Plympton Erle


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

Number of voters:

about 40


4 Oct. 1666SIR EDMUND FORTESCUE, Bt. vice Hele, deceased 
 Sir Nicholas Slanning, Bt. 
10 May 1667SIR NICHOLAS SLANNING, Bt. vice Fortescue, deceased 
5 Mar. 1677GEORGE TREBY vice Strode, deceased19
 Richard Strode16
24 Feb. 1679GEORGE TREBY 
 Richard Strode 
22 Aug. 1679GEORGE TREBY 
21 Feb. 1681(SIR) GEORGE TREBY 
 Sir George Treby 
11 Jan. 1689(SIR) GEORGE TREBY 
 Richard Strode 

Main Article

Plympton, ‘a stannary town and parcel of the duchy of Cornwall’, was exposed to government influence, but except for Sir Christopher Wren in 1685 all the Members in this period were Devon residents. There may have been a contest in 1660, for Lord Wharton noted William Strode, a passive Royalist, and Christopher Martyn, an obscure Rumper, as returned on only one indenture. But if there was a double return, nothing is known of the rival candidates. Strode was re-elected in 1661 with Thomas Hele, son of a prominent Royalist. On Hele’s death the seat was contested by Sir Edmund Fortescue and Sir Nicholas Slanning. The latter was the son-in-law of Sir George Carteret, who had acquired the lease of the duchy manor of Plympton St. Mary, and as court candidate he enjoyed the active support of the Earl of Bath, warden of the stannaries. Two indentures were attached to the writ when it was returned; but the elections committee reported that Slanning’s indenture was not original but rather ‘a pretended counterpart’ and that it contained ‘an absurd and unusual clause’. Therefore, on 27 Oct. 1666 the House ruled that the ‘return was not double’ and that Sir Edmund Fortescue should sit until the merits of the election had been determined. For their ‘misdemeanours and abuses in making the returns’ the mayor, sheriff and under-sheriff were sent for in the custody of the serjeant-at-arms and the House ordered a bill to be brought in to prevent any repetition of their misconduct. The three were discharged only when Slanning withdrew his petition on 29 Nov., perhaps sensing another by-election, and Fortescue was declared duly elected.1

Fortescue did not live out the year, and the House ordered a new writ on 10 Jan. 1667. Less than a month later, however, another writ was ordered ‘in the room of Sir Richard Strode, deceased’. Despite this curious entry, however, it is virtually certain that the seat remained vacant between the death of Fortescue and the election of Slanning in May. Although Joseph Williamson was urged ‘to make friends for that corporation’ and the rumour was spread that the town had offered the seat to Sir William Courtenay, 1st Bt., no threat to Slanning’s chances materialized.

With the death of Strode in 1677 an electoral battle developed between Strode’s son, a court supporter, and George Treby, a local man who had made good as a lawyer, a battle which continued for the remainder of the century. Strode petitioned against Treby’s return, on 19 Mar. asserting that ‘the mayor, freemen burgesses, inhabitants and freeholders’ had the undoubted right of election, and that he had the votes of ‘37 burgesses, freemen and inhabitants’ while Treby had only ‘the mayor and 19 voices more’. Recognizing that the House might reject the freeholders’ right of election and thereby of his votes, he argued that ‘even if Treby’s contention was right, Strode had a majority, if the votes procured for Treby by foul means were disallowed’. The petition was referred to the elections committee on three separate occasions but no action was taken. It is not known whether Slanning stood for Plympton again, but in February 1679 Treby and an obscure country squire, Richard Hillersdon, defeated Strode. In August Treby brought in a more prominent exclusionist, John Pollexfen, a wealthy London merchant. The senior branch of the Pollexfen family lived at Kitley, within five miles of the borough, and Pollexfen wrote to Treby before the election that ‘opposition to you at Plympton does not seem very probable. I have written to cousin Hum. to keep possession of the meaner sort of electors by some expenditure in good ale.’ The sitting Members were re-elected in 1681.2

Plympton surrendered its charter on 10 Dec. 1684. The replacement, reserving to the crown the power to displace officers, was received on 11 Mar. 1685 in time for the general election to James II’s Parliament. Two Tories, Strode and Sir Christo pher Wren, nominated mayor and freeman respectively under the new charter, were returned, and Treby’s petition of 3 June 1685 was ignored. Sunderland ordered Wren to stand for re-election in 1688, but at the election of 1689, held ‘according to the ancient usage’, Strode lost to Pollexfen and Treby, with 39 freemen signing their return.3

Author: J. S. Crossette


  • 1. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 215; 1661-2, p. 133; 1666-7, pp. 379, 438, 440; Milward, 29, 32.
  • 2. HMC Portland, iv. 270; CSP Dom. 1677-8, p. 36; HMC 13th Rep. VI, 11, 12, 19; SP29/392/55.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1684-5, 246, 280; 1685, pp. 86-87; 1687-9, p. 276.