HALL, John (1632-1711), of Wells, Som. and The Hall, Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
bap. 17 May 1632, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Hall of Bradford by Catherine, da. of Sir Edward Seymour, 2nd Bt.†, of Berry Pomeroy, Devon. m. (1) Susan, da. and h. of Francis Cox of Wells, s.p.; (2) lic. 1 Dec. 1670, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Thomas Thynne of Richmond, Surr., s.p.; 1da. illegit. by Rachel, da. of (Sir) George Willoughby of Bishopstone, Wilts., wife of Thomas Bayntun of Little Chalfield, Wilts. suc. fa. 1663.1
Gent. of the privy chamber by June 1660-85.2
Commr. for assessment, Som. 1661-3, 1679-80, Wilts. 1664-80, Som. and Wilts. 1689-90, j.p. Som. 1662-Jan. 1666, Apr. 1666-80, Wilts. 1673-80, 1689-d., capt.-lt. of militia horse, Som. by 1667; sheriff, Wilts. by 1669-70; commr. for recusants, Som. 1675, inquiry into recusancy fines, Wilts. Mar. 1688; dep. lt. Wilts. by 1696-d.3
Hall was the last of a family which took its name from the property in Bradford where they had resided since the middle of the 13th century. They were also landowners in Somerset, and two of them sat for Wells under the Lancastrians; but they were not a regular parliamentary family. Hall’s father (under duress, by his own account) acted as a royalist commissioner during the Civil War, and was fined £660. Hall claimed to have expended a considerable sum in the Restoration, and was included in the Somerset list of knights of the Royal Oak with an income of £900 p.a. His preference for that county may not have been unconnected with the charms of the local milkmaids, which he described in detail to his friend, the lecherous Duke of Richmond. As sheriff of Wiltshire he wrote from Wells (without having obtained permission to leave the county) on 3 Jan. 1670, complaining of the financial burden imposed by that office, and in particular that Secretary Arlington (Sir Henry Bennet) had ordered him to replace the keeper of the county gaol.4
Although Hall was a cousin of the Speaker, Edward Seymour, it was as an opponent of the Government that he entered Parliament in 1673 as Member for Wells, where his brother-in-law William Coward was recorder. A more influential connexion at Westminster was another brother-in-law, Thomas Thynne II. Hall was moderately active in the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was appointed to 31 committees and twice acted as teller. On 20 Jan. 1674 he urged that the House should divide on the impeachment of Arlington, failing to realize in his parliamentary inexperience that this was just what the secretary’s friends wanted at this juncture. He never spoke in the House again, though he was added to the impeachment committee. In 1675 he was appointed to the committees for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament and preventing the growth of Popery. On 6 Nov. he acted with Thynne as teller against the adjournment of the debate on building warships. On the working lists he was committed to the management of Secretary Williamson, who was intimate with the Duke of Richmond’s sister, but Shaftesbury marked him ‘doubly worthy’. He served on the committee for the estate bill of (Sir) Edward Hungerford in 1677, as well as that for Thynne’s bill in the following year. On 31 Jan. 1678, he complained to the House that he had been assaulted and wounded by a local attorney and bailiff; one of the assailants was formally reprimanded on his knees by the Speaker and ordered to apologize to Hall at quarter sessions, but nothing further is known of the incident. A few days later he accused the lord treasurer’s servants of detaining the writ for the Westbury by-election. He was among those ordered to draw up an address for the removal of counsellors on 7 May, and in the last session he was added to the committee for the translation of Coleman’s letters, and helped to draw up the address for their publication. He was probably a member of the Green Ribbon Club.5
Hall lost his seat at the general election, which he is not known to have contested, but he received the majority of votes from the scot-and-lot payers in the autumn and was seated on petition. Meanwhile he had been dismissed from local office. He leaves no further trace on the records of the second or third Exclusion Parliaments. As Thynne’s executor, he tried to find a Whig purchaser for his Hindon burgages, and he was in good standing with the west country dissenters, the Bath Presbyterians hoping in 1683 that he might join with Sir Walter Long against the court candidates. Lord Feversham, who occupied Hall’s house during Monmouth’s rebellion, described him to James II as ‘none of the best affected, as your Majesty knows’. In 1688 he was made a commissioner for recusancy fines for Wiltshire, where, according to the King’s electoral agents, he had an ‘undoubted interest’ and was ‘esteemed right’ as court candidate for the county. It is unlikely, however, that he stood again. His political retirement may have been due to a curious development in his private life. Hall had settled his nephew, Thomas Bayntun, on his estate at Chalfield, and, although he was at least twice Mrs Bayntun’s age, and had had no children by two wives, he believed that he was the father of her younger daughter, baptized on 14 Apr. 1695 as ‘Rachel Baynton’. The scandal was apparently well hushed up, and Hall continued in local office, signing the Association in 1696 among the Wiltshire deputy lieutenants. Mrs Bayntun predeceased him, generously forgiving her husband all the wrongs he had done her, and Hall, who died between February and September 1711, left his estate to their daughter, who married the heir of the 1st Duke of Kingston (Evelyn Pierrepont).