TREFUSIS, John (c.1586-1647), of Trefusis, Mylor, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press




Family and Education

b. c.1586,1 1st s. of John Trefusis of Trefusis and Mary, da. and coh. of Walter Gaverigan of Gaverigan, St. Columb Major, Cornw.2 educ. Broadgates Hall, Oxf. 1605;3 L. Inn 1607.4 m. (1) 29 May 1611, Jane, da. of William Treffry† of Place, Fowey, Cornw., 5s. 3da.; (2) 21 Aug. 1639, Joan, da. of Sir William Strode* of Newnham, Devon, wid. of Sir Francis Drake* (d.1637) of Buckland Abbey, Devon, s.p. suc. fa. 1603.5 d. by 7 Dec. 1647.6 sig. Jo[hn] Trefusis.

Offices Held

Commr. piracy, Cornw. 1613-41,7 j.p. 1618-42,8 commr. subsidy 1621-2, 1624, 1628, 1641,9 i.p.m. of Henry Nance 1625,10 Benevolence 1626,11 Forced Loan 1627,12 sheriff 1626-7,13 commr. incorporation of maltsters 1636,14 assessment 1641-d., sequestration 1643-4,15 v.-adm. N. Cornw. 1645-d.16


Trefusis’ forebears were obscure Cornish gentry, remarkable only for the length of their pedigree, which stretched back to at least the early 1200s. During the sixteenth century the family’s fortunes were twice enhanced by marriages to local heiresses, and as a result Trefusis in 1603 inherited four manors and three half-manors, besides the barton six miles south of Truro from which he derived his name. Although he succeeded to this property as a minor, his estates were apparently not subject to wardship, and he progressed uneventfully through Oxford and into local government. Trefusis’ marriage into the godly Treffry family of Fowey in 1611 perhaps reflected his religious outlook, since he and his brother-in-law John Treffry* were later joint dedicatees of a pamphlet by their kinsman, the notable puritan Hugh Peter.17

In December 1620 Trefusis was elected to Parliament for Truro. His standing as a local gentleman doubtless assisted his return, but he owned little property in the town itself, and probably relied on his close ties to the borough’s recorder, his kinsman Hugh Boscawen, to secure his place.18 Although not appointed to any committees while in the Commons, Trefusis attended the committee for the lighthouses bill and was entitled to attend several legislative committees of interest to Truro, such as those on the preservation of fish-fry (24 Apr.) and extortions by customs officials (7 May).19 While in London, Trefusis was deputed by Cornwall’s tinners to help petition Prince Charles about the duchy of Cornwall’s management of the local tin industry.20

During the next decade Trefusis became one of Cornwall’s more active magistrates, particularly in matters relating to security and shipping in Falmouth haven. In 1625 the vice admiral of South Cornwall, (Sir) James Bagg II*, accused him of receiving goods stolen from a merchantman.21 This may have been politically motivated, however, as around this time Trefusis developed close ties with Bagg’s enemy, (Sir) John Eliot*, who was emerging as a prominent government critic. Despite his sympathy for Eliot, Trefusis apparently helped to implement both the 1626 Benevolence and the 1627 Forced Loan, and in the interim between the two levies he was selected as Cornwall’s sheriff. His shrievalty had unfortunate personal consequences, as a shortfall in his official payments to the Exchequer, which he blamed on his under-sheriff, resulted in a brief imprisonment, a £170 fine and a legal dispute that dragged on for three years.22 This experience, combined with the king’s harsh treatment of Eliot, who appointed Trefusis a trustee of his estates during his fatal imprisonment, doubtless soured his attitude towards the Crown. Certainly, in around 1630 Trefusis refused to compound for knighthood, denying that he had been properly summoned to do so, and disputing the accuracy of his assessment. He finally complied only in June 1633, paying the unusually large fine of £100. Nevertheless, he continued to perform local tasks for the Privy Council and Admiralty Board.23

Trefusis declined to contribute to the king’s Scottish campaign of 1639, and as the Civil War approached his dissatisfaction with the Caroline regime was fuelled by his religious convictions. In the spring of 1642 he signed a petition to Parliament demanding further reformation of the Church, and as war broke out he described himself and his allies as standing for God’s truth.24 Although he remained at Trefusis as the rival forces in Cornwall mustered, reporting on royalist troop movements to Sir Richard Buller* and the other parliamentarian leaders, the early triumph of the king’s party in the West forced him to take refuge in Plymouth, where his step-son Sir Francis Drake† was a garrison commander. He may have participated in the 3rd earl of Essex’s doomed Cornish campaign of 1644, since, according to a family tradition, he prevented the Treffry residence at Fowey from being pillaged. Trefusis apparently continued to shield his Treffry relatives after he returned victorious to Cornwall as a leading figure on the county committee, but he proved unsympathetic to other royalists now experiencing sequestration, having suffered the same treatment while he was shut in Plymouth. In October 1645 he bolstered his local standing by securing the post of vice admiral of North Cornwall.25

Trefusis made his will on 26 May 1647. The bulk of his property descended to his eldet son, but he bequeathed £1,000 to his daughter Amy and sums of £500-£600 to three younger sons. He died between 30 Nov. and 7 Dec. that year, his will being proved on 26 June 1648. His grandson Francis Trefusis sat for Penryn in 1679.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. C142/662/106.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 464-5.
  • 3. Al. Ox.
  • 4. LI Admiss.
  • 5. Vivian, 464-5; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 299, 719.
  • 6. ADM 7/673, p. 460.
  • 7. C181/2, f. 186v; 181/5, f. 187v.
  • 8. C231/4, p. 151; 231/5, p. 529.
  • 9. C212/22/20-1, 23; E179/89/320a, 325.
  • 10. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 33.
  • 11. SP16/37/50.
  • 12. Rymer, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 7v.
  • 13. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 23.
  • 14. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 15. SR, v. 60, 82, 149; A. and O. i. 90, 111, 461, 1079.
  • 16. HCA 49/106, packet ‘A’, no. 35; ADM 7/673, p. 460.
  • 17. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 463-4; J. Polsue, Complete Paroch. Hist. of Cornw. i. 229; C3/326/32; C142/662/106; Al. Ox.; C66/1620; A. Duffin, Faction and Faith, 54.
  • 18. PROB 11/204, f. 306v; 11/188, f. 69v; C2/Chas.I/K23/54; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 47, 464; Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 285.
  • 19. C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 189; CJ, i. 588b, 611b.
  • 20. HEHL, HM 30664, unfol.
  • 21. APC, 1621-3, p. 141; 1626, p. 346; HMC Cowper, i. 217, 225, 276; CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 221.
  • 22. PROB 11/156, f. 286; 11/162, f. 474; C2/Chas.I/P50/17.
  • 23. PROB 11/162, ff. 474-5; E178/7161; E401/1920; SP16/239/59; CSP Dom. 1634-5, p. 130; 167, pp. 9, 148. Duffin’s assertion that Trefusis was summoned by the Council in May 1633 is unsubstantiated: Duffin, 156.
  • 24. PC2/51, p. 79; Bodl. Rawl. C.789; Buller Pprs. ed. R.N. Worth, 73.
  • 25. Buller Pprs. 73; C2/Chas.I/T63/85; M. Coate, Cornw. in the Gt. Civil War, 154, 266; Cornw. RO, V/EC/2/5,7.
  • 26. PROB 11/204, ff. 306-7v; HCA 49/106, packet ‘A’, no. 19.