Bossiney

Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Elections

DateCandidate
1558/9ROBERT WARNER 1
 FRANCIS WALSINGHAM 2
20 Dec. 1562HUGH OWEN
 STEPHEN BRADDON
1571ROBERT WROTH I
 GEORGE BASSETT
27 Apr. 1572FRANCIS KINWELMERSH
 ROBERT DOYLEY
1581FRANCIS BACON 3 and ROBERT REDGE4 vice Kinwelmersh and Doyley, deceased
28 Oct. 1584(SIR) FRANCIS DRAKE
 JOHN LEVESON
1586WILLIAM POLE II
 JOHN PERYAM
4 Oct. 1588HENRY SAVILE II
28 Oct. 1588JOHN HENDER
1593THOMAS HARRIS I
 JOHN HENDER
20 Sept. 1597THOMAS HARRIS I
3 Oct. 1597JOHN AGMONDESHAM II
 PERCIVAL HART
10 Oct. 1601JEROME HORSEY
 WILLIAM HAKEWILL

Main Article

The manor of Tintagel, which belonged to the duchy of Cornwall, received a charter and two confirmations of its liberties during the medieval period. By 1547, however, when it probably first sent Members to Parliament, the names of two hamlets within its boundaries, Bossiney and Trevena, were used to describe the parliamentary borough. The earliest election return was made out by the burgesses of Trevena, and later returns use sometimes ‘Bossiney’, sometimes ‘Trevena’, and sometimes ‘Bossineyalias Trevena’. The electorate, usually described in the returns as the mayor and burgesses, was very small: nine persons signed the indenture in 1584 and about half a dozen in 1601. In 1588 and 1597 each Member was accorded a separate return. Many of the names were put on blank indentures.5

The Bossiney patronage during Elizabeth’s reign can be divided into two periods, the first of which ended with the death of the 2nd Earl of Bedford in 1585. Bedford, who was warden of the stannaries and lord lieutenant of Devon and Cornwall, had complete control of the borough, and used it either to return his friends or, in conjunction with government colleagues, to strengthen the voice of radical protestantism in Parliament. For the first, crucial Parliament of the reign the Members chosen were Robert Warner, a courtier whose brother was lieutenant of the Tower, and the future secretary Francis Walsingham who, on his return from Europe, was entering the Commons for the first time. Walsingham was clearly returned by arrangement between Bedford and William Cecil.6

Hugh Owen (1563), a lawyer, came from a Merioneth family and may have met Bedford in the course of his studies or have been introduced to him by Sir Robert Dudley, who numbered the Owens among his north Wales allies. His colleague Stephen Braddon lived near Bossiney, but probably owed his return to the Chichester family who were themselves among Bedford’s closest friends in Devon. Similarly, George Bassett (1571) was uncle of Arthur Bassett, another of Bedford’s close Devon friends. Robert Wroth had been a Marian exile with his father and must have known Bedford quite well. He had sat previously at St. Albans where Sir Nicholas Bacon, the lord keeper, was influential, and it was Bacon’s son-in-law Robert Doyley, who took the junior seat at Bossiney in 1572. Francis Kinwelmersh presumably became known to Bedford while he was at Gray’s Inn, for their names are in juxtaposition in the admission register, Bedford’s admission being honorary. George Gascoigne, Kinwelmersh’s fellow poet and close friend there, dedicated one of his works to Bedford. The deaths of Kinwelmersh and Doyley necessitated a double by-election for the 1581 session. The new Members were Francis Bacon, Bedford’s godson and Doyley’s brother-in-law, for whom this was the beginning, at the age of 19, of a long parliamentary career, and another lawyer, Robert Redge, who may have known Bedford through his marriage into the Vivian family. Bossiney added to its list of distinguished Members with the return of (Sir) Francis Drake (1584), whose family were among Bedford’s west country neighbours—there may have been a closer connexion between the two families. John Leveson (1584) may also have become acquainted with Bedford during his training at Gray’s Inn, which he entered with Francis and Anthony Bacon; at about the date of his election he married the daughter of one of Bedford’s close friends, Sir Walter Mildmay.

After Bedford’s death his patronage at Bossiney was inherited by (Sir) William Peryam, the judge, whose family had been connected with the Russells since the 1540s, but he had to share it with John Hender of Botreaux castle, the deputy constable of Tintagel castle. Hender claimed in 1609 that his family had ‘had for these 20 years past and more the nomination of burgesses for that place’7 and certainly as early as 1572 the return had been endorsed by one Humphrey Hender. John Hender served as mayor of Bossiney and twice returned himself, once with Thomas Harris I and once with Henry Savile II, both, like Hender, Middle Templars. Here then, is an early example of a practice that was to become common in the eighteenth century—a local man taking over the patronage from a magnate who had nominated from the centre.8

William Peryam, who shared Bedford’s radical beliefs—‘my lord Puritan Peryam’, Ralegh called him—found a seat for his brother John in 1586, together with his son-in-law William Pole, the antiquary. Peryam’s cousin Jerome Horsey and his nephew William Hakewill were elected in 1601. John Agmondesham (1597) was a bencher of the Middle Temple and may have owed his seat