Yarmouth I.o.W.


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 corporation 1604; in the freemen 1614

Number of voters:

16 in 16251


22 July 1625(SIR) JOHN SUCKLING vice Clarke, chose to sit for Hythe
 Sir Fulke Greville
 Edward Reade

Main Article

Yarmouth, a fortified town and harbour near the western end of the Isle of Wight, was granted a seigneurial charter about the middle of the thirteenth century, vesting town government in the mayor. Newport and Yarmouth each sent one Member to the Model Parliament of 1295, but their representation thereafter lapsed until 1584, when both towns were fully enfranchised at the instance of the captain of the Isle, Sir George Carey†.2 He nominated both Members at Yarmouth in subsequent Elizabethan elections. In June 1603 rumours of an impending election prompted Carey, now Lord Hunsdon, to write to Yarmouth corporation asking it to send him both indentures, as it had previously done, so that he could insert the names of his unidentified candidates.3 The request proved premature, and Hunsdon died before the Parliament was actually summoned. His replacement as captain, the 3rd earl of Southampton, nominated his servant, and later steward, Arthur Bromfeild, who was returned in 1604 together with a local gentleman, Thomas Cheke I of Mottistone, some four miles away.4

Cheke may have helped the town procure a charter of incorporation five years later, which reinforced his interest by appointing him steward.5 The charter vested town government in a self-recruiting corporation consisting of a mayor and 11 aldermen, and opened the franchise to all freemen. Its cost of £86 17s.2d. had still not been fully defrayed 17 years later, and in 1611 the corporation was licensed to collect money to rebuild the church.6 It was perhaps to augment their funds that two years later the corporation began the practice of conferring the freedom, and with it the franchise, on members of the Isle’s gentry.7

Bromfeild was re-elected, probably at the borough assembly of 21 Mar. 1614, with Cheke’s son as his junior colleague. The latter acted as returning officer at the next election in 1621, when Bromfeild was returned with Thomas Risley, another servant of the earl of Southampton. To pay his debts Cheke sold Mottistone in 1623 to the penurious Sir Robert Dillington, 1st bt.†, who does not seem to have had any parliamentary ambitions in this period.8 At the 1624 election it was left to Southampton to allocate both seats, to Risley and William Beeston, his son’s tutor. Both Members took out their freedom on this occasion.9 The admission of the borough’s MPs as freemen in accordance with electoral requirements was only haphazardly enforced during this period; there is no evidence that Bromfeild ever received the freedom, despite serving in three Parliaments, and it was conferred belatedly in the case of Thomas Cheke II, shortly after his return from Westminster, and also Risley, whose admission had been overlooked when he was elected in 1621.

After Southampton’s death his successor as captain, the unpopular Lord Conway (Sir Edward Conway I*) found it harder to exert his influence over the borough as a stranger whose duties as secretary of state precluded him from visiting the Isle for several years. He entrusted the administration of his electoral patronage to the senior deputy lieutenant, Sir John Oglander, who had himself returned in 1625 to the first Caroline Parliament. For his colleague, the borough was ‘content’ to elect the duke of Buckingham’s servant Edward Clarke, who subsequently chose to sit for Hythe.10 Clarke was replaced by (Sir) John Suckling, the comptroller of the Household. In 1626 Conway nominated his eldest son, also Sir Edward.11 No details of the election survive, but Conway’s name on the indenture appears to have been inserted over an erasure, and he was not made a freeman.12 Oglander took the second seat.

According to Oglander he and his fellow deputy Sir Edward Dennys earned much ill-will by collecting the Forced Loan, but their tireless efforts to free the Isle from billeting restored their popularity.13 On 1 Feb. 1628 Conway, now a viscount, informed Yarmouth corporation that he had nominated two candidates for the forthcoming Parliament, whose names they would receive from his deputies, undertaking ‘that they are well affected to the good of your town, will study and endeavour to advance it all in their power, and will give you a good account of anything you shall commit to them’.14 To the deputy lieutenants he wrote that his son would stand for Newport, and for Yarmouth nominated two kinsmen, Sir Fulke Greville, who had replaced Dennys as captain of Cowes Castle, and Edward Reade, who had taken out his freedom as billeting officer for the Isle. However, Oglander replied warning that ‘after the delivery of your letter to Yarmouth … the mayor told me that for my part I had not deserved so ill in my service for them as to be put out’, and, following some deliberation, the townsmen ‘were resolved to choose some of their own country’, as a protest against both the Loan and billeting.15 Only 11 electors had the courage to vote, but the return stated that Dennys and Oglander had been chosen ‘freely and indifferently’ as required by the writ of summons, which was quoted in full.16 Conway subsequently assured Oglander that had he known he wished to stand he would have supported him.17 Dennys appears to have regarded himself as serving for the Isle as a whole when raising the subject of billeting in the Commons.

Authors: Virginia C.D. Moseley / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Add. 5669, f. 67v.
  • 2. R. Warner, Hist. I.o.W. 129; VCH Hants, v. 286-90.
  • 3. I.o.W. RO, YAR 8 (Hunsdon to Yarmouth council, June 1603).
  • 4. Royalist’s Notebk. ed. F. Bamford, 139-40.
  • 5. C66/1814.
  • 6. Add. 46501, f. 208.
  • 7. Add. 5669, ff. 25v, 26v, 68, 73.
  • 8. Oglander Mems. ed. W.H. Long, 79.
  • 9. Add. 5669, ff. 60v.
  • 10. R. Lockyer, Buckingham, 164.
  • 11. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p. 97.
  • 12. C219/40/234.
  • 13. L. Boynton, ‘Billeting in the I.o. W.’, EHR, lxxiv. 24, 30; Royalist’s Notebk. 12-13.
  • 14. Procs. 1628, vi. 157.
  • 15. Ibid. 172-3.
  • 16. Add. 5669, f. 75.
  • 17. I.o.W. RO, OG/BB/155.