TREGAGLE, John (1644-80), of Trevorder, St. Breock, Cornw.

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



Mar. 1679

Family and Education

bap. 29 Sept. 1644, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of John Tregagle of Trevorder by Jane, da. of Sir George Granville of Penheale. educ. St. John’s, Camb. 1662; I. Temple 1662, called 1677. m. lic. 27 Apr. 1667, Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Hooker, Grocer, of Crown Court, Gracechurch Street, London, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. fa. 1655.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Cornw. 1666-d., j.p. by 1670-d.; receiver-gen. duchy of Cornw. 1673-d.; commr. for recusants, Cornw. 1675.


Tregagle came from a Cornish family of obscure stock who were tenants on the Robartes estate in Elizabethan times. His father was foster-brother to the 2nd lord (later 1st Earl of Radnor), and became his steward. A Presbyterian, he made himself unpopular in Cornwall by his harshness to tenants, by becoming an informer for Parliament during the Civil War, and by dispossessing several Cornishmen from their estates on the strength of small loans and dubious legal claims. Tregagle, who was born in London during the Cavalier domination of the west, inherited Trevorder, purchased in 1649 for £1,500, and the impropriate rectory of St. Kew, as well as other lands in Cornwall and Devon worth £800 p.a. In 1673 he and his father’s friend Sir Peter Killigrew became joint receivers of the duchy of Cornwall revenues. Under a private agreement, Killigrew was to receive between £200-£300 a year out of the office and leave its functions, salary and profits to Tregagle. In 1678 he obtained the reversion of the office for his son, and he was granted £588 ‘for his charges, cares and pains in buying tin for his Majesty’ and a further £2,220 as ‘he has laid out more than he has received’ from the tin farm. His ‘great care and diligence’ were rewarded with the post-groats duty, ‘being 4d. heretofore paid by the tinners within the duchy of Cornwall for every hundred weight of tin coined between Michaelmas and Midsummer’, which yielded about £150 a year. However, on the basis of a subsequent audit it was reported that Tregagle and his son

made it their business to vex the subject, not so much for his Majesty’s money as for their own fees, which, if they obtained, they were very easy as to the King’s debt, and glad to let the collecting alone.2

Tregagle was returned to the first Exclusion Parliament for Bossiney, probably on the Robartes interest. Classed as ‘base’ by Shaftesbury he defaulted on a call of the House on 15 May 1679; but on the next day, after paying the necessary fees, he was given leave to stay in the country for three weeks, and was therefore absent from the division on the exclusion bill. It is not known whether he stood again in the autumn. In December he was summoned to present his accounts of the tin revenue to the Treasury but temporarily excused because of an indisposition. He died shortly after a second and more peremptory summons, and was buried at St. Breock on 7 Feb. 1680. The sinister reputations of the Tregagles gave rise to many stories of the Tregagle ghost, one of the most malevolent in Cornwall, and said to be doomed to emptying Dozmary pool with a limpet shell with a hole in it. His son was returned for Mitchell in 1697 and for Bossiney in 1698 and 1701.3

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Basil Duke Henning


Unless otherwise stated this biography is based on B. Spooner, John Tregagle of Trevorder, Man and Ghost.

  • 1. Westminster City Lib. St. Martin in the Fields par. reg.
  • 2. Add. 18448, f. 68; Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 92, 137; v. 947, 1006, 1019; vii. 1028.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. vi. 294, 416; J. Maclean, Trigg. Minor, ii. 177.