WALLIS, William (c.1657-1737), of Holborn, Mdx. and Wormleybury, Herts.
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Family and Education
b. c.1657. m. [–], more than 1 da. ?d.v.p.1
Capt. Zachariah Tiffin’s Ft. 1693; groom of privy chamber 1695–1700, gent. usher 1700–2.
The description of Wallis at the time of his death as ‘a great favourite of the late King William’, and one who had been with the King in all his campaigns in Flanders, is somewhat exaggerated. He may well have seen active service in the early years of the reign but he left his regiment in August 1693, when he bought the manor of Datchworth in Hertfordshire. In 1696 he signed the Hertfordshire Association, and seems to have set himself up as a country gentleman, purchasing the manor house of Wormleybury in 1697 and houses in the borough of Steyning in Sussex. In 1695 he had been appointed a groom of the privy chamber, and in May 1700 sought to replace James Compton in the post of gentleman usher, while surrendering the junior post to his brother Robert. Sir John Stanley, 1st Bt., secretary to the lord chamberlain, wrote to his master on 11 May 1700 to say that Compton had suggested ‘Captain Wallis, at present one of the grooms of the privy chamber, who has served in the army, and has a good character’. A few days later Stanley added that, as far as he could ascertain, Wallis and his brother were ‘men of substance and good reputation’. Both were appointed, but lost their positions on the King’s death in 1702.2
Wallis successfully contested Steyning in 1705 and was listed by Lord Sunderland (Charles, Lord Spencer*) as a ‘gain’ for the Whigs. He was classed as a ‘Churchman’ in a list of the new Parliament, voted for the Court candidate for Speaker, 25 Oct. 1705, and supported the ministry again in the proceedings on the regency bill on 18 Feb. 1706. Perhaps because he was not particularly active he was mistakenly classed as a Tory in early 1708. Defeated at Steyning in the general election of 1708, he was successful in 1710, when he was classed as ‘doubtful’ in the ‘Hanover list’. His election was declared void on 17 Feb. 1711 after evidence of bribery was revealed. The House ordering no new writ in this session, the by-election was not held until February 1712 when Wallis failed to regain his seat, collecting only 26 votes, presumably from his 27 tenants in the borough. This election, too, was declared void by the House on the grounds of bribery, but Wallis did not stand at the next by-election. He was returned unchallenged in 1713, being described as a Whig in the Worsley list. Under George I he represented Steyning for a few years, but became increasingly embroiled in financial difficulties. He sold Datchworth in 1719 and his property in Steyning in the 1720s, and eventually went bankrupt. According to his obituary he had acted as security for the receiver-general of excise, presumably either Thomas Hall or Henry Meriton, ‘at the beginning of the reign of Queen Anne’ and his estate had been seized by the excise authorities. He was thereafter ‘supported by the nobility and gentry of this kingdom’. At the time of his brother’s will of 1724 Wallis was apparently married with more than one daughter, none of whom, however, are mentioned in his own will of 1736. He died on 4 Feb. 1737, aged 80, within the rules of the Fleet Prison.3