St. Mawes


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 freemen

Number of Qualified Electors:


Number of voters:



8 Mar. 1690Henry Seymour (aft. PORTMAN)
 Sir Joseph Tredenham
9 Apr. 1690John Tredenham vice Seymour, chose to sit for Totnes
5 Nov. 1695John Tredenham
 Seymour Tredenham
21 Nov. 1696Henry Seymour Portman vice Seymour Tredenham, deceased
 Philip Meadowes
1 Aug. 1698Sir Joseph Tredenham
 John Tredenham
 John Hawles
 Hugh Fortescue
11 Jan. 1701Sir Joseph Tredenham
 John Tredenham
 Sir James Bateman
 Nicholas Carew
20 Nov. 1701Sir Joseph Tredenham
 John Tredenham
 James Vernon I
 James Vernon II
25 July 1702Sir Joseph Tredenham
 John Tredenham
19 May 1705Sir Joseph Tredenham
 Francis Godfrey
21 Nov. 1707John Tredenham vice Sir Joseph Tredenham, deceased
13 May 1708Francis Godfrey
 John Tredenham
20 Oct. 1710Sir Richard Onslow, Bt.
 John Tredenham
20 Jan. 1711John Anstis vice Tredenham, deceased
8 Sept. 1713Edward Rolt
 Francis Scobell

Main Article

A borough by prescription, St. Mawes was described by Browne Willis* as ‘a small hamlet’ whose inhabitants depended on the fishing trade. The dominant interest was that the Tredenham family, who, as lords of the manor, appointed the portreeve (sometimes called mayor), who was the returning officer. The Court was able to exercise some influence through its nomination of the captain of the castle, a post worth £80 p.a.2

In 1690 Sir Joseph Tredenham had the additional advantage of being both lord of the manor and captain of the castle and he was returned with his kinsman Henry Seymour (afterwards Portman). Following Seymour’s decision to sit for Totnes, Tredenham’s son, John, took over the seat. In 1695 the brothers John and Seymour Tredenham were returned, but on 3 Dec. Hugh Boscawen I* and other freeholders and burgesses petitioned the Commons, claiming a wider franchise:

the freemen and inhabitants of the said borough have voices in electing burgesses to serve in Parliament and ought to have notice given them, by the portreeve, of the day and hour, when he intends to proceed in every election, but that one Bennet Hendy the present portreeve, without giving notice of the hour, did, on the 5th of November last, soon after it was day, proceed to an election, without any notice at all to many of the petitioners, who have a right to vote; and, by reason of such and many other practices, and by the instigation of Sir Joseph Tredenham, who hath, by some unheard of covenants in his leases to his tenants, who have a right to vote, deprived them (or may, if he so please) of their voices, contrary to the usage of Parliament.

Therefore, they believed it to have been a void election. However, although the petition was referred to the elections committee, no further action was taken.

In May 1696 Sir Joseph Tredenham was turned out of his place in the castle in favour of Boscawen. A new commission was despatched to the borough in October, no doubt to bolster Boscawen’s authority before the by-election held in November to replace Seymour Tredenham. Boscawen put up the courtier, Philip Meadowes* (perhaps already married to his niece, and therefore brother-in-law of Boscawen’s heir Hugh II), but Meadowes was defeated by Henry Seymour Portman. Meadowes petitioned on 11 Dec. but was given leave to withdraw the petition on 8 Jan. 1697. In 1698 John Tredenham was joined by his father, defeating John Hawles, the solicitor-general, and Hugh Fortescue, Boscawen’s son-in-law. They petitioned on 12 Dec., again claiming a majority among the freeholders and inhabitants, but that the portreeves had none the less returned their opponents. Hawles and Fortescue renewed their allegations in separate petitions on 24 and 27 Nov. 1699, but on 5 Feb. 1700 the elections committee was discharged from proceeding ‘at the desire of the parties concerned’.3

At the election to the first 1701 Parliament Sir James Bateman*, an outsider and a notable proponent of the New East India Company, and Nicholas Carew (probably a scion of the Carews of Antony), presumably backed by Boscawen, stood against the Tredenhams. In their petition to the Commons on 17 Feb. they claimed to have been duly chosen ‘by the freeholders and inhabitants, being housekeepers a year and a day in the said borough, whose right is always to elect’, but that the portreeve had returned their opponents. No action was taken by the House. The death of Boscawen in May 1701, and hence a vacancy in the captaincy of the castle, coincided with the tenure of the Cornishman, Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) as a Treasury lord. As he put it to his sister, Mrs Boscawen (wife of Edward†, mother of Hugh II and hence sister-in-law of Hugh I), ‘I think it hard to give Sir Joseph Tredenham the mortification of keeping him out of it for a man so young and at so great a distance [Hugh II]’. However, Hugh Boscawen II was appointed. Politically, this had little effect for the Tredenhams were returned again, even though John Tredenham was the principal ‘Poussineer’ to be blacklisted before the second 1701 election. Ironically, the Tredenhams defeated James Vernon I*, the secretary of state who had played a leading part in the discovery that Tredenham had dined with the French agent Poussin, who was standing with his son James Vernon II*. The two Vernons petitioned on 3 Jan. 1702, but were given leave to withdraw their petition on 5 Feb. That was the final contest in this period.4

In 1702 Sir Joseph and John Tredenham again shared the representation, although Boscawen held onto his place as captain of the castle. In 1705, it would appear that a compromise was reached, with John Tredenham being replaced by Boscawen’s brother-in-law Francis Godfrey, who was returned with Sir Joseph Tredenham. John Tredenham duly returned to the Commons in a by-election following his father’s death in 1707. Tredenham and Godfrey were unopposed in 1708. The strength of the castle interest when held by a man as influential in Cornwall as Boscawen can be seen by the election in 1710 of Sir Richard Onslow, 3rd Bt. Onslow may have found the prospect of representing a small Cornish borough galling, for he was reported to be ‘angry’ at having to resort to such a refuge. Tredenham was returned as usual. Upon Tredenham’s death in 1710 the family interest passed to Francis Scobell, who had married a daughter of Sir Joseph Tredenham, even though Lady Tredenham retained a life interest in the estate. Scobell also succeeded Boscawen as captain of St. Mawes and although many of Boscawen’s ‘tools’ were not removed by Robert Harley*, the Tredenham interest succeeded in returning John Anstis, a Tory, at a by-election in 1711. In 1712, John Trevanion* considered that one seat at St. Mawes belonged to the captain of the castle and the other to ‘Tredenham manor’, and in 1713 Scobell duly secured both seats, taking one for himself and bringing in Edward Rolt for the other. The same partnership was being touted in 1714 in readiness for the next election, and some Tories were confident that Arthur Kemp would exert his interest on their behalf, but in the event neither of the sitting MPs stood a poll, and two Whigs were returned, partly on the interest of John Knight II*, who had purchased many of the estates of the Tredenhams.5

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Willis, Not. Parl. ii. 168
  • 2. Ibid. 166–8.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1696, p. 162.
  • 4. BL, Evelyn mss, Godolphin to Mrs Boscawen, 17 May [1701].
  • 5. Ibid., Anne to John Evelyn II*, 28 Oct. 1710; HMC Cowper, iii. 107; Add. 70314–15, Trevanion’s list 1712; Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/1437, Samuel Rolt* to Ld. Bruce (Charles*), 27 Aug. 1714; Bodl. Ballard 18, ff. 71–77.