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 aldermen

Number of voters:



7 Mar. 1604GILES TOOKER , alderman
c. Mar. 1614GILES TOOKER , recorder
15 Dec. 1620ROGER GAUNTLETT , alderman
 LAWRENCE HORNE , alderman
16 Jan. 1624ROGER GAUNTLETT , alderman
 ?Thomas Hancock , alderman
25 Apr. 1625HENRY SHERFIELD , recorder
16 Jan. 1626HENRY SHERFIELD , recorder
 JOHN PUXTON , alderman
 ?Sir John Evelyn*
7 Mar. 1628HENRY SHERFIELD , recorder
 (Sir) Thomas Morgan*

Main Article

Salisbury was founded in the tenth century by the bishops of Old Sarum on water meadows by the river Avon, but it was only fully developed in the 1220s, when Bishop Poore began construction of a new cathedral. Immediately to the north of this site, burgages were laid out in a series of rectangular blocks, later called chequers.1 Salisbury boomed during the Middle Ages, but its principal industry, the manufacture of broadcloths derived from the flocks of sheep which grazed on the surrounding downs, suffered considerably during the early seventeenth century. Economic depression was compounded by war in the 1620s, which affected exports to the German states and the Low Countries. Salisbury was not wholly reliant upon the cloth trade, however, for its craftsmen also made bonelace, cutlery and leather goods, while the city’s situation on the main route between Bristol and Southampton sustained a significant service industry. It also enjoyed an administrative role, being the south Wiltshire centre for the assizes and quarter sessions.2

In 1225 the bishop of Salisbury granted the townsmen a charter which established their property rights and his claims to taxes and tolls. These rights were confirmed by a royal charter two years later, which additionally freed the citizens from certain tolls.3 By 1249 the town had a mayor, two coroners and two bailiffs (whose main responsibility was to collect the bishop’s rents), while four aldermen were charged with oversight of the town’s four wards. However, these officials remained subordinate to the bishop’s bailiff, whose control of their functions and powers inhibited the development of a more settled system of government: municipal elections did not occur until 1417, while the subordinate body of assistants, from which all lesser officials were appointed, only emerged later in the century.4 From 1411 a city clerk was appointed to give legal advice, but retained lawyers generally handled work of this nature until Sir John Penruddock† was appointed fee’d counsel in 1587.5

From its inception, the corporation was intermittently at loggerheads with the bishop about its respective rights and responsibilities.6 Towards the end of the sixteenth century the corporation secured allies by appointing a series of Elizabethan privy councillors – Sir Francis Walsingham†, Sir Christopher Hatton I†, Sir Thomas Heneage† and Sir John Puckering† – to the newly created post of chief steward.7 At the same time, the city lobbied for a charter of incorporation, which would compel the bishop to relinquish his interest in the city in return for compensation, secure county status for the municipality, and formalize the guild structure of the numerous trades.8 In 1591 the queen agreed to this proposal in principle, and two years later a writ of quo warranto challenged the bishop’s franchise. Yet while aldermen were frequently dispatched to London to further these negotiations, it was not until 1612 that a fresh charter was granted.9 This established a mayor and two tiers of corporate government: the aldermen, called the Twenty-Four; and the assistants, or the Forty-Eight. Other officials included a recorder, bailiff and two chamberlains, while the mayor, recorder and six aldermen served as municipal justices. Episcopal authority, once unassailable, was now restricted to the cathedral close, although the mayor still took his oath before the bishop’s bailiff.10 However, it soon became apparent that the council created by the 1612 charter was unwieldy, for in 1624 it was proposed that the corporation’s numbers be halved. In the event it was not until 1675 that any reduction was achieved. Meanwhile, the 1630 charter freed the mayor from being ‘tied to any kind of tradesmen or artificer’, and altered the date of municipal elections to November.11

The city’s revenues, from tenements, market stalls and dues from the racecourse, paid for its mayor and recorder, while other officers were remunerated according to their services.12 In 1615 the corporation raised contributions towards the building of a new assize court and council house, while efforts were also made to build an infirmary, establish a public brewhouse, relocate the free school, and improve the workhouse. Other signs of civic pride included the wearing of formal gowns at meetings, the commissioning of a portrait of recorder Giles Tooker holding the 1612 charter, and a 1623 order that the mace be enlarged ‘and made greater than that of Marlborough or the Devizes.’13

All but one of the Members returned during this period were residents, the exception being Walter Long II. All the townsmen made significant contributions to municipal affairs: Giles Tooker, the city’s first recorder, lobbied tirelessly to secure the 1612 charter, making him a natural choice in the parliaments of 1604 and 1614.14 Godfrey, Gauntlett, Horne, Puxton and Tookie were city merchants and aldermen, while Gauntlett and Tookie had also been instrumental in negotiating the charter.15 Sherfield, appointed recorder a few weeks before his election, was also a natural choice as MP, and on 23 Jan. 1624, soon after he had accepted his nomination, he was thanked ‘for your kind offers and friendly advice … hoping you will continue your good endeavours to effect such matters as shall be conceived to be good for our city.’16

Corporation membership was restricted to resident freemen; an order of 1592 disenfranchised any councillor absent from the city for more than a year.17 The parliamentary franchise lay with the Twenty-Four, who were supposed to return two suitable freemen. Despite the formality of this procedure, perhaps intended to forestall contested elections, there may have been as many as three contests during this period.18 The background to the first of these, in 1624, lay in the establishment the previous year of a public brewhouse which aimed to raise funds for poor relief. The scheme was supported by the majority of the puritan-minded council, including Henry Sherfield, Bartholomew Tookie and Roger Gauntlett, but generated significant opposition from the city’s brewers, one of whom, a future mayor, procured a writ of quo warranto against the corporation. Nine days before the 1624 election, Thomas Hancock, another brewer and member of the Twenty-Four, wrote to Sherfield at Lincoln’s Inn, informing him of his impending election, and offering ‘to join with you I am very willing, if so be that I am chosen, which I think will be if you desire it by letter to Mr. Mayor’. It is uncertain whether Hancock withdrew or was defeated in a contest, but in this instance the corporation, perhaps affronted by Hancock’s soliciting on his own behalf (he was subsequently voted off the municipal bench), elected Gauntlett, who had been returned in 1621.19

The brewhouse was one of two factors to cause the corporation concern at the 1626 election. Despite the requirement that freemen should be resident, outsiders had been sworn as freemen on the day of their election. However, after Walter Long II, assisted by his father-in-law Henry Sherfield, had benefited from this process in 1625, the council determined that ‘none [shall] be hereafter chosen to serve as citizens of this city for any Parliament but such is [sic] at the time of the election shall be free citizens and of the common council of this city and then residing there’. This order was soon put to the test, for in 1626 the attorney-general, (Sir) Robert Heath*, asked the council to return Sir John Evelyn*, while another, unnamed, candidate was put forward by the city’s chief steward, William Herbert, 3rd earl of Pembroke. The council rejected both Heath’s and Pembroke’s nominees, arguing that because it desired to have the brewhouse confirmed by Act of Parliament, ‘as well as of other provisions of great importance to our city, which it were impossible to accomplish by strangers’, it was necessary to send ‘two of our own company to this Parliament’.20 This brewhouse bill, initially referred to as a bill for the relief of the poor, was introduced on 11 Mar. 1626 by Sherfield, who kept notes of its numerous provisions and how it was to differ from the Elizabethan poor laws. Sherfield also headed the committee appointed on 2 May following, but the bill went no further thereafter.21

In 1628 Pembroke nominated his steward Sir Thomas Morgan. He was seconded by Sherfield and the mayor, who proposed that Morgan be made a freeman to permit him to represent the city, despite the 1625 forbidding such manoeuvres. However, Alderman Thomas Squibb wrote to Sherfield on 5 Feb. reiterating that ‘it is requisite by the words of our charter … that Sir Thomas Morgan should be an inhabitant before we elect him. We would willingly preserve our privileges and yet give our most noble and honourable friend all the content and satisfaction that his lordship [Pembroke] shall require of us. There are some opponents, yet not many’. However, these opponents held sway, rejecting Morgan in favour of one of their own, Alderman Bartholomew Tookie.22

Members were reimbursed pro rata for their travel and expenses while in London, but such retrospective payments were often delayed and incomplete: Giles Tooker’s expenses during the 1597 Parliament were only repaid to him in 1608; in the same year Richard Godfrey accepted £15 ‘notwithstanding by His Majesty’s writ there is due to him £42 6s. for his expenses for 535 days’ (although the Parliament in which he served had only been in session for 344 days), while Gauntlett and Horne waited five years to be paid for their parliamentary expenses.23

Author: Henry Lancaster


  • 1. VCH Wilts. vi. 94-5.
  • 2. Ibid. 124-7.
  • 3. T. Carew, Hist. Acct. of Rights of Elections, 111.
  • 4. Wilts. RO, G23/1/1, f. 62; VCH Wilts. vi. 96.
  • 5. Wilts. RO, G23/1/3, ff. 99, 167.
  • 6. Wilts. RO, G23/1/222PC.
  • 7. Wilts. RO, G23/1/226; R.C. Hoare, Hist. Wilts. ‘Salisbury’, 296.
  • 8. Wilts. RO, G23/1/3, f. 174; G23/1/223/15, 38, 42.
  • 9. Wilts. RO, G23/1/223/31; G23/1/3, ff. 122v, 125, 127, 214v.
  • 10. Wilts. RO, G23/1/223/10, 20.
  • 11. Hants RO, 44M69/L37/25; VCH Wilts. vi. 105.
  • 12. Wilts. RO, G23/150/36; G23/1/3, ff. 223, 235, 322.
  • 13. Ibid. G23/1/3, ff. 219v, 243, 292, 294, 301v.
  • 14. Wilts. RO, G23/1/9, f. 7.
  • 15. Wilts. RO, G23/1/3, f. 208.
  • 16. Hants RO, 44M69/L37/21.
  • 17. Wilts. RO, G23/1/3, f. 197v; Hoare, 365.
  • 18. Hants RO, 44M69/L37/27.
  • 19. Hants. RO, 44M69/L37/21; Crisis and Order in English Towns 1500-1700 ed. P. Clark and P. Slack, 186-8.
  • 20. Hants RO, 44M69/L37/40.
  • 21. Procs. 1626, ii. 238, 255, 288; iii. 120; iv. 118-26.
  • 22. Wilts. RO, G23/1/3, f. 355; Hants RO, 44M69/L37/37-8, 40.
  • 23. Wilts. RO, G23/1/3, ff. 200v, 330.