East Looe


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


23 Apr. 1572THOMAS STONE
28 Sept. 1601JOHN HANNAM

Main Article

By the opening of this period East Looe was part of the duchy of Cornwall. After a lapse of time it resumed sending Members to Parliament in 1571, probably through the influence of the 2nd Earl of Bedford, lord warden of the stannaries and lord lieutenant of Cornwall. Its right to do so was challenged in the House 6 Apr. 1571. Some years later in an Exchequer suit concerning the market, the leading inhabitants claimed, wrongly, that East Looe ‘now is and at all time heretofore hath been charged with the setting forth and finding of burgesses to her Majesty’s Parliament’. Few of the witnesses who gave evidence had any knowledge of the port’s parliamentary history, but Francis Courtney, one of the defendants in the case, denied that East Looe was at any time to be charged lawfully to find any burgess or burgesses to any parliament ... But ... of late he hath heard (rather by usurpation than of any lawful right or authority as he thinketh) burgesses have been sent to divers Parliaments for the said town and he is induced so to think for that he never could learn, know or ever did see any letters patent concerning the incorporation of the said town or village.1 Uncertainty was dispelled by the grant of a charter of incorporation in 1587, one clause of which confirmed East Looe as a parliamentary borough. The charter also mentions a governing body of nine capital burgesses, from whom a mayor was to be chosen each year, and a recorder. The capital burgesses, who were elected for life, formed a self-perpetuating common council.2

Parliamentary elections were made in the name of the mayor and burgesses, though most of the Members’ names were probably added to ‘blankrsquo; returns by outside patrons. Bedford was presumably responsible—directly or at the request of friends—for the following nominations: John Wolley, the Latin secretary (1571); Edward Cordell, brother of Sir William Cordell, master of the rolls (also 1571); and Thomas West II (1572), who has been identified as the puritan son of the first Lord De La Warr and son-in-law of Sir Francis Knollys. Lord Burghley enjoyed similar influence in the 1580s. During that decade the MPs included Richard Spencer (1584), a young diplomat and member of the Althorp family, apparently in Burghley’s service; Abraham Hartwell (1586), secretary to Archbishop Whitgift; Anthony Everard (1589), son of an Essex country gentleman and possibly connected with Burghley through Sir Henry Maynard, and Sir Robert Jermyn (1589), a Suffolk gentleman with puritan views, who may have asked Burghley, or perhaps Walsingham, to find him a seat.

The leading local families, particularly the Mohuns of Hall, who served as recorders, and the Trelawnys of Poole in Menheniot, seem occasionally to have nominated at East Lobe. Thomas Stone (1572), a Cornishman living at St. Minver, and William Hampden (1593) of Buckinghamshire, were both distantly related to the Mohuns by marriage, though Hampden may have looked to a court patron for his seat. Ambrose Bellott (1597) was brother-in-law to Sir William Mohun. He also knew the Trelawnys, one of whom, Edward of Bake in Pelynt, near East Looe, was elected in 1586. Anthony Rous (1584) probably needed no patron: a local man, he served as vice-warden of the stannaries.

It is not clear who nominated some of the later Members. Gregory Donhault, for example, may have been a servant of Sir Thomas Egerton by 1593 (as he certainly was in 1597) and Egerton could have asked Burghley to have him returned there. Robert Gawdy (1597), from the Norfolk family, was related by marriage to the Bacons; while a Dorset lawyer, John Hannam (1601), had connexions at court through his grandfather, John Popham, the chief justice: either may possibly have had the backing of Sir Robert Cecil, who is known to have been offered some Cornish seats by Jonathan Trelawny.3 Cecil’s role as patron does not emerge as strongly here as in some neighbouring boroughs. Robert Yardley (1601) has not been identified; he was almost certainly not a local man.

Authors: R.C.G. / M.R.P.


  • 1. CJ, i. 83; E112/6/9, 42; E134, 28 Eliz. Hilary 8.
  • 2. A. L. Browne, Corporation Chrons. of W. Looe, 18-20; T. Bond, E. and W. Looe, 2-3.
  • 3. HMC Hatfield, xi. 405.