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Norward College, Cambridge

3 DEC 15 Macs H S.A...

HALFPENNY

3 DEC

To Messer El Allen Hon
14 Grape St.
Shaftesbury
London
Condon Wo

berry Avenue

[graphic]

THE MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT FOR

BRIDGNORTH.

By HENRY T. WEYMAN, F.S.A.

THE Borough of Bridgnorth has sent Members to Parliament ever since that memorable Parliament of 1295, which has been called the Model Parliament, in which for the first time Edward I. summoned the three Estates of the Realm, the Barons, the Commons, and the Clergy, to sit together in the same place. It was not the first time that the Burgesses of the Boroughs had sat with the Knights of the Shires in Parliament, as Simon de Montfort, the great Earl of Leicester, had called two Burgesses from each of certain Boroughs to the assembly, in which the County Representatives sat; thus in effect founding that great Council of the Nation, which has continued to the present day as the House of Commons. Unfortunately, no records exist of the names of those who sat in Simon de Montfort's first Parliament, and it is not possible to say whether any writ was issued to the Borough of Bridgnorth to return representatives. It is believed that there were Borough members in the Parliament of 1282-3, and in that held at Shrewsbury in 1283, but to the latter only representatives of London and 20 other Cities and Boroughs were summoned, so that it is not likely that so small a Borough as Bridgnorth would be honoured. No Boroughs were included in the writs for the Parliaments of 1290 and 1294, and we then come to that summoned to meet at Westminster on the 13th November, 1295, and it is in this year, and in the Parliament, which marks such an important epoch in the History of England, that Bridgnorth began (so far as is known) its Parliamentary representation.

From 1295, when the Model Parliament met, down to the Re-distribution Act of 1885, which swept so many small Boroughs out of existence as Parliamentary units— a period of well nigh 600 years-Bridgnorth continued to

be directly represented in the House of Commons. The list of its members is fairly perfect, and as, so far as the writer is aware, no complete list has ever been published, it is the object of this paper to compile such a list, so far as it is possible to do so, and to say something of the various men who have represented the old Borough. The list is in the main taken from the official record of the House of Commons, but additions have been made from Prynne's Brief Register, and from the local records, in which latter it is alone possible to find the names of the members at the end of the 15th and early part of the 16th centuries, as all the official returns have been lost. A list of the members from 1295 to 1472 (somewhat imperfect) was given by Mr. Hubert Smith, the late Town Clerk of Bridgnorth, in "Salopian Shreds and Patches" for 1887, and further lists of the members from 1670-1880 were published in the same volume; but these lists omit altogether the representatives in the various Parliaments between 1473 and 1660, a period of nearly 200 years, in which many men of distinction sat for the Borough.

Bridgnorth must have been called upon to return members to this 1st Parliament of 1295, because it was at that time, like Shrewsbury, recognised as a Borough. The writs for this Parliament were directed to the Sheriffs of the various Counties, and called upon them to return two Knights, to be chosen out of each County, and two Burgesses out of each Borough; but no Boroughs were named. The Cities and Boroughs were not, like the Counties, well-known units, and it seems to have been left to the discretion of the Sheriffs as to which Boroughs should be selected to return representatives. It has been said by an authority on the subject that the Sheriffs took great liberties, both in returning some Boroughs which had no right to the honour, and omitting others who ought to have been summoned. However this may have been, Shrewsbury and Bridgnorth were the only Shropshire Boroughs which at that time, and for well-nigh 200 years afterwards, had the right of representation in Parliament. There was probably no complaint by the

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