JENNENS, William I (1614-c.87), of Plymouth, Devon.

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



Oct. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 4 Sept. 1614, 3rd s. of Abraham Jennens, merchant (d.1650) of Plymouth by Judith, da. of Nicholas Shere of Plymouth. educ. Leyden 1628. m. by 165l, Elizabeth, da. of Robert Trelawny, merchant, of Plymouth, 2s. d.v.p. 2da.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Devon Sept. 1660-80, Plymouth 1677-9; mayor, Plymouth 1662-3, alderman to 1684; sheriff, Cornw. 1677-8.2


Jennens’s father was established at Plymouth as a Spanish merchant and naval victualler by 1600. He was also engaged in the colonization of New England. Neither Jennens nor his father, from whom he inherited £20,000, appears to have been active in the Civil War. But, perhaps in consequence of a double marriage alliance with the royalist Trelawnys and his responsibility for the completion of Charles church, he was nominated mayor of Plymouth by the commissioners for corporations, and was later described as ‘a most furious justice’ against conventicles, ‘very busy’ in breaking them up and ‘making sport’ for the soldiers. Prince Cosmo of Tuscany lodged in his house on his visit in 1669. When he was appointed sheriff of Cornwall in 1677, the corporation supported his petition to be excused as the ‘eldest magistrate and standing justice for Plymouth, ... being also 70 years old [sic], in ill health, and unable to travel. His estate in Cornwall is not worth £30 a year, and he lives by his trade as a merchant of Plymouth.’ Nevertheless his excuses were not accepted. His business interests were widespread, including the purchase of lead from William Blackett on Tyneside and its export to Marseilles. He stood for Saltash at the first general election of 1679. His father had owned property in the town, but he probably depended on the interest of his son-in-law Edward Nosworthy II as a country candidate. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, but he was not returned, and his petition was never reported. He was successful in September, but took no known part in the second Exclusion Parliament, and may have retired before the next election. ‘A crafty, spiteful man’, he opposed the surrender of the Plymouth charter in 1684, and did not stand for James II’s Parliament. His will, dated 14 May 1685, was proved three years later. No other member of the family sat in Parliament.3

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Plymouth St. Andrews Reg. (Devon. and Cornw. Rec. Soc.), 18, 181, 263; E134/25 and 26 Chas. II Hil. 10; Eg. 2761, f. 67; Devon RO, 11262/Z1.
  • 2. L. F. W. Jewitt, Hist. Plymouth , 224-5.
  • 3. R. N. Worth, Hist. Plymouth , 83-84; H. F. Whitfeld, Plymouth and Devonport , 95 121; CSP Dom. 1677-8, p. 480; L. Magalotti, Travels of Cosmo III , 113; PC2/65/374; Jewitt, 236; PCC 62 Exton