WOOD, John (bet.1580/4-1623), of Trevillet, Tintagel, 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. bet. 1580/4,1 ?2nd s. of Thomas Wood (d. by 1584) of Lewtrenchard, Devon and Dorothy, da. of William Cavill of Trehaverock, Cornw. m. (1) 8 Oct. 1600, Elizabeth (bur. 7 Feb. 1607), da. of Henry Rolle of Heanton Satchville, Petrockstow, Devon, 3da. (1 d.v.p.); (2) 18 Feb. 1609, Sibill, da. and coh. of John Trelawny of Trenance, Cornw., 3s. 4da. suc. bro. William by 1620.2 d. 24 Dec. 1623.3 sig. John Wood.

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. 1617-d.,4 commr. subsidy 1621-2.5


The Wood family were living at Lewtrenchard by around 1500. Wood’s grandfather, John, owned over 2,000 acres in Devon and Cornwall, including two manors, when he died in 1586. John was succeeded by his infant grandson William, Wood’s elder brother, who died childless sometime between 1605, when he made over to Wood the minor estate of Trevillet in Tintagel, and 1620, when he was omitted from the pedigree which Wood drew up as head of the family.6 Wood was already living at Trevillet in 1604, and despite the inheritance of broader estates elsewhere it remained his principal seat as late as 1621.7

Although Wood possessed comparatively little property in Cornwall, he enjoyed kinship ties with several of its prominent families, including the Godolphins, Trelawnys and Carnsews, the last of whom were based just a few miles from Tintagel.8 This must have enhanced his local standing, and helps to explain his election to the 1614 Parliament for Bossiney, though the key factor in this was presumably the location of Wood’s home just outside the borough. His only Commons’ nomination was to the committee appointed to consider the repeal or continuance of expiring statutes (8 Apr.), a surprising opportunity for an inexperienced Member.9 Three years later Wood was added to the Cornish bench, which placed him in an even stronger position to claim a borough seat at the next parliamentary election. In 1621 he was returned to Westminster as Bossiney’s senior burgess, in the process seeing off an attempt by the duchy of Cornwall to place a nominee in the borough.10 This victory most likely reflected more than just Wood’s personal prestige, since he then emerged as one of the duchy’s critics in the Commons. Since 1616 Prince Charles, as duke of Cornwall, had pursued the unpopular policy of cancelling his tenants’ leases and issuing replacements with improved rents. Belatedly the duchy acknowledged the strength of local opposition, and in the 1621 Parliament it promoted a bill which would effectively end the practice.11 Wood, however, was not impressed with this measure. He, like many duchy tenants, held land by an alternative, customary tenure which was protected from this kind of manipulation. When the bill had its second reading in the Commons on 28 Feb., he expressed the fear that the bill was seeking to impose leases on customary tenants. Although brushed aside on this occasion, he returned to the fray when the bill emerged from its committee stage on 3 Mar., and successfully demanded a copy of the text of a new concession. Wood made one further speech on 28 Feb., when he opposed the introduction of a new bill against drunkenness, whose terms he regarded as amounting to a monopoly. His only other mention in the records of this Parliament was on 8 Feb., when he was added to the committee for privileges.12

Wood’s final years were marred by financial difficulties. In about 1617 he came to the rescue of his sister Dorothy, whose spendthrift husband Robert Vigures was threatening to sell her jointure estate. Wood prevailed on Vigures to entrust him with £1,000 from the profits of this sale, on which he would pay interest, thereby guaranteeing his sister a steady income. However, this deal placed a heavy strain on Wood’s estate, and it may have been in this context that in November 1617 he undertook to pay a £400 debt owed to the Crown by a third party. His expectation was that, having himself obtained the capital sum, he would enjoy the money while satisfying the Exchequer by means of easy annual instalments of £10.13 However, even if this arrangement with the Crown actually functioned as planned, its benefits were soon outweighed by the burden of paying £100 to Vigures each year. In 1623 Wood sought to extricate himself from this obligation, handing his brother-in-law £80 outright, and conveying to him a tenement in lieu of a further £500. A final property transfer to clear the remaining £420 was laid down in Wood’s will, drawn up on 18 December. By now, he had mortgaged three major properties, and was reduced to disposing of his household goods to redeem these lands and clear other, lesser debts. Although the will contained bequests worth over £900, Wood allowed up to 11 years for their payment, and he anticipated the recovery of his mortgaged lands when providing the maintenance for his youngest children. In the meantime his wife could expect to inherit only his remaining goods and chattels, though she evidently possessed some property herself. Wood described himself in the will as sick, and died six days later. His burial place is not known, and none of his direct descendents appear to have sat in Parliament.14

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Wood’s elder bro. was born in 1579, and his fa. died by 1584: C142/212/22; J. Maclean, Hist. Trigg Minor, iii. 261.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 652, 799; Cornw. RO, FP224/1/1, p. 150; PROB 11/145, f. 72v.
  • 3. C142/403/65.
  • 4. C231/4, f. 46v; C66/2310.
  • 5. C212/22/20-1.
  • 6. Vivian, 799; C142/212/22; SC2/163/28.
  • 7. Maclean, iii. 26, 247; E115/400/102.
  • 8. Vivian, 799; SP46/72, f. 49.
  • 9. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 35.
  • 10. C219/37/40.
  • 11. G. Haslam, ‘Jacobean Phoenix’, Estates of Eng. Crown ed. R.W. Hoyle, 293; C.R. Kyle, ‘Prince Chas. in Parls. of 1621 and 1624’, HJ, xli. 614.
  • 12. CJ, i. 513b, 531a-b, 537b; Nicholas, Procs. 1621, i. 108; Maclean, iii. 261.
  • 13. C3/387/14; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 496; SP46/70, f. 131.
  • 14. PROB 11/145, ff. 72-3; C3/387/14.