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:



c. Mar. 1614TALBOT BOWES
 Christopher Pepper
 Sir Henry Savile
27 Apr. 1625(SIR) TALBOT BOWES
11 Mar. 1628(SIR) TALBOT BOWES
 Christopher Wandesford
 Matthew Hutton

Main Article

Situated on a strategic promontory where the River Swale emerges from the Pennines, Richmond was founded in 1071 as the administrative centre of the vast honour of Richmond. The town became the focal point for the distribution of corn from the Vale of York to the Dales, and for the collection of Pennine wool for export through Newcastle, Hartlepool and Hull. The town’s population reached 1,600 in 1563, but was thereafter affected by repeated plague epidemics, the worst of which, in 1597-8, carried off at least 1,050 victims.1 The mainstays of Richmond’s economy were the cloth and leather industries. From the fifteenth century, locally knitted caps and stockings were fulled and dyed within the town, which came to be dominated by a clique of wealthy hosiers who controlled the supply of wool to the knitters and disposed of the finished product. The development of this industry was disrupted by the 1552 Act limiting the buying and selling of wool, which rendered the hosiers’ role as middlemen illegal. However, the town was granted an exemption in 1585, and by the end of the century it was producing an estimated 200,000 pairs of stockings a year.2 The leather industry was based upon the growing number of dairy cattle being grazed in Swaledale. The town held major cattle fairs fortnightly between Palm Sunday and Christmas, and a significant proportion of the burgesses were butchers and tanners.3

Richmond’s medieval charters specifically exempted the borough from the obligation of sending burgesses to Parliament, a right upheld when the town received writs of summons in 1294 and 1328. The potential benefits of representation had become far more obvious by 1536, when the duke of Norfolk was instructed to promise the Yorkshire Pilgrims of Grace that Richmond and six other boroughs in the north were to be enfranchised.4 However, no action was taken until January 1577, when the borough’s new charter granted parliamentary representation: the vote was given to ‘the burgesses’, which was later held to include all ratepayers, although the surviving returns for the early Stuart period cite the corporation alone, an alderman (mayor) and 12 head burgesses, as the electorate.5 None of the sparse borough records suggest that the hosiers who dominated the corporation were interested in securing their own return to Parliament, perhaps because the town could not afford to pay wages. Furthermore, there is little to suggest that the corporation had a parliamentary agenda during the period, despite James Howell’s undertaking of 1628 to promote ‘anything that may concern the welfare of your town and the precincts thereof’. Outside the Commons, however, (Sir) Talbot Bowes, the borough’s senior MP, may have helped to promote a petition to Bishop Neile of Durham against an expansion of the rival cattle markets at nearby Darlington in 1621.6

This lack of local candidates left Richmond open to the influence of the Council in the North and the local gentry. Talbot Bowes, senior Member in the first Stuart Parliament, had been returned for the borough in 1593 on the interest of his uncle Robert Bowes† of Aske, a mile to the north of the town. By 1604, Bowes had acquired his own interest, both as a resident and as one of the town’s head burgesses.7 The other local man with parliamentary experience was the town’s recorder, Sir Cuthbert Pepper†, surveyor of the Wards, whose estate at Long Cowton lay seven miles to the east of the town. Either Pepper or his cousin and deputy as recorder, Christopher Pepper, a lawyer who lived just outside the borough, could have claimed the junior seat for themselves, but they deployed their interest on behalf of Richard Perceval, the secretary who handled wardship business for the master of the Wards, Lord [formerly Sir Robert] Cecil†.8 By 1614, Bowes had left Richmond for his family’s main seat at Streatlam Castle in county Durham, but he remained a member of the corporation, and was duly returned to the Addled Parliament. Perceval’s interest expired with the deaths of Sir Cuthbert Pepper in 1608, and of his own master in 1612; Christopher Pepper may have expected the offer of a seat, but the corporation chose Sir Richard Williamson, one of the justices at York, who was probably nominated by Sir Thomas Lascelles, another of the town’s head burgesses, who was also a member of the Council in the North.9

While Sir Talbot Bowes was once again assured of the senior seat at the election of January 1621, the other was coveted by an outsider, Sir Henry Savile*, who correctly surmised that his ‘ancient power’ would not suffice to secure his re-election at Aldborough. Savile’s ally Sir Thomas Wentworth* procured a letter of recommendation for Richmond from Secretary of State Sir George Calvert*, his partner for the county election, who had recently purchased a small estate at Kiplin, seven miles south-east of the borough.10 A further nomination, perhaps for Savile, was received from lord president Scrope, whose official influence was reinforced by the proximity of his Wensleydale estates and his tenure as steward of the honour of Richmond.11 The corporation was encouraged to decline these recommendations ‘in respect of some clause in the late proclamation’. This probably referred to the stipulation that voters should ‘make choice of them that best understand the state of their countries, cities or boroughs’, which could hardly be true of Savile, whose estates lay near Wakefield. Undaunted by this rejection, Savile used the judge Sir Richard Hutton to secure the support of Christopher Pepper, who hoped ‘that considering the several answers to the forenamed honourable persons [Calvert and Scrope] I myself should have had the offer [of a seat] before any foreigner’, and promised, if elected, to yield his place to Savile. As he could not be present at the election, Pepper asked for a postponement until the following morning. However, on returning to the borough, he discovered that the choice had already taken place, and that the second seat had been given to William Bowes on the advice of Sir Thomas Wharton*, a newcomer to the area who had recently purchased the manor of Aske from Bowes’s father. Pepper was certain that it was Wharton who had encouraged opposition to Savile, whose return on Wentworth’s interest would have represented a victory for the Cliffords, the Whartons’ chief political rivals in Westmorland.12

Pepper finally managed to secure a seat in 1624, shortly after Wharton’s death, replacing Sir Talbot Bowes, who had been chosen as alderman (mayor) two weeks previously, and was thus barred from returning himself as an MP. William Bowes, whose father had died in 1623, does not appear to have stood again, and was replaced by John Wandesford, Sir Talbot Bowes’s great-nephew.13 Neither of these Members appears to have stood in 1625, when Sir Talbot regained the senior seat. The other went to Christopher Wandesford, John’s brother, who had been obliged to relinquish the seat at Aldborough which he had taken from Savile in 1621.

While Wandesford was returned again in the following year, Bowes, beset by financial problems, used his interest on behalf of his nephew, Matthew Hutton, as part of an agreement for the settlement of Bowes’s debts: Sir Talbot and his brother Thomas were to pass Barforth manor to Hutton, who was to pay off debts, and return the remainder of the purchase price of £2,340 to his uncles.14 A deed of sale was drawn up in January 1626, but its implementation was delayed until the following May, to allow Hutton sufficient time to secure a private Act of Parliament adding Barforth to his entail in place of his wife’s jointure estate, which was to be sold to raise the cash to pay Bowes’s creditors.15 Hutton duly signed an indenture for the purchase of Barforth on 31 May, the day before his estate bill completed its second reading, but the bill’s passage was wrecked by the dissolution on 15 June.16 One of Bowes’s most persistent creditors quickly foreclosed on his loan, and, after the failure of a last-minute attempt at arbitration by lord justice Hutton, Thomas Bowes was arrested at Richmond in September. He spent the next 15 months languishing in York Castle, to the increasing agitation of his brother, who, fearing a similar fate, pleaded for Hutton to complete his purchase of Barforth.17

By the time a new Parliament was summoned in January 1628, it was clear that Sir Talbot would seek to resume his seat at Richmond, to secure temporary protection from his creditors. Wandesford, seeing his chances at Richmond evaporating, appealed to Sir Thomas Wentworth to approach friends for a seat in the West Country, while Hutton asked his father, a member of the Richmond corporation, to canvass for himself and particularly for Wandesford, as, in the latter’s absence, he saw no chance of obtaining the passage of his estate bill.18 However, their hopes of securing the second seat were wrecked by lord president Scrope, who pressured the corporation into choosing his secretary, James Howell. The latter’s presence in the House was required to prevent a revival of the 1626 recusant officeholders’ petition, which had condemned his master’s Catholic sympathies.19

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. R.T. Fieldhouse and B. Jennings, Hist. Richmond and Swaledale, 11-33, 102-7.
  • 2. Ibid. 158-62, 169-70, 177-82, partly citing SP12/252/18; E134/2 Chas.I/Michs. 38; SR, iv. 141-2.
  • 3. Fieldhouse and Jennings, 184-6; N. Yorks. RO, DC/RMB/II/1/1, unfol. petitions of 1620-1.
  • 4. Fieldhouse and Jennings, 410; A.D.K. Hawkyard, ‘Enfranchisement of constituencies, 1504-58’, PH, x. 13-14.
  • 5. CPR, 1575-8, pp. 294-6; Fieldhouse and Jennings, 411.
  • 6. J. Howell, Epistolae Ho-Elianae, letter of 24 Mar. 1627[/8]; N. Yorks. RO, DC/RMB/II/1/1, unfol., petitions of 1620-21.
  • 7. Durham RO, D/St/D8/1/62; N. Yorks. RO, DC/RMB/V/1/95-121.
  • 8. N. Yorks. RO, DC/RMB/II/1/1, unfol. (13 Jan. 1604); C142/160/51; 142/310/64; A.G.R. Smith, ‘Secretariat of the Cecils’ EHR, lxxxiii. 482, 493, 498.
  • 9. C142/310/64; R. Reid, Council in the North, 496-7.
  • 10. Strafforde Letters (1739) ed. W. Knowler, i. 8; VCH Yorks. (N. Riding), i. 307.
  • 11. SO3/4, unfol. Oct. 1609; Procs. 1626, ii. 264-5. J.K. Gruenfelder, ‘Electoral patronage of Sir Thomas Wentworth’ JMH, xlix. 570 assumes that Scrope backed Savile.
  • 12. Stuart Royal Procs. ed. J.F. Larkin and P.L. Hughes, i. 494; Harl. 7000, f. 41, repr. in J.J. Cartwright, Chapters in Yorks. Hist. 203-4.
  • 13. C219/38/274; Dur. Vis. Peds. ed. Foster, 38-9; DURH 3/189/110.
  • 14. C2/Chas.I/W16/20.
  • 15. For the bill, see N. Yorks. RO, MIC 1286/8521-4, 8640. A breviate may be found in Harl. 6847, ff. 66v-67.
  • 16. N. Yorks. RO, MIC 1513/1710; Procs. 1626, iii. 341-2.
  • 17. C2/Chas.I/B82/8; 2/Chas.I/S96/8; Hutton Corresp. ed. J. Raine (Surtees Soc. xvii), 312-16.
  • 18. Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 278-9; Hutton Corresp. 316-17.
  • 19. Procs. 1626, ii. 264-7.