TREVANION, John (by 1483-1539 or later), of Dartmouth, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1483, prob. 2nd s. of John Trevanion of Trevanion, Cornw. by Janet, da. of Thomas Treffry of Fowey, Cornw. m. by July 1510, Joan, wid. of Richard Holland (d.1506) of Dartmouth, at least 1s.; ?(2) Radegund, da. of John Somaster of Widecombe, Devon.1

Offices Held

Mayor, Dartmouth 1512-13, 1518-19, 1537-8 1538-9, 2nd bailiff 1537-8; commr. subsidy, Devon 1512; ?gent. usher in 1526; ?reeve, Grampound, Cornw. 1529-30; ?comptroller of customs, Plymouth and Fowey by 1537.2


John Trevanion was doubtless a member of the family of Caerhayes, Cornwall, and although his place in its pedigree is not certain he is taken to have been the younger brother (and an executor) of Sir William Trevanion, a gentleman usher of the Household who died in 1518. Of his career before he came to Dartmouth nothing is known but as he was to be elected mayor in 1512 he must by then have spent some years in the town, where he had perhaps established himself either shortly before or at the time of his marriage to the widow of a prominent townsman.3

Trevanion was probably a merchant, as were his wife’s first husband and brothers-in-law: in 1523 and 1524 he was to be assessed for subsidy at £100 in goods. Whether he was also the gentleman usher ‘out of wages’ named in a household list of 1526 it is hard to say, although as the brother and nephew of two men who did enjoy that status he may well have emulated them. It was therefore as a considerable figure in Dartmouth, and perhaps as a minor one at court, that he was elected one of the town’s Members to the Parliament of 1529: his fellow-Member was his nephew by marriage William Holland, and he had an uncle in the House in Thomas Treffry I. Trevanion, unlike Holland, was to see that Parliament through to its end and was therefore almost certainly re-elected to its successor of June 1536, in accordance with the King’s request for the return of the previous Members; but, again unlike Holland, he was not returned thereafter. Although both were paid by the town for their service, Trevanion appears to have received much more than Holland, at least for some sessions. Thus after sharing £2 9s. with Holland in respect of the first session, Trevanion was paid £17 4s.4d. for his attendance between 1531 and 1533, against £7 2s. for Holland; as the maximum amount payable for the four sessions of these years, calculated at the standard rate of 2s. a day and including days of travel, amounted to rather more than £25, Trevanion was recompensed either at that rate for two thirds of the days involved or at a lower one for a larger total of days. It is tempting, if risky, to think that such disparate payments bore some relation to the length of time each Member spent at Westminster. Of Trevanion’s part in the proceedings there nothing is known.4

It was during Trevanion’s mayoralty in 1538 that there occurred the attempted assault on William Holland which the mayor and his brethren took to the Star Chamber. Trevanion is last met with in the town records in 1539: a list of the common council in 1541 does not include his name. Whether his disappearance was due to death or to removal elsewhere turns upon the identification of the John Trevanion whose comptrollership of customs at Plymouth and Fowey exempted him from serving in the French campaign of 1544. That a Trevanion should have held this office is not surprising, for the leading figure at Fowey, and the customs collector there and at Plymouth until 1541, was Thomas Treffy I; what is not clear is whether the post was held by Trevanion himself or by his son and namesake, unless its re-grant in November 1550 to ‘John Trevanion gentleman’, may be taken to mean that it was then given to the son after being held by the father. In the same way, the John Trevanion who about this time married Radegund Somaster could have been either the father, if his first wife was dead, or his son (the second alternative being the more likely in view of a reference to John Travanion ‘junior’ in connexion with Thomas Vowell’s marriage to Radegund’s mother about 1537), as could the man of the name who was buried in Saltash in 1564. In view of the elder Trevanion’s advancing years, perhaps all these later references should be applied to his son, and his own death be presumed to have occurred in or shortly after 1539.5

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Roger Virgoe


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference, 1504, J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, ii. 247n. Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 239-40; H. R. Watkin, Pre-Reformation Dartmouth, 241; Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 695.
  • 2. Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 1982, ff. 8, 69v; Watkin, 187; St.Ch.2/12/115; Duchy Cornw. rec.-gen. accts. 29-30 Hen. VIII 220/12a; Statutes, iii. 80; LP Hen. VIII, iv, xix; E122/116/8; information from G. Haslam.
  • 3. PCC 20 Ayloffe, 14 Adeane.
  • 4. L. M. Nicholls, ‘Trading communities of Totnes and Dartmouth late 15th and early 16th centuries’ (Exeter Univ. M.A. thesis, 1960), 14; LP Hen. VIII, iv; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 2002, f. 48v; Watkin, 767-8.
  • 5. St.Ch.2/12/115; Exeter city lib. Dartmouth ms 2003, f. 6; LP Hen. VIII, xix; CPR, 1553, p. 346; C142/73/36; Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 501.