Great Bedwyn


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


1532/33?THOMAS POLSTED vice Newdigate, deceased1
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)
1553 (Mar.)(not known)

Main Article

Great Bedwyn had once been a prosperous centre of the Wiltshire woollen industry, whereas Leland found it ‘but a poor thing to sight’. At the beginning of the century the 3rd Duke of Buckingham was lord of the manor of Bedwyn and a year after his attainder in 1521 it was granted to Sir Edward Darrell of Littlecote, Wiltshire, vice-chamberlain to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Darrell died in 1530 and during the minority of his grandson and heir the manor was in the custody of Sir William Essex. In October 1544 its reversion was granted to Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford and later Duke of Somerset and Protector, whose grandmother was a Darrell and whose ancestral home Wolf Hall lay just outside the borough. It may have been on this account that Bedwyn was one of the manors retained by the Seymours under the Act of 1552 touching the limitation of the late Duke of Somerset’s lands (5 and 6 Edw. VI, no. 37) and applied to the upbringing of his son. In February and March 1553 the wardship of the young Seymour was granted to the Duke of Northumberland’s eldest son, with the custody of manors worth £500 a year, including Bedwyn; in the absence of indentures it is not known whether the Dudleys were able to nominate to the Parliament which met on 1 Mar. 1553.4

Although described as a borough in Domesday book and returning Members intermittently from 1295, Bedwyn seems never to have received a charter. There are no borough records and little is known of its government, but the lord’s portreeve or bailiff was apparently the chief officer. Election indentures survive for the last Parliament of Henry VIII and the five Parliaments of Mary; those for October 1553 and 1555 are in Latin and that for 1558 is virtually illegible. The contracting parties vary: in 1545, the spring of 1554 and 1555 they are the sheriff of Wiltshire, the portreeve or bailiff and the burgesses; in the autumn of 1553 the sheriff and the Members, Richard Fulmerston and John Hungerford, and in the autumn of 1554 the sheriff and seven freeholders and burgesses, headed by Hungerford. The names of both Members of the Parliament of April 1554, of Fulmerston again for that of November 1554 and of David Seymour for 1555 are entered in different hands from those of the documents concerned, Fulmerston’s being inserted over an erasure in the one for April 1554. The borough is at first described as West Bedwyn or Bedwyn and later as Great Bedwyn.5

The borough’s dependent status is likewise reflected in its choice of Members, all those known belonging to the circle of Darrell, Seymour and Hungerford except Thomas Polsted (almost certainly William Newdigate’s replacement in the Parliament of 1529) and Anthony Browne. At Polsted’s presumed by-election Bedwyn was in the custody of Sir William Essex, but Cromwell’s list of vacancies has ‘the King’s pleasure’ against it and the minister himself presumably nominated Polsted, perhaps acting through Essex. Browne seems to have had no direct link with Somerset but there could have been one through his fellow-countryman Sir Clement Smith, the Protector’s brother-in-law and a Member for Maldon in 1547, the borough for which Browne was to be returned on three occasions. John Hungerford, first son of Sir Anthony Hungerford of Down Ampney, Gloucestershire, by a daughter of Sir Edward Darrell, was living at Stoke or Stokke, adjoining Bedwyn, at the time of his election, and he was doubtless responsible for the later return of his brother (or cousin) Edward Hungerford, his brother-in-law Henry Clifford and Clifford’s nephew George Hidden, and perhaps also for that of John Temple who had formed links with the Hungerfords as a servant of Bishop Gardiner. No support has been found for the suggestion that John Hungerford was first returned to Edward VI’s second Parliament. At the election to Mary’s last two Parliaments the sheriffs were also members of the Hungerford family. In the minority of Somerset’s heir some part of the Seymour influence seems to have been exercised by (Sir) John Thynne, a close friend of Clifford and the most likely patron for Fulmerston and Sir Edmund Rous.6

Author: R. L. Davids


  • 1. LP Hen. VIII, ix. 1077 citing SP1/99, p. 234.
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. VCH Wilts. iv. 117; Leland. Itin. ed. Smith, v. 79; LP Hen. VIII, iii(2), g. 2145(6); v, g. 278(28, 33); xix(2), g. 527(14); CPR, 1553, p. 4.
  • 5. C219/18C/138, 21/167, 22/98, 23/152, 24/189, 25/139.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, vii. 56 citing SP1/82, ff. 59-62; Wilts. Arch. Mag. vi. 295.