The seventeenth century: Parliamentary Representation to 1640

Pages 90-91

A History of the County of York East Riding: Volume 6, the Borough and Liberties of Beverley. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1989.

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Parliamentary Representation to 1640

In the choice of M.P.s during the period there are no signs of sustained outside pressure or rival patrons, and the mildness of religious cross-currents in Beverley may also partly account for the almost complete absence of electoral contests. Beverley thus follows the pattern observed elsewhere in which newly created parliamentary boroughs tended first to choose as their M.P.s outsiders such as lawyers, officials, and courtiers, some nominated by powerful patrons and some accompanied by local men, before turning almost exclusively to the ranks of the neighbouring gentry. None of the members was long-serving: five of the six men elected by the mayor, governors, and selected burgesses between 1600 and 1625 served only once. (fn. 1)

In 1604 the mayor rebuffed, with protestations of regret, an attempt by Sir Henry Hobart, later attorney general, to nominate his son to the seat; (fn. 2) instead William Gee, the recorder, who was secretary of the Council in the North, was elected along with Allan Percy, a resident gentleman and kinsman of the earl of Northumberland. (fn. 3) Ten years later another prominent lawyer William Towse, serjeant-at-law, was elected; he was active in the official group in the House of Commons and may well have owed his election to government influence. Nothing is known of his colleague in the Addled Parliament Edmund Scott, but he may have had local connexions for he was elected again in 1621 and 1624. The other member in 1621 was Sir Christopher Hildyard, a local gentleman. In 1624 the council of the prince of Wales, then lord of the manor, secured the second seat for Sir Henry Vane the elder, an official of the prince's household, and when Vane chose to sit elsewhere Sir Henry Carey, another courtier, was elected. (fn. 4)

The election to the parliament of 1625 marks the beginning of the exclusive hold on the town's parliamentary representation by prominent local gentry. The M.P.s chosen in that year were Sir John Hotham, Bt., of Scorborough and Sir William Alford of Meaux. During the previous reign members of both families had served as governors and two of Alford's forebears had represented the town in parliament. Sir William's candidature was backed by Lord Scrope, Lord President of the Council in the North. Both men were re-elected apparently unchallenged in 1626 and 1628, but the Alfords failed in the male line before another parliament was summoned. (fn. 5) In the spring of 1640 Hotham was returned again, together with his friend and kinsman Michael Warton (d. 1645), a member of the leading family in Beverley. In the election for the second parliament of 1640 the earl of Strafford, Lord President of the Council in the North, sought to extend his political patronage to Beverley by nominating Sir Thomas Metham of North Cave, a strong king's man, but Hotham and Warton were elected. (fn. 6)

In view of the restricted electorate, and the fact that both M.P.s had served at their own charges, it would be rash to suggest major political implications in the elections of 1640. During the reign of Charles I local signs of political opposition or grievance were limited to occasional complaints about tax burdens, the refusal of three townspeople of substance to pay the forced loan, and Sir Michael Warton's argument about maladministration of ship money assessments. (fn. 7) Moreover, a cautious interpretation of the town's representation in the Long Parliament is perhaps vindicated by the record of the M.P.s themselves, for both at first supported the parliamentary side in the Civil War before changing sides and eventually losing their lives in royalist service. (fn. 8)


  • 1. Return of M.P.s, H.C. 69, passim (1878), lxii (1); Dr. R. Carroll has kindly provided an amended version of the list.
  • 2. H.R.O., BC/II/7/4/1, f. 17.
  • 3. R. Carroll, 'Parl. Representation of Yorks. 1625-60' (Vanderbilt Univ. Ph.D. thesis, 1964), 75-7; J. K. Gruenfelder, 'Yorks. Boro. Elections, 1603-40', Y.A.J. xlix. 101- 2.
  • 4. Y.A.J. xlix. 105, 108-9; T. L. Moir, Addled Parl. 188; Carroll, op. cit. 75-7; D.N.B. s.v. Carey.
  • 5. H.R.O., BC/II/7/4/1, f. 40; Carroll, op. cit. 77, 21012, 238, 247; above, Beverley in 16th Cent.; below, Lists of Officers.
  • 6. H.R.O., BC/II/7/4/1, f. 71; Boro. Rec. 102; Carroll, op. cit. 78, 271, 275, 287; M. F. Keeler, Long Parl. 222-3, 37980; Y.A.J. xlix. 113.
  • 7. Cal. S.P. Dom. 1623-5, 310; 1635, 290, 479; T.E.R.A.S. xiv. 72.
  • 8. Keeler, Long Parl. 222-3, 379-80.