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 freemen

Number of voters:

14 in 1625


12 Mar. 1604WILLIAM NOYE
18 Dec. 1620JOHN HAMPDEN
15 Jan. 1624JOHN MOHUN
19 Apr. 1625JOHN MOHUN
 Sir Richard Edgcumbe
20 Jan. 1626THOMAS ST. AUBYN
  Double return of Thomas and St. Aubyn. THOMAS declared elected, 17 Feb. 1626.1
6 Mar. 1626FRANCIS COURTNEY vice Rudyard, chose to sit for Old Sarum
6 Mar. 1628SIR HENRY CAREY II (Lord Leppington)
7 Mar. 16282(SIR) ROBERT PYE

Main Article

Grampound’s name derived from the bridge, or grand pont, built to carry the main road from St. Austell to Truro across the River Fal. Possibly founded by the earls of Cornwall, who granted it a market and fairs in 1332, Grampound was absorbed into the duchy of Cornwall in 1337 by Edward III, who provided the borough with its first charter, and made its privileges conditional on payment to the duchy of a yearly fee-farm rent. By the early seventeenth century this rent stood at over £12, a sum which in 1625 constituted almost half the community’s annual expenditure.3 By then Grampound was struggling economically. Towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign Carew had found the borough ‘but half replenished with inhabitants, who may better vaunt of their town’s antiquity, than the town of their ability’. The situation worsened in 1621 when Tregony, a trading rival just three miles distant, acquired a charter of incorporation which threatened to undermine Grampound’s privileges. Prince Charles’s Council, which then controlled the duchy’s central administration, investigated the Grampound burgesses’ objections to this grant, but it finally adopted a neutral stance on the issue, and nothing was done to strengthen the borough’s own institutions.4 Although it was regarded locally as a corporation, Grampound’s governing structures were in fact still defined by prescription only. Their form is therefore uncertain beyond the existence of a mayor and a body of freemen, perhaps qualified by payment of scot and lot, in whom the parliamentary franchise had been vested since 1547.5

In electoral terms, Grampound’s comparative weakness made it easy prey to external pressure, though the sheer number of would-be patrons prevented the emergence of one totally dominant figure. Indeed, many of the surviving parliamentary indentures indicate not only competition for seats, but also elements of malpractice. As at most Cornish boroughs, individual returns were routinely prepared for each Member, but even so the gap of nearly three weeks between the two dates for the 1625 election was unusual, as was the outcome, Sir Richard Edgcumbe’s name being erased from the second return and replaced by that of Sir Samuel Rolle. In each of the first three Caroline elections, the name of one regular voter, John Hawkins junior, appears as a mark on one indenture, but as a fluent signature on the other. On Sir Robert Pye’s return of 1628, even the mayor’s signature was forged.6

At the start of this period, the duchy apparently expected to secure one seat, the other place being decided by the local gentry. Sir Francis Barnham, a Kent resident, seems to have owed his return in 1604 and 1614 to the lord warden of the Cornish stannaries, the 3rd earl of Pembroke, who controlled the duchy’s local administration. In 1620 Sir Robert Carey was nominated at Grampound by Prince Charles’s Council, though he could also expect support from his nephew Charles Trevanion*, one of the biggest local landowners, who lived five miles south of the borough.7 Barnham’s two partners were William Noye, whose patron has not been identified, and Thomas St. Aubyn, who probably relied on a combination of family estates near Grampound and the backing of his kinsman John Arundell*, another Cornish magnate who resided seven miles away at Trerice. Arundell may also have had a hand in John Hampden’s election in 1620. The two men were distantly related through Sir Oliver* and Henry Cromwell*, both of whom seem to have used their ties to Arundell and his brother-in-law Sir Richard Carnsew as a means of indirect patronage. Sir Oliver probably arranged Christopher Hodson’s burgess-ship at Mitchell in 1614, while Henry requested a Cornish seat for Hampden’s brother Richard* in 1626.8

In 1624 the Prince’s Council nominated Sir Robert Carey’s son Thomas, but this time Grampound proved unreceptive, perhaps on account of the duchy’s attitude to the Tregony charter. Instead, the borough returned two Cornish gentlemen. One, Sir Richard Edgcumbe, owned a large manor nearby, and had represented Grampound in 1593. The other, John Mohun, belonged to one of central Cornwall’s leading families, and was then living around six miles from the borough at Penwarne; in addition, his uncle William Mohun owned a seat close to the town.9 In the following year the same pairing initially emerged, but although on 7 May Edgcumbe signed an undertaking as a newly elected Member to pay his own expenses, he was then prevailed upon to withdraw, for reasons unknown, and replaced by Mohun’s cousin Sir Samuel Rolle.10 A more open dispute followed in 1626. Pembroke, anxious to boost his support in the Commons, secured one seat for his ally Sir Benjamin Rudyard, probably through the mediation of his vice-warden, William Coryton*. For the other place, both the former Member St. Aubyn and Edward Thomas, a Mohun nominee, were returned. A petition concerning this election was received by the committee of privileges on 16 February. Even though Rudyard had already created a vacancy by opting to sit for another constituency, the committee decided on 17 Feb. to accept only Thomas’ return as sound, and a fresh writ was issued to find his partner. The reason for this verdict was not recorded, but the presence of the suspect Hawkins’ signature on St. Aubyn’s indenture may have been an issue. Rudyard’s replacement, Francis Courtney, should probably be identified as a minor Cornish gentleman with close ties to Coryton.11 The 1628 election was rather more clear-cut. Henry Carey, brother of Thomas, doubtless owed his seat to his Trevanion ties. Mohun, by now an active supporter of the duke of Buckingham, placed the remaining burgess-ship at his patron’s disposal on 17 Mar., ten days after the indenture was drawn up. His recommendation of Sir Robert Pye, a fellow client, for this place was evidently accepted.12

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Procs. 1626, ii. 61.
  • 2. OR.
  • 3. Hist. Cornw. ed. S. Drew, i. 643; ii. 184; Parl. Survey of Duchy of Cornw. ii. ed. N.J.G. Pounds (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc., n.s. xxvii), 178-9; Cornw. RO, J/1951.
  • 4. F.E. Halliday, Richard Carew of Antony, 216; DCO, ‘Letters and Patents 1620-1’, f. 143; ‘Bk. of Orders 1621-5’, f. 14.
  • 5. Halliday, 216; Hist. Cornw. i. 643.
  • 6. C219/39/38, 45; 219/40/248, 254; 219/41B/154, 174.
  • 7. The Ancestor, ix. 205; DCO, ‘Letters and Patents’, f. 39v; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 502; Her. and Gen. iv. 45. Barnham’s 1604 election indenture inaccurately describes him as ‘Francis Barnham esq.’, which suggests that he was unknown to the borough prior to his nomination: OR.
  • 8. C142/423/64; Vivian, 12, 77, 438; SP46/73, f. 150; Vis. Hunts. ed. H. Ellis (Cam. Soc. xliii), 79-80; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 280; Vis. Bucks. (Harl. Soc. lviii), 70-1.
  • 9. DCO, ‘Prince Charles in Spain’, f. 33v; C142/662/109; C78/344/4; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 325; D. and S. Lysons, Magna Britannia, iii: Cornw. 70; E179/89/306.
  • 10. Cornw. RO, J/2074; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 464, 466.
  • 11. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 129; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 359; Procs. 1626, ii. 7, 55, 61. In 1627 Courtney emulated Coryton in opposing the Forced Loan: CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 231.
  • 12. SP16/96/36; Liber Famelicus of Sir J. Whitlocke ed. J. Bruce (Cam. Soc. lxx), 56.