COSGARNE, John, of Bodwithall, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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In 1571 there were at least three John Cosgarnes in Cornwall: a father and son living in Bodwithall and a brother to the elder of these two at St. Austell. As Bodwithall is nearer St. Germans, it is likely that the MP was


John Cosgarne of Bodwithall. m. Thomasine, da. of William Lanyon, related through her mother to the Tregians.

This John d. bef. 28 Sept. 1577, when letters of administration were granted, with the consent of the widow, to his son John. A new grant was made 27 Jan. 1580 to John Cosgarne of St. Austell, the previous one having been annulled,1 presumably because of non-feasance by the original administrator, who was probably in prison for debt.


John Cosgarne of Bodwithall and Lozicke, Cornw., 1st or o.s. of John Cosgrave above. m. by 1574, Christian, da. and h. of Michael Vivian of Skyburlowe, Cornw. suc. fa. 1577.

He d. bef. 15 Feb. 1599.2

Either Cosgarne could have been brought in for St. Germans by the local Vivian family, a connexion which was soon to ruin them, in the following circumstances.

John Vivian of Arralas died in 1564, leaving as co-heirs his twin daughters Joan and Anne, aged two. The elder Cosgarne discovered that the Vivians were concealing the wardship, and informed Sir William Cecil, who promised him the grant if he could prove the Queen’s claim. Hannibal Vivian, nephew of the dead man, decided to ignore the letters patent of 1574 giving custody of the twins to Cosgarne. According to a Star Chamber bill of complaint, he and other ‘riotous persons’ in May 1577 seized the two girls in Fleet Street and carried them off to Cornwall, where they were kept hidden ‘in obscure caves and under cliffs’. Their legal guardian not only failed to get them restored, but was arrested for debt, apparently at Vivian’s instigation, and soon afterwards died in prison.

His son, who carried on the case, gained a court of wards judgment in his favour during Easter term 1578, which he was unable to enforce owing to his arrest on a charge of rape, trumped up by the Vivians. By the time he could clear himself he was heavily in debt and had discovered that secret marriages between the heiresses and two of Vivian’s friends had deprived him of the hope of any profits from the wardship. In December 1580 the Privy Council ordered commissioners to interview his creditors. He was then a prisoner in Queen’s bench, but was probably freed soon afterwards, as in the following year he and Vivian were again before the courts. There appears to have been a Chancery case and another in Queen’s bench, where £4,000 damages were awarded against Cosgarne. His outlawry for debt, at the suit of one John Woodward on 20 June 1583, seriously prejudiced his chances of success in a third suit against Vivian, this time in the Star Chamber, the defendant declaring that he was not obliged to answer an outlaw. No further documents in the case survive, but it seems likely that the father’s history was repeated: at this younger Cosgarne’s death in 1598 or early 1599 administration of the estate was granted to a creditor.3

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


Not Cosgrave as in the de Tabley and Browne Willis lists, and not Thomas as in Browne Willis.

  • 1. St. Ch. 5/C6/4; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 281, 529; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 748-9; PCC admon. act. bk. 1577, ff. 131, 187.
  • 2. PCC admon. act bk. 1577, f. 56; 1599, f. 7.
  • 3. Vis. Devon, 748-9; St. Ch. 5/C6/4; APC, xii. 299; PCC admon. act bk. 1599, f. 7.