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 inhabitant ratepayers


Feb. 1604ADRIAN STOUGHTON , recorder
5 Apr. 1610SIR JOHN MORLEY vice Blincowe, deceased
 THOMAS WHATMAN , recorder
 THOMAS WHATMAN , recorder
28 Apr. 1625ALGERNON PERCY , Lord Percy
13 Jan. 1626ALGERNON PERCY , Lord Percy
c. Apr. 1626EDWARD DOWSE vice Percy, called to the Upper House

Main Article

Described in 1635 as a ‘pleasant and sweet little city … in a pleasant, fertile level and not far from the main sea’, Chichester, situated in the extreme west of Sussex, had a population of about 2,500.1 Despite being the seat of a bishopric, poor communications with the east of the county meant that it was obliged by statute to share the county court alternately with Lewes in the east, ‘the same shire being 70 miles in length’.2 The coast was five miles away, but the town was said to possess ‘the best haven between Portsmouth and the Thames’, and enjoyed an increasingly flourishing trade in corn with Ireland and the Low Countries.3 There were resident gentry and ‘goodly seats of lords, knights and gentlemen … not far off’, notably those of the Howards at Arundel and the Percys at Petworth. Thomas Howard, restored to the earldom of Arundel in 1604, was the city’s custos rotulorum by 1612. In 1618 he procured for the corporation a new charter, in which he was named high steward. His friend Henry Percy, 9th earl of Northumberland, was imprisoned in the Tower for alleged complicity in the Gunpowder Plot between 1605 and 1621, but retained control of his lands.4

A mayor and two bailiffs had governed Chichester since the early thirteenth century. In addition there was a council of ‘free citizens enfranchised’, of uncertain number, which had evolved out the medieval merchants’ guild. By the early part of this period the corporation had acquired a recorder, although his office, like that of alderman, bestowed on former mayors, was not sanctioned by charter. Sessions of the peace for the city were held under commissions issued periodically by the Crown. However, as the bishop complained in 1617, these allowed outsiders ‘hateful to the whole incorporation’ to involve themselves in the city’s affairs. The new charter issued the following year formalized many of the existing arrangements, and made the recorder, the mayor and four aldermen justices of the peace for the city. It also created a common council, consisting of former civic officeholders, who elected the mayor; again this probably merely confirmed existing practice, with the common council taking the place of the ‘free citizens enfranchised’.5

Chichester had been represented in Parliament since 1295. During a disputed Elizabethan election it had been admitted that the franchise lay in those inhabitants who paid scot and lot, but only one of the surviving indentures (1620) for this period mentions the participation of ‘the commonalty’. Indentures were normally exchanged between the sheriff of Sussex and the mayor, aldermen and citizens who, in 1604, were said to ‘have assembled themselves together in their council house and guildhall’.6 In the early Elizabethan period Henry Fitzalan, earl of Arundel had been a major electoral force in the city. After his death in 1580 his interest in Chichester passed to his son-in-law, John, 1st Lord Lumley, who had inherited Arundel’s house at Stanstead, seven miles from the city.7

In 1604 the indentures record the election ‘with one consent and assent’ of two freemen, Adrian Stoughton, the recorder, and George Blincowe, described as resident, who had probably lived in the city since his brother had been appointed chancellor of the diocese in 1590.8 It is likely that Blincowe was a Lumley nominee, as it was almost certainly he who had recommended William Ashby† to Lumley in 1593, when Ashby had been returned for Chichester at the latter’s nomination.9 The death of Blincowe was certified to the Commons by the city on 2 Apr. 1610, when the writ for his replacement was issued; the by-election was held three days later. Lumley having died the previous year without surviving children, it is likely that Blincowe’s successor, Sir John Morley, was nominated by Thomas Howard, earl of Arundel, the great-grandson of Henry, earl of Arundel. Morley lived near Chichester, but perhaps more significant was the fact that his father-in-law, Sir Edward Caryll, had been closely connected with the Howards.10

Both Stoughton and Morley were re-elected in 1614. Stoughton died later that year, and was replaced as recorder by Morley’s brother, Edward*, but the latter had been sacked by the corporation for absenteeism by the time the 1618 charter was granted. Presumably as a result of his brother’s disgrace, Morley decided not to seek re-election in 1620. He was returned instead for New Shoreham, probably at Arundel’s nomination, early in the New Year.11 The city elected Edward Morley’s replacement, Thomas Whatman, alongside the soldier Sir Edward Cecil, a first cousin of Northumberland. Whatman was re-elected to the last Jacobean Parliament, together with the treasurer of the Household, Sir Thomas Edmondes, who was presumably the nominee of Arundel, a privy councillor.

Whatman was not returned again in 1625, an early sign, perhaps, of declining relations between him and the corporation. In his absence the city’s elections came completely, albeit temporarily, under the control of its aristocratic neighbours. In 1625 Northumberland’s eldest son, Lord Percy was elected with Arundel’s secretary, Humphrey Haggett. They were again elected in 1626, but Percy was called up to the Lords in his father’s barony on 28 Mar., and a week later the Commons ordered the writ for the by-election.12 The return has not survived, but Bishop William Laud’s annotations on a contemporary printed list of Members of Parliament indicate that Percy’s replacement was the latter’s former tutor Edward Dowse.13

In August 1626 Whatman complained to the Privy Council that he had been sacked by Chichester’s corporation and procured an order for his reinstatement. In the ensuing war of words Whatman alleged ‘some indirect carriage and fraudulous speeches used at the last election of a burgess for Parliament’. However there is no evidence that this accusation was pursued and it may have been intended merely to discredit his opponents. On 12 Sept. the Council ordered the corporation to restore Whatman, who was instructed to behave respectfully to the mayor and aldermen.14

By the end of 1627 billeted soldiers were proving a major burden on Chichester, and were blamed for an outbreak of the plague.15 Thoroughly disgruntled, Chichester unanimously returned two residents to the third Caroline Parliament. William Cawley, the son of a wealthy brewer who had served three terms as mayor, had just founded an almshouse for impoverished tradesmen. He was accorded the senior seat, although his colleague Henry Bellingham was an older man from a recognized county family. During the first session complaint was made to the Commons against the mayor for his acceptance of billeting, possibly by one of the justices who had been intruded onto the city bench in 1617 and who may have had a grudge against the corporation.16

In the following October Bellingham and Cawley were summoned before the Privy Council for having encouraged the inhabitants ‘to shut the gates of the city’ against soldiers, and for saying that ‘by law there could be no more billeting of soldiers’. They also stood accused of having warned the city’s authorities ‘to take heed what you did, for that the Parliament would call you to account for it’. The Privy Council found such behaviour, ‘strange and unheard of from persons living under a civil government’, but the day after Bellingham and Cawley made their appearance on 14 Oct. they were discharged, the Council having perhaps belatedly realized that they were Parliament men.17

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. ‘Relation of a Short Survey of the Western Counties’ ed. L.G. Wickham Legg Cam. Misc. xvi. (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. lii), pt. 3, pp. 33, 35; A. Fletcher, County Community in Peace and War, 8.
  • 2. SR, ii. 665.
  • 3. J. Dallaway, Hist. of Western Div. of Co. of Suss. i. pt. 1, p. 1; SR, iv. 729; Fletcher, 20; VCH Suss. iii. 102.
  • 4. Fletcher, 8-9; ‘Relation of a Short Survey’, 35; C181/1, f. 169v; Dallaway, i. pt. 1, p. 153.
  • 5. VCH, iii. 90-6; Dallaway, i. pt. 1, pp. 153-4; C181/1, f. 47v; 181/3, ff. 169v, 294v; M.A. Tierney, Hist. and Antiqs. of Castle and Town of Arundel, 433; F.W. Steer, Chichester City Chs. (Chichester Pprs. iii), 18-20.
  • 6. VCH Suss. iii. 98; J.E. Neale, Eliz. House of Commons, 267; C219/35/2/87; 219/37/259.
  • 7. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 258.
  • 8. C219/35/2/87.
  • 9. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 353.
  • 10. CJ, i. 417b; C219/35/2/78-9; Oxford DNB sub Lumley, John, first Bar. Lumley; H. Ellis, ‘Certificate concerning Justices of the Peace in 1587’, Suss. Arch. Colls. ii. 60; M.A. Tierney, Hist. and Antiqs. of Castle and Town of Arundel, 20n.
  • 11. SP16/35/74-5.
  • 12. Procs. 1626, ii. 427.
  • 13. SP16/20/36.
  • 14. CSP Dom. 1625-6, p. 414; APC, 1626, pp. 223, 256, 264; SP16/35/74-6.
  • 15. APC, 1627-8, pp. 173, 180.
  • 16. CD 1628, iii. 185, 511.
  • 17. APC, 1628-9, pp. 187-8, 197.