Available from Boydell and Brewer
No names known for 1510-23
|20 Dec. 1534||NICHOLAS LANGMEDE vice Holland1|
|1539||JOHN RIDGEWAY 2|
|WILLIAM HOLLAND 3|
|1542||JOHN ANTHONY 4|
|WILLIAM HOLLAND 5|
|1547||SIR PETER CAREW 6|
|RICHARD DUKE 7|
|1553 (Mar.)||NICHOLAS ADAMS alias BODRUGAN|
|1553 (Oct.)||NICHOLAS ADAMS alias BODRUGAN|
|1554 (Apr.)||EDMUND STURE|
|NICHOLAS ADAMS alias BODRUGAN|
|1554 (Nov.)||JOHN PETRE I|
|NICHOLAS ADAMS alias BODRUGAN|
|1555||SIR JOHN ST. LEGER|
‘I never saw a goodlier haven’, wrote the Earl of Surrey about Dartmouth in 1522. Leland saw ‘good merchant men in the town, and to this haven long good ships’, but he noted that gravel and sand from the tin works were choking the river Dart and harbour. The ‘water of Dart’ belonged to the duchy of Cornwall, and until early in Henry VIII’s reign the port dues collected by the water bailiff went to the duchy. Two grants made by the King in 1510 and 1521 allowed the common council to keep the customs and other revenues, subject to a nominal rent to the duchy. These grants were ostensibly made as a result of a falling-off in the customs but they were probably meant to offset the maintenance of two forts guarding the estuary. With the decline of its French and Spanish trade the port became increasingly reliant on its fisheries and the shipping of Totnes kerseys, and the assessment of only five inhabitants with goods and property worth £40 or more in 1522 and its inclusion in two Acts (27 Hen. VIII, c.23 and 32 Hen. VIII, c.19) for improvements reflected its modest economic position during this period.8
The lordship of the borough belonged to the Percy earls of Northumberland until 1537 when it reverted to the crown. Henry VIII granted the lordship to (Sir) George Carew, on whose death in 1545 it passed to his nephew Sir Peter Carew; the Carew family also held the lordship of Southtown Dartmouth. Until the attainder of the Marquess of Exeter the Courtenays held the manor of Norton or Tunstal in the town; the evidence relating to ownership of this manor after 1539 is confusing but it seems to have been administered by the town on behalf of the crown. Edward IV’s charter of 1463 ratifying earlier royal grants annexing Southtown Dartmouth to the borough was confirmed twice in the 15th century and in 1510 and 1553. The governing body was headed by a mayor assisted by 12 common councilmen and a town clerk. A constable, receiver, two bailiffs (sometimes known as the water bailiff and the King’s bailiff) were chosen annually, and although no recorder is heard of before the end of the 16th century the town retained the counsel of several local lawyers. The town clerk kept the minutes of council business in a borough court book and the mayor and receiver individual accounts, the receiver’s surviving only from 1528. Three election indentures are extant for the mid 1550s. These are in Latin and name the contracting parties as the sheriff of Devon and the mayor and bailiffs.9
It was customary for Dartmouth to return at least one townsman to each Parliament during the period, the pattern being broken only in 1545, 1547 and 1555: the other Member was often a Devon gentleman, not always from the locality, with legal experience. Nicholas Bacon, who was the only Member from outside the county, presumably owed his Membership in 1542 to Sir Thomas Arundell acting either through the duchy or the court of augmentations. Arundell almost certainly also procured the return in 1547 of Richard Duke, the clerk of augmentations, but Duke’s fellow-Member Sir Peter Carew needed no patron, being the lord of the borough. As sheriff of Devon in 1547 Carew returned himself, and James Courtenay was nearing the end of his own shrievalty when elected in 1555. Sir John St. Leger, who sat with James Courtenay, was related to him and the Carews, and as a kinsman of several 15th-century lords of the borough he perhaps had a hold of his own. The 2nd Earl of Bedford perhaps promoted Gregory Huckmore’s return in 1558, but there is little to suggest that either the 1st Earl or his son wielded the influence at Dartmouth which the 2nd Earl was to enjoy after the accession of Elizabeth. Only one of the townsmen, Nicholas Adams alias Bodrugan, had any previous parliamentary experience when first returned for the town, but five of the others (Bacon, Carew, Courtenay. Duke and Edmund Sture) had sat in the Commons at least once before being elected there.
Wages were paid occasionally to both townsmen and outsiders, but perhaps on account of the town’s relative poverty the rate fell short of that established by statute, John Anthony receiving 1s.6d. a day, Huckmore 1s. a day and John Ridgeway 8d. a day in 1547. A ‘fee’ of 26s.8d. was paid to Bacon.
Author: N. M. Fuidge
- 1. Exeter city lib. Dartmouth mss 1982, f. 179v.
- 2. Ibid. 2002, f. 13v.
- 3. Ibid.
- 4. Ibid. 2002, f. 16v.
- 5. Ibid.
- 6. C219/282/2; Hatfield 207.
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. LP Hen. VIII, i. iii; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 220; H. R. Watkin, Pre-Reformation Dartmouth, 23, 38 seq.; P. Russell, Dartmouth, 56, 60, 61; A. D. Saunders, Dartmouth Castle, Devon, 2 seq.; W. G. Hoskins, Devon, 383-4.
- 9. Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xix. 247-50; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth mss 1981-4; 2002; 2003; Add. 24773; C219/21/44, 23/43, 24/43.