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:



16 Feb. 1604JOHN BAXTER , town clerk
28 Dec. 1620TIMOTHY LEVINGE , recorder
c. Jan. 1624(SIR) EDWARD LEECH
17 Apr. 1625(SIR) EDWARD LEECH

Main Article

At the end of the sixteenth century Derby had a population of between 2,000-2,500 with clothworking as its staple industry.1 It was a royal borough before the Conquest, though its first surviving charter dates only from 1204.2 Since 1337 the town had been governed by two bailiffs, chosen annually by the freemen. Power to elect a recorder was added in 1446 and by the 1590s there was also a town clerk, sometimes referred to as the steward or under steward of the borough.3 In 1612 the borough’s high steward, Gilbert Talbot†, the 7th earl of Shrewsbury, procured a new charter which placed town government in the hands of a self-selecting corporation of 24 chief burgesses, two of whom were to be chosen annually as bailiffs, and 24 assistant burgesses, together with a recorder and town clerk.4 As the county town, Derby customarily hosted the assizes, although in 1610 they were transferred to Ashbourne following a ‘great affray’ between Sir Philip Stanhope, later earl of Chesterfield, and (Sir) George Gresley (1st Bt.)*, in which the inhabitants became involved. This was probably a revival of the 1590s feud between the 7th earl of Shrewsbury, with whom Gresley was closely connected, and the Stanhope family.5

Derby’s electoral history stretched back unbroken to 1295. Elections were held in the guildhall and returns were made in the name of the bailiffs and burgesses until 1628, when the formula was changed to bailiffs and chief burgesses.6 Parliamentary wages were certainly paid in 1597 to Henry Duport†, the future recorder, but it is not known whether the practice continued.7 Except in 1626, the corporation seems to have been free to choose at least one Member itself. However, it seems also to have been amenable to nominations from the magnates who successively occupied the office of high steward, the 7th and 8th earls of Shrewsbury, and (from 1617) the 3rd earl of Pembroke.8 None of the county gentry sat for the borough, except Sir Gilbert Knyveton in 1614.

In August and September 1603 several prominent townsmen were involved in enclosure riots on commons belonging to the borough. These arose after the corporation rented out the commons, previously utilized by the town’s freemen, to private individuals. Attempts by the earl of Shrewsbury to mediate failed and the dispute continued into the following year, when some of the rioters were indicted at the assizes.9 However there is no evidence that this dispute spilled over into the 1604 election, when two townsmen were returned, John Baxter, the town clerk, and Edmund Sleigh, a merchant of possibly puritan inclinations.10 Neither Member appears to have promoted legislation on behalf of the town, but in February 1610 Derby’s drapers resolved to seek their support for a bill against interlopers promoted by the Coventry Drapers’ Company, which was subsequently rejected at its first reading (24 February).11 Baxter was dead by the following election, by which time Sleigh’s health may also have been failing. Under these circumstances, the corporation might have been expected to offer a seat to Duport, who was still recorder, but he was now at odds with its members. In 1614, therefore, the corporation returned the 7th earl of Shrewsbury’s henchman Sir Gilbert Knyveton for the senior seat. It was also induced by Henry Howard*, a younger son of the 1st earl of Suffolk and owner of extensive estates in Derbyshire, to elect as its other Member Suffolk’s counsel, Arthur Turnor. Both men took out their freedom only after they had been returned.12

Howard’s death in 1616 deprived Turnor of his patron, and before the next election Duport was replaced as recorder by Timothy Levinge, who proved his worth by launching a protracted Chancery suit for the recovery of a legacy left to the poor of the borough. He also acted for the corporation in a pre-emptive action against Duport to foreclose any demand for parliamentary wages and fees.13 Levinge consequently took the senior seat in the third Jacobean Parliament, accompanied by the earl of Pembroke’s secretary Edward Leech, another outsider, who was probably sworn as a freeman after the election. Although the return was dated 28 Dec., both men may have been elected a few days beforehand, as on 31 Dec. Henry Hastings, 5th earl of Huntingdon stated that Leech ‘was chosen upon Monday last was sennight’.14 Levinge and Leech were re-elected in 1624 and 1625, though in reverse order, as Leech had been knighted and acquired an estate in the county.

In 1626 Derby elected Pembroke’s new secretary, John Thorowgood, and Sir Henry Crofts, a kinsman of Pembroke’s ally, Sir William Cavendish I*. Following the dissolution, the townsmen were initially unanimous in refusing to subscribe to the royal benevolence demanded over the summer. However, there was little or no resistance to the Forced Loan, for by 1 Sept. 1627 the bailiffs reported that the full sum of £96 6s. 8d. demanded had been paid into the Exchequer.15 In 1628 the borough returned Philip Mainwaring, a follower of Pembroke’s brother-in-law, the earl of Arundel. Levinge resumed the second seat.

Author: Virginia C.D. Moseley


  • 1. E. Lord, ‘Trespassers and Debtors: Derby at the end of the Sixteenth Century’, Derbys. Arch. Jnl. cxvii. 97.
  • 2. R. Simpson, Coll. of Fragments Illustrative of Hist. and Antiqs. of Derby, 28.
  • 3. British Bor. Chs. ed. M. Weinbaum, 21; R. Clark, ‘Derby “Town Chronicle” 1513-1698’, Derbys. Arch. Jnl. cxviii. 175, 183; HMC Rutland, i. 363.
  • 4. C66/1909/4.
  • 5. Clark, 176; W.T. MacCaffrey, ‘Talbot and Stanhope: An Episode in Elizabethan Pols.’, BIHR, xxxiii. 76-85.
  • 6. C219/35/1/67; 219/37/82; 219/39/70; 219/41B/101.
  • 7. C3/306/115.
  • 8. Clark, 177.
  • 9. Ibid. 176, 183.
  • 10. PROB 11/127, f. 163.
  • 11. Salop RO, 1831/14; CJ, i. 399a.
  • 12. HEHL, HA5458.
  • 13. C78/351/1; C3/306/115.
  • 14. HEHL, HA5458.
  • 15. SP16/33/131I; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 327.