MANATON (MANYNGTON), Ambrose (1589-1651), of South Petherwin and Trecarrel, Lezant, 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



1640 (Nov.) - 22 Jan. 1644
1644 (Oxf. Parl.)

Family and Education

bap. 27 Apr. 1589,1 2nd s. of Peter Manaton (d. c.1616) of Manaton, South Hill, Cornw. and Frances, da. and coh. of Edward Couch of Houghton.2 educ. L. Inn 1612; called 1637; DCL Oxf. 1644.3 m. (1) c. June 1613,4 Anne (bur. 26 Jan. 1638), da. of Peter Edgcumbe† of Mount Edgcumbe, Cornw. wid. of Richard Trefusis† (d.1612) of South Petherwin 1da.;5 (2) c. 1642, Jane, da. of Narcissus Mapowder of Holsworthy and coh. of her bro. Anthony, 2s. 2da.6 d. 11 June 1651.7 sig. Ambrose Manyngton.

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. 1614-21, 1622-at least 1640,8 commr. subsidy 1621-2,9 collector 1626,10 commr. Forced Loan 1627,11 repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral 1633,12 incorporation of maltsters, Cornw. 1636,13 piracy from 1641,14 assessment 1641-2;15 stannator, Foymore, Cornw. 1636;16 mayor, Camelford, Cornw. 1640.17

Master in Chancery (extraordinary) 1635-at least 1646;18 bencher, L. Inn 1637;19 recorder, Launceston, Cornw. by 1638-46.20


A minor gentry family, the Manatons were by the early sixteenth century resident on the estate in South Hill from which they took their name. Their first noteworthy member, another Ambrose, captained a ship against the Armada.21 As a younger son, Manaton may have expected to make his living as a lawyer, but while still at Lincoln’s Inn, his prospects were transformed by his marriage to a wealthy widow, Anne Trefusis, who provided him with a manor and seat in South Petherwin, along with property in two other Cornish parishes. Largely as a result of this match, Manaton’s subsidy rating in 1626 stood at £10 in land, compared with the £3 assessment of his elder brother, the nominal head of the family.22 The marriage also brought him kinship with some of the county’s leading gentry, the Edgcumbe, Trefusis, Specott and Coryton families.23 This new-found status was reflected in his elevation to the Cornish bench in 1614.

Manaton doubtless relied on family ties to secure his election to the 1621 Parliament as a Member for Bossiney, since his brother-in-law, Sir Richard Edgcumbe*, was a near kinsman of Sir Nicholas Prideaux, who enjoyed influence over the borough. Manaton’s legal background accounts for his nomination to the committee for a bill concerned with the procedure for transferring cases between courts (16 May).24 He received no other mention in the Parliament’s records.

For reasons which are unclear, Manaton was removed as a j.p. in 1621, but was almost immediately reinstated. In 1622 he began the piecemeal acquisition of a new seat at Trecarrel, a few miles from South Petherwin, which he stood to lose when his wife died. Trecarrel lay close to the home of Nicholas Trefusis*, who was not only his wife’s nephew and prospective heir, but also nephew to William Coryton*, vice-warden of the Stannaries.25 It is probable that by 1624 Manaton had allied himself with Coryton’s local faction, as he was elected to Parliament that year at Tregony, where the major local patron, Charles Trevanion*, was a key member of Coryton’s circle. However, as Manaton’s partner was his nephew Peter Specott, his kinship with the latter’s family may also have helped him to secure the seat.26 Although unmentioned in this Parliament’s records, as a Cornish burgess he was entitled to attend several bill committees, such as the one dealing with Duchy of Cornwall leases (9 Mar.), which is likely to have interested him as a Duchy tenant.27

In 1625 Manaton helped to impress 300 men for service in Ireland. Two years later, however, his disenchantment with the government was unmistakeable. Although appointed a commissioner for the Forced Loan, he was condemned by the duke of Buckingham on 27 June 1627 as a ‘mere creature’ of Coryton who was obstructing the collection process, in partnership with Nicholas Trefusis and Sir Richard Buller*. Buckingham demanded the removal of all three men from the Cornish bench. Fortunately for him, Edward Nicholas*, who transmitted the duke’s wishes to the lord keeper (Sir Thomas Coventry*), omitted Manaton’s name from his instructions, accidentally substituting that of Humphrey Nicoll*, who was not actually a j.p.28 In the disputed parliamentary election at Newport in the following year, Manaton, as a freeholder of the borough, helped to secure one place for Trefusis, the nominee of Coryton’s political partner (Sir) John Eliot*. However, he also decisively backed another of his nephews, Piers Edgcumbe, whose father Sir Richard, now a member of the opposing faction, was standing against Eliot and Coryton for a county seat. Whether this indicates some conflict of loyalties on Manaton’s part is not clear. His right to vote at Newport was initially questioned, although he had in fact held property in the district for at least four years.29

In May 1631 Manaton reluctantly compounded for knighthood, paying £25, having at first claimed that he ‘was not summoned nor had an estate’.30 However, he implemented the Books of Orders vigorously, perhaps because the measures against idleness, drunkenness and profanity appealed to the godly sensibilities later manifested in his will.31 By the later 1630s he was becoming more firmly associated with the Edgcumbe family. John Glanville*, to whom he owed his promotion at Lincoln’s Inn in 1637, and probably also the recordership of Launceston, was Piers Edgcumbe’s father-in-law.32 Still no lover of arbitrary taxation, he ignored the request in 1639 to contribute to the king’s northern expedition.33 As mayor of Camelford, in October 1640 Manaton oversaw the election to Parliament of Edgcumbe and his brother-in-law William Glanville. He was himself returned for Launceston to both the Short and Long Parliaments, his partner on the latter occasion being William Coryton, now a firm government supporter. While embracing moderate reform, Manaton opposed the drift into war, and in September 1642 attempted to negotiate a last-minute truce between the rival forces in Cornwall.34 Siding ultimately with the king, he attended the Oxford Parliament, and in August 1644 entertained Charles I at Trecarrel. He was apparently at Mount Edgcumbe with his nephew when the house surrendered to Sir Thomas Fairfax (Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax†) in February 1646. Despite the promise of favourable treatment, he suffered both sequestration and the loss of his recordership, and did not finally clear his estate until November 1650.35

Manaton drew up his will in October that year. The preamble praises God ‘for giving me this and many other times sense of my many and grievous sins against Him and His blessed commandments and this time of begging pardon for the same’. Manaton requested private burial in just a linen sheet, and for his funeral sermon specified the text ‘blessed are they that die in the Lord for they rest from their labours’. His bequests included £5 each to the parishes of South Hill, South Petherwin and Launceston to provide interest-free loans to needy tradesmen and farmers. His Civil War experiences had not cooled his friendship with ‘that truly noble and good gent.’ Piers Edgcumbe, and the promise of dowries of £1,000 and £900 to his infant daughters suggests some optimism about his financial affairs. Both Manaton’s sons, also under-age when he died on 11 June 1651, sat in Parliament under the later Stuarts.36

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Cornw. RO, FP210/1/1.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 305; Cornw. Archdeaconry Wills 1569-1699 ed. R.M. Glencross (Brit. Rec. Soc. lvi), 203 (lost will of Peter Manaton, 1615-16).
  • 3. LI Admiss.; LI Black Bks. ii. 342; Al. Ox.
  • 4. Cornw. RO, ME869.
  • 5. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 305-6, 467. HP Commons, 1558-1603 states incorrectly that Trefusis died in 1611.
  • 6. C2/Chas.I/M61/26; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 551; PROB 6/18, f. 51v; Cornw. RO, FP124/1/1.
  • 7. MI, S. Petherwin.
  • 8. C66/1988, 2859; C193/13/1; C231/4, f. 142v.
  • 9. C212/22/20-1.
  • 10. E179/89/311.
  • 11. SP16/54/20.
  • 12. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 13.
  • 13. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 14. C181/5, f. 188.
  • 15. SR, v. 82, 149.
  • 16. Add. 6713, f. 100.
  • 17. C219/43/1/16.
  • 18. C216/1/128; C2/Chas.I/M61/26.
  • 19. LI Black Bks. ii. 342-3.
  • 20. Cornw. RO, B/LAUS 344, 350.
  • 21. (J. Polsue), Complete Paroch. Hist. of Cornw. iii. 124; iv. 155-7; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 305; A.L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw. 398.
  • 22. C142/333/13; PROB 11/121, f. 384; E179/89/310; Cornw. RO, ME869.
  • 23. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 142, 467.
  • 24. Ibid. 142; CJ, i. 622a; Kyle thesis, 231.
  • 25. C142/333/13; C54/2526/14; C2/Chas.I/C1/28; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 101-2.
  • 26. C219/38/50-1.
  • 27. CJ, i. 680a; ‘Parl. Survey of Duchy of Cornw.’ ed. N.J.G. Pounds, Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc. n.s. xxv. 75.
  • 28. A.F. Robbins, Launceston Past and Present, 142-3; SP16/68/16; 16/71/2. R. Cust, Forced Loan, 202, implies inaccurately that Manaton was removed in 1627.
  • 29. C219/41B/142; CD 1628, ii. 446; A. Duffin, Faction and Faith, 86; SC6/Jas.I/1687.
  • 30. E401/1918; E178/7161.
  • 31. SP16/237/41; Duffin, 45, 115, 155.
  • 32. LI Black Bks. ii. 342-3; Cornw. RO, B/LAUS 342; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 411, 413.
  • 33. PC2/51, f. 79.
  • 34. OR; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 413; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 266; R. Hopton, Bellum Civile ed. C.E.H. Chadwyck Healey (Som. Rec. Soc. xviii), 21; M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 36-7; New News from Cornw. (London, 27 Oct. 1642).
  • 35. Polsue, iii. 124; Coate, 207, 226; Cornw. RO, B/LAUS 350; CCC, 117, 1082-4.
  • 36. PROB 11/218, ff. 46-7. HP Commons, 1660-90 indicates the existence of a 3rd son, but no corroborative evidence has been found.