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)
1553 (Mar.)(not known)
1553 (Oct.)JOHN GAPPUTH 3
1554 (Apr.)JOHN DENHAM
1554 (Nov.)JOHN GAPPUTH 4

Main Article

When Leland visited Shaftesbury, probably soon after the dissolution in 1539 of its Benedictine abbey, he described it as ‘a great market town standing on an high hill, having four parish churches in it’. Until the Dissolution the crown held one moiety of the manor of Shaftesbury and the abbess the other; part of the crown’s interest, however, was granted to the abbess who paid a fee-farm of £12. The borough was not formally incorporated until 1604, but it had a mayor in Edward III’s reign and charters dating back to 1252. By the early 16th century the mayor was assisted by two constables, a town clerk and two ‘wardens of the rent of the common box’. The mayor, the constables and the King’s bailiff were elected annually at the Michaelmas court leet by 12 jurors, acting by 1487 ‘with the assent of the whole commonalty and burgesses’. Shaftesbury was for a brief period the seat of a suffragan bishopric under the Act for the nomination and consecration of suffragans (26 Hen. VIII, c.14).6

After the Dissolution Sir Thomas Arundell, who had been receiver-general to the abbey, leased the site and much of the monastic lands and was granted the lordship of the united manor and the borough; in February 1548 he was ordered to pay £20 for the fee-farm to Thomas Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, who in the previous year had been granted the monastic buildings with ‘the township and borough’, and he appears to have kept tenant rights in Shaftesbury until his execution in 1552. In that year, Southampton having died and left as heir a minor who became the ward of Sir William Herbert, a lease for 21 years of the site of the abbey and ‘the borough and town’ was granted to Sir Ralph Sadler, and in the following April Herbert, now 1st Earl of Pembroke, paid nearly £8,500 for property and rights including ‘the courts leet and view of frankpledge of the fee of the baron of Shaftesbury, late of Shaftesbury monastery, the site of the late monastery of Shaftesbury late of Sir Thomas Arundell, and the manor, town and borough of Shaftesbury’.7

The names of the Shaftesbury Members (Robert Grove’s being written over an erasure) are found on the sheriff’s schedule for 1545, but election indentures survive only for the Parliaments of October 1553, 1555 and 1558, the first and last of them being in bad condition. They are in Latin, the parties being the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset and the mayor, comburgenses et communitas, who are said to have made the election with the unanimous assent and consent of the burgesses. No information is forthcoming about payment of wages to Members, most of whom were non-resident and clearly dependent on patronage for their election.8

Two of the three Members of Henrician Parliaments whose names are known probably owed their seats to Arundell: William More, a Hampshire lawyer, leased property in Wiltshire near Wardour Castle, Arundell’s chief residence, and Robert Grove was Arundell’s steward and surveyor. More’s partner in 1529, John Mathew, was a townsman and ex-mayor, and the substitution of Grove’s name in the schedule for 1545 suggests that Arundell then overruled a similar choice. His control was further shown in the return to Edward VI’s first Parliament of his nephew, sitting for the second time but still possibly under age, and Henry Ashley, son of one of his friends. The names of those returned to Edward’s second Parliament, after Arundell’s execution, are not known, but two townsmen were elected to the first Parliament of Mary. Neither of them was noted as having opposed the first measures for the restoration of Catholicism, and one of them, John Gapputh, was to sit twice again, in the spring of 1554 with John Denham, a connexion of the Dorset magnate Charles, 8th Baron Stourton, and in the winter with John Plympton, an occasional resident of Shaftesbury and the Earl of Pembroke’s tenant in Somerset, who was also related by marriage to the Grove family. Pembroke’s influence, which may earlier have been diminished by his temporary disfavour at court, was more apparent in the last two Parliaments of the reign. Matthew Arundell, the young son of the borough’s former lord, was clearly on good terms with the earl, and William Grove was a son of the Member in 1545 who had transferred to the earl’s service by 1554; then a student at Gray’s Inn, William Grove was later to be associated with his father as Pembroke’s steward. The junior Member on each occasion was probably recommended to Pembroke, John Foster—whose name appears on the indenture in a different hand and over an erasure—by his former associate in augmentations Matthew Colthurst, the earl’s tenant at Wardour Castle, and Hugh Hawker by Matthew Arundell. Thus, of 13 Members for Shaftesbury sitting in eight Parliaments, only three or four were townsmen and all the rest save John Denham were probably nominees of its successive lords.

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. Only the surname remains on the indenture (C219/21/54), christian name being supplied from Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 4. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 5. Ibid.
  • 6. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, v. 110; C. H. Mayo, Shastonian Recs. 4, 5, 16, 17; Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 11-15, 20 seq.
  • 7. Mayo, 19; Pembroke Survey (Roxburghe Club cliv), 487, 501, 509; Hutchins, iii. 13, 36; CPR, 1547-8, p. 24; 1553, p. 169.
  • 8. C219/18C/36, 21/54, 24/57, 25/35.