ST. AUBYN, Sir John, 5th Bt. (1758-1839), of Clowance, nr. Crowan, Cornw.

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



6 Feb. 1784 - 25 Mar. 1784
1784 - 1790
1807 - 1812

Family and Education

b. 17 May 1758, 1st s. of Sir John St. Aubyn, 4th Bt., by Elizabeth, da. of William Wingfield of Washington, co. Dur. educ. Westminster 1773-5; Grand Tour. m. 1 July 1822, Juliana Vinicombe, of Marazion, Cornw., mother of 6s. 2da. of his 15 illegit. ch. suc. fa. as 5th Bt. 12 Oct. 1772.


Offices Held

Sheriff, Cornw. 1781-2.



St. Aubyn, a wealthy dilettante, was said to have been ‘little attached to public life’ and to have resided infrequently in Cornwall where his estates lay.1 He preferred to set up house elsewhere with his collection of minerals, fossils, paintings and natural children.2 His interventions on the public scene were inspired by his cousin Sir Francis Basset, later Lord de Dunstanville, who put him up to standing for the county on the Whig interest in 1790. St. Aubyn, who claimed descent ‘from ancestors who long and faithfully served you ... a large paternal estate and the most independent principles’ was defeated; and he was frustrated in a scheme by which he and John Rogers of Helston (Basset’s brother-in-law) were to be patrons of the corporation there, though they succeeded in ousting the Duke of Leeds in 1790. The plan was given up on account of the expense.3

St. Aubyn became involved in Helston elections again 16 years later when by a compromise he and the Duke of Leeds agreed to share the expenses of the borough patronage and return a Member each. In 1807 he returned himself. He usually voted silently with opposition and was listed by them as one of their present supporters in 1810. Thus he voted for Calcraft’s motion on the mutiny bill, 14 Mar. 1808; against the convention of Cintra, 21 Feb., against the Duke of York’s conduct, 17 Mar., and against corruption, 17, 25 Apr., 1, 11 May 1809. In February and March 1810 he was against ministers on the Scheldt expedition. He voted against Burdett’s committal to the Tower and for the release of Gale Jones, 5, 16 Apr. He supported sinecure reform, 17 May, and parliamentary reform, 21 May. He opposed the Regency restrictions, January 1811. On 25 Mar. he voted for the election bribery regulation bill and on 6 June against the restoration to the army command of the Duke of York. He voted for Catholic relief throughout and on 4 Feb. 1812 for Morpeth’s motion on the state of Ireland. He supported Turton’s motion of 27 Feb. 1812 for a committee on the state of the nation and opposed the orders in council, 3 Mar. 1812.

In May 1812 St. Aubyn informed the corporation of Helston that he wished to give up his seat and his interest there, agreeing to pay patronage expenses up to the dissolution. He was as good as his word and never returned to Parliament. In February 1832 he applied to Lord Grey for a peerage. He died at his Putney retreat, 10 Aug. 1839, whereupon the baronetcy became extinct; the entailed estates went to his kinsman Rev. J. Molesworth, while the lucrative Devonport property was left to his eldest natural son charged with £130,000 to provide marriage settlements of £10,000 for each of 13 other natural children. In 1811 Farington wrote of him that his manners were ‘remarkably well-regulated, temperate and very polite and his sentiments appear to correspond with his manners’.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Gent. Mag. (1839), ii. 542; DNB .
  • 2. He lived at Short Groves, Saffron Walden and at Woolmers, Herts., as well as at Portland Place, Mdx.
  • 3. Cornw. RO, Rashleigh mss 5507, poster; see HELSTON.
  • 4. Brougham mss 37794; PCC 204 Arden; Farington , vi. 256.