Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

No names known for 1510-23


1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)
1545(not known)
1553 (Mar.)(not known)
1553 (Oct.)SIR THOMAS GREY 3

Main Article

The Percy earls of Northumberland, the dominant family in their titular shire, were the northern peers most affected by the centralizing policy of the Tudors. The 5th Earl (1527-37), whose father had been largely excluded from office, was granted the wardenship of the east and middle marches shortly after his succession and a life tenure of the shrievalty of Northumberland in 1532, but shortly before his death he made the King the heir to his estates, the conveyance being confirmed by an Act of 1536 (27 Hen. VIII, c.47). Because of his brother’s attainder even the empty title did not descend to his nine year-old nephew Thomas Percy, who had to wait until the reign of Mary for a new creation and the restoration of the Percy lands. In the interval John Dudley had held the greater part of the Percy lands in Northumberland when elevated to the dukedom in 1551 and had received a grant of the remainder in 1552. The power of the lords Dacre was concentrated in Cumberland, but in Northumberland they held the barony of Morpeth; the 2nd Lord Dacre, when warden of all three marches between 1515 and 1525, also had the nomination to the shrievalty of Northumberland, and his son, although more often employed in the west marches (Cumberland and Westmorland), was warden of the middle marches (Northumberland) in 1554-5.4

Election indentures survive for the Parliaments of October 1553, November 1554 and 1555, the first two being in English and the third in Latin. The Act for the keeping of county days (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.25) had stipulated that the shire court for Northtimberland should be kept at Alnwick, but it was at Morpeth that elections were held in the autumn of 1553 and in 1555, Alnwick being used only in October 1554. The contracting parties were the sheriff and between about 13 and 30 or more local gentlemen, among them several knights and, in 1553, Ralph Grey, deputy warden of the east marches. John Bednell, himself a recent knight of the shire, was present at Morpeth in 1553 and Alnwick in 1554, and the merchant Thomas Bradford on the first of these occasions.5

In 1539 the 3rd Duke of Norfolk assured Cromwell that he had ‘put such order’ in Northumberland that ‘such shall be chosen as ... shall serve his highness according to his pleasure’, but in the absence of a return for the county to the Parliament of that year it cannot be said if the duke was as good as his word. Eight of the 11 knights whose names are known I were seated in Northumberland. Sir Thomas Hilton and John Swinburne had their principal residences in Durham but were active and well-connected in Northumberland, and only the Marian Privy Councillor and courtier Sir Thomas Wharton was a stranger; he could rely on his father’s influence as warden of the middle marches. (In 1558 Wharton was elected for Yorkshire as well as Northumberland, but which county he chose to represent is not recorded.) Wharton was also the only knight who was never appointed to the Northumberland bench. Six of the others served as sheriff, three of them (Cuthbert Radcliffe, Hilton and George Heron) during their Membership. As a Member of the Parliament of 1547 Hilton shared responsibility for the Act passed in its second session making the sheriff of Northumberland accountable for his office as were other sheriffs (2 and 3 Edw. VI, c.34); his own appointment in the following year looks like a consequence of that fact. Most of the knights had experience in border warfare and, less hazardously, the two Horsleys had studied at Lincoln’s Inn.Radcliffe, a son-in-law of the 10th Lord Clifford, was a servant of the 5th Earl of Northumberland at his election in 1529, and Hilton and Sir Thomas Grey were on good terms with the elder Wharton.6

Under the two Acts controlling the possession of firearms (25 Hen. VIII, c.17 and 33 Hen. VIII, c.6) the inhabitants of Northumberland were allowed to keep crossbows and handguns for use against the Scots. A proviso in the Act regulating weaving (2 and 3 Phil. and Mary, c.11) allowed men in the county to continue their work as before, ‘anything contained in the statute to the contrary in anyways notwithstanding’.

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. The christian name missing from the indenture (C219/21/116) has been supplied from Bodl. e Museo 17.
  • 4. Northumberland Estate Accts. (Surtees Soc. clxiii), pp. xi-xix; M. E. James, Change and Continuity in Tudor North (Borthwick Pprs. xxvi), 45-46; A Tudor Magnate and the Tudor State (ibid. xxx), passim; B. L. Beer, Northumberland, 181-2.
  • 5. C219/21/116, 23/95, 24/120.
  • 6. LP Hen. VIII, x. 816 citing Cott. Calig. B6, f. 319.