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

Number of voters:



c. Mar. 1614HENRY HOWARD
16 Mar. 1626SIR JOHN STANHOPE II vice Cavendish, called to the Upper House
13 Mar. 1628(SIR) EDWARD LEECH

Main Article

Remote from London and dominated by the barren Pennines, Derbyshire boasted great natural beauty but little tillage, deriving most of its wealth from coarse wool and minerals. The Cavendish and Manners families had extensive interests in the lead mines, which by 1600 supplied nearly half Europe’s needs, while the Freschevilles profited on a lesser scale as ironmasters. Although the duchy of Lancaster covered more than half the shire, the Crown exerted little political influence.1 So small a county was always in danger of falling under the control of a great territorial magnate, and until 1618 it was dominated by the Talbot earls of Shrewsbury, whose vast empire, based at Sheffield in the West Riding, also extended into Nottinghamshire and Staffordshire. However, Gilbert Talbot†, the 7th earl, was frequently opposed by William Cavendish†, the son of his formidable step-mother, ‘Bess of Hardwick’, the dowager countess of Shrewsbury. The earl of Shrewsbury remained lord lieutenant until his death in 1616, but his position was weakened by the imprisonment of his wife in 1611 for conniving at the flight of Lady Arbella Stuart, a possible pretender to the throne.2

Elections were held in the county town. Signatures on the surviving indentures varied between six in 1625 and 26 in the following year.3 In 1604 Shrewsbury’s agent for his Derbyshire lands, Sir John Harpur, was returned as senior knight of the shire, but the influence of the dowager countess can be discerned in the election for the remaining seat of William Knyveton, the son of her half-sister and principal confidante, Jane Knyveton née Leche. Cavendish, who did not stand, was probably more interested in a seat in the House of Lords, which he purchased in the following year when he was created 1st Lord Cavendish of Hardwick.4 By the time of the 1614 election Harpur was unable to stand again, as his reputation had been blasted by a long Chancery suit, in which the 5th earl of Huntingdon, assisted by the 1st earl of Chesterfield and Sir Thomas Gerrard*, compelled him to disgorge the surplus of the charity established by their ancestor, Sir John Port. His place was taken by Henry Howard, who had recently acquired property in the county by marriage and was son of the lord chamberlain and brother-in-law to the royal favourite, the earl of Somerset. The second seat was bestowed upon Sir William Cavendish, the eldest son of William, Lord Cavendish. Sir William Cavendish had recently come of age, and was impelled to seek election because of his debts.5 Knvyeton was unable to stand again for the county, as Bess of Hardwick had died in 1608, and without her support his family could aim no higher than a borough seat. Shrewsbury was succeeded in his title by his ‘bad brother’ Edward† in 1616, and two years later by a fourth cousin, a Catholic priest. The lieutenancy went to lord Cavendish, and the Derbyshire estates to the three daughters of the 7th earl and their husbands, William, 3rd earl of Pembroke, Sir Henry Grey*, and Thomas, earl of Arundel. In 1618 Lord Cavendish became the 1st earl of Devonshire, and in the following year Sir William Cavendish, now usually known by the courtesy title Lord Cavendish, was joined with his father in the lieutenancy.6

At the next election, in December 1620, Cavendish took the senior seat, which he monopolized for the rest of his Commons career. As Howard was now dead, his colleague in the third Stuart Parliament was Sir Peter Frescheville, ‘the person of most principal account and … the greatest power of any of the gentry in that county’,7 who had been closely associated with the 7th earl of Shrewsbury.8 However, following his service in 1621, Frescheville seems to have had no further parliamentary ambitions, and in 1624 Cavendish was re-elected with Sir John Stanhope II. Cavendish introduced a bill on 9 Apr. to abolish the lead tithe in the High Peak Hundred of Derbyshire. Payment of this duty was the source of a long-running dispute between the lead miners and the lessees of the tithes, which had already been the subject of extensive litigation and appeals to the Privy Council. After receiving a second reading on 17 Apr., the bill was committed. Although Cavendish was named to this body, neither he, nor any other of its named members, attended the only recorded meeting of the committee. The lead miners petitioned the Commons in support of the bill while their opponents published a broadside detailing the case against. On 12 May John Wylde* reported that the committee ‘thought fit to have it no further proceeded in’, whereupon the House rejected the bill.9

The 1624 members were re-elected to the first Caroline Parliament. On 23 June the knights and burgesses of Derbyshire were appointed to help consider the bill to confirm an agreement between the king and the tenants of Macclesfield, across the border in Cheshire, and consequently Cavendish and Stanhope attended at least one meeting of the committee.10 In 1626 Cavendish was returned with John Manners, who owned a large Derbyshire estate in his own right and had a good chance of succeeding to the earldom of Rutland. A few weeks later Cavendish’s succession to the earldom of Devonshire allowed Stanhope to take the senior seat.

Following attempts to collect a benevolence in August 1626, the Privy Council were informed of widespread refusal to contribute in Derbyshire other than ‘by way of Parliament’.11 However, collection of the Forced Loan proved more successful, for on 27 July 1627 Francis Coke, one of the Derbyshire commissioners, reported to his brother (Sir) John Coke* that £2,750 had been paid into the Exchequer and that refusers were few and poor. Nevertheless, as late as September Stanhope and Sir George Gresley* had still not paid their assessments.12 Among the active commissioners were Sir Peter Frescheville, John Manners and Devonshire, whose co-operation with the Forced Loan does not seem to have diminished his standing in Derbyshire politics. In 1628 he obliged his political mentor Pembroke by securing the election of Sir Edward Leech, a newcomer to the county who had started life in the service of the Herberts. Leech was returned along with Sir Peter Frescheville’s son John, Devonshire’s kinsman by marriage. A bill was introduced to settle Devonshire’s lands, but Leech seems to have raised objections and complained that ‘it was well known Devonshire used him not well at the committee’, suggesting that the earl or his representatives had been critical of him while presenting evidence before the committee.13

Author: Virginia C.D. Moseley


  • 1. J.R. Dias, ‘Lead, Soc. and Pols. in Derbys. before the Civil War’, Midland Hist. vi. 39.
  • 2. Sainty, Lords Lieutenants, 17; J.R. Dias, ‘Pols. and Administration in Notts. and Derbys. 1590-1640’ (Oxford Univ. D.Phil. thesis, 1973), pp. 203, 209.
  • 3. C219/39/68; C219/40/72.
  • 4. Dias thesis, 87, 244.
  • 5. C2/Jas.I/C9/64.
  • 6. Sainty, Lords Lieutenants, 17.
  • 7. G. Holles, Mems. of Holles Fam. ed. A.C Wood (Cam. Soc. ser. 3. lv), 160.
  • 8. Dias thesis, 86.
  • 9. ‘Hawarde 1624’, p. 241; CJ, i. 758b, 769a, 787b; Kyle thesis, 466-8; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48, 214; A. Wood, Pols. of Soc. Conflict, 175, 231-7.
  • 10. Procs. 1625, p. 226; Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, 227.
  • 11. SP16/35/90; SP16/72/21.
  • 12. E179/93/355; SP16/72/21; SP16/79/67.
  • 13. CD 1628, iv. 19.