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 burgage-holders

Number of voters:



 Thomas THYNNE
by 3 Apr. 16141SIR EDMUND LUDLOW
aft. 9 Apr. 1614HENRY MERVYN vice Sandys, chose to sit for Rochester
  Double return of Anketill and Ludlow. Ludlow’s election declared void 18 Apr. 1621
30 May 1621(SIR) HENRY MERVYN vice Davies, chose to sit for Newcastle-under-Lyme

Main Article

Still little more than a village in the seventeenth century, Hindon, which had regularly sent Members to Parliament from 1448, was an early thirteenth-century settlement planned by the bishop of Winchester and built on his manor of East Knoyle. Although close to the market towns of Wilton and Warminster, it boasted a market place and hosted a Michaelmas fair. By the mid-1630s its principal trades were weaving and the manufacture of gunpowder. The bishop’s bailiff headed the town’s administration, and acted as returning officer at parliamentary elections. As at Downton, another Wiltshire borough controlled by the see of Winchester, the right to participate in borough administration probably depended upon the ownership of plots of land in free burgage tenure. Certainly it was this form of ownership which provided the basis of the franchise.2 Returns were signed by each of the participating burgesses, whose numbers tended to vary. Ten appended their names in 1604 while 30 did so in 1624. However, the illiteracy rate among the burgesses was high: in 1625, 11 of the 28 participating burgesses were obliged to make their mark rather than sign, while in 1626 only 12 or 13 could do so out of 22 or 23. Not surprisingly, it was felt necessary for three or four individuals to attest the validity of the returns, which they did by placing their signatures on the back of the indenture.3

Before 1584 the bishop controlled both parliamentary seats, but thereafter episcopal authority waned. Archbishop Whitgift assumed the bishop’s right of nomination to one seat, but at the price, it would seem, of allowing the other place to fall under the control of the local gentry. This arrangement persisted until the end of Elizabeth’s reign, and would doubtless have continued under James had Whitgift not died less than two weeks before Hindon held its election to the first Jacobean Parliament. The inability or unwillingness of the then bishop of Winchester, Thomas Bilson, to fill the void created by Whitgift’s death on 29 Feb. 1604, meant that both seats were now targeted by members of the local gentry.

Chief among the local landowners was Sir James Mervyn† [Marvyn], whose seat at Fonthill Gifford lay a few miles north of the borough. In 1597 Mervyn had secured his own return for Hindon, and in 1601 and 1604 he used his influence for the benefit of Thomas Thynne, his granddaughter’s husband and heir to the Longleat estate. The senior place in 1604 was bestowed upon Sir Edmund Ludlow, whose seat lay at Hill Deverill, six miles north-west of Hindon. Ludlow, a familiar figure about Hindon no doubt, may have possessed sufficient interest to procure the seat unaided, but in all likelihood he replied upon the Thynnes, as earlier in the month Thomas’ father, Sir John Thynne, had unsuccessfully tried to drum up support for Ludlow, who had cherished ambitions of serving as a knight of the shire for Wiltshire.4

Following the death of Sir James Mervyn in 1611, ownership of Fonthill Gifford passed to George Tuchet, 11th Lord Audley, the brother of Thomas Thynne’s wife Maria Tuchet. Despite Maria’s death that same year, Thynne, now knighted, retained a residual interest at Hindon. In 1614 Thynne chose not to exercise this interest in his own behalf, possibly because he was then busily preparing for the christening of his son by second wife.5 Instead he apparently threw his support behind Ludlow, who was accordingly re-elected. Ludlow’s partner was Sir Edwin Sandys of Northbourne, Kent, a leading Member of the first Jacobean Parliament who was finding it difficult to obtain a seat nearer to home. How Sandys came by the Hindon seat is unclear, but it may be significant that the Wiltshire magnate, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, was then an ally of Sandys’s patron, the earl of Somerset. Whatever the truth may have been, Sandys ultimately chose not to serve for Hindon, for soon after he was elected he learned that he had been returned for Rochester, which borough he preferred to represent.6 At the ensuing election Sandys was replaced by Lord Audley’s son-in-law, Henry Mervyn.

Audley was elevated to the Irish peerage in 1617 as earl of Castlehaven. Later that same year he died, whereupon his titles and estates passed to his son, Sir Mervyn Audley alias Tuchet*. At the parliamentary election of 1620, the new earl of Castlehaven had the burgesses of Hindon return his brother-in-law Sir John Davies and his page John Anketill. Sir Thomas Thynne, who seems not to have enjoyed the same favour with Castlehaven that he had with Castlehaven’s father, found a seat at Heytesbury instead, but Sir Edmund Ludlow, who had previously relied on Thynne to procure him a place, was left high and dry. On the morning of the election, an angry Ludlow, though now 80 years old, gathered together some ‘out-dwellers’ and various other individuals and, ‘in a chamber’, got them to sign a separate indenture naming himself.7

Shortly after the Commons assembled, Anketill, who had never served in Parliament before, attempted to take his seat, whereupon he was ordered to forbear the House until the matter of his election was resolved.8 No such prohibition was directed at Ludlow, an experienced Member who knew the rules, or at Davies, who preferred to serve for another borough for which he had also been elected. During the course of the ensuing investigation it became apparent that Hindon had, most unusually, sent in no less than three returns. The first, signed by 23 burgesses, named Sir John Davies alone, and appears to have been produced as the result of an administrative error, the sheriff having mistakenly directed his precept to the burgesses rather than the bailiff. The second return was drawn up after the sheriff, alerted to his earlier mistake, sent his precept to the bailiff. In this fresh document the same burgesses who had signed the earlier indenture now returned both Davies and Anketill. The final return was, of course, the one drafted by Ludlow and 17 of his supporters.9

On 27 Mar. the three candidates were instructed to attend the committee for privileges ‘or else the House will proceed to take some final course in it.’10 Three weeks later, on 18 Apr., the chairman of the committee, Sir George More declared that none of the three had attended its proceedings. Nevertheless, it was clear that Ludlow’s election ‘could not be good’, as his supporters included ‘some freeholders that were not dwellers in the town’, as well as women and boys, ‘who ought not to deal in the election of burgesses’. Consequently, the House ordered that Anketill be seated and that a writ for a fresh election be moved to replace Davies, who had plumped for Newcastle-under-Lyme.11

The House’s ruling cemented Castlehaven’s control over Hindon. At the subsequent election held in May, the earl’s brother-in-law Sir Henry Mervyn took the seat, apparently without a contest. Mervyn’s influence over Castlehaven may help to explain the election in 1624 and 1628 of the Salisbury lawyer Lawrence Hyde II, whose seat at Woodford lay ten miles west of Hindon. At any rate, Hyde can be linked to a bill that was laid before the Commons in 1624 by Mervyn’s maternal kinsman, Sir John Ryves.12 Hyde’s partner in 1624 was another lawyer, Matthew Davies, whose parents lived a few miles south-east of Hindon at Chicksgrove and whose uncle was the borough’s former Member Sir John Davies. Sir Thomas Thynne resumed his representation of Hindon in 1625, 1626 and 1628, presumably with the blessing of Castlehaven, whose kinsman by marriage, Thomas Lambert, took the junior seat in the first two Caroline Parliaments. Lambert lived at Boyton, a village situated a few miles north of Hindon. Sir Edmund Ludlow, whose attempt to gain a seat for a third successive occasion had backfired so badly, never sat again, and died in November 1624.

Author: Andrew Thrush


  • 1. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 458; Staffs. RO, D593/S/4/60/12.
  • 2. VCH Wilts. v. 112; VCH Wilts. xi. 98, 100-1; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxxvi. 51-2; M. Beresford, New Towns of Middle Ages, 505.
  • 3. C219/39/232; 219/40/94. The 1626 indenture is badly faded on the right hand side.
  • 4. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. vii. f. 310.
  • 5. Longleat, Thynne Pprs. viii. ff. 110, 111v.
  • 6. Staffs. RO, D593/S/4/60/12; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 37.
  • 7. Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 268.
  • 8. CJ, i. 516b.
  • 9. Nicholas, i. 268; CJ, i. 580a.
  • 10. CJ, i. 576b; CD 1621, ii. 270.
  • 11. C219/37/289; CJ, i. 576a, 580a.
  • 12. CJ, i. 772a.