ROLLE, Samuel (1646-1719), of Heanton Satchville, Devon.

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



12 Dec. 1665
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
Feb. 1701
Nov. 1701
1715 - Nov. 1719

Family and Education

bap. 5 Nov. 1646, o. surv. s. of Robert Rolle. educ. travelled abroad (France, Switzerland) 1662-5. m. (1) lic. 7 Feb. 1671, Frances, da. and h. of John Roy, merchant, of London and Puddletown, Dorset, s.p.; (2) 26 Oct. 1704, Margaret, da. of Roger Tuckfield of Raddon Court, Thorverton, Devon, 2s. d.v.p. 2da. suc. fa. 1660.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Devon 1667-80, Cornw. 1673-80, Cornw., Devon and Dorset 1689-90; j.p. Devon 1669-81, Devon and Dorset 1687-?d., Cornw. by 1701-?d.; dep. lt. Devon 1670-81, Cornw. July-Oct. 1688, Devon and Dorset 1701-?15; col. of militia ft. Devon by 1674-?81, by 1697-?d.; commr. for recusants, Devon and Cornw. 1675.2


To ensure his ‘virtuous, religious and sober education’, Rolle was sent abroad with a Presbyterian tutor after his father’s death, and so it was presumably William Morice I, one of his trustees, who continued the family tradition of fostering the trade of Callington by granting two fairs to the town in 1663. But whoever was responsible, Rolle reaped the benefit at the by-election which followed the elevation of Sir Henry Bennet to the Lords in 1665. He was an inactive Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being sent for as a defaulter in 1668 and 1671. His name appears on only 13 committees, the most important being on the sale of Dunkirk in 1667. On 18 Jan. 1671 in an effective maiden speech he denounced the pressure used by the court interest in the Devon by-election, but he is not known to have spoken again. In 1674 he was cited by Sir Charles Wheler as authority for a damaging story about his predecessor Bennet (now Lord Arlington). In 1675 he complained of breach of privilege by an attorney and a horse-courser, and obtained their submission and apologies. He was teller against hearing a merchant’s petition in the autumn. He was one of the Cornish Members unfavourably reported on by Sir Richard Wiseman in 1676, and styled ‘doubly worthy’ by Shaftesbury in 1677, when he was appointed to the committee on illegal exactions.3

After Rolle’s re-election in February 1679 Shaftesbury again marked him ‘worthy’, but he was absent from the division on exclusion, and in the first Exclusion Parliament he was named only to the committee on Cornish tin. On the death of Henry Eyre the whole of the Hastings estates in Dorset came to Rolle in right of his wife, and the improvement in his status is marked by his transfer from Callington to Devon in the next general election. As a county Member he was even less active, and had to be sent for as a defaulter on 4 Jan. 1681. The Court temporarily succeeded in detaching him from the country interest before the next election, but faced with defeat at the hands of Sir Francis Drake, 3rd Bt. he switched back and was returned unopposed. He also contested Penryn unsuccessfully, and it was doubtless with a view to forwarding his election petition that he arrived at Oxford in good time, and found himself drafted on to the exclusion bill committee as well as the committee of elections. Political prominence never seems to have been Rolle’s aim and he was probably much relieved at the sudden dissolution; but this was not to save him from an adverse comment on the lieutenancy list and dismissal from all his local appointments. It was noted that he was almost the only Devon magnate who failed to sign the loyal address approving the dissolution of Parliament in 1681.4

In 1685, Rolle stood for Devon and Callington and was defeated in both constituencies. Nothing is known about the Devon election, although Rolle petitioned against it; but it is clear that the Callington return was indefensible, (Sir) John Coryton II as mayor having returned himself. Nevertheless Coryton managed to delay the issue of a new writ till the prorogation was only three days off, and there is no evidence of a by-election.5

Rolle was restored to the commission and the lieutenancy in 1687. His replies on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws followed the standard negative pattern set by Sir Edward Seymour. Although retained in local office, on 21 June 1688 he obtained a pass overseas with Thomas Erle. They were contemporaries, and distantly related through the Fiennes family; moreover, each of them covered the whole gamut of political allegiance. But whereas Erle developed from a reliable supporter of the Stuarts under Charles II to a Whig, Rolle was now veering from the traditional country party principles of his family towards the Jacobitism of his later years. The summer of 1688 is virtually the only period when they might have made agreeable travelling companions. When William of Orange landed, Erle became indispensable to the new government in Dorset both as a military and an electoral organizer; but though Rolle came in to the Prince at Exeter (unlike most of the Devon Whigs) and was offered the post of receiver of the excise, he was regarded as a ‘false player’. Re-elected for Devon in 1689, he obtained leave of absence on 4 June, and is not known to have played any part in the Convention. Henceforward he was a steady Tory, and in later years a ‘furious Jacobite’. He was buried on 5 Nov. 1719 at Petrockstowe, the last of the Heanton branch. His daughter and heir ultimately brought his estates (valued at £4,000 p.a.) to the Walpole earls of Orford.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Vis. Devon, ed. Vivian, 655; Trans. Devon Assoc. xxxvi. 299-300; J. W. Stoye, Eng. Travellers Abroad, 421; Coll. Voyages and Travels ed. Churchill, (1746), vi. 717.
  • 2. HMC 14th Rep. IX, 274; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 226; Eg. 1626, f. 11.
  • 3. Gilbert, Survey of Cornw. ii. 469; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 127; PCC 30 May; R. Granville, Hist. Granville Fam. 361; Grey, ii. 292; Dering, 55.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 144; 1680-1, p. 199; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 615; True Prot. Merc. 9 Mar. 1681; HMC Ormonde, n.s. vi. 148.
  • 5. CJ, ix. 578.
  • 6. CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 402; HMC 7th Rep. 226.