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 inhabitants not receiving alms

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 170 in 1695; 160 in 1713


10 Mar. 1690Sir John Tremayne 
 Hugh Fortescue 
 John Pole 
16 Mar. 1694John Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare [I], vice Tremayne, deceased 
8 Nov. 1695Hon. Francis Robartes93
 James Montagu99
 Sir Joseph Tredenham88
 Seymour Tredenham60
2 Aug. 1698Hon. Francis Robartes 
 Philip Meadowes 
14 Jan. 1701Hon. Francis Robartes 
 Hugh Fortescue 
2 Dec. 1701Hon. Francis Robartes 
 Hugh Fortescue 
 Henry Silly 
24 July 1702Hugh Boscawen 
 Joseph Sawle 
18 May 1705John Trevanion 
 Sir Philip Meadowes 
17 May 1708Anthony Nicoll 
 Thomas Herne 
23 Oct. 1710Francis Godolphin, Visct. Rialton 
 John Trevanion 
23 Dec. 1710George Robinson vice Trevanion, chose to sit for Cornwall 
 Thomas Millington 
23 Apr. 1713Edward Southwell vice Rialton, called to the Upper House83
 James Craggs771
8 Sept. 1713James Craggs 
 Sir Edmund Prideaux, Bt. 

Main Article

Defoe described Tregony as: ‘a town of very little trade . . . but what is carried on under the merchants of Falmouth, or Truro; the chief thing to be said of this town is that it sends Members to Parliament’. Browne Willis* concurred, noting it was ‘a poor market town’. The most important interest was that of Hugh Boscawen I*, recorder and lord of the manor, but the Trevanions of nearby Carhayes also had an influence.2

Boscawen, who had returned Robert Harley* at a by-election in April 1689, was preparing to put him up again with his future son-in-law, Hugh Fortescue, in 1690. Boscawen’s agent brought his patron’s letter of recommendation to the corporation and made his ‘utmost endeavours’ on Harley’s behalf, adding that Hon. Francis Robartes’ steward was also making an interest on behalf of his master but was thought to have left it too late. Fortescue wrote to Harley on 27 Feb.:

I have been at our corporation and I find there a great contest, for there is our bishop [Trelawny, of Exeter], Sir Joseph Tredenham*, Colonel [Charles] Trevanion†, Mr Francis Robartes of our House, with several other gentlemen, who make up all the interest they can, against whom I know not, for they do not declare whether it be against Mr Boscawen or me, but they desire of the town one voice. I find the town very unsteady. Mr Boscawen and I have done what we can for you, but they say they will have no stranger for their burgess, which has forced Mr Boscawen to declare for whom he did set up viz Serjeant Tremayne.

Tremayne, a King’s serjeant, was a Cornishman and he was returned with Fortescue, defeating the Tory (Sir) John Pole, (3rd Bt.*), who was presumably backed by the group enumerated by Fortescue. On 1 Apr. 1690 a petition of the magistrates and inhabitants of Tregony, alleging that Pole had been duly elected, was referred to the committee of elections, and renewed on 8 Oct., although to no effect. Robartes’ role in all this was interesting because his first wife had been Pole’s sister, and his second was the widow of one of Boscawen’s sons. Tremayne kept up his influence at Tregony through the judicious distribution of victuals to the town, taking care to suggest that his mother follow Boscawen’s lead when directing his largesse. On Tremayne’s death the Earl of Kildare was returned. Although an Irish peer he was in fact Robartes’ brother-in-law and his wife had once been Boscawen’s daughter-in-law.3

Before the next election Boscawen attempted to strengthen his interest by petitioning the King in May 1695 for the right to hold two new fairs at Tregony, a matter ‘of great advantage to the inhabitants and of no prejudice to his Majesty’, and according to one newsletter report these were duly granted in August. The return of Robartes and James Montagu I at the 1695 general election was challenged on 25 Nov. by separate petitions from Sir Joseph and Seymour Tredenham*. They both alleged unjust and arbitrary conduct by the mayor and bribery by their opponents. However, Seymour Tredenham did not claim a majority. The committee of elections reported on 5 Mar. 1696. There was no dispute over the franchise, which lay in the inhabitants ‘as did provide for themselves, whether they lived under the same roof or not’, although one witness believed the franchise to lie in the inhabitants paying scot and lot. One of Tredenham’s witnesses alleged that

the town had been a long time dissatisfied with the election of strangers: that about 140 went to Sir Joseph Tredenham’s house and desired him to stand for the said borough and that the mayor had promised to do what he could for him, but Mr Harvey, Mr Boscawen’s steward, said his master expected both votes, at which the town being dissatisfied, they desired Mr Seymour Tredenham to stand.

Witnesses on Sir Joseph’s side also claimed that Boscawen’s agent had offered 20s. a vote, while 1,000 hundredweight of tin had been distributed to Boscawen’s supporters. The Commons found against the Tredenhams, and Boscawen’s nominees kept their seats. In September 1696 Charles Montagu* revealed that a small office held by the recently deceased Seymour Tredenham was earmarked for a client of Hugh Boscawen who had been instrumental in the previous election: if the King were to refuse to grant it, it would be ‘a great mortification to old Boscawen and a disadvantage to my brother [James] in another choice’. In January 1697 Tregony was one of four Cornish boroughs that petitioned the Lords against a bill regulating elections, which had passed the Commons the previous December, probably because they objected to the provision imposing a £200 property qualification on borough Members. The Upper House rejected the bill. The Boscawen interest was unchallenged at the next two elections, Robartes being returned in 1698 with Philip Meadowes, a Whig placeman who had married into the Boscawen family, and in January 1701 with Fortescue. At the second 1701 election, a Cornishman, Henry Silly of Trevelver, stood against Fortescue and petitioned unsuccessfully on 3 Jan. 1702 on the grounds that minors and unqualified voters had been polled for Fortescue.4

After the accession of Queen Anne the Trevanion interest reasserted itself when Joseph Sawle, the Tory nephew of Charles Trevanion and cousin of John, was returned with Hugh Boscawen II. In 1705 John Trevanion, having succeeded his father, was himself returned along with (Sir) Philip Meadowes, Boscawen having become knight of the shire. In 1708 Boscawen recommended Anthony Nicoll, a Whig Cornishman, while Thomas Herne, an outsider, was presumably put up by Trevanion. In 1710 Trevanion was returned with Viscount Rialton (Francis Godolphin), son of the former lord treasurer, and a kinsman of the Boscawens. When Trevanion chose to sit for the county in November, George Robinson, a Cornish army officer and a Tory, was returned, defeating Thomas Millington*. Millington’s petition of 10 Jan. 1711, alleging bribery on the part of Robinson, was moved to be sent to the elections committee but this was defeated, Trevanion and John Manley acting as tellers against the motion, and it was ordered to be heard at the bar of the House. On 7 Feb. 1711 Millington was allowed to withdraw his petition. In 1712 Trevanion’s assessment of Cornish seats divided the interest between himself and Boscawen. At the by-election following Rialton’s accession to the peerage, Edward Southwell, a Tory placeman and an outsider, was returned ‘with no trouble in it’, even though he was committed to fighting Preston at the forthcoming general election. In fact there had been a close poll, with James Craggs II challenging Southwell, presumably on Boscawen’s interest. Preparatory to the 1713 election there was some manoeuvring over minor customs posts with Thomas Coke* expected to concert measures with Lord Treasurer Oxford (Harley) and to ensure that two ‘substantial’ persons were recommended to the borough. In the event Craggs was returned, along with Sir Edmund Prideaux, 4th Bt., a Tory, possibly with ‘whimsical’ tendencies.5

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Eng. Post, 28–30 Apr. 1713.
  • 2. Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 239; Bodl. Willis 5, ff. 144, 156.
  • 3. Add. 70244, Henry Julian to Harley, 13 Feb. 1690; 70014, f. 298; Cornw. RO, DDT 2068, Tremayne to his mother, 30 Dec. 1690.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 470; Folger Shakespeare Lib. Newdigate newsletter 27 Aug. 1695; Add. 34355, f. 23; HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 376, 378.
  • 5. Add. 47027, f. 35; 70314–15, Trevanion’s list; HMC Cowper, iii. 107.