ARUNDELL, John (1576-1654), of Trerice, Newlyn, Cornw.

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



Family and Education

b. 22 Nov. 1576, 1st s. of John Arundell† of Trerice and his 2nd w. Gertrude, da. of Sir Robert Denys† of Holcombe Burnell, Devon.1 educ. M. Temple 1594.2 m. by 1613, Mary, da. of George Cary of Clovelly, Devon, 5s. (3 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1580.3 d. 5 Dec. 1654.4 sig. John Arundell.

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. by 1599-1625, from 1642,5 col. militia horse by 1599,6 recvr. of coat and conduct money 1600,7 commr. piracy 1606-7, ?1609, 1613, 1624, 1626, 1637, 1641,8 subsidy 1606, 1608, 1621-2, 1624,9 sheriff 1607-8,10 commr. aid 1609, 1612,11 exacted fees 1623,12 swans, W. Country 1629,13 assessment, Cornw. 1641-2,14 array 1642.15

Member, Virg. Co. 1610-at least 1623.16

Recorder, Tregony, Cornw. from 1622.17

Col. ft. (roy.) 1643-6;18 gov. Pendennis Castle, Cornw. 1643-6.19


A junior branch of one of Cornwall’s leading medieval families, the Arundells of Trerice acquired their principal seat by marriage under Edward III. Overshadowed for centuries by their much richer cousins of Lanherne, their local standing rose in the early Tudor period through Arundell’s grandfather, Sir John, a minor courtier who earned his knighthood at the Battle of the Spurs, and whose death in 1561 triggered a protracted inheritance dispute.20 By right the next lineal heir was an infant grandson, John Arundell of Gwarnack, but in fact Sir John had conveyed most of his property for life to his younger son John, this Member’s father. In about 1565 John struck a deal with his nephew’s guardian, surrendering two large manors to the boy, in return for which the latter renounced his rights to the remaining estates. This settlement was confirmed in 1579, when a reluctant Arundell of Gwarnack additionally conceded that, if he died childless, most of his lands would descend to his uncle’s heirs. Consequently, in September 1580 this Member, then just three years old, inherited the newly rebuilt seat of Trerice, over 2,000 acres in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, and a reversionary interest in a further 3,050 acres.21 His wardship was purchased from the Crown by family trustees, including his brother-in-law Richard Carew†. From an early age Arundell showed signs of ability, sitting for Mitchell, the borough closest to Trerice, shortly before achieving his majority in 1597, and he was already active in Cornish administration when he was elected a knight of the shire four years later. Nevertheless, his inheritance remained under threat, as Arundell of Gwarnack, who had never accepted the legality of the 1579 settlement, persistently sued his cousin in pursuit of his own claim to the entire estate.22

Arundell presumably married before the 1604 general election, when he provided one seat at Mitchell for his brother-in-law William Cary, and probably nominated the rising lawyer William Hakewill* for the other. Although he seems not to have stood himself on this occasion, he remained a prominent local figure, serving as sheriff of Cornwall in 1607-8. On recommending him as a piracy commissioner in January 1609, Sir John Parker* described him as living ‘with great reputation, very discreet and well-disposed to further His Majesty’s service’.23 Twelve months later the inheritance issue came to a head again, when Arundell of Gwarnack obtained a ruling in Common Pleas allowing him to make entries into all the disputed lands. Arundell responded vigorously, and on 26 Mar. 1610 a bill was introduced in the Commons to resolve the problem permanently. Although its text has not survived, this measure was apparently designed to overturn the Common Pleas judgment and reaffirm the 1579 settlement, but it was badly drafted, and William Noye* helped to ensure its rejection on 24 April. A revised bill, ‘for the confirmation of certain fines levied by John Arundell of Gwarnack esq. to John Arundell of Trerice esq., deceased’, received its first reading two days later. Steered through committee by Hakewill, it completed its Commons’ stages on 12 June, passed smoothly through the Lords in under a fortnight, and subsequently secured the Royal Assent.24 That should have been the end of the matter, but when Arundell of Gwarnack died childless in June 1613, he bequeathed his threadbare claims to two kinsmen, Richard Prideaux of Theuborough, Devon and his son Jonathan*, who resumed the battle in the courts. In order to secure the additional Gwarnack lands to which he was entitled, Arundell obtained a Chancery decree in May 1615, whereby he undertook to pay the Prideauxs £550 to abandon their pretensions. However, this agreement was not finally implemented until 1622. Even then Arundell remained uneasy, and in 1637 he paid Jonathan Prideaux’s heir a further £80 to forestall the revival of any Prideaux claim to the Trerice estates.25

This prolonged distraction was presumably one reason why Arundell’s political career seemed to stall in the second decade of the century. At the 1614 general election he again failed to stand himself, perhaps focusing his energies instead on helping his nephew Richard Carew and brother-in-law John St. Aubyn to become knights of the shire. He was probably also responsible for the returns of Christopher Hodson and William Hakewill at Mitchell and Tregony respectively, and may have helped St. Aubyn’s brother Thomas to find a seat at Grampound.26 It was not until six years later that he finally put himself forward for re-election. The reason lay in the grant to a Scottish peer, the earl of Tullibardine, of a monopoly of packing, drying and salting fish in Devon and Cornwall. This caused huge protests in the West Country, which led the local gentry in 1619 to send a delegation to London under Sir Richard Buller* and Edward Cosworth†. Arundell, presumably dissatisfied with the tactics adopted, independently petitioned the Privy Council. By the time he received a hearing (3 Dec. 1619), however, Buller and Cosworth had already struck a deal with Tullibardine, and the Council, observing that Arundell had no equivalent mandate, sent him home with the curt message that any further approaches should be properly authorized. He returned two months later, this time with the necessary warrants, and secured the suspension of the offending patent, which the earl offered to surrender in June 1620. However, Tullibardine subsequently reneged on this agreement and decamped to Scotland.27 It was against this background, and with the public mood turning against monopolies in general, that Arundell decided to seek election to Parliament once again in order to renew his attack on the fish-packing patent. At the 1620 general election he persuaded William Coryton* and Sir Reginald Mohun* to stand aside so that he might attend the Commons with all the authority of a Cornish knight of the shire. Easing his own electoral path further by providing seats at Mitchell for the two previous knights, Richard Carew and John St. Aubyn, he possibly also arranged John Hampden’s return at Grampound, while Hakewill was again elected at Tregony.28 On 4 Mar. 1621 Arundell and William Noye informed the Privy Council of Tullibardine’s obstruction, and secured an order for the earl’s London representative, Henry Heron, to hand over the fish-packing patent. When Heron failed to comply, the Council not only agreed to order the grant’s cancellation but invited Arundell to introduce legislation. Accordingly, once Chancery had voided the patent, a bill was introduced in the Lords on 9 May to confirm the judgment. It reached the Lower House on 30 May, but received its first reading there only on 29 Nov., and progressed no further.29 Doubtless preoccupied by this business, Arundell took little part in the Commons’ wider proceedings, though he was evidently well regarded. Added on 8 Feb. to the committee for privileges, he was appointed seven days later to attend the conference on the joint petition against recusancy, and on 2 May he was added to the committee for surveying the grievances currently before the House. The only bill committee to which he was named concerned extortions by customs officials (7 May). In his solitary recorded speech (3 Mar.), Arundell seconded Hakewill’s proposal that Sir Giles Mompesson’s* partners in the gold and silver thread patent should be taken into custody.30

By the mid-1620s Arundell seems to have been drawn into the local gentry grouping led by William Coryton, which also included such prominent figures as Charles Trevanion* and Jonathan Rashleigh*. One of the distinguishing features of this circle was the routine exchange of electoral favours by its members. Consequently, in 1624 Arundell made way for Coryton as a knight of the shire, but was provided with a seat at St. Mawes by Trevanion. At Mitchell, where he faced competition from the Holles family, he arranged the return of Rashleigh’s nephew, John Sawle. He may also have had a hand in the election of another Coryton ally, Ambrose Manaton, at Tregony, where he and Trevanion shared the patronage. Back at Westminster, his only recorded business concerned the revived bill against Tullibardine’s patent. Arundell exhibited the measure in the Lords on 20 Apr., and it reached the Commons on 4 May, receiving its first and second readings later that same day. He was then named to the committee, from which Noye reported on 5 May. The measure became law at the end of the session.31

At the start of the new reign Arundell was removed from the Cornish bench. As he was easily wealthy enough to qualify as a magistrate, he must have offended the government, though how he did so is unknown. Writing on 12 Apr. 1625 to his sister’s brother-in-law, Sir Richard Carnsew, he observed that ‘the times breed an alteration in all things as well as in the state’, but hoped that he could nevertheless rely on his kinsman to support him and an unnamed friend, probably Trevanion, when they stood as knights of the shire in the forthcoming election. Although he claimed that he was acting ‘for the public good which I prefer before mine own’, his bid for re-election proved unsuccessful, but Trevanion was elected alongside the duke of Buckingham’s client, Sir Robert Killigrew. Arundell apparently also lost ground at Mitchell, where the royal favourite may have influenced Henry Sandys’s election, though the other seat there went to Sir John Smythe II, whose cousin Sir Richard Buller was another mainstay of the Coryton circle. Sebastian Good’s return at Tregony was probably also Arundell’s work.32

For the next few years Arundell remained at odds with the government. He is not known to have sought a place in the 1626 Parliament, though Sir John Smythe again probably benefited from his patronage at Mitchell, as did William Hakewill’s kinsman Francis Crossing. In the fallout from the failed impeachment of Buckingham, Coryton was disgraced, and became, with Sir John Eliot*, the focus of local opposition to the 1626-7 Forced Loan. In April 1627 the duke’s client Sir James Bagg II* reported that Arundell had also emerged as a Loan refuser.33 When Coryton and Eliot stood as knights of the shire in 1628, Arundell threw his full weight behind them, bringing 500 men with him to the shire election, according to Bagg. He himself secured a seat at Tregony that year, while at Mitchell he probably nominated Jonathan Rashleigh’s brother-in-law, John Sparke, and Sir Richard Buller’s son Francis*, though the latter lost out in a contested poll. Bagg’s belief that Arundell would be expelled from Parliament as an undischarged outlaw proved to be wishful thinking. Nevertheless, Arundell played a surprisingly modest role in the Commons’ proceedings, given his activities leading up to the Parliament, receiving just three committee nominations. Of these, only his appointment on 12 June to help draft a petition about the payment of coat and conduct money and billeting expenses reflected his local experience. The coincidence of his surname perhaps explains his appointment to the committee for the earl of Arundel’s estate bill, but it is unclear why he was named to help scrutinize Giles Vanbrugh’s naturalization bill (11 and 13 June). Despite his close alliance with Eliot and Coryton, Arundell left no trace on the records of the 1629 session.34

Unlike Coryton, Arundell remained on close terms with Eliot during his final imprisonment, and was appointed an executor of his will.35 Throughout the next decade he remained critical of government policy. One of the last men in Cornwall to compound for knighthood, he paid the large fine of £150 in April 1636, but in the following year refused to contribute towards Ship Money.36 He was reportedly ‘very angry’ when his son Richard† voted against the attainder of the earl of Strafford (Sir Thomas Wentworth*) in 1641. Nevertheless, on the eve of the Civil War his old loyalty to the Crown reasserted itself, and he actively recruited and funded the royalist forces in Cornwall. Already aged nearly 66 when hostilities commenced, he was too old to take the field, but in 1643 he was appointed governor of Pendennis Castle. Despite concerns in early 1646 that he was now ‘old and fearful, and not resolute enough to be trusted’, on 18 Mar. he answered Sir Thomas Fairfax’s† summons to surrender with unflinching defiance.

I wonder you demand the castle without authority from His Majesty; which if I should render, I brand myself and my posterity with the indelible character of treason. And having taken less than two minutes resolution, I resolve that I will here bury myself before I deliver up this castle to such as fight against His Majesty, and that nothing you can threaten is formidable to me in respect of the loss of loyalty and conscience.

In the event, Arundell surrendered on honourable terms after an epic five-month siege, but Pendennis was the last royalist stronghold in England to capitulate.37 His sequestered estates were initially made over to one of his creditors, who allowed him to remain in occupation on easy terms, but he was repeatedly arrested on suspicion of conspiracy. In March 1651 he and his son Richard were fined £10,000, though this sum was reduced to £2,000 in February 1654, in view of the profits already seized from their estates, and the properties were finally discharged two months later. Richard later estimated their combined losses at over £30,000.38 Arundell made his will on 14 June 1654, asserting his firm belief in ‘the doctrine, worship and discipline established and professed in [the] Church of England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, King James and the beginning of the reign of the late King Charles’. He died in the following December, and was succeeded by his son Richard, who sat for Bere Alston after the Restoration until raised to the peerage.39

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Anne Duffin / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 12.
  • 2. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Vivian, 12, 14.
  • 4. IGI (Cornw.).
  • 5. R. Carew, Survey of Cornw. (2000), p. 106; C66/2310; C231/5, p. 529.
  • 6. Carew, 99.
  • 7. APC, 1599-1600, p. 250.
  • 8. C181/1, f. 129v; 181/2, ff. 56, 186; 181/3, ff. 113v, 196; 181/5, ff. 83v, 187v; HMC Hatfield, xxi. 11.
  • 9. E179/88/281; SP14/31/1; C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 23.
  • 11. E179/88/287; 179/283.
  • 12. Add. 34601, f. 147v.
  • 13. C181/4, f. 3v.
  • 14. SR, v. 82, 149.
  • 15. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 16. T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire, 236; Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iv. 157.
  • 17. Cornw. RO, J/2080.
  • 18. SO3/12, f. 263.
  • 19. S.P. Oliver, Pendennis and St. Mawes, 30, 58.
  • 20. Vivian, 11; Carew, 175-7; F.E. Halliday, Hist. Cornw. 185.
  • 21. Vivian, 12; C78/325/14; CSP Dom. Addenda, 1547-65, p. 513; SP14/55/26.I; C142/188/11; N. Pevsner and E. Radcliffe, Cornw. (Buildings of Eng.), 227. HP Commons, 1509-58, i. 334 incorrectly states that John Arundell of Gwarnack died young.
  • 22. WARD 9/221, f. 106v; Vivian, 12; Carew, 178; C78/325/14.
  • 23. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 11.
  • 24. SP14/55/26.I; CJ, i. 414b, 420b, 421b, 430b, 436b; Procs. 1610 ed. E.R. Foster, i. 108, 110-11; HLRO, O.A. 7 Jas.I, c. 40.
  • 25. PROB 11/128, f. 485; C142/346/174; C78/325/14; C2/Chas.I/P33/27; C54/2529/1; Cornw. RO, T/1492.
  • 26. Vivian, 12.
  • 27. APC, 1619-21, pp. 84, 136, 225, 359.
  • 28. A. Duffin, Faction and Faith, 73-4.
  • 29. APC, 1619-21, pp. 359, 369; Kyle thesis, 150; LJ, iii. 118a; CJ, i. 632a, 650b.
  • 30. CJ, i. 513b, 523a, 536a, 602b, 611b.
  • 31. LJ, iii. 313a, 327b, 339b; CJ, i. 698a-b; HLRO, O.A. 21 Jas.I, c. 11.
  • 32. Vivian, 12, 77; SP16/521/19.
  • 33. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 143.
  • 34. SP16/96/36; CD 1628, iv. 236, 280, 292.
  • 35. J. Forster, Sir John Eliot, ii. 623, 633; PROB 11/162, f. 475.
  • 36. CSP Dom. 1633-4, p. 139; E401/1922; Duffin, 160.
  • 37. Cornw. RO, T/1767; B/35/57; R(S)/1/35; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iv. 139; Oliver, 42-3, 53-7.
  • 38. CCC, 2237-8; CSP Dom. 1650, p. 154; FSL, X.d.483(97); HMC Portland, i. 583; Cornw. RO, T/1767.
  • 39. PROB 11/254, ff. 298-300v.