PALK, Walter (1742-1819), of Marley House, Rattery, Devon.

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



4 Nov. 1796 - Feb. 1811

Family and Education

b. 1742, 1st s. of Walter Palk of Headborough and Yolland Hill, Ashburton by 1st w. Thomasine Withecombe of Priestaford, Ashburton. m. 15 Feb. 1782, Elizabeth Lyde, 2da. suc. fa. 1801.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Devon 1791-2; capt. Ashburton vols. 1798.


Palk, the son of an Ashburton small farmer and clothier and nephew of Sir Robert Palk, governor of Madras 1763-7, was later said to have been to India, but in what capacity is not clear. His brothers Thomas and Robert were civil servants in Bengal and Madras respectively and he owned East India stock. In his marriage licence he was described as a ‘serge maker’ of Ashburton and by 1790 he had bought the nearby Rattery estate and other Devon property. Reckoned in 1809 to be worth £8,000 a year, he was said to have become a partner in a leading Exeter bank, but he has not been positively identified as such. His kinsman Robert Abraham ran the Ashburton bank, which failed in 1812.1

He came in for the family seat in 1796 in place of his cousin Lawrence Palk who, having been returned for both Ashburton and Devon at the general election, opted to sit for the county. He was utterly anonymous in the House, where he is not known to have spoken, and his only recorded vote was for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803. He was classed as ‘doubtful’ in the ministerial list of May 1804, but placed under ‘Addington’ and ‘Addington’s friends on whom some impression might be made’ in that of September. On 8 Jan. 1805 Lord Rolle, a fellow Devonian, told Pitt that a personal letter to Palk might secure his support: ‘He is not influenced by his relatives and is independent in his politics.’2 In the ministerial analysis of July 1805, however, he was listed, like his cousin, as a follower of Sidmouth. In mid March 1810 the Whigs were ‘hopeful’ of his support, but did not receive it in the subsequent crucial division on the Walcheren fiasco. Palk obtained a month’s leave of absence because of ill health on 22 Dec. 1810, which was renewed on 23 Jan. 1811, about a week before he took the Chiltern Hundreds.3 He died 19 Feb. 1819.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Authors: J. W. Anderson / P. A. Symonds


Genealogical details taken from C. Worthy, Devon Parishes, ii. 324-30.

  • 1. J. Wilson, Biog. Index (1806), 417; HMC Palk, p. iv; C. H. Philips, E.I. Co. 345; Worthy, ii. 330; D. Lysons, Devon (1822), 69, 79, 110, 425, 541-2; Farington, v. 260.
  • 2. PRO 30/8/173, f. 101.
  • 3. CJ, lxvi. 21, 42.