Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the burgesses and freeholders or commonalty

Number of voters:

22 in 1626


10 Mar. 1604JOHN GOOD
17 Feb. 1624EDWARD CARR
by 17 Apr. 1626?SIR JAMES PERROT vice Monck, disabled

Main Article

Camelford grew up where the main road traversing north Cornwall crosses the River Camel. Established as a borough by Richard, earl of Cornwall in 1259, in the following century it was absorbed into the duchy of Cornwall, along with the manor of Helston in Trigg to which it had formerly belonged. Despite its strategic location and privileges, Camelford failed to prosper. At the end of the sixteenth century Richard Carew† described it as ‘a market and fair (but not fair) town’, which ‘steppeth little before the meanest sort of boroughs for store of inhabitants, or the inhabitants’ store’. Not as yet incorporated, the early seventeenth-century borough was apparently run as the personal fiefdom of the leading residents, the Cock family, who had monopolized the mayoralty since at least the 1550s. It is not known whether they were behind a petition presented to the Commons in 1610 concerned with wages in the town.2

Camelford returned Members to Parliament from 1547. The nature of the franchise is unclear, but seems to have embraced resident freemen who paid scot and lot.3 Early Stuart electoral indentures normally refer simply to the ‘burgesses’ or ‘free burgesses’, though the terms ‘freeholders’ and ‘commonalty’ were also used in 1604. There were at least 43 voters in total during this period. Notwithstanding the Cocks’ local dominance, there was considerable competition among the Cornish gentry for control of the borough’s seats, and their manipulation of elections is reflected in the indentures. As was customary in Cornwall at this time, separate returns were made for each Member, and in 1604, 1624 and 1626 the two indentures were completed several days apart. Ordinarily a majority of voters signed both documents, but in 1626 only the mayor’s name was recorded twice, and appears to have been forged on one indenture. In 1625, 1626 and 1628, Members’ names were apparently inserted in pre-prepared ‘blank’ returns, which had most likely been presented to the relevant patrons by the borough.4

Even by Cornish standards, Camelford’s patronage pattern during this period is unusually complex, with a large number of evenly matched parties competing for the borough’s favours. The Carnsew family, only middle-ranking county gentry but the biggest landowners in the immediate locality, had made nominations since the 1590s, and probably presented both Members in 1604. Anthony Turpyn, who had also represented Camelford in the previous Parliament, may well have been an associate of their kinsmen the Moncks, while John Good was a family friend.5 The Carnsews proved unable to maintain their hold over the borough, however, and two new patrons emerged in 1614. One of these was William Cotton, a gentleman of similar standing, who had acquired lands close to Camelford through his marriage into the Hender family seven years earlier, and doubtless intervened in support of his uncle, George Cotton.6 The other patron was probably Sir Robert Killigrew*, a leading client of the royal favourite the earl of Somerset and the scion of a major Cornish family, whose father, Sir William I*, held two important duchy of Cornwall estates near Camelford, the parks of Helsbury and Lanteglos.7 Killigrew’s involvement could explain the election of Robert Naunton, a courtier with ties to the earl of Somerset and the Howard clan.

In the elections of 1620 and 1624, a second alliance of Court and gentry figures secured complete control over the borough. On each occasion one seat was claimed by Prince Charles’s Council, which exercised the duchy of Cornwall’s interest. These nominations were communicated by Richard Billing, the Duchy feodary, who lived at nearby St. Tudy, and held privileges of hunting and warren in Helston manor jointly with Nicholas Cock, son of the then mayor of Camelford. Billing’s local standing, enhanced by his new electoral role, enabled him at both elections to engineer the return of one of his kinsmen, Edward Carr. In 1620 the Prince’s Council initially earmarked the other seat for Sir Fulke Greville, and this option was kept open until it became clear that Greville would secure a Warwickshire seat, whereupon a supplementary Duchy nominee, Sir Henry Carey, was elected instead. A similar delay was instituted in 1624, when Sir Francis Cottington was returned at Camelford only after the duchy’s original candidate, Sir John Suckling, triumphed at the Middlesex hustings.8

The duchy made no further nominations during this decade, and Billing died in July 1624. With these influences removed, the earlier pattern of gentry competition resumed. Sir Robert Killigrew was presumably responsible in 1625 for the election of his nephew, Sir Henry Hungate, and may also have been behind the returns of Edward Lyndsey and Evan Edwards in 1626 and 1628. Both men were servants of the 4th earl of Dorset (Sir Edward Sackville*), who, though he lacked direct ties to Cornwall, could easily have approached Killigrew, who was well known in Court circles as an electoral patron. Killigrew’s presumed role in Edwards’ election is more problematic, as Sir Robert lost his lease of Helsbury and Lanteglos parks in 1627. However, Killigrew’s general prestige in Cornwall throughout this period was probably high enough to enable him to approach the borough without the additional leverage of local property ownership.9 In 1625 Thomas Coteel almost certainly secured his seat through the mediation of a distant kinsman, Sir Nicholas Prideaux, another leading Cornish gentleman who owned little land near the borough.10

In 1626 Sir Richard Carnsew managed to re-assert his family’s interest. Though unable to meet Henry Cromwell’s* request for him to provide a burgess-ship for Richard Hampden*, he did obtain a place for his cousin Sir Thomas Monck.11 The Commons’ ruling on 24 Mar., that Monck’s imprisonment for debt rendered his election invalid, created a vacancy which may have been filled by Sir James Perrot, who was in the Commons by 17 Apr., although no record of an election survives. If Perrot did indeed succeed at Camelford, it probably reflected the influence of his ally the 3rd earl of Pembroke, who as lord warden of the Cornish stannaries found seats for several of his supporters that year.12 In 1628 the remaining Camelford place went to an Exeter resident, Francis Crossing, whose links to Cornwall are unclear, although he had sat for Mitchell in 1626. Crossing may have relied on the backing of his kinsman William Hakewill*, who had himself previously represented Mitchell, probably as a nominee of John Arundell* of Trerice. Through his kinsman Crossing was perhaps able to contact Arundell, whose sister had married Sir Richard Carnsew’s brother. Alternatively, Hakewill may have recommended Crossing to one of his own distant relatives, Sir Nicholas Prideaux.13

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. OR; Procs. 1626, iii. 10.
  • 2. J. Maclean, Deanery of Trigg Minor, ii. 327-9, 332, 368; Parl. Survey of the Duchy of Cornw. ed. N.J.G. Pounds (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xxv), i. 54; R. Carew, Survey of Cornw. ed. P. White, 145; CJ, i. 444b.
  • 3. HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 48; Maclean, 328-9.
  • 4. C219/35/1/178, 183; 219/37/31-2; 219/38/40-1; 219/39/49, 64; 219/40/251, 257; 219/41B/140, 166.
  • 5. HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 125-6; WARD 7/84/197; SP46/72, ff. 110, 270.
  • 6. Maclean, i. 652-3; C142/519/94.
  • 7. R.E. Schreiber, Political Career of Sir Robert Naunton, 6; E306/4/6.
  • 8. DCO, ‘Letters and Patents 1620-1’, f. 39v; ‘Prince Chas. in Spain’, ff. 33v, 34v; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 32, 93; Maclean, ii. 296, 368.
  • 9. F. Blomefield, Hist. Norf. ix. 353; Vivian, 270; Bedford Estate Office, letter bk. 1, no. 108; C66/2420/3.
  • 10. Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 192; Vivian, 142; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 621; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 252-3; Carew, 172.
  • 11. SP46/73, f. 150; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 76-7; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 16, 20, 342, 569.
  • 12. Procs. 1626, ii. 356; J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129-30.
  • 13. HMC Exeter, 124; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 437, 603, 621; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 12, 77.