Available from Cambridge University Press
Right of Election:
in the burgesses
Number of voters:
46 in 1624
|c. Mar. 1604||JOHN HUNGERFORD|
|16 Mar. 16141||SIR ROGER OWEN|
|15 Apr. 16142||SIR WILLIAM MAYNARD , (bt.) vice Owen, chose to sit for Shropshire|
|11 Dec. 1620||EDWARD HUNGERFORD|
|23 Jan. 1624||JOHN MAYNARD (not returned)||13|
|SIR FRANCIS POPHAM||39|
|CHARLES MAYNARD returned vice Maynard. John Maynard seated, 12 Mar. 1624|
|Double return of Popham and Pym.|
|POPHAM seated, 9 Apr. 1624|
|c. May 1625||JOHN MAYNARD|
|SIR FRANCIS POPHAM|
|13 Jan. 1626||SIR EDWARD BAYNTUN|
|SIR FRANCIS POPHAM|
|7 Mar. 1628||SIR FRANCIS POPHAM|
|SIR JOHN EYRE|
Located on the River Avon, close to the royal forest of Pewsham, the settlement of Chippenham dates from at least the ninth century, and was the scene of a famous peace treaty between the Saxons and Danes in 879. In the early Stuart period the town was noted for its corn market, though its prosperity depended primarily on the manufacture of broadcloth. There were at least 94 households in 1604, and Chippenham was substantial enough to host quarter sessions in its town hall.3 A corporation, consisting of a bailiff and 12 capital burgesses, was created in 1554, at which time the Crown also granted the town more than 200 acres, the revenues from which were intended to be used for maintaining a bridge over the Avon and to help fund the costs of sending Members to Parliament. The town lands were a frequent source of controversy, and in 1574 certain corporation members were sued in Chancery for misappropriating the revenues. More seriously, in the early years of James’s reign the grant itself was called into question by the Crown, which claimed that over a quarter of this property was assart land within Pewsham forest and therefore liable to rent. In 1607 the borough was obliged to compound and obtain a fresh charter which resolved this issue.4
Chippenham first returned Members to the Commons in 1295. Under the Marian charter the franchise was vested in the corporation, but prior to this the freemen in general had enjoyed the vote. Consequently, at several Elizabethan elections the ordinary freemen asserted their right to this privilege, but without success.5 The matter was not forgotten, however, for when, at the start of James’s reign, a fresh dispute arose over the corporation’s management of the town lands, the freemen took the opportunity to claim in Chancery that by long tradition they both elected and funded the borough’s Members. Certainly, when wages were required during the first Jacobean Parliament, every householder was rated in order to raise this money, though it is unclear whether this was the usual practice. The question of the franchise was only incidental to the Chancery suit, but significantly, in February 1604, the court upheld the freemen’s complaints. This issue must therefore have been at the forefront of residents’ minds when a parliamentary election was held just weeks later.6
Over the previous decade the borough’s dominant patron had been Sir Anthony Mildmay of Apethorpe, Northamptonshire, who had acquired by marriage a half-share in the lordship of Chippenham, and who received £4 a year from the profits of the town’s market.7 When the 1604 election was called, Mildmay nominated Edward Wymarke, who had represented the borough in the previous two Parliaments. However, in the aftermath of the Chancery ruling the corporation evidently felt that it had to consult the freemen, and consequently when the election was held ‘most of the inhabitants were called and assembled in the lower hall to signify their allowance and approbation of the choice and election’. At this meeting Wymarke was rejected ‘because the freemen would not admit of him’. Instead, one of the townsmen, John Roberts, was chosen, ‘being proposed by the generality’.8 In a further blow to Mildmay, the senior seat was awarded to John Hungerford, a Wiltshire gentleman living some five miles away at Bremhill. He may have been returned on the strength of his own local standing, but he probably received backing from his kinsman, Sir Edward Hungerford†, who not only owned Sheldon manor in Chippenham, but had also recently purchased a seat at Corsham, just three miles away. Roberts received parliamentary wages of 2s. a day, but Hungerford doubtless covered his own expenses.9
Undeterred, Mildmay took steps to reassert his authority over the borough, in 1608 collecting his market rents in person. In 1614 he again demanded one seat, and at the request of his son-in-law, Sir Francis Fane*, nominated Thomas Culpeper. However, he faced competition from three other directions. Sir Edward Hungerford was now dead, and his heir, Edward Hungerford*, was still a minor. The family’s interest was therefore exercised by Sir Edward’s widow, who had since become countess of Rutland. She recommended one ‘Mr. Letet’, who has not been identified. Henry Bailiffe [Bayly]†, who had just inherited the seat of Monkton on the edge of the town, also put himself forward. Finally, another outsider, Sir Roger Owen, was proposed by his Wiltshire kinsman, Sir Henry Bayntun* of Bromham, a former Chippenham Member who had recently acquired the nearby manor of Rowden.10 On 20 Feb. the countess withdrew her initial request, having heard that Letet would be supplied with a seat elsewhere by the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil*), and instead nominated her own brother, Humphrey Tufton†. At this juncture the corporation apparently resolved to accept Bailiffe and Tufton, and accordingly it wrote to Mildmay explaining that it would be unable to oblige him. By return of post they received a clear statement of Sir Anthony’s displeasure, and Fane also pitched in by letter to pile pressure on the borough. Meanwhile, Bailiffe proved to be no match for the much wealthier Bayntun. On 16 Mar. the borough finally settled on Owen and Culpeper. The freemen again requested to participate in the election, but there was clearly too much at stake for the corporation to risk another upset, and the narrow franchise was restored.11 The emergence of the Bayntun interest was confirmed a month later, when Owen opted to sit for Shropshire, and he was replaced at Chippenham by Sir William Maynard, whose sister had just married Sir Henry’s son, Sir Edward*.12
By December 1620, when the next election was held, both Mildmay and Sir Henry Bayntun had died, leaving the way clear for their rivals. Consequently, the senior seat was taken by Edward Hungerford, who was now of age, while the junior place went to John Bailiffe, Henry’s younger brother.13 However, the picture in 1624 was different again. Hungerford sat as a Wiltshire shire knight, and seems not to have nominated anyone at Chippenham. Instead, the Bayntun interest revived, in the shape of Maynard’s brother John. The borough was also approached by John Pym, the local Crown receiver, who probably hoped to exploit the Exchequer’s interest in Pewsham forest. Another outsider to express interest in a seat was Sir Francis Popham, a gentleman resident at Littlecote, on the opposite side of Wiltshire. Popham was later a major benefactor of Chippenham, but his connection with the borough at this time has not been established.14 On 21 Jan. 12 members of the corporation assembled at the town hall. Some of the ordinary freemen also turned up, but without attempting to participate in proceedings. The corporation agreed unanimously to elect Maynard as the senior Member, but there was a tie between Pym and Popham for the remaining seat. Accordingly, a further gathering was held two days later, at which, with the entire corporation present, Pym won the contest by a margin of one vote. A body of freemen had again gathered in the lower hall, and the bailiff, who favoured Popham, now invited them to state their own preference, ignoring any questions about the legality of this move. When Sir Francis received the entire popular vote, the bailiff made out an indenture returning Maynard and Popham, endorsed with the names of the six dissenting capital burgesses and those of 33 freemen. However, Pym’s seven supporters refused to accept defeat, and returned Maynard and Pym as the choice of the majority of the corporation.15
To complicate matters further, Maynard had learnt that he was also being nominated by Prince Charles’s Council for a seat at St. Albans, Hertfordshire, and decided that he had no use for the seat at Chippenham. Accordingly, his brother William, now Lord Maynard, contacted Sir Edward Bayntun, their brother-in-law, who arranged for John’s name to be erased from both indentures and replaced with that of another sibling, Charles Maynard. No attempt was made to hold a fresh election before the rival returns were dispatched to London. Unfortunately for John Maynard, the Prince’s Council heard that he had been elected at Chippenham and promptly withdrew its own nomination of him, thus leaving him without a seat at all.16
When the Parliament assembled Sir Robert Phelips moved for Popham to be admitted. Pym, who had also been returned for Tavistock but had not yet formally opted for either borough, objected, at which point the matter was referred to the committee for privileges. On 2 Mar. Bayntun, himself a Member, unfolded to the committee the delicate problem of his brother-in-law’s fraudulent return, whereupon it was agreed both that John Maynard must be reinstated and that the facts of the case should be firmly suppressed to avoid scandal.17 A week later the committee addressed the equally tricky question of the double return of Pym and Popham, hearing counsel for both sides on the history of the borough’s franchise. On 10 Mar. Pym finally chose to sit for Tavistock, seemingly leaving the field clear for Popham. The next day the committee decided that the broad franchise was legitimate, though this was deemed not to affect Maynard’s return. However, Sir Francis then failed to prove that the freemen had participated in the election on 23 Jan., rather than merely voiced their preference afterwards. As this cast doubt on his victory, the committee cautiously decided to recommend a by-election for the second seat.18 On 12 Mar. the Commons, falsely informed by the committee for privileges that Charles Maynard had been returned purely by accident, agreed that John Maynard should be recognized as the rightful Member. Three days later, the House also decided that the bailiff must amend the relevant indenture. However, no verdict was reached concerning Popham, who was left in limbo for another three weeks. On 1 Apr. the committee for privileges finally concluded that he should be allowed to sit without the formality of a fresh election, an opinion that was endorsed on 9 Apr. by the Commons, which also ruled that in future the borough’s elections should be conducted under a broad franchise.19
Popham, having evidently established a popular base at Chippenham, retained his seat at the next three elections. John Maynard sat again in 1625, and Sir Edward Bayntun himself represented the borough in the following year. In 1628 the second place went to Sir John Eyre, another Wiltshire gentleman, whose mother was a Bayntun. Elections were clearly viewed within the borough primarily as an opportunity to gratify its assorted patrons, and at no stage during this period did any of Chippenham’s Members demonstrably seek to advance the town’s interests in Parliament.20
Authors: Henry Lancaster / Paul Hunneyball
- 1. Wilts. RO, G19/1/30/257.
- 2. Ibid. G19/1/30/262.
- 3. J.J. Daniell, Hist. Chippenham, 4, 20, 29, 66-7, 69, 90-1; Recs. of Chippenham Bor. ed. F.H. Goldney, 191.
- 4. Recs. of Chippenham Bor. 266, 269-71, 284, 286, 288; Daniell, 61.
- 5. Daniell, 67; J. Glanville, Reps. of Certain Cases Determined and Adjudged by the Commons in Parl. (1775), pp. 49-50.
- 6. Recs. of Chippenham Bor. 30, 191, 272-83.
- 7. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 270; Recs. of Chippenham Bor. 189, 292, 323-4, 339; CP, xii. pt. 2, p. 567.
- 8. Recs. of Chippenham Bor. 328; ‘Earle 1624’, ff. 109v-10.
- 9. Vis. Wilts. (Harl. Soc. cv-cvi), 91, 94; Recs. of Chippenham Bor. pp. xii, 2, 195.
- 10. Recs. of Chippenham Bor. pp. xviii, 197; Vis. Wilts. 13-14, 91; Daniel, 52; PROB 11/82, f. 228; Wilts. RO, G19/1/30/252-3; 473/87, 90.
- 11. Wilts. RO, G19/1/30/253-5, 258, 260; ‘Earle 1624’, f. 110.
- 12. C142/366/189.
- 13. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 251; Recs. of Chippenham Bor. 44; Vis. Wilts. 13-14, 91-3.
- 14. Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiv), 679; Recs. of Chippenham Bor. 18, 58; Daniell, 143.
- 15. Glanville, 51-3. Glanville incorrectly states the number of freemen as being 32; cf. Wilts. RO, G19/1/30/264.
- 16. DCO, ‘Prince Charles in Spain’, f. 37; C219/38/306; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 169.
- 17. CJ, i. 717b; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 169.
- 18. ‘Earle 1624’, ff. 64-5; CJ, i. 681b; ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 191.
- 19. CJ, i. 684b, 686a-b, 759a; ‘Earle 1624’, ff. 109v-110.
- 20. Vis. Wilts. 60.