TREDENHAM, Sir Joseph (c.1641-1707), of Tregonan, St. Ewe, Cornw.

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



Sept. 1666 - Jan. 1679
Mar. - July 1679
Oct. 1679 - Mar. 1681
1685 - 1687
1689 - 1695
1698 - 25 Apr. 1707

Family and Education

b. c.1641, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of John Tredenham, attorney, of Philleigh, Cornw. by Elizabeth, da. of John Molesworth of Pencarrow, Cornw., bro. of William Tredenham†.  m. lic. 9 May 1666, aged 24, Elizabeth (d. 1731), da. of Sir Edward Seymour, 3rd Bt.†, of Berry Pomeroy, Devon, sis. of Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, and Henry Seymour Portman*, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.  suc. bro. 1662; kntd. by 1666.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Cornw. 1664–5; gov. St. Mawes 1678–96; v.-adm. N. Cornw. 1679–?86; v.-warden of the Stannaries by 1682–9; freeman, Saltash 1683, Grampound 1685–June 1688; alderman, Lostwithiel 1685–June 1688.2

Gent. of privy chamber 1664–85; jt. comptroller of army accts. 1703–d.3


At the Revolution Tredenham had gone over to William of Orange on whose behalf he collected the customs in Truro, but he had spoken and voted against the vacancy to the throne in the Convention – and as a result had lost his Stannaries post. Re-elected in 1690, he represented St. Mawes (with one break) until his death. As lord of the manor he appointed the returning officer, an interest he strengthened following his appointment as governor of the local castle. Politically, Tredenham followed his brother-in-law Sir Edward Seymour, in that both were disgruntled and at odds with Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). Carmarthen classed him as a Tory and a Court supporter in March 1690. Tredenham was very active in the first session of the new Parliament. He assisted at the preparatory stages of various bills, but managed none through the House. The occasions on which he acted as teller indicate that he was committed to the Tories: he told twice on the Tory side in proceedings on the disputed election at Plympton Erle, and three times relating to the governance of London, particularly in the struggle to reverse the quo warranto against the City. His other tellerships were on 26 Apr. against committing the abjuration bill and on 2 May against adjourning proceedings on the libel distributed by Anthony Rowe*. On 22 Mar., in a debate about libels circulated before the election, Sir Thomas Clarges* and Tredenham presented a paper concerning the dissolution of the last Parliament naming those who had supported the disabling clause in the Corporation Act, but a motion to refer the matter to the committee of privileges prevailed. In the debate on the recognition bill on 9 Apr. he spoke ‘for confirming most Acts of the last Parliament’ but could not agree to the expression in it that William and Mary ‘are and were King and Queen’. On 29 Apr., in the committee of the whole considering ways to secure the government, Tredenham emerged as an exponent of tradition: ‘our ancestors would hear of no other security of our government besides the militia, and tho’ necessity forces an army upon us, that is not to be for ever, but we must have recourse to our old defence, which is not therefore to be neglected’. Although not appointed by name to the committee investigating the East India trade, he reported on 8 May that the committee had drafted a bill to confirm the present company’s charter until another was set up by Act of Parliament, a measure drawn up by the company but which was never proceeded upon. On 14 May in the committee of the whole considering means of preserving the peace of the kingdom in the King’s absence, he did not favour the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, believing ‘our circumstances are very ill, if inconsistent with that law’. The following day he favoured a separate conference with the Lords over the method of passing bills after the Lords’ amendment naming their own commissioners for the poll tax. In December he was listed among those thought likely to defend Carmarthen from parliamentary attack. In April Robert Harley* classed him as ‘doubtful’ in an analysis of the House into Court and Country.4

In November 1691 Tredenham managed the later stages of the bill abrogating the oaths of supremacy in Ireland. On 3 Nov. he spoke in the committee of the whole on the state of the nation, bemoaning the loss of ‘those turned out that dared look the enemy in the face abroad and were not afraid of great names at home’. His first tellership of the session occurred on 12 Nov. in favour of leave to introduce a bill for reducing the rate of interest. On the 21st he supported Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt., in opposing a bill transferring the collection of the alnage duty to the customs as irregular because it imposed a duty on the subject. It was ordered to lie on the table and a fresh bill drafted. When the army estimates were reported to the Commons on 28 Nov. he urged the House to accept the full number of troops requested, a manoeuvre that suggests a softening of his attitude to the Court. On the 30th, when the House considered the Lords’ amendments to the bill abrogating the oaths in Ireland, he spoke in favour of the clause allowing Catholic lawyers to practise by taking the oath of allegiance only and not that of supremacy. He spoke on 3 Dec. in favour of rejecting the orphans bill, for which the City was pressing, as being, in effect, a supply bill. On the 12th he spoke and was a teller against passing a bill to prevent false and double returns. Once this bill was thrown out he sought to ensure that returning officers who made false returns were punished, and was named to a committee to inquire further into the matter. On 12 Jan. 1692 he spoke in ways and means in favour of a proposal to raise money by paying off a debt to the crown in return for a loan. On the 16th he spoke against a bill for suppressing hawkers and pedlars and on the 23rd in favour of a bill to reduce interest. On the 29th he asked that consideration of the orphans bill be delayed, as ‘you ought to inquire in what condition the city of London are to pay their debts, what this debt is and how due, and then is the time proper to consider how to pay it’. On 1 Feb. he presented a petition from Lord Abercorn relating to the Irish forfeited estates, duly presenting a clause in his favour on the 9th, and another in favour of Sir Robert Southwell† on the 12th. On 5 Feb., at the report stage of the forfeitures bill, he had opposed a clause for confiscating the remainders on estates tail, pointing out the injustice of punishing men for crimes they had not committed. On the 8th he reported from a conference with the Lords on the disagreements between the two Houses over the bill for appointing commissioners of accounts, and did so again on the 13th when he spoke in favour of the Commons’ exclusive scrutiny of money bills. On the 15th, when the Commons tried to revive the commission of accounts by tacking a clause for this purpose to the poll bill, he opposed it as irregular and because it could lead to the loss of the whole bill. Finally, he was teller on 18 Feb. for giving the orphans bill a second reading.5

In a list dating after May 1692 Tredenham was classed as a placeman, as he was in most other lists of this Parliament. The recent appointment of Seymour to the Treasury may have been the key factor in making him more amenable to the Court. He spoke on 11 Nov. 1692 in favour of reintroducing the bill lost in the Lords during the previous session, for regulating treason trials. The next day he intervened in the debate on the mismanagements of the navy to ‘desire the lords of Admiralty may give an account of how it comes to pass so many of your merchant ships have been taken’. On the 15th he supported the Court in arguing for the House to consider the King’s Speech rather than examining alliances and accounts. On 17 Nov. he was the sole Member named to bring in a bill to make perjury in capital offences a felony, which he presented on 5 Dec. Also, on the 17th he spoke in defence of the East India Company and was not in favour of a new company. It would seem, however, that Tredenham was not unacceptable to the interlopers in the East India trade for on 22 Dec. they invited him to chair the committee of the whole on the bill to set up a new joint-stock company. Although Tredenham was willing to take the chair, and indeed on the 26th ‘had promised to do his utmost to serve those concerned’, the task was subsequently assigned to Sir John Guise, 2nd Bt., on the 28th. On a separate issue that day, Seymour and Tredenham ‘promoted the bringing in a list of the fees of the several courts of justice’, and on 29 Dec. Tredenham was appointed to the committee to examine them. On 5 Dec. he opposed a bill to allow Quakers to affirm, and later that day, in a committee of the whole, he defended Lord Nottingham’s (Daniel Finch†) conduct, but could not prevent the passing of what amounted to a vote of censure on the minister. On 9 Dec. he presented a naturalization bill. He secured the rejection of a bill to settle the salaries and fees of judges and law court officials at its second reading on the 17th, regarding it as an encroachment upon the King’s prerogative. On 10 Jan. 1693 he spoke against the addition of a clause in a supply bill suspending the payment of pensions until the end of the war. On the 17th he was sole Member ordered to draft a bill to prevent delays in proceedings at quarter sessions, which he presented the following day and managed through the House. He was a teller on the 27th against an additional duty on exported wool. The next day, he opposed the triennial bill from the Lords, saying: ‘I think this a pernicious bill and to strike at your very constitution’. He supported a bill for the preservation of timber in the New Forest on 8 Feb. as of service to the navy. On the 15th he told in favour of incorporating a proviso concerning wool traders in the bill for preventing decay in towns and cities, and on the 20th was teller against a clause to allow Plymouth to import wool from Ireland. Also on the 20th, he was probably the Tredenham who spoke against allowing further objections against a clause at the report stage once it had been amended. Three days later, he was teller on an amendment to the bill for preserving game, stipulating ‘that any Protestant may keep a musket in his house notwithstanding the Act’. On the 25th he spoke against addressing the crown to dissolve the East India Company. On the 28th he presented a petition against the bill taking away lotteries. On 1 Mar. in the debate on the indemnity bill from the Lords he felt ‘the former part of the bill might be necessary but was against the latter part’, and told twice in procedural divisions in favour of the orphans bill. On 8 Mar. he spoke in favour of adjourning the debate in which several Members called for the expulsion of William Culliford. Two days later, he reported from a conference with the Lords on their amendments to the bill to enable the King and Queen to grant leases in the duchy of Cornwall, and then supported the proposal that the House give immediate consideration to the report on the privileges of the Commons.6

As early as 7 Dec. 1692 it had been reported that Tredenham would be rewarded for his steady support of the crown with the post of surveyor-general of crown lands. These rumours persisted into 1693, the appointment of Samuel Travers* in March being seen as ‘a great disappointment to Sir Joseph Tredenham’. In the 1693–4 session, he continued to feature regularly in debates. On 21 Nov. he opposed reading the affidavit of Admiral Rutter during the inquiry into the miscarriages of the fleet. He was also involved in the management of several bills, most notably a bill to prevent delays at quarter sessions which passed the House in February 1694. He acted as teller twice: on 22 Dec. 1693 against the passage of the triennial bill; and on 2 Jan. 1694 against going into a committee of the whole on the bill for regulating trials in cases of treason. His activities were cut short on 14 Feb. when he was given leave of absence for a month. He was still absent on 14 Mar. when he was granted leave for a further fortnight. Grascome’s analysis of 1693 (extended to 1695) noted him as a placeman, but not as a Court supporter, probably an indication that following Seymour’s dismissal at the end of the 1693–4 session Tredenham himself also went into opposition. In the final session of the Parliament Tredenham was again very active in the work of the Commons. His four tellerships included support for the engrossment of the bill encouraging privateers (23 Apr. 1695), opposition to the bill reversing the attainder of Jacob Leisler (2 May), and two procedural tellerships probably aimed at assisting the Duke of Leeds (as Carmarthen had become) who had, like Seymour, been attacked for his dealings with the East India Company. Tredenham’s name was included in this session in Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’, possibly of those likely to support Guy if subjected to parliamentary attack.7

At the general election of 1695 Tredenham saw both his sons returned for St. Mawes, while he himself suffered defeat at Tregony. He was listed as having subscribed at least £3,000 to the land bank. He was turned out as governor of St. Mawes in favour of his Whig rival Hugh Boscawen I*, presumably for refusing the Association. Undaunted, he petitioned the Treasury at least twice for his arrears, and was finally granted them in December 1698. By that time he was back in the House, as Member for St. Mawes. In a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in 1698, he was classed as a Country supporter, and was forecast as likely to oppose a standing army. Having been appointed to a committee on ways to encourage woollen manufactures, he subsequently chaired the committee of the whole on the resultant bill and conveyed it to the Lords in March 1699. On 15 Apr. he received leave of absence. In an analysis of the House in 1700 he was classed as belonging to the Seymour interest.8

Successful for St. Mawes at the election to the first 1701 Parliament, Tredenham was listed as a likely to support the Court over the ‘Great Mortgage’. He presented two estate bills, on 25 Apr. that concerning Sir William Clarges*, and on 3 May that relating to Bernard Tanner, heir at law of John Tanner*. He was also added on 15 Apr. to the committee preparing the impeachments against the Earl of Portland and the three former Whig ministers. In ways and means on 5 May, a proposal to reduce the total of the civil list by £100,000 was unexpectedly opposed by Tredenham, who, according to Sir Richard Cocks, 2nd Bt.*, was motivated by ‘gifts and hopes’ of office. On 22 May he received leave of absence for the recovery of his health. The death of Hugh Boscawen I almost saw the governorship of St. Mawes revert to him, but Hugh Boscawen II’s claims on Lord Godolphin (Sidney†) overrode Tredenham’s. Although Tredenham was blacklisted as having opposed the preparations for war against France as the father of the leading ‘Poussineer’, and was opposed by James Vernon I*, the Whig secretary of state, this had little weight with the voters of St. Mawes who returned him as usual.9

Tredenham was classed as a Tory by Harley in December 1701. His main legislative concerns were bills relating to the Irish forfeitures, several of which he managed through the House. His one tellership, on 19 May 1702, also concerned forfeiture business insofar as he opposed the engrossment of a bill to relieve Protestant tenants of Irish forfeitures. Not surprisingly he voted on 26 Feb. for the motion vindicating the proceedings of the Commons in the impeachment of the King’s ministers. Following his brother-in-law Seymour’s return to office after Anne’s accession, there was a false report in June 1702 that Tredenham was to be appointed a commissioner of prizes.10

Unopposed at St. Mawes at the 1702 election, Tredenham was appointed joint comptroller of army accounts in June 1703, the single place being worth £1,500 p.a. As John Isham put it, Tredenham and William Duncombe* ‘have contrived a place for themselves, the name of which it being new I cannot certainly tell, but I think they are to be inspectors over the paymaster’s office and to have each £1,000 p.a.’ In April 1704 there were reports that Tredenham was so ill that he might not live more than a few weeks, prompting speculation about his office. However, he had recovered by the following session. Harley forecast him as a probable opponent of the Tack in October 1704, and a subsequent list called him a ‘Sneaker’ in the vote on 28 Nov. Another list classed him as a placeman.11

Returned again in 1705, Tredenham was clearly in Harley’s orbit by this date. He voted on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate as Speaker, and later supported the Court over the regency bill proceedings on 18 Feb. 1706. He managed a bill for clearing the accounts of three regiments through the House, a task arising from his duties as comptroller of army accounts. However, in common with other associates of Harley, he was one of the placemen who voted on the 16th in committee against setting a date for the hearing of the Bewdley election petition. He died on 24 or 25 Apr. 1707 and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Boyer described him as ‘a warm stickler for the Church of England party’. He left his estates ‘greatly encumbered with debts’, despite the fact that the customs dues collected on behalf of William at the Revolution were apparently never paid in by him and that he was later suspected of making irregular gains over contracts for army clothing by the commissioners of accounts.12

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 99; Misc. Gen. et Her. n.s. ii. 283; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 456; G. C. Boase and W. P. Courtney, Bibliotheca Cornubiensis,. 736–7.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1678, p. 276; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 510; xi. 424; IND. 24557; SP46/66/204–7; PC2/72/694.
  • 3. N. Carlisle, Gent. Privy Chamber, 174; Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 41; xxi. 342.
  • 4. H. Horwitz, Parl. and Pol. Wm. III, 38, 58; Morrice ent’ring bk. 3, pp. 126–7; Grey, x. 48, 141, 149; Add. 42592, f. 96; 36707, f. 90; Bodl. Rawl. A.79, f. 88.
  • 5. Add. 42592, f. 175; Luttrell Diary, 34–35, 48–49, 58, 76, 94–95, 123, 133, 150, 163, 167, 172, 178, 183–4, 187.
  • 6. Luttrell Diary, 218, 224, 228, 235, 264, 293, 295, 303, 325, 360, 391, 409, 444, 449, 454, 456, 471, 475; Grey, 299–300; H. Horwitz, Revol. Politicks, 138; Bodl. Rawl. C.449, 22, 26 Dec. 1692; Surr. RO (Guildford), Onslow pprs. 173/226, Arthur Onslow’s† notes.
  • 7. HMC Portland, iii. 514; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/46, John Verney* (later Ld. Fermanagh) to Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, 7 Dec. 1692; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 8; SP9/22, f. 10.
  • 8. NLS, Advocates’ mss, Bank of Eng. pprs. 31.1.7, f. 98; S. P. Oliver, Pendennis and St. Mawes, 99; Cal. Treas. Bks. xi. 424; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, p. 152.
  • 9. Cocks Diary, 111; BL, Evelyn mss, Godolphin to Mrs Boscawen, 17 May [1701].
  • 10. Luttrell, v. 182.
  • 11. Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 41, 300; Northants. RO, Isham mss IC 2204, John to Sir Justinian Isham, 4th Bt.*, 17 Aug. 1703; HMC Cowper, iii. 35–36.
  • 12. Bull. IHR, xlv. 48; Boyer, Anne Annals, vi. 280; Le Neve, Mon. Angl. 1700–15, p. 142; Westminster Abbey Regs. ed. Chester. 259; Boyer, Pol. State, vii. 342–3; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 216; Chandler, v. 78–79.