DE LA POLE, Sir John William, 6th Bt. (1757-99), of Shute House, nr. Axminster, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1790 - 1796

Family and Education

b. 26 June 1757, o.s. of Sir John Pole, 5th Bt., by 1st w. Elizabeth, da. and coh. of John Mills, banker and planter, of St. Kitts, W.I. and Woodford, Essex. educ. Blundell’s sch. 1771-2; Winton Coll. Bournemouth; Corpus, Oxf. 1776. m. 9 Jan. 1781,1 Anne, da. of James Templer of Lindridge and Stover Lodge, Devon, sis. of George Templer*, 2s. 1da. suc. fa. as 6th Bt. 19 Feb. 1760; took name of De La Pole in lieu of Pole 13 Oct. 1789.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Devon 1782-3.

Capt. E. Devon yeoman cav. 1794, maj. commdt. 1796, lt.-col. 1799; capt.-lt. E. Devon militia 1801.


Pole’s grandfather Sir William was a county Member; his father unsuccessfully contested Taunton in 1754. Before he was 10, he was bereft of both parents, his affairs placed in the hands of trustees and his upbringing left to his devoted aunt Elizabeth Anstis.2 He became an enlightened country gentleman, an expert horseman devoted to animals who could also quote Thompson’s The Seasons with feeling and project (1788) a fund to relieve persons imprisoned for small debts (he was an admirer of John Howard the prison reformer).

Pride of family was perhaps his main characteristic: in 1788 he purchased Shute and Whitford, which had been tenanted by the Poles for more than 200 years, and in the following year adopted the older form of the family name. He recovered lost patrimonies bringing his estate up to 10,000 acres and built an Adam style mansion at Shute. In 1791 he edited his ancestor Sir William Pole’s Devon Collections and bought the latter’s ruined seat of Colcomb Castle, which he did not live to restore.

A public-spirited man, friendly with Lord Falmouth, he came in on the Buller interest in the 1790 Parliament, for a seat usually made available to friends of administration. He was listed hostile to the repeal of the Test Act in Scotland in 1791, and he probably gave Pitt a silent support: there is no evidence to the contrary. He had spoken up for the minister at the county meeting in January 1790. He had been in correspondence with Pitt at that time over a place for a friend3 and had evidently had an interview with the minister in the hope of becoming governor of Portland Castle on the death, then expected, of Governor Steward (the post was, however, given in 1792 to Gabriel Tucker Steward*, the governor’s son). On 22 Apr. 1794 he moved the resolutions on defence measures at the Devon county meeting. In that year he applied to Pitt to succeed Sir Francis Drake as ranger of Dartmoor Forest, adding that he would have applied before, had not ‘an unfortunate accident by the overturning of a carriage’ confined him for six weeks. Late in 1795 he asked for the place of custos brevium for his brother-in-law, Major Templer.4 His applications seem to have been fruitless.

De La Pole did not seek re-election in 1796. He died 30 Nov. 1799, aged 42, leaving his affairs in disarray. His will directed that he should not be taken from the house ‘till the clearest and most unequivocal signs of death appear’, to be ascertained by six persons.5

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne


M. F. Bridie, Story of Shute (1955), 141-55.

  • 1. Miss Bridie gives 9 Jan. 1779, at Teigngrace church.
  • 2. ‘Elizabethae, amitarum optimae’ (his MI to her in Shute church).
  • 3. PRO 30/8/129, ff. 69-73; 146, f. 151; 168, f. 11.
  • 4. PRO 30/8/129, ff. 74-78; 173, ff. 38, 48.
  • 5. PCC 588 Adderley.