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 lords [deputy lords] of the borough of Mitchell who are liable to be chosen portreeves of the same and in the householders of the said borough not receiving alms’1

Number of Qualified Electors:

‘not above’ 16 in 1701; 26 in 17152

Number of voters:

between 16 (1697) and 34 (1713)3


5 Mar. 1690Francis Scobell 12
 Anthony Rowe319
 Humphrey Courtney20412
 Courtney vice Rowe, on petition, 12 Nov. 1690  
30 Oct. 1695Humphrey Courtney1411
 Thomas Vivian 12
 Anthony Rowe256
 Thomas Dodson145
  Double return. COURTNEY and VIVIAN seated, 14 Dec. 1695  
6 Mar. 1697John Tregagle vice Courtney, deceased17 
 Arthur Fortescue  
 Anthony Rowe  
 John Povey vice Vivian, chose to sit for Fowey16 
 Arthur Fortescue  
 Anthony Rowe  
4 Aug. 1698Sir John Hawles14 
 John Povey15 
 Sir Richard Blackham, Bt.2 
 Anthony Rowe1 
16 Jan. 1701Anthony Rowe  
 William Beaw  
 Sir Richard Vyvyan, Bt.  
 Vyvyan vice Rowe, on petition, 20 Mar. 1701  
2 Dec. 1701Sir Richard Vyvyan, Bt.  
 William Courtney  
 Hon. Philip Bertie  
 Francis Painter  
27 July 1702Renatus Bellott  
 Francis Basset  
 William Courtney  
19 May 1705Sir William Hodges, Bt.  
 Hugh Fortescue  
 Chester Nance  
15 May 1708Hugh Fortescue  
 Sir William Hodges,  Bt.  
20 Oct. 1710Abraham Blackmore  
 Richard Belasyse  
8 Sept. 1713Sir Henry Belasyse29 
 John Statham30 
 Sir William Hodges, Bt.2 
 Hugh Fortescue6 
 John Fortescue1 

Main Article

According to Browne Willis*, Mitchell was ‘a small hamlet scarce containing 30 houses, all cottages save one, which is a public inn, not long since erected, which is the only tiled house in this poor borough’. Since the lords of the borough (the Arundells of Lanherne) were Roman Catholics, the portreeve who acted as returning officer was chosen by his five deputy lords, usually members of the gentry with estates nearby. Mitchell was keenly contested during the period and there were rival returning officers at most contested elections.5

In 1690 Francis Scobell, a Tory cousin of Thomas Vivian, one of the deputy lords, and Anthony Rowe were returned. The defeated candidate Humphrey Courtney, also a deputy lord, petitioned on 25 Mar. against the return of Rowe, ‘an utter stranger . . . not known by any of the electors, but procured his voices by bribery’. Courtney also reminded the House that his opponent had ‘dispersed scandalous libels’, including a list of those who had voted against the vacancy to the throne in the previous Parliament. The report of the elections committee on 12 Nov. reaffirmed the franchise as defined in 1689, and stated that on the return Rowe had 30 votes as against Courtney’s 20. Evidence was produced that some of Rowe’s voters were not housekeepers, and that Rowe’s agent had paid voters ‘five pounds apiece, that is, three pounds eighteen shillings and sixpence in silver, and a guinea which was said to be for their wives’. Rowe’s agent stated that the money was ‘for meat and drink and tobacco’ and had not been promised before the election, but the House voted Rowe and his agents guilty of bribery and seated Courtney in his place.

In 1695 there was a double return on four indentures of Courtney and Vivian on one hand and of Rowe and Thomas Dodson* on the other. The petition presented on 2 Dec. on behalf of Courtney and Vivian claimed that the indentures returning Rowe and Dodson were appended to the precept in London and were therefore fictitious. Rowe’s petition on 7 Dec. was concerned with the imminent deadline for petitions on the merits of elections, and asked that a time be set by the House for considering this matter. His petition was also referred to the elections committee. The report on 14 Dec. included evidence from the clerk of the crown that Rowe had been present on 22 Nov. when the returns for Cornwall were brought to him and that there were four indentures attached to the Mitchell return. Courtney and Vivian were seated on that day, on the merits of the return, as having been returned by the proper returning officer and a motion to appoint a ‘short’ day for the hearing of the merits of the election was defeated by 175 votes to 148. Rowe renewed his petition on 22 Oct. 1696 at the start of the next session, no doubt in order to forestall a new writ being issued to replace the deceased Courtney. The report was made on 30 Nov. by Hon. Goodwin Wharton, the Whig chairman of the elections committee. No counsel had appeared before the committee to represent the borough or Vivian; Rowe had been called in and testified that he had received 25 votes as against 14 each for Courtney and Dodson. Therefore the committee recommended that Rowe be declared duly elected, but this course of action was rejected, and the resolution ordered to be recommitted, the question being ‘first put by the chair’s direction’, with even Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt., in agreement, he being ‘warmly engaged against Rowe’. When the matter was reported again on 4 Feb. 1697 it was revealed that ‘there was not above three or four voters for Mr Rowe that paid to church and poor’, that free beef was distributed before the election at Rowe’s expense and that Rowe’s licence for selling wine in Mitchell had been brought to bear to influence the voters. The House then voted Courtney duly elected by 147 votes to 145 and a new writ was issued two days later. With the matter now resolved, Vivian, ill in the country, then wrote to the Speaker choosing to make his election for Fowey. The two by-elections were both held on 6 Mar. 1697. John Tregagle, a Court supporter, who had an interest in the borough, was returned in Courtney’s place, while John Povey succeeded his relation, Thomas Vivian. The defeated candidates were Rowe and Arthur Fortescue, a brother of Hugh.6

At the general election of 1698 Povey was returned with Sir John Hawles, the solicitor-general, defeating Rowe and Sir Richard Blackham, 1st Bt., a wealthy Turkey merchant. Three petitions were presented to the House on 12 Dec.: one from Blackham, another from several inhabitants supporting him, and one from Rowe. Blackham’s petition against Hawles and Povey was renewed on 27 Nov. 1699 and on that day Rowe renewed his against Hawles. Rowe’s petition was reported on 1 Mar. 1700 to be different in substance from his previous one and on the 6th the committee of elections was discharged from having to proceed on it. Blackham’s petition was not reported before the dissolution. Before the election to the first 1701 Parliament Sir Richard Vyvyan, 3rd Bt., one of the deputy lords, told Thomas Vivian that ‘if my brother [-in-law] Povey declined serving the town that he would either recommend himself or some other country gentleman of their choice for one of their representatives’. Vyvyan, according to the same source, ‘gave an entertainment to the town’ but ‘could not obtain the promise of above 15’. Guessing correctly that since Vivian also stood for Fowey he would be unacceptable, Vyvyan stood himself, but was defeated. William Beaw, whose sister had married the 3rd Lord Arundell of Trerice, from a Protestant branch of the Arundell family which also exercised some influence in the borough, had been treating ‘upon the spot a fortnight beforehand’, as had Rowe’s agent. Bishop Trelawny put it more succinctly: ‘Rowe has carried it by his guineas at Mitchell’. Scobell carried up to London Vyvyan’s petition against the return of Rowe on the grounds of bribery, it being presented on 13 Feb. A supporting petition from several inhabitants was presented four days later. The merits of the election were decided at the bar on 20 Mar. 1701, both sides being heard by counsel. The House resolved that the right of election lay ‘in the portreeve and lords of the manor who are capable of being portreeves, and the inhabitants of the said borough paying scot and lot’, accepted the evidence against Rowe and seated Vyvyan in his place. At the election held in December 1701, Vyvyan, who was portreeve, selected Frederick Vincent as his deputy, who returned him with William Courtney, son of the late Humphrey Courtney, whose fortune was much damaged by repeated contests. They defeated Hon. Philip Bertie* and Francis ‘Painter’, presumably a scion of the Paynters of Antron. Bertie and ‘Painter’ petitioned on 3 Jan. 1702, but to no avail.7

At the election on the accession of Queen Anne, Vyvyan, who was still portreeve, returned Renatus Bellot and Francis Basset, two Tories whom he had recommended. Courtney petitioned on 24 Oct. 1702, claiming that Vyvyan had rejected qualified votes for him and admitted unqualified voters, but the case was never reported. In 1705 Sir William Hodges, 1st Bt., a wealthy Whig army contractor and an outsider, was returned with Hugh Fortescue, a relation of Hugh Boscawen II*, one of the deputy lords. The defeated candidate, Chester Nance, a Cornish lawyer, petitioned on 2 Nov., but was allowed to withdraw his petition on 12 Jan. 1706. Hodges and Fortescue were returned unopposed in 1708, but were replaced by two Tory outsiders, also unopposed, in 1710. In John Trevanion’s* view in 1712, Vyvyan could elect ‘both if he insist’, so presumably he was the dominant patron at this time. Whatever the mechanics, in 1713 two different Tory outsiders defeated a token challenge from Hodges and the Fortescues.8

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. CJ, x.469
  • 2. Willis, Not. Parl. ii.157
  • 3. Mss. pollbks. from Cornw. RO.
  • 4. The figures on the left are from the CJ; those on the right are from the mss pollbks. in Cornw. RO.
  • 5. Willis, 255; Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iii. 415.
  • 6. SP9/22, f. 195.
  • 7. Glos. RO, Blathwayt mss D/1799/c, Vivian to William Blathwayt*, 21 Nov. 1700, 20 Jan., 10 Feb. 1700[–1]; Devon RO, Exeter dioc. archs. Bp. Trelawny to Adn. Cook, 18 Jan. [1701].
  • 8. Add. 70314–15, Trevanion’s list.