Newport Iuxta Launceston


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


1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)

Main Article

Newport was a suburb of Launceston which had grown up round the priory during the early middle ages. In the 13th century Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, granted the township certain privileges, but the inhabitants do not appear to have received a formal royal charter, although they later claimed that in 1557 King Philip had granted to the ‘town or borough of Newport alias Launceston’ a market and fair. Until the dissolution of Launceston priory in February 1540 Newport remained under the lordship of the prior, but was then annexed to the duchy of Cornwall. Since no direct evidence for its alleged charter of 1557 has been found, the borough is thought to have been prescriptive. Until 1540 Newport was under the control of the prior’s officials. Little has been discovered about its day-to-day administration after its acquisition by the duchy, although it had a mayor and two reeves apparently elected annually from among the burgesses. No municipal records survive for the period.3

Newport is first known to have returned Members in 1529 but could have done so earlier. Named Launceston on the list of Members for the Parliament of that year it stands last among the Cornish boroughs, immediately after Dunheved, and is followed only by Lancaster, Preston and Thetford, all thought to have been enfranchised in 1523 or 1529. Since it is not included in the list of constituencies compiled in 1512 in connexion with the issue of writs de expensis to Members its enfranchisement, presumably at the request of the prior or his diocesan bishop, Veysey alias Harman, could have taken place in 1514-15 but more probably dates from 1523 or 1529.4

The name of the borough varies on the six surviving indentures for the period. In 1545 and February 1553 it is styled simply ‘Launceston’, in September 1553 ‘Launceston’ with ‘alias Newport’ crossed through, in October 1554 ‘Newport’ with ‘iuxta Launceston’ inserted, and in 1555 ‘Newport alias Launceston’, the second name being a later insertion; in 1558 only ‘Newp’ [torn] remains. The contracting parties are usually given as the sheriff of Cornwall and the mayor with the burgesses, but in October 1554 and 1555, when two successive sheriffs were also municipal officials, the reeves were named instead of the mayor and burgesses. So far as the scanty evidence can be relied on, the parliamentary franchise appears to have been in the burgage-holders; the term ‘burgesses’ can scarcely have connoted freemen in the generally accepted sense. Only once during the period are the elections of Dunheved and Newport known to have been held on the same day, in September 1545, and then nine months after the shire election in Launceston castle.5

Both the Members returned to the Parliament of 1529 probably owed their election to the prior: William Harris from Devon was a kinsman of the chief steward of the priory John Chamond, and Simon Mountford from Warwickshire was connected with its visitor Bishop Veysey of Exeter. With a father-in-law living four miles outside the town and a Grenville for a grandmother, Harris was one of a handful of the 17 Members for the period whose links with the locality perhaps commended them to the electors. Only Robert Browne, returned presumably in compliance with Mary’s request in 1554 for residents, was a townsman, but Richard Grenville lived nearby. Grenville’s fellow-Member Walter Skinner was a distant connexion of his, as were Thomas Roper and Francis Roscarrock. Through his post in the augmentations Skinner was known to the brother of the recorder of Launceston, Sir John Arundell, who as sheriff in 1555 returned a kinsman William Stourton for Newport. Reginald Mohun was a brother-in-law of the constable of Launceston castle. Mohun and Roscarrock were Cornishmen, as were also John Gayer, Henry Killigrew and James Trewynnard: Killigrew held the havenership of the duchy when returned and Trewynnard was associated with its steward, Sir John Russell, Baron Russell. Through their membership of Lincoln’s Inn Robert Monson and Roper perhaps also enjoyed duchy support. Similar backing accounts for the return of Thomas Prideaux, a Devonian domiciled in London, early in 1554 when he opted to sit for Newport rather than Bodmin or Grampound, where he had also been returned. Prideaux’s fellow-Member, the exchequer official Roger Taverner, had an interest in some property near the town but he probably owed more to the links established when his brother Robert had sat for the adjacent borough of Dunheved: two of the Members for Newport, Grenville and Monson, also sat for Dunheved. The Yorkshireman Thomas Hungate’s Membership could have been the work of his kinsman Roper with whom he was returned in 1558. William Smith has not been identified, and nothing can be inferred about his return. Indirect, and somewhat uncertain, evidence of intervention in the Newport elections in 1555 and 1558, where the names of the Members were added in a different hand from the rest of the document, bears out the conclusions about patronage and Membership.

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. R. and O. B. Peter, Launceston and Dunheved, 53-55; A. F. Robbins, Launceston, 83.
  • 4. LP Hen. VIII, iv. 6043(ii) citing SP1/56, 2-10; Stowe 501, ff. 129-31.
  • 5. C219/18C/19, 20/24, 21/29, 23/25, 24/24, 25/20.