REYMES, Bullen (1613-72), of Waddon, Dorset.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Dec. 1613, 1st s. of Bullen Reymes of Westminster by Mary, da. of William Petre of Torbryan, Devon. educ. privately. m. 1640, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Thomas Gerard of Trent, Som., 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da. suc. fa. 1652.
Attaché, Paris embassy 1631-2, Venice 1634-5, 1636-7; gent. of privy chamber 1641-6, June 1660-d.; servant to the Duke of Gloucester ?May-Sept. 1660; commr. for Tangier 1664-d. asst. R. Fishing Co. 1664; surveyor of great wardrobe 1668-d.1
Capt. of ft. 1640; col. of horse (royalist) 1643-6.
Freeman, Exeter 1645, Weymouth 1661, Portsmouth 1665; commr. for assessment, Dorset Aug. 1660-9, Westminster 1663-9; v.-adm. Dorset 1661-d., commr. for loyal and indigent officers, Dorset 1662, sick and wounded, Hants and Dorset 1664-7, 1671-d.; dep. treas, of prizes, Portsmouth 1665-7.2
Reymes’s ancestors had held land in Norfolk since Domesday Book, and one of them represented the county under Henry IV. But his father was a younger son who went to Court and spent much of his active life in the Duke of Buckingham’s household. As a young man Reymes travelled extensively on the Continent. On his return his mother’s Dorset kinsfolk (chief among them the family of Robert Coker) found for him an heiress, who brought with her a seaside estate some seven miles from Weymouth, as well as a useful family connexion with Francis Wyndham. Reymes saw active service with the royalist army in the west till he laid down his arms at the surrender of Exeter in 1646. To the committee for compounding he declared an income of £553 all in the right of his wife. Fortified by a favourable letter from the Dorset committee (no doubt obtained by Coker), he was not called on to pay more than £100. The estate was heavily mortgaged, but he seems to have cleared this by the Restoration. Reymes took no part in the second Civil War, though he was imprisoned in Taunton Castle in 1650, and helped some Royalists to escape across the Channel after the battle of Worcester.
Early in 1660, Reymes bought a town house in Melcombe Regis, and may at the same time have entered into partnership with Mrs Constance Pley—‘as famous a she-merchant as you have in England’—as an importer of sailcloth. Ineligible as a Cavalier at the general election, Reymes was successful for the borough at a by-election, with Mrs Pley’s husband acting as returning officer. A moderately active Member of the Convention, Reymes was named to fourteen committees, of which the most important was to recommend an establishment for Dunkirk. His career at Court received a check with the premature death of the Duke of Gloucester, but he fortified his interest at Weymouth by procuring with the assistance of William Penn a grant for harbour works, the administration of which was entrusted to his henchman Pley.3
Reymes did not attend the general election of 1661, but he was proposed by Pley, and brought in second in the poll. The 322 references to Reymes in the first 14 sessions of the Cavalier Parliament make him one of the most active Members, and further evidence for his keenness is provided by the parliamentary diary which he kept from 8 May 1661 to 4 Feb. 1662, though it is rather painstaking than informative. It was probably in Parliament that he became intimate with (Sir) William Coventry and (Sir) Thomas Clifford, whom he mentions in his will as his chiefest friends. He was once employed as messenger to the King, once to the Lords and ten times as teller, but he was not prominent as draftsman, being painfully aware of his lack of formal education, though he worked hard at his law-books in his spare time. In the opening session, he was named to the committees for the security of the King’s person and the execution of those under attainder. He was not appointed to the original committee for the corporations bill, under which his henchman Pley was temporarily displaced, but he took part in two inquiries into its working. In 1663 he was named to the committees to hear a petition from the loyal and indigent officers and to inquire into the conduct of Sir Richard Temple. He took a keen interest in land reclamation, joining Sir Charles Cotterell in a drainage project in Lancashire, and he was probably responsible for obtaining from Lord Ashley (Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper) an Exchequer commission of inquiry into ‘drowned lands’ in Dorset. This was interpreted as an attack on the rights of Sir John Strangways, Reymes’s colleague and Ashley’s principal local rival, over his Abbotsbury estate, and the results soon made themselves felt in the Commons. On 2 June 1663 Giles Strangways acted as teller for permitting the export of oats when prices did not exceed 13s.4d. a quarter; whereupon Reymes came forward as teller for the noes. A month later Reymes was teller for an amendment to the bill for draining Lindsey level, and the younger Strangways on the other side. Doubly defeated, Reymes sought his revenge as vice-admiral by querying, with Coventry’s support, the right to jetsam of the lord of Abbotsbury manor. The Admiralty court failed to uphold him, however, and on 15 Feb. 1664 the Strangways family lawyer wrote, with appropriate imagery if scant respect:
Mr Reymes is becalmed, and I am of the mind that Mr Coventry hath no intent to appear any more. ... I told Mr Reymes that I should after Monday take my leave till next term, who said it might be done in my absence, and I told him in his too, best of all.
Ashley was not ungrateful, however, and Reymes was appointed to the Tangier commission. After the 1664 session, in which he was listed as a court dependant, he was sent to Tangier, and his report on conditions there greatly impressed both the King and Samuel Pepys. It did nothing for his standing in the House, however, and his final defeat on the drowned lands issue was marked by the division of 6 Feb. 1665, with Giles Strangways teller for the majority against Reymes and another Weymouth Member, (Sir) Winston Churchill.4
During the second Dutch war Reymes held several minor administrative posts under Ashley, and contracted for the supply of sailcloth to the Admiralty. In the Oxford session he was appointed to the committee for the five mile bill. His parliamentary activity reached its climax in the session that followed the fall of Clarendon. He was named to the committees to inquire into the miscarriages of the war and the sale of Dunkirk, to consider the charges against Lord Mordaunt, and to bring in a public accounts bill. During the Christmas recess he was appointed surveyor of the great wardrobe, which had been grossly maladministered by the Earl of Sandwich (Edward Montagu I), and was soon achieving remarkable economies, according to Coventry. In the House he defended Sandwich’s failure in the naval action at Bergen, and on behalf of the Court unsuccessfully resisted the charge, aimed in part at Coventry, of mishandling naval communications in 1666.5
Reymes continued to serve on committees considering such important subjects as the militia laws, habeas corpus, the regulation of elections and the transportation of prisoners overseas. He was among those ordered on 27 Oct. 1670 to bring in a bill for improving trade with the plantations, a subject which greatly interested Ashley. His frequency in attendance is remarkable in view of his ill-health and his official employments. He was again reckoned a court dependant in both lists of 1669-71, and in a hostile account is described as ‘an officer in the wardrobe and commissioner of prizes, a furnisher of stores for the navy, besides great boons other ways’. He remained alert and responsive to his constituents’ needs, heading the subscription list for a new bridge to link the two halves of the borough. Reymes died on 18 Dec. 1672, and his male issue became extinct by the end of the century without further electoral success.6
Reymes had been well-grounded in the Anglican faith by his parents, so much so that he could write:
I thank God I never so much as in thought inclined ... to popish superstition on the one hand, nor to any of the ungovernable sects of the fanatics on the other.
Nevertheless his numerous friendships with Roman Catholics and his partnership with the dissenting Pleys show him to have been personally tolerant. Industrious, humane and cultivated, he enjoyed a wide variety of interests, from drama to tulips (on which he became something of a local authority). Unfortunately his temper was not always under control: he himself admitted that in correspondence with the Navy Office he supplied the vinegar and Mrs Pley the oil. His feud with the Strangways family—underlining the distinction between court and country Cavalier—helps to explain why the loyalist representation of Weymouth shrank from four in 1661 to nil in 1679. Nevertheless, Reymes worthily represents the older generation of Restoration courtiers—the ‘conscientious Cavalier’ of his biographer’s description.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris
This article is based on Helen A. Kaufman, Conscientious Cavalier, and on further information kindly supplied by the author.