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


1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)
1545(not known)
1553 (Mar.)(not known)
1553 (Oct.)JOHN HEDGES 3
1554 (Apr.)JOHN HEDGE

Main Article

The prosperous clothing and market town of Malmesbury grew up in the shelter of its castle and Benedictine abbey. The abbot held the castle and town from the reign of John until the abbey’s surrender in 1539: the major abbey buildings were then entrusted to Sir Edward Baynton and the lesser to William Stumpe, perhaps as his deputy, while the lordship was retained by the crown. In 1544 Stumpe purchased the abbey site and in the following year he was appointed bailiff, steward and collector of the manors and hundreds of Malmesbury, Startley and Chedglow. Stumpe was the foremost Wiltshire clothier of the century; he filled the abbey buildings with looms but he also established himself as a country gentleman and was sheriff of Wiltshire at his death. His eldest son Sir James Stumpe, who had married into the Baynton family, completed his shrieval term and in August 1552 William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, wrote to Sir William Cecil asking that he should also be appointed under steward of Malmesbury. William Stumpe presented the nave of the abbey to the town and had it converted into a parish church.5

The privileges granted to Malmesbury in its medieval charters (confirmed in 1531) were restricted by its monastic lordship but the town had a guild merchant before being granted to the abbot. Its government was in the hands of an alderman, assisted by two stewards and a body of capital burgesses, varying in number from 17 in the reign of Edward I to ten in the first half of the 16th century and 12 in the reign of Elizabeth. Some 600 acres of common land granted by King Athelstan were ploughed up in the 16th century, the 13 best portions being reserved for the alderman and capital burgesses, another 24 for those who ranked as assistants, and others for a wider class known as ‘landholders’, the remainder being left as grazing for commoners. Discontent with these arrangements eventually led to Malmesbury’s incorporation in 1635 as the alderman, 12 capital burgesses and 24 assistants.6

Malmesbury first returned Members to Parliament in 1275. Election indentures, all in Latin, survive for the last four Parliaments of the period, two of them somewhat damaged. The contracting parties (where they remain) are the sheriff of Wiltshire and the alderman and burgesses; in 1555 Sir James Stumpe’s name was inserted in a different hand from that of the document as a whole. Of eight known Members, sitting in seven Parliaments, four were townsmen, including the younger Stumpe under that classification. Matthew King, alderman in 1554-5, married his daughter to William Stumpe’s younger son John. Thomas Edgar of Bermondsey, Surrey, had married into the Wroughton family, seated about ten miles from Malmesbury; Sir Maurice Denys, a Gloucestershire gentleman, also had local connexions but was probably indebted to official favour, perhaps that of Sir Thomas Seymour II, Baron Seymour of Sudeley; Edward Unton’s stepfather Robert Keilway II had been connected with Sir Edward Baynton and he was also related to John Erneley, the sheriff who returned him; Griffin Curteys was a servant of Sir Henry Long. William Stumpe’s and Denys’s Membership of the Parliament of 1547 is known only from the Crown Office list compiled for the last session, but they had probably been returned before its opening since John Withypoll, a resident and former bailiff of Malmesbury hundred who might have been expected to sit for the borough, and who had probably done so in one or more earlier Parliaments, sought election at Bossiney. In the absence of local records, which survive only from 1600, it is impossible to say whether Malmesbury paid any of its Members.7

Author: T. F.T. Baker


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 130-2; J. M. Moffatt, Malmesbury, 148.
  • 6. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xlvii. 321-3.
  • 7. C219/22/102, 23/142, 24/184, 25/128.