Wootton Bassett


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 (Oct.)HENRY POOLE I
1554 (Apr.)JOHN TULL
1554 (Nov.)GILES PAYNE

Main Article

The manor and borough of Wootton Bassett were held in jointure by the successive queens of Henry VIII. In July 1547 they were granted to the Protector Somerset in reversion after the death of Queen Catherine Parr; six years later, little more than two weeks before the death of Edward VI, they came into the hands of the Duke of Northumberland’s eldest son, only to return to the crown after the accession of Mary and the fall of the Dudleys. In December 1553 the Marian Councillor Sir Francis Englefield received Vastern park in Wootton Bassett, which had also been held by Somerset, but it was not until March 1555 that he obtained the manor and borough in tail male with remainder to his younger brother John, a provision which helped the family to retain them after Englefield’s own attainder in the following reign. Among those who held office in Wootton Bassett were Sir James Stumpe, made keeper of Little Vastern park in 1546, and Edmund Brydges, appointed steward of the lordship in 1557.6

The borough, sometimes called Old Wootton, remained essentially manorial, being largely administered through the manorial courts and courts leet, although there was a mayor by 1408; according to a 17th-century copy of a reputed charter of 1561 authority was vested in a mayor, two aldermen and 12 capital burgesses. The earliest certain grant of privileges was that of a weekly market and two fairs yearly in 1571, but the market-place continued to belong to the lord of the manor. The borough had first returned Members to Parliament in 1447. Elections were held on receipt of a precept from the sheriff of Wiltshire, and indentures survive for all the Parliaments held between 1545 and 1555 save that of 1547. In three of them the contracting parties are the sheriff and the mayor and burgesses, but in 1545 the second party is the mayor, community and burgesses, at the first election of 1553 the mayor and habitantes infra, and at the following one the Members themselves. Many of the Members’ names were inserted in the indentures in hands different from those of the text, some of them over erasures.7

None of the 16 known Members was a townsman, although the two who sat in March 1553 came from nearby, Gabriel Pleydell being seated a mile distant and William Garrard three miles; several others held land in Wiltshire, but most of them came from neighbouring Gloucestershire or from London. The most regular parliamentary patron seems to have been the Gloucestershire magnate Sir John Brydges, created Baron Chandos of Sudeley in 1554. Both Richard Tracy and Walter Winston were kinsmen of Brydges, and their next known successors were his eldest son Edmund and another of his relatives and neighbours, Hugh Westwood, who was also a collector of rents for Catherine Parr. John Seymour was the eldest (but disinherited) son of the Protector, and Robert Huick was physician in ordinary to Catherine Parr. Pleydell and Garrard were friends as well as neighhours, and both had links with the Seymours; Pleydell may have owed his election to the Protector’s former steward (Sir) John Thynne. Under Mary the influence of Sir John Brydges is again apparent: Henry Poole was his nephew (as well as being brother-in-law to the sheriff Edward Baynard), Giles Payne his servant and William Hampshire perhaps a client. John Throckmorton was elected on the same day that his kinsmen, Sir Nicholas and John Throckmorton I, were returned for Old Sarum. Edmund Plowden was a client of Sir Francis Englefield and Richard Bruning was later to hold lands jointly with John Englefield. Humphrey Moseley, like Plowden a Middle Templar, probably owed his return to Thynne, whose influence was soon to prevail at Wootton Bassett.

Author: Elizabeth McIntyre


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. C219/282/11.
  • 4. Ibid.
  • 5. Huntington Lib. Hastings mss Parl. pprs.
  • 6. VCH Wilts. ix. 191-3.
  • 7. Ibid. 190, 199-200; CPR, 1569-72, p. 235; C219/18C/139, 21/172, 22/103, 23/147, 24/187, 282/11.