New Woodstock

Borough

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 freemen

Number of voters:

about 651

Elections

DateCandidate
1 Mar. 1604SIR RICHARD LEE
 THOMAS SPENCER
6 Dec. 1609JAMES WHITELOCKE , recorder vice Lee, deceased
c. Mar. 1614SIR PHILIP CAREY
 JAMES WHITELOCKE , recorder
7 Dec. 1620(SIR) JAMES WHITELOCKE , recorder
 SIR PHILIP CAREY
14 Jan. 1624SIR PHILIP CAREY
 WILLIAM LENTHALL , recorder
20 Apr. 1625SIR PHILIP CAREY
 SIR GERRARD FLEETWOOD
14 Jan. 1626SIR GERRARD FLEETWOOD
 EDMUND TAVERNER
c. Mar. 1628SIR MILES FLEETWOOD
 EDMUND TAVERNER

Main Article

New Woodstock, a small market town that had grown up near the royal manor and park, was incorporated in 1453, but did not return Members to Parliament until a century later. In this period it was governed by a mayor, four aldermen, and 20 common councillors, who together with a slightly larger body of freemen formed the electorate.2 Returns were made by the mayor and commonalty. It had become ‘ever usual with them’ to reserve one seat for the recorder and to prove amenable to the wishes of the high steward for the other.3 However, by the reign of Charles I the corporation’s control over one of its seats declined before the interest exercised by two royal officials, the steward of the manor and the ranger of Woodstock Park.

In 1604 Sir Henry Lee† was both high steward of the borough and steward of the manor. Since the recorder, Sir Lawrence Tanfield*, had secured election for the county, Lee nominated his younger half-brother Sir Richard Lee in the senior place, and the junior seat went to Thomas Spencer, the 18-year old son of a neighbouring gentleman. Lee died after the third session of the Parliament, and was replaced by the new recorder, James Whitelocke; the chamberlains’ accounts show payments of 6s. 8d. to the under-sheriff and 12s. 6d. for a mayoral dinner at the by-election.4 When Sir Henry Lee died in 1611 he was succeeded by Spencer as high steward, while the 1st earl of Montgomery (Sir Philip Herbert*) became steward of the manor.5 The borough paid the sheriff 3s. in 1614 ‘for the warrant to choose our burgesses’.6 Spencer ‘refused to serve himself’, but ‘commended’ Sir Philip Carey, a well-connected courtier and a relative by marriage of Tanfield, who maintained his link with the borough and was occasionally the recipient of gifts of cake from the corporation.7 Montgomery tried to nominate the other Member, probably Sir Thomas Tracy*, but recorder Whitelocke was re-elected.8 In 1617 the manor was settled on Prince Charles, from whom the borough received ‘a letter about the election of a burgess’ before the 1620 election, but in the event Whitelocke and Carey were re-elected.9 Montgomery succeeded Spencer as high steward of the borough in 1622, but is not known to have exercised any influence over the next two elections.10 Carey was re-elected in 1624, together with William Lenthall, a young lawyer and Tanfield’s kinsman who had replaced Whitelocke as recorder in 1621.11

Charles’s first Parliament saw a break with the traditional pattern of Woodstock’s elections, as the recorder now found himself excluded. Carey again took the first seat, but the second went to Sir Gerrard Fleetwood, ranger of Woodstock Park. Lenthall, who did not manage to find a place elsewhere, described his failure to gain the seat as ‘a disgrace’.12 The chamberlains’ accounts record the payment of 8s. to the ‘clerk of the Parliament [sic] for the filing of the indenture’, a procedure which was repeated in the following two elections.13 Fleetwood sat again as the senior member in 1626, and was joined by Montgomery’s secretary Edmund Taverner, who had the advantage of being a local man by birth and was related to the Fleetwoods.14 In 1628 Fleetwood yielded his seat to his elder brother, Sir Miles, while Taverner was re-elected in second place. Members do not appear to have been paid wages during this period. It is not known whether the town was interested in any particular bills, though the town clerk bought ‘a statute book of the last Parliament’ in 1624 and again in 1628.