STEPHENS, Edward (b.c.1552), of Dover, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

Offices Held

Dep. searcher, Dover by 1582, common councilman 1584, chamberlain 1584-5, jurat from 1584, brodhull rep. 1587.


A deputy searcher, responsible for examining goods entering and leaving a port, was a vulnerable man, and depositions in the town records show that many threats were made against Stephens. At least once he applied to the Privy Council for protection. Sometimes he found himself involved in national issues, as in September 1585 when he was commended by the warden of the Cinque Ports for detaining a French ship on which the ambassador Mauvissi‘re was returning home. Several people were brought ashore and interrogated, among them one Dodswell, a Catholic sympathizer, who provided the government with information concerning the whereabouts of Jesuit priests and revealed an attempt to free Mary Queen of Scots. Of only local concern were the occasions when Stephens was fined and bound over for fighting with other borough officials, as, for example, the deputy bailiff in 1582 and, later, for attacking his own superior, the searcher, on a market day. When the Spanish invasion was imminent, in November 1587, Stephens and another jurat were allotted a quarter of the town to patrol with 20 men. In the autumn of 1588 he twice unsuccessfully contested the mayoralty, the second opportunity occurring on the sudden death of the newly-appointed official. Elected to Parliament instead, he was paid wages at 2s.6d. a day, from three days before its commencement, to three days after its end. Nothing has been found to show that he participated other than passively in its proceedings, nor is it known that he made any contribution towards the rebuilding of Dover harbour. He did, however, receive payment in 1594 for having carried ‘the model of the harbour’ to court the year before. No later reference to him is known.

Egerton 2095, passim; 2109, f. 82; CSP Dom.1581-90, pp. 147, 266-8, 295, 383.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: M.R.P.