Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the inhabitants1

Number of voters:

?more than 76 in 16242


13 May 1610SIR JOHN DANVERS vice Preston, deceased 
c. Mar. 1614HENRY SPILLER 
22 Nov. 1621SIR RICHARD WESTON vice Cranfield, called to the Upper House 
23 Jan. 1624(SIR) HENRY SPILLER 
  MILL vice Chaworth, on petition, 24 Mar. 1624 
27 Apr. 1625(SIR) HENRY SPILLER 
29 Feb. 1628HENRY FREDERICK HOWARD , Lord Maltravers 

Main Article

The market town of Arundel, in west Sussex, grew up at the lowest point that the river Arun could be bridged. According to a visitor in the 1630s it was ‘relieved with a convenient pretty haven, and graced with an ancient, strong and stately castle’.3 Despite a lack of social amenities, relatively good communications made it the regular venue for the West Sussex Epiphany sessions.4 The town enjoyed borough status by 1086, but it did not break free from manorial control completely until the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, by the end of the thirteenth century it had a borough court and a mayor. In the mid-sixteenth century Arundel was governed by a self-perpetuating oligarchy consisting of no more than 12 burgesses. The mayor continued to be officially elected by the annual court leet, although in practice the burgesses controlled the choice.5 The castle, manor and borough formed part of the honour of Arundel, which was inherited, together with the earldom of Arundel, by Philip Howard on the death of his maternal grandfather in 1580. He converted to Catholicism in 1584 and, after his capture trying to flee abroad the following year, was attainted. He died in the Tower in 1595.6 The town governors took advantage of the earl’s fall to procure a judgment on a writ of quo warranto in 1587, which, although ostensibly only confirming the borough’s existing rights, in fact substantially enhanced them.7

Arundel had returned Members to the Parliament since at least 1295. The right of election lay in all the inhabitants, and the indentures were exchanged between the sheriff of Sussex and the mayor, burgesses and commonalty, who were generally said to have made election ‘of their common consent and assent’. Usually the mayor was the only voter named in the return. An exception was the 1624 election when, probably because there was a contest, about 20 names were listed. These probably represented fewer than half the number of actual voters.8

In the late Elizabethan period the borough fell under the influence of Lord Buckhurst, joint lord lieutenant of Sussex. In 1604 he nominated his servant John Tey, deputy alnager of London, promising that Tey would serve without wages.9 The election of Thomas Preston for the senior seat marked the revival of the Howard interest. Although Philip’s son Thomas was not yet officially restored to his father’s estates or titles, the family had regained favour on the accession of James I and there was consequently a widespread assumption that Thomas, who was then still only in his teens, would be rehabilitated.10 This belief proved correct, for in 1604 a bill was passed restoring Thomas Howard to the earldom of Arundel, while in July the king granted the new earl the manor of Arundel.11 In Arundel and elsewhere, Thomas’ interest seems to have been wielded by his uncle, Lord William Howard, with whom Preston was closely connected.12

Preston died sometime before 27 Apr. 1610, upon which date a writ for a by-election was moved by Sir Robert Harley*. The vacancy was filled in May by Sir John Danvers, the stepfather of Harley’s friend Sir Edward Herbert*. Danvers may have been recommended to Arundel by his father-in-law, the 7th earl of Shrewsbury (Gilbert Talbot†), with whom he had been connected. Interestingly, his name was inserted in the return in an ink different from that in which the rest of the document was written.13 The following month a petition from the town of Arundel, complaining that Tey was suing them for wages he had promised not to accept, was referred to the privileges committee, but no further proceedings in the matter are recorded.14

Tey was probably dead by the time the next Parliament was summoned in 1614, when Danvers was returned for Montgomery Boroughs. Both the new Members for the Addled Parliament were returned on the Howard interest. Henry Spiller, an Exchequer official, was the brother of the dowager countess of Arundel’s steward. The latter kept the earl’s courts in Sussex, and is known to have acted as a Howard agent in later elections.15 The junior Member, Edward Morley, was the stepson of one of Arundel’s trustees.16

Spiller was re-elected for the next three parliaments. Morley died in 1620, and in the third Jacobean Parliament Arundel nominated his friend and creditor Sir Lionel Cranfield, who had entered government service as a protégé of his great uncle, Henry Howard, earl of Northampton. Cranfield was created a baron in July 1621 and made lord treasurer in September, and as such presumably had a hand in the choice of the newly appointed chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Richard Weston, as his replacement. On the other hand, Weston was a friend of Arundel’s and was also known to Spiller.17

In 1624 Weston was returned for Bossiney, meaning that he was no longer available at Arundel, where Spiller was ‘elected in the first place … without contradiction’.18 Sir George Chaworth, took the second place on the return, subsequently writing that ‘Arundel who would have me be at his dispose caused me to be chosen in his own town Arundel (as he called it)’. Like the earl, he was an opponent of war with Spain and was the countess’ kinsman by marriage. However, the choice of Chaworth was not universally popular, for he was opposed by William Mill, a member of the local gentry.19

A petition from Mill’s supporters, objecting to Chaworth’s return, was read at the privileges committee on 2 Mar., and on 24 Mar. the chairman, John Glanville, reported the case to the Commons. Glanville stated that an initial ‘private enumeration’ of the voters had shown that Chaworth had 37 voters to Mill’s 35, but subsequently four more Mill supporters had arrived and consequently, when the formal poll was held at midday, the latter had a lead of two votes. The mayor not only refused to accept the result, but according to one account ‘sent into the town and fields and called in the inhabitants from their work’, even though Mill’s supporters had by now dispersed. By five or six in the evening Chaworth had the advantage, whereupon the mayor closed the poll and made out the return. Glanville argued that the mayor’s behaviour was wholly improper. Chaworth had clearly lost the formal poll at midday, and the mayor could not be allowed to ‘continue the election at his pleasure; and … gain his own purpose by wearying out the electors with attendance’. The mayor, moreover, had put the town to a good deal of expense, sending a legal representative to the committee hearing, and therefore Glanville moved for a committee to assess the costs.20

Following Glanville’s report Chaworth rose to defend his return, stating that he was ‘so confident of the justice of the House, that upon this cause, he shall not go out’. He protested that the meeting of the privileges committee had been held at ‘a late and unseasonable hour’, that he had not had a proper hearing, and that the mayor’s counsel ‘spake against him’. He demanded that his own counsel be heard, but the House was unimpressed, Edward Alford declaring that ‘nothing [had been] said, but said before’. The following day Sir Francis Nethersole* wrote that by his defence Chaworth had got ‘nothing but red cheeks’. Chaworth’s outspoken opposition to the war with Spain had done nothing to help his cause, for as Nethersole remarked, he had thereby ‘lost the goodwill’ of the House. Had he been less forthright he might have been afforded the opportunity of fighting a new election. Instead, the Commons ordered the mayor to return Mill.21

Spiller and Mill were also elected to the first Caroline Parliament, but another contest threatened in 1626 when Arundel tried to find a seat for Nicholas Jordan, a Chichester lawyer and friend of the attorney-general Robert Heath*. At the Epiphany sessions Jordan had disclaimed any interest in standing. However, he reconsidered his decision after receiving a letter from Heath and applied to John Peers, the earl’s steward, to secure his return at Arundel, believing that Mill, being in poor health and having recently lost his wife, would not stand again. Peers, however, found Mill ‘resolved to serve if he be chosen’. Consequently Mill and Jordan were returned together, while Spiller was elected at Midhurst, where Weston was influential. The suggestion of Alford, then serving as sheriff, that the earl nominate (Sir) Francis Crane*, Arundel’s unsuccessful candidate at New Shoreham, was apparently not taken up.22

It seems likely that neither Jordan nor Mill were in sufficiently good health to stand in 1628, while Arundel nominated Spiller at another family borough, Thetford, in order to give his heir, Lord Maltravers, a seat in the Commons. Maltravers, a member of the committee for the bill successfully promoted by his father to entail the manor of Arundel and other properties on the earldom of Arundel,23 was joined in the Commons by Alford’s son John, subsequently Mill’s trustee and executor.

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. CJ, i. 748b.
  • 2. Ibid. 748a.
  • 3. VCH Suss. v. pt. 1, p. 10; ‘Relation of a Short Survey of the Western Counties’ ed. L.G. Wickham Legg Cam. Misc. xvi (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. lii), pt. 3, p. 30.
  • 4. A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 135, 220.
  • 5. VCH Suss. v. pt. 1, pp. 73-5, 77; G.W. Eustace, Arundel, 217.
  • 6. M.A. Tierney, Hist. and Antiqs. of Castle and Town of Arundel, 19-20; Oxford DNB sub Howard, Philip, earl of Arundel.
  • 7. VCH Suss. v. pt. 1, p. 74; Eustace, 122, 127; Tierney, 697-8.
  • 8. VCH Suss. v. pt. 1, p. 83; C219/35/2/88; 219/38/244.
  • 9. Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, ii. 373.
  • 10. HMC Hatfield, xv. 283.
  • 11. HLRO, HL/PO/PB/1/1603/1J1n38; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 129.
  • 12. CJ, i. 973a.
  • 13. Ibid. i. 422a; C219/35/2/77.
  • 14. Procs. 1610, ii. 373; CJ, i. 427b.
  • 15. Lives of Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, and of Anne Dacres, his Wife ed. Henry Granville, 14th duke of Norfolk, 240-1; Cal. N. Wales Letters. ed. B.E. Howells (Univ. Wales, Bd. of Celtic Studies, Hist. and Law Ser. xxiii), 218.
  • 16. Tierney, 20n.
  • 17. M. Prestwich, Cranfield, 421n, 521, 524.
  • 18. Glanville, 72.
  • 19. Add. 72368, f. 11.
  • 20. CJ, i. 748a; Harl. 159, f. 98v; Glanville, 74-5. According to the edn. of Glanville’s reports printed in the 1770s, the votes in the initial poll were 25 for Mill and 27 for Chaworth. This edition also states that four more Mill supporters had arrived by midday and that a further ten Chaworth voters were subsequently found. However, both the Journal and Pym’s diary agree that the midday poll result was 39 votes for Mill and 37 for Chaworth, although Pym does not give the total for the initial poll and neither state the final result. CJ, i. 748a; Glanville, 72-3; ‘Pym 1624’, i. f. 39v.
  • 21. CJ, i. 748a-b; ‘Spring 1624’, p. 158; ‘Pym 1624’, i. f. 40v; SP14/161/36.
  • 22. Arundel, Autograph Letters 1617-32, Peers to Spiller, 16 Jan. 1626.
  • 23. CD 1628, iv. 236; Tierney, 132-5.