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 inhabitant householders

Number of voters:

about 200 in 1679


20 Apr. 1660SIR JOHN TEMPLE 
  Double return. TEMPLE and BOSCAWEN seated, 5 May 1660 
22 Oct. 1660SIR PETER COURTNEY vice Boscawen, chose to sit for Truro 
30 Apr. 1661HUGH BOSCAWEN 
10 Feb. 1679HUGH BOSCAWEN 
4 Apr. 1679JOHN TANNER I vice Robert Boscawen, deceased 
 Joseph Sawle 
 Hugh Boscawen 
6 Apr. 1689ROBERT HARLEY II vice Boscawen deceased 

Main Article

Under a charter of James I the corporation of Tregony consisted of the mayor, recorder and eight ‘capital burgesses’. The parliamentary franchise was very wide, being open to all householders. As lord of the manor Hugh Boscawen of Tregothnan might have been expected to dominate the borough. But, perhaps because he chose to concentrate on maintaining his interest at Truro and in the county, he was by no means secure from his rival Charles Trevanion of Caerhayes. Even at the general election of 1660, when Trevanion was debarred from standing under the Long Parliament ordinance, there was a double return. Boscawen’s brother Edward was returned on one indenture, bearing about 50 signatures, with an outsider, Sir John Temple, who shared his colleague’s Presbyterian sympathies. Two single indentures, each with a handful of signatures, returned William Tredenham of Tregonan and Thomas Clarges, the brother-in-law of General George Monck. Temple and Boscawen were seated on the merits of the return, and both their rivals quickly found other constituencies. Edward Boscawen, however, was not declared elected for Truro till 20 June, and did not opt for that constituency until over two months later. A new writ was immediately authorized, but another delay of two months occurred before the by-election. The successful candidate was Sir Peter Courtney, a Royalist, who no doubt represented a challenge to the Boscawen interest.1

It may have been as a result of this unwelcome display of independence by the borough that Hugh Boscawen, who had represented the county in the Convention, stood for Tregony himself in 1661, leaving his younger brother to fight Truro again. As Trevanion was returned for Grampound, the junior seat was left to another local Presbyterian, Edward Herle. Nor is there likely to have been a contest in February 1679, when Herle was replaced by one of Boscawen’s numerous but unhealthy offspring. The young man survived his election only a few weeks, dying on 20 Mar., still under age. First business in the Commons on that day was to authorize a new writ, under which the vacancy was filled by one of Boscawen’s most reliable followers John Tanner I. A petition was lodged by Trevanion’s brother-in-law, Joseph Sawle, on 14 Apr., complaining of the undue practices of the portreeve and the sheriff of Cornwall; but it would seem that the elections committee was unfavourably disposed, for only on 1 May was it authorized to send for those who appeared to be responsible, and no report was made. For the August election Tanner exchanged constituencies with Trevanion, who had sought to revive Tregony as a port by promoting the Fal Navigation Act. His own efforts at canalization failed, but his new constituents showed their gratitude by appending 114 signatures to his return. A separate indenture for Boscawen was signed by only 88. Although both Members had voted for exclusion, Trevanion soon reverted to the family tradition of loyalty. But they must have agreed to divide the borough in 1681, when they were unanimously chosen, though on separate indentures.2

Tregony sent no loyal addresses in the closing years of Charles II, and in November 1684 was obliged to surrender its charter to the lord lieutenant, the Earl of Bath. Under the new charter of March 1685 Bath was nominated recorder, Trevanion’s brother Richard mayor, and the corporation was expanded to 14 aldermen, including Trevanion himself and Sawle. The new corporation congratulated James II on his accession and the borough ‘unanimously’ elected Trevanion with the court lawyer, Charles Porter, an outsider. Boscawen’s petition never emerged from committee. In 1688 Bath reported that the chief interest at Tregony was in Boscawen and Trevanion. The regulators, however, proposed as court candidates Edward Vincent, one of the new aldermen, and John Verman, of a minor gentry family seated at Lamorran; and Trevanion, torn between his loyalty to the Stuarts and his horror of Popery, never stood again. At the general election of 1689 Hugh Boscawen regained the county seat after 29 years. For Tregony he nominated his imbecile brother Charles and a congenial Whig, Hugh Fortescue, soon to become his son-in-law. When Charles died, the party leaders chose Robert Harley II to succeed him. On 30 Mar. (Sir) Edward Harley wrote to his son:

Wednesday Mr [Richard] Hampden moved the House for a Speaker’s warrant for a writ, which your father-in-law [Thomas Foley II] fetched that evening. Thursday the writ was sealed and delivered to him, so to me, and by your brother yesterday sent to Mr Boscawen, who promises to send the writ to his agent in the country, to see it executed and returned.

The return was signed by the mayor and 13 ‘burgesses’ with their ‘unanimous consent and assent’; and thus Tregony launched a future prime minister on his parliamentary career.3

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. i. 278; W. P. Courtney, Parl. Rep. Cornw. 171; CJ, viii. 13, 137.
  • 2. CJ, ix. 595, 608; Gilbert, i. 278; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 418.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 199; 1685, p. 80; London Gazette, 26 Feb. 1685, CJ, ix. 718; x. 67; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 380; (1883), 217; Vivian, 526; HMC Portland, iii. 435, 436.