Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the tenants of the duchy of Cornwall capable of being portreeves and in the inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

at least 83 in 1701


10 Mar. 1690Jonathan Rashleigh 
 Shadrach Vincent 
9 Nov. 1695Thomas Vivian 
 Sir Bevill Granville 
2 Aug. 1698Sir Bevill Granville 
 Thomas Vivian 
 Shadrach Vincent 
 Henry Ashurst 
13 Jan. 1701John Williams53
 Hon. John Granville75
 Thomas Vivian381
2 Dec. 1701John Williams 
 John Hicks 
 Hon. John Granville 
29 July 1702George Granville 
 John Hicks 
 John Williams 
21 May 1705George Granville 
 John Hicks 
13 May 1708George Granville 
 Henry Vincent 
 John Fortescue Aland 
18 Oct. 1710George Hay, Visct. Dupplin [S] 
 Henry Vincent 
18 Dec. 1711Henry Vincent  re-elected after appointment to office 
 George Hay, Visct. Dupplin [S]  re-elected after appointment to office 
11 Feb. 1712Bernard Granville vice Dupplin, called to the Upper House 
7 Sept. 1713Henry Vincent 
 Jermyn Wych 

Main Article

Browne Willis* thought Fowey ‘very commodious for shipping’, and Defoe mentioned the ‘great many flourishing merchants in it, who have a great share in the fishing trade, especially for pilchards’. Other observers noted the old trade of wrecking, which after the pillaging of an East Indiaman which went aground near the port, led to a bill being brought in to prevent Cornishmen stripping English wrecks. Corporate affairs were in some disarray following the Revolution and on 4 Feb. 1690 the corporation and inhabitants petitioned the crown for a new charter to replace that granted in 1685. Ten days after the 1690 election a new charter was granted, appointing Jonathan Rashleigh as recorder and Bishop Trelawny of Exeter, John Treffry† and Shadrach Vincent as justices of the peace. This merely strengthened the interest of the Rashleighs, who held the largest amount of property in the borough.2

At the general election of 1690 Rashleigh and Shadrach Vincent, who had been collector of customs in the port and had married into the Rashleigh family, were returned unopposed. For some reason Rashleigh stood down in 1695. Lady Mary Carew thought that her ‘cousin’ Carew would attempt to get in by means of Rashleigh’s interest, but Thomas Vivian, a cousin of Treffry, was returned with Sir Bevill Granville, nephew of the 1st Earl of Bath (John Granville†), lord warden of the Stannaries. In July 1698 James Vernon I* wrote that Sir Henry Ashurst, 1st Bt.*, ‘hopes to bring in his son’ at Fowey. However, at the election Granville and Vivian retained their seats. On 12 Dec. a petition of the defeated candidates, Shadrach Vincent and Henry Ashurst†, was presented, alleging that

such was the partiality of Jonathan Tingcombe, portreeve of Fowey, that before the election he declared he would not return the petitioners though they had never so many votes; but would return one of the sitting Members, if he had but four votes; and, accordingly did falsely return Sir Bevill Granville and Mr Vivian: and being told, that the petitioners might recover great damages against him, for such false return, he said, he hoped to get £500 by the bargain.

The petition was referred to the elections committee, but was not heard before the end of the session. Vincent alone renewed his petition on 16 Nov. 1699, and on the 29th the committee of elections was asked to examine whether the allegations in the new petition were different from the original, reporting back on 14 Dec. that it was the same in substance. The elections committee was discharged from proceeding with the petition on 5 Feb. 1700 when the House was officially informed of Vincent’s death.3

Before the next general election Thomas Vivian wrote to his cousin William Blathwayt*, secretary at war:

my election at Fowey seems very dubious, the interest I had there being considerably weakened, that town having promised one burgess-ship to Mr Rashleigh provided he leaves them to their choice of the other, so that Mr Rashleigh will only give me his own voice and I have lost a good friend and relation there Mr James Toller who was buried the last week. He was a brother-in-law to my cousin Treffry, and a leading man in the corporation and there is one Mr Williams [John*], a neighbour to Fowey and a nephew to Mr Tingcombe the portreeve, is making an interest so that I cannot now expect the favour or voice of the portreeve or his friends, and my Lord Bishop of Exeter [Trelawny] writes me that some of the town have been with him desiring his Lordship not to recommend either of their present burgesses so that my Lord cannot assist me.

This would seem to indicate that the Granvilles had been Rashleigh’s nominees and that Vivian had been promoted by some influential local inhabitants as well as by Rashleigh. Vivian’s candidature was weakened by his not coming to the town at once, and he took the precaution of standing also for Mitchell where he was one of the deputy lords. With Hon. John Granville, an altogether more formidable politician than his nephew, ‘having the votes on both sides’, the contest for the second seat rested between Vivian and Williams. Here the role of the portreeve, Tingcombe, was vital:

to make a majority for his nephew [he] read a petition in court subscribed by above 20 persons poor inhabitants of the town who never paid or for inability have been exempted paying scot and lot desiring him to admit them as votes.

By admitting them to the poll he returned his nephew, John Williams, despite protests from Sir Richard Vyvyan, 3rd Bt.*, Francis Scobell* (Vivian’s cousin), Rashleigh and Treffry: ‘the mayor, major part of the aldermen and chief of the town are mightily dissatisfied at these proceedings, being an innovation upon their ancient rights and if passed over will introduce all the potboilers there to the votes’. Blathwayt, however, advised Vivian ‘not to be too forward’ in prosecuting his petition but to leave the case to the judgment of his friends at Westminster. Vivian’s petition against Williams’ return by illegal practices was presented on 13 Feb. 1701 and was supported by one from the corporation and inhabitants paying scot and lot presented next day, alleging that the portreeve had violated the constitution of their borough. On 18 Mar. Vivian’s kinsman John Povey*, clerk to the council, gave Vivian ‘very little hope of success’. John Treffry, on the other hand, wrote to him on the 24th:

put up a firm resolution to stick by us and make a speedy preparation for your journey and witnesses as possible and if you have not that success that we do expect (which we do not doubt of) yet you will come off with honour and ever engage the town thereafter to be for you, but if you quit the field, you will give your enemies occasion to ridicule you (as they do already and say you have not the courage to try it) which vexeth me and all your friends.

Vivian, however, discouraged at finding that his friends in London despaired of having any success in his petition and that Bishop Trelawny was determined in his opposition and threatened to prove bribery against him, withdrew his petition. The inhabitants persisted with theirs, the report of which on 5 May declared that the right of election at Fowey ‘is in the Prince’s tenants, who are capable of being portreeves of the said borough and in such inhabitants only as pay scot and lot’. The House agreed, but with no petitioner to challenge Williams he kept his seat.4

The election of December 1701 was something of a re-run. As one newspaper reported, Hicks and Williams were returned by the deputy-portreeve and Hicks and Granville by the mayor. Hicks, a local man, clearly had almost universal support and the contest lay between Williams and Granville. As the mayor, recorder (Rashleigh), aldermen and scot-and-lot men complained in their petition presented on 13 Jan. 1702, John Granville was duly elected with Hicks, but

Nathaniel Tingcombe, the portreeve’s brother, who had wrongfully got the precept . . . arbitrarily, contrary to the determination of the last House of Commons touching elections, rejected divers legal votes for Mr Granville and Mr Hicks, and allowed many unqualified persons to vote for Mr Williams.

Since Tingcombe had retained the precept, the mayor’s indenture returning Granville and Hicks was refused by the sheriff. Although the petition was referred to the committee of elections, no action was taken before Parliament was dissolved. Significantly, the address from Fowey in support of the war apologized for its lateness and was presented to the King by Hicks alone. Following the King’s death, two separate addresses were presented, one from the corporation presented by Hicks and one from the ‘vicar and inhabitants’ presented by Williams. Not surprisingly, at the election of 1702 the two contests of 1701 were re-run, only on this occasion George Granville, brother of Sir Bevill, was returned with Hicks, defeating Williams. The latter’s petition against Hicks and his agents was presented on 30 Oct. 1702, but it met with no success, being allowed to drop.5

Rashleigh died in September 1702 and an attempt was made by the Earl of Radnor (Charles Bodvile Robartes†), who owned or rented some property in the borough, to succeed him as recorder. Rashleigh’s heir was a minor and there were certainly disagreements over the administration of the Rashleigh estates between John Rashleigh of Corner Hall, Hertfordshire, uncle to Philip*, and Canon Kendall. This does not seem to have affected the stability of the borough as Granville and Hicks were returned unopposed in 1705, although there is evidence that Granville was in Fowey in the run-up to the election. In 1708 the Whigs seem to have mounted a challenge, when John Fortescue Aland†, a local property owner and cousin of Hugh Fortescue*, opposed George Granville, who was returned with Henry Vincent II (great-nephew of Shadrach Vincent). Fortescue’s petition presented on 27 Nov. 1708, alleging partiality by the portreeve Charles Lamb on behalf of Granville, was never heard. In 1710 Vincent was returned unopposed with Robert Harley’s* son-in-law Lord Dupplin, in a vacancy created by Granville’s campaign for the county seat. Philip Rashleigh, now of age, sat elsewhere. In the new ministry Granville was the key figure in managing Cornish elections and in 1711 he was keen to ensure that important Fowey voters such as Francis Lamb, the portreeve, and Thomas Rashleigh, presumably a relative of Philip Rashleigh, received employment as customs officials in the borough. December 1711 saw an uncontested double by-election when both Vincent and Dupplin were returned after accepting office. Shortly afterwards Dupplin was given an English peerage, thereby allowing Bernard Granville II, a brother of George Granville, to replace him. John Trevanion’s* view of the borough, later in 1712, was that ‘Philip Rashleigh [returned] one, the other often disputed, of late Vincent’. At the general election of 1713 Vincent was returned unopposed with Jermyn Wych, a distant kinsman of George Granville (now Lord Lansdown), who may also have had property in the borough, but was probably the nominee of Rashleigh.6

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Cornw. RO, Rashleigh mss DDR(S), poll 13 Jan. 1700[–1].
  • 2. Willis, Not. Parl. ii. 133; Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 235; Add. 17677 CCC, f. 685; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 445, 518; Cornw. RO, DDR 5506/211, list of Prince’s tenants and inhabitants paying scot and lot at Fowey.
  • 3. Cornw. RO, Carew Pole mss CC/FF/1, Lady Carew to Treise, 15 Oct. 1695; Northants. RO, Montagu (Boughton) mss 47/63, James Vernon I* to Shrewsbury, 30 July 1698.
  • 4. Glos. RO, Blathwayt mss D 1799 c.5, Vivian to Blathwayt, 21 Nov. 1700, 6, 13, 20, 30 Jan., 24 Mar. 1700[–1], Treffry to Vivian, 24 Mar. 1701, Vivian to John Pomeroy, 24 Mar. 1701.
  • 5. Post Boy, 6–9 Dec. 1701; London Gazette, 9–12 Feb., 26–30 Mar., 2–6 Apr. 1702.
  • 6. J. Wallis, Bodmin Reg. 318–19; Rashleigh mss DDR (S) 1/88, J[ohn] Rashleigh to Edward Ellis, 13 Nov. 1705; Add. 70165, Granville to Robert Harley, 10 May 1705; 70314–15, Trevanion’s list; E. W. Rashleigh, Fowey, 30.