MORSHEAD, Sir John, 1st Bt. (1747-1813), of Trenant Park and Lavethan, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1780 - 1784
1784 - 1802

Family and Education

bap. 4 Aug. 1747, 1st surv. s. of William Morshead of Cartuther by Olympia, da. of John Treise, sis. and h. of Sir Christopher Treise of Lavethan. educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1766. m. 14 Apr. 1778, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Frederick, 3rd Bt., of Hampton, Mdx., 2s. 3da. suc. uncle (Sir) Christopher Treise 1780; fa. 1784; cr. Bt. 22 Jan. 1784.

Offices Held

Surveyor-gen. to Prince of Wales July 1796-June 1808-ld. warden of the stannaries 1798-1801.

Col. R. Cornw. and Devon Miners 1798-1802, brevet col. 1798.


Sir John Morshead, who had inherited the Treise interest at Bodmin, was a member of the Prince of Wales’s circle and joined the Whig Club, 4 Mar. 1788. Before the general election of 1790 he was active in promoting opposition candidates in the duchy of Cornwall. Returned for Bodmin after a contest, he wrote to the Prince, 27 Jan. 1791, asking him to make his brother Rev. Edward Morshead his chaplain, a request that was not complied with for some time. On 31 Oct. he wrote about the vacant auditorship of the duchy, worth £400 per annum, suggesting that it should be given to him, as it would give him more influence in the county: ‘my object is to serve his Royal Highness in Cornwall’. After voting with the Whigs on the Oczakov crisis, 12 Apr. 1791, and being listed, the same month, as a supporter of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland, Morshead did not again give his vote to opposition in this Parliament; he was considered by Windham for his projected ‘third party’ in February 1793, but did not participate. He evidently went over to ministers with the Duke of Portland, and this had embarrassing repercussions in Cornwall, especially when Pitt was persuaded to instigate the grant of a new charter to Bodmin, which would undermine Morshead’s interest there. His friend Portland was assured that Morshead had ‘a better property than any other person ... within a circle of five miles round the borough’, and did not see why the ‘old proprietors’ should be dispossessed. Pitt postponed the plan, and Morshead and a colleague of his choice were returned unopposed in 1796. In that year he became surveyor-general to the Prince, and in 1798 warden of the stannaries.1

In Parliament Morshead was as silent as ever, but regarded as a government supporter, and voted with the minority only once, on 31 Mar. 1802 for Manners Sutton’s motion for a committee on the Prince’s duchy of Cornwall revenues. In the meantime he had been helping the Prince to raise money from his estate, and negotiating with Pitt, in 1797, over the Prince’s plan to raise a corps of 800 volunteers from among the Cornish miners. There is evidence, however, that the Prince was by December 1800 ‘most irksomely embarrassed’ by Morshead, and trying to find out how ‘to get rid of the baronet’. This was achieved by the introduction of new men into the court of the duchy. Morshead was replaced as warden of the stannaries by John Willet Payne*.2

Morshead’s standing was gradually undermined; he had lost his hold over Bodmin, nor did he seek to return to Parliament. He went to France in 1802. In October 1803 there was talk of his giving up his place of surveyor-general to the Prince on behalf of Thomas Sheridan, and being compensated with another,3 but he contrived to hold on to it until 1808. He died, sadly depleted, 10 Apr. 1813.4

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


  • 1. Ginter, Whig Organization, 175, 183, 188; Prince of Wales Corresp. ii. 539, 569, 633, 734.
  • 2. Prince of Wales Corresp. iii. 1225, 1228, 1230; iv. 1522.
  • 3. Rose Diaries, ii. 59.
  • 4. Less than £4,000, PCC prob. act bk. 1815.