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

Number of voters:

338 in 16291


24 Feb. 1604GILES BROOKE , alderman
c. May 1614SIR HUGH BEESTON vice Wymarke, chose to sit for Newcastle-under-Lyme
14 Dec. 1620THOMAS MAY
29 Jan. 1624SIR THOMAS GERRARD , bt.
 EDWARD MOORE , alderman

Main Article

Liverpool was a small but thriving port in the early seventeenth century, a main departure point for troops and trade to Ireland, whose overseas as well as coastal commerce was steadily increasing. According to Camden it was ‘very commodious for trade … but not as eminent for its being ancient as for being neat and populous’.2 Under the early Stuarts the corporation’s annual income rose from around £130 to over £300, although this rarely produced a surplus after all expenses had been discharged of more than about £50.3 The growth of the town engendered aspirations to independence, both from the administrative control of the port of Chester and from the feudal overlordship of the Molyneux family of Sefton.4 The corporation’s long running conflict with Sir Richard Molyneux I*, and his son, Sir Richard II*, came to a head during Charles’s reign. The elder Molyneux had purchased Toxteth Park from the 6th earl of Derby in 1605, and thereafter began to extend his control over the town’s commons and surrounding wasteland, claiming in 1617 that these belonged not to Liverpool but to the manor of West Derby, of which he was then steward.5 Further disputes, for example in 1622 over wine duties, continued until 1628, when the king granted the manor of Liverpool to the corporation of London as part of the Ditchfield grant.6

Liverpool made a series of concerted efforts throughout the period to secure a new charter of incorporation. The town’s earliest charter, granted by King John in 1207, and a further grant by Henry III in 1229, provided for a mayor and two bailiffs to be elected annually by the assembly of freemen. In 1604 an inspeximus was granted to confirm the town’s previous charters, but this was found to be invalid due to a scribal error that enrolled the date as ‘Anno 4 Jac.’, and the town’s pleas for reissue were ignored.7 A further attempt was made in 1611, and in 1617 £70 16s. 6d. was levied upon a total of 375 freemen and women, but without success.8 It was not until 1626 that a new charter granting exclusive rights to all freemen of the town was finally secured.9

The borough’s electoral patronage had traditionally been shared between the duchy of Lancaster and the earls of Derby, each making a nomination for one of its two parliamentary seats. Under Elizabeth, the town had enlisted the 3rd earl’s support in order to counterbalance attempts by the Duchy to control both nominations, and a cordial relationship continued between Liverpool and the 6th earl, who served as mayor in 1603-4, gave occasional gifts such as venison to the town council, and funded the construction of a new pillory.10 Although prepared to assist the town when required, Derby showed little interest in exercising his own political influence, and this caused the previous equilibrium of Liverpool’s patronage to break down during the reign of James, while the Duchy bolstered its claim to nominate at least one of the borough’s members by appointing first Sir Richard Molyneux I and then his son as its receiver general.

In 1604 the chancellor of the Duchy, Sir John Fortescue*, who was perhaps preoccupied with his own election campaign in Buckinghamshire, apparently declined to name a candidate for Liverpool. In the absence of nominations from either of the usual sources two townsmen were returned: Giles Brooke, a seasoned campaigner for Liverpool’s charter and independence from Chester, and Thomas Remchinge, a customs official. They are distinguished as the town’s only MPs during the period to whom payment of parliamentary expenses is recorded. After the dissolution in 1611 Brooke claimed £28 14s., of which 20 marks 4s. 5d. were deducted for various reasons, and Remchinge received £25, having agreed ‘willingly in respect of the town’s kind dealing with him’ to abate 40s. of his original claim for £27.11

In 1614 the first seat went to a local lawyer, Thomas Ireland of Bewsey, who had assisted the corporation in the resolution of an internal dispute two years earlier; he was an honorary freeman, and had connections to both of the town’s patrons, having been an officer of the Duchy since 1603, and the earl of Derby’s trusted attorney for the previous 20 years.12 The chancellor of the Duchy Sir Thomas Parry* was responsible for the return of an outsider, Edward Wymarke of London and Rutland, as Liverpool’s second Member. In the event, Wymarke plumped for another Duchy-controlled seat, Newcastle-under-Lyme, and suggested his friend, Sir Hugh Beeston, of Beeston, Cheshire, as his replacement. Beeston was subsequently elected in May.13 In December 1620, after ‘proposition of divers gentlemen which were nominated’, two non-residents were returned, namely Thomas May, brother of the new chancellor (Sir) Humphrey May*, and William Johnson, a servant of Sir Francis Bacon*.14 Apart from the spring and summer session of 1610, the 1621 assembly was the only Parliament of the period in which the Duchy tabled legislation of its own. The bill concerned was to confirm certain decrees relating to its customary estates, which was read on 1 Dec. but disappeared after being committed.15

The chancellor of the Duchy played a much less prominent role in the 1624 election, when two local gentlemen were returned. The first seat went to Sir Thomas Gerrard of Bryn, brother-in-law to the younger Sir Richard Molyneux. It seems likely that the corporation offered the nomination to Molyneux, who had inherited the lordship of Liverpool in 1623, in an attempt to establish better relations with him than they had enjoyed with his predecessor, while Gerrard, seeking protection from numerous creditors, may have been pressed upon the town by Molyneux, though he later claimed to have been elected against his will. The second Member, George Ireland, was the son and legal colleague of Thomas Ireland of Bewsey. When the Catholic Gerrard ignored the summons to take the oaths at the opening of the session, Ireland, whose wife was a recusant, helped him escape the censure of the House. Liverpool was severely criticized for its choice, and was served by only one Member in this session as a result of Gerrard’s aberrance; no writ for a replacement was issued.

The Duchy was denied any control over Liverpool’s election in 1625, for the town instead appealed to the Stanleys, returning 18 year-old James Stanley, Lord Strange, future 7th earl of Derby, as the first Member, together with Edward Moore, a senior alderman. The choice of these candidates bolstered the town’s renewed attempts to secure the charter in the first year of the new king’s reign. Stanley further assisted in this objective by serving as mayor the following year; nevertheless, like his father he demonstrated very little interest in Liverpool’s affairs thereafter. In 1626 the first seat was taken by Edward Bridgeman of Sankey Bridge, Warrington, brother of the bishop of Chester, after he failed to be elected for Wigan, which he represented in 1625 and 1628. The bishop, perhaps through the mediation of the chancellor of the Duchy, was presumably responsible for persuading Liverpool to return him.16 The second seat went to a local gentleman, Thomas Standish of Duxbury, who was also the holder of a minor Duchy office. In 1628 Henry Jermyn, whose cousin was married to Sir Humphrey May, was certainly a Duchy nominee, but the election of John Newdigate, a Warwickshire squire, can only be attributed to the influence of his mother’s Cheshire and Lancashire kinsmen, including Sir Charles Gerrard of Halsall, a non-resident freeman of Liverpool, and Newdigate’s own passing acquaintance with Sir Richard Molyneux II, who shared an interest in horse breeding.

Some, but not all, of the borough’s MPs were admitted to the freedom of Liverpool. Apart from Johnson, who was enrolled in his absence and free of charge at the time of his election, it is notable that most of the outsiders who were returned did not become freemen, nor did they receive wages. Notwithstanding the town’s rising income, it was not a wealthy borough, and the corporation was apparently content to accept the return of Members with no obvious connection to or interest in Liverpool, particularly after the new charter had been granted, so long as they were willing to meet their own expenses.

Author: Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. E.M. Hance and T.N. Morton ‘The Burgess Rolls of Liverpool during the 17th century’, Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, xxxvi. 145-58.
  • 2. W. Camden, Britannia (1610), p. 748; R. Muir and E.M. Platt, Hist. of Municipal Govt. in Liverpool, 87-9; M. Gregson, Fragments relating to the Hist. and Antiquities of Liverpool, 168.
  • 3. G. Chandler, Liverpool under Jas. I, 57; G. Chandler, Liverpool under Chas. I, 54.
  • 4. HMC Hatfield, xi. 465-7; R.C. Jarvis, ‘The Head Port of Chester, and Liverpool, its Creek and Member’, Trans. Hist. Soc. of Lancs. and Cheshire, cii. 69-84; VCH Lancs. iv. 17; CSP Dom. 1619-23, pp. 24, 34, 43, 104.
  • 5. Liverpool RO, 352 CLE/TRA/3/8; Chandler, Jas. I, 187.
  • 6. CLRO, Rentals Box 1.14; Misc. Deeds 52.14; Muir and Platt, 94-6.
  • 7. HMC Hatfield xxiv, 3; VCH Lancs. iv. 16-19; C.F. Patterson, Urban Patronage in Early Modern Eng. 66.
  • 8. Chandler, Jas. I, 195, 200; VCH Lancs. iv. 19; Liverpool Municipal Recs. ed. J. Picton, i. 156-7; J. Touzeau, The Rise and Progress of Liverpool 1551-1835, i. 156.
  • 9. Chandler, Chas. I, 1-7, 44, 116, 119; Muir and Platt, 165-89.
  • 10. R. Somerville, Hist. of Duchy of Lancaster, ii. 2-3; B. Coward, The Stanleys, Lords Stanley and Earls of Derby 1385-1672 (Chetham Soc. ser. 3. xxx), 128-39.
  • 11. Chandler, Jas. I, 153.
  • 12. Ibid. 162.
  • 13. R.C.L. Sgroi, ‘The Electoral Patronage of the Duchy of Lancaster, 1604-28’, PH, xxvi. 314.
  • 14. Chandler, Jas. I, 241.
  • 15. Somerville, ii. 19-20; R. Hoyle, ‘Vain Projects: The Crown and its Copyholders in the Reign of Jas. I’, Eng. Rural Soc. 1500-1800 ed. J. Chartres and D. Hey, 86-101.
  • 16. Sgroi, xxvi. 322.