Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Main Article

The town of Abingdon grew up around the Benedictine abbey and under its rigorous and much resented control. Cloth and malt were the staple manufactures. In 1542 Leland reported that the town ‘standeth by clothing’, but by then the surrender of the abbey (1538) had threatened its markets and the surveyor of the abbey found the town ‘sore decayed and like daily more to decay’. At the beginning of Edward VI’s reign the confiscation of the property of the town guilds of the Holy Cross and of Our Lady hastened this decline.1

In 1551 Abingdon’s suit to the Council for incorporation and the lease of the abbey site was vigorously opposed by Sir John Mason, a Privy Councillor of Abingdon birth who had been granted the site and the keepership of the abbey lands on the attainder of Sir Thomas Seymour II, Baron Seymour of Sudeley; Mason assured his colleagues that there was nothing ‘that more continueth a daily hurt to the realm than corporations’ and asked them at the least to safeguard his position in the town. Two years later, however, after he had divested himself of his interest in the abbey site, Mason secured the establishment by letters patent of Christ’s hospital, Abingdon, and the tradition is probably correct which ascribes the granting of the charter of 24 Nov. 1556 also to his influence, especially as it followed hard on his final return from his embassy in Brussels.2

The charter vested the municipal government in a common council composed of a mayor, two bailiffs, nine other principal or capital burgesses (who were named in the charter) and 16 or more secondary burgesses. One Member was to be chosen ‘by the election of the burgesses to be sent to every Parliament at the charges and costs of the borough and commonalty’. Abingdon thus joined Monmouth and two other Marian creations, Banbury and Higham Ferrers, as England’s only single-Member constituencies. The community as a whole was to participate in the election of the mayor and one of the bailiffs, the other being appointed by the mayor subject to the ratification of the community. It seems also to have played a part in parliamentary elections. Oliver Hyde was elected by the mayor, burgesses and community and the contracting parties to the election indenture, which is in Latin and in poor condition, appear to have been the mayor and community and the sheriff of Oxfordshire and Berkshire. Hyde was a prominent townsman and a younger son of William Hyde, three times knight of the shire for Berkshire under Mary. As deputy master of Christ’s hospital he doubtless enjoyed Mason’s support and may well have sat as his nominee. He is not known to have received any wages.3

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. J. Townsend, Abingdon, 4; VCH Berks. iv. 430, 439-41; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 122.
  • 2. CPR, 1553, pp. 18, 142-3; 1555-7, pp. 380-6; Tytler, Edw. VI and Mary, i. 361-2.
  • 3. C219/25/8.