On this Day 22nd June 1660

John Grenville: Lord Warden of the Stannaries

The Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 had significant consequences for tinners in Cornwall. Charles Stuart, soon to be crowned Charles II, landed at Dover on 25 May 1660 and entered London four days later. The new king busied himself with undoing much of the work of the preceding Commonwealth regime of Oliver Cromwell, as well as extracting a fairly vicious revenge – Cromwell's body was exhumed, beheaded and hung in chains.

John Granville, 1st Earl of Bath (1628-1701), detail from one of two large stained glass windows depicting the genealogy of the Grenville family, in the Granville Chapel, Church of St James the Great, Kilkhampton, Cornwall, erected jointly by his descendants in 1860 (source  Wikipedia)Among the earliest actions of the newly restored monarchy was the restoration of the Stannaries, the unique institution which regulated the affairs of the tin industries of Devon and Cornwall. The Stannaries were a source of considerable funds for the national exchequer, a fact probably not unconnected with the speedy restoration of the the institution. On June 22 1660, less than a month after the return of the King, John Grenville was made Lord Warden of the Stannaries.

Those who had supported Charles I during the Civil War and worked subsequently for the return of the King had to be rewarded. John Grenville, son of “Cornish hero” Sir Bevil Grenville, royalist supporter during the war and tireless worker for the restoration was among those towards the top of the rewards queue and the sinecure of Lord Warden met the bill nicely: it handsomely rewarded a supporter (effectively with an income of about £3000 pa, worth about half a million per year today); it opened up cash flow for the exchequer; and it was a piece of useful public relations in so far as it recognised the special status of royalist Cornwall.

So it was a good deal all round? Well, working tinners may not have agreed. The Commonwealth parliament had done away with both the Duchy of Cornwall and the the Stannaries and during the 1650s the unregulated tin industry boomed with both production and tin prices increasing and investors such as John Borlase of Pendeen doing very nicely. But earlier in the 17th century, just before the Civil War, the tin industry had been in a poor state, so much so that the Tinners of Cornwall had petitioned the king in 1636, citing the main cause of “the decay of tinning” as being rapidly increasing costs but static prices. Tinners had been abandoning their trade for other more lucrative employment. In contrast, by 1658 the prosperity of the tin industry was such that 155 men of St Just signed a declaration of allegiance to the Protector, Cromwell, an action presumably arising from their new found prosperity and indicative of a less Royalist sentiment that is generally supposed.

The Restoration of the Stannaries? Maybe not such a good deal for the tin industry but certainly good for the Crown and its supporters and, on 22 June 1660, especially good for John Grenville who, in 1661, would change his name to Granville (to emphasis the family's claimed ancient Norman roots in Granville rather than their generally accepted Cornish origins) and be elevated to the peerage as Earl of Bath in further recognition of his services to the Crown.

Further Reading

Penny Watts-Russell, The Cry of Tin: Pascoe Grenfell (1636-1665), Tinner in Journal of the Trevithick Society no. 42 2015




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"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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