St. Germans


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the resident householders

Number of voters:

about 50


23 Apr. 1660JOHN ELIOT
11 Apr. 1661JOHN ELIOT
20 Feb. 1679DANIEL ELIOT
1 Sept. 1679DANIEL ELIOT
21 Feb. 1681DANIEL ELIOT

Main Article

Of all the Cornish constituencies in this period St. Germans came closest to the archetypal pocket borough. The Eliot family owned only one of the two manors into which it was divided, but they leased the other from the see of Exeter, and even after the return of the episcopal estates the bishops exercised no visible interest. The borough had never been incorporated; the returning officer was the portreeve, chosen annually at the Eliots’ court leet by a jury empanelled by their stewards. The franchise was wide, but the inhabitants poor. No contests are known, and only in the last two elections did Daniel Eliot feel it necessary to make any gesture towards possible rival interests.

At the general election of 1660 John Eliot apparently determined to reserve one seat for another prominent Presbyterian. He was returned on a separate indenture; but no return survives for Richard Knightley, who had been defeated in Northamptonshire after expressing support for a conditional Restoration. In 1661 Eliot and his brother Edward were returned, but for the Exclusion Parliaments they handed over to the younger generation, Daniel and Richard, their indentures bearing up to 50 signatures. No loyal addresses were submitted, and in December 1684 John Eliot, together with the portreeve and ‘burgesses’, surrendered the ‘franchise and privileges’ of St. Germans to the Earl of Bath as lord lieutenant. He died a few months later, and the new head of the family, Daniel, was apparently able to come to an arrangement with Bath to prevent incorporation. At the general election of 1685 he was returned as junior Member with Bath’s brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Higgons. By 1688 he had probably become a Tory himself. Bath merely noted that St. Germans was ‘a borough of prescription ... at the devotion of Daniel Eliot’, but in another list of court candidates, probably emanating from the Whig collaborator Edward Nosworthy II, it was suggested: ‘If Sir Walter Moyle be good, he may be here to oppose Mr Eliot, which he always desired’. At the general election of 1689, Moyle and Eliot were returned to the Convention by the portreeve ‘with the free assent and consent of the rest of the burgesses and inhabitants’.

Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. ii. 52-53, 57-58; CSP Dom. 1684-5, pp. 245-6; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 380; (1883), 217.

Author: Paula Watson