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 corporation and freemen

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:

about 50 in 1714


28 Feb. 1690Sir John St. Aubyn, Bt. 
 Charles Godolphin 
 Richard Hoblyn 
29 Oct. 1695Hon. Francis Godolphin 
 Charles Godolphin 
2 Aug. 1698Sidney Godolphin 
 Charles Godolphin 
14 Jan. 1701Charles Godolphin 
 Sidney Godolphin 
3 Dec. 1701Hon. Francis Godolphin 
 Sidney Godolphin 
27 July 1702Hon. Francis Godolphin 
 Sidney Godolphin 
21 May 1705Sidney Godolphin 
 Hon. Francis Godolphin 
14 May 1708Francis Godolphin,  Visct. Rialton 
 Sidney Godolphin 
15 Dec. 1708John Evelyn vice Rialton, chose to sit for Oxfordshire 
24 Oct. 1710George Granville 
 Sidney Godolphin 
22 Dec. 1710Robert Child vice Granville, chose to sit for Cornwall 
9 Sept. 1713Henry Campion 
 Charles Cox 
12 Apr. 1714Thomas Tonkin vice Cox, chose to sit for Gloucester45
 Samuel Enys41
 Alexander Pendarves vice Campion, chose to sit for Sussex46

Main Article

Helston was a duchy manor and a coinage town, much of the tin being loaded on to ships in the local harbour. The corporation (consisting of a mayor, four aldermen and 12 common councilmen) could make freemen at will. The patron was the recorder, Lord Godolphin (Sidney†), whose estate was six miles away.2

In 1690 Charles Godolphin, Lord Godolphin’s brother, and Sir John St. Aubyn, 2nd Bt., were returned, defeating Richard Hoblyn, who petitioned on 2 Apr. without result. Charles Godolphin was unopposed at the next three elections, being partnered in 1695 by Lord Godolphin’s son, Hon. Francis, even though he was under age, and then by Lord Godolphin’s cousin, Sidney. In the last election of William’s reign, Hon. Francis Godolphin joined Sidney and these two men were re-elected in 1702 and 1705. In 1708 the corporation received letters from Francis Godolphin, now styled Lord Rialton, and from Sidney Godolphin, applying for their support. The mayor ‘undertook the trouble’ for managing the election for which he ‘undoubtedly expects a gratuity’. On Rialton’s choosing to serve elsewhere, John Evelyn II, whose wife was not only the daughter of Hugh Boscawen II but also the niece of Lord Godolphin, replaced him.3

Two weeks prior to the 1710 election at least one correspondent of Evelyn assumed that he would be contesting a seat at Helston. However, the ministerial revolution appears to have dented the Godolphins’ control of the borough, leading to a compromise which saw Sidney Godolphin share the representation of the borough with George Granville. When Granville opted to sit for Cornwall, he was replaced in December by Robert Child, a member of the important Tory banking family, who was nevertheless an outsider. John Trevanion’s† view in the summer of 1712 was that Godolphin and Sir Richard Vyvyan, 3rd Bt.† (one of the chief landowners in the borough), could split the representation, suggesting that Granville may have exercised influence here partly through Vyvyan’s interest. Clearly, there were now political differences in the borough, for that same summer rival addresses were presented to the Queen following her communication of the peace terms to Parliament. Firstly, in July, Granville (now Lord Lansdown) introduced Child into the royal presence to present an address which referred to ‘the artful contrivances of a restless and malicious party to obstruct it [the peace], who would sacrifice the peace of Europe to their boundless ambition and avarice’. This implied criticism of Godolphin and the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) brought forth a response presented by Sidney Godolphin after being introduced by the lord lieutenant, the 3rd Earl of Rochester, in which the borough (including the mayor) thanked the Queen in more moderate language. Meanwhile, Lansdown was attempting to gain control of the borough through the judicious distribution of crown patronage. Thus on 4 July he asked Lord Oxford (Robert Harley*) to remove Bernard Penrose, the collector at Helston, ‘a busy, virulent, turbulent fellow’ and to give the place to one Polkinhorn, ‘a man every way qualified for it; a particular friend of Sir Richard Vyvyan’s as well as mine, and of great use to us .?.?. in that county’. In September 1712 the Godolphin interest then suffered a serious blow with the death of Lord Godolphin. In the run-up to the 1713 election, rival addresses were again presented on the peace. The signatories to the address sponsored by Lansdown included the ‘mayor elect’ and the rector. It referred to the ‘tedious and expensive (though necessary) war’, and was presented by Vyvyan. A few days later Rochester introduced Sidney Godolphin with an address which referred to the ‘necessary and successful war’, and the need to ‘discountenance faction’. A document, probably dating between 1713 and 1715, describes how the Whigs used dubious legal means to deprive Polkinhorn of his place on the aldermanic bench, and details the ensuing legal battle. However, before the 1713 election Lansdown had secured control of the mayoralty and was able to return two Tories, both outsiders, who wished for safe seats in case of electoral defeat in their favoured constituencies. A double by-election followed after both opted to sit elsewhere. Lansdown’s close friend Alexander Pendarves was returned with Thomas Tonkin, the historian of Cornwall, another Tory. The defeated candidate, Samuel Enys, a Whig, to whom Tonkin’s estate at Trevaunce was heavily mortgaged, petitioned on 30 Apr. 1714, alleging that Tonkin lacked the necessary property qualification. Tonkin defended himself on 10 May, and a full hearing was ordered for 10 June. On that date it was then adjourned for a week, only for Enys to withdraw his petition on the 16th.4

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Bean’s notebks.
  • 2. Defoe, Tour ed. Cole, 240; Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. ii. 169; History, xv. 109.
  • 3. Add. 28051, f. 236.
  • 4. BL, Evelyn mss, William Thomson to Evelyn, 10 Oct. 1710; Add. 70314–15, Trevanion’s list; London Gazette, 22–24 July, 19–23 Aug. 1712, 16–19, 23–26 May 1713; HMC Portland, v. 198; EHR, xlvi. 456–7.