Politics, Politicians and People – Part Four

The installation of the Lord Warden, however, was small-time when compared to the opportunity to attend the coronation of the monarch. ‘Barons’ of the Cinque Ports had been called upon to carry the canopy over the king or queen at the coronation since time immemorial (the right was called ‘ancient’ at the time of Richard I).

Elizabeth I died in March 1603, and by May, the Lord Warden was writing to his ports that they should take great care in their choice of representative. He must be ‘fit for the service’ although whether this meant physically capable of carrying the canopy or of pleasing appearance was not clear. He was more specific in July: ‘I wish you to be very cautious and wary that they may be men of the meetest and comliest personage amongst you’ and also that they should be fit and well. The coronation was not to be marred by the ugly, the old or the lame.

The Brotherhood and Guestling decreed that every baron returned to the coronation should wear ‘one scarlet gown down to the ankle, citizens fashion, faced with crimson satin, gascaine hose (a sort of loose breeches), crimson silk stockings and crimson silk shoes and black velvet caps’. They would also be responsible for their own travel and accommodation costs for the occasion, so anyone without a healthy disposable income was also excluded.

Elizabeth had reigned for over forty years, and the fact was that no-one now alive remembered how a coronation worked. Francis Raworth, the town clerk of Dover, was despatched to London to consult the Lord High Steward and the livery books to try to find out what should be done. He made some enquiries about the cost of scarlet and crimson satin and silk while he was there, and was horrified to report that ‘scarlet is valued at £3.10s. the yard at least and crimson satin at 15s. the yard’.

The corporation of Hythe chose Thomas Sprott to be their representative. No doubt he was comely, fit and reasonably well-off, but the deciding factor must have been that he was a draper and therefore able to buy cloth wholesale, not retail.

In the event, the coronation was a muted affair, as plague had visited London.  Sprott, though, was proud enough of the part he played to have it recorded on a stone placed over his grave in St Leonard’s church

The memorial stone of Thomas Sprott (or Spratt) which is now on the Vestry wall in St Leonard's Church, Hythe
The memorial stone of Thomas Sprott (or Spratt) which is now on the Vestry wall in St Leonard’s Church, Hythe

‘ Here lieth the bodi of Thomas Sprotte Juratt and Susan his first wife who whilst he lived was thris Mayor and Baylif to Yarmoth and on of those that did cary the cannopye over the King at his Cronation who died 21 January 1619′

The honour of carrying the canopy had some additional perks to make up for the outlay on crimson and scarlet cloth and the expenses of getting to London and overnight accommodation. The Cinque Ports barons were invited to the ceremonial banquet after the coronation and were given part of the cloth of gold of which the canopy was made, together with a share in the silver staves which supported it and the silver bells with which it was decorated. The silver was usually melted down and made into other objects, some of which are in the Victoria and Albert museum today. Perhaps coronation silver was the origin of the silverware seized by the corporation from Thomas Sprott.

Thomas Browning (gentleman) of Hythe was chosen to carry the canopy at the coronation of Charles II in 1626. A Mr Monings of Dover was rejected by the Lord Warden, Buckingham, because he was ‘too low of stature’ and also because he had stopped Buckingham’s parliamentary nomination at Dover from being elected. Buckingham was by this time careless of whether anyone knew of his petty vengefulness or not. He believed he was untouchable.

In 1661, at the Restoration coronation, Elias Bassett, jurat and landlord of the ‘George’ inn was chosen to carry the canopy, an unlikely choice given his previous commitment to parliamentary rule, but the country was full of such ‘reformed’ characters.

The coronation was marred by an unseemly tussle recorded by Samuel Pepys:

but only the King’s Footmen had got hold of the Canopy and would keep it from the barons of the Cinque ports; which they endeavoured to force from them again but could not do it till my Lord Duke of Albermarle caused it to be put into Sir R Pye’s hand till tomorrow to be decided’.

The barons got their silver the next day, but in the melee they had lost their places at the banqueting table. The king had the footmen imprisoned and dismissed.

In 1685, for the coronation of James II, Julius Deedes was chosen by the corporation, but rejected by the Lord High Steward as his behaviour in the recent parliamentary had been questionable, to say the least of it.  Julius responded by getting his son, William, elected as a Hythe freeman, and immediately placed at the top of the ‘reserve list’ for the Cinque Ports in case anyone should be unable to perform the service.  There is no other recorded instance in the seventeenth century of a father and son being freemen in Hythe at the same time. There were obvious implications for the impartiality of the voting system. In the event, Julius’s ploy did not work, and no member of the Deedes family attended the 1685 coronation.

James fled into exile in 1688, and his daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange were invited to take the throne as joint monarchs. At last Julius achieved his ambition and carried the canopy at their 1689 coronation. It was not an entirely happy event as the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to participate and the new king himself thought the ceremony was ‘a popish mockery’.

The coronation procession of William and Mary. One of the canopy bearers was Julius Deedes
The coronation procession of William and Mary. One of the canopy bearers was Julius Deedes of Hythe

Politics, Politicians and People – Part Three

The position of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports was pivotal in Kent local government. Elizabethan policy in the sixteenth century had removed much of the remaining power of the Brotherhood & Guestling and concentrated it instead in the hands of the Lord Warden, a royal appointee, giving the crown a stake in local decision making. His powers were considerable. He held the office of Constable of Dover Castle  and had Admiralty jurisdiction from Dungeness to the Naze.  As well as nominating candidates for parliament in each of the Cinque Ports, the Lord Warden was the mouthpiece for the crown, who communicated through him rather than through the county lieutenant of Kent or Sussex.

Each new Lord Warden had to swear to uphold the liberties of the Ports at a ceremony at the Court of Shepway and in return the ports made a gift of money. In 1629, when the Earl of Suffolk replaced the late Duke of Buckingham as Lord Warden, the ports clubbed together to provide a hundred pieces of gold and a purse, emblazoned with the Earl’s arms and the arms of the Cinque Ports. Hythe’s contribution was £11.5.0.

The ports were very clear that their rights and liberties meant that the county government held no sway over them, and that they would accept no writ or decree from the Crown unless it was delivered through the Lord Warden, and they managed to hang on to this position until the very end of the seventeenth century.  They even claimed exemption from Charles I’s fund-raising knighthood fines, and the government capitulated, though it did not let them off Ship Money.

Confederation with other Cinque Ports separated Hythe from the rest of the county, and helped give it a strong sense of civic identity. Every legal document produced during the seventeenth century, including wills, which mentions Hythe also adds the words ‘The ancient town and port’.

Politics apart, membership of the Confederation provided some golden opportunities for ceremonial and dressing up.  The installation of a new Lord Warden was one of these.

In 1615, it was announced that the new Lord Warden, Edward Zouche, would stop, briefly, at Hythe on his way to the Court of Shepway for his big ceremony. A flurry of activity followed. The notorious lane leading to the Mount was sluiced out.  Householders were ordered to clean the street in front of their property and to get rid of ‘manure, sullage (general filth), blocks, logs, stocks, barrels, tubs and anything else’.  People were ordered to keep their pigs off the street. The corporation erected a platform on which the Lord Warden could sit, to see and be seen. A stool, tables, cushions and carpets (mostly borrowed) were provided and the whole edifice was covered in decorated hangings. Two ash trees in the High Street were cut down as they would impede his view of the newly-immaculate town.

Edward Zouche, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, 1615-1624
Edward Zouche, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, 1615-1624

On the day itself, the great man arrived with an entourage, including his secretary, his coachman and the county muster-master. They were served with wine sweetened with sugar, trumpets were sounded, the party went on its way, and the platform was taken down again. The setting up and pulling down took eight days, and the materials, three wagon-loads full, were stored in St Leonard’s Church until 1629 when they were recycled for the Earl of Suffolk’s installation.  The bill that Hythe corporation presented to the Brotherhood and Guestling included gratuities for the secretary and coachman, hay and oats for their horses, and a sum paid to the muster-master so that he did not call a muster of the trained bands while he was in town, as was technically his right.


Politics, Politicians and People – Part Two

In 1628 Buckingham did not risk another humiliation and nominated no-one for the Hythe seats, although he had made his displeasure clear to Heyman.  The corporation re-elected Heyman and Sir Edward Scott, a godly Puritan who only spoke in the House on religious matters. Five weeks after the election Buckingham secured the king’s agreement to billet three companies of Irish soldiers, under the command of his friend Pierce Crosby, at Hythe.

The king and Buckingham had been using billeting since 1626 as a way of exacting revenge on those who had failed to pay the forced loan, and to avoid having to maintain the soldiers. The crown always promised to recompense the householders on whom the men were billeted, but they might have to wait years before they saw any money.  Anyone in the town was liable to have men placed in their home, and had no right to refuse (although if you were rich enough, you could as always buy yourself out of the situation). The soldiers generally considered themselves beyond the law. In 1626 men from Devon and Cornwall were billeted in Hythe and murdered one of the town’s night-watchmen, Laurence Fin, a young married man.   In Canterbury troop ransacked shops for food and clothing, and in the Isle of Wight rapes and burglaries were reported.

Hythe had taken its fair share of billeted men, and Buckingham’s action so soon after the election which he could not influence seems suspiciously like revenge. The reputation of the Irish soldiers was fearsome, and they did not disappoint, terrorising the town and the surrounding countryside.

George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham
George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham

Charles needed the 1628 parliament in order to equip another expedition to La Rochelle. Parliament granted him the subsidies he wanted, but only in return for his ratification of the Petition of Right.   Passed on 7 June 1628, the Petition contained restrictions on non-Parliamentary taxation, forced billeting of soldiers, imprisonment without cause, and the use of martial law. When the people of Hythe heard the news, the town guns were fired in celebration.

On 23 August 1628, Buckingham was assassinated by a deranged army officer. The event was marked by general exultation. In October La Rochelle fell to the French, and by 1630 peace had broken out. Charles felt no need to call another parliament until 1640. He could now have established himself as the people’s favourite. But he had no political instinct worth the name, and instead he moved from palace to palace or visited private houses and devoted himself to hunting. After Buckingham’s death he was reconciled with his neglected wife, who, ill-qualified though she was, became his principal advisor. Not by nature an energetic man, he was happy to let his ministers get on with their jobs.

Unfortunately, the country was short of money and needed to pay off the debts of the war years.    In breach of the Petition of Right, Charles set about raising money without parliamentary approval. Ship money was his first clever wheeze. In 1634 Hythe corporation was dismayed to receive a demand, and wrote to the new Lord Warden asking for his assistance in avoiding paying as ‘we are very much disabled and impoverished’ The Cinque ports held an emergency Brotherhood and Guestling, but nothing was to be done. In Hythe, Richard Pashley and William Gately, a brewer and a blacksmith, went door-to-door to collect the £60 required.

Ship money raised £730,000 for the king between 1634 and 1640; fines in distraint of knighthood £173, 537.  The latter was an ancient custom which required all men with landed income worth more than £40 a year to present themselves at the king’s coronation to be knighted, or else to be fined.  Charles’s resurrection of it raised as much animosity as revenue.

To procure more money, monopolies were sold by James and Charles on just about everything imaginable: in 1618 the Hythe corporation were told by the Lord Warden to ‘assist Abraham Baker, sole patentee for manufacture of smalt, to search and seize all smalt not stamped and sealed by himself’. Smalt was ground blue cobalt, used as a pigment in painting, glassmaking and pottery and stored in small glass flasks. It can scarcely be imagined that there was much to be found in Hythe. There was plenty of salt there, though, and there was a monopoly on making that, as well as licensing inns, making gold and silver thread, turning coal into coke, and making glass.  Monopolies made a few men very rich and put many others out of business.

Politics, Politicians and People – Part One

It was impossible to separate religion and politics in the seventeenth century. In general, the king and his supporters favoured the reforms of Laud, while parliament generally favoured the Puritan position, although it was not always quite that cut and dried. Some Puritans as the century wore on began to question the whole establishment of the Church of England, and particularly the authority of bishops who, they claimed were ‘unbiblical’. This was a step too far for more moderate Puritans in parliament, who wanted to maintain the status quo, and would therefore be more likely to support the king.

Hythe’s M.P.s during the years leading up to the civil wars were a mixed bunch. In the early years of the seventeenth century the town played safe, electing local gentry and their hangers-on. In 1604 Sir John Smythe of Westenhanger was elected, together with his father’s old servant and friend Christopher Toldervey.  When Smythe died in 1608, he was replaced by Norton Knatchbull of Mersham Hatch near Ashford, the founder of the grammar school in the town. He declined the honour of re-election in 1614, by which time Toldervey was also dead.

Norton Knatchbull, Hythe M.P.
Norton Knatchbull, Hythe M.P.

The Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports had, by custom but not by right, been used to nominating at least one of the two members for Hythe. In 1614, he nominated Sir Lionel Cranfield, surveyor-general of the customs, ‘whose quality both for worth and sufficiency I know to be void of all exception’. John Smythe’s brother, Richard, was elected for the other seat in what was to be known as the Addled Parliament.

Sir Richard Smythe  had become very rich through a combination of financial acumen and a predilection for wealthy widows and had bought and rebuilt Leeds Castle. He wanted to carry on with the business of making money, despised politics and did not want to be an M.P., but seems to have been pressured into it by his family.  Sir Lionel was not yet very rich, but had ambitions to be so. The son of a London mercer, his rise in the service of the king had been meteoric and he hoped that the Hythe seat would lead to greater glory. He eventually became Lord High Treasurer before falling out badly with the Duke of Buckingham and suffering an equally meteoric fall.

Lionel Cranfield
Lionel Cranfield, Hythe M.P.

In the event, neither man had much opportunity to prove themselves or otherwise, as the king, James I, dissolved the Addled Parliament only nine weeks after it first assembled because it was side-tracked by rumours of election fixing and did not get down to the king’s business of raising money to get him out of his financial difficulties. He did not call parliament again until 1621.

This time the Lord Warden nominated both M.Ps, one of his relatives Richard Zouche, and Peter Heyman of Sellinge.  Zouche, an academic, was in inactive member, but Heyman from the start was a favourite of the corporation. Unlike Zouche, who thought it ‘needless’, he came to Hythe to personally present to the corporation the Lord Warden’s letter of recommendation, and was entertained to dinner. In parliament he spoke up for the Cinque Ports, and was strongly anti-Catholic and anti-Laud and often spoke out against pluralism in the Church (ie holding more than one benefice in the Church, perhaps a sensitive subject in Hythe). Together with the inoffensive Zouche he was re-elected in 1624.  In May of that year, the corporation sent him a dozen fish, and in June it resolved to let him have ‘a billet in the town for the freeing of his goods and chattels’. He was obviously a frequent visitor.

By the time of the 1625 election to Charles I’s first parliament, the Duke of Buckingham held the post of Lord Warden, having openly bought it from the previous incumbent. Heyman was abroad, and not eligible to stand and Zouche has taken up a post at Oxford university. Buckingham tried to nominate two candidates for election, but Hythe corporation, already had one of their own, and duly elected him. The next year, with Heyman back in the country they did not bother to wait for Buckingham’s nomination but proceeded to an election as soon as was legally possible, choosing Heyman, and Basil Dixwell of Folkestone. The Duke’s nomination arrived four days later; the corporation apologised profusely but said the election was legal and could not be overturned and then took their two new M.P.s out to dinner to celebrate.  Heyman and Dixwell were both suitably grateful. Heyman sent rabbits and venison, and Dixwell, a wealthy landowner (he later built Broome Park near Barham) gave ‘liberty to all the inhabitants of this town at all times hereafter to carry and recarry, go and return over his land called the Slip at the east end of the town … without paying anything for the same’. This carrying way was probably on the same site as the present Twiss Road in Hythe.

Basil Dixwell, Hythe M.P.
Basil Dixwell, Hythe M.P.

This was another short parliament, which refused to grant money to the king unless he impeached his friend Buckingham for, among other things, buying the wardenship of the Cinque Ports. The king refused and dissolved parliament.  This meant he had no money to meet the expense of running two wars, with France and with Spain. Instead, he raised a forced loan which yielded £267,000 over two years, but which was mostly squandered by Buckingham’s farcical attempt to take the French port of the Ile de Rhe, which ate up £200,000.