Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer


1386William Colyn I
 Richard Wodeland
1388 (Feb.)Roger Clerk
 John Hereward
1388 (Sept.)Robert Fisher
 Nicholas Hereward
1390 (Jan.)William Colchestre
 Robert Fisher
1390 (Nov.)
1391Hugh Hasell
 Richard Wodeland
1393John Chamberlain
 Robert Fisher
1395Richard Wodeland
 Robert Fisher
1397 (Jan.)Henry Skinner
 Richard Wodeland
1397 (Sept.)John Patching
 Richard Wodeland
1399John Esshing
 William Terry II
1401William Terry II
 John Wiltshire
1402John Dusse
 John Wyldebeff
1404 (Jan.)
1404 (Oct.)
1406John Patching
 Thomas Spicer
1407John Dusse
 John Patching
1413 (Feb.)
1413 (May)John Dusse
 John Wiltshire
1414 (Apr.)
1414 (Nov.)John Dusse
 John Patching
1416 (Mar.)William Chapman
 Richard Smith II
1416 (Oct.)
1417Thomas Dusse
 Richard Smith II
1419John Hilly
 Thomas Kyng
1420Thomas Dusse
 Thomas Pursell
1421 (May)John Hilly
 Alan Chamber
1421 (Dec.)Thomas Pursell
 Thomas Dusse

Main Article

Arundel’s strategic position at the extremity of one of the high, narrow ridges of the South Downs, overlooking the Arun valley, had made it an obvious place to build a stronghold in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest. The castle, manor and borough of Arundel formed part of the honour of the same name then created, which from the mid 13th century was held in chief from the Crown by the Fitzalans. In our period, Arundel castle, the focal point of the Fitzalan estates in west Sussex, served as a principal place of residence for Richard, 15th earl of Arundel (d.1397) and for his son Earl Thomas (d.1415); indeed, the latter died there. The borough, already flourishing by 1086, remained under the lordship of successive earls, yet enjoyed certain powers of self-government by prescription. From about 1280 it was ruled by a mayor, who took upon himself, as the representative of the lord, the sole execution and return of all writs within the borough; and by 1288 it could be said to have had its own coroner ‘from time immemorial’. The mayor presided over a court held every three weeks, where small debts were recovered and minor offences punished. As is clear from the only two surviving court rolls of the 14th century (dating from 1361-2 and 1387-8), elections of local officials took place in this borough court on the first Tuesday after Michaelmas, although there were differences in procedure between the elections there recorded. In 1361 two men were put forward for the office of mayor, of whom one was selected by the townsmen assembled, and then two bailiffs, two under bailiffs, and one ale taster were chosen; but in 1387 a single nomination to the mayoralty was received, and besides the bailiffs and their subordinates there were elected two constables and two ale tasters. Fines levied in the courts and tolls and duties collected in the local markets (held twice weekly) and at the fairs (numbering three or four a year) were all paid to the lord of the borough. Burgesses enjoyed the privilege of freedom from levies on goods for sale in any market within the honour of Arundel, which advantage they zealously maintained.1

Arundel, as the trading centre of the honour, had by this time developed to quite substantial proportions. In the early 14th century there had been 94 houses and 38 stalls or shops there, and although many of these were destroyed by conflagrations in 1338 and 1344, a survey of the estates of the earl of Arundel made later in the century indicates that not only a successful recovery but also further growth had been achieved by our period. There were then under the earl’s lordship in the town 17 messuages, 49 tenements, 26 ‘houses’, two ‘new burgages’ and six shops, besides five gateways, three mills and a smithy; while 27 crofts, six tofts, 23 gardens and 24 acres of land were also tenanted. Evidently, Arundel was profitable for its lord: the same survey reveals that holders of these particular properties paid him £13 5s.d. a year, and the manor of Arundel (excluding the town), provided revenues amounting to a further £78 14s.6d. The borough’s population is difficult to estimate, but the number of dwellings there (at least 133) suggests that it was more populous than Midhurst.2

Arundel sent representatives to Parliament in 1295, intermittently during the first half of the 14th century and regularly thereafter. Returns survive for 22 of the 32 Parliaments summoned between 1386 and 1421, but the gaps (half of them for assemblies called in Henry IV’s reign) necessarily render any attempt to analyse the Membership in terms of parliamentary experience somewhat tentative. It would appear that nine of the 24 MPs recorded were returned just once and four more only twice. However, no fewer than eight (a third of the total) sat in at least four Parliaments each, two of this group (Richard Wodeland and Thomas Dusse) being quite outstanding in this respect. Wodeland sat ten times between 1381 and 1397, and Dusse possibly the same number between 1417 and 1437. John Hilly, who represented Arundel in three Parliaments between 1419 and 1422, went on to be elected to seven more for Chichester (1427 to 1453). Overall, the average number of appearances per Member amounted to three. Those with prior knowledge of the workings of the Commons were seemingly preferred to those with none: in eight of the 22 Parliaments for which returns survive Arundel was represented entirely by men so experienced, and in nine more one such tried person accompanied an apparent newcomer. Moreover, re-election occurred at least six times, with Richard Wodeland being returned to three Parliaments running (1395 to September 1397). However, to possibly as many as five Parliaments (September 1388, 1399, 1402, March 1416 and 1419) the borough elected two novices, although, given the gaps in the returns, it is unlikely that this was in fact the case on all five occasions, especially the last two.

It has not proved possible to identify two of the 24 parliamentary burgesses, John Dusse and Thomas Kyng, but the former was almost certainly a kinsman of Thomas Dusse, who is known to have been a local man. Of the rest, 21 were resident in Arundel, and the last, John Hilly, is recorded as trading there even though he lived mainly at Chichester, a few miles away. Apart from the Dusses, two members of the family of Hereward (John and Nicholas) carried on a tradition of parliamentary service for Arundel, in their case one begun earlier in the 14th century, as also did Richard Wodeland. Not surprisingly, at least ten MPs were tenants of the Fitzalans in property in Arundel itself or else in nearby villages, and the fact that four of them (John Chamberlain, John Patching, William Terry II and Richard Wodeland) all saw fit to procure royal pardons in 1398, just a few months after Earl Richard’s execution for treason, points to their being suspected of having had an even more personal association with him. Indeed, in the cases of Patching and Terry their pardons were specifically for having risen in arms with the earl and his fellow Lords Appellant. Nevertheless, there is no positive evidence that the late earl had exerted influence over the borough’s elections to Parliament so as to secure the return of his followers, not even in 1388 when he, as one of the Appellants, might have felt the need for support in the Commons for his attack on the King’s favourites. The same applies to his successor, Earl Thomas, save perhaps in the case of John Wiltshire, elected in 1401 and May 1413. Wiltshire was often recorded in association with retainers of the earl, and owed his appointment (by 1408) as bailiff of the manor of Arundel to their lord. His second election to Parliament followed hard upon Earl Thomas’s promotion by the new King, Henry V, as treasurer of the Exchequer, and coincided with the return of two of his henchmen as knights of the shire for Sussex and a third as parliamentary citizen for Chichester. The possibility that the burgesses of Arundel had been encouraged to return Wiltshire in the earl’s interest should not, therefore, be discounted, although since they had been willing enough to elect him as their mayor just a few years earlier it is unlikely that they would have been reluctant to comply.

Save that Thomas Dusse was a chapman, Hugh Hasell a mason and John Wiltshire a weaver (and that John Hilly came to be called ‘gentleman’), the occupations of Arundel’s MPs are not recorded. Nor is it known which of them held offices in the borough, with the exception of William Colyn I, who served as a constable, and of Wiltshire, who served as mayor (in each case only after first entering the Commons). No more than two of Arundel’s Members were ever appointed to royal commissions: Wiltshire and Hilly, the former as a tax collector in Sussex in 1402, the year after his initial return to Parliament, and the latter to hold inquiries into acts of piracy. However, Hilly’s appointments (as also his elections first as bailiff and then as mayor of Chichester) did not take effect until long after his parliamentary service for Arundel had ceased.

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. M.A. Tierney, Hist. Arundel, i. 30-34; ii. 690-3, 695-6; CPR, 1381-5, p. 73; Suss. Arch. Colls. xcviii. 45, 49; G.W. Eustace, Arundel, Bor. and Castle, 53-54, 250; Arundel castle mss M8, 9; Feudal Aids, vi. 520.
  • 2. Tierney, ii. 713; RP, ii. 185-6; Two Fitzalan Surveys (Suss. Rec. Soc. lxvii), 115-20.