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 freemen1


7 Mar. 1624SIR ANTHONY FOREST vice Howard, chose to sit for Calne

Main Article

Wallingford owed its origins and early importance to a ford across the Thames, dominated by a medieval castle. It received its first charter in 1156 and returned Members from 1295. The population was declining in this period and in 1636 was described as only ‘a good market town’.2 The corporation consisted of the mayor, three aldermen, and 16 ‘burgesses’; but the indentures exchanged with the sheriff customarily included also the commonalty, which appears to have meant the freemen. However, the returns do not name the voters and were unsigned.

The honour of Wallingford formed part of Anne of Denmark’s dower, inherited on her death in 1619 by her son Prince Charles, but there is no evidence of royal electoral patronage.3 In 1614 and 1621 the borough minutes record that one of the Members was ‘chosen’ by the high steward, suggesting that it was established practice accepted by the corporation for that officeholder to have one seat at each election. At the start of this period the high steward was Sir John Fortescue*, the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster. He died in 1607 and was succeeded by William Knollys†, the treasurer of the Household, who had been created a baron in 1603 and was raised to the dignity of Viscount Wallingford in 1616, and earl of Banbury in 1626. He had been constable of Wallingford castle since 1584.4 In 1614 and 1621 the other Member is recorded as having been chosen by the ‘company’, but in practice the corporation’s seat was often awarded to one of two influential local gentry families, the Dunches of Little Wittenham, four miles from the borough, and the Molyns’ of Clapcot, a hamlet in the parish of All Hallows, Wallingford. In 1614 the minutes of the corporation make reference to a by-law for the election of the recorder as one of the borough’s Members of Parliament. However, Thomas Stampe, recorder from 1584 to 1606, only represented the borough in 1586 and 1588.5

It is not clear who the high steward’s nominee was in 1604. Sir William Dunch was related to Fortescue by marriage, as well as being the son of Edmund Dunch, who had represented the borough in 1571. Edmund was ineligible to sit himself because he was sheriff of Berkshire, but he was probably sufficiently influential in the borough to secure the corporation’s seat. The other Member was Griffith Payne, a purveyor and Household official, who was serving his fourth term as mayor, and had been appointed escheator of Berkshire and Oxfordshire in 1593 thanks to Fortescue’s nomination. During the first session of the Parliament Payne distinguished himself by ‘a bitter invective’ against the bill to control purveyance, and also condemned the House for its proceedings concerning Fortescue’s election for Buckinghamshire. After some debate and an apology, he was forgiven the speech, but suspended until his right to sit could be determined, for as mayor he was technically ineligible. In the event he was not restored until the fourth session, and he never stood again. Dunch died shortly before the dissolution, but no by-election occurred.6

The election of 1614 was the first in which Knollys was able to exercise his patronage. He nominated Sir Carew Reynell, a courtier and his neighbour in Charing Cross, and added ‘if they will bestow the other place upon me if Sir Michael Molyns† or his son have it not, I would name thereto Mr. Emanuel Giffard*’.7 Neither Molyns appears to have been interested in standing, but it was presumably they who secured the promise of ‘the company’ to elect their Oxfordshire kinsman, Sir George Simeon, a former recusant. The corporation acknowledged that ‘according to order’, the recorder, Edward Clerke of Reading, who had replaced Stampe in 1606, should have been chosen for the corporation’s seat, but, at the corporation’s request, he surrendered his right and consequently Simeon was elected with Reynell.8

In 1620 Samuel Dunch, Sir William’s younger brother, was ‘chosen’ by Knollys, and Simeon was again chosen ‘by the company’, or at least ‘the more and greater part of them’.9 In 1624 Simeon yielded the first place to Knollys’s brother-in-law, Sir Edward Howard II, who chose to sit for Calne. At the ensuing election it was presumably Knollys who nominated Sir Anthony Forest, the client of another brother-in-law, the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil*). Forest was re-elected to the first Caroline Parliament, but Simeon made way for his young cousin, Michael Molyns. In 1626 Forest sat for the third time, the junior seat going to another young man, Unton Croke, a younger son of the great legal family. Croke was presumably the corporation’s candidate, but his connection with the borough has not been established. During the Parliament he was granted privilege against the litigious Sir Thomas Whorwood, and reported that he had ‘reviled him, saying, he came to be a Member of this House by bribery and corruption’. No further proceedings in the matter are recorded.10 In 1628 Knollys almost certainly nominated his nephew, Sir Robert Knollys II, and the borough presumably chose Edmund Dunch, Sir William’s son, who was just 25 but had already represented Berkshire in three Parliaments.

Author: Alan Davidson


  • 1. D. Hirst, Representative of the People?, 215.
  • 2. VCH Berks. iii. 523, 532, 534, 536; J.K. Hedges, Wallingford, ii. 217; C219/35/1/199; 219/38/14.
  • 3. VCH Berks. iii. 528; Hedges, ii. 113.
  • 4. Berks. RO, W/AC1/1/1, f. 88, 98v, 105; HP Commons, 1558-1603, ii. 417; Hedges, ii. 197.
  • 5. Berks. RO, W/AC1/1/1, f. 98v; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 117; ii. 435.
  • 6. CJ, i. 162b, 396b, 406b.
  • 7. Pprs. of Capt. Henry Stevens ed. M.R. Toynbee, (Oxon. Rec. Soc. xlii), 37.
  • 8. Berks. RO, W/AC1/1/1, ff. 93, 98v.
  • 9. Berks. RO, W/AC1/1/1, f. 105.
  • 10. Procs. 1626, iii. 89.