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 free burgesses or inhabitants

Number of voters:

30 in 1625


27 Dec. 1620HENRY ROLLE
23 Jan. 1624HENRY ROLLE
22 Apr. 1625THOMAS WISE
18 Jan. 1626JOHN ROLLE
bef. 18 May 16281SIR GEORGE RADCLIFFE vice Constable, chose to sit for Scarborough

Main Article

Callington was the last of the old Cornish boroughs to be enfranchised, and physically was one of the least impressive. Despite being a market town since 1267, and the customary meeting-place for official assemblies within Cornwall’s East hundred, the borough was never incorporated, and the chief officer, although known as the mayor, was in reality a manorial reeve. In ecclesiastical terms, Callington was merely a chapelry of the neighbouring parish of South Hill, with which it was also merged for taxation purposes. The town’s pleas of poverty during the collection of Ship Money in the 1630s seem to have been genuine.2 The nature of the parliamentary franchise established in 1584 is unclear, though it is said in the early seventeenth century to have embraced all inhabitants resident for at least a year. Election indentures of this period were usually drawn up in the name of the free burgesses, but one in 1620 referred to the ‘inhabitants’. The open nature of the franchise is reflected in the fact that around 50 individual voters can be identified in the election indentures from the 1620s.3

The borough’s electoral patronage appears to have been shared by three gentry families at this juncture. One seat was controlled by Robert Rolle of Heanton Satchville, Devon, who had purchased the manor of Callington in around 1601. Rolle nominated his brother William in 1604 and 1614, his son Henry in 1620 and 1624, his son-in-law Thomas Wise in 1625, and another son, John, in 1626 and 1628.4 The second patron was William Coryton*, who lived in the adjacent parish of St. Mellion, and became vice-warden of the Cornish stannaries in 1620, serving under the 3rd earl of Pembroke. In December of that year Callington’s second seat went to James, Lord Wriothesley, the son of another prominent courtier, the 3rd earl of Southampton, who may well have requested that Pembroke provide the young man with a burgess-ship.5 Coryton is likely to have obliged on this occasion, since he certainly presented Sir Clippesby Crewe to the borough in 1626 on the lord warden’s instructions.6 In the purge of the duke of Buckingham’s opponents which followed the 1626 Parliament, Coryton lost his position in the stannaries, and subsequently became a prominent Forced Loan refuser. In November 1627 he was identified by Christopher Wandesford* as one of the ‘tribunitial orators of the west’ who might be approached if Sir Thomas Wentworth* needed seats for his friends, and in February 1628 Callington returned Sir William Constable, one of Yorkshire’s leading Loan refusers. On 9 Apr. Constable opted to represent Scarborough instead, and though no official record survives, it is clear that the vacancy was filled by Sir George Radcliffe, another Loan refuser and one of Wentworth’s closest associates.7

The remaining Members can mostly be identified as nominees of the Trelawny family, who, though not resident in the immediate vicinity, owned the biggest manor in South Hill and the largest share of that parish’s advowson.8 Sir Jonathan Trelawny* is known to have offered burgess-ships to his kinsman Sir Robert Cecil† in 1601, and appears to have accepted nominations from him at West Looe in 1604. It is quite feasible, therefore, that he secured a seat at Callington in the latter year for the government lawyer Sir Roger Wilbraham.9 Trelawny died in June 1604, and the family’s interest passed to his son John, who certainly became an active patron at West Looe, and might have played a more prominent role at Callington as well but for Coryton’s interventions.10 A Trelawny connection may also explain the election in 1614 of Humphrey Were, who had strong ties with Tiverton, Devon, where the family were also major landowners. The picture is clearer in 1624, when John’s uncle, Sir Edward Seymour, was elected.11 In 1628 Trelawny himself sought a burgess-ship at Callington while also campaigning with John Mohun* to prevent Coryton from becoming a Cornish knight of the shire, behaviour which doubtless told against him. Whether Trelawny’s name was actually put to the borough’s voters is not clear, but on 20 Mar., during a Commons’ debate on electoral malpractice in Cornwall, Coryton produced a letter of recommendation that Callington had received from the Mohun faction.12 The remaining Callington Member, Sir Richard Weston, who sat in 1625, was most likely a government nominee, as he had been at Bossiney in 1624, but it is unclear which of the borough’s patrons he would have turned to.13

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. T.D. Whitaker, Life of Sir George Radcliffe, 159.
  • 2. W.P. Courtney, Parl. Rep. of Cornw. 266-7; Hist. Cornw. ed. S. Drew, i. 655-6; R. Carew, Survey of Cornw. ed. P. White, 104; C219/35/1/158; J. Polsue, Complete Parochial Hist. of Cornw. i. 169; E179/88/297; CSP Dom. 1639, p. 62.
  • 3. Hist. Cornw. i. 656; C219/37/27-8; 219/38/52-3; 219/39/39, 57; 219/40/267, 284; 219/41B/141.
  • 4. C2/Jas.I/R4/25; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 654, 791.
  • 5. Polsue, iii. 305; J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129.
  • 6. SP16/523/77.
  • 7. Wentworth Pprs. ed. J.P. Cooper (Cam. Soc. ser. 4. xii), 278-9; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 38, 61, 197, 201, 219, 227; CD 1628, ii. 376.
  • 8. C142/282/82.
  • 9. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 268; Misc. Gen. et Her. (ser. 3), iv. 20; HMC Hatfield, ix. 405; Gruenfelder, 36.
  • 10. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 476.
  • 11. D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia, vi: Devon, 252; C142/282/82; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 268.
  • 12. CD 1628, ii. 33.
  • 13. Gruenfelder, 89, 147.