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)
 (not known)
1554 (Nov.)HUGH SMITH

Main Article

Wareham was a relatively poor town, the inhabitants relying on the digging of clay for the pottery industry, the good herring and salmon fisheries and, according to Leland, the extensive cultivation of garlic. Cloth was produced, but apparently not on a large scale. By 1558, although it was still possible for quite large ships to reach Wareham, all hope of rivalling Poole as a port was dead; a survey of shipping taken in 1543 had listed no ships from Wareham. A borough by prescription which did not receive a charter until Elizabeth’s reign, Wareham had earlier paid 100 marks to the crown to have its own fee-farm of £20. Since the early borough records have been lost—they were said to have been stolen by one of the town’s stewards who ‘retired into the King’s bench with them’ and then tried to sell them back to the borough authorities—it is not known whether Wareham shared in the reduction of rent granted to some Dorset towns in the 16th century. The manor and borough were often granted to the queen consort; Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr received both, but the wording of Anne of Cleves’s grant, which cites one to Jane Seymour, does not include the manor. The chief town officials were the mayor and two constables, with six to 12 ‘burgesses’ or aldermen. The election of mayor and constables was carried out at the Michaelmas court leet by a jury of 15, who sometimes at least had to choose one of three candidates for the mayoralty proposed by the burgesses. The steward was presumably appointed by the crown or the Queen Consort as lord of the manor.4

The names of the Members for Wareham were inserted on the sheriff’s schedule for 1545, and indentures survive for the autumn election of 1553, for both those of 1554 and for 1555: there is also a poorly preserved indenture for a Dorset borough for the spring of 1553, where only the initial ‘W’ of the constituency survives. The indentures are in English, and the contracting parties are the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset and the mayor, constables and from three to six named burgesses; the elections are said to have been with the assent, consent and express agreement of ‘all other the burgesses and commonalty’. It is impossible to say whether the last phrase implies the existence of a common council; presumably the court leet jury was considered the equivalent of this. To two indentures a number of signatures are appended, some of them having signs beside them similar to merchants’ marks.5

No evidence has been found that Wareham paid its Members; like Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, it probably welcomed men who were prepared to serve without wages or whose patrons assumed responsibility. The pattern of Membership bears out this supposition. Of the 14 Members whose names are known only one, Roger Gerard, was a townsman and even he, although constable of the borough at his election and a kinsman of the mayor, may have been indebted for his return to his cousin Charles, 8th Baron Stourton. Sir Giles Strangways I, a knight of the shire for Dorset in 1529, was probably responsible for the return at the same time of his fellow-Middle Templar John Orenge, while the junior Member William Grimston, also a lawyer, was at one time a servant of another powerful local figure in Sir John Rogers, father of the later knight of the shire. Rogers was a friend of Richard Phelips, who seems to have procured the election of both the other Henrician Members whose names have survived, Thomas Phelips, taken to be his son rather than another member of the family, and Robert Keyle, son of his tenant in Corfe Mullen. Either the Protector Somerset or his brother Admiral Seymour must have nominated their young kinsman David Seymour for Edward VI’s first Parliament, while Richard Morison, a trusted crown servant who was to spend part of the Parliament abroad as ambassador to the Emperor, could have owed his seat to the direct intervention of the Privy Council. Richard Phelips may have been the ‘Richard’, surname unknown, given in the mutilated indenture for Edward VI’s second Parliament, possibly for Wareham but perhaps for Weymouth. The senior Members in at least four of the Parliaments of the following reign were his kinsmen, the brothers Hugh and Matthew Smith being nephews of Thomas Phelips’s wife, and Alexander Hughes had a link with Phelips through the Smiths; Hughes was probably more beholden for his return, however, to his augmentations colleague Matthew Colthurst, a client of the 1st Earl of Pembroke. Two of the junior Members were connected with prominent Marian clerics: Leonard Willoughby—who lived near Wareham—with James Turberville, and Thomas Girdler with John White to whom he was later to owe his two returns for Downton. Girdler’s name was inserted on the Wareham indenture in a different hand and those of both Members were written over erasures in that for the following Parliament. Clement Hyett was a servant of Sir John Rogers, a knight of the shire; Walter Ralegh doubtless had official backing as deputy vice-admiral of Devon.6

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. C219/282/7.
  • 4. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 253-4; Hutchins, Dorset, i. 81, 82, 84, 93, 95-97; VCH Dorset, ii. 138, 246, 320, 353 n, 363, 365; LP Hen. VIII, xv. g.144(2); xvi. g.503(25); xviii(1), 547; xix(1), g. 141(65).
  • 5. C219/18C/36, 21/55, 22/18, 23/50, 24/54; 282/7.
  • 6. C219/282/7.