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:



 ?John Eltonhed
c. July 1625SIR EDWARD BOYS vice Wilsford, chose to sit for Canterbury

Main Article

Christchurch, a small coastal town of no economic significance, had never received a royal charter. Its municipal officers were not far removed from manorial officials, and such self-government as it possessed rested on the tacit agreement of the lord of the manor.2 It first sent representatives to Parliament in 1571. The franchise was restricted to the mayor, formerly the lord’s portreeve, and the ‘burgesses’.3 About eight of them usually signed the indenture.4 The main electoral patron of the borough in this period was the Catholic Thomas Arundell, later 1st Lord Arundell of Wardour, who bought the castle and hundred in 1601 from Henry Hastings, a kinsman of the earl of Huntingdon. Hastings continued to lease the priory and fishing rights from the duchy of Cornwall.5 After Prince Charles’s creation as Prince of Wales there was an attempt by the Prince’s Council to investigate the extent of the duchy’s rights at Christchurch, but the survey confirmed that Arundell had pre-eminence and the Prince’s Council does not seem to have contemplated making nominations for the borough in either of the parliaments in which it did so elsewhere.6

For the last Elizabethan Parliament Hastings unsuccessfully nominated John Foyle† and Henry Hyde†.7 In 1604 the townsmen proved anxious to elect Foyle, a thriving attorney from the neighbouring Dorset town of Shaftesbury,8 but he asked to be spared, ‘the time falling out so inconvenient for me I cannot by any means attend without great prejudice unto myself and many my good friends’. To take his place he recommended Hyde’s brother Nicholas, another lawyer and ‘a very sufficient gentleman’. Although he admitted that Nicholas lived in Wiltshire, and was thus non-resident, he declared that he ‘is every way a fit man agreeable to the Proclamation’ that had recently been issued by James I requiring that the laws governing elections be strictly applied.9 Foyle may have consulted Arundell about his chosen replacement, as Arundell later claimed to have supported Hyde’s candidature. For the first seat Arundell certainly nominated Richard Martin, his legal counsel, who wrote to the mayor on 14 Feb. requesting the place ‘in respect of that love which you owe to so honourable a landlord (whose furtherance and consent herein I am assured of) as also for that information you may have by him and others of me, being one of the Temple’. He went on to ask the borough ‘to put in my name according to the custom of your election as well as though I were present in person; and that you with the rest of your brethren will be pleased to give me notice of this your so favourable courtesies’. He ended by undertaking to do the borough any service in his power.10 Arundell wrote briefly on Martin’s behalf six days later, but received the evasive reply that the writ had not yet arrived. On 2 Mar., with elections proceeding apace and no word from Christchurch, he reiterated his recommendation of Martin, who had meanwhile taken the precaution of securing his return at Cirencester. Arundell’s anxiety proved groundless in the event, and Martin and Hyde seem to have been returned unopposed.11

In 1614 Arundell wrote to the mayor that ‘whereas at the last Parliament you did grant unto me the nomination of both your burgesses, … now I do again desire that I may have the nomination of both your burgesses … being so near a neighbour unto you and meaning, God willing, to live amongst you’. Promising to bear the Members’ charges himself for the 1614 Parliament, he recommended Sir Thomas Norton of Northwood Chasteners and Henry Breton (Britton) of Slyfield. Norton’s connection with Arundell is unknown, but Britton, who only the previous year had been in trouble for his religion, was related to him through the Wriothesleys.12 Arundell proved successful in his request for both seats, but in the next Parliament it is not clear whether he nominated just one or both candidates, as no letter of nomination survives in respect of the senior seat. This was bestowed on Arundell’s kinsman, Hastings’s son Sir George, then resident in the borough. Arundell’s first choice for the second seat was Sir Robert Phelips*, who may have requested the nomination in case his candidature at Bath was unsuccessful. However, by 6 Jan. Phelips was sure of the other seat. Consequently he asked Christchurch, on Arundell’s authority, to defer the election. If this had already taken place the borough should send to the sheriff to have the indenture cancelled, otherwise it would be short of a Member when Parliament opened.13 In Phelips’ stead Arundell recommended his London neighbour Nathaniel Tomkins, Phelips’s confidant and a servant of the prince of Wales.14 The election took place the following day, the Members being returned by the ‘common assent’ of the ‘burgesses’.15

Tomkins moved up to the senior seat at the next election, though still a mere ‘gentleman’, and held it for the rest of the period. Arundell wrote to the mayor of Christchurch on 21 Jan. 1624, undertaking that Tomkins would serve gratis; he added that Hastings had asked for his nomination to the second seat, but pleaded ill-health as an excuse for deferring his decision.16 Arundell may have been unwilling to allow Hastings to establish a lien on the seat, for three days later he nominated John Eltonhed, yet another Middle Temple lawyer, adding that ‘for my cousin, Sir George Hastings, I have writ unto him, which I hope will give him satisfaction’.17 Although the sheriff’s copy of the indenture, which is now illegible, was endorsed 26 Jan., the election seems to have been deferred for three days following the arrival of Arundell’s letter, and the mayor’s copy is therefore correctly dated 29 January.18 Hastings’s local connections proved decisive, and in what was presumably a contested election he and Tomkins were returned by ‘common assent’. Hastings, in his letter of thanks, waived payment.19

In 1625 Arundell nominated Tomkins and Sir Thomas Wilsford.20 However, Wilsford chose to sit for Canterbury. Ahead of the ensuing election Arundell recommended another Kentishman, Sir Edward Boys, as his replacement.21 At the 1626 election Arundell confined his interest to one seat, though he was later assured that he might have had both. Tomkins was returned with Robert Mason, a London lawyer of Hampshire origin, who was the son-in-law of John Foyle.22

Arundell’s nominees for the 1628 election were Tomkins, by this time clerk extraordinary of the Privy Council, and (Sir) Henry Croke, whose brother Sir John sat for Arundell’s borough of Shaftesbury. Croke may have recommended himself to Arundell by his slackness, as clerk of the pipe, in pursuing recusants. On 6 Feb. Arundell’s agent wrote to the mayor: ‘his lordship hopes by this time you have received the writs, and therefore hath sent this messenger of purpose to attend the ending [sic] thereof, and that you would send him away withal as soon as with conveniency you may’. Arundell as usual promised that both Members would serve without charge.23

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Dorset RO, DC/CC F 1/5.
  • 2. VCH Hants, v. 86-89.
  • 3. Dorset RO, DC/CC B 2/1/1; DC/CC A 2/1; DC/CC A 2/2.
  • 4. Dorset RO, DC/CC F 1/3–F/1/7.
  • 5. E112/121/337; VCH Hants, v. 92.
  • 6. VCH Hants, v. 87-88; P.M. Hunneyball, ‘Prince Charles’s Council as Electoral Agent’, PH, xxiii. 316-35.
  • 7. Dorset RO, DC/CC, acc. 7998, unfol. (Hastings to Mayor 13 Sept. 1601; Bindon to Mayor, 6 Oct. 1601).
  • 8. Dorset RO, DC/CC C 1/24.
  • 9. Dorset RO, DC/CC, acc. 7998, unfol. (Foyle to Mayor, 28 Feb. 1604).
  • 10. Ibid. (Martin to Mayor, 14 Feb. 1604).
  • 11. Ibid. (Arundell to Mayor, 20 Feb. 1604, 2 Mar. 1604).
  • 12. Ibid. (Arundell to Mayor, 14 Feb. 1614).
  • 13. Ibid. (Phelips to Mayor, 6 Jan. 1621, to William Goldwire, 7 Jan. 1621).
  • 14. H. Lawson, Geneal. Colls. Illus. Catholic Fams. 234; Dorset RO, DC/CC, acc. 7998, unfol. (John Talbot [Arundell’s agent] to Goldwire, 7 Jan. 1621).
  • 15. Dorset RO, DC/CC F 1/4.
  • 16. Dorset RO, DC/CC, acc. 7998, unfol. (Arundell to Mayor, 21 Jan. 1624).
  • 17. Ibid. (Arundell to Mayor, 24 Jan. 1624); M. Temple Admiss. i. 90.
  • 18. C219/38/200; Dorset RO, DC/CC F 1/5.
  • 19. Dorset RO, DC/CC, acc. 7998, unfol. (Hastings to Mayor, 31 Jan. 1624).
  • 20. Procs. 1625, pp. 679-80.
  • 21. C231/4, f. 189v; Dorset RO, DC/CC, acc. 7998, unfol. (Arundell to Colgill, 16 June 1625).
  • 22. Dorset RO, DC/CC, acc. 7998, unfol. (Arundell to Mayor, 3 Feb. 1628).
  • 23. Ibid. (Arundell to Mayor, 3 Feb. 1628, William Woodesson [Arundell’s agent] to Mayor, 6 Feb. 1628).