PETER, Henry (c.1562-1620), of Fowey, 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. c.1562,1 1st or 2nd s. of William Dickwood alias Peter (d. c.1579), merchant of Fowey, and his w. Margaret.2 m. 9 Jan. 1609, Deborah (bur. 3 Mar. 1620), da. of John Treffry of Fowey, s.p.3 admon. 20 Jan. 1621.4 sig. Henry Peter.5

Offices Held

Trustee town lands, Fowey 1598.6


Peter’s father, William Dickwood, probably arrived in Fowey as a child during the 1540s, ‘driven thither from Antwerp for religion’. He and his brother Thomas established themselves as merchants, and changed their surname to Peter, perhaps because of some relationship with the prominent Petre family of Fowey.7 When he died William was the part-owner of three ships, and left his share in one to the teenage Peter.8 By the early 1590s Peter was importing salt and wine from La Rochelle and Bordeaux with his uncle Thomas and Fowey’s leading merchant, John Rashleigh†.9 Although he never matched the scale of Rashleigh’s enterprises, Peter expanded his business during the following decade, importing fish from Newfoundland for resale in Spain, whence he obtained wine and luxury goods.10 His subsidy rating rose from £4 in 1594 to £6 in 1606, placing him among the six wealthiest inhabitants of Fowey, and growing ties with the Treffrys, Fowey’s leading gentry family, doubtless enhanced his local status. Peter’s cousin Thomas (father of Oliver Cromwell’s* chaplain Hugh Peter), married a sister of William Treffry† in 1594, and Peter himself married another sister 15 years later. In February 1603, Peter witnessed Treffry’s will.11

The Peter and Treffry families controlled between them one-fifth of the burgess votes in Fowey, and their alliance probably helped to secure Peter’s election to Parliament in 1604.12 Although he is not mentioned by name in the parliamentary record until 1607, as a Fowey burgess he was entitled to attend ten bill committees during the 1604 session, of which those concerned with the pilchard trade (20 June), the increase of shipping (12 Apr.), free trade (24 Apr.) and abuses by customs officials (5 May) presumably interested him.13 The second session brought Peter another 12 such committee appointments. Two dealt with wine imports and sales (7 Mar. and 8 Apr. 1606), while others concerned fishing (3 Apr.), taxes on merchants (19 Mar.), free trade (3 Apr.) and extortions by customs officials (15 March).14 In the third session, his ten ex officio committee nominations covered such matters as a petition from London merchants complaining of problems with Spain (28 Feb.) and the assignment of debts between merchants (5 June). Curiously, when Peter was finally named in person to a committee on 1 July 1607, it was to consider a bill dealing with restrictions in the leather trade, an issue without obvious relevance to his career.15 During the fourth session, he was entitled as a Cornish or port burgess to attend ten bill committees, of which the most relevant to him dealt with shipping (28 Feb. 1610), pirates (3 Mar.), the sale of commodities (16 Mar.) and wine imports (22 March). He does not appear in the records of the fifth session.16

By 1611 Peter was engaging in coastal trade as well as international commerce, bringing in wheat from Truro, Cornwall.17 When he made his will on 8 Dec. 1620, he owned an unspecified number of ships, though customs records indicate that he had reduced his commercial activities during the previous six years. ‘Somewhat weak in body’, but unwavering in his religious convictions, he trusted that he would be ‘made partaker of the kingdom of heaven with the elect children of God’. As he was childless, he left his trading stock and his property in Fowey to a nephew. Peter probably died very soon thereafter, since his will was proved just six weeks later, but the date and place of his burial are not known.18 No other member of his family sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball



  • 1. Peter was aged 52 in 1614: E134/12 Jas.I/Mich. 40.
  • 2. PROB 11/61, f.42; R.P. Stearns, Strenuous Puritan, 433. One bro.’s date of birth is not known.
  • 3. Cornw. RO, P66/1/1, pp. 118,151.
  • 4. PROB 11/137, f. 25v.
  • 5. Cornw. RO, T51/3.
  • 6. J. Keast, Fowey, 50.
  • 7. Stearns, 3, 6-8.
  • 8. PROB 11/61, f. 41v.
  • 9. E190/1019/30; 190/1018/9; E306/8/15, f. 2v.
  • 10. E190/1023/14; 190/1022/4,17; E306/8/18, f. 3.
  • 11. E179/88/250, 281; Stearns, 8-9; Cornw. RO, T51/3.
  • 12. E.W. Rashleigh, Short Hist. of Fowey, 29.
  • 13. CJ, i. 169a, 183b, 199a, 243a.
  • 14. CJ, i. 279a, 285a, 287a, 292b, 295a.
  • 15. CJ, i. 344b, 379b, 389b.
  • 16. CJ, i. 402a, 404b, 412a, 414a.
  • 17. E190/1025/10; 190/1024/23.
  • 18. PROB 11/137, f. 25r-v.