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 corporation

Number of voters:

24 in 1608; 18 from 1608


22 Dec. 1620SIR WILLIAM COPE , (bt.)
24 Jan. 1624SIR ERASMUS DRYDEN , bt.
30 Apr. 1625SIR WILLIAM COPE , (bt.)
19 July 1625JAMES FIENNES vice Cope, election declared void
10 Mar. 1628JOHN CREWE

Main Article

Banbury, a small market town, was enfranchised as a single member constituency and incorporated by a charter of 1554.1 Twelve aldermen, one of whom served as bailiff, and 12 capital burgesses together constituted both the common council and the electorate.2 A ‘Banbury man’ on the Jacobean stage and in common parlance signified a puritan, and all the five Members who represented the borough were associated with local puritan ministers, notably John Dod and William Whately, whose father acted as returning officer in 1624.3 Sir William Cope of Hardwick, a mile north of Banbury, whose father Sir Anthony* was sheriff of Oxfordshire in 1604 and had sat for the borough seven times under Elizabeth, represented the borough in the first three Parliaments of James I. Thereafter the borough’s electoral patronage was shared between Cope, who succeeded to his ancestral estate of nearby Hanwell in 1614, and the Fiennes family of Broughton, three miles away. All of Banbury’s Members were related to each other by ties of blood and friendship, and no contests are known to have occurred. No payment of wages to representatives is recorded in the town’s accounts for any of the early Stuart Parliaments.4

A new charter dated 28 June 1608 substituted a mayor for the bailiff, reduced the number of capital burgesses to six, and added 30 ‘assistants’ to the corporation, though the latter had no share in parliamentary elections.5 Lord (Sir William†) Knollys, later 1st earl of Banbury, was named high steward, but appears to have exercised no interest in this borough.6 In 1624 Cope moved up to sit for the county, and Banbury was represented by his cousin Sir Erasmus Dryden, the only Member in this period who cannot be considered a local resident.7 Shortly after the prorogation in 1624 Cope was arrested and imprisoned in the Fleet for a debt of £3,000. He had been released on bail when Charles I’s first Parliament was summoned, and tried to regain his seat with the support of the mayor, John Nicholas, who had acted as one of his sureties. However, his creditor, Lady Coppin, was quick to enter a petition against him in the Commons, and after it was referred to the privileges committee at Cope’s own motion, he was ruled ineligible on 23 June.8 He was replaced by a more radical puritan, James Fiennes, the eldest son of the 1st Viscount Saye and Sele of Broughton. Fiennes in his turn moved up to the county for the second and third Parliaments of Charles I. In 1626 Banbury was represented by a local gentleman, Calcot Chambre, one of the corporation’s 30 assistants, and a business associate of both Cope and Fiennes. There was strong resistance to the Forced Loan in Banbury, led by Saye and Sele, and also resentment at the billeting of soldiers, which was imposed in part as a punishment for non-payment; however, this seems to have had no direct impact on the result of the next general election.9 Cope’s continuing financial difficulties had forced him to sell some of his estates in the area by this time, transactions in which the king’s serjeant (Sir) Thomas Crewe* became involved. It was probably through this connection that Crewe’s eldest son, John, was returned for Banbury in 1628, and became a trustee of Chambre’s Irish estates together with Fiennes in the following year.

Authors: Alan Davidson / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. A. Beesley, Banbury, 219-22.
  • 2. VCH Oxon. x. 73-4; R.K. Gilkes ‘Banbury: the Pattern of Local Govt.’, Cake and Cockhorse, v. 3.
  • 3. VCH Oxon. x. 7.
  • 4. Banbury Corp. Recs. ed. J.S.W. Gibson and E.R.C. Brinkworth (Banbury Hist. Soc. xv), p. xiii.
  • 5. Beesley, 254-8.
  • 6. Gilkes, 6.
  • 7. C78/199/4.
  • 8. C2/Jas.I/W26/22; Procs 1625, pp. 206, 207, 215, 222-3, 227.
  • 9. J.B. Blankenfeld, ‘Puritans in Banbury 1554-1660’ (Yale Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1985), pp. 213-35.