Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the corporation 1660-81, 1689; in the freemen 1685


  Double return. ROBARTES and SILLY seated, 5 May 1660  
2 Apr. 1661HON. HENDER ROBARTES13418
 Sir James Smyth  
  Double return. CAREW and ROBARTES seated, 16 May 1661  
 ?Sir Peter Prideaux, Bt.  
12 Jan. 1689SIR JOHN CUTLER, Bt.  

Main Article

One seat at Bodmin was controlled throughout the period by the Robartes family, who resided at Lanhydrock, two-and-a-half miles away, and owned considerable property in the town; the other was usually at the disposal of the corporation, consisting of 12 aldermen and 24 common councilmen. Patron and electorate were moderate Presbyterians in 1660 and 1661; but the choice of Nicholas Glyn of Cardinham at every subsequent election suggests that the evolution of the younger generation of the Robartes family towards the Tory and Anglican position was followed in the corporation.1

Contests were recorded only in the first two elections. In 1660 all the candidates were Presbyterians. The corporation elected Hender Robartes and his kinsman John Silly of St. Wenn, a local squire who had represented the borough in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament. Sir John Carew, who was probably insuring against defeat by Robartes’s brother Robert in the county election, was also returned. Neither indenture survives; but Robartes and Silly were allowed to sit on the merits of the return, and Carew had no incentive to pursue his claim further when he was awarded the county seat. But he had no hopes of re-election for Cornwall in 1661, and fell back on the borough. This coincided with attempts by Sir John Granville to break the Robartes interest by nominating two ‘Cavalier’ candidates, and by the ‘commonalty’ to widen the franchise. So complex a situation required no less than five returns, a result unusual even in Cornwall. The corporation and the commonalty each returned Robartes and Carew separately. The fifth indenture, less numerously signed, also purported to represent the wider franchise, returning Carew and Granville’s brother, Bernard. It would appear that Job Charlton was in error when he reported from the elections committee that Granville’s kinsman, Sir James Smyth, had also been returned with Robartes. In any case Carew and Robartes were seated on the merits of the return, and again the rival candidates found other seats, and were spared the expense of contesting the merits of the election.2

The struggle for local supremacy between the Earls of Radnor and Bath (as Robartes and Granville became at the coronation) took another form in 1664, when the corporation of Bodmin petitioned, with the support of many Cornish gentlemen, for the transfer of the assizes from Launceston. Their town, they claimed, was more generally accessible from all parts of Cornwall; but Launceston described it as ‘a mean town, lying twenty miles further within the county, and inconvenient for the judges by the badness of the ways’. A bill was introduced in the Commons in 1671, and the borough sent representatives to give evidence to the committee. It reached a third reading on 11 Apr., with Robartes and (Sir) Jonathan Trelawny I acting as tellers for the ayes, but it was lost at the prorogation.3

Carew moved up to the county for the Exclusion Parliaments, and Bodmin returned Robartes and Glyn at all three elections. Both were expected by Shaftesbury to vote for exclusion, but they abstained in 1679 and probably moved over to the Court. In 1683 the corporation presented a strongly Tory address abhorring the Rye House Plot. There was thus no political justification for regulating the borough, but it was included among Bath’s victims nevertheless. The new charter of 27 Mar. 1685 named him as recorder, reduced the common council to ten, and extended the franchise to 21 nominated ‘free burgesses’, drawn entirely from the county gentry. The usual power of removal was reserved to the crown. On 24 Apr. Bath wrote to the mayor:

I shall recommend to your choice for one of your burgesses a gentleman of quality well-known to you all and that hath a good estate amongst you and elsewhere in our country and a very good Protestant, my brother [-in-law] (Sir) Peter Prideaux, Bt., hoping that you will regard this as the first request of your recorder, especially when other towns without my seeking have freely offered me the recommendation of both their burgesses, where I have been less acquainted. But for your other burgess I do entirely leave the same to yourselves, not doubting that you will make a good choice in a person of your own country after my example.

Prideaux, as owner of the advowson, had an interest of his own, but even with Bath’s recommendation he could not prevail. Four of the Robartes family still had votes, and the sitting Members were reelected. Hender Robartes died early in 1688, and for James’s abortive second Parliament Bath re commended a placeman of local origin, John Mounsteven. His other candidate, William Kekewich, came from a parliamentarian family that had sold its estates some years previously. In June the royal electoral agents reported that the chief interest was in the 2nd Earl of Radnor (Charles Bodvile Robartes) and his uncle Francis. Glyn was removed by order-in-council with the mayor, four aldermen, four ‘assistants’, and six other ‘burgesses’, and in a second regulation in September Francis Robartes followed him, with three more aldermen, two common councilmen, and four other freemen. The old corporation resumed office in October. At the general election of 1689 Francis Robartes was returned for Cornwall, and Glyn was elected ‘with one assent and consent’ to the Convention with Radnor’s father-in-law, Sir John Cutler, a wealthy London merchant.4

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 106-7, 212; Gilbert, Paroch. Hist. Cornw. i. 98; M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 308.
  • 2. CJ, viii. 12, 250.
  • 3. A. F. Robbins, Launceston Past and Present, 222-4; CSP Dom. 1664-5, pp. 179-80; CJ, ix. 216, 219, 233.
  • 4. Maclean, i. 144, 216-17; London Gazette, 3 Sept. 1683; CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 245; 1685, p. 98; J. Wallis, Bodmin Reg. 167-8, 237-8; Vivian, Vis. Cornw Cornto. 254; Gilbert, ii. 68; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 380; (1883), 217; PC2/72/694, 735.