The first known Constable of the Town of Hungerford was John Tuckhill (also spelt Tuckill, Tukhyll, Tukill, Tughill and Tuggill). He was Constable in 1458 and 1461 in the reign of Henry VI.
The following information is derived from the speech given by Norman Hidden when he was guest of honour at the Hocktide Lunch in 1989:
The first Constable of Hungerford that we know of existed in 1458. His name was John Tukhill, pronounced Tuggill by the locals. His Reeve was John Haywood and his Bailiff was Richard Lang (or Long).
John Tuckhill had one attribute which probably helped him as Constable. He was a wealthy local merchant. It was not so much that Tuckhill might find himself out of pocket after a year's service to his fellow townsmen, but that having a few money bags stored away it gave him a certain leverage in getting things done.
In 1458 Tuckhill had made enough money from trade to help ransom Sir Robert Hungerford when he has taken prisoner in the French wars. In exchange the Hungerford family gave Tuckhill their Manor of Hopgrass, which in those days included the whole of Charnham Street.
Three years later Tuckhilll was involved in perhaps the most remarkable incident in the town's history of local government. This was the forcible removal from office of all the town officers.
In the year 1461 the Wars of the Roses had resulted in the dethronement of the weak Lancastrian king Henry VI and the accession of the Yorkist monarch Edward IV. This national civil conflict seems to have set the pattern for the locals to do likewise.
At any rate John Tuckhill, still Constable, Thomas Hoskins bailiff, and John Dighton, tithing man, complained to the King that various local personages...
"rebels to our liege lord the King, to the number of four score and more, in the month of September last past entered into the said town of Hungerford and there robbed and spoiled divers persons that owed faith and goodwill to our said liege lord the King and also brake open the common chest of the town and spoiled and bore away such goods as they found therein.
And put the kings officers, your Complainants, forcibly from their offices nor suffered them to occupy [the same] nor to execute the King's laws in their offices as they [had done] beforetime but put in such as were of their [own] affinity and some against their wills who dare do none other for dread of the said rebels but occupy the office or stand in dread of their lives.
And so yet the said rebels continue their riots so that neither justice nor law may be executed nor good rule kept to the great hurt of the well disposed men of the town, and also of the country thereabouts who would resort to their market there and dare not for the said rebels."
Thacker's "Kennet Country" records it as: "John Tuggill, the constable, Thomas Hossekyn, bailiff, John Dighton tithingman and several others besought the Lord Chancellor's intervention that in the previous September. men named Rothes, Drebe, Ludlow, Tuggill, Jenyn, Barbour with many other of their affynytie entered into the saide Toun of Hungreford and ther robbed and spoyled divers persons, and also brake opyn the common chest and spoyled and bare away such goodes as they founde therin. And put the king's officers yor complaynants forseid from their office and put in such as were of their affynyte and some ayenst their wille which dare none other do but [?obey] or ellis stande in Jeopardie of their lyffes."
So Tuckhill asked for a royal commission, not to investigate the matter, but to come with armed forces to crack down on the insurrectionists, "so that the King's true liegemen may do their occupations and keep their markets as they have been accustomed [to do] in time past, and your said complainants with their neighbours and all other well disposed persons there shall the more especially pray for your [majesty's] honourable estate in felicity long to endure."
This incident gives us some idea of the problems and pressures which our ancestors faced, whether townsmen or officers. Tuckhill was probably a Lancastrian, if his willingness to help Sir Robert Hungerford is anything to go by, and yet when a Yorkist monarch came to the throne, he realised that the interests of the town were best served by accepting the constitutional position and that local trade and prosperous municipal life could continue only if the King's authority remained firm and extremist factions were subdued.