TREFFRY, John (1595-1658), of Place, 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. 15 Jan. 1595,1 o. s. of William Treffry† of Place and Ursula, da. and coh. of William Tremaine of Upcott, Devon. educ. Exeter Coll. Oxf. 1611. m. 17 Oct. 1619, Bridget (bur. 15 Apr. 1650), da. of Sir Arthur Champernowne of Modbury, Devon, s.p. suc. fa. 1603; bur. 24 Sept. 1658.2 sig. John Treffry.3

Offices Held

Trustee town lands (elect), Fowey 1598;4 commr. piracy, Cornw. 1637-41.5


The Treffry family traced their roots back to the thirteenth century and the Cornish manor of Treffry, near Bodmin. They settled at Fowey in about 1400, after acquiring through marriage the seat of Place, which dominated the town. Well rewarded for backing Henry VII’s bid for the throne, they consolidated their local standing under his successors. Treffry’s great-grandfather Thomas represented Bodmin in the Reformation Parliament and probably served as a knight for Cornwall in 1554.6 Treffry’s father William sat for Fowey in 1584, and was subsequently a Cornish j.p. and the local master of the ordnance. His 1594 subsidy assessment of £15 was the second highest in Fowey, and at his death he owned six manors, three of them in or near the town. When the management of Fowey’s ‘town lands’ was set on a new footing in 1598, William and most of his immediate family, whose ancestors had donated the properties originally, were named as trustees.7

Treffry was aged only eight when his father died. His mother managed to secure his wardship, probably with the help of her brother-in-law Thomas Treffry†, who was land agent to the master of the Court of Wards (Robert Cecil†).8 However, the estate was heavily encumbered. Those lands not liable to wardship were initially set aside to generate dowries for Treffry’s sisters, or were tied up in jointure arrangements for his mother and grandmother. As a result, Treffry secured little of his inheritance until 1619, when he turned 24, and even then his mother, who appears to have lived on until the 1630s, retained three manors to her own use.9

Treffry was returned by Fowey to the 1621 Parliament, the first held after he came of age. The election occasioned a show of strength by the local gentry, Treffry and Jonathan Rashleigh being chosen in preference to a Duchy of Cornwall nominee, William Noye*.10 Treffry made no mark on the Parliament’s records, but as a Fowey burgess he was entitled to attend ten bill committees, whose topics included the preservation of fish fry (24 Apr.), abuses by customs officials (7 May), and Duchy of Cornwall leases (28 Feb.), all matters of some interest to the town.11 Treffry is not known to have sought election again, nor does he seem to have influenced subsequent elections at Fowey, where patronage fell increasingly to the Rashleighs.

Over the next two decades Treffry’s financial position deteriorated. In 1621 he attempted to cancel a jointure arrangement involving his lands, which had been drawn up by his father for the benefit of his uncle Thomas Treffry.12 His subsidy assessment fell from £20 in 1626 to £10 in 1641, and between 1623 and 1636 he incurred at least 25 writs of outlawry for debt, although few of these seem to have been executed.13 Perhaps on account of these circumstances, Treffry delayed paying his knighthood composition fine of 100 marks until 1636, thereby becoming one of the last Cornish gentlemen to comply.14 Failure to settle this particular debt sooner may help to explain his long exclusion from local government. Any ill-feeling that this may have generated was forgotten in 1642, however, when Treffry commandeered Fowey’s ordnance for the king. Despite his royalism, Treffry emerged from the First Civil War almost unscathed. When Fowey was overrun by parliamentarian forces in 1644, Place was spared even though the Rashleigh seat of Menabilly was sacked. Treffry’s parliamentarian relatives, particularly his brother-in-law John Trefusis*, and his cousin Hugh Peter, who had dedicated a pamphlet to him, are said to have intervened.15 Trefusis members of the Cornish county committee probably also protected Treffry after the war, for although he was initially labelled a delinquent, his estates were never sequestered, despite an order issued in 1648. He eventually secured his discharge from the committee for compounding in 1654.16

Treffry died in 1658, and was buried in his family chapel in Fowey church. No will or letters of administration have been found. In the absence of a direct male heir, he left his estates to a cousin, Thomas Treffry, to preserve the family name.17 Thomas’ son John sat for Fowey between 1679 and 1685.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball



  • 1. C142/280/89.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 460; Al. Ox.
  • 3. Cornw. RO, DD.TF 579/2.
  • 4. J. Keast, Fowey, 50.
  • 5. C181/5, ff. 83v, 187v.
  • 6. (J. Polsue), Paroch. Hist. of Cornw. ii. 28-30; Keast, 35-6; HP Commons, 1509-58.
  • 7. R. Carew, Survey of Cornw. ed. F.E. Halliday, 154; C66/1620; C142/280/89; E179/88/250; Keast, 50.
  • 8. WARD 9/150, f.228; L. Stone, Fam. and Fortune, 22.
  • 9. C142/280/89; Cornw. RO, T51/3-4; P66/1/1.
  • 10. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 88-9.
  • 11. CJ, i. 531b, 588b, 611b.
  • 12. C2/Jas.I/T9/40.
  • 13. E179/89/306, 324; C2/Chas.I/T4/40, 41; 2/Chas.I/T58/27; E401/2459.
  • 14. E401/1922, unfol.
  • 15. Keast, 59, 61; M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 154; R.P. Stearns, Strenuous Puritan, 10; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 465.
  • 16. A. and O. ii. 295; Coate, 154, 265-6; CCC, 117, 3051-2.
  • 17. Polsue, ii. 16.