Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number qualified to vote:

in the burgage-holders and the inhabitants paying scot and lot 1660-81, 1689; in the freemen 1685

Number of voters:

under 60 in 1679; 18 in 1685


17 Apr. 1660EDWARD HERLE
24 May 1675JONATHAN RASHLEIGH II vice Jonathan Rashleigh I, deceased

Main Article

No contests are known to have occurred at Fowey in this period. Before the charter of 1685 the returns were made by the portreeve in the name of the ‘burgesses’ and ‘inhabitants’. The two groups seem to have had roughly equal numbers. The latter usually favoured the Rashleighs, as the greatest merchants and shipowners in the town. The former, sometimes called the ‘prince’s tenants’, held their property on lease from the duchy of Cornwall. Of the 28 burgages listed in 1650 the Rashleighs held 15. Their only conceivable rivals were the Treffrys of Place House, who held three. As Royalists both were excluded from the general election of 1660, when Fowey returned Edward Herle, a Presbyterian whose chief interest was at Grampound, and John Barton, a London lawyer who had married into the staunchly royalist Roscarrock family. With the restoration of crown lands the Rashleighs held both seats throughout the Cavalier Parliament. At the general election of 1661 Jonathan Rashleigh I, the head of the family, was returned with his cousin John, and on his death in 1675 he was replaced by his grandson and heir, Jonathan II.1

With John Rashleigh acting as portreeve in the exclusion elections, his cousin probably agreed to divide the borough with John Treffry. The return of 19 Feb. 1679 was the most numerously attested of the period, with 56 signatures. Shaftesbury had hopes of both Members, but they eventually opposed exclusion. However, the Earl of Bath was evidently jealous of the Rashleigh interest and secured the surrender of the charter in 1684. On 8 Dec. Bishop Trelawny wrote to Treffry:

Your interest ... already very considerable, shall be absolute if you will have it so. Be not forward in naming any for your magistracy but such as you can entirely confide in. Such as shall be recommended by others accept of, that you not impair your esteem with them; but, their confirmation being in the King, they may be refused and you not blamed.

The new charter issued in March 1685 nominated a corporation consisting of the mayor, the recorder (Bath himself), nine aldermen (including Treffry), and eight freemen (including Jonathan Rashleigh and Bishop Trelawny). This body promptly signalized its existence by presenting the first loyal address of the period to congratulate James II on his accession. The appointment of Shadrach Vincent as collector of customs introduced a new interest at Fowey. Of a family that had come to the fore during the Interregnum, he acquired an estate in the neighbourhood by marriage. On 4 May the bishop wrote again to Treffry:

Walter Vincent [II] assuring me that you have thought of passing off your interest to the recommendation of Harry [Henry] Vincent, I give you many thanks for the kindness of that resolution: for next to your standing for yourself, you cannot oblige me more than to attend to his nomination, and I do adjure you, by all the promises of friendship between us, and the hopes of your good offices it may produce, not to resign to any person living but such as shall come from Vincent.

Possibly Treffry may have disliked breaking his electoral compact with Rashleigh; but he did not give way to the Vincents, and two days later the new mayor declared him unanimously elected by the ‘free burgesses’ only, together with Bath’s nephew, Bevil Granville. In June 1688 Fowey promised to elect any two Cornish Protestants recommended by Bath. Under attack throughout the county from the Whig collaborator Edward Nosworthy II, the lord lieutenant felt it necessary to conciliate the most powerful interest in the borough by recommending Jonathan Rashleigh as his nephew’s colleague in the abortive Parliament. But the regulators substituted for Rashleigh the name of Peter Kekewich, a London Clothworker of local origin who had married a regicide’s daughter. In August the mayor, four aldermen, and the town clerk were removed by order-in-council. On 9 Oct. Bath wrote to Sunderland urging that the corporations should be purged by a sacramental test.

This I offer not as a bare opinion, but of certain knowledge, having seen the experience of it in Fowey and Lostwithiel. Both these corporations obeyed his Majesty’s Order in Council and resigned their offices, but finding they could not with safety to their oaths elect the persons named in the mandate, being contrary to their charters, they chose some of their corporation duly qualified. And they are the only places where the regulators have been that are in any tolerable condition of peace and good order, and are likely to return as worthy Members of Parliament as his Majesty could desire.

The general election of 1689 was conducted by John Rashleigh as portreeve under the old charter, though he omitted to mention the ‘inhabitants’ on the return. His cousin Jonathan regained his seat, and was accompanied in the Convention by Shadrach Vincent, who had played an active role in the Revolution, and by his second marriage became his brother-in-law. Rashleigh’s interest was further strengthened under the new regime by a charter nominating him as recorder of Fowey.2

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. E. W. Rashleigh, Fowey, 7-9, 28-29.
  • 2. Ibid. 31; CSP Dom. 1684-5, pp. 245, 291; 1685, pp. 83-84; 1687-9, p. 304; 1689-90, p. 518; Treffry mss; London Gazette, 12 Mar. 1685; Duckett, Penal Laws (1882), 379; (1883), 214, 216; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 255; PC2/72/724.