PALMER, John III (b.c.1393), of Launceston, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b.c.1393, s. of Richard Palmer of Launceston. m. Eleanor. Mayor, Dunheved 1428-9, 1432-3, 1441, 1446, 1451.1 Coroner, Cornw. by Oct. 1450, c.1451-4.2

Offices Held


Palmer’s father served as a portreeve of Dunheved in 1398-9 and as mayor in 1409 and 1420,3 but his own record as parliamentary burgess for Dunheved on no fewer than 11 occasions and as mayor for at least five terms was much more impressive, and, indeed, for most of his life he was clearly regarded as the leading burgess of the town. As well as those coming from his own property in Dunheved, from 1432 Palmer shared the profits arising from eight messuages and 40 acres of land in the neighbourhood, doing so under an Exchequer lease for which he and his fellows paid 53s.4d. a year; and from 1437 to 1439 he also farmed the Cornish manor of Wadfast. In addition, he acquired land on the other side of the Tamar, at Sydenham Damerel, and either he or his kinsman, Master William Palmer (the rector and a benefactor of Exeter college, Oxford), was responsible for building the bridge over the river at Greystone in Lezant, on the Launceston-Tavistock road. By 1451 Palmer’s landed holdings in Cornwall were said to be worth about £2 a year, but a more thorough assessment would undoubtedly have valued them much higher.4

In 1430 Palmer brought an action for debt against one Nicholas Treguddick of South Petherwin and, following his opponent’s outlawry in consequence of the suit, he stood surety at the Exchequer for the lessee of the confiscated property, John Fortescue* (the future chief justice). Later, in 1433, he made some attempt to heal the breach with Treguddick by exonerating him from payment of annual rents of 9s.6d. for premises in Launceston and also from providing three days’ labour services every autumn; but this arrangement was to be effective only during Treguddick’s lifetime, and after his death his son, Thomas, started proceedings in Chancery against Palmer, alleging that he had conspired to defraud him of his inheritance. It was not until 1449 that Palmer made a formal disclaimer of his title to the disputed property.5

Palmer attended the shire elections for Cornwall held at Launceston prior to the Parliaments of 1432, 1447 and 1449 (Nov.). Probably for some time before 1450 he had been serving as a coroner of the shire, and even though, on 26 Oct. that year, the sheriff was instructed to replace him on the ground that he was insufficiently qualified, he was re-elected shortly afterwards. In the course of his second term as coroner, in 1452, he was required to keep in safe custody the cargo of a Spanish ship seized in Plymouth harbour by pirates. When, during the winter of 1453-4, he was dismissed again, he made complaint to the chancellor, Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury: in his petition he claimed to have been a coroner ‘by long tyme’ until the sheriff, Thomas Whalesborough, incorrectly surmising that he was too ill to perform his duties, had replaced him with one of his own friends. Whalesborough denied the allegations, stating that he had held new elections for the coronership simply because he had been instructed to do so by royal writ, and demanded that Palmer pay him damages for the trouble and expense caused him by the suit.6

Over the years Palmer himself had never hesitated to perform various services for his friends. For instance, he assisted the widow of a fellow MP, Simon Yurle*, to start legal proceedings in Chancery, and he also acted as a feoffee of the property of John Mayhew I*.7 But the friendship of most consequence for the later years of his life was that which, in the 1430s, he struck up with Thomas Carminowe† (knight of the shire for Cornwall in 1423 and 1429, and for Devon in 1442). Indeed, the connexion between their families was one of long standing, for in August 1416 Palmer had been staying at the Carminowes’ place at Boconnoc when news had come of the birth of the heir of (Sir) John Colshull II*. Together with Carminowe, he brought an action in the King’s bench against John Cork* of Paderda, asserting that he was an escaped bondman from one of Carminowe’s manors. After his friend’s death in 1442, Palmer, as a feoffee of his extensive estates in the West Country, acted as co-patron of the churches of Boconnoc, Luffincott and Menheniot; but the task of managing the deceased’s affairs was in other respects thankless, for it involved him in at least three more lawsuits. First, he and Richard Ayrscote, the parson of Ashwater and co-administrator of Carminowe’s will, were sued in Chancery by a London draper for failing to pay a debt of £20 which their dying friend was supposed to have instructed them not to forget; and then, some time between 1456 and 1460, Sir Hugh Courtenay (who had married one of Carminowe’s daughters) required Palmer and Ayrscote, as the sole surviving feoffees, to hand over to him certain of the estates and, when they refused to do so, commenced proceedings against them. Shortly afterwards, Courtenay started a quarrel over the distribution of the inheritance with Halnath Mauleverer, the Yorkshire esquire who had married Carminowe’s other daughter, in which Mauleverer contended that Palmer had been compelled to relinquish to Courtenay more than his just share. The then chancellor, Archbishop Neville, instructed Sir Walter Moyle, j.c.p., to go to Cornwall to examine Palmer and Ayrscote, as by this time they were ‘so aged and so feble that they in no wise may be labourd nor traveled to the Kynges Courte w t oute parell of their lyves’; and our MP is last recorded, aged about 74, giving his testimony to the judge at Launceston in March 1467.8


Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: L. S. Woodger


  • 1. R. and O.B. Peter, Hist. Launceston, 124, 128, 132, 148, 400-1; Add. Ch. 64024.
  • 2. CCR, 1447-54, p. 203; C1/24/36.
  • 3. Peter, 112, 122, 400-1; SC6/819/9.
  • 4. CFR, xvi. 17, 333; Feudal Aids, i. 450; E179/87/92d; T. Johnes, Parish of Bradstone, 9; Reg. Coll. Exoniensis ed. Boase, pp. xlviii, 268.
  • 5. CFR, xvi. 9; Cornw. Feet of Fines (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. 1950), 1008; 1086; 1/12/87.
  • 6. C219/14/3, 15/4, 7; C1/24/36; CPR, 1446-52, p. 541.
  • 7. C1/15/149; Peter, 145.
  • 8. CCR, 1429-35, p. 186; Cornw. Feet of Fines 1036, 1053; Reg. Lacy ed. Hingeston-Randolph, i. 295, 309, 383; ibid. (Canterbury and York Soc. lxi), 370; C1/18/61, 26/66, 31/275.