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

Background Information

No names known for 1510-23


 (not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)
1545(not known)
1553 (Oct.)JOHN NORRIS

Main Article

At Downton manorial business was dealt with in the manor court and matters relating to the burgage tenements in the borough court, both of which were presided over by the bishop of Winchester’s bailiff of the borough and hundred or his deputy: the bailiff was assisted by a clerk appointed by the bishop and three officers, an alderman (sometimes called a mayor), a constable and a tithing-man, chosen each year by the inhabitants. The bailiff was responsible to the bishop’s steward. In 1509 Sir Henry Borowe held the bailiwick, and during the 1540s and 1560s Sir John Bruyn. Court books survive from 1513.6

During the middle ages Downton had not always been required to elect Members; it was represented in less than half the Parliaments summoned before 1500. It may likewise have been omitted from some of the Parliaments of Henry VIII, although its name is included with the bishop’s other Wiltshire borough of Hindon in the list of constituencies compiled in 1512 in connexion with the issue of writs de expensis. The sheriff of Wiltshire sent a precept to the bishop’s bailiff who supervised the elections there and at Hindon. Following the election he delivered the names of those chosen to the sheriff, who after sealing the indenture in the presence of witnesses empowered to affix the borough’s common seal then forwarded the names to Chancery. No indentures survive for the first half of the 16th century but all six for the Parliaments between 1553 and 1558 remain. These are in Latin and the contracting parties are the sheriff and the bailiff and the burgesses. The names of the Members returned in February 1553 and March and October 1554 are added in a different hand from the greater part of the indentures concerned, and those returned in October 1553 in a different ink. The electors were the occupiers of the burgage tenements.7

In 1547 Gardiner asked the Duke of Somerset if his own absence from the Lords and that ‘of those I have used to name in the nether house’ would not vex the Protectoral regime more than their presence. The Members referred to were doubtless those for Downton, Hindon and Taunton, although others might have been included. All the Members returned for Downton during Gardiner’s episcopate were his nominees, except those chosen in 1547, and probably in 1536 during his absence abroad, when, despite the King’s request for the re-election of the previous Members, Cromwell put forward his own commissary as vicegerent, William Petre, and a kinsman of the bishop’s steward, Thomas Paulet. Early in 1553, during Gardiner’s deprivation, his replacement John Ponet seems to have backed two nominees of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, and both the men returned in 1558 were connected with Gardiner’s successor John White. At the election of 1529 Wolsey had the see in commendam and although the way in which the patronage then worked is not clear it was probably exercised by him or his officers: Nicholas Hare was an Inner Templar friendly with the steward and William Whorwood a subordinate of William Portman who sat in the same Parliament for another of the episcopal boroughs. Of the Members returned in 1547, William Morice was the brother of Cranmer’s secretary, and William Green an augmentations official with property in Downton. Thomas White was the lessee and occupant of the parsonage and Thomas Girdler the receiver for the manor and hundred. Neither of the Members in November 1554 met Queen Mary’s requirement for residents, John Bekinsau coming from Hampshire and William Barnes from Essex. William Thomas was probably still clerk of the Privy Council when returned early in 1553 and his partner Robert Warner was a former servant of Catherine Parr.8

Author: S. R. Johnson


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, x. 40 (ii) citing Cott. Otho C10, f. 218.
  • 2. C219/330/35 ex inf. Margaret Condon.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. Hatfield 207.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Hoare, Wilts. Downton, 13, 17-19, 66; Wilts. Bor. Recs. (Wilts. Arch. Soc. recs. br. v), p. xi; Wilts. RO, Downton ct. bks.; Eccles. 2/155854, 15888 A.
  • 7. Stowe 501, ff. 129-31; C219/21/175, 22/93, 23/151, 24/178, 25/136, 330/35.
  • 8. Letters of Stephen Gardiner, ed. Muller, 424; LP Hen. VIII, x. 40(ii).