before. Re-election occurred just twice in that period, and, save for William Ryman’s two consecutive Parliaments (1420 and May 1421), only the returns of Richard Styuecle—to three of the four Parliaments of 1415-17—provided anything in the way of continuity of representation.

Twenty-two of the 30 shire knights known belonged to old Sussex families, most of them inheriting their lands in the county from their fathers. Indeed, six were the sons of sometime MPs for this shire (the two Dallingridges, Sackville, St. Cler, Waleys and Wayville). Of the remaining eight, one, Bitterley, appears to have been a Sussex man too—although not from a landowning family — while the rest originated from outside the region: Fitzherbert was born in Wales; and Preston came from as far away as Westmorland, Babelake and Lewknor from Oxfordshire, Ryman from Wales or London, Styuecle probably from Essex, and Bannebury from a place unknown. However, this group of ‘outsiders’ had come to be accepted into the local community, by various means: Fitzherbert inherited the Sussex estates of a great-uncle; Babelake, Lewknor and Ryman were introduced through their service to the earls of Arundel; Preston’s tenuous links with Sussex were strengthened by his employment in the county by the duchy of Lancaster; and the rest married women with substantial properties in the area. (Styuecle wedded the Fitzroger heiress, and Bannebury and Bitterley the widows of the former shire knights, Sir William Percy and Sir Henry Hussey, respectively.) Without exception all those elected for Sussex in this period held land in the shire which, if not inherited or acquired by marriage, they themselves had purchased. Only Babelake was a landowner of little consequence when he entered Parliament. For the most part, the rest were well-to-do members of the gentry, in receipt of quite substantial revenues (which not infrequently were derived from the profitable sheep farming of the region). Annual incomes of more than £50 were enjoyed by half the shire knights, of whom at least seven received over £100 a year. These last included the Dallingridges, father and son (who both augmented their already considerable incomes from land with annuities and fees amounting to about £150 and 200 marks, respectively, as granted them by Crown and magnates), Sir Roger Fiennes, Sir Edmund Fitzherbert (with more than £200 a year) and (Sir) John Pelham (whose annual income at the time of his several elections in Henry IV’s reign exceeded £225, and was to rise to over £870 before his death). Sir Edward Dallingridge and Fiennes were both able to invest large sums of money in ambitious building works in Sussex; they were individually responsible for the castles at Bodiam and Herstmonceux. A majority of the Sussex shire knights (at least 23) were not restricted in their land-holding to this county alone; they also possessed estates in other parts of England, though mostly elsewhere in the south-east. Yet only Fitzherbert and Quecche had such extensive interests in another shire as to be elected to represent it in Parliament: the former sat once for Dorset, and the latter once for Surrey.

No more than eight of the 30 representatives for Sussex were belted knights when first sent to the Commons in our period, although another John Pelham, was to be knighted very shortly after his earliest election in 1399, on the eve of Henry IV’s coronation. Nevertheless, knights by rank far out-numbered those of lesser status in the Parliaments of the reigns of Richard II and Henry IV, occupying 25 out of the 36 seats available. Indeed, in that period, only in September 1388 (when Robert Ore ‘esquire’ replaced Sir William Percy after a second election) and in 1399 was the county not represented by at least one belted knight. Furthermore, four of the six ‘esquires’ returned in that period are known to have refused knighthood, preferring to pay a fine of £2 rather than to incur other liabilities to which knights were subjected. By contrast, in Henry V’s reign it only ever happened once that a knight proper was elected (namely Sir Roger Fiennes, in March 1416), and 19 out of the 20 seats available were held by those of lower social rank. Only in the later part of the reign may this change in representation be partially accounted for by the absence overseas of many of those who followed the profession of arms in Henry V’s campaigns. No more than four of the Sussex representatives were members of the legal profession—Broke, Halle, Preston and Wakehurst—and they accounted for just five of the 56 places documented. Even though Preston’s ability was clearly out of the ordinary (since he was subsequently appointed recorder of London and a j.c.p.), and although Wakehurst was to serve as a j.p. in Sussex for a remarkable 48 years without break, neither was elected to more than one Parliament. Only in 1395 were the commercial interests of the community overtly represented—in the person of Hugh Quecche, who retained a business concern in London as a mercer—and even Quecche was one of the land-owning gentry of the region, from among whom the shire knights were traditionally chosen.

All but three of the 30 MPs were at some time in their careers engaged in royal service in the locality as commissioners or as holders of the posts of sheriff or escheator in Surrey and Sussex. Twenty-three had received appointments to royal commissions before they entered the Commons for the first time; and so had five of the 12 named as j.p.s in Sussex.2 In more than half of the Parliaments of the period (16) the shire was represented by one or more of the current members of the local bench. Nine knights of the shire were appointed sheriffs of Surrey and Sussex, but only three of them had occupied the shrievalty before their earliest elections to Parliament.3 The escheatorship was evidently not a position to which the more prominent members of the local gentry aspired; only three of our shire knights ever discharged the office in Surrey and Sussex,4 although John Broke, the lawyer, was prepared to be escheator for five consecutive annual terms towards the end of Richard II’s reign. The doubtless profitable position of deputy butler in the ports of Sussex and Kent was filled by John Halle II, and the offices of collector and controller of customs and subsidies at Chichester were taken, respectively, by Styuecle and Ryman, all before their parliamentary service began. The three shire knights who were never appointed to a royal office of any sort—Babelake, Lewknor and Bannebury—were all to a large extent ‘outsiders’ to the community. The first two, at least, clearly owed their elections to Parliament to factors other than such standing in the locality as derived from land and office.

The representation of Sussex in this period was susceptible to the influence of the Fitzalans, earls of Arundel, Richard (d.1397) and Thomas (d.1415), whose lordships of Arundel and Lewes made them the wealthiest landowners in the region. Indeed, they held a position of unrivalled supremacy in Sussex in the reigns of Richard II and Henry V. Five of the 12 shire knights who sat in the ten Parliaments summoned between 1386 and Earl Richard’s arrest for treason in the summer of 1397 are known to have been closely attached to the earl, and evidence, circumstantial but reasonably conclusive, links four of the rest to him also. All told, they accounted for 14 of the 20 seats available in that period. Foremost among them was Sir Edward Dallingridge, a veteran of many military campaigns overseas in the retinues of Earl Richard’s father and brother, who acted for Richard himself as a captain of war and naval commander, councillor, and trustee of his estates. Sir Edward’s personal conflict with the duke of Lancaster (in which the duke had him imprisoned and brought to trial in 1384) may be viewed against the background of political rivalry between the duke and the earl. Undoubtedly Earl Richard’s most prominent retainer in Sussex, Dallingridge was long remembered as his supporter in the Wonderful Parliament of 1386 and the Merciless Parliament of 1388. So much so that in 1398, five years after Dallingridge’s death, his son was made to pay the huge fine of 500 marks in return for Richard II’s forgiveness for his late father’s adherence to the Lords Appellant, of whom the earl had been one of the chief. In 1386 Dallingridge was accompanied to Westminster by Sir Edmund Fitzherbert, who had earlier acted as a witness and mainpernor on Earl Richard’s behalf, and was to die only a few months later while serving at sea under his command. Then, in the Merciless Parliament, his companion was Sir William Waleys, whose connexion with the earl was sufficiently close for him to need to procure a royal pardon after Arundel’s condemnation and execution for treason in September 1397. Sir William Percy, elected knight of the shire to seven of the eight Parliaments meeting from September 1388 onwards (although he only sat in six of them), had long previously entered the service of the earl: the latter had once been instrumental in securing the King’s mercy on his behalf, had retained him for the great naval operations in the Channel of 1387, and was to make him a bequest in his will. In 1395, the only Parliament held between 1390 and 1397 to which Percy was not returned, the shire elected Hugh Quecche, who had earlier appeared as the earl’s agent at the Exchequer. So long as Arundel was at liberty not one crown servant or royal annuitant was elected for Sussex. Moreover, retainers of John of Gaunt, who owned substantial estates in the county, were also largely excluded from the county’s representation; and the only duchy of Lancaster official to be returned in this period was John Broke, who at the time of his single election in 1393 was probably still occupying the post of Lancaster’s steward in Sussex. Even so, it is questionable whether this factor carried more weight with the electors at the county court than the knowledge that Broke was a friend of Sir Edward Dallingridge, by then a prominent member of the council of Richard II.

The reign of Henry IV coincided with a period of eclipse for the house of Fitzalan so far as the parliamentary representation of Sussex was concerned, perhaps owing to the absence of the young earl, Thomas, in the marches of Wales during the early years. For the most part the shire now returned men known to be acceptable to Henry of Bolingbroke. To the Parliament of 1399, destined to acclaim Henry as King, was elected John Preston, the duchy of Lancaster steward in the county, together with John Pelham, the constable of the duchy castle at Pevensey, who was already in receipt of an annuity of 100 marks by Henry’s gift. Pelham, a committed Lancastrian whose fortunes depended on the success and stability of Bolingbroke’s rule, had taken an active part in his master’s seizure of his inheritance, and for this he was to be generously rewarded with extensive grants of offices and lands. As constable of Pevensey and tenant of several large estates in the shire pertaining to the duchy, he exerted great influence over three of the six Sussex rapes; and how excessive was the trust reposed in him by the new King is shown by the fact that many important political prisoners (chief among them Richard II himself) were lodged in his custody. Pelham was elected to all but one of Henry IV’s Parliaments for which returns now exist, including those of October 1404 and 1406 which he might well have attended in any case in his capacity as a member of the King’s Council. During that period (Sir) John held office as joint treasurer for the wars (1404-6) and chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster south of the Trent (from 1405). Pelham’s companion in the Commons in three of these Parliaments, and the shire’s representative also in 1402, was Sir John Dallingridge, another retainer of Bolingbroke’s from long before his accession. Having been made a knight of the King’s chamber, Dallingridge enjoyed by his grant annuities amounting to nearly 200 marks, as well as (from 1405) control over the Mowbray lordship of Bramber, then in Henry’s possession. These two staunch Lancastrian retainers clearly dominated the representation of Sussex in this period. But hints that the earl of Arundel’s influence was not entirely overwhelmed may be seen in the elections of Sir Henry Hussey in 1401 and 1402, and Robert Lewknor in 1404 (Jan.), for both men had been closely connected with Arundel’s father, and now held their principal estates in Sussex as tenants of Earl Thomas himself. The latter supported Henry, prince of Wales, in opposing the King’s ministers, including his own uncle, Archbishop Arundel, during the last years of the reign. Unfortunately, it is not known whether his retainers were successful at the hustings during the period in which the prince was in power, as the returns for the Parliaments of 1410 and 1411 are missing. What is clear, however, is that the earl’s rival, Pelham, was completely excluded from local office in those years, and only regained his political influence on the archbishop’s reinstatement as chancellor late in 1411, when, indeed, he himself was elevated to the treasurership of the Exchequer.

On the very day of Henry V’s accession, Earl Thomas replaced Pelham as treasurer, and dominance in the Sussex elections soon passed to him. Out of the five persons elected to the first three Parliaments of the reign, four (who accounted for five of the six available seats) were affiliated to the earl: Wayville, his lieutenant as constable of Dover castle, Wakehurst, his attorney, St. Cler, a retainer on his lordship of Lewes with an annuity of £20, and Babelake, a member of his household whom he had entrusted with a very personal mission to Portugal a few years earlier. (Only William Bramshott, Pelham’s brother-in-law, was not, apparently, a member of the Fitzalan circle.) That their connexion with Arundel was the crucial factor working for the selection of these individuals is further suggested by their comparative obscurity in other respects. All of them were newcomers to the Lower House; none were belted knights (in contrast to previous successful candidates at the elections); and only St. Cler came from an old-established county family (albeit as a younger son).

Following Earl Thomas’s death of dysentery contracted at the siege of Harfleur in 1415, the character of the representation of Sussex altered once more. Royal servants were again elected, at least one being present from the shire in every Parliament held from 1415 to the end of the reign. They were Styuecle (who enjoyed a royal annuity by a grant originating with Richard II); Fiennes, elevated to the rank of ‘King’s knight’ within months of his first appearance in the House; Bitterley, the keeper of King’s Langley by appointment of Queen Joan; and Ryman, once a prominent retainer of the earl of Arundel, through whose patronage as treasurer he had secured his post as apposer in the Exchequer. Yet none of these were of the same calibre as (Sir) John Pelham and Sir John Dallingridge; nor did they enjoy a personal relationship with the King such as those two Members had done with Henry IV. Surprisingly, it was not until 1422 that the shire re-elected Pelham, even though he had enjoyed total possession of all of the duchy of Lancaster estates in Sussex since 1409, and despite the fact that after Arundel’s death no other local landowner could challenge his pre-eminence. Mere hints of his influence at the hustings may be found in the returns of Fiennes—his former ward—and of the lawyer Halle.

The Sussex elections were invariably held at the county court at Chichester, by the sheriff whose jurisdiction also extended, as a matter of course, to Surrey. Before 1407 the names of those chosen for both shires were generally sent to Chancery in schedules attached to the parliamentary writs. Thereafter, separate electoral indentures were returned from each county. Those from Sussex were attested by as few as six named participants (as in 1407) or as many as 24 (as in November 1414), but in nearly all cases these witnesses were comparatively obscure figures: none were knights by rank, and on only three occasions in the period did a sometime MP for the shire make an appearance.

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. The county had first elected Sir William Percy, but he was replaced by Ore after a second election: CCR, 1385-9, p. 518.
  • 2. Seven shire knights were j.p.s in other counties: Broke (Surr.), Sir Edward Dallingridge (Kent), Fiennes (Surr.), Fitzherbert (Dorset), Pelham (Hants), Preston (Surr. and elsewhere) and Wakehurst (Surr.). Of these, only Fitzherbert was not also a j.p. in Suss.
  • 3. Three shire knights were appointed sheriff elsewhere: Bramshott in Hants, Sir John Dallingridge in Glos. and Fitzherbert in Som. and Dorset. Only the last named also occupied the shrievalty of Surr. and Suss.
  • 4. And Styuecle held the escheatorship of Som. and Dorset.