West Looe

Double Member Borough

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1754-1790, ed. L. Namier, J. Brooke., 1964
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the freemen

Number of voters:

about 50


19 Apr. 1754John Frederick 
 William Noel 
16 May 1757William Trelawny vice Noel, appointed to office 
30 Mar. 1761William Trelawny 
 Francis Buller 
24 Dec. 1763Buller re-elected after appointment to office 
19 Jan. 1765John Sargent vice Buller, deceased23
 James Townsend 1 
10 July 1767James Townsend vice Trelawny, appointed to office 
21 Mar. 1768James Townsend 
 William Graves 
11 Oct. 1774William James 
 Charles Ogilvie 
7 June 1775John Rogers vice Ogilvie, vacated his seat 
9 Sept. 1780Sir William James 
 John Buller 
20 Mar. 1782John Sommers Cocks vice Buller, vacated his seat 
3 Jan. 1784John Buller vice James, deceased 
5 Apr. 1784John Lemon 
 John Scott 
21 Aug. 1784James Adams vice Lemon, vacated his seat 

Main Article

In the first half of the eighteenth century the chief interest in the boroughs of East Looe and West Looe was in the Trelawnys. On the death of Governor Edward Trelawny in January 1754 the management and patronage of the two boroughs passed to his nephews the Bullers, while his cousin once removed, William Trelawny, ineffectively tried at times to reassert the Trelawny claim to them. In both boroughs the capital burgesses included, c. 1760, James, John and Francis Buller, and Charles and William Trelawny.2There were also families of local notables strongly entrenched in the corporations. The capital burgesses of West Looe in 1759 included three Puddicombes, two Bawdens, and one Hearle; moreover the mayor was a Bawden. Some further members of all these families appear among the free burgesses.

At West Looe the Puddicombes and Hearles tried in 1759 through their Member, John Frederick, to circumvent the Bullers;3 contested the mayoralty against them 1762-5 (repeatedly there was no election ‘owing to equal votes’); and in that struggle had the support and protection of William Trelawny. It was probably they who ran James Townsend against John Sargent, nominated by the Bullers on Grenville’s recommendation. Even the choice of Sargent was a concession to local feeling: Grenville had originally proposed John Bindley but was told by James Buller that as Bindley was supposed to have been the author of the cider tax (which Grenville denied) his candidature might be prejudicial to Buller’s interest both in the borough and the county.

The conflict between Trelawny and the Bullers may possibly have been composed after James Buller’s death and the advent of the Rockinghams—George Grenville wrote on 16 Sept. 1765 to John Buller jun., son of James Buller: ‘I know not the particulars of what has happened at West Looe since your father’s death, nor the present situation of the interest there.’4 About that time Trelawny was elected mayor of West Looe; the next year Joseph Bawden, of a family attached to the Bullers; and in 1768-9 two Puddicombes; and they and the Hearles frequently held the office during the next thirty years while the parliamentary patronage of the two boroughs remained uncontested with the Bullers. Some time about 1774 by a family arrangement the patronage of West Looe passed to John Buller jun., while that of East Looe remained with John Buller sen., and passed from him to his eldest son, another John Buller.

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Townsend claimed to have received 42 votes, but the 'greater part' were rejcted by the mayor, John Dunning to Shelburne, 19 Jan. 1765, Lansdowne mss.
  • 2. For West Looe, list of 3 Oct. 1759, Buller mss at Antony; for East Looe, list sent to Henry Erskine by William Trelawny, 22 May 1762, Bute mss.
  • 3. Namier, Structure, 326-8; Cal. Home Office Pprs. 1762-5, p. 365; Philip Lane to James Buller, 20 Mar. 1763, Buller mss.; Add. 34713, f. 122.
  • 4. Grenville letter bk.