Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the inhabitants paying scot and lot 1660-84, 1689; in the corporation 1685


24 in 1685; about 100 in 1689


13 Apr. 1660SAMUEL ENYS
 John Fox
 Thomas Ceely
3 Feb. 1673SIR ROBERT SOUTHWELL vice Pendarves, deceased
  Election declared void, 6 Feb. 1673
 Francis Trefusis
 James Vernon
 Samuel Rolle
 James Vernon
12 Jan. 1689ANTHONY ROWE

Main Article

The Penryn returns were made in the name of the ‘burgesses’, and only in 1689 is there clear evidence of a wider electorate than the corporation. This body consisted of 12 aldermen, one of whom was elected every year as portreeve or mayor, and 12 common councilmen, and was able to manipulate the scot and lot roll. The duchy of Cornwall normally exercised a considerable interest, since Penryn was a stannary town, and the bishop of Exeter was lord of the manor. With these interests in abeyance, the general election of 1660 was contested by four obscure candidates. John Fox and Thomas Ceely, who had represented the borough in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, stood for the ‘good old cause’; but Fox had already been superseded as governor of Pendennis, and he was reduced to querying the legality of the candidature of Samuel Enys under the Long Parliament ordinance because he had fought a duel in Spain at the outset of the Civil War ‘maintaining the King’s honour and dignity’. Enys, a successful merchant who had purchased the family estate on the outskirts of the town, was returned with James Robyns, a thriving attorney. Both were rewarded for their loyalty with posts in the stannaries. At the general election of 1661 Enys was succeeded by his brother-in-law William Pendarves; but the other seat was at the disposal of the Court. Sir William Killigrew, a courtier who had sat for the borough as long ago as 1628, was nominated by the Duke of York, who was presumably unaware that the name had become anathema to the corporation since the all too successful development of the rival port of Falmouth by his brother Sir Peter Killigrew. Still groping, the Duke wrote to Richard Arundell that he understood Sir Allen Apsley to have been returned for Penryn ‘by your assistance’; as Apsley had also been successful at Thetford, Arundell was asked to procure the election of Sir Henry Wood in his place. Five days later Pendarves was declared elected with John Birch, a prominent figure in the Exchequer, whose Presbyterian and parliamentarian past must have been reassuring to the unreconstructed corporation. Pendarves died on 4 June 1671, at the beginning of one of the longest recesses of the Cavalier Parliament, which was still continuing on 20 Jan. 1673 when Sir Robert Southwell, one of the clerks of the Privy Council, was returned unanimously on the recommendation of Sir William Godolphin who leased the manor from the bishop. However the House condemned the issue of the writ by Lord Chancellor Shaftesbury without the Speaker’s warrant, and Southwell had to go through the formality of re-election ‘by unanimous assent and consent’. He maintained his interest in the borough by the regular dispatch of an excellent newsletter.1

By the closing sessions of the Cavalier Parliament Birch had identified himself as one of the most troublesome opposition Members, despite his official post, and in the Exclusion Parliaments he sat for Weobley, near his Herefordshire estate. Southwell, whose attitude towards the Popish Plot left nothing to be desired, was re-elected in February 1679 on separate indentures with a local landowner, Francis Trefusis, but as ‘junior Member’. He retired later in the year both from Parliament and from office, believing that a policy of ‘moderation towards the Court’ was no longer acceptable, and that ‘my old footing in Penryn did subsist by my station in Court and capacity thus to serve them’. Although Trefusis had disappointed expectations by abstaining on exclusion, he stood again in the autumn as country candidate with James Vernon, the Duke of Monmouth’s secretary and future gazetteer. These qualifications might have been too strong for an outsider like Southwell, but they could not overcome the powerful territorial interests of Arundell and the Earl of Radnor, who put up Sir Nicholas Slanning and Charles Smythe respectively. Vernon and Trefusis petitioned, but the latter died on 5 Nov. 1680, and no report was made. At the 1681 election he was replaced by Samuel Rolle, but the sitting Members were re-elected, and the petition from their rivals could not be heard before the Oxford Parliament was dissolved.2

Despite these court successes the Penryn corporation produced no loyal address in the closing years of Charles II’s reign, and in November 1684 they surrendered their charter. The new charter issued on 6 Mar. 1685 nominated Lord Bath, the Government’s manager for the Cornish boroughs, as recorder, provided as usual for the removal of officials by order-in-council, and vested the franchise in the corporation. However, it is stated that they refused to accept this exclusive privilege. Smythe had died in 1683, and Southwell was recommended by the customs commissioners to fill the vacancy. However, he was returned for Lostwithiel, and Penryn was represented in James II’s Parliament by Slanning and Henry Fanshawe, a minor Exchequer official. Fanshawe died during the recess, but no by-election was held. Penryn, like Launceston, undertook in 1688 to elect any Protestant Cornishmen approved by Bath, who accordingly nominated the Presbyterian Robert Rous with Slanning. The latter’s chief residence was in Devon, but his father’s glorious record as commander of a Cornish regiment in the Civil War perhaps constituted sufficient qualification, and moreover he was himself serving as second-in-command of Bath’s regiment. Another list recommended William Harris of Hayne and Samuel Carter, a member of the corporation. None of these candidates stood at the general election of 1689, when Pendarves’s grandson was returned as a Tory together with the Whig adventurer Anthony Rowe, who had been appointed collector of revenue by William of Orange. Two indentures were submitted, one returned by the mayor and attested by 91 signatures, the other by the eight ‘capital burgesses... who were so at the time of the seizure or pretended surrender of the charter in the reign of our late sovereign lord King Charles the Second’.3

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. ii. 91; Cornw. RO, DDEN1900/2; Add. 28052, ff. 73, 94; 28071. f. 12; Adm. 2/1745, ff. 31v, 39; HMC Egmont, ii. 195.
  • 2. HMC Ormonde, n.s. iv. 278; HMC Egmont, ii. 83; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 15, f. 110; CJ, ix. 638, 707.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 245; 1685, pp. 73-74; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iii. 213; CJ, x. 238; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 380; (1883), 215, 217; Gilbert, ii. 304; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 207.