Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Main Article

‘Never entitled, by the utmost stretch of courtesy, to be called a town’, Mitchell alias Medishole or Michael, merited virtually no mention by Leland, who remarked only that the road to it was ‘a poor thoroughfare’. The inhabitants claimed on evidence from the court rolls that at the beginning of the 14th century the lord of the manor, John de Arundell, had asserted the right to hold a market and fair on the basis of a grant by Henry III to Walter de Ralegh and his wife, then owners of the manor; they added that one of John’s ancestors had persuaded Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to declare Mitchell a borough. By the reign of Henry VIII the place was no more than a village controlled by John’s descendants, the Arundells of Lanherne, with a portreeve, sometimes called a mayor, annually nominated by the family and endorsed by a jury of inhabitants empanelled by the family’s officers. The portreeve presided over the court leet which was responsible to the Arundells for the administration of the manor and borough. The freemen mentioned in later resolutions of the House of Commons were almost certainly the liberi homines or homagers of this court.3

Mitchell was presumably enfranchised by Edward VI in 1547 at the petition of the Arundells. If this promotion was initiated by Sir John Arundell soon after obtaining his patrimony, its success should perhaps be credited to his brother Sir Thomas Arundell, who stood well with the regime. Twelve men sat for the borough in the seven Parliaments between 1547 and 1558 and indentures survive for all but two of the Parliaments. Four are in English and one in Latin, and the form varies. The earliest, that for February 1553, omits any mention of the sheriff and runs: I, John [?Cardenygh or Cardesygh], mayor of the borough and town of Mitchell ... with the consent and assent of the whole commonalty of the same ... hath elected and chosen our loving friends ... In witness whereof I the said mayor on the behalf of the said commonalty have set my hand and seal. Both Members’ names have been inserted in the same hand, but not that used in the remainder of the document. The first Marian indenture is in the more usual form, the contracting parties being the sheriff of Cornwall and the mayor and burgesses; the rest of the indenture is in the first person plural, representing the mayor and burgesses, and the name of the junior Member, Edward Chamberlain, has been inserted over an erasure. In November 1554 the borough authorities revert to the form of a plain statement, but in 1555 during Sir John Arundell’s shrievalty the contracting party with the sheriff is the deputy portreeve and burgesses. Nothing of significance can be read on the indenture for 1558.4

The first two Members both had links with Sir Thomas Arundell, Ralph Cholmley through Lincoln’s Inn and Hugh Cartwright through the court of augmentations; Cartwright was Archbishop Cranmer’s nephew, and it was doubtless Cranmer who promoted his return. The downfall of Sir Thomas Arundell as a partisan of the Duke of Somerset, and the restriction of his elder brother to the vicinity of London for the last year of Edward VI’s reign, left the borough exposed to outside pressure; and the household official Robert Beverley and Humphrey Moseley probably owed their Membership to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, high steward of the duchy of Cornwall. On Mary’s accession Sir John Arundell regained his standing in the county, and with the possible exception of Edward Chamberlain all eight Marian Members presumably had his support. Francis Goldsmith, surveyor of the melting house in the mint, and Thomas Gardiner, who was to become an exchequer official, were almost certainly sponsored by his relative William Paulet, Marquess of Winchester. John Arundell of Trerice was a kinsman, and John Thomas a Cornish lawyer connected with the Trerice family. The brothers Andrew and Clement Tusser had a cousin in duchy employment with property near Mitchell, but their acquaintance with Sir Edward Waldegrave, who sold his interest in the receiver-generalship of the duchy to John Cosworth shortly before their election in early 1554, perhaps counted for more since it was Cosworth as portreeve who returned them. The Devon merchant Paul Stowford had business links with John Beauchamp, who if already portreeve in November 1554 doubtless returned him.

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Ibid.
  • 3. J. Polsue, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. i. 342; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 181; C. G. Henderson, Essays in Cornish Hist. 54; M. Beresford, New Towns in the Middle Ages, 173, 257, 400, 408; J. Hatcher, Rural Econ. and Soc. in the Duchy of Cornw. 1300-1500, p. 39; CJ, ii. 10; viii. 92; x. 306-7.
  • 4. C219/20/33, 21/31, 23/27, 24/22, 25/17.