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 freemen

Number of voters:

about 100 in 1715


12 Apr. 1660THOMAS GEWEN
  Double return. GEWEN and ELIOT seated, 5 May 1660
  CLOBERRY declared elected vice  Eliot, 29 June 1660
 John Coryton II
1 Sept. 1679(SIR) JOHN CORYTON I
19 Nov. 1680CHARLES GRANVILLE, Lord Lansdown vice Coryton, deceased
24 Feb. 1681SIR HUGH PIPER

Main Article

As the assize town for Cornwall and one of the coinage towns for the stannaries, Launceston was usually susceptible to government influence. But a preference for local candidates enabled the Coryton and Granville families to exercise strong natural interests; while the corporation, consisting of mayor, recorder, town clerk, and eight ‘burgesses’ or aldermen, controlled admission to the franchise and nominated the stannatory of Foymore. With the duchy of Cornwall interest in abeyance at the general election of 1660, and the Corytons and Granvilles ineligible as Cavaliers, the recorder Thomas Gewen and Edward Eliot, a younger son of the Port Eliot family, were returned on one indenture. Both resided in the immediate neighbourhood. Another indenture returned John Cloberry, an army officer of Devon origin high in the favour of George Monck. All three candidates probably favoured the Restoration, Eliot perhaps with less enthusiasm than the others. He was seated with Gewen on the merits of the return, but he admitted that he had been outvoted by Cloberry, who took his seat on 29 June on the merits of the election. Gewen died in November, but no new writ was issued before the dissolution of the Convention.1

Cloberry’s antecedents were insufficiently royalist to secure re-election in 1661, and he was succeeded by Sir Charles Harbord, a veteran duchy official. John Coryton I, the new recorder, sat for the county in the Cavalier Parliament, while the head of the Granville family, who had been made warden of the stannaries, received a peerage in the coronation honours as Earl of Bath. Consequently the second seat was available for Richard Edgcumbe of Cotehele, the son and heir of another good Cavalier family. For the next ten years Launceston was chiefly concerned to resist the transfer of the assizes, ‘the chief support of the town’, to Bodmin, the centre of the Robartes interest. A petition from the ‘gentlemen inhabitants of the county of Cornwall’ was introduced early in the opening session, but laid aside. On 25 Jan. 1665, however, ‘the gentlemen of Cornwall now serving in Parliament’, petitioned the King to the same effect, pointing out that Launceston ‘is in one end of a county eighty miles long, is inconvenient to witnesses, jurors, and suitors, and improper in taking the deputy lieutenants and other officers so far away from some parts of a county exposed on two sides to the sea’. The Launceston corporation counter-petitioned, and the matter was referred to the attorney-general, who does not seem to have reported. On 10 Mar. 1671 a bill for settling assizes in Cornwall was introduced in the Commons. Coryton and Harbord strove to protract the hearing in committee, but they were outvoted in a thin House, and the bill passed a month later, with (Sir) Jonathan Trelawny I (the other knight of the shire) and Hon. Hender Robartes acting as tellers for the majority. The Lords, however, insisted that Launceston’s witnesses should be heard, and the bill was killed by the prorogation.2

Edgcumbe in turn sat for the county in the Exclusion Parliaments. Harbord presented a splendid pair of silver maces to the corporation, and was re-elected in February 1679, though he was so little known in the town that the returning officer could give no more precise address for him than ‘Middle sex’. For the other seat Bernard Granville, the brother of the warden of the stannaries, defeated Coryton’s son. He was returned on a separate indenture, and also elected for Saltash, occupying both seats for the duration of the first Exclusion Parliament. Harbord died on 25 May, but his son William inherited his interest as auditor of the duchy. He preferred to sit for Thetford himself, but before the autumn election he wrote to Hon. Henry Sidney:

That you may be assured of my care, I have sent my deputy auditor into Cornwall, to Launceston, to secure my being chosen there, and to tell them that I design to be with them as soon as I receive their answer, which I expect every hour, ... to serve yourself and Sir William Temple, that so which of you wants it may have it; the preference being wholly yours.

The borough, however, preferred two local candidates, the elder Coryton and Sir Hugh Piper, constable of the castle and a lifelong adherent of the Granvilles. Coryton died before the second Exclusion Parliament met, and was replaced by Lord Lansdown, the Earl of Bath’s eldest son. In 1681 Lansdown lost his seat to William Harbord, now a violent exclusionist, who was doubtless insuring against defeat at Thetford. Holding under a life patent, he was able to dispose of the duchy interest so long as there was no Prince of Wales. He was in fact also successful at Thetford, but the Oxford Parliament was dissolved before he was called upon to choose between his two seats. Bath procured a loyal address from the corporation approving the dissolution, in reply to which the King asserted his conviction of Launceston’s loyalty.3

The Launceston charter was one of the many scalps that Bath secured in 1684-5. Harbord fled to Holland on the accession of James II, and the new charter named Bath as recorder, with the usual powers for removal of officials by order-in-council. At the general election of 1685 Piper was returned with Bath’s second son, John Granville. Launceston, like the ten other boroughs of which Bath was recorder in 1688, promised through its corporation ‘to elect two such Members for the ensuing Parliament as their present recorder shall recommend or approve of, provided they are of the Protestant religion and their countrymen’. Piper had died in 1687, and unsurprisingly Bath proceeded to nominate his two sons as court candidates. But Harbord returned with William of Orange, and despite grave misgivings over the durability of his interest during his exile, was again returned for both Thetford and Launceston. He was even able to persuade the Cornish electorate to forget their recently expressed preference for their own countrymen, and choose his brother-in-law, Edward Russell, for the second seat. This was the only occasion during the period when the duchy interest sufficed to return two candidates, both of them outsiders, and to show his appreciation Harbord opted to sit for Launceston in the Convention.4

Authors: Paula Watson / Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. VCH Cornw. i. 535; C. S. Gilbert, Hist. Surv. Cornw. 243; R. and O. B. Peter, Hist. Launceston, 195-6; CJ, viii. 13, 77.
  • 2. A. F. Robbins, Launceston Past and Present, 222-4; CJ, viii. 271; ix. 216, 219, 233; CSP Dom. 1664-5, pp. 179-80; LJ, xii. 485.
  • 3. Peter, 290-1; Sidney Diary, i. 78-79; London Gazette, 20 June 1681.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1684-5, p. 249; 1685, pp. 28-29; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 319; (1883), 214, 216; Clarendon Corresp. ii. 249.