Bossiney (UK Parliament constituency)

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Former Borough constituency
for the House of Commons
Number of members Two
Replaced by East Cornwall

Bossiney was a parliamentary constituency in Cornwall, one of a number of Cornish rotten boroughs, and returned two Members of Parliament to the British House of Commons from 1552 until 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act.


Bossiney was one of a number of small parliamentary boroughs established in Cornwall during the Tudor period, and was not a town of any importance even when first enfranchised. The borough consisted of the village of Bossiney itself and the nearby hamlet of Trevena, both in the parish of Tintagel on the North Cornwall coast. In 1831, the borough contained only 67 houses, and had a population of 308.

The right to vote was vested in the Mayor and freemen of the borough, collectively called the burgesses; the freedom of the borough was hereditary, passing to the eldest son of any burgess possessing freehold property within the borough. The number of burgesses was always small, with only 25 being entitled to vote in 1831. In 1816 Oldfield recorded that there were only 9 voters, 8 of whom belonged to the same family.

Like most of the tiny boroughs, Bossiney was completely under the control of its "patrons", who had such influence over the voters that they could in practice choose whoever they wanted as MPs. From the middle of the 18th century, the patrons were the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe and the Wortley family. Usually they chose one member each and, indeed, a formal agreement to that effect, dated 3 July 1752, survives. In Bossiney, the patrons habitually secured their interests by obtaining for the burgesses lucrative appointments in the customs-house at Padstow. In 1758, there was a dispute between Lord Edgcumbe and Samuel Martin, patron of nearby Camelford, over a Commissionership of Customs that both wanted for one of their constituents; a Camelford man was appointed, and at the election that followed in 1761 Edgcumbe was unable to secure the election of his candidate.

The abuse of government patronage was considered a scandal even in the 18th century, and in 1782 an Act of Parliament was passed to disqualify the holders of certain posts, including customs officers, from voting. While the new law was not aimed specifically at Bossiney it had a more dramatic effect there than anywhere else: the borough established an unbeatable record at the general election of 1784, when so many of the burgesses were disqualified that there was only a single qualified voter (the Vicar, Arthur Wade) to return the two MPs.

Bossiney was disfranchised by the Great Reform Act of 1832.

Members of Parliament


  • Constituency created (1553 or possibly earlier)[1]
Parliament First member Second member
Parliament of 1547-1552 William Carnsew (?) John Withypoll (?)
First Parliament of 1553 Humphrey Cavill Edward Grimston
Second Parliament of 1553 Robert Gayer Robert Beverley
Parliament of 1554 John Beaumont William Roscarrock
Parliament of 1554-1555 Richard Forset George Harrison
Parliament of 1555 Ralph Skinner ?
Parliament of 1558 Thomas Stanley John Kempthorne
Parliament of 1559 [2] Robert Warner Francis Walsingham
Parliament of 1563-1567 Hugh Owen Stephen Bradden
Parliament of 1571 Robert Wrothe George Basset
Parliament of 1572-1581 Francis Kinwellmarsh Robert Doyly
Parliament of 1584-1585 Sir Francis Drake John Leveson
Parliament of 1586-1587 William Pool John Peryam
Parliament of 1588-1589 Henry Savile John Hinder
Parliament of 1593 Thomas Harris
Parliament of 1597
Parliament 0f Oct 1597 John Agmondesham[3] Percival Hart sat for Kent
Parliament of 1601 William Hakewill Sir Jerome Horsey
Parliament of 1604-1611 George Upton (died)
1609-11 George Calvert
Addled Parliament (1614) John Wood
Parliament of 1621-1622 Anthony Manaton [4]
Happy Parliament (1624-1625) Sir Richard Weston Thomas Bevans
Useless Parliament (1625) Sir Francis Cottington Jonathan Prideaux
Parliament of 1625-1626 The Lord Lambart Paul Specot
Parliament of 1628-1629 Richard Edgecumbe
No Parliament summoned 1629-1640


Year First member First party Second member Second party
April 1640 Sir John Clotworthy[5] Parliamentarian Anthony Nicholl Parliamentarian
November 1640 Sir Christopher Yelverton Parliamentarian
1641 (?) Sir Ralph Sydenham Royalist
September 1642 Sydenham disabled from sitting - seat vacant
1647 Lionel Copley
December 1648 Copley excluded in Pride's Purge - seat vacant Yelverton not known to have sat after Pride's Purge
1653 Bossiney was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 Thomas Povey Samuel Trelawney
May 1659 Not represented in the restored Rump
April 1660 Francis Gerard Charles Pym
June 1660 Sir William Brereton
1661 Robert Robartes Richard Rous
1673 Francis Robartes
February 1679 William Coryton John Tregagle
October 1679 Charles Bodvile Robartes Narcissus Luttrell
1681 Sir Peter Colleton
1685 John Cotton John Mounsteven
1689 Sir Peter Colleton Humphrey Nicoll
1690 Samuel Travers
1694 Humphrey Nicoll
1695 George Booth John Manley
1698 Sir John Pole John Tregagle [6]
January 1701 Francis Robartes
March 1701 Thomas Watson-Wentworth
December 1701 Sir John Molesworth John Manley
1702 William Hooker
1705 Sir Simon Harcourt Tory
1708 Samuel Travers Francis Foote
October 1710 Francis Robartes [7] John Manley
December 1710 Henry Campion
1713 Sir William Pole
1714 Paul Orchard
1715 Henry Cartwright Samuel Molyneux
1722 Robert Corker Henry Kelsall
1727 John Hedges
1731 James Cholmondeley
1734 The Viscount Palmerston Townshend Andrews
1737 Peregrine Poulett
May 1741 Richard Liddell Thomas Foster
December 1741[8] John Sabine Christopher Tower
1742 Richard Liddell Thomas Foster
1746 William Breton
July 1747 Edward Wortley[9] Whig Richard Heath
December 1747 William Ord
1752 William Montagu
1754 Edwin Sandys Edward Wortley Montagu
1761 John Richmond Webb Tory
1766 Lord Mount Stuart Tory
1768 Henry Lawes Luttrell Tory
1769 Sir George Osborn
1774 Hon. Henry Lawes Luttrell Tory
1776 Hon. Charles Stuart
1784 Bamber Gascoigne, senior
1786 Matthew Montagu
1790 Hon. James Archibald Stuart[10] Humphrey Minchin
April 1796 Hon. Evelyn Pierrepont
May 1796 John Stuart-Wortley John Lubbock
1797 Hon. James Stuart Wortley[11] Tory
1802 John Hiley Addington Tory
1803 George Peter Holford
1806 Henry Baring
1807 Peter Isaac Thellusson Tory
1808 The Earl of Desart Tory
1817 William Yates Peel Tory
1818 Sir Compton Pocklington Domvile
1819 Hon. John Ward Tory
1823 John Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie Tory
1826 Edward Rose Tunno Tory
1830 Charles Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie Tory
1831 John Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie Tory
1832 Constituency abolished


  1. Most sources state that Bossiney was first represented in the first Parliament of 1553, which some (e.g. Philbin, Parliamentary Representation 1832, p 22) refer to as the Parliament of 1552-3 since it assembled on 1 March 1553 (New Style)/1 March 1552 Old Style. Peter Dyer suggests that MPs were elected before 1552, naming William Carnsew and John Withypoll as those for 1547. (Dyer, Peter, Tintagel: a portrait of a parish. Cambridge: Cambridge Books, 2005. ISBN 0-9550097-0-7; pp. 500-01)
  2. "Bossiney". History of Parliament Online. Retrieved 2012-10-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. This name is given as Ambrose Mannington in Cobbett's Parliamentary History
  5. Clotworthy was re-elected to serve in the Long Parliament but had also been elected for Maldon, which he chose to represent, and did not sit for Bossiney again
  6. Tregagle was re-elected in 1700, but following a petition alleging bribery and diversion of Duchy of Cornwall revenues, the election was declared void and a new writ issued
  7. Robartes was also elected for Bodmin, which he chose to represent, and did not sit for Bossiney in this Parliament
  8. Sabine and Tower won the election of 1741, but on petition they were unseated and their defeated opponents, Liddell and Foster, declared elected in their place
  9. Wortley was also elected for Peterborough, which he chose to represent, and never sat for Bossiney
  10. Stuart adopted the surname Wortley in 1794
  11. Wortley was re-elected in 1819, but had also been elected for Yorkshire, which he chose to represent, and did not sit again for Bossiney