Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer


1581GEORGE MORTON vice Honywood, deceased
1584?GEORGE MORTON 1 vice Bodley, chose to sit for Portsmouth

Main Article

At the beginning of the reign Hythe was governed by a bailiff, appointed annually by the Crown, 12 jurats and the common assembly of freemen. A charter, similar to those of New Romney in 1563 and Hastings in 1588, was granted to Hythe in 1575. Among other provisions, this raised the bailiff to mayoral status, named nine life jurats, and replaced the common assembly by an undefined number of commoners. The practical result, as far as parliamentary elections were concerned, was a reduction in the number of voters. Thus, when John Smythe I and William Dalmyngton were chosen in 1586, only 20 people were present.

As in the other Ports, the most significant aspect of Elizabethan parliamentary elections was the attempt by the successive lord wardens, the 10th Lord Cobham and his son, to secure seats for their nominees. In addition, some of the local gentry, the Smythes, the Honywoods and the Scotts, intervened, probably independently of the warden. In this respect Hythe can be compared with Winchelsea.

Both 1559 Members and John Bridgman (1563) were townsmen, borough officials and brodhull representatives. Edward Popham (1563) was a Somerset gentleman, perhaps brought in by the lord warden through an unascertained connexion.

In 1571 Hythe found itself with an embarrassingly large number of candidates. While they had evidently decided to reserve one seat for the jurat, John Stephenson, there were four candidates competing for the other. One of the warden’s officials wrote to the corporation, requesting a nomination for his master: ‘These may be to wish you to gratify his L[ordship] therein as a matter not to be a precedent to challenge ... but of your free consent for this time only’. A later letter reveals that the warden’s nominee was William Cromer, a Kent gentleman whom he had known for many years. In the meantime someone else, perhaps Roger Manwood, had made it known to the Hythe authorities that he would like to see either John Hales or Robert Honywood elected. The corporation’s carefully worded reply told him that they had now received four suggestions for a ‘foreign burgess’. But at the last Parliament, they complained, they ‘had not a worse enemy’ than one of their own MPs ‘being no portman’, meaning Popham, and they had therefore decided to ask the lord warden to decide between Cromer, Hales, Honywood and the fourth candidate, Thomas Keyes, who had tried independently to win the nomination. ‘We would be glad’, they concluded, ‘that your worship should attend our lord warden’s good will’.

Cobham retorted not only by demanding Cromer’s election but wanting the other seat for another of his nominees, John Rede. William Crispe, the lieutenant of Dover castle, who sent this new request, appears to have doubted its wisdom, or at any rate the town’s reaction to it. He added, perhaps on his own initiative, ‘but, at the least, I wish you to follow his [Cobham’s] direction touching the first motion’—the acceptance of Cromer. The corporation stood by their decision to choose one of themselves: ‘Our full meaning was at the beginning that your L[ordship] shall have the nominating of one of them’. They felt sure that ‘Mr. William Cromer will be our friend’, and accepted his nomination.

In 1572 Bridgman was chosen again, together with Thomas Honywood, a gentleman who lived only a few miles away at Sene. It was Honywood who had forwarded the request, probably from Manwood, for a nominee in the previous Parliament. He died in 1580, and although no evidence of a by-election has been found, it is possible that Honywood was replaced by a marriage relation, George Morton, of East Stour, Kent. In the 1581 session a ‘Mr. Moreton’ was appointed to a committee on Dover harbour, and George Morton certainly represented Hythe in the following Parliament.

Again, in 1584, the warden expected one seat at Hythe, though he would have had to turn the nomination over to the Privy Council. He told Hythe

I am required to recommend unto you Thomas Bodley to be chosen by you for a burgess to the Parliament, with some other person of your own town, whom you shall know to be sufficient for the place.

He assured them that Bodley ‘will be ready to pleasure you and your town’.  At a meeting of the assembly on 1 Nov. 1584 Bodley, ‘who is elected to be one of the said burgesses by the lords of her Majesty’s Privy Council, and also preferred unto us by the lord warden’, was duly chosen, together with a townsman, Christopher Honywood, younger brother of the 1572 Member. But Bodley was returned at Portsmouth also and he decided to take that seat instead. Hythe, one Member short only a few days before Parliament was due to sit, re-elected George Morton. So Hythe chose both its Members in 1584 after all.

The senior Member in 1586 was John Smythe I, the eldest son of Thomas ‘Customer’ Smythe, who lived nearby. The other Member, William Dalmyngton, was a veteran jurat who had sat in Parliament in the reign of Edward VI. In 1589 Smythe was re-elected, the senior seat going to the mayor John Collins. Henry Fane II, returned in 1593, had been the 10th Lord Cobham’s ward and was brought in for Hythe by the lord warden. On this occasion Collins took the junior seat. In 1597 Christopher Honywood was chosen again, together with Christopher Toldervey, a friend of the Smythes and of the Scotts of Scot Hall, either of whom could have secured his return at Hythe. It is just possible that the warden played a part in his election in 1601. Toldervey and Cobham later had business dealings together, and most of the Ports gave the warden at least one seat in the last Parliament of the reign. That Toldervey could secure the seat without the warden’s help, however, is confirmed by his election in 1604, after Cobham’s disgrace. The other Member in 1601 was the mayor, William Knight.

It appears to have been the usual practice for Hythe to pay wages to its Members, though no records survive before 1580. In 1584 Honywood was paid 4s. a day for his services. For the next Parliament Dalmyngton was awarded only 2 s. a day, with 18 s. travelling expenses, but during the Christmas adjournment his daily allowance was raised to 3s. Collins received a similar sum in 1589. Knight, in 1601, seems to have been the last Hythe Member to be paid wages.2

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. Add. 38823.
  • 2. Hasted, Kent, viii. 232-33; Wilks, Barons of the Cinque Ports and the Parl. Rep. Hythe, 51-64; Weinbaum, Charters , 62; CPR, 1572-7, p. 493; Hythe assembly bk. passim; Hythe ms no. 257/2; HMC 4th Rep. 430-1.