Sir John Trevilian, of Nettlecombe, MP

How are you related to Sir John Trevilian, of Nettlecombe, MP?

Connect to the World Family Tree to find out

Sir John Trevilian, of Nettlecombe, MP's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!

Related Projects

John Trevilian, Knight

Also Known As: "Trevilian", "Trevelian", "Trevilion", "Trevillian or very rarely Trevilyan"
Birthplace: Trevelyn,St Veep,Cornwall,England
Death: 1494 (64-73)
Yarnscombe, Devon, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Trevilian, of Trevelyan and Lucy Trevilian
Husband of Elizabeth Whalesborough, of Nettlecombe Court
Father of Sir John Trevilian of Mottiscombe; Nicholas Trevelian; Richard Trevelyan; Thomas Trevelian; Rev. George Trevalian, chaplain to King Henry VIII and 1 other

Occupation: High Sheriff of Cornwall; Esquire of the Kynge's Body to Henry VI, Gentleman Usher of the King's Chamber
Managed by: Kira Rachele Jay
Last Updated:

About Sir John Trevilian, of Nettlecombe, MP

John Trevilian was High Sheriff of Cornwall in 1449 and again in 1459. During the interval he served as a Member of Parliament for the county.

John Trevilian was also Constable of the Castles of Trematon and Restormel; and with the Duke of Exeter he shared custody of Lostwithiel, Camelford and Tintagel and other manors of Cornwall.

John Trevilian entered the service of the king as Gentleman Usher of the Chamber of King Henry VI and then as Esquire of the King's Bodie. The Black Book of 1478 stipulated the esquires to protect the king had to be of noble blood.

John was Knighted upon the marriage of King Henry VI.

Sir John died 1494 and was s. by his eldest son.


King Henry VI was king of both England and France, whose reign became mired in the Hundred Years War. During his reign, Sir John Trevelyan, a childhood and fighting companion of the king, served the king as Esquire of the Kyng's Bodie. Unfortunately, King Henry VI was captured by rival nobles and imprisoned in the Tower of London where the king died in 1471, suspected murdered by supporters of King Edward IV. Royal rivals in the War of the Roses, was between the Yorkists and Lancastrian claims to the Plantagenet Dynasty. This rivalry concluded with the establishment of the Tudor Dynasty, which united the York and Lancastrian Plantagenet-derived claims. Lancastrian, Henry Tudor (half-nephew of King Henry VI) had a royal claim as the son of King Henry VI's half-brother through his mother Catherine de Valois a daughter of King Charles VI of France. Henry Tudor returned from exile with an army of English, French, and Breton troops and defeated and killed King Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, the last monarch to be killed in battle and which ended of the Plantagenet Dynasty. Henry Tudor then assumed the throne as Henry VII and by marrying Elizabeth of York, the eldest daughter and sole heir of Edward IV, thereby united the rival claims of York and Lancaster. However, even today, many British believe Richard III to be the rightful dynasty of England.


From The Trevelyans and Nettlecombe Court - Victoria County History

The Trevelyans were pre-Norman invasion Old British minor nobles from Cornwall listed in the Domesday Book who were allowed to retain their properties by William the Conqueror after the conquest. The name derives from the Cornish word for mill town, where they had several modest properties. During the reign of King Henry VI John Trevelyan entered the king’s service at court after rising as a fighting companion of the king. He supported the Duke of Suffolk, who was murdered in 1450, and had the dubious honour of appearing in at least three political poems, sometimes by name and once as the Cornish chough. He was accused like others of misleading the king -- ‘Tent to the tale of Trevilian and fynde by his falsed what worship he wan’ -- and was petitioned against in Parliament as unfit to serve the king, due to his friendship with the Duke of Suffolk.

His greatest success turned out to be his marriage at Christmas 1452 to Elizabeth Whalesborough, a lady not only well connected at court, with deep lineage to a number of royal lines, but also granddaughter of Joan Ralegh who was heiress to the Ralegh estate Nettlecombe Court in Somerset. The death of her brother ensured that on her father’s death in 1481 the estates of the Whalesborough and Ralegh families in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset were added to the Trevelyans’s Cornish estates and those in Sussex and Surrey.

For a while the family maintained the connections with the court and public life but John seems to have been reluctant for his sons to pursue a court career due to the extended and dangerous War of the Roses civil war. The second son Thomas complained to his elder brother that he was unable to go to court because his father would not give a penny towards his costs and begged a loan from his brother. Another son Richard came before Henry VII at Bristol. Upon hearing his name, the king asked what relation he was to Trevelyan who was King Harry’s Knight of the Bath, meaning Henry VI. Their brother John was the king’s squire at this period, and it was probably to him that this fatherly advice was addressed, ‘play the Child your name and worship shall be lost’.

The eldest son Sir John eventually settled in Nettlecombe although it was only one of the family homes at this time; Whalesborough in Cornwall and Yarnscombe in Devon were also used, in fact for several years after 1531 Nettlecombe was let. However, by the end of the 16th century Nettlecombe court, a chance acquisition through his mid 15th-century marriage had been remodelled as a fine Elizabethan house and was the family’s principle residence, which it remained until the 20th century.

To find out more about the Trevelyans and Nettlecombe see their history in volume five of the Victoria County History of Somerset.



  • Parents: Thomas TREVYLYAN of Somerset (Abt 1394-) & Lucia


  1. Elizabeth WALISBOROUGH / Whalesborough / Walesborough


  • 1. John TREVYLYAN of Mottiscombe, Sir Kt. c.1451 at Yarnscombe, Devonshire. Married Joan Halliwell.
  • 2. Nicholas TREVELYAN c. 1455 at Yarnscombe, Devonshire. Married Margaret FERCH RHYS.
  • 3. Richard TREVELYAN (the first, who died young) 1457 at Yarnscombe, Devonshire.
  • 4. Thomas TREVELYAN c. 1460 at Yarnscombe, Devonshire.
  • 5. Richard TREVELYAN (the second Richard) 1462 at Yarnscombe, Devonshire.
  • 6. George TREVELYAN c.1465 at Yarnscombe, Devonshire. Rector of Mawgan & Mawnan and Chaplain to King Henry VIII
  • 7. Humphrey TREVELLIAN of Basill in St. Cleather+ c. 1468 at Yarnscombe, Devonshire.


The Esquires of the Body were important officers in clase contact with the monarch. As the Black Book of 1478 had stipulated, there were four "esquires for the body"-- "four Noble, of condition, whereof always two be attendant on the King's person, to array him, and unarray him; watch day and night; and to dress him in bis cloaths. Their business is in many secrets, some sitting in the King's chamber, some in the hall, with person of like service."

In the fifteenth century the esquire was regarded superior to a Gentleman in the Privy Chamber. For instance, when King Henry IV's gentleman, John Wodehouse, was promoted as an Esquire by Henry V, Master Bloomfield "refused the honour of Knighthood, esteerning it to be a superior honour to be Esquire of Body" and "paid a fine rather than take that honour". According to the Statutes of Eltham (19 Jan 1526), an esquire was more important than a Groom of the Privy Chamber. As salary a gentleman received £50 a year, a gentleman usher £30, and a groom £20. Every esquire was entitled to five horses whereas every groom to two horses.



In 1448, the Usher of the Chamber of King Henry VI of England was granted, "a piece of fine black satin of 15 yards, 2 chests with 2 pounds of gold, 3 ticks of feather beds with the bolster therefor... "


The King's Chamber was divided into 2 areas:

1. The Privy Chamber was the most influential department in the royal household.
It housed the king's "privy lodging", consisting of the bedroom, library, study, and the king's toilet room with a separate staff of its own.

The officers of the privy chamber were the monarch's Lord Chamberlain at the top, followed by the Esquires who had the responsibility to attend the king as well as to oversee the secretary, grooms, chaplain, physician, surgeon, apothecary, barber, henchmen guards, and other young gentlemen who attended the king.

Gentlemen in the Privy Chamber: This title was an amalgamation of Esquires of the Household and the Knights of the Body. These gentlemen were assisted by the grooms who were under their command.

2. The Outer Chamber (often styled presence chamber), and the great hall.


"The closer to the royal presence, the greater the degree of elaborate ceremony, until one reached the epitome of pompous regulation in the organization of the King s privy chamber. The number of individuals who could claim entrance into the inner sanctum of the royal presence was rigidly limited and defined. The monarch was to be waited upon by six gentlemen, two gentlemen ushers, four grooms, a barber, and a page, all of whom were appointed for their loyalty, good behaviour and qualities of competence, and who diligently attended upon the royal person, doing humble, reverent, secret service. The grooms of the chamber were not to lay hands upon the royal person or intermeddle with preparing or dressing the King. This responsibility was the much sought-after task of the gentlemen esquires of the bedchamber, who received the royal clothes at the door of the inner chamber after they had been carefully warmed before the fire. Later in the reign the size of the entourage about the King was more than doubled to allow these well-born servants a certain degree of relief from their constant vigilance and domestic cares and allow the position to be given to more of the men who petitioned for the honor of the service and increase the men who might acquire a great personal sense of loyalty to the king by such service.

Equally intricate was the process by which the royal bed was prepared each morning. Both the straw mattress and the box of the bedstead had to be rolled upon by one of the yeomen of the bedchamber to test it for hidden daggers. On top of the mattress was laid a canvas cover and feather bed, which again was tested for treacherous objects . Finally came embroidered sheets and soft blankets until all was completed except the concluding ceremonial flourish of placing the King's sword at the head of the bed while each of the four yeomen kissed the places where their hands had touched the royal couch." ~ Lacey Baldwin Smith


Ushers and Esquires were held in great esteem. The honor offered a royal road to influence, opportunity, further positions, and wealth. However, because of the closeness to the king, there was also opportunity to become at odds with the monarch, and a large number of men, in all roles in service at the court of the king, were beheaded.

A number of men were able to build major public careers on their privy chamber service. Among the most successful of these were Sir John Russell, later first Earl of Bedford, and Sir William Herbert, later first Earl of Pembroke.


JohnTrevilian married Lady Whalesborough and thus acquired Nettlecombe Court. She also brought to the marriage a prominent pedigree.


Their sons followed John to serve at court to the king as well. The eldest son John served as Esquire of the Kynge's Body, was made "Knight of the Bath" and Sheriff of Somerset; while another son was "Groom of the Chamber" and "Escheator" fo Somerset and Dorset, and his son the Reverend George became a "Chaplain to Henry the VIII" and "Canon of Chichester".

Trevilian men were in attendance in the Privy Chamber of the Royal Tudor royal courts of King Henry VI, King Henry VII and King Henry VIII.


Basil or Trebasil, in the parish of St. Clether, was for long the seat of the Trevelyans. Basil Manor is the 17th century remains of the seat of the Trevelyans; the church, mostly rebuilt in 1865, has a tower from the 1400s. Records for the manor under this name were first recorded in 1276.

After the Trevelyans acquired Nettlecombe by marriage to Lady Whalesborough, the original family seat at Basil went to Humphrey, a younger son; while the eldest son John took Nettlecombe.

Today Basil is a farm of 340 acres and trace ruins of a great house. In the immediate neighbourhood are four granite crosses in a good state of preservation. Among the ruins of the house is a large moorstone oven, now used as a pigstye for the farm. Today the farm produces beef and sheep as the main enterprises.


The Spears of the Bees:

The Trevelyans, like most of the Cornish gentry, were Cavaliers. 

During the tumult of the English Civil War, the Roundheads came to Cornwall to seize the property of the men who remained loyal to the crown.  On one occasion a party of Roundheads made shift to seize the Trevelyan squire in his own house. When the Roundheads surrounded the manor, Trevelyan threatened,

"If you come on," said he, "I will send out my spearmen against you."

As there seemed nothing at the back of this threat, since there was no sign of armed men present, come on they did. Whereupon Trevelyan arose up with a teeming beehive and threw it among the Roundheads. Not a man-jack waited for the onslaught of those tiny spearmen. The Roundheads fled, more fearful of the "tiny spears" of an angry army of bees, than the prospect of the iron spears of men.  


SPELLING: In official royal records, his name is spelled John Trevilian. See attached document of a letter regarding his service to the king.

If the name is spelt as Trevelyan researchers are much less likely to find original historical documents for these men.

The name was most often spelt as Trevilian, Trevelian, Trevilion,Trevillian or very rarely Trevilyan. The family name was changed to Trevelyan (in one lineage) much later in the 17th century. No one is found using the spelling of Trevelyan except the line of Sir George Trevelyan Baronet of the 17thC. Trevelyan was probably not used in this generation of this John. There are no original source records of its use. See original record attached.

The Trevelyan spelling was adopted or invented in modern times perhaps to distinguish themselves from all other Trevilians. It reflected a possible Celtic spelling perhaps to appeal to their local Cornish sense of nationalism that had begun to arise and suggest a pre-Norman origin as their coat of arms might suggest with the horse rising from the sea to carry the Trevelyan family founder to safety. When we see Trevelyan, it usually indicates something written in the 19th or 20th century.

Trevelyan is a Brythonic Celtic spelling, not Norman. After the Norman Conquest, the French spelling of the name was used for many centuries, such as Trevilion or Trevillian. It was a sign of status since Normans were in power.


Nettlecombe Court has a late medieval hall, with the entrance front, porch, great hall and parlour added in 1599. Around 1641 there were further additions to rear of great hall, and between 1703 and 1707 the South West front was extended. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.[1]

As stated in "Nettlecombe Court" by R. J. E. Bush:

"Nettlecombe is first mentioned in the Domesday book of 1086, when it was stated to be held by William the Conquerer, and in the charge of his Sheriff for Somerset, William de Mohun." A family lineage published in Nettlecombe Court shows that the estate passed into the Trevelyan (Trevilian / Trevillian) family in 1452, upon the marriage of Elizabeth Whalesburgh to John Trevilian.

It remained as a family estate in the Trevilian family until the mid-nineteen hundreds. The name was changed to Trevelyan in the 17th century.

Nettlecombe Court is a large country mansion in the English county of Somerset.

Nettlecombe Court was originally built as a manor house, becoming a girls' boarding school in the early 1960s. Since 1967 has been the Leonard Wills Field Centre run by the Field Studies Council. The house is surrounded by Nettlecombe Park, a 90.4 hectares (223 acres) Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Records suggest this site has been wood pasture or parkland for at least 400 years. There are some very old oak pollards which may be of this age or older. The oldest standard trees are over 200 years of age. The continuity of open woodland and parkland, with large mature and over-mature timber, has enabled characteristic species of epiphytic lichens and beetles to become established and persist. Many of these species are now nationally scarce because this type of habitat has been eliminated over large areas of Great Britain.

The house and park are set in a secluded valley on the northern fringes of the Brendon Hills, within the Exmoor National Park.


Note: The right to choose High Sheriffs each year is vested in the Duchy of Cornwall,[1] rather than the Privy Council, chaired by the Sovereign, which chooses the Sheriffs of all other English counties, other than those in the Duchy of Lancaster.

view all

Sir John Trevilian, of Nettlecombe, MP's Timeline

Trevelyn,St Veep,Cornwall,England
Yarnscombe, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom
Yarnscombe, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom
Yarnscombe, Devonshire, England, United Kingdom
Yarnscombe, Devonshire, England
Yarnscombe, Devon, England
Age 69
Yarnscombe, Devon, England