Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the freemen
Number of voters:
|24 Feb. 1604||SIR THOMAS MONSON|
|SIR ROBERT TOWNSHEND|
|c. Mar. 1614||SIR ROBERT WYNDE|
|19 Dec. 1620||JOHN WILSON|
|1 Feb. 1624||(SIR) ROBERT SPILLER|
|c. Apr. 1625||SIR HAMON L'ESTRANGE|
|c. Feb. 1626||THOMAS BANCROFT|
|26 Feb. 1628||THOMAS BANCROFT|
|SIR ROBERT COTTON , (bt.)|
Four miles north-east of King’s Lynn, Rising had during the Middle Ages been an important and prosperous coastal town, dominated by an enormous castle (from which it took its name).1 However, it fell into decay as gradual silting caused the sea to retreat. By the mid-sixteenth century the castle was in ruins and the town had been eclipsed by King’s Lynn.2 Nevertheless the traditional 15-day fair (1-14 May) continued, and Rising Chase was still considered one of the best deer hunting regions in England.3
In the mid-sixteenth century the lordship of the manor was the property of the 4th duke of Norfolk, whose influence brought about the borough’s enfranchisement in 1559.4 Howard patronage waned after the duke’s attainder and execution in 1572, but had recovered by 1604, when the manor was jointly owned by Henry Howard, created earl of Northampton in March 1604, and his great-nephew Thomas Howard. Henry provided the town with an almshouse which abutted the church of St. Lawrence, at a cost of £451 14s. 2d. Endowed with lands worth £100 p.a., it housed 12 poor women and a governess.5 The franchise rested in the freemen of the borough, and election indentures were signed by the mayor and townsmen; in 1604 the return was decorated with six of their seals.6 At the parliamentary election of 1604, Henry had his client Sir Thomas Monson returned for the first seat. The second place went to Sir Robert Townshend who, though closely connected with the Howards, also enjoyed local influence and had been returned for the borough in 1601. During the 1604 session Thomas Howard was restored in blood as earl of Arundel, and Townshend was named to the bill committee.7
In 1614 the first seat went to Sir Robert Wynde, a gentleman of some standing in Norfolk, who shortly beforehand had sold land near Castle Rising to Northampton. His fellow Member, Thomas Byng, has not been clearly identified, but the Byng family was certainly closely linked with the Howards. After Northampton’s death, parliamentary elections were controlled by Arundel, as a letter written by the earl addressed to the ‘mayor and inhabitants’ of Rising makes clear:
whereas at the last summons for a Parliament you did willingly and freely make choice of R[obert] S[piller] and J[ohn] W[ilson] for your burgesses upon my recommendation … I do now again recommend and nominate unto you R[obert] S[piller] and A.D., who are able and worthy to undergo that service.8
Wilson’s identity is uncertain, but Spiller was one of Arundel’s clients, his uncle having been steward to the dowager countess of Arundel. ‘A.D.’ was perhaps Sir Anthony Drury*, another Arundel client, who entered Parliament in 1625 as knight of the shire for Norfolk.9 In the event ‘A.D.’ was not elected, but was replaced by Thomas Bancroft, a minor Exchequer official who had recently purchased Santon manor from Arundel. Bancroft subsequently served for Castle Rising in the next three parliaments. In 1625 he was joined by Sir Hamon L’Estrange, the head of the dominant gentry family in north Norfolk. L’Estrange was sufficiently influential to be elected on his own account, as the family had longstanding connections with the borough, where one of the castle’s towers was called ‘Strange Tower’.10 In 1626 the borough returned another Member not known to have been connected with Arundel – Nathaniel Gurlyn, the son of a prosperous King’s Lynn brewer. However, by 1628 the earl had regained control over both seats, for he had his client and close friend Sir Robert Cotton returned alongside Bancroft.
Author: Chris Kyle
- 1. J.M. Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of Eng. and Wales, i. 380; National Gazetteer of Eng. and Wales, iii. 514-15.
- 2. W. Camden, Britannia, i. 383.
- 3. F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. ix. 52, 56.
- 4. A.D. Hawkyard, ‘Enfranchisement of Constituencies’, PH, x. 20.
- 5. Blomefield, ix. 55.
- 6. C219/35/1/17.
- 7. CJ, i. 162a; HLRO, HL/PO/PB/I/1603/1J1n38; R.H. Mason, Hist. Norf. 233, n. 2.
- 8. He also noted that they were willing to serve without wages. SP14/135/42.
- 9. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in early Stuart Elections, 134-5.
- 10. H. Bradfer-Lawrence, Castle Rising, 30-1.