Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
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The borough of Grampound belonged with the adjacent manor of Tybesta to the duchy of Cornwall and in 1539 it paid a fee-farm of £12 to the duchy. Its earliest known charter had been granted in the first half of the 14th century by John of Eltham, Earl of Cornwall, and royal confirmation had recognized it as a free borough with a guild merchant and freedom from toll throughout the county; it had two fairs and a market. There was a hundred court in the town, and the burgesses held lands and mills by charter of the duchy. Later confirmations of its privileges included two in 1515 and 1547. Few details survive of municipal government during the early 16th century; in the financial year 1552-3 the term reeve for the chief official was superseded by that of mayor, but this change of title probably did not affect the administration of the borough, which by the 1530s was in decline.3

Grampound was almost certainly enfranchised by Edward VI in 1547 at the petition of Sir John Russell, Baron Russell, later 1st Earl of Bedford, as high steward of the duchy. The names of its earliest Members, Henry Knollys and Peter Sainthill, are known from the list for the last session of the Parliament of 1547, but there is no reason to doubt that the pair had been returned on the eve of the Parliament’s assembly since Sainthill was a ‘friend’ of Admiral Seymour.

Five election indentures survive, three of them in English. They give the sheriff of Cornwall as first party, with the mayor (named) alone, the mayor and burgesses or mayor and community of the borough as the second. The term communitas (community or commonalty) is more likely to refer to the freemen than to all the inhabitants. Two indentures almost certainly provide evidence of outside patronage. In October 1554 Robert Vaughan’s name has been inserted in a ‘blank’, probably in the original hand, while George Tadlowe’s appears in a different hand over an illegible erasure. The last indenture for the period, drawn up only four days before the opening of Parliament in January 1558, is badly torn and faded, but the names of Thomas Herle and Robert Richers appear to be an addition in a hand not that of the document.4

Of the 13 Members for the period only Richard Chapell sat for Grampound twice and came from its locality. Herle had ties with the area and John Harris was a Cornishman in duchy employment, while Sainthill from Devon probably entered the duchy service after sitting in Parliament for the borough. Several were lawyers: Chapell and Richers were from Lincoln’s Inn, which provided staff and advisers for the duchy, and Herle, Thomas Nicolls and Sainthill as Middle Templars had links with the 1st and 2nd Earls of Bedford through their colleague Humphrey Cavell. Two were minor household officers: Henry Knollys was the younger brother of the better known Sir Francis, also returned in 1547 for a newly enfranchised Cornish constituency, and William Smethwick, elected for Grampound in 1553, had joined the brothers on that occasion as one of the Members for Penryn. The patronage of the 1st Earl of Bedford was almost certainly paramount until his death. He seems also to have been the intermediary for the return of (Sir) Thomas Smith I and Egion Wilson in response to intervention on their behalf from Chancellor Gardiner and the Duke of Northumberland. The same agency was probably at work when the Privy Councillor Sir Thomas Cornwallis replaced Thomas Prideaux in 1554 following Prideaux’s return also at Bodmin and Newport iuxta Launceston. The Londoner George Tadlowe had a connexion with Sir John Arundell of Lanherne, who as sheriff returned him to Parliament. An association with Tadlowe as an author could throw light on Vaughan’s return but until his identity has been established this remains a matter for speculation.

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. J. Hatcher, Rural Econ. and Soc. in the Duchy of Cornw. 1300-1500, pp. 5, 26, 246; B. P. Wolffe, The R. Demesne in Eng. Hist., 240; M. Beresford, New Towns in the Middle Ages , 404-5; Duchy Cornw. RO, B96, receiver-gen.’s accts. 220; information from G. Haslam.
  • 4. Hatfield 207; C219/20/26, 21/28, 23/29, 24/23, 25/24.