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 commonalty in 1604; in the mayor and capital burgesses thereafter

Number of voters:

at least 17 in 1604; 9 in 1626


24 Dec. 1620THOMAS MALET
19 Jan. 1626Sir Robert Killigrew
27 Feb. 16281JOHN ARUNDELL

Main Article

Tregony sprang up at the highest point of the River Fal navigable by medieval shipping. A manorial court leet was recorded there in the Domesday survey, and the town had achieved borough status by 1201, its government lying in the hands of a portreeve or mayor. The manor was granted by William I to the Pomeroy family, who obtained for the town the privileges of holding fairs and a weekly market, and who also constructed a castle and parish church. In the later Middle Ages, however, the river silted up, drowning the church and part of the town, and rendering Tregony an economic backwater. During the sixteenth century the castle also fell into disuse, mirroring the Pomeroys’ own decline in local status.2 Although the borough claimed to have sent representatives to Westminster in 1294 and 1306, its parliamentary history effectively dates from 1559, when it was enfranchised, probably at the behest of Francis Russell†, 2nd earl of Bedford, who largely controlled the nomination of burgesses until his death in 1585. Thereafter, the borough’s patronage increasingly lay with two gentry families, the Pomeroys and, more especially, the powerful Trevanions, who lived some four miles distant at Caerhayes.3

The early seventeenth century saw little change to this basic pattern. Except in 1604, the franchise remained vested in Tregony’s mayor and eight capital burgesses, whose position as the town’s governors was confirmed by the 1621 charter of incorporation. The borough’s acquisition of a recorder, town clerk and other dignitaries apparently made it no less vulnerable to outside pressure, which continued to be exerted particularly by the Trevanions.4 The Pomeroy family’s electoral influence effectively ceased in 1609, when it sold Tregony manor, although Henry Pomeroy*, who lived in the town, served as mayor in 1620, and his brother Hugh became town clerk two years later. A legal dispute prevented the new lords of the manor from establishing their title until at least 1622, and they played no discernible part in the borough’s elections. Their role as patrons descended to John Arundell* of Trerice, another leading Cornish gentleman, who lived around nine miles from the town, and in 1622 became the borough’s first recorder.5

At the time of the 1604 election the lord of Caerhayes, Charles Trevanion*, was a minor aged nine or ten, and this may help to explain Tregony’s choice of Henry Pomeroy and another local resident, Richard Carveth. In marked contrast to earlier elections, a single indenture was used to return both men. The franchise was also broader than usual, as the indenture, which used the unfamiliar terminology of ‘portreeve and commonalty’ to define the electorate, was signed by at least 17 voters. In all subsequent elections during this period, the customary narrow franchise was employed, and individual indentures were returned for each Member. In 1621, and again in 1624, there were substantial gaps in time between the two returns, which suggests a tame electorate awaiting instructions.6 On the former occasion this delay is surprising, since Tregony returned the same men as it had in 1614, William Hakewill and Thomas Malet. Hakewill probably enjoyed Arundell’s backing, having previously sat for Mitchell, where Arundell was the principal patron, while Malet belonged through his mother to the junior branch of the Trevanion family.7 The Members who sat in 1624, Peter Speccott and his uncle Ambrose Manaton, were both from gentry families in east Cornwall, but neither possessed personal ties to the borough. Instead, they may have owed their election to William Coryton*, the powerful vice-warden of the Cornish stannaries. By the mid-1620s both Arundell and Charles Trevanion seem to have joined Coryton’s gentry faction, thereafter making seats available to the vice-warden’s allies at boroughs where they possessed influence, such as Tregony and St. Mawes. Speccott’s political views at this juncture are not known, but Manaton was a strong supporter of Coryton by 1627 at the latest, and therefore probably benefited from his electoral patronage.8

In the 1625 elections, Trevanion can be credited with providing a seat for his cousin Sir Henry Carey, who subsequently became a vocal critic of Pembroke’s rival the duke of Buckingham, while Sebastian Good, a London lawyer, probably benefited from a family connection with John Arundell.9 The Trevanion-Arundell axis suffered a partial set-back in the following year, as Tregony returned Sir Robert Killigrew, a Buckingham client who had stood against them in the 1625 Cornish county poll. However, Trevanion was able to bring in Thomas Carey, Sir Henry’s brother, as his partner. In the 1628 elections Arundell was himself chosen as the borough’s senior Member. Francis Rous, another gentleman from east Cornwall and an outspoken government critic in this Parliament, probably owed his place at Tregony to the same political considerations which operated in 1624, though he cannot be linked directly to Coryton and his allies.10

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. OR.
  • 2. J. Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. of Cornw. i. 278, 282, 284; M.W. Beresford, Eng. Medieval Boroughs, 82; C. Henderson et al. Cornish Church Guide, 207; I.D. Spreadbury, Castles in Cornw. 40.
  • 3. Polsue, i. 284; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 137-8.
  • 4. Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 285; C219/37/47; 219/38/51; 219/40/249; C66/2246/16.
  • 5. C2/Jas.I/L10/14; Cornw. RO, J/2080.
  • 6. C219/35/1/168; 219/37/47-8; 219/38/50-1.
  • 7. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 504.
  • 8. A. Duffin, Faction and Faith, 77; SP16/68/16.
  • 9. Vivian, 502; Procs. 1626, iii. 123; SP46/72, f. 110.
  • 10. Duffin, 77; CD 1629, pp. 12-14.