CARNSEW, William (by 1497-1570), of Bokelly in St. Kew, Cornw.

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



Family and Education

b. by 1497, o.s. of William Carnsew of Bokelly by 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Richard Tregose of Sithney, Cornw. m. Jane, da. and coh. of Edmund Stradling of St. Donats, Glam., 5s. inc. John and William 3da. suc. fa. 20 June 1528.2

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. 1532-d.; reeve, Lostwithiel 1536-7; commr. relief, Cornw. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553.3


William Carnsew came of a Cornish family of gentle standing whose home was described by Leland as ‘a pretty house with fair ground and pretty wood about it’. Nothing has been discovered about Carnsew’s early career, but four years after his father’s death he began nearly 40 years’ service on the Cornish bench. In 1543 he presented himself at the musters with two archers and two billmen, and in the following year he went on the French campaign. He was apparently a close friend of William Cavell and John Reskymer, with whom he was alleged to have collaborated in an attack on John Skewys’s manor of Polrode. At the election of 1547 Reskymer was chosen as knight of the shire and Carnsew presumably enjoyed his support in his own return for the newly enfranchised borough of Bossiney, although his proximity to the town (his home was only eight miles away) and his connexion with the duchy of Cornwall, where his kinsman Sir Thomas Arundell was receiver-general, were also in his favour. The expense of attending so prolonged a Parliament may have deterred Carnsew from seeking re-election but two of his sons were to sit in the House during his lifetime.4

Carnsew’s official career was not without incident. In 1557 he, John Trelawny, John Tredeneck and Thomas Treffry I were ordered to take charge of the mines discovered by the German prospector Burchart Cranyce. To meet the initial costs of opening these mines the duchy of Cornwall advanced them £600. The hoped-for copper and silver were not discovered, although a considerable quantity of lead was produced. By agreement this lead was delivered to Treffry, at whose death in 1563 it passed into the hands of his son John. John Treffry apparently refused to deliver it to Carnsew and Tredeneck, who had taken over ‘the whole doings and government of the said mines’ and who were now at a loss to repay the loan from the duchy. An action for recovery of the lead was begun in Chancery, but its outcome is not known. Several years later Carnsew subscribed to the Act of Uniformity. The last service which he was called upon to perform was to lend money to Elizabeth, but by the time the warrant for the loan reached Bokelly he was dead, having been buried four days previously on 11 Apr. 1570 in the church at St. Kew, where a monument was erected to his memory. At his death most of Carnsew’s property passed to his eldest son William, the diarist, but the manor of Trecarne in Advent went to his younger son.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Hatfield 207.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from age at fa.’s i.p.m., C142/50/64. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 76; J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, ii. 170-3.
  • 3. LP Hen. VIII, v.; Duchy Cornw. RO, 120, m. 9v; CPR, 1553, p. 351.
  • 4. Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 178; Req.2/3/377; SP1/184, f. 101v.
  • 5. APC, vi. 118; C3/36/45; Duchy Cornw. RO, 231, m. 8; SP12/60, ff. 83v-84; CSP Dom., 1547-80, p. 370; Maclean, ii. 106, 170-3.