St. Ives


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 portreeve and burgesses

Number of voters:

13 in 1621


aft. 9 Apr. 16141THOMAS TYNDALL vice Mayney, chose to sit for Cirencester
16 Jan. 1621ROBERT BACON
 Sir Edward Conway I*
19 Jan. 1626WILLIAM NOYE
aft. 18 Feb. 16262EDWARD SAVAGE II vice Tichborne, chose to sit for Petersfield
8 Mar. 1628JOHN PAYNE

Main Article

St. Ives derives its name from a fifth-century Irish missionary, St. Ia, whose shrine stood in the church there until the Reformation. The peninsula which protects St Ives’s harbour from the Bristol Channel attracted settlement from prehistoric times, but the town developed slowly, lacking its own market until the late fifteenth century, and achieving full parochial status only in 1576. Some 20 years later Carew described it as ‘of mean plight’, and in need of a new pier. Apparently little had changed by 1626, when the town council itself voiced concern about the old pier and the silting-up of the harbour.3 In the early seventeenth century St. Ives’s prosperity depended on the plentiful local fish stocks, the port’s principal export commodity, and large quantities of French salt were delivered each year for preserving the catches. Apart from France, seaborne trade was conducted primarily with Ireland and the other Bristol Channel ports; at least some of the cargoes recorded from farther afield, such as Spain, indicate shipping driven in by storms from the English Channel.4 In 1625 St. Ives played host to English warships returning from Cadiz. Rather less welcome were the Sallee pirates and French privateers which threatened the town and terrorized the all-important fishing fleet during this decade.5

By the 1570s, the date of the earliest records, St. Ives was governed by a portreeve and two-tier council of 12 and 24 members respectively. On occasion the council displayed considerable determination in pursuing the town’s interests. This was particularly true at the start of the seventeenth century, when a dispute arose between local fishermen, who used a system of land-based ‘huers’ to alert them to shoals near the coast, and two landowners near St. Ives who began prosecuting the huers for trespass. In January 1603, with the number of cases mounting, the council decided to support the defendants financially. It then successfully promoted a bill ‘for the better preservation of fishing’, designed specifically to protect customary West Country practices, in the first session of the 1604 Parliament.6 However, an attempt in late 1604 to strengthen the council’s legal status by obtaining a charter of incorporation came to nothing, this privilege not being granted until 1639, and for the remainder of this period the councillors apparently restricted their ambitions to lesser objectives such as repairing the town quay and opposing increased tithes.7

St. Ives was enfranchised in 1558, probably at the request of the 2nd earl of Bedford (Francis Russell†). The borough was coterminous with the parish, and is usually described as having enjoyed a scot-and-lot franchise, though it appears that in the early seventeenth century only the portreeve and the 12 senior council-members normally signed the parliamentary indentures.8 In 1604, in response to the ‘huers’ dispute, St. Ives returned one of its own leading residents, John Tregenna, who helped to steer the town’s fishing bill through the Commons, but these circumstances were exceptional. Ordinarily the voters accepted external nominations, a pattern established by Bedford in the early days of the borough’s existence. The principal patron was the ‘lord’ of St. Ives, an honorary position deriving from ownership of the largest local manor, Ludgvan Lese. For much of the sixteenth century the lordship had been shared, but by 1600 it was vested solely in William Paulet, the 4th marquess of Winchester, who backed the 1604 bid for incorporation and was recognized as having a special position of influence within the borough.9 Winchester probably secured at least one seat in each of this period’s elections. His nominees included his own son, Lord John Paulet (1621), and a leading figure in his household, Sir Anthony Mayney (1614), but the connections between Winchester and his other candidates were frequently more tenuous than this.10 Edward Savage, returned in 1626, was a cousin of Lord John Paulet’s wife, while John Payne, the 1628 nominee, was Savage’s brother-in-law.11 Mayney’s close friend Sir William Parkhurst was provided with a place in 1625, while in 1604 and 1626 nominations went to gentlemen from the marquess’s home county of Hampshire, William Brocke and his nephew by marriage Benjamin Tichborne. Like the Paulets, the Tichbornes were mostly Catholic.12 The borough made no attempt to disguise its subservience to Winchester’s wishes. Individual returns were made for each Member, invariably bearing different dates, which in 1604 and 1621 diverged by several weeks. Moreover, for Brocke, Paulet and Parkhurst, blank indentures appear to have been submitted to the marquess.13 The consistent presence of a Paulet candidate in each election, and Winchester’s success in submitting a second nominee in 1626 after Tichborne opted to sit elsewhere, make it probable that William Lakes in 1624 and Mayney’s replacement, Thomas Tyndall, were also placed by the marquess, though this remains a matter of speculation as their identity has not been firmly established.

The strength of the Paulet interest effectively left only one St. Ives seat available to other would-be patrons. The Killigrew family, who dominated the western Cornish boroughs in the first three Jacobean Parliaments, secured a place in 1614 for a junior member, Sir Joseph Killigrew, who as the duchy of Cornwall havener, or customs officer, also enjoyed direct ties with the port. Robert Bacon in 1621 most likely drew on the same source for his nomination, since his kinsman and patron lord chancellor St. Alban (Sir Francis Bacon*) was closely related to the Killigrews.14 Following the death of Sir William Killigrew I* in 1622, his family’s influence declined somewhat, the void being filled by the Godolphins of Godolphin House, Breage, located some eight miles south west of St. Ives. Ruigh’s assertion that the Godolphins exercised influence at St. Ives through a junior family member based at Treveneage, St. Hilary, slightly closer to the borough, appears to be unsubstantiated. Sir Francis Godolphin and his nephew Francis were returned three times between 1624 and 1628. They probably also backed the candidature in 1626 of William Noye, whose somewhat humbler family lived ten miles from the borough at St. Buryan, though the lawyer conceivably also drew on his close ties with the Paulets. Since Noye was returned on a blank indenture, the possibility that Winchester achieved a double success that year cannot be ruled out.15 The strength of the Killigrew and Godolphin influence over St. Ives proved unassailable by rival interests. The duchy of Cornwall, which kept a toe-hold on the borough through its ownership of the small manor of Porthia Prior, nominated high-profile candidates, Sir Lionel Cranfield* and Sir Julius Caesar*, in 1620 and 1624, but its wishes were apparently ignored on both occasions.16 The Godolphins faced a rather more serious challenge in the latter year from Arthur Harris, a gentleman living around five miles from the town, who attempted to obtain a place for his relative, secretary of state Sir Edward Conway I*. However, as Harris reported to their mutual kinsman John Verney on 25 Jan., he failed in his endeavour by a single vote.17

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 36.
  • 2. Procs. 1626, ii. 69.
  • 3. J.H. Matthews, Hist. St. Ives, 1, 16, 27, 31, 47, 183; C. Henderson et al., Cornish Church Guide, 112; F.E. Halliday, Richard Carew of Antony, 231.
  • 4. E190/1021/4; 190/1022/18; 190/1024/16, 20; 190/1025/5, 7, 17; 190/1030/28; E306/8/19.
  • 5. CSP Dom. 1625-6, pp. 20, 185; 1628-9, pp. 106, 175, 501; Addenda 1625-49, p. 132.
  • 6. Matthews, 146, 468; CJ, i. 976a, 985b, 986b, 989b; SR, iv. 1048-9.
  • 7. Matthews, 183, 187-8, 193; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 351.
  • 8. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 135; W.P. Courtney, Parl. Rep. of Cornw. 61; C219/37/22; 219/39/31; 219/40/264; 219/41B/153, 164.
  • 9. Matthews, 468; HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 58; C2/Jas.I/W23/16; SC6/Chas.I/382; HMC Hatfield, xvi. 351.
  • 10. C219/37/22; PROB 11/124, f. 360.
  • 11. Vis. Cheshire (Harl. Soc. xviii), 204; Harl. 2075, f. 31; CP, xi. 204; xii. 768.
  • 12. PROB 11/151, f. 132v; Vis. Hants (Harl. Soc. lxiv), 126; W. Berry, Hants Genealogies, 31-2.
  • 13. C219/35/1/166; 219/37/22; 219/39/31.
  • 14. Matthews, 176; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 268; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 39-40; Letters and Life of Francis Bacon ed. J. Spedding, i. 299.
  • 15. R.E. Ruigh, Parl. of 1624, p. 108; Add. 4223, f. 85; CSP Dom. 1631-3, p. 180; C33/144, f. 554v; Bp. of London Mar. Lics. 1611-1828 ed. G.J. Armytage (Harl. Soc. xxvi), 118; C219/40/246.
  • 16. G. Haslam, ‘The Duchy and Parl. Representation’, Jnl. Royal Institution of Cornw. n.s. viii. pt. 3, pp. 226, 229; DCO, ‘Letters and Patents 1620-1’, f. 39v; ‘Prince Charles in Spain’, f. 33v.
  • 17. CSP Dom. 1623-5, p. 145; SP14/158/47. Gruenfelder mistakenly links Harris’s efforts to Caesar, the Duchy nominee: J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 89.