Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

9 or 10


[of the parish of Tintagel] (1801): 649


16 Apr. 1796 EVELYN HENRY FREDERICK PIERREPONT vice Minchin, deceased 
22 Feb. 1797 HON. JAMES ARCHIBALD STUART (WORTLEY) vice Stuart Wortley, deceased 
12 Jan. 1803 GEORGE PETER HOLFORD vice Addington, vacated his seat 
 PETER ISAAC THELLUSSON, Baron Rendlesham [I] 
13 Dec. 1808 JOHN OTWAY CUFFE, Earl of Desart [I], vice Rendlesham, deceased 
1 Feb. 1810 DESART re-elected after appointment to office 
 JOHN OTWAY CUFFE, Earl of Desart [I] 
12 June 1817 WILLIAM YATES PEEL vice Desart, vacated his seat 
 Sir Charles Richard Blunt, Bt.1
8 Apr. 1819 HON. JOHN WILLIAM WARD vice Stuart Wortley, chose to sit for Yorkshire9
 Sir Charles Richard Blunt, Bt.1

Main Article

Since 1754 the 3rd Earl of Bute (in the right of his wife) and Lord Mount Edgcumbe had by a pact returned one Member each for Bossiney, a hamlet of 16 houses in the parish of Tintagel. The disfranchisement of revenue officers reduced the electorate to ten in 1783 and throughout this period it formed a ‘self-created corporation’ or oligarchy which expected about £1,000 to be distributed among its members by prospective candidates at elections, or according to another source £150 a vote, and £500 to be divided among them at by-elections. Oldfield listed in 1815 an electorate consisting of the ‘mayor’ (i.e. the returning officer) William Symonds, his four sons, his two nephews, his son-in-law and one William Brown.1 Another method used by the patrons to conciliate their at times somewhat recalcitrant electors was to secure the patronage of the port of Padstow. Jonathan Elford, agent of the Countess of Bute, reported in May 1789 that he had been obliged to relieve ‘necessitous’ voters and to scotch an attempted opposition by ‘Mr Bray and the parson’, who had been making ‘very large and liberal offers’. He pointed out that the nomination of a member of the patronal family was a sure way to discourage opposition.2 The interest was, in fact, represented throughout by members of the family; Charles Stuart made way in 1790 for his brother James, who acquired his mother’s interest in the borough at her death in 1794 and made way in 1796 for his eldest son John. On the early death of the latter in the following year, James Stuart Wortley (as he now was) was returned again and in 1802 made way for his second son. The family was in financial difficulties and in 1808 the son tried to persuade his father to sell the seat to guests at £5,000, but this was not done until 1819 when Stuart Wortley chose to sit for Yorkshire. He had been elected at Bossiney for security: in 1812, when he had first thought of contesting Yorkshire, he had taken the same precaution and Lord Binning ( Thomas Hamilton*) hoped he would be returned for the county, as he had been promised a seat at Bossiney in that case by Stuart Wortley senior. Binning was frustrated. Stuart Wortley junior visited Bossiney only at election times, relying on Elford to facilitate his return and dining with the electors, of which his wife wrote in 1806, ‘Imagine what it must be! For it is a very small dirty village and inhabited only by the lowest class of people.’3

The other seat, in the nomination of Lord Mount Edgcumbe,was placed by him at the disposal of administration. His manager was Charles Rashleigh. Candidates paid expenses. In January 1803 when Hiley Addington vacated his seat for Bossiney to come in for Harwich, his brother the premier, asking Mount Edgcumbe to accept the nomination of George Holford in his place, assured him that he would consider this as much of a favour as if it were his brother who was being returned. In 1806 Holford, who did not support the Grenville ministry, had to make way for Baring, who did; and in 1807 the latter in turn made way for Lord Rendlesham who supported the Portland administration. Rendlesham’s successor in the seat, Lord Desart, suffered some embarrassment in 1812 when Mount Edgcumbe was anxious to find a seat for a friend of his; the patron evidently regarded his arrangement with administration to be such as to preclude returning his own friends for the borough, but asked that a seat be found elsewhere for his friend as a quid pro quo for Desart’s return, which was at length achieved.4

There is a curious story in the Royal Cornwall Gazette, 24 Apr. 1802, alleging that one William Gard approached one of the electors of Bossiney, who owned a slate quarry, and offered to pay him £3,000 for a few slates, if he voted in a certain way. ‘Gard’ it relates, ‘was a man in low station, but was no doubt employed as the agent of someone of more consequence, and certainly ought not to be allowed to screen himself under his obscurity’. Gard was required to answer for this in King’s bench and was alleged to have offered £3,000 to five (a majority) of the electors, on behalf of an unnamed candidate: he was discharged.5

In 1818, for the first time in this period, there was a contest, when Sir Charles Richard Blunt, 4th Bt. (later Member for Lewes) offered himself as a focus for opposition by freeholders to the Stuart Wortley-Mount Edgcumbe pact. On 10 Oct. 1817 they had attempted to secure their freedom by virtue of residence, not inheritance. He received only one vote then and again in a by-election in 1819, owing to the fact that 14 ‘freeholders’ who offered to support him in 1818 had their votes rejected by the mayor and 12 likewise in the by-election. Blunt petitioned unsuccessfully, but opposition continued.6

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Sheffield City Lib. Wharncliffe mss, Elford to Cunynghame, 19 Jan. 1797; Add. 40265, f. 328; Key to Both Houses (1832), 301; Oldfield, Rep. Hist. iii. 209.
  • 2. Wharncliffe mss, 2 Nov. 1786, 31 Aug. 1787, 10 Apr., 2 and 26 May, 5 Sept., 12 Oct. 1789.
  • 3. Ibid. J. A. Stuart Wortley to his fa., n.d. (?Mar. 1808); Add. 38739, ff. 78, 80; The First Lady Wharncliffe ed. Grosvenor, i. 131.
  • 4. Sidmouth mss, 28 Dec. 1802; Add. 40216, ff. 27, 35, 39; 40280, ff. 59, 70; 40181, f. 13.
  • 5. R. Cornw. Gazette, 26 June 1802.
  • 6. Oldfield, Key (1820), 18; CJ, lxxiv. 75, 83, 357. Oldfield himself was acting for Blunt, R. Cornw. Gazette, 27 Mar. 1819.