West Looe


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 60


24 Feb. 1690Edward Seymour
 Jonathan Trelawny
25 Oct. 1695James Kendall
 John Mountstephen
1 Aug. 1698James Kendall
 John Mountstephen
11 Jan. 1701James Kendall
 John Mountstephen
2 Dec. 1701Richard Jones, Earl of Ranelagh [I]
 James Kendall
28 July 1702Richard Jones, Earl of Ranelagh [I]
 Sidney Godolphin
3 Dec. 1702Richard Hele vice Godolphin, chose to sit for Helston
31 Mar. 1703Henry Poley vice Hele, chose to sit for Plympton Erle
 Charles Seymour vice Ranelagh, expelled
22 May 1705Sir Charles Hedges
 John Mountstephen
23 Jan. 1707Francis Palmes vice Mountstephen, deceased
15 May 1708Sir Charles Hedges
 John Conyers
19 Oct. 1710Sir Charles Hedges
 Arthur Maynwaring
20 Apr. 17131John Trelawny vice Maynwaring, deceased
7 Sept. 1713John Trelawny
 Sir Charles Wager

Main Article

The dominant political influence at West Looe was Sir Jonathan Trelawny, 3rd Bt., bishop of Exeter and then, from 1707, of Winchester (see East Looe, Cornw.). The corporation at West Looe consisted of a mayor and 12 aldermen which was easily overawed. The only alternative interest to the Trelawnys was held by the Kendall family. James Kendall controlled the interest by virtue of his guardianship over his niece Mary (grand-daughter of Thomas Kendall†, who had acquired nearby Killigarth by marriage). Kendall, a wealthy West Indian merchant, did not stand in 1690 and spent the next few years abroad. In his absence Edward Seymour, eldest son of Sir Edward, 4th Bt.* (a cousin of the bishop), was chosen with Jonathan Trelawny of Plymouth, also a cousin of the bishop. In 1695 Kendall was chosen with John Mountstephen, a Cornish Tory and a protégé of the bishop, and both men retained their seats at the next two elections. In January 1701 the bishop explicitly recorded that he had nominated to both seats. In December 1701 Kendall’s partner was the Earl of Ranelagh, whose daughter, Lady Catherine Jones, was the closest friend of Mary Kendall.2

At the general election following the accession of Queen Anne, Ranelagh’s precarious parliamentary position was shored up by the new ministry. Sir Edward Seymour wrote to Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†): ‘my Lord Treasurer [Sidney Godolphin†], Lord Marlborough [John Churchill†], Lord Rochester [Laurence Hyde†] have pressed the bishop of Exeter for choosing of my Lord Ranelagh but I shall spoil that plot’. Seymour was foiled by Bishop Trelawny, who grew steadily closer to the ‘duumvirs’, aided no doubt by Mary Kendall, who had fallen out with her uncle. Ranelagh was chosen with Sidney Godolphin, the lord treasurer’s kinsman. When Godolphin opted to sit for Helston, Richard Hele, a Devonian relation of the Trelawnys, was chosen to replace him. Hele was seated on petition for Plympton Erle and he too resigned his seat, being replaced by Henry Poley, an eminent lawyer and a High Tory recommended by Godolphin. Simultaneously, Charles Seymour, Sir Edward’s youngest son, replaced Ranelagh, who had been expelled. The rapid turnover of Members through resignation suggests that this was a borough in which the main interest was firmly in control. Such a view is confirmed by the mayor of West Looe who, about this time, undertook to make no freemen or aldermen without ‘a positive command’ from the bishop nor to draw up any petition without his approval, in return for financial assistance for this ‘poor corporation with little land worth anything’. In 1705 Bishop Trelawny returned Sir Charles Hedges, secretary of state, along with Mountstephen. Upon Mountstephen’s death, Francis Palmes, one of Marlborough’s favourite army officers, was chosen. In 1708 John Conyers, the late chairman of ways and means, replaced Palmes. Five new freemen were made at West Looe in 1709–10, in an irregular manner, it was later alleged. By this time virtually all freemen were non-resident, including ‘one doctor of theology, one doctor of medicine, one colonel, one admiral and numerous clergy’.3

At the election after the fall of Godolphin in 1710, Bishop Trelawny returned Arthur Maynwaring, the Whig pamphleteer, with Hedges. This went against the Tory tide, although the new ministry was soon courting Bishop Trelawny for his electoral interest. That Trelawny, who after all was a Tory, should at least have wished to maintain good relations with the Harley ministry, can be seen in the supportive addresses sent from both East and West Looe in October 1712 following the Queen’s communication of the peace terms to the Commons. However, in the by-election following Maynwaring’s death, there was a break with recent practice, Bishop Trelawny returning not a politician recommended by the ministry, but his own son, John II, who had recently come of age. In 1713 John Trelawny was joined by the Whig admiral, Sir Charles Wager, who was reputed to be a native of the borough and who had recently purchased an estate in the vicinity. In the 1715 campaign Thomas Carte, the Jacobite historian, deemed the bishop ‘very unaccountable’ for choosing four Whigs at Looe.4

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. 7 May on return, ex inf. James Derriman.
  • 2. Bodl. Willis 48, f. 139v; Devon RO, Exeter dioc. archs., Bp. Trelawny to Adn. Cook, 11 Jan. [1701]; Westminster Abbey Reg. (Harl. Soc. Reg. x), 267.
  • 3. Add. 29588, f. 79; HMC Bath, i. 57; A.L. Browne, Corp. Chrons. 194–5; PRO, KB1/45(2), 47(1), ex inf. James Derriman.
  • 4. London Gazette, 30 Sept.–4 Oct. 1712; Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. Cornw. iii. 164–5; Bodl. Ballard 18, ff. 71–72.