TREFFRY, Thomas I (c.1490-1564), of Place, nr. Fowey and 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



Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. c.1490, 1st s. of Thomas Treffry of Place by Janet, da. and h. of William Dawe of Plymouth, Devon. m. settlement 29 Sept. 1505, Elizabeth, da. of John Killigrew of Penryn, Cornw., at least 1s. 2da. suc. fa. by 1510.1

Offices Held

Subsidy collector, Cornw. 1523-4; gent. usher, the chamber by 1533; collector of customs, Fowey and Plymouth 28 June 1533-41; j.p. Cornw. 1533-53, 1558/59; reeve, Lostwithiel, Cornw. 1538-9; capt. St. Mawes castle 1541-53; commr. relief, Cornw. 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553.2


Thomas Treffry, who was descended from a family of Fowey merchants which had grown rich in the later middle ages, liked to think of himself as a man who had grown poor in the service of the crown. As early as 1536 he informed Cromwell that for 26 years he had maintained the defence of Fowey largely at his own expense. In 1540 he complained that his office in the customs had not only involved him in tiresome travelling (during which he had been hurt by a horse) but also cost him 100 marks, and he expressed a wish to exchange it for the captaincy of the royal fort then being built on the east side of Falmouth haven: his request was granted but the drain on his resources continued, with St. Mawes castle being finished only at considerable cost to himself. His work in local government added to his outgoings and in the 1540s the war with France squeezed him dry: besides paying for a contingent of soldiers in the campaign of 1544, he lent money to equip the Falcon Lisle for the navy, a loan which he was to claim some years later had yet to be repaid, and on top of this he had to raise money to ransom his son who fell into enemy hands.3

A still more crushing blow fell on 21 Sept. 1553, when Treffry was removed from his captaincy, supposedly as a punishment for attending a ‘general assize’ in Cornwall at which Jane Grey was proclaimed Queen. Fearing both the pecuniary and political consequences of his dismissal he besought Queen Mary to allow him ‘to spend the residue of his time in the said room and office and not to be forced now in his old days to change his habitation’, a plea which she understandably ignored: his Protestantism apart, it would have been imprudent to leave such a stronghold to the command of ‘a man drawn in years, as 60 or above’. His place was taken by the younger and, from the Queen’s point of view, more reliable Thomas Arundell, whom Treffry later sued for trespass. He also lost his place on the county bench.4

Apart from the time that he spent at St. Mawes, Treffry seems to have passed most of his life in his native town. It was as the principal inhabitant of Fowey, newly emancipated from tutelage to the prior of Tywardreath, that in 1536 he approached Cronwell for its incorporation as a borough; the attempt was unsuccessful and it was not until 1571 that Fowey first returned Members to Parliament, and 13 years later still that Treffry’s grandson William Treffry went to Westminster as one of them. In 1529 he himself had had to look elsewhere. The nearest parliamentary borough was Lostwithiel, but although he once served as reeve there Treffry is not known to have been one of its Members. In 1529 he must have used his kinship with the Luccombe family of Bodmin to secure a seat: his fellow-Member Gilbert Flamank was also related to the Luccombes as well as being the heir apparent of a leading townsman, but Treffry took the senior place, perhaps because one of his forbears had sat for the borough in the 15th century. He and Flamank probably represented Bodmin again in the Parliament of June 1536, in compliance with the King’s request that the previous Members should be re-elected. Treffry may have sat for the town in the two following Parliaments, those of 1539 and 1542, for which the names do not survive, but in 1545 one Thomas Treffry ‘junior’, presumably a kinsman although not a son, was elected.5

It could have been either the older or the younger Thomas Treffry who was returned as knight of the shire to Mary’s third Parliament. Both could claim kinship with the sheriff, Sir John Arundell of Trerice. If it was the older one his current disfavour with authority would have given his election the flavour of a challenge to the government. Unlike his fellow-knight Henry Chiverton, the Member concerned was not among those found absent without leave when the House was called early in 1555. During the closing years of Mary’s reign the elder Treffry was entrusted with matters relating to the coastal defences of Cornwall and the Scilly Isles, but it was not until the accession of Elizabeth that he was restored to the bench. He died on 24 or 31 Jan. 1564 and was buried in Fowey church: a monument was erected to his memory in the church of St. Kew. At his death his lands in Cornwall passed to his son John, who had married a daughter of Reginald Mohun.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. Aged ‘57 or thereabouts’ in 1547 and ‘60 or above’ in 1553. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, ii. 251-3; Req. 2/25/190; C1/451/20-22, 582/36; St.Ch.2/16/23; 3/3/14.
  • 2. E179/87/134, m. 1, 282, m. 4; LP Hen. VIII, vi, x, xv; CPR, 1550-3, p. 393; 1553, p. 351; Req. 2/25/190; Duchy Cornw. RO, 220.
  • 3. A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 76, 228, 251-2; Leland, Itin. ed. Smith, i. 203; LP Hen. VIII, xi, xv, xviii, xix, xxi; Req. 2/25/190; Bodmin Reg. ed. Wallis, 295; CPR, 1550-3, pp. 141, 423; APC, v. 213; vi. 116-17; C3/36/45.
  • 4. Req. 2/25/190; CPR, 1555-7, p. 430.
  • 5. LP Hen. VIII, xi.
  • 6. APC, vi. 116-17; Maclean, ii. 106, 148, 252-3.