Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen and inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

about 60


14 Apr. 1660THOMAS VIVIAN32
  Double return. KILLIGREW and TRELAWNY seated, 5 May 1660 
  Election declared void, 12 June 1660 
30 June 1660THOMAS VIVIAN45
  Double return of Nicoll and Cotton. COTTON declared elected, 3 Aug. 1660 
  Double return. COVENTRY and ROSCARROCK seated, 16 May 1661 
27 Oct. 1665WILLIAM GODOLPHIN vice Roscarrock, deceased 
20 Feb. 1679SIR JAMES SMYTH 
 Ambrose Manaton 
 John Nicholls 
1 Apr. 1679 HON. ROBERT RUSSELL vice Harbord, chose to sit for Thetford 
11 Sept. 1685SIR CHARLES SCARBURGH vice Langford, deceased 

Main Article

Until the close of the period Camelford was an open borough, usually returning local candidates, though William Harbord used the duchy interest against the Court in the exclusion elections to find a seat for his kinsman, Robert Russell. At the general election of 1660 all the candidates were Cornish by birth, and four indentures were returned. The mayor signed the returns of Peter Killigrew, whose father was closely associated with George Monck, and Samuel Trelawny, the son of a royalist Plymouth merchant. Far more signatures adorned the returns of the London merchant Thomas Vivian and Henry Nicoll of the Inner Temple, whose families were more closely associated with the immediate neighbourhood. Killigrew and Trelawny were seated on the merits of the return, but on 12 June the election was declared void on the grounds that the poll had not been duly taken. Trelawny had already been declared elected for Plymouth, but Vivian and Nicoll stood again. With the Restoration an accomplished fact, they were opposed by a neighbouring royalist landowner, William Cotton of Botreaux Castle. Again all three were returned in separate indentures. Vivian, with 45 votes, seems to have been allowed to take his seat, but the case of Cotton and Nicoll was treated as a double return. The elections committee reported:

The freemen and inhabitants have the right of election. Mr Nicoll had a greater number of the votes of freemen than Mr Cotton; but it was objected on Mr Cotton’s part that divers of the voices given to Mr Nicoll were such as paid not scot and lot, and therefore had not right to vote; and, upon hearing of testimony given in that behalf, were of opinion that Mr Cotton had a greater number of votes of such as paid scot and lot than Mr Nicoll ... and that Mr Cotton was duly elected.

The House agreed, but only by a narrow majority.1

The 1661 election produced three fresh contenders in the persons of Thomas Coventry, who had married into the Cornish family of Edgcumbe, Charles Roscarrock, who had acquired the nearby estate of Trevenna by his marriage into the Mohun family, and Bernard Branville, the lord lieutenant’s brother. All were Royalists. Three returns were made, but only the indentures of Coventry and Roscarrock carried the signature of the mayor, and they were seated on the merits of the return. On 11 July Job Charlton told the House that the mayor, who had been ordered to bring in his papers, had replied that he would ‘take his time’. He was immediately ordered into the custody of the serjeant-at-arms for his contempt. A final decision about the election was not made until 26 Feb. 1662 when the election committee reported their opinion that ‘in regard of the uncertainty’ of Granville’s petition the case should be dismissed. He had already taken his seat as Member for Saltash. On Roscarrock’s death in 1665 his place was taken by William Godolphin, a younger son of the St. Mabyn branch of the family, who was under-secretary to Lord Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet). In 1669 Charles II granted Camelford a new charter which appointed a corporation of nine aldermen, one of whom was to be chosen mayor annually by the remainder. No mention was made of the freemen, and the right of election should have been unaffected, although it was sometimes usurped by the corporation.2

Neither of the sitting Members contested the exclusion elections. Godolphin had become a Roman Catholic and was permanently resident in 1679 Spain, while Coventry, as heir presumptive to the peerage, was now more interested in improving his interest in the west midlands. One seat was held in all three Parliaments by Sir James Smyth, a court supporter who had acquired a local estate by marrying another of the Mohun heiresses, and probably enjoyed the Granville interest. At the first election of 1679 Harbord, the auditor of the duchy, was returned as his colleague. Although they were elected with the ‘unanimous consent and assent of the burgesses’, it appears that Smyth’s step-son John Nicholls of Trewane and Ambrose Manaton also stood, since their names appear on Shaftesbury’s list. However, Manaton was successful at Newport, and no petition was lodged. When Harbord chose to sit for Thetford, he was replaced by Russell on the country interest. Before the next election Smyth strengthened his interest by conveying a tenement in trust to Manaton and Nicholls for the erection of a school. He and Russell were re-elected to the second and third Exclusion Parliaments.3

Camelford was among the Cornish boroughs that surrendered their charters to Granville’s brother, Lord Bath, to avert quo warranto proceedings. A new charter issued shortly before the general election of 1685 nominated Bath as recorder, reserving to the crown the usual power to remove corporation officials by order-in-council. Bath’s candidate for James II’s Parliament was presumably Nicholas Courtney, the attorney-general of the duchy, and the senior Member was a local Tory landowner, Humphrey Langford. He died in June, and three months later Camelford elected the King’s physician, Sir Charles Scarburgh, who had no Cornish connexions. In June 1688 the royal electoral agents reported that the corporation of Camelford had, like Launceston, undertaken to elect any Protestant Cornish candidates approved by Bath, who accordingly proposed Courtney and Manaton, both assistants under the new charter, while Scarburgh was recommended for Grampound. However, a rival list, in which the hand of Edward Nosworthy II can doubtless be detected, substituted Nicholls for Manaton and assigned the management of the borough to Lord Chancellor Jeffreys. Manaton was promptly removed from the corporation, together with the mayor, two aldermen, and two other assistants, and Courtney followed him in September. On the restoration of the charter Manaton took control, and he was returned to the Convention with his brother Henry, who had acquired considerable property in the town.4

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, ii. 329, 334; CJ, viii. 12, 62, 110.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 250, 297, 373; Maclean, ii. 329.
  • 3. Maclean, ii. 324.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1684-5, pp. 246, 260; 1685, p. 109; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 215, 216, 379; PC2/72/694, 735.