SAWLE, John (1599-1629), of St. Austell, 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

bap. 13 May 1599,1 1st s. of Nicholas Sawle (d.1637)2 of Penrice, Cornw. and Alice, da. of John Rashleigh† of Fowey and Menabilly, Cornw.3 m. (1) by 1617, ?, 2s. d.v.p.; (2) 13 Mar. 1627,4 Mary (admon. 14 Nov. 1631), da. of Nicholas Putt of Newton, Wilts., s.p.5 bur. 7 Sept. 1629.6

Offices Held


Sawle represented at least the fourth generation of his family in St. Austell. His father Nicholas inherited property in the town, as well as extensive holdings in the adjacent manor of Tewington, where he built his ‘new mansion house’ of Penrice.7 Nicholas’ marriage to Alice Rashleigh brought him additional properties in St. Austell, and by the 1620s he attracted the town’s highest subsidy valuation, £8 in lands.8 The Sawles and Rashleighs stayed on close terms: Sawle and eight of his siblings were baptized at Fowey, the Rashleighs’ home, while in 1623 Nicholas witnessed his father-in-law’s will, in which Sawle was bequeathed £40.9

Sawle most likely secured election to Parliament in 1624 at Mitchell through the intervention of the Rashleighs, who enjoyed kinship ties with the borough’s principal patron, John Arundell* of Trerice.10 Sawle’s only recorded contribution to the Parliament’s proceedings was on 9 Mar. during the 2nd reading of the bill to enable Prince Charles to make leases of his duchy of Cornwall lands. This measure, which constituted a concession by the prince to his tenants, effectively reversed his recent policy of forcibly renegotiating duchy leases in his own favour, and instead offered greater stability of tenure and rent levels.11 Sawle, however, as a duchy tenant himself, perceived a flaw in this reform. Many tenants of the duchy’s most ancient manors, such as the Sawles at Tewington, held their lands by customary or ‘conventionary’ tenure, the security of which was being undermined by the duchy’s encouragement of leaseholding. Any measure which made leases more attractive might well be expected to accelerate this process.12 This explains Sawle’s complaint that the proposed bill, were it applied to the tenants of the oldest duchy lands, ‘took away their ancient tenure, and would ruin infinite families’. Sawle was eligible as a Cornish Member to attend the bill committee, but there is no evidence in the final text of the Act that his comments were heeded.13

Little else is known about Sawle’s life. His children by his first marriage both died in infancy, and although he remarried in 1627, this second union was apparently childless when he himself died 18 months later. No will or letters of administration for him have survived. As he predeceased his father, Sawle never saw the bulk of his inheritance, although by 1629 he had acquired a small estate of his own. In 1650, his brother Oliver held, as a conventionary tenant, seven properties in the manor of Tewington which had come to him from Sawle, including five acres ‘in the seat of Trenyaron [Trenarren]’.14 Oliver’s grandson Joseph represented the Cornish borough of Tregony in 1702.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


PROB 11/160, f. 474.

  • 1. Cornw. RO, P66/1/1, p. 21.
  • 2. PROB 11/175, f. 195v.
  • 3. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 418.
  • 4. Cornw. RO, P8/1/1, pp. 19, 101, 107.
  • 5. PROB 11/160, f. 474v; Vivian, 418.
  • 6. Cornw. RO, P8/1/1, p. 119.
  • 7. Vivian, 418; E317/Corn/43; PROB 11/175, f. 195.
  • 8. Cornw. RO, DDR 3609a; E179/89/306.
  • 9. Vivian, 418; PROB 11/143, ff. 421-2.
  • 10. Cornw. RO, DD.R(S) 1/2, 648, 864.
  • 11. G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean phoenix: Duchy of Cornw. in principates of Henry Frederick and Charles’, in Estates of the Eng. Crown 1556-1640 ed. R.W. Hoyle, 266, 293, 295; SR, iv. 1240.
  • 12. Haslam, ‘Eliz. Duchy of Cornw.’, in Estates of the Eng. Crown, 88, 94, 101-2; P.L. Hull, ‘Richard Carew’s discourse about the Duchy suit, 1594’, Jnl. Royal Inst. Cornw. n.s. iv. pt. 2, 187-8; E317/Corn/43.
  • 13. Holles 1624, p. 27.
  • 14. E317/Corn/43, ff. 7, 10, 12, 14-15.