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:

maximum 3,511 in Dec. 1640


26 Nov. 1621SIR FRANCIS LEIGH I vice Greville, called to the Upper House

Main Article

Early seventeenth-century Warwickshire was a divided community, geographically and socially. The southern third of the county, with its ‘fertile fields of corn and verdant pastures’, was notable for its settled communities and traditional manorial structures. To the north, however, lay a heavily wooded region, Shakespeare’s Forest of Arden, where a more mobile population combined agricultural pursuits with industrial enterprise, particularly around the north-eastern coalfields and the thriving iron-works of Birmingham. The only other economically important town, the cloth-producing centre of Coventry, was a liberty within Warwickshire, and stood proudly aloof from county life despite its declining prosperity.1 The bulk of the wealthiest gentry resided in the south, and took little interest in Arden’s burgeoning industry. Conversely the few prominent gentlemen who lived in the north rarely participated in public affairs outside their own districts, such as the assizes at Warwick, or indeed the county’s parliamentary elections. Not surprisingly, the knights of the shire were almost invariably drawn from the leading southern families, such as the Grevilles, Verneys and Lucys, dominant landowners with long pedigrees who typically also engaged actively in local or even national government.2

Election to the county seats was primarily a reflection of personal status, and Warwickshire’s knights only rarely voiced the concerns of their constituents in the Commons. On 2 May 1610 Sir Edward Greville successfully moved to have the county exempted from a bill about the burning of moorland, and it was presumably either Sir Thomas Lucy or Sir Thomas Leigh who certified on 24 Apr. 1628 that Warwickshire had no recusant office-holders. Lucy may also have been the anonymous speaker who offered evidence on 14 May 1621 on the local impact of Sir Robert Mansell’s* glass patent.3 There is no evidence that either Lucy or Sir Fulke Greville were involved in the short-lived 1621 bill to improve the lot of ironworkers in the Birmingham region, while it was an Oxford Member, Thomas Wentworth, who on 19 June 1607 requested financial help to restore a ruined Warwickshire church. When, on 23 June 1625, Sir Clement Throckmorton condemned ‘the infinite confluence of priests and Jesuits into this kingdom’, he was voicing his personal convictions, although his views would have struck a chord with Warwickshire’s voters, as the danger posed by Catholics had been brought home forcibly in 1605, when the county witnessed an abortive rising in the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot.4

As the county lacked a resident peer with sufficient local influence to dictate the course of shire elections, the selection process rested with the gentry. There is no firm evidence that there were contests between 1604 and 1628, though it is possible to detect some tensions and rivalries. In 1601 the sheriff had attempted to manipulate the election in a bid to block the fifth consecutive return of (Sir) Fulke Greville, reflecting local resentment at his monopoly of one seat. On that occasion the government intervened on behalf of Greville, but his fall from favour after Elizabeth’s death removed any hope of a sixth victory.5 Instead, the choice in 1604 fell on two other well-established local figures, Sir Edward Greville and Sir Richard Verney, both of whom had represented Warwickshire before. The fact that both were close relatives of Sir Fulke was probably coincidental. Verney sat again in 1614, when Sir Edward’s rapidly deteriorating finances presumably ruled him out. His place was taken by Sir Thomas Lucy, a generous and godly magistrate whose immense local popularity enabled him to win six consecutive elections, thus outdoing Sir Fulke Greville. The latter in fact staged a comeback in 1620, doubtless boosted by his position as chancellor of the Exchequer, though his elevation to the Lords in the following summer necessitated a by-election. A poor turnout favoured Sir Francis Leigh I, who, by rallying his neighbours in east Warwickshire, became the only resident outside the county’s southern zone to serve as a knight during this period.6 From 1624 to 1626 Lucy was partnered by another puritan squire, Sir Clement Throckmorton, but in 1628 the junior seat was claimed instead by Sir Thomas Leigh, a cousin of the 1621 Member. On this occasion the sheriff, Sir Robert Fisher, delayed making his return. No explanation was offered when this negligence was reported in the Commons on 20 March, and there are no contemporary reports of a contest, but the fact that Fisher was Throckmorton’s brother-in-law may be significant. If Sir Clement stood again that year, his failure to secure a seat might be explained by his support for the Forced Loan, which was unpopular in Warwickshire. By contrast, both Lucy and Leigh had distanced themselves from the Loan’s collection.7

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. W. Camden, Britannia (1772), i. 446, 450, 452; A. Hughes, Pols. Soc. and Civil War in Warws. 4-5, 8, 10, 12, 16.
  • 2. Hughes, 5, 9, 52, 55, 59, 91; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. xii), 25, 29, 288; C142/293/75; 142/300/172; WARD 7/86/148; PROB 11/154, ff. 285-9.
  • 3. CJ, i. 423b; SR, v. 1172; CD 1621, iii. 257; CD 1628, iii. 64; Hughes, 91.
  • 4. Procs. 1625, p. 231; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 242; CD 1621, ii. 206; vii. 141-3; CJ, i. 385b.
  • 5. Hughes, 21-4, 26; APC, 1601-4, pp. 247-8; J.E. Neale, Eliz. House of Commons, 52-3.
  • 6. C219/37/266; Hughes, 32, 45, 59, 71, 91 n. 140; Verney sat for Warws. in 1589, Greville in 1593.
  • 7. Vis. Warws. 217; Vis. Warws. (Harl. Soc. lxii), 10-11; C193/12/2, ff. 60v-1; SP16/50/54; Hughes, 59, 95-7.