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|15 Mar. 1604||SIR THOMAS BIGG|
|Sir Philip KIGHLEY|
|?Sir Francis Egioke 3|
|31 Oct. 1605||ROBERT BOWYER vice Kighley, deceased|
|26 Feb. 1610||EDWARD SALTER vice Bowyer, appointed clerk of the Parliaments|
|15 Dec. 1620||(SIR) THOMAS BIGG , (bt.)|
|5 July 16214||SIR EDWARD CONWAY I vice Bigg, deceased|
|4 Feb. 1624||SIR EDWARD CONWAY I|
|RICHARD CRESHELD , recorder|
|27 Apr. 1625||RICHARD CRESHELD , recorder|
|17 Jan. 16265||SIR JOHN HARE|
|27 Feb. 1628||SIR ROBERT HARLEY|
|RICHARD CRESHELD , recorder|
Lying 15 miles south-east of Worcester, close to the borders with Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, Evesham grew up around Evesham Abbey. Though it sent representatives to Parliament in 1295 and 1337, it did not do so subsequently.6 Lewis Bayly, the vicar of All Saints, Evesham, since 1600, was appointed chaplain to Henry, prince of Wales soon after James’s accession,7 so enabling the town to acquire its first royal charter, issued on 2 Mar. 1604. This restored the borough’s parliamentary representation, vesting the franchise in the freemen, whose number is unknown, but the 1604 election took place under the unincorporated town government, since the new officers of the corporation had not yet been sworn. The parties to the indenture were the two bailiffs, who were confirmed in their offices in the charter, and 10 other inhabitants –presumably prominent freemen of the old municipality – of whom six were appointed aldermen in the new incorporation and one was made a capital burgess.8
The senior seat was bestowed on Sir Thomas Bigg, a prominent local landowner, while the second place went to Sir Philip Kighley, who had assisted Bayly in procuring the charter. However, according to Bayly, Sir Francis Egioke, ‘affecting to be the other burgess’, thereupon had Kighley indicted for riot. This suggests that there may have been a contest for the junior seat. Egioke was the brother of Kighley’s deceased first wife, his trustee and a colleague in the Exchequer, and probably expected Kighley to support his candidacy. His anger suggests that Kighley supported Bigg, who was also connected to Kighley.9
The new charter was rapidly found to be inadequate and a second was issued in April 1605. In the new charter the town’s government was vested in a common council of 21, consisting of seven aldermen, 12 capital burgesses, a recorder and a chamberlain, of whom one was to be mayor. The charter also appointed as high steward Sir Thomas Chaloner*, a Buckinghamshire man who, though he had no previous connection with Evesham, was governor to Prince Henry, so strengthening the connection between the prince’s Household and the borough.10
In the same month as the new charter was issued Kighley died, thereby necessitating the holding of a by-election. Although the franchise continued to lie with all the freemen, the subsequent return states merely that Kighley’s successor, Robert Bowyer, was elected by the mayor, aldermen and capital burgesses. Furthermore, all except one of the signatories to the return had been named to the common council in the 1605 charter. Bowyer seems to have been the nominee of Chaloner,11 and when he was forced to relinquish his seat following his appointment as clerk of the Parliaments it was presumably Chaloner’s influence which accounts for the election of Edward Salter, another member of the prince’s Household, in 1610. On this occasion only members of the common council were parties to the indenture.12
By 1614 Prince Henry was dead; the borough returned two local men, Thomas Bigg and Anthony Langston, both of whom were re-elected in 1620. It was by now clear that the corporation had effectively taken control of the borough’s parliamentary elections, for although the return reiterated the passage in the charter vesting the franchise in the burgesses and claimed that the election took place at a meeting of the mayor, aldermen and burgesses at the town hall, only members of the corporation were signatories to the return and the election was recorded in the minutes of the common council.13 After Bigg died in June 1621 he was replaced by Sir Edward Conway I, a rising soldier-diplomat from Ragley across the Warwickshire border. The election was held at a meeting of the common council in July, but Conway could not be formally returned until after the writ for Bigg’s replacement was issued in November. Only eight parties were named in the return, the mayor, two aldermen and five capital burgesses, although 16 had been present at the July meeting.14 Conway had been connected with Prince Henry and may have been elected through the influence of Bayly, who had been high steward since 1615.15
In February 1624 the corporation re-elected Conway and, for the first time, the recorder, Richard Cresheld, was also returned. From 1624 the returns do not name the parties and use the formula mayor, aldermen and burgesses in describing the election.16 Conway became the borough’s high steward in March 1625, at which time he was also raised to the peerage.17 Unable by virtue of his ennoblement to stand for re-election the following month, Conway was replaced as senior Member by Cresheld, who was joined by Langston.
Although two local men were returned in 1625, this did not establish a pattern for the future. In 1626 a Norfolk gentleman, Sir John Hare, took the senior seat. Hare was the son-in-law of Sir Thomas Coventry*, the lord keeper, and though Coventry did not yet own property near the town, he was an important south Worcestershire landowner who had, in 1622, supported various members of the corporation against Cresheld when the latter stood for election as recorder.18 Conway regained control of Evesham in 1628, when the corporation elected his nominee, Sir Robert Harley. At first the corporation wanted to re-elect Cresheld and Langston, but the elderly Langston was reluctant to serve again. The corporation’s next choice was a Mr. Savage, but the latter’s heavily pregnant wife opposed his election and Conway’s agent was confident he could get the support of Cresheld and Langston for Harley.19
The Evesham Members may have been paid before 1620, when Langston and Bigg agreed to relinquish their salaries.20 There is no evidence that the corporation promoted legislation in Parliament.
Author: Ben Coates
- 1. G. May, Descriptive Hist. of Town of Evesham, 472.
- 2. Ibid. 280; C219/37/308
- 3. E178/3832.
- 4. Evesham Bor. Recs. of Seventeenth Cent. ed. S.K. Roberts (Worcs. Hist. Soc. n.s. xiv), 23. The return is dated 8 November. OR.
- 5. Evesham Bor. Recs. 27. The return is dated 1 February. OR.
- 6. VCH Worcs. ii. 371-7.
- 7. O.G. Knapp ‘Evesham Parsons’, N and Q Concerning Evesham and Four Shires ed. E.A.B. Barnard, ii. 79; T. Birch, Life of Henry Prince of Wales, 455.
- 8. E178/3832; C2/Jas.I/A6/3; May, 279, 451-2.
- 9. E178/3832.
- 10. R. Strong, Henry, Prince of Wales and England’s Lost Renaissance, 31.
- 11. May, 280, 457, 472, 462; C219/35/2/136.
- 12. C219/35/2/134.
- 13. C219/37/317; Evesham Bor. Recs. xv, 22.
- 14. Evesham Bor. Recs. 23; C219/37/308.
- 15. Harl. 7002, f. 69.
- 16. C219/38/261; C219/39/245; C219/40/80; C219/41B/28.
- 17. Evesham Bor. Recs. 25.
- 18. VCH Worcs. ii. 413; SP14/134/74.
- 19. Procs. 1628, vi. 149; CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 562, 583.
- 20. Evesham Bor. Recs. 22.