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 freemen


7 Feb. 1610SIR JOHN KAY vice Honing, deceased

Main Article

Eye is situated in ‘High Suffolk’, the predominantly pastoral region to the north of the county, which takes its name from the honour of ‘Heya’ or Eye, a Crown possession from the mid-sixteenth century. It allegedly first received privileges as early as the reign of King John, but was not incorporated until 1575, under the name of ‘Heya alias Eye’, a formula still sometimes used in the election indentures of the early seventeenth century. The charter of that year confirmed the borough’s enfranchisement, which had actually taken place four years earlier, and established a town government consisting of two bailiffs, ten other ‘principal burgesses’ and 24 common councillors. The election indentures were generally made in the name of the bailiffs, burgesses and commonalty, although only the bailiffs were personally named.2

Elizabethan elections were dominated by the Bacon family, whose influence in the latter part of the reign was wielded by Sir Nicholas Bacon† of Redgrave.3 Consequently, at James’s accession in March 1603, Philip Gawdy* asked his brother Sir Bassingbourne* to ‘make sure with Sir Nicholas Bacon that I may be burgess of Eye’ in the imminently expected first Jacobean Parliament.4 In the event, however, Parliament was not summoned until 1604, whereupon Eye elected not Gawdy, who was returned for Dunwich, but Edward Honing and Sir Henry Bokenham. Honing and Bokenham were both local men and closely connected, as Honing’s mother and Bokenham’s mother-in-law were the coheirs of Nicholas Cutler†, one of Eye’s original Members, while Bokenham was described as the ‘especial friend and near kinsman’ of Honing’s father. Moreover, both men were in a position to deploy the Crown’s interest in the borough: Honing leased the manor of Eye from the king and was the Exchequer’s receiver-general for Suffolk, while Bokenham was a gentleman pensioner and presumably had good connections at Court.5

Honing was buried on 7 May 1609, leaving his eldest son under-age. The writ for the by-election was issued the following September, and shortly thereafter lord treasurer Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) sent a letter of nomination to the corporation, probably in favour of Sir John Kay, a courtier and Ordnance official. On 16 Oct. the corporation replied that, at the ‘motion’ of their ‘near worthy neighbour’, Sir William Cornwallis† of Brome Hall, they had intended to elect one Mr. Kempe. The latter was probably Robert Kempe of Gissing, a lawyer closely connected to Sir Nicholas Bacon’s half brother, Sir Francis*, and related to Bartholomew Kempe, who had represented the borough in 1586. However, having gained Cornwallis’ acquiescence, they agreed to accept Salisbury’s nominee. They stipulated that he should come to Eye to be made free ‘as in the like have always been accustomed’ and that he would serve without payment. These conditions were presumably acceptable as Kay was elected the following February.6

There is no evidence that either Bokenham or Kay sought re-election in 1614, and indeed by then Bokenham had fled abroad to escape his father’s creditors. Instead, Sir William Cornwallis’ brother Sir Charles* applied for a seat, although probably not on the family interest as Sir Charles was then involved in litigation with Sir William’s widow. It seems more likely that Sir Charles hoped that his patron, the lord privy seal, Henry Howard, earl of Northampton, would intervene on his behalf, but stopping at Ipswich on his way from London to the borough, he learned that the election had already taken place. The successful candidates were Sir Robert Drury, who had married the daughter of Sir Nicholas Bacon, and Huntington Colby, who had been appointed muster master of Suffolk by Northampton’s nephew, the lord chamberlain, Thomas Howard, 1st earl of Suffolk.7

Both Drury and Colby were dead by 1620. Neither of their replacements had any obvious connections with the borough. Sir Roger North owned extensive estates in Suffolk, but they were located in the west of the county and around Stowmarket, about ten miles south of Eye. His colleague, Sir John Crompton, was from even further afield; his estates were in Yorkshire. Possibly Crompton owed his election to Prince Charles, who had been granted the honour and manor of Eye in 1617, as Crompton had been reappointed joint steward of the manor of Beverley by the prince in 1618. However, except at Chester, there is no evidence that the Prince’s Council made nominations outside the West Country in 1620.8

Crompton had died by 1624, while Sir Roger North was returned for the more prestigious county seat. On this occasion the Prince’s Council did make a nomination, in favour of Francis Finch, the brother of Charles’s serjeant-at-law, Heneage Finch*. Sir Henry Crofts, whose sister was the widow of Sir John Crompton, was returned for the other seat. Crofts came from a Suffolk family, but he lived near Bury St. Edmunds, and consequently was not local to the borough.9 During the Parliament the Commons’ recusancy committee investigated the activities of Simon Dormer, a popish schoolmaster in Eye. ‘It was not much denied by him that he did pervert boys, his scholars, from the Protestant religion’, and he was declared unfit to continue in his place. More seriously, it was complained that Bishop Harsnett, the diocesan, had done nothing. The complaints were transmitted to Archbishop Abbot, and Dormer was removed before the end of the year. Neither of the borough Members took any known part in this business.10

After the accession of Charles, the honour of Eye became part of Henrietta Maria’s jointure, but this seems to have had no impact on electoral patronage in the borough, which re-elected North and Finch without known opposition to the remaining Parliaments of this period. There is no evidence that Crofts sought re-election for the borough, although he was returned for Derby in 1626.11

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. H. Hulme, ‘Corrections and additions to the official ‘Return’ of Members of Parl., 1603/4’, BIHR, v. 104.
  • 2. HMC 10th Rep. IV, 513-14, 521; W.A. Copinger, Manors of Suff. iii. 259; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 248; OR; C219/37/236; 219/39/191.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 248,
  • 4. Letters of Philip Gawdy ed. I.H. Jeayes, 142.
  • 5. ‘Description of a picture of the fam. of Honing’ Coll. Top. et Gen. vii. 399; C2/Jas.I/B34/22.
  • 6. C219/35/2/70; SP14/48/109; Vis. Norf. (Harl. Soc. xxxii), 176; Works of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, iii. 74; iv. 40.
  • 7. Collectanea Curiosa ed. J. Gutch (1781), i. 161; P.B. Whitt, ‘New Light on Sir William Cornwallis the Essayist’ Rev. Eng. Studies, viii. 156; A.R. Campling, Hist. of Fam. of Drury, 62; Add. 39245, f. 8v.
  • 8. E371/724/126, m. 61; DCO, EP1, ff. 171-2, 178v-81; P.M. Hunneyball, ‘Prince Charles’s Council as Electoral Agent, 1620-24’, PH, xxiii. 318, 327, 334-5.
  • 9. DCO, ‘Prince Charles in Spain’, f. 35.
  • 10. CJ, i. 707b; ‘Nicholas 1624’, ff. 213-14; VCH Suff. ii. 338.
  • 11. Copinger, iii. 259.