MORSHEAD, John (1747-1813), of Trenant Park and Lavethan, Cornw.

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



1780 - 1784
1784 - 1802

Family and Education

bap. 4 Aug. 1747, 1st surv. s. of William Morshead by Olympia, sis. and h. of Sir Christopher Treise.  educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1766.  m. 14 or 17 Apr. 1778, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Frederick, 3rd Bt., of Hampton, Mdx., 2s. 3da. Her sis. Selina m. Jan. 1778 Robert Thistlethwayte.  suc. Sir Christopher Treise in Lavethan estate 4 Dec. 1780; fa. 30 Apr. 1784; cr. Bt. 22 Jan. 1784.

Offices Held

Surveyor gen. to Prince of Wales 1796; warden of the stannaries 1798-1800.


Morshead, supported by neighbouring country gentlemen, unsuccessfully contested Callington against the Orford interest in 1778 and 1779, and was forced on Lord Orford by Lord Sandwich in 1780. In the House he steadily supported the North Administration. On its fall Sandwich was hopeful, but not quite certain, of carrying Morshead into Opposition.1 He succeeded—Morshead wrote to him on 24 Nov. 1782,2 obviously in reply to a letter requesting his attendance at the opening of the new session, that should his ‘present weak state, the consequence of a long confinement’ prevent it,

[this] to me will be no small mortification, being so thoroughly satisfied with the plan adopted by your Lordship in politics, that I shall be much grieved to let a single day pass, without showing myself firmly attached to those with whom I have hitherto had the honour of voting in Parliament, and particularly so to your Lordship.

He voted against. Shelburne’s peace preliminaries, and in March 1783 was listed by Robinson as of the Sandwich connexion.

On the formation of the Coalition Government, Morshead wrote to Sandwich, 7 Apr. 1783, to ascertain whether North, having ‘during his former Administration neglected his promise ... of my being created a baronet’, would fulfil it now, and asked for Sandwich’s assistance; and on 18 Nov., having received the King’s favourable decision, thanked Sandwich for being ‘so much my friend on this occasion’. In the same letter he mentioned his father’s illness which had prevented his attendance in Parliament, and ‘will detain me in this country’: which explains his absence from the divisions on Fox’s East India bill. Returned in 1784 at Bodmin on the old Treise interest, Morshead remained a supporter of the Fox-North party. No speech by him in the House is recorded.

The English Chronicle wrote about him in 1780:

He is distinguished for a most amiable disposition and the strictest honour in all his engagements. He has lived in the politest circles of life, and had been involved in several of those fashionable difficulties which result from an imprudent attachment to gaming and gamesters; he has been reduced to the last extremity of pecuniary difficulty, and has been compelled to borrow money on the worst terms to discharge the worst engagements, yet in all this unfortunate complication he never forgot his promise given to a creditor, nor disappointed the just demands of his honest tradesmen ... Mr. Morshead married Miss Frederick ... by whom he got a fortune of upwards of an hundred thousand pounds.

Having inherited both the Morshead and Treise estates, he was ‘one of the largest landowners in the West of England?’.3 But when he died, on 10 Apr. 1813, he was possessed of only £4,000.4

Ref Volumes: 1754-1790

Author: Sir Lewis Namier


  • 1. Sandwich to Robinson, 22 Mar. 1782, Abergavenny mss.
  • 2. Sandwich mss.
  • 3. Maclean, Trigg Minor, i. 80.
  • 4. PCC Probate Act Bk. 1815.