Lostwithiel

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

No names known for 1510-23

Elections

DateCandidate
1529JOHN TREDENECK
 RICHARD BRYAN alias CROKER
 (aft. May 1532 not known)
1536(not known)
1539(not known)
1542(not known)
1545ANTHONY BROWNE II
 WALTER MILDMAY
1547RICHARD HUDSON 1
 JOHN SOUTHCOTE I 2
1553 (Mar.)RICHARD WESTON
 JASPER FISHER
1553 (Oct.)CHRISTOPHER DAUNTESEY
 JOHN COURTENAY
1554 (Apr.)GEORGE SOUTHCOTE
 BRICE ROOKWOOD
1554 (Nov.)JOHN COSWORTH
 JOHN SOUTHCOTE I
1555JOHN SOUTHCOTE I
 BRICE ROOKWOOD
1558JOHN HERING
 JOHN COSWORTH

Main Article

Lostwithiel was the administrative headquarters of the duchy of Cornwall, to which the town belonged. In 1268 Richard, Earl of Cornwall, granted a charter by which the vill of Lostwithiel and the neighbouring village of Penkneth were formed into a borough, and Richard’s son Edmund built there the ‘duchy palace’ which included a shire hall to house the county court, the exchequer of the earldom, the coinage hall and the gaol of the stannary of Cornwall. Throughout the later middle ages Lostwithiel flourished as the shire town and the centre for tin coinage, but by the early 16th century its prosperity had been eroded by the silting up of the estuary of the river Fowey and it was no longer suitable for the shipping of tin from the works on Bodmin moor. In 1540 it was included in the Act for the re-edification of towns westward (32 Hen. VIII, c.19). Economic decline was to some extent masked by the judicial and administrative work which continued to be done there despite the bids made by Bodmin, Grampound and Launceston to acquire it, and throughout the period the county court met there almost invariably, with occasional transfers elsewhere, as in 1545 to Launceston castle for the election of the knights of the shire.3

Despite the borough’s close connexion with the earldom and later with the duchy of Cornwall the townsmen had early achieved virtual self-government. The charter of 1268 provided for a guild merchant, and successive crown grants from Edward II onwards confirmed and increased their privileges; in 1510 Henry VIII confirmed the most recent charter, that of 1488. The burgesses elected their own mayor or reeve, perhaps by the earlier system of empanelling a jury of 12. Little else is known of the municipal government at this time or how nearly it approximated to that laid down in the two charters of incorporation granted in 1608 and 1685, which provided for a mayor and a fixed number of aldermen. The chief official in the 16th century was usually styled mayor, but in 1539 the fee-farm of £12 was paid to the duchy by an officer called a reeve. No borough records survive for the period.4

Lostwithiel had returned Members since the early 14th century. The six surviving indentures between 1510 and 1558 throw little light on the nature of the franchise, but the electors were probably the freemen. The indentures, all in Latin, are between the sheriff of Cornwall and the mayor or mayor and community of the borough or the mayor and burgesses, the Members often being described as ‘burgesses for the community and borough’. A town owned by the duchy was naturally susceptible to pressure, and the indentures handed over by the sheriff to duchy officers for delivery to Chancery bear signs of interference, presumably by the duchy. In 1545 Anthony Browne’s name has been added, probably in a different hand, over an erasure; the last three letters of the erased surname are perhaps ‘ote’ [?Southcote]. In September 1553 Christopher Dauntesey’s name has been substituted for one which is now illegible, and in 1555 the names of both Members have been inserted in the same hand as each other.5

The names of the Members are lost for seven Parliaments during the period, and in the other nine 14 men sat. Only Richard Bryan alias Croker was a townsman, though John Courtenay was the son of a local gentleman who may have owned property there. Of the two other Cornishmen returned, John Tredeneck, whose home lay 14 miles away, was brother-in-law to Henry Pyne, another Member of the Parliament of 1529 and formerly a ward of an agent of the then high steward of the duchy; and John Cosworth, who sat three times (if 1559 is included) was receiver-general of the duchy. Walter Mildmay from Essex had not yet been appointed to the duchy when returned in 1545, but his brother Thomas Mildmay was already one of its officers. The election of three others fron Essex, Anthony Browne, John Hering and Richard Weston, may have been promoted by the Mildmay brothers, but in Hering’s case an acquaintance with Sir Edward Waldegrave, briefly receiver-general with Cosworth in 1553, was probably more important. Hering also had a link with the duchy as a lawyer with chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, as presumably did Bryan alias Croker and Brice Rookwood from Norfolk: a commissioner for gaol delivery on the western circuit, Rookwood can have been no stranger to Cornwall. Browne and Weston were Middle Templars and a connexion there with the Southcotes from Devon almost certainly smoothed their return: John Southcote, whose counsel was retained by the town, sat for it on three occasions, obtained his son George’s return once and could himself have