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:

21 or more


c. Mar. 1614FRANCIS MOORE 
 (Sir) Robert Knollys9
 Sir Richard Lydall 
 (Sir) Robert Knollys4
 Sir Edward Clerke 
 Thomas Turnour 
 Nicholas Gunter 
 Sir John Brooke 
 Edward Ironstead 
 Thomas Turnour 
 Nicholas Gunter 
 Robert Maulthus 
 William Maulthus 

Main Article

Reading, with a population of about 7,000 in the 1630s, was still a prosperous clothing town at the opening of this period, producing high quality woollen fabrics much in demand on the Continent. One of the 23 staple towns created for the wool trade in 1617, it suffered heavily from the trade depression of the 1620s. John Kendrick, a wealthy London cloth exporter who came from a prominent Reading family, bequeathed £7,500 to the borough in 1624, intending to encourage the industry, but the funds were, in the event, misused.2

The borough received its first charter in 1253, and returned Members from 1295. It was incorporated in 1542, and reincorporated by Elizabeth, whose charter was confirmed by James in 1604. ‘The common council of the borough’ consisted of nine capital burgesses, from whom the mayor was chosen, and 12 or more secondary burgesses.3 William*, Lord Knollys, later Viscount Wallingford (1616) and earl of Banbury (1626), owned a house in Caversham, within two miles of Reading. His brother, Sir Francis Knollys I*, lived in the borough, served as its high steward throughout the period, and was freely accorded the nomination to one seat.4 The borough persisted in making its own choice for the other nominee despite several attempts by Lord Knollys to control both. The indentures were exchanged between the mayor and burgesses and the sheriff of Berkshire.5

Sir Jerome Bowes, who occupied the senior seat in 1604, was the only Member chosen in this period with no apparent connection with either the borough or the county. He evidently owed his nomination to his fellow-courtier, Lord Knollys. Francis Moore, on the other hand, sitting for the third time for Reading, was virtually a native son, having been educated at the local grammar school and risen to the status of a Berkshire country gentleman through his success at the law. There is no evidence that Bowes sought re-election in 1614. This enabled Moore to move up to the senior seat, with one of the high steward’s nephews, Robert Knollys, as his junior colleague.

By the time the third Jacobean Parliament was summoned in late 1620, Robert Knollys was serving in the Palatinate. It is likely that it was Wallingford who was responsible for nominating Sir Anthony Barker, whose seat at Sonning lay three miles from Reading, as Barker was subsequently appointed a deputy lieutenant at the viscount’s nomination. Moore does not seem to have sought re-election, and was to die the following year. In his stead the corporation chose one of its own members, John Saunders, a Middle Temple barrister like Moore, whose father lived in west Berkshire, but who had himself recently settled at Reading and been elected as a secondary burgess.

In 1623 the borough’s steward, Edward Clerke, the equivalent of the recorder in other municipalities, was dismissed for reasons unknown, but set down in ‘15 articles and matters’, and was replaced by Saunders. Wallingford regarded this treatment of his client as a serious affront and secured Clerke’s restoration with the assistance of the Privy Council.6 Saunders was compensated by being appointed ‘counsel for this company in matters concerning the corporation’, and was re-elected to the next four Parliaments.7

On 12 Jan. 1624, after the sheriff’s precept had been read, a letter from Wallingford ‘was opened and read to the company present, showing my lord’s request for nomination of one of the burgesses and both if it may be’. A week later a second letter from Wallingford was read, nominating Sir Francis Knollys II and requesting that his brother Robert, the former Member, now also a knight, ‘might have the other place’. Sir Francis headed the ensuing poll, but his brother received only nine votes against Saunders’s 16. A fourth candidate, Sir Richard Lydall, received none. He was a local man who had been engaged in a quarrel with Sir Anthony Barker at Sonning, and may have thought himself entitled to replace him. The indenture, returning Sir Francis Knollys and Saunders was made out the following day. After the election one or both of the Members apparently agreed ‘to bear mine own charges in that service, and that the said mayor and burgesses shall stand clear and be acquitted of and from the payment of any wages, fees or duties payable to or for me in that behalf’.8 On 8 Mar. 1624, on the other hand, the corporation agreed that Thomas Turnour, a former mayor, should ‘have his charges borne to go and attend the burgesses of the Parliament, hoping to attain a free trade’. Nothing further is heard of this mission.9

In 1625 Wallingford nominated Sir Francis Knollys, but left the other seat to the corporation, ‘presuming you will make choice of Mr. Saunders’.10 Knollys and Saunders were accordingly re-elected without contest on 21 Apr., and both signed the agreement to serve without wages. The indenture was dated three days latter.11

On 9 Jan. 1626 Reading received both the sheriff’s precept and Wallingford’s nomination of Sir Francis Knollys. Three days later, however, when it had been proposed to hold the election, Sir Robert Knollys joined his brother as a candidate, as did the steward Edward Clerke, now also a knight, apparently standing against the Knollys interest. Nothing was done on that day, and any hope that the air would have been cleared by 16 Jan., when the election was held, soon vanished: two further candidates appeared, Thomas Turnour and Nicholas Gunter, both of whom were former mayors. Clerke, Turnour and Gunter received no votes at all, suggesting that they did not even vote for themselves. Sir Francis Knollys and Saunders were re-elected and again agreed to bear ‘their own charges’.12 On this occasion the indenture was backdated to 10 January.13 On 15 Feb. 1626 the corporation decided ‘that counsel shall be forthwith had to have the aid and help of the Parliament to settle the stock’ bequeathed by Kendrick, but again nothing seems to have been done.14 Following the failure of Parliament to vote subsidies, Charles I initiated a Benevolence, but on 31 July, after a meeting ‘of the most able men’ in the town hall ‘concerning the raising of moneys to supply the king’s warrants’, it was agreed to ‘desire there may be a Parliament, for then all men should be bound to pay a part by subsidy and fifteens’.15

On 4 Feb. 1628 Reading received a letter from the earl of Banbury, as Wallingford had now become, nominating Sir John Brooke* ‘to be one of the burgesses of this corporation for the Parliament’, presumably with Sir Francis Knollys. The corporation agreed to answer Banbury and another candidate, Edward Ironside or Ironsted, to the effect that it would stand by Knollys and Saunders. Banbury’s letter was read again before the election on 18 Feb., ‘and it was the opinion of the whole company that the said earl was therein satisfied by the answer of these letters sent unto him, there being no other letter from the lord since that time’. Further members of the corporation, however, including Turnour and Gunter, chose to put their names forward. Knollys and Saunders, once chosen, again agreed to serve without wages.16 In April 1628 Clerke ‘delivered to Mr. Mayor to be put into book in the hall divers speeches in the Parliament’, delivered by the king, the lord keeper and the Speaker, as well as the petition for religion but, it seems, these were returned to him, ‘and not put in book’.17 Early the following year, however, the corporation agreed ‘that books of the statutes made in every Parliament’ since 1610 ‘shall be forthwith provided’, but again nothing was done and the agreement had to be remade two years later.18

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. Ibid. 231.
  • 2. N.R. Goose, ‘Decay and Regeneration in 17th Cent. Reading,’ Southern Hist. vi. 53-74; SP46/176, ff. 36, 307, 411; Ashmole, Berks. ii. 509-47; Oxford DNB sub Kendrick, John.
  • 3. Reading Chs. ed. C.F. Pritchard, 1, 6-7, 19, 54; OR.
  • 4. HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 417; Reading Recs. iii. 58.
  • 5. C219/38/12; 219/39/12; 219/40/159.
  • 6. Reading Recs. ii. 115-17, 127; APC, 1621-3, pp. 460, 467-8, 508-9, 516-17.
  • 7. Reading Recs. ii. 133.
  • 8. Ibid. 168-9; OR.
  • 9. Reading Recs. ii. 178.
  • 10. HMC 11th Rep, VII, 221.
  • 11. Reading Recs. ii. 230-1; OR.
  • 12. Reading Recs. ii. 270-1, 273.
  • 13. OR.
  • 14. Reading Recs. ii. 278.
  • 15. Ibid. 305-6.
  • 16. Ibid. 384-7.
  • 17. Ibid. 402.
  • 18. Ibid. 446; iii. 47.