St. Ives


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in inhabitants paying scot and lot

Number of voters:

130 in 1792, 250 in 1806, over 300 in 1812


(1801): 2,714


19 June 1790WILLIAM PRAED 
 Michael Symes95
 Henry Conyngham Montgomery86
 Charles Cockerell125
 John Woolmore123
10 Oct. 1812SIR WALTER STIRLING, Bt.155
 Samuel Stephens149
 Joseph Birch136
19 June 1818SAMUEL STEPHENS316
 James Webster152

Main Article

Since 1780 William Praed, the banker, whose family’s parliamentary interest in the borough had existed for over a century, had been in undisputed control of St. Ives, of which he was recorder, after a spate of contests. There was no opposition in 1790, 1796 or 1802, though in 1790 the Duke of Leeds was informed by an agent:

I have been vehemently urged to erect your Grace’s standard against Mr Praed at St. Ives for one Member and have been offered 60 plumpers, 13 probable and 25 possible votes out of 180 voters, to pay nothing if no success, and 3,000 if the Member be seated. I have declined it, and they are upon the hunt for somebody else. They wished for your Grace exceedingly, but I could not under all the circumstances consent to disturb a friend to government.1

Praed returned himself for one seat and two ministerialist bankers and the Duke of Northumberland’s lawyer Raine for the other at these elections.

According to Northumberland, ‘Mr Praed and I came to certain terms on which in future I was always to nominate to one of the seats in that borough as long as the interest resided in him’. He added that Praed’s interest was ‘very secure’, but he had heard in September 1805 that Praed ‘had some distant thought of parting with his property in that neighbourhood’. It appeared that Augustus Cavendish Bradshaw* was a prospective purchaser, but in the event, by February 1806, Praed had sold to (Sir) Christopher Hawkins*. The duke had to look elsewhere for a seat for his lawyer friend2 as Hawkins’s nominee at the 1806 election was Francis Horner, through the ‘unexpected generosity’ of Lord Kinnaird.

Of the parties who had contested the borough in the past, only one revived: that of the Stephens family of Tregenna Castle nearby. John Stephens, who had begun as agent for the defunct interest of Lord Buckinghamshire, had managed to return his son Samuel for a time; the latter gave up the struggle after being defeated in 1774. His son, another Samuel, who had inherited his local property, made it clear before the election of 1806 that he would contest the borough. ‘Squire’ Stephens, as he was called locally, was confident that his many relations among the electors would facilitate his return. To be more secure, he joined forces with Horner. On 9 Sept. 1805 Hawkins had written: ‘I have obtained the promises of the voters of St. Ives for one Member without a single dissenting voice. Mr Stephens the sheriff will be the other’.3

When Horner arrived to canvass, he found an unexpected opposition, ‘my worthy patron Sir Christopher Hawkins not having this seat quite as close as his other boroughs, and having left this circumstance unexplained (to me at least) until I came down’:

Our antagonists [he informed his mother, 31 Oct. 1806] are two Indian colonels, Symes the traveller to Ava and Montgomery ... they are in what is called Lord Wellesley’s party, both excellent men, I believe, if they did not oppose us. From all I can see and learn, we have no reason to fear the event, though they have certainly got a good many votes: the whole number is 250, and we reckon a majority in our favour of 70 clear double votes ... I never made so many vows, or shook so many by the hand, in the whole course of my life. There are near 30 fishermen of pilchards, every one of them styled captain; and all of them our fast friends. I met with few rebuffs; the people indeed receiving me with great cordiality and readiness, for which I am willing to forget my friend Sir Christopher, and impute it all to my talents for popularity.

Wellesley’s friends stood sponsored by Messrs Froggatt and Halse: they were to pay £3,500 if successful, otherwise nothing except their travelling expenses. Reporting the result on 4 Nov., Horner stated that ‘the gallant colonels left us the field, before we brought down all our forces’, and he had hopes of becoming ‘the very Dagon’ of his constituents by his exertions against the salt duties and in favour of fish bounties. Before the election, Sir Christopher Hawkins had accused James Halse, a local attorney and mining venturer, of introducing the Wellesley candidates, and publicly assaulted him, for which Halse was awarded £50 damages at the county assizes in August.4

At the election of 1807 Hawkins nominated the banker Sir Walter Stirling, Horner having found a more comfortable seat. Once again there was a junction with Samuel Stephens. They were unsuccessfully opposed by Charles Cockerell* and John Woolmore*, who were East Indians like their predecessors and evidently on the same interest. William Lander junior, a spokesman for this interest (‘of free spirits and independent men’) writing to George Rose, 14 Aug. 1807,5 claimed that they had ‘lost two elections already for want of being properly patronised and better supported’. They regarded Col. Symes and Capt. Woolmore, ‘two ministerial men’, as the most acceptable of ‘any who have come amongst us yet’ and hoped Rose would be their patron. He added that bribery and corruption had been ‘pretty liberally practised’ by both sides at the late election and this fact might be used to overthrow their opponents in future, besides which he hoped to draw up ‘a long list of votes in your favour’. He concluded by asking Rose for a place for a friend. Rose does not appear to have pursued the matter, but there was evidently some manoeuvring before the next election. Thus Richard Wilson II* wrote to Lord Grenville, 9 Sept. 1811,6 that he had been invited to canvass St. Ives with Stephens and thought it ‘a likely thing to succeed’, but wished to have William Praed’s personal interest (who had admittedly ‘sold his property there’) through Lord Grenville or his brother the marquess. Wilson did not stand with Stephens; the latter was in any case defeated, this time by Hawkins’s nominee and by a member of the Wellesley family, who was backed by James Halse, later Member for the borough: he was the leader of the independent interest that had approached George Rose in 1807.7

Stephens, who had stood in conjunction with Joseph Birch*, revenged himself for this defeat by standing alone in 1818, when he paved the way with an early canvass. He could boast that of 317 voters, all but one gave him a vote. Sir Christopher Hawkins’s nominee, Stirling, defeated Halse’s candidate, Webster, a London merchant, for second place. A petition on behalf of the latter ensued, but it failed. Before the election of 1820 Stirling, without Hawkins’s knowledge, joined forces with Stephens, but the Halse interest proved too strong for them.8

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Oldfield, Boroughs, i. 86; Add. 28066, f. 36.
  • 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. v. 2083, 2141.
  • 3. Farington, vi. 138-9; Cornw. RO, Coode mss CF4781.
  • 4. Horner mss 3, f. 103; Horner Mems. i. 379-81; Add. 37415, f. 15; R. Cornw. Gazette, 9 Aug. 1806.
  • 5. NLS mss 3795, f. 179.
  • 6. Fortescue mss.
  • 7. Oldfield, Key (1820); R. Cornw. Gazette, 24 Oct. 1812; Add. 38739, f. 45.
  • 8. R. Cornw. Gazette, 24 Jan. 1818; The Late Elections (1818), 154; Coode mss 4781; CJ, lxxiv. 90, 137, 359; Cornw. RO, Johnstone mss DDJ 2144, Edwards to Hawkins, 13 Feb. 1820.