REYNELL, Thomas (1625-98), of East Ogwell, Devon.
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Family and Education
b. 13 Sept. 1625, 1st s. of Sir Richard Reynell† of East Ogwell by Mary, da. and coh. of Richard Reynell of Creedy Widger. educ. Exeter, Oxf. 1640; M. Temple 1641, called 1649. m. (1) Mary, da. of John Bennet of London, 1s. d.v.p. 4da.; (2) lic. 25 July 1673, Elizabeth, da. of James Gould, merchant, of London, wid. of William Vincent, merchant, of Exeter, 3s. 2da. suc. fa 1648.1
J.p. Devon 1647 52, 1653-June 1660, Aug. 1660-76, 1687-d., commr. for assessment 1652, 1657, Jan. 1660-3, 1673-80, 1689-90, militia 1659, Mar. 1660, inquiry into Newfoundland govt. 1667, recusants, Devon 1675, sheriff 1677-8; commr. for inquiry into recusancy fines, Devon, Dorset and Cornw. Mar. 1688; dep. lt. Devon May-Oct. 1688; alderman, Totnes Apr.-Oct. 1688.2
Reynell was head of a very old Devonshire family; one ancestor served as sheriff during the Third Crusade, another, who had married a Cambridgeshire heiress, represented that county under Edward III. His father, though named to the commission of array, seems to have taken no part in the Civil War; his uncle and namesake was a courtier and a Royalist; but Reynell himself complied both with Commonwealth and Protectorate. After the Restoration he was described as an arrant Presbyterian and a very dangerous Commonwealthman. In spite of his abortive candidature in the Devon by-election of 1671, he retained his seat on the county bench till 1676, when he was removed at the request of the Earl of Bath. In the following year Reynell stood the poll at a by-election at Ashburton, some five miles from his residence; he petitioned twice against his defeat but without effect.3
Reynell was successful at all three elections for the Exclusion Parliaments, and was noted by Shaftesbury as ‘honest’. He was an active Member in 1679, being named to 23 committees, including those for extending habeas corpus, and for security against Popery. He helped to draw up the address against Danby’s pardon and the answer to the Lords on impeachments, and voted for the exclusion bill. His membership of committees on the poor laws and the cloth trade seems to have brought him more than a local reputation as a champion of English manufacturers against Irish competition. The economy of Ashburton was dominated by the woollen industry, though it failed to produce any conspicuously successful clothier in this period.4
Reynell was somewhat less active in the second Exclusion Parliament, his name appearing on only nine committee lists, including those to inquire into abhorring and to prepare measures for security against arbitrary power. No doubt he was chiefly responsible for the attempt to punish his local rival, William Stawell, as an Abhorrer, and the support he enjoyed among the Ashburton dissenters encouraged him to press for the repeal of the Corporation Act. He also demanded the removal of Laurence Hyde from the King’s person because of his kinship with the Duke of York. At the Oxford Parliament his only known activity was membership of the committee of elections and privileges, in anticipation of a petition by his colleague Richard Duke against Stawell.5
Reynell was taken into custody in May 1685 on the eve of Monmouth’s invasion; but he was restored to the bench two years later as a Whig collaborator and gave a qualified consent to the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, provided that the safety of the Protestant religion was secured. He was consequently approved as court candidate for Ashburton, though he himself seems to have been aiming at the county seat. He did nothing to aid William of Orange in 1688, but was nevertheless returned for Ashburton to the Convention. In this, his last Parliament, he was moderately active, sitting on 22 committees. He took part in the consideration of the toleration bill and the Lords’ proviso on the succession. But he seems to have been principally concerned with Ireland, where his brother Sir Richard Reynell had been removed from the King’s bench by James II. He helped to draw up the address for permission to inspect the Privy Council records on Irish affairs on 3 July 1689, and a week later he was added to the committee of inquiry into the delay in relieving Londonderry. In the second session he served on the committees for forfeited Irish estates and for the relief of refugees from Ireland. He made no recorded speeches, but supported the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations.6
Reynell stood down at Ashburton in 1690 in favour of his brother, who had not yet regained his Irish judgeship. He was buried at East Ogwell on 1 Mar. 1698, and succeeded by his eldest son by the second marriage, who represented Ashburton as an independent Whig in seven Parliaments between 1702 and 1734.