Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:



13 Mar. 1690Sir Bevill Granville  
 Walter Kendall  
30 Oct. 1695Bernard Granville  
 Samuel Travers  
 ? Walter Kendall  
2 Aug. 1698Hon. George Booth  
 Samuel Travers  
 John Hicks  
15 Jan. 1701Sir John Molesworth, Bt.  
 John Buller  
 Hon. George Booth  
18 Apr. 1701Hon. George Booth vice Buller, deceased  
 John Hicks  
5 Dec. 1701Hon. George Booth  
 Sir John Molesworth, Bt.  
 Warwick Hawkey  
28 July 1702Hon. Russell Robartes  
 Sir John Molesworth, Bt.  
21 May 1705Hon. Russell Robartes231 
 Robert Molesworth15 
 James Kendall8 
 Kendall vice Molesworth, on petition, 17 Jan. 1706  
17 May 1708Joseph Addison13243
 James Kendall135
 Hon. Francis Robartes620
 Hon. Russell Robartes417
 Hon. Francis Robartes and HON. RUSSELL ROBARTES, vice Addison and Kendall on  petition, 20 Dec. 1709  
10 Jan. 1710Horatio Walpole vice Hon. Russell Robartes, chose to sit for Bodmin  
20 Oct. 1710John Hill  
 Hugh Fortescue3 
 Hon. Russell Robartes18 
9 July 1712Hill re-elected after appointment to office  
9 Sept. 1713Sir Thomas Clarges,  Bt.  
 Erasmus Lewis  

Main Article

Lostwithiel, the county town of the duchy, was also a coinage town and contained the Stannaries’ common prison. The crown, through the dukes of Cornwall, held the advowson. Defoe, however, found it ‘a decayed town, and as to trade and navigation, quite destitute, which is occasioned by the river being filled up with sands’, while Thomas Tonkin* described it as consisting ‘chiefly of two streets, from east to west, meanly built’. ‘The representatives’, Tonkin added, ‘are chosen by the majority of the corporation, which consists of seven capital burgesses (whereof one is mayor) and 17 assistants.’ The chief interests were held by the Kendalls of Pelyn and the 2nd Earl of Radnor (Charles Bodvile Robartes†).4

In 1690 Walter Kendall, a member of the corporation and an influential local landowner, was re-elected. His partner was Sir Bevill Granville, nephew of the lord lieutenant, the Earl of Bath. Given that Kendall’s erstwhile partner, Hon. Francis Robartes, was returned for the county, Granville’s election might have represented an agreement between Bath and Robartes’ nephew, Radnor. At the next general election Bath’s brother, Bernard Granville I, was chosen with Samuel Travers, surveyor-general of crown lands, who was Radnor’s second cousin. Kendall appears to have been squeezed out, for Lady Mary Carew reported, ‘I’m sorry my brother[-in-law] Kendall’s not in, it seems he lost it by his brother giving his voice for Travers which I presume was to be re-instated into his stewardship again’. Kendall’s death in 1697 may have led to a diminution of the family’s influence for a few years. In 1698 Travers was joined by Hon. George Booth (who had married Radnor’s sister). They were opposed by John Hicks*, a local lawyer, who petitioned on 12 Dec. 1698 on the grounds that

a peer of this realm, of great place and trust in the said county [Radnor] did not only persuade and influence the said electors not to choose the petitioner, before the election, but appeared there, and recommended for burgesses, George Booth and Samuel Travers esquires, for whom his Lordship declared he would be answerable.

No action was taken by the House and Hicks on 4 May 1699 was given leave to withdraw his petition. Booth was defeated by John Buller II and Sir John Molesworth, 2nd Bt., two Cornishmen, in January 1701, but his petition of 20 Feb., alleging illegal practices by his opponents, was withdrawn on 18 Mar., no doubt in anticipation of a by-election following Buller’s death. Booth was successful at a by-election in April, defeating Hicks, who petitioned on 5 May 1701, setting forth that he had been invited to stand as ‘a neighbour of Lothwithiel’, but that Booth had been chosen by the partiality of the mayor, ‘by the influence of a noble peer of the realm and the solicitations of his servants and agents’. No action was taken by the House before the dissolution. At the general election in December Booth was unopposed, but Molesworth defeated a local candidate, Warwick Hawkey, a barrister, whose family lived at St. Winnow, two miles south of the borough. Hawkey petitioned on 5 Jan. 1702 alleging that the mayor had returned Molesworth upon a pretence that he had an ‘equality’ of votes with the petitioner. Again no action was taken before the dissolution. No doubt under Radnor’s influence, the Members were presented with instructions to work towards reducing the power of France, support public credit and defend the Protestant interest.5

At the election after the accession of Queen Anne, Hon. Russell Robartes, Radnor’s brother, replaced Booth, and was returned with Molesworth. In 1705 Molesworth stood down in favour of his kinsman Robert Molesworth, a prominent Country Whig, who it was presumed had the Robartes interest and ‘my lord treasurer’s good liking’. Molesworth was opposed by James Kendall, who stood on the interest of his relation Canon Nicholas Kendall, who had recently gained control of the family interest. Robartes was returned unopposed, but Kendall petitioned on 2 Nov. against Molesworth, alleging that sometime before the election the mayor had ‘arbitrarily disfranchised’ several voters and through other undue practices unjustly returned Molesworth. After the case had been referred to the committee of elections a complaint was received on 20 Dec. that

John Johns, the late mayor of Lostwithiel, John Hawkey [the town clerk] and William Taprell, having the books relating to the corporation of Lostwithiel in their custody, have not permitted James Kendall Esq. and his agents to inspect said books and to take notes or copies.

The House ordered that Kendall or his agents be allowed to inspect the town books and take copies. The report of the elections committee on 17 Jan. 1706, was summed up by an anonymous diarist: ‘Mr Molesworth voted out, James Kendall . . . voted in, without division only this that the six men turned out by the mayor had right of voting and the six taken in had no right’, after it had been shown with reference to the charter of James i that there was no power to remove any assistants.6

In 1708 four candidates joined the campaign, Francis and Russell Robartes, Kendall and Hicks. However, on the morning of the election Joseph Addison, ‘by an interest carried on in another name and transferred by surprise’, replaced Hicks and was returned with Kendall. This manoeuvre had been arranged on Addison’s behalf by his political mentor, Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*), whom he served as under-secretary. A return was made of Kendall and Addison signed by Alexander Johns as mayor, John Johns and Thomas Eliot. Kendall died in July, which alerted George Granville* to the possibility of using the vacancy to ensure the return of his friend Henry St. John II*. Granville immediately announced his intention of trying ‘my interest with Mr Canon Kendall, who has the disposing of that burgesship’, for St. John. Already Granville was marshalling clerical influence behind his bid, thinking that ‘the Dean of Carlisle [Francis Atterbury] has a good interest in him [Kendall]’, and even speculating that the new bishop of Exeter, Blackall, might prove useful. Granville was clear as to where the opposition was likely to come from: ‘my Lord Radnor’s interest is what will contend against us, and Mr Francis Robartes will no doubt be a competitor again’. Furthermore, haste was essential before Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) and Bishop Trelawny (now of Winchester) ‘have somebody in their eye’. Rumours that Francis Robartes would petition against the return of the deceased Kendall having come to an agreement with Addison were scotched because ‘Kendall was chosen on exactly the same foot with Addison’. As Robartes would have to petition against both Members, Granville was confident that it would be thrown out, as ‘Addison will be able to engage one sort of men [Whigs] against it, and Mr St. John another [Tories]’. On 14 Aug. Atterbury wrote:

I see but one way wherein it is possible for Mr Addison and Mr Roberts [sic] to join; and that is, if Mr Roberts should whisper to him, that if he will quit his pretensions to a choice, upon the foot he now stands, and give in to Mr Roberts’s petition, he shall be brought in upon a new foot, by Mr Roberts’s interest; and that his election shall be secured to him, not only in this, but in future Parliaments.

In the event, Francis Robartes was joined by Russell Robartes (who had also been elected for Bodmin) in a double petition on 25 Nov. They alleged partiality by the mayor, Alexander Johns, and were supported by a petition from ‘the chief magistrates and assistants of Lostwithiel’, who stated that Francis Robartes had received 20 votes, Russell Robartes 17, James Kendall five and Joseph Addison four. These petitions put paid to the possibility of an early by-election and a quick return to the Commons by St. John. The Robarteses renewed their petition on 16 Nov. 1709, and the inhabitants theirs on the 23rd. The committee of elections apparently decided ‘unanimously’ in favour of the Robarteses. The report made on 20 Dec. revealed that counsel for the sitting Members insisted that assistants could not be removed and produced witnesses, including John Hicks, to the effect that assistants had never been replaced except when they had either died or left town. The petitioners’ counsel sought to prove that assistants had frequently been removed and replaced ‘at the pleasure of the mayor’ and brought witnesses to that effect. The elections committee disallowed 23 of the votes for Addison and Kendall, to which the House agreed, voting Francis Robartes and Russell Robartes duly elected. Three days later Russell Robartes chose to serve for Bodmin, precipitating the long expected by-election. Horatio Walpole II was chosen at a by-election on 10 Jan. 1710. On 28 Jan. a complaint was made to the House that the election had been held but that no return had been made; as none had been made by 1 Feb. the statute of 10 and 11 Gul. iii, c.7 against irregular returns was read. On 1 Mar. Paul Orchard*, the sheriff of Cornwall, gave evidence as to the circumstances of the return and was discharged.7

In April 1710, Walpole, isolated to some extent in The Hague, was attempting, through the agency of his brother, Robert II*, to safeguard his seat in the next Parliament. This could be done, he thought, by obtaining a diplomatic post for Russell Robartes. The ministerial changes of 1710 removed Walpole from the picture and saw Francis Robartes approach Harley in August in the belief that he would have a spare seat, possibly at Lostwithiel, where he believed only the mayor opposed his interest. Although both Francis and Russell Robartes were elected elsewhere, Russell stood and lost at Lostwithiel. John Hill, brother to Queen Anne’s favourite, Lady Masham, was not opposed by Robartes, suggesting that Harley was behind his candidacy. Robartes petitioned on 2 Dec. against Hugh Fortescue, brother-in-law of Hugh Boscawen II, the warden of the Stannaries. Robartes was supported by a petition from the aldermen alleging that a new mayor should be elected every year, yet Alexander Johns had illegally acted as mayor for the past six years and had returned Fortescue who had only three votes, whereas Robartes had 18. Both petitions were renewed on 8 Dec. 1711 and reported on 7 Feb. 1712. Robartes’ counsel had offered an ingrossed parchment purporting to be the borough’s charter, but which had neither seal nor date, and so it was not admitted as evidence by the committee. This destroyed the crux of the petitioners’ case that assistants had to be chosen annually, whereupon the petitioners waived their complaint. The House then endorsed the committee’s resolution that Fortescue had been duly elected. Hill was not opposed when he sought re-election in July 1712 following his appointment to office. Also, in 1712 John Trevanion’s* assessment of the interests at Lostwithiel was that ‘Robartes pretends [to] one, Canon Kendall the other’. In 1713 Russell Robartes did not stand, remaining abroad lest he should be arrested at the suit of his creditors, while Francis was content to be returned for Bodmin. This opened the way for Harley (now Lord Oxford) to ensure the return of Erasmus Lewis, along with Sir Thomas Clarges, 2nd Bt., who was probably suggested to Kendall by Lord Lansdown (George Granville).8

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. HMC Var. i. 336 for Robartes’ vote.
  • 2. mayor's poll
  • 3. petitioners' poll
  • 4. Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 235; Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iii. 169–70, 178.
  • 5. Cornw. RO, Carew Pole mss CC/FF/1, Lady Carew to John Triese, 5 Nov. 1695; Speck thesis, 379.
  • 6. Univ. of Kansas Spencer Research Lib. Simpson-Methuen corresp. C163, Simpson to Methuen, 5 June 1705; Cam. Misc. xxxvii. 34.
  • 7. HMC Portland, iv. 489, 495–6, 500–1; Add. 61496, f. 99; Cornw. RO, B/Les. 333, 335; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 524.
  • 8. Walpole mss at Wolterton, Horatio to Robert Walpole II, 22, 25 Apr. 1710 N.S.; Add. 70314–15, Trevanion’s list; HMC Portland, iv. 565.