MELLER, Edward (c.1647-99), of Little Bredy, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. c.1647, 2nd s. of Robert Meller of Little Bredy by 2nd w. Frances, da. of Owen Jennens†, merchant, of Portsmouth, Hants, wid. of John Williams of Herringston, Dorset. educ. M. Temple 1664. m. (1) lic. 18 July 1671 (with £5,000), Anne, da. of John Fountaine, serjeant-at-law, of Dalling, Norf., s.p. (2) Essex, 1s. 1da. suc. bro. Robert 1664, gt.-uncle Wolley Meller of Upcerne c.1668.1
Commr. for assessment, Dorset 1673-80, 1689-90, dep. lt. 1676-May 1668, j.p. 1689-?d.2
The Mellers built up a considerable, though scattered estate in west Dorset in the second half of the 16th century, and in 1601 the then head of the family was elected for Poole. Meller’s grandfather was captured by Sir William Waller I in 1644 while executing a commission of array, and seems to have got off very lightly with a fine of 694. His father, who was already in possession of half the family estate, escaped altogether, in spite of strong circumstantial evidence of royalist activities.3
Meller guaranteed his wife a jointure of £600 p.a., which suggests that his income, after the Upcerne property of £1,000 p.a. had fallen in, was not less than three times that sum. Nevertheless, by 1685 he was £11,000 in debt, and his motive for entering Parliament was simple: to force through a bill enabling him to sell his wife’s jointure. He was returned for Dorchester as a Tory, together with his aunt’s husband William Churchill. But in Parliament he lacked the close network of family connexions which might have been expected from six generations of land ownership and four of parliamentary service; the Mellers’ marriage alliances, though lucrative, had seldom been uplifting socially. He fee’d a lawyer in the House for leave to introduce his bill, but it was refused by 218 votes to 195 on 27 May. ‘Are we to give away the children’s estates to pay the father’s foolish debts?’ it was asked. Meller next addressed himself to Roger North, who indignantly refused a fee, but consented to renew the application. He told the House on 2 June that Meller had been childless for many years, and leave was granted for a bill. Any irregular practices were ruled out by the provisos fixing the quorum at eight, and instructing the committee to take care that the wife consented in person, and was satisfied with the recompense offered to her, and that the title to the lands was good. Anthony Ettrick took the chair in committee, the amended bill had its third reading on 13 June, and received the royal assent a fortnight later. Whether Meller was present at Westminster throughout June it is impossible to say; he was named to two unimportant committees on 11 and 25 June, but as deputy lieutenant he surely had more urgent duties in the west, following Monmouth’s landing. It was alleged that he was responsible for the ransacking of the house of Francis Holles at Martinstown, but the charge seems to have been dropped. There is no evidence that he was present when Parliament resumed in November.4
Meller’s answers on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws followed the standard negative pattern in Dorset, and he was dropped from the lieutenancy in the early summer of 1688. Although a large part of his Dorset estates remained unsold he seems to have gone to live in Buckinghamshire and is unlikely to have enjoyed further political ambitions. He was buried at Winterbourne Came on 3 Sept. 1699, the last of the family to sit in Parliament.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. cxvii), 44; C8/58/127; Dorset RO, 10686, 3930; Temple Church Burials, 17.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 526, 532; Dorset RO, KG 1147.
- 3. Hutchins, Dorset, i. 197; SP23/175/567-577; C. H. Mayo, Dorset Standing Committee, 211; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 1027, 1318.
- 4. CJ, ix. 721, 725, 730, 732, 735; North, Lives, iii. 183-4; LJ, xiv. 63; Dorset RO, D13/E2, 3; Hutchins, iv. 151; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 548; 2, p. 14.
- 5. Hutchins, ii. 193, 290; Dorset RO, 10883.