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TREVANION, Sir NICHOLAS, captain in the Royal Navy; commodore of the Newfoundland convoy and temporary governor, 1712; b. c1670; d. 1737.

Believed to have been a son or collateral descendant of Captain Richard Trevanion of an ancient Cornish family who adhered to King James II and went into exile with him, Trevanion was commissioned captain of the Dunwich in 1696 and the Lyme in 1698. In 1702, in command of the Dover, he captured a valuable French prize off Saint-Malo. He then served in the Mediterranean squadron under Sir Cloudesley Shovell, and for his services was knighted in 1710.

In 1712, in command of the York, Trevanion was appointed a commodore of the Newfoundland convoy. He arrived in Newfoundland on 17 or 18 September – the exact date is not known as his log-books for 1712 are missing. His replies to the Heads of Enquiry required by the Board of Trade and Plantations are dated 29 Oct. 1712. He records that he held courts twice weekly, as had his predecessor, Commodore Josias Crowe, who had been the first to institute regular courts. He caused notices to be put up in ale houses and other public places prohibiting drunkenness and swearing. He confirmed the arrangements made by Crowe for the remuneration of the minister, Jacob Rice, but found the planters backward in paying him. He also settled a number of property disputes amongst inhabitants. The fact that he stayed only a short time at St John’s may account for his generally. favourable report. He noted that life there was peaceable, with no complaints of stealing, or wilful damage, or unjust apportioning of beach and harbour facilities.

Also included in his replies to the Heads were his comments on the life of the inhabitants of Newfoundland – the fishing methods, the various commodities imported, and statistical data. He recorded a population of 1,509 men, 185 women, and 323 children, and the number of ships in harbour as 66 fishing ships, 17 sack ships, and 20 from America. He also estimated the population of the French at Placentia at 500 men and 200 women and children. In compliance with the board’s rules he ordered that the Lord’s day be duly observed and he gave strict orders against the emptying of ballast in the harbour-a pernicious practice that destroyed the cod fry. With regard to the serious matter of enticement of English seamen and “green men” by New England shipmasters, Trevanion remarked: “as to the New Englandmen I have took good care to see them all out of port so that they may not carry away any of Her Majesty’s subjects.” His remedy was, however, only a temporary one; Commodores Fotherby and Kempthorne were to find the situation as bad as ever. Trevanion noted that great care was taken to preserve the fish with good salt, but that it had been a poor season; the price of fish he quoted as “30 to 36 ryalls per quintell” and of oil – “£16 per tun.”

Trevanion liked Newfoundland and its inhabitants. He asked if he could return “to settle affairs here in the spring if Placentia is to be delivered up.” The goodwill seems to have been mutual; the inhabitants and merchants of Newfoundland petitioned the Earl of Dartmouth that Trevanion continue in office. His relations with the French, too, were good. When some of his. ships seized some French vessels after the armistice, he quickly arranged with Pastour de Costebelle, governor of Placentia, for their return. With his reply Costebelle sent a case of wine. It is interesting to see throughout Trevanion’s reports the distinctly amiable tone when he is discussing the French, and the hostile attitude towards New England.

Trevanion’s request to be allowed to return to Newfoundland was not granted – Leake was commodore in 1713. After Trevanion’s return to England he was not employed at sea again; in 1728 he was appointed resident commissioner for the navy at Plymouth, where he died 17 Nov. 1737.

Michael Godfrey

PRO, Adm. 6 (commission and warrant books); C.O. 194/5; CSP, Col., 1712–14. Charnock, Biographia navalis, III.

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Cite This Article

Michael Godfrey, “TREVANION, SIR NICHOLAS,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/trevanion_nicholas_2E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/trevanion_nicholas_2E.html
Author of Article:   Michael Godfrey
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1969
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   October 1, 2023