TREDENHAM, Joseph (c.1643-1707), of Tregonan, St. Ewe, Cornw.

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



Sept. 1666
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701
1705 - 25 Apr. 1707

Family and Education

b. c.1643, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of John Tredenham, attorney, of Philleigh by Elizabeth, da. of John Molesworth of Pencarrow; bro. of William Tredenham. m. lic. 9 May 1666, Elizabeth (d. 13 Feb. 1731), da. of Sir Edward Seymour, 3rd Bt., of Berry Pomeroy, Devon, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. bro. 1662, kntd. by 1666.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Cornw. Sept. 1660-1, 1665-80, 1689-90, j.p. by 1664-?87, ?Oct. 1688-d., dep. lt. by 1670-?87, Nov. 1688-?d., sheriff 1664-5, commr. for recusants 1675; gov. St. Mawes 1678-96; capt. of militia horse, Cornw. by 1679; v.-adm. N. Cornw. 1679-86; v.-warden of the stannaries 1682-9; freeman, Saltash 1683; alderman, Grampound and Lostwithiel 1685-June 1688.2

Gent. of privy chamber 1664-85; jt. comptroller of army accounts 1703-d.3


Tredenham was proposed as a knight of the Royal Oak at the Restoration with an income of £900 p.a. Presumably this represents the family estate which he inherited from his brother in 1662, including the manor of St. Mawes, with the right to appoint the returning officer. Nevertheless he was involved in a double return with Sir Vyell Vyvyan on 19 Dec. 1665. The report from the elections committee is not recorded in the Journals, but he had taken his seat by September 1666. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to 128 committees in the Cavalier Parliament, including the committee of elections and privileges in eight sessions, acted as a teller in three divisions, and made 17 recorded speeches. He was absent from a call of the House in 1668, but became an active Member in 1673 when his brother-in-law Edward Seymour was appointed Speaker. In the debate on the Declaration of Indulgence on 24 Feb. he contended: ‘If the King will dispense with what belongs to himself, we cannot be against it’. When an attempt was made to replace Seymour, he said: ‘former ages have known none more fit for Speaker than Privy Councillors’. In 1674 he urged that the Duke of Buckingham should he heard again in his own defence, but he found evidence that Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) was popishly affected:

No person is too great for an impeachment of this House. Nothing but favour can bring Papists above Protestants. He acknowledges his concurrence with others for prorogation of the Parliament; the Exchequer full, and enough to carry on the war, but not to pay the King’s debts. The breaking of the Triple Alliance was the true reason for putting off the Parliament.

His first important committees date from this session. He was added to the Members considering the general test bill, and appointed to the inquiry into the state of Ireland.4

By 1675 Tredenham was a recognized member of the court caucus, and in the spring session he was entrusted with forestalling the attack on Lord Treasurer Danby with the ever-popular proposal for measures against Popery. The outcome was the appointment of committees to bring in bills to prevent Roman Catholics from sitting in Parliament and to suppress the growth of Popery, to both of which he was named. But the Opposition were not for long ‘diverted’, as had been intended, from their original target, and on 3 May Tredenham ‘made a speech of the honour and integrity of my lord treasurer’, declaring that:

none of the grievances complained of [in the] last [session of] Parliament can be laid to this man’s charge. No favourer of Popery; an honest, just and good man, and I am of opinion he was [the] great cause of our meeting and continuing here. And if we use great men thus it will hinder any good or just men from taking employment hereafter.

Tredenham’s defence of Lauderdale in the same session, he believed, led Sir Francis Winnington to earmark him for reprisals when the time came. He also helped to draw up reasons for a conference on the Lords’ jurisdiction. His services were rewarded with a grant of £500 to buy St. Mawes Castle from Vyvyan, which gave him complete control of the borough, and he received the government whip for the autumn session, in which his most important committees were for inspecting scandalous books and preventing the growth of Popery. His name appeared on the working lists and among the government speakers, and Sir Richard Wiseman assigned him to Seymour’s management. On 17 Feb. 1677, in the debate whether the long prorogation amounted to a dissolution, he said he ‘would not, upon the question, take in the King’s prerogative. We are all tender in questioning his power to call, prorogue, and dissolve Parliaments.’ Three days later he moved for a supply of £600,000, to be paid by way of a land tax at the rate of £35,000 a month for 18 months. On 22 Feb. he was named to the committees for preventing illegal exactions and recalling British subjects from the French service, though in the debate he remarked: ‘That which must keep them here must be encouragements, and he would have that thought of’. Shaftesbury marked him ‘thrice vile’ in this session, during which he was named to two more important committees, those to inquire into the grant of passes to shipping and to provide for the Protestant education of the royal children, and helped to manage the conferences on the danger from French power and the naval programme. He also acted as teller against removing the prohibition of cattle imports from Ireland, and against the bill for the better repair of churches. The author of A Seasonable Argument claimed that his marriage to the Speaker’s sister had earned him a pension, and in January 1678 he was granted a further £400 from secret service funds, but he was not in fact a regular pensioner. Indeed he was significantly silent in the closing sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, and (Sir) Joseph Williamson noted his absence, though on 23 Feb. he reported a private bill to confirm a decree in Chancery. In the summer he was again appointed to a committee for preventing Papists from sitting in Parliament, acted as teller for the bill to settle the stannary laws, and twice helped to manage conferences on disbanding the new-raised forces. After the Popish Plot he was among those ordered to inquire into the sinister noises in Old Palace Yard and the French translation of the Gazette. He was sent to the Lords on 9 Nov. to express concurrence with a minor amendment to the address on the alleged plot to assassinate the King, and was among those instructed to draft the address asking for Williamson not to be released from the Tower. He helped to prepare reasons for excluding the Duke of York from the Upper House, and was one of the Members entrusted with bringing in bills to provide remedies for Popery and preparing instructions for disbanding the army. On this matter he was appointed to manage a conference. He was also named to the committees to draft an address protesting against ‘private advices’ to the King and to consider a bill for the speedier conviction of Popish recusants. He was nevertheless named as a court supporter on both government and opposition lists.5

At the first general election of 1679 Tredenham returned his brother-in-law Henry Seymour II and Sidney Godolphin I at St. Mawes. He was himself elected for Grampound, two miles from Tregonan, and classed as ‘vile’ by Shaftesbury. An active Member in the first Exclusion Parliament, he made four speeches and was appointed to 16 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges and the committee to bring in a bill for security against Popery. He helped to manage the conference on disabling Danby on 22 Mar. and acted as teller against the country candidates at Windsor, against diverting the revenue to be raised for disbanding the army from the Exchequer to the chamber of London, and for continuing the prohibition of cattle imports. He voted against exclusion. When Winnington, who as solicitor-general had passed the warrants for the payments made to him by Danby, called him a pensioner, he virtuously declared that ‘a pension to betray one’s country is a detestable thing to receive by anybody, and I do utterly deny to have received any’, but he was unwise enough to reflect both on Winnington and on the committee of secrecy, and he was less successful than (Sir) John Talbot in defending himself. Blacklisted in the ‘unanimous club’ of court supporters, he had to transfer to his pocket borough for the autumn election, and he was only moderately active in the second Exclusion Parliament, with three committees. But he was teller for the successful wrecking motion to add Sir Christopher Musgrave to the committee to prepare Seymour’s impeachment, and on 17 Dec. he spoke vigorously in his brother-in-law’s favour, asserting that Members could not be committed except for treasons, felony, or breach of the peace. Re-elected in 1681, he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament, but he joined the syndicate headed by Francis Robartes of ‘the knights and burgesses of this present Parliament for Cornwall’, which applied for the Tangier victualling contract.6

Tredenham was appointed vice-warden of the stannaries under the Earl of Bath in succession to Jonathan Trelawny I, in which capacity he performed the same service to the stannary court that Heneage Finch had done in Chancery, leaving an organized and coherent body of principle, and in particular facilitating actions by miners to recover their wages. As lord of the manor he surrendered the St. Mawes charter in January 1684. But on 17 Feb. 1685 Sunderland asked him to use his interest as vice-warden to ensure that loyal Members were chosen to serve in the approaching Parliament. He had recovered his interest at Grampound, where he was elected with the outsider Robert Foley, and he was also returned with Henry Seymour II for St. Mawes. He was a very active Member of James II’s Parliament, being appointed to 24 committees. He acted as teller against hearing the Buckinghamshire election petition at the bar of the House, and was named to the committees to recommend expunctions from the Journals and to draw up the address promising assistance against Monmouth. He chaired a bill for the suppression of pedlars and hawkers and carried it to the Lords. He was teller against the bill continuing the levy on coal for the benefit of London widows and orphans, and was appointed to the committee to inquire into the maladministration of the fund by the corporation. But a speech in the second session ascribed to him by Anchitell Grey was more probably delivered by Talbot. Danby included him among the parliamentary Opposition, but he was granted £274 arrears of his allowance as governor of St. Mawes and recommended as court candidate for Grampound in 1688. Lord Bath reported that St. Mawes was at his devotion. Nevertheless he apparently lost county office, and was removed as freeman of Grampound and alderman of Lostwithiel. Like Bath, who described him as ‘one of my deputy lieutenants in whom I have an entire confidence’, he supported the Revolution.7

Tredenham was returned for St. Mawes at the general election of 1689, and retained control of the borough for the rest of his life.

He was one of the most active and prominent Tories in the Convention, with 84 committees, 14 reports, 18 tellerships and 38 recorded speeches. He was appointed to the committee to bring in a list of the essentials for securing religion, laws and liberties, and both spoke and voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant:

The crown is always successive, never elective. ... I thank God we have a Protestant heir to the crown. Of the Prince of Wales ... ’tis the opinion of the House that there is a legal incapacity, as well as a natural. In the Princess of Orange there is no incapacity. She is a Protestant, and as for her being a woman, Queen Elizabeth was so, and reigned gloriously.

His opposition to the transfer of the crown to William lost him his post in the stannaries. Nevertheless he was named to the committees for suspending habeas corpus and elected chairman of the grand committee of grievances. His first report recommended among other things an inquiry into the authors and advisers of the quo warranto proceedings and the attempt to pack Parliament, and he was appointed to a committee for this purpose. He spoke and voted against publishing the resolutions of the House, believing that ‘those rules and measures our ancestors left us are the safest way’. But he was teller for appointing a committee to estimate the normal costs of defence, since ‘the revenue is necessary to be settled for the support of the Government’. He was among those to whom the first mutiny bill and the new coronation oath were entrusted. On 25 Mar. he seconded the motion to thank the King ‘with all the solemnity possible’ for urging the passage of a bill of pardon and indemnity, and he was appointed to the committee to draft an address accordingly. He also helped to consider the new oaths of allegiance and supremacy and to manage a conference about them. ‘Whenever a bill of comprehension shall be brought in for all our safeties, I shall be for it’, he declared, adding on another occasion that ‘all ease and favour should be shown to tender consciences consistent with the safety of the nation’. The House took him at his word, and on 1 Apr. he was the first Member named to the committee to draft the bill. A fortnight later he reported the New Radnor election case and the simony bill, which he carried to the Lords, and he also reported three conferences on removing Roman Catholics from the London area. He helped to prepare the address promising assistance for a war with France, and to consider the bill restoring corporations. He was granted three weeks’ leave on 18 May; but this must have been a tactical ploy, for four days later he was appointed to manage a conference on the toleration bill, and he spoke twice and acted as teller against the continued suspension of habeas corpus (25 May). ‘Content yourselves with the laws you have already, and make no violation of them’, he advised the government benches. ‘Such an extraordinary authority has always been found fatal to those that executed it.’ He was teller for the relief of distressed Irish Protestants, and his tireless work as chairman of the committee, from which he presented five reports, was recognized when he was added to the Privy Councillors to present the address, and personally delivered the King’s reply to the House. When it was first proposed to except from the indemnity bill all concerned in the surrender of the charters, he invited the House to ‘consider what a great number will be involved on that head, and how [un]safe the Government will be when so many are made unsafe under it’. He was among those appointed to consider the Lords’ proviso on the succession, and on 25 June he was sent with (Sir) Thomas Clarges and William Sacheverell to ask the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch) for an explanation of the detention of Peregrine Osborne. If this was intended to remove him from the House when later in the day the London petition against the sacramental test was presented, it failed, for he acted as teller against reading it.8

After the recess Tredenham was appointed to the committee to prepare a bill for the more effectual tendering of the new oaths, and to the inquiries into war expenditure and miscarriages. The arrival in London of Edmund Ludlow, whose estate had been granted to Seymour at the Restoration, provoked from him the rhetorical question: ‘To what can these persons pretend, but to bring us into the same anarchy as formerly?’ When it was proposed to inquire who had recommended Commissary Shales, he asked: ‘What effect can you propose to yourselves in this by the King’s answer?’ He was named to the committees on the state of the revenue and restoring corporations. He seconded the unsuccessful proposal of Sir Thomas Clarges that James II’s regulators should be disqualified from office, and on 10 Jan. 1690 twice acted as teller against the disabling clause. He chaired a private bill promoted by the Duke of Norfolk, and on 20 Jan. was ordered to return it to the Lords. But he was in the Commons for the debate on Sir Robert Sawyer later in the day, spoke in his defence, and acted as teller against his expulsion. His last tellership in the Convention was for naming persons rather than categories for exception from the indemnity.9

Tredenham continued to sit as a Tory until his death on 25 Apr. 1707 in his 65th year. He was buried in Westminster Abbey. His son John continued to represent St. Mawes until his death three years later.10

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 99; Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. ii. 283; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 456; Boase and Courtney, Bibl. Cornub. 736-7.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1678, p. 276; 1679-80, pp. 61, 128; 1685, p. 87; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 510; xi. 424; Ind. 24557; SP44/66/204-7; PC2/72/694.
  • 3. Carlisle, Privy Chamber, 174; Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 41; xxi. 342.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 625; Grey, ii. 56, 186, 256, 312-13.
  • 5. Dering Pprs. 17, 18, 62, 70, 77; CJ, ix. 318, 320, 387, 398, 415, 417, 418, 501, 502, 504, 555; Browning, Danby, i. 159; Grey, iii. 211; iv. 85, 131; vii. 332; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 1332.
  • 6. CJ, ix. 574, 586, 598, 613, 664; Grey, vii. 332-3; viii. 177-9; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 148-9.
  • 7. R. R. Pennington, Stannary Law, 42-46; CSP Dom. 1684-5, pp. 245, 291; 1685, pp. 21, 35; 1687-9, p. 364; CJ, ix. 717, 736, 744, 748; PC2/72/698.
  • 8. Grey, ix. 50, 55-56, 142, 159, 191, 204, 264-5, 275, 318; CJ, x. 20, 41, 45, 56, 64, 91, 98, 135, 143, 145, 186, 197.
  • 9. Grey, ix. 397, 456, 535; CJ, x. 336, 338; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 3, pp. 73-74.
  • 10. Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. x), 259.