Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer


12 Jan. 1559ROBERT CARR
28/30 Jan. 1563 (new writ)JOHN TAMWORTH vice Heneage, chose to sit for Lincolnshire
1571THOMAS LYFIELD vice Hatton, chose to sit for Higham Ferrers
23 Sept. 1597ANTHONY IRBY
11 Oct. 1601ANTHONY IRBY

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By the beginning of this period Boston was in decline, the townsmen a ‘factious people imbued with a puritan spirit’. Its charter of 1545 provided for a mayor, 12 aldermen, 18 common councilmen, a recorder, town clerk and other officials. The recordership was honorary, a deputy performing the duties of the office. Sir William Cecil was recorder throughout this period until his death in 1598, when he was succeeded by his son Thomas, 2nd Lord Burghley. The high steward of the town (until his death in 1585), was Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln.

The right to vote was in fact confined to the members of the corporation, though some of the surviving returns claim that the choice was made with the consent of ‘all their fellow burgesses’. The returns for 1584 and 1601 are in Latin. Though many of the Boston Members were the nominees of outside patrons, none of the surviving returns is a ‘blank’.

The most active patron at Boston in the first half of the reign was Lord Clinton, created Earl of Lincoln in 1572, whose seat at Tattershall was nearby. Leonard Irby, the surveyor of his estates, was returned to the first three Parliaments of the reign, having sat on a number of previous occasions. By 1560 he had become a member of the corporation at Boston, and so no longer needed a patron. His colleague in 1559, Robert Carr, was a local country gentleman. The household official John Tamworth, who came in to replace Thomas Heneage in 1563, was not only known to Clinton, Cecil and Walsingham, but his family home was only seven miles from Boston. Heneage himself was a courtier, destined for high office, and sat for the county in 1563 when an unexpected vacancy arose. Another courtier, Hatton, was returned in 1571, but he chose to sit for a constituency in his own county; Thomas Lyfield of Stoke d’Abernon, Surrey, who replaced him, was distantly related to Lord Clinton.

In 1572, with Irby dead, Clinton asked for the nomination of both Members. The corporation granted him one seat but chose their new deputy recorder, Stephen Thymbleby, for the other. William Dodington, the mint official, who married John Tamworth’s widow, must presumably have been Clinton’s choice, though no connexion between the two men has been traced. Clinton, now Earl of Lincoln, and Burghley each asked for and received a seat in 1584: Clinton, who was lord high admiral, nominated a naval captain Nicholas Gorges, while Burghley chose his secretary Vincent Skinner, a Lincolnshire man, who retained the seat for two further Parliaments. Richard Stevenson, mayor in 1586, and Anthony Irby, the deputy recorder, both townsmen, were chosen in 1593 ‘notwithstanding divers suitors, being foreigners’. A Privy Council letter of 1597, urging the election of burgesses with ‘understanding and knowledge’ of the places for which they were to be returned, was copied into the corporation minute book, but in 1601 a new patron appeared in the person of Roger Manners I of Uffington, Lincolnshire, who, after the imprisonment of the 5th Earl of Rutland following his participation in the Essex rebellion, was virtual head of the family. His nominee was Henry Capell II, a great-nephew, who had to appear at Boston to take the oath of a freeman.

On only two occasions in the Elizabethan period is there evidence of the payment of wages. Leonard Irby received £5 in 1571 ‘in full payment and recompense of all his charges’ (presumably these included those for his Early Tudor Parliaments) and Stevenson had his expenses met in 1597. Whether these two—and other—townsmen were paid on every occasion is not known. The 1572 Members accepted the condition that they should not claim wages.1

Author: M.R.P.


  • 1. P. Thompson, Hist. Antiqs. Boston, passim; M. R. Lambert and R. Walker, Boston, Tattershall and Croyland, 67, 69; Weinbaum, Charters, 69; HMC Hatfield, i. 108; Boston corp. min. bks. passim; APC, xxvii. 361; C219/29/80; 30/53; 33/121; 34/56.