St Germans (UK Parliament constituency)

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

St Germans was a rotten borough in Cornwall which returned two Members of Parliament to the House of Commons in the English and later British Parliament from 1562 to 1832, when it was abolished by the Great Reform Act.


The borough consisted of part of St Germans parish in South-East Cornwall, a coastal town too small to have a mayor and corporation, where the chief economic activity was fishing. Like most of the Cornish boroughs enfranchised or re-enfranchised during the Tudor period, it was a rotten borough from the start.

The right to vote rested in theory with all (adult male) householders, but in practice only a handful (who called themselves freemen) exercised the right; there were only seven voters in 1831. The Eliot family had exercised complete control over the choice of MPs for many years, as was also true at nearby Liskeard.

In 1831, the borough had a population of 672, and 99 houses. The boundaries excluded part of the town, which consisted of 124 houses in total, but this was still far too small to justify its retaining its representation, and St Germans was disfranchised by the Reform Act in 1832. The decision, however, was controversial: the whole parish (of which the town made up only a fraction) had a population in the 1821 census of 2,404, and the initial proposal was that St Germans should lose only one of its two MPs. But the borough covered only 40 acres (160,000 m2), and the town 50, in a parish of more than 9,000 acres (36 km²). The Whig government decided that the availability in a surrounding parish of sufficient population should not save a borough from disfranchisement, unless a substantial part of that population was already within the borough boundaries. The bill's schedules were amended so as to extinguish both of the St Germans MPs, saving instead the second MP at Penryn (where the boundaries had been extended to take in the neighbouring town of Falmouth). The Tory opposition attacked the decision as politically motivated (St Germans was a Tory borough), and the vote in the Commons was one of the narrowest in the entire reform bill debates.

Members of Parliament

MPs 1563–1629

Parliament First member Second member
Parliament of 1563–1567 William Mohun William Hyde
Parliament of 1571 Charles Glemham Thomas Cosgrave
Parliament of 1572–1581 Thomas Ayshe Richard Eliot
Parliament of 1584–1585 George Carew Henry Denny
Parliament of 1586–1587 Thomas Bodley Edward Barker
Parliament of 1588–1589 William Barrington William Langham
Parliament of 1593 Sampson Lennard John Glanville
Parliament of 1597–1598 Robert Hatchman John Chamberlain[1]
Parliament of 1601 (Sir) George Carew John Osborne
Parliament of 1604–1611 John Trott
Addled Parliament (1614) Sir John Eliot
Parliament of 1621–1622 Richard Tisdale Sir Richard Buller
Happy Parliament (1624–1625) (Sir) John Coke Sir John Stradling
Useless Parliament (1625) Sir Henry Marten
Parliament of 1625–1626 Sir John Eliot
Parliament of 1628–1629 Thomas Cotton Benjamin Valentine
No Parliament summoned 1629–1640

MPs 1640–1832

Year First member First party Second member Second party
April 1640 William Scawen John Eliot
November 1640 Benjamin Valentine Parliamentarian John Moyle[2] Parliamentarian
December 1648 Moyle excluded in Pride's Purge – seat vacant
1652 Valentine died 1652 – seat vacant
1653 St Germans was unrepresented in the Barebones Parliament and the First and Second Parliaments of the Protectorate
January 1659 John Glanville John St Aubyn
May 1659 Not represented in the restored Rump
1660 John Eliot Richard Knightley
1661 Edward Eliot
1679 Daniel Eliot Richard Eliot
1685 Sir Thomas Higgons
1689 Sir Walter Moyle
1690 Henry Fleming
1698 John Tanner
1700 Henry Fleming
January 1701 John Speccot
April 1701 Daniel Eliot
December 1701 Richard Edgcumbe Whig
1702 John Anstis
May 1705 Samuel Rolle
December 1705 Edward Eliot
1708 Francis Scobell
1710 John Knight
January 1715 Waller Bacon[3]
May 1715 Lord Stanhope Whig
1722 Lord Binning Philip Cavendish
1727 Sir Gilbert Heathcote Whig Sidney Godolphin
January 1733 Richard Eliot
March 1733 Dudley Ryder
1734 The Lord Baltimore Charles Montagu
1741 John Hynde Cotton James Newsham
1747 Richard Eliot Thomas Potter
1748 Edward Eliot[4] Whig
1754 Anthony Champion
1761 Philip Stanhope
1765 William Hussey
March 1768 Samuel Salt[5]
December 1768 George Jennings Benjamin Langlois
1774 Edward Eliot Whig
1775 John Pownall
1776 John Peachey
1780 Edward James Eliot Dudley Long Whig
1784 John Hamilton Tory Abel Smith
1788 Samuel Smith
February 1790 Sir Charles Hamilton
June 1790 The Marquess of Lorne Whig Hon. Edward James Eliot[6]
1791 Hon. William Eliot Tory
1796 Lord Grey Whig
1802 Lord Binning Tory James Langham
1806 Sir Joseph Yorke Tory Matthew Montagu Tory
1810 Charles Philip Yorke Tory
1812 William Henry Pringle Tory Henry Goulburn Tory
1818 Hon. Seymour Thomas Bathurst Tory Charles Arbuthnot Tory
1826 Charles Ross Tory
1827 James Loch Whig
July 1830 Sir Henry Hardinge[7] Tory
December 1830 Winthrop Mackworth Praed Tory
1832 Constituency abolished


  1. This may possibly be John Chamberlain the letter writer and man-about-town of the same period, but the Dictionary of National Biography notes that it has not been possible to establish or disprove the identity of the one with the other
  2. A writ was issued for a by-election in November 1646, apparently in the mistaken belief that Moyle had died. William Scawen was elected, but does not appear to have attempted to take his seat
  3. Bacon was also elected for Norwich, which he chose to represent, and never sat for St Germans
  4. Eliot was re-elected in 1768 but had also been elected for Liskeard, which he chose to represent, and did not for St Germans in that Parliament
  5. Salt was also elected for Liskeard, which he chose to represent, and never sat for St Germans
  6. Eliot was also elected for Liskeard, which he chose to represent, and did not sit for St Germans in this Parliament
  7. Hardinge was also elected for Newport (Cornwall), which he chose to represent, and never sat for St Germans