TREDENHAM, John (1668-1710), of Tregonan, St. Ewe, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



9 Apr. 1690 - 1705
21 Nov. 1707 - 25 Dec. 1710

Family and Education

bap. 28 Mar. 1668, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Joseph Tredenham*, and bro. of Seymour Tredenham*.  educ. I. Temple 1682; Christ Church, Oxf. 1684.  m. 1 Feb. 1690, Anne, da. and ?coh. of Sir John Lloyd, 2nd Bt., of the Forest, Carmarthen, 1da. d.v.psuc. fa. 1707.1

Offices Held

Comptroller, foreign dept. of Post Office 1693–?96.2

Stannator, Blackmore 1710.3


While at Oxford, Tredenham contributed to the university’s collection of verses in celebration of the accession of James II. Early in his career he was taken under the wing of his uncle Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, to whom he had, in his father’s words, ‘the greatest obligation’. Tredenham first tried to enter Parliament in 1689, being unsuccessful for Truro. His marriage early the following year was not a success, at least from his father’s viewpoint. By January 1691 Sir Joseph was concerned about ‘his distance with his uncle Sir Edward Seymour and from me which my Lady Lloyd earnestly endeavoured and hath now effected’, and proclaiming ‘it is my greatest misfortune I did not make an earlier discovery of her mother’s temper’.

Tredenham had been returned for St. Mawes, his father’s borough, at a by-election in 1690, following the decision of his uncle (Henry Seymour) to sit elsewhere. In his early years in the Commons he was overshadowed by his more active father. In December 1690 he was listed by the Marquess of Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a likely supporter in case of an attack on his ministerial position in the Commons and in April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. His occasional committee appointments were usually in company with his father, and the one tellership recorded under his name in the Journals, on 1 Feb. 1693, was attributed by Narcissus Luttrell* to his father. In June 1693 Tredenham’s father approached Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†) for one of the commissionerships of the prize office but the place did not fall vacant. In that year Tredenham was classed as a placeman, presumably in error since he did not obtain his place in the Post Office until the next year. Henry Guy* listed him as a ‘friend’ in the 1694–5 session, probably in relation to the attack on Guy in the Commons. Tredenham was a teller on 1 May 1695 to adjourn all committees except that which was to consider the answer of the Duke of Leeds (Carmarthen) to his impeachment.4

Tredenham was returned in 1695, along with his brother, Seymour, thereby making identification of ‘Mr Tredenham’ difficult until Seymour’s death in September 1696. However, Tredenham was probably the Member involved in managing an estate bill from the Lords and in presenting a bill for the easier division of the estates of coparceners (his wife being a co-heiress). ‘Mr Tredenham’s’ tellerships in this session concerned a privilege case and an estate bill, and on 14 Apr. 1696, after his brother had received leave, he was teller in favour of the motion that whoever advised the King to veto the bill regulating elections was an enemy to the kingdom. This tellership was in keeping with Tredenham’s oppositionist stance. He had been forecast as likely to oppose the Court in the division of 31 Jan. over the proposed council of trade, had refused to sign the Association, and voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. in March. His name appears on one list as having subscribed at least £3,000 to the land bank. He was noted as absent from the Commons on 9 Nov. 1696, and probably did not vote on the 25th on the attainder of Sir John Fenwick† (one list includes both John and Seymour Tredenham, but the latter was already dead). Indeed, on 1 Dec. he was discharged from custody for being absent without leave. In February 1697 he was a teller on three occasions, each relating to supply matters, and on 26 Mar. told against the passage of a bill for enlarging the capital stock of the Bank of England. On 22 Feb. he was teller in favour of a motion condemning the receipt of Exchequer bills upon bills of exchange; on 21 Mar. in favour of an unsuccessful amendment to the bill for suppressing blasphemy and profaneness; and three days later in favour of proceeding with this bill’s third reading in accordance with the orders of the day (although it seems from the allusions in the correspondence of Walter Moyle* that he opposed the legislation sponsored by John Philips*). He was teller on three further occasions during the session, twice against a major supply bill.5

Following his successful return for St. Mawes in 1698, Tredenham was classed as a member of the Country party and forecast as likely to oppose a standing army. It was either he or his father who on 4 Jan. 1699 opposed a motion for an instruction to the committee on the disbanding bill, on the grounds that it had already been debated ‘calmly in a private committee’. In the committee of the whole on the disbanding bill on 14 Jan. 1699, either he or his father offered a clause to disable the Scots and Irish from serving in England, which was rejected. In 1699 he was a teller on six occasions: three of these being against the Whig candidates in election cases and another in favour of the expulsion of the Whig Member Richard Wollaston. He also told on 23 Mar. against allowing a wider circulation of Exchequer bills. In the 1699–1700 session he acted as a teller on 11 occasions, three times concerning disputed elections and three times concerning Irish forfeitures. On another occasion, 13 Feb. 1700, he was teller in support of a motion that crown grants made while the nation bore heavy taxes owing to the late war were ‘prejudicial to the state’, and on 26 Mar. for an address urging that ‘gentlemen of quality and good estates’ be put into the commission of the peace and lieutenancy and ‘men of small estates’ removed. He also reported on 4 Apr. a bill to allow French Protestants to build a church in London. A list from the first half of 1700 classed him as a member of the Seymour interest.6

Returned again in the first election of 1701, Tredenham was listed as a supporter of the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. In the new session he acted as a teller five times. Four of these tellerships were on questions aimed at Whig politicians: thus on 22 Feb. he told against an amendment to the motion which led to the expulsion of Gilbert Heathcote; on 28 Mar. Lord Bellomont (Richard Coote*) was targetted in respect of his grant of the profits of Captain Kidd’s piracy; on 14 Apr. he told for the resolution that Lord Somers (Sir John*) was guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour; and on 26 May he told for the motion that the destruction of Enfield Chase was due to the neglect of Lord Stamford. By this stage in his career Tredenham was clearly a Tory of note and was one of a circle of friends which included Hon. James Brydges*, Lord Cutts (John*), John Conyers*, Anthony Hammond* and Sir John Cotton, 2nd Bt.* Like his father, Tredenham unexpectedly opposed a reduction of £100,000 in the civil list on 5 May, possibly in the hope of future office. On 6 June he followed up ‘more gently’ an explosive attack by Sir John Bolles, 4th Bt. on the postponement of the appointment of commissioners of accounts and the millions of pounds of public money unaccounted for.7

In September 1701 Tredenham acquired national notoriety following an incident at the Blue Posts tavern in the Haymarket. The French chargé d’affaires, Poussin, was spotted dining with Navarra, the Spanish envoy, Tredenham, and two other Members, Hammond and Charles Davenant. Unfortunately, that very day orders had been despatched to expel Poussin from England. Having got wind that the French envoy was in the company of some Tory Members of Parliament, James Vernon I’s under-secretary, Thomas Hopkins*, accompanied by Lord Halifax (Charles Montagu*), Lord Carbery (John Vaughan†) and Lord Edward Russell, visited the Blue Posts to verify the reports. Tredenham had left with Poussin, and subsequently Hammond and Davenant declared they had joined Tredenham without knowing that the French envoy would be there. The Whigs milked the situation for all the political advantage they could: one pamphlet commented that Tredenham ‘does solemnly protest, and believes, and no one will doubt of his veracity, that though Poussin had lodged in the same house with him above six months, he never changed a word with him, or saw his face till they met at the Blue Posts’. Innuendos were circulated to the effect that Tredenham had long been in correspondence with France and that louis d’ors had never been so plentiful in London among Members of Parliament as they had been under Tallard, the French ambassador. Both charges were totally untrue according to the evidence in the French archives. A Tory pamphlet counter-attacked with a claim that ‘it’s notoriously known these gentlemen were eminent in their votes to settle the succession as it now stands, and were instrumental in making a present of that honour which has lately been given to the Electoral House of Hanover’, adding that they had dined with Poussin before any order for his expulsion was known, and that it was the ambition of any educated man to converse with someone born in Paris.8

Ironically, although Tredenham was blacklisted as the chief ‘Poussineer’ in the list of those who had opposed the preparations for war against France, he was the only one of the three MPs to retain his seat. He was opposed at St. Mawes where he stood jointly with his father against Vernon and his son. Classed by Harley as a Tory in December 1701, Tredenham voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings over the impeachment of King William’s ministers. He was added to a drafting committee on an elections bill. He acted as a teller on 19 Feb., in favour of an unsuccessful rider to the bill for securing the Protestant succession which sought to include a clause that office-holders should ‘not depart from communion with the Church of England’. His other activity related mainly to bills concerning the Irish forfeited estates, two of which he reported, as well as a private estate bill.

Returned unopposed to Anne’s first Parliament, Tredenham acted as a teller on 26 Oct. 1702 for retaining the Court’s wording of the Address and its particular praise of the Earl of Marlborough (John Churchill†) for having ‘signally retrieved the ancient honour and glory of the English nation’. He told on four further occasions in the opening session of the Parliament, once on an election case and twice over amendments to legislation. He voted on 13 Feb. 1703 against agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. In the 1703–4 session Tredenham does not appear to have been as active as formerly. His one tellership concerned a petition relating to Irish forfeited estates on 14 Mar. 1704, and he managed a controversial bill in favour of rewarding Colonel Baker for his services at Londonderry. Classed as a probable opponent of the Tack on 30 Oct. 1704, he was a ‘Sneaker’ like his father in the vote on 28 Nov. He also told on 14 Mar. in favour of extending the bill for preventing the growth of popery, to include Dissenters.

Tredenham did not stand at the general election of 1705, when he was lampooned as ‘Poet-Laureate to Monsieur Poussin’. A letter from him to Harley on 13 July shows that he had his eyes on a diplomatic posting: ‘I hope I may with confidence pretend to understand the Latin tongue and that I’m no stranger to the French, but however, I may be otherwise deficient I’m sure my fidelity to her Majesty shall always be inviolable . . .’ Although there was a report that he was to succeed James Vernon II* as envoy to Denmark, his hopes were disappointed. He was returned for St. Mawes at a by-election following the death of his father and was classed as a Tory in a list of early 1708.9

Returned again in 1708, Tredenham was not very active in the 1708–9 session, merely managing in March 1709 the Lords’ bill to reverse the outlawry of Christopher, 17th Lord Slane [I]. He does not appear to have attended the 1709–10 session and did not register a vote over the impeachment of Sacheverell. In all probability he was in Cornwall for in April 1710 he replaced James Buller*, who had been taken ill, as speaker of the convocation of tinners and led the opposition to Hugh Boscawen II’s* proposals for a new pre-emption contract proposed by Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) to assist the government’s electoral interest in the county.10

Unopposed at St. Mawes in 1710, Tredenham was classed erroneously as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’. He died on 25 Dec. 1710, ‘by a fall from his coach box’, or, according to one newletter, ‘suffocated with excessive fatness and too plentiful a dinner’. His fondness for food had long been known, being commemorated in a satire from 1701 in which he (and others) complained of a breach of privilege ‘that they were distracted in their attendance of the House by innumerable dinners’, leading to the promulgation of a standing order that ‘dining is an insufferable breach of privilege of this House’. He was described more sympathetically by a Cornish Tory, Thomas Tonkin*, as ‘a gentleman of very bright parts and of great loyalty which he often shewed in Parliament’. Boyer noted his demise with the comment that he was ‘one of the leading men of the Church party’, before revisiting the most enduring incident of his career, as a ‘Poussineer’. Tregonan passed to Francis Scobell* who had married Tredenham’s sister.11

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. ii. 283; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 456; IGI, London.
  • 2. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 45.
  • 3. R. Inst. Cornw. Tonkin’s ms hist. Cornw. ii. 299.
  • 4. Luttrell Diary, 14; NMM, Sou/12, Nottingham to Sir Robert Southwell†, 17 June 1690; HMC Finch, ii. 300, 307.
  • 5. NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. 31.1.7, f. 98; Moyle Works ed. Hammond, 15, 243.
  • 6. Cam. Misc. xxix. 380; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/132, Vernon to Shrewsbury, 14 Jan. 1698[–9].
  • 7. Huntington Lib. Stowe mss 26(2), James Brydges’ diary, 6 Mar. 1701; Cocks Diary, 111; HMC Cowper, ii. 428.
  • 8. Recueil des Instructions . . . Angleterre 1698–1791, pp. 66–67; Add. 40775, ff. 109–10, 215; 15895, f. 114; 30000 E, f. 357; 17677 WW, f. 343; HMC Cowper, ii. 436; A Full and True Relation of a Horrid . . . Conspiracy Against . . . Three Worthy Members of this Present Parl. (n.d. ?1701); Ailesbury Mems. 573; Archives du Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, Corresp. Politique, Ang. 191, ff. 201–3; A Vindication of Dr Charles Davenant, Anthony Hammond Esq. and John Tredenham from a Late Scurrilous Paper.
  • 9. Poems on Affairs of State, 504; Add. 70207, Tredenham to Harley, 13 July 1705; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 27 Oct. 1705.
  • 10. Tonkin’s ms hist. Cornw. 253.
  • 11. Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, p. 210; Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. i. 376; Strathmore mss at Glamis Castle, box 74, bdle. 10, newsletter 26 Dec. 1710; Herts. RO, Panshanger mss D/EP F83, ‘The results of the cabaret 1701’; Boyer, Anne Annals, ix. 282.