Available from Boydell and Brewer
No names known for 1510-23
|1529||SIR EDWARD RYNGELEY|
|1547||WILLIAM CAVELL 1|
|NICHOLAS CARMINOWE 2|
|1553 (Mar.)||WILLIAM LEY alias KEMPTHORN3|
|?JOHN LEY alias KEMPTHORN I4|
|1553 (Oct.)||ROBERT MONSON|
|JOHN LEY alias KEMPTHORN I|
|1554 (Apr.)||JOHN LEY alias KEMPTHORN I|
|1554 (Nov.)||WILLIAM BENDLOWES|
|JOHN LEY alias KEMPTHORN I|
|1555||RICHARD GRENVILLE II|
|JOHN LEY alias KEMPTHORN II|
In the later middle ages the name Launceston was used, sometimes confusingly, to cover three separate townships, Launceston St. Stephen, Dunheved and Newport. The most important of these, Dunheved, was founded soon after the Conquest, and as head of the honor of Launceston became the judicial headquarters of Cornwall with the county gaol in the castle. But its position, so near the border with Devon, made it highly inconvenient of access, and by the early 16th century Lostwithiel had largely superseded it. A few county courts a year were still held at Launceston castle, but between 1504 and 1538 only one parliamentary election for the shire is known to have taken place there, in January 1545. The town was one of eight given sanctuary status under the Act of 1540 (32 Hen. VIII, c.12).5
A stannary town and a duchy of Cornwall borough which in 1538-9 paid £8 as fee-farm to the duchy, Dunheved had received a charter from Richard, Earl of Cornwall, in the first half of the 13th century, and later royal charters were confirmed in 1515, 1543 and 1547. With the help of William Herbert, 1st Earl of Pembroke, it was formally incorporated as Dunheved, otherwise Launceston, in 1556, the first Cornish borough to receive the privilege. By this grant, which presumably confirmed the existing arrangements, the governing body was to consist of a mayor and eight aldermen; there was an indefinite number of freemen who elected the mayor from two aldermen nominated by the governing body; and the aldermen could fill vacancies in their numbers from the freemen. Several lesser officials assisted in the administration of the town: there was a recorder, by 1543 Sir John Arundell, and several lawyers were retained as counsel. Borough accounts for the period are extant.6
Dunheved is first known to have returned to Parliament in 1295, and the Marian charter stated that Members were to be elected by the mayor and commonalty at the charges and costs of the borough. In practice the freemen probably carried out the election, although the governing body may have exercised considerable influence. Elections were held in the guildhall and only once during the period were those at Dunheved and Newport iuxta Launceston held on the same day, in September 1545, and then nine months after the shire election in the castle. Five Latin indentures of election survive; the one for October 1554 is headed ‘Launceston alias Dunheved’, but the others have only ‘Dunheved’. The contracting parties are the sheriff of Cornwall and the (named) mayor and burgesses or mayor and communitas (community or commonalty).7
None of the 13 Members known to have been returned during the period was a townsman, but John Ley alias Kempthorn the elder was a former servant of Launceston priory, a minor crown official and a duchy administrator, and his son and namesake was retained as counsel by the corporation. Between them three members of the Ley family sat for Dunheved on six occasions and in the mid 1550s almost monopolized the representation of the borough. Three others, Nicholas Carminowe, William Cavell and Richard Grenville, were also Cornishmen and John Haydon a Devonian, the remainder coming from further afield. William Bendlowes, William Cordell, John Haydon and John Ley alias Kempthorn the younger were lawyers from Lincoln’s Inn, which had a lien on duchy seats. The Edgecombes owned a little property in the area but whatever influence they wielded seems to have been an extension of the Grenvilles’, a branch of whom lived outside the town. Although only one of the Grenvilles sat during the period, at least four of their connexions, friends and associates were returned for the borough, and of these Sir Edward Ryngeley almost certainly owed his election to the family. John Rastell’s return in 1529 was presumably the work of his brother-in-law Sir Thomas More, with perhaps John Amadas in the duchy as intermediary. Robert Taverner perhaps owed something to his elder brother as clerk of the signet but if by 1545 he was already in the employment of the duchy he would not have needed such help. Both Grenville and Monson also sat for the adjoining borough of Newport. Arthur Welche has not been identified.
Author: J. J. Goring
- 1. Hatfield 207.
- 2. Ibid.
- 3. Half of the surname of the first Member and the christian name of the second have been lost through damage to the indenture, C219/20/28.
- 4. Ibid.
- 5. J. Hatcher, Rural Econ. and Soc. in the Duchy of Cornw. 1300-1500, p. 96; The King’s Works, ii. 693-4; T. L. Jones, Launceston Castle, Cornw. 3; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 325-6; C219/18C/15.
- 6. Duchy Cornw. RO, B96, rece