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


by 1553SAMPSON ERDESWICK vice Stanford, deceased1
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1554 (Nov.)JAMES FOWLER 2

Main Article

Situated at the junction of several roads between London and the north, Stafford was a market town which had little industry of its own. By the 16th century it was in decline and in 1540 it was included in the Act for re-edification of towns (32 Hen. VIII, c.18). The castle and manor belonged to the 3rd Duke of Buckingham until his attainder in 1521, when they escheated to the crown, to be restored to Buckingham’s son, Henry Baron Stafford, in 1531. A second castle owned by the crown accommodated the county court and served as the county gaol; its position within the town created difficulties for the sheriff when in 1542 Stafford was declared a sanctuary town.4

The charter of 1206 confirming the ‘liberties and free usages’ enjoyed by the townsmen ‘of old’ was amplified during the next three centuries and again in 1511. In the absence of municipal records little is known about the governing body, which was headed by a bailiff assisted by a number of burgesses. Letters patent of 1550 speak of the burgesses as ‘of old incorporated’ and provided that they should ‘continue a body corporate and politic capable of receiving from the King the tithes and lands’ for the better endowment of the free school in the town. There was a recorder, after 1531 Henry Baron Stafford, and several lawyers were retained as counsel.5

Elections took place in the guildhall. Indentures, written in Latin, survive for all the Parliaments between 1545 and 1558. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Staffordshire and the bailiffs and burgesses. The Members are said to have been chosen by the unanimous consent of the electors. The indentures give the names of the bailiffs and of between six and 20 voters; in 1547 other unnamed burgesses ‘to the number of 40’ are said to have taken part. Two of the indentures contain alterations: that of 1547 had Richard Forsett’s name inserted in a different hand over an illegible entry, and on that of 11 Sept. 1553 Simon Lowe’s name was substituted for Sir Anthony Browne’s.6

Of the 16 Members sitting in this period all but Richard Forsett, Simon Lowe alias Fyfield and Francis Smith were of Staffordshire birth or descent. If Matthew Cradock was the only townsman to sit, several of the others had property or kin in the town or nearby. Henry Stafford was a bastard brother of Henry Baron Stafford, and Edward Stafford the baron’s younger son. Walter Blount, Thomas Harcourt and the Stanfords had ties with the Stafford family, and Edward Colbarne and Richard Forsett were perhaps commended to Baron Stafford by William Stanford. Francis Smith was clerk to Viscount Hereford, whose home lay five miles from the town at Chartley, and James Fowler was the brother of Hereford’s ‘well beloved’ friend Brian Fowler. John Bickley was a subordinate in the duchy of Lancaster of the 4th Earl of Shrewsbury, the crown steward of the escheated Buckingham estates, but he was also connected with Edward Littleton, constable of Stafford castle and himself one of the knights of the shire in 1529. The by-election of Sampson Erdeswick was presumably the work of his former guardian Sir John Giffard, who was Littleton’s fellow-knight. The Giffard family was evidently influential in the borough: several of the Members were related to them and early in 1554 John Giffard was returned with his uncle Humphrey Swynnerton by Sir Thomas Giffard, another uncle and Swynnerton’s brother-in-law. Erdeswick received payments towards his expenses.

A bill for bakers at Stafford and elsewhere was defeated after a third reading in the first session of the Parliament of 1547.7

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Erdeswick, Staffs. xxxvi. n.
  • 2. The indenture (C219/23/116) is torn, and only the christian name of one Member and the surname of the other are legible.
  • 3. Ibid.
  • 4. J. L. Cherry, Stafford, 1; Staffs. Past and Present, ed. Bradley, 5-13, 47, 71; HMC 4th Rep. 326; Stafford Official Guide (c.1961), 21; C.1964), 35, 57, 65; Staffs. Rec. Soc. 1950-1, pp. 176-7.
  • 5. Staffs. Past and Present, 9; Guide (c.1961), 17; Cherry, 58; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 21-22; R. Chs. Stafford, ed. Bradley, 79; C. G. Gilmore, King Edw. VI Sch. Stafford, 1-14; VCH Staffs. iii. 260-7.
  • 6. C219/18B/80, 18C/108, 19/92, 20/113, 21/142, 22/69, 23/116, 24/142, 25/101.
  • 7. CJ, i. 2, 3.