ROLLE, Francis (c.1630-86), of Shapwick, Som. and East Tytherley, Hants.
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Family and Education
b. c.1630, o. s. of Henry Rolle† of Shapwick, l.c.j.K.b. 1648-55, by Margaret, da. of Sir Henry Foote, merchant, of London. educ. I. Temple, entered 1646, called 1653; Emmanuel, Camb. 1647. m. 23 Jan. 1655, his cos. Priscilla, da. and coh. of Sir Thomas Foote, 1st Bt., of London, 1s. 6da. suc. fa. 1656; kntd. 1 Mar. 1665.1
J.p. Som. 1656-July 1660, Sept. 1660-80, Hants 1659-July 1660; commr. for assessment, Som. and Hants 1657, Jan. 1660-80, militia 1659, Mar. 1660, sewers, Som. Aug. I660; sheriff, Hants 1664-5, Som. 1672-3; freeman, Portsmouth 1665, Winchester 1675; commr. for inquiry, Finkley forest 1672, New Forest 1672, 1673, 1676, 1679, recusants, Som. and Hants 1675.2
Rolle’s father, a younger son of the Devonshire family, prospered in the law, buying Shapwick in 1630 and East Tytherley during the Interregnum. An opponent of the Court in early Stuart Parliaments, he was made a judge by the Long Parliament in 1645 and acted as a Presbyterian elder. Unable to find a verdict for the Protector in a taxation case in 1655, he avoided trouble by resigning. Rolle must have been no less obliging, since he was allowed to sit for Somerset in 1656 and served on the commission of the peace.3
Rolle was returned for Bridgwater, eight miles from Shapwick, at the general election of 1660. Classed as a friend by Lord Wharton he doubtless voted with the Opposition. An inactive Member of the Convention, he was not distinguished in the Journals from the less experienced John Rolle, but may have served on six committees. These did not include the committee of elections and privileges, but he attended at least one of its meetings and ‘spoke very friendly’ to Edmund Ludlow, and he probably served on the committee to inquire into the irregular seizure of another regicide’s goods. He was given leave to go into the country on 7 July, but he had probably returned by 24 Aug. when ‘Mr Rolle’ was named to the committee to consider reparations to the Marquess of Winchester out of the estates of two wealthy Hampshire Parliamentarians. He made no recorded speeches, and lost his seat at the general election.4
Rolle presumably conformed to the Church of England as modified by the Act of Uniformity, though retaining his dissenting sympathies. He refused to present the dean of Wells to a rectory of which he owned the advowson, despite the King’s recommendation, but accepted a knighthood as sheriff of Hampshire. He regained his seat briefly in 1669 and was named to one committee; but his Cavalier opponent, Peregrine Palmer, established that his majority had been obtained by polling voters disqualified under the Corporations Act, and he was unseated. He was returned unopposed for Hampshire in 1675, and became an active Member of the Opposition in the later sessions of the Cavalier Parliament. He acted as teller in three divisions and was appointed to 44 committees, including those on the bill for hindering Papists from sitting in Parliament (on 28 May) and most of the subsequent anti-Papal measures. In the autumn session he was named to the committees for habeas corpus reform, and acted as teller against adjourning the debate on the jurisdiction of the House of Lords. On 7 Mar. 1677 he was appointed to a committee to hear a petition from the officials of two Somerset parishes who had attempted to seize cattle illegally imported from Ireland, and he acted as teller against the Newark election. But his most important committee in this session was to draft an address for the speedy conclusion of a defensive alliance with the United Provinces. He visited Shaftesbury in the Tower, and was marked ‘thrice worthy’. At the controversial adjournment of 3 Dec. he told Edward Seymour: ‘We shall put you out of the chair when we meet’. He helped to draw up the address for the removal of counsellors, and acted as teller for an additional clause in the bill to prevent the export of wool. After the Popish Plot he was named to the committee to draft the address for encouragement to informers, and was sent to seek the concurrence of the Lords. He also helped to prepare the address for the continued imprisonment of Secretary Williamson and reasons for imposing the test on the servants of the Queen and the duchess of York.5
At the first general election of 1679 Rolle was involved in a double return for Bridgwater and marked ‘worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list. ‘I wonder I do not find my worthy friend Sir Francis Rolle in the printed list of Parliament men’, wrote the invalid Lord Orrery (Roger Boyle) to (Sir) John Malet from his remote Irish retreat on 28 Mar. No decision is reported in the Journals, and he was named to no committees. He was listed as absent from the division on the exclusion bill, but he seems to have taken his seat soon afterwards, for on 20 May he commented sardonically on the ‘misfortunes’ of Samuel Pepys with his servants. He was defeated at Bridgwater in the autumn, but was returned for Hampshire, and removed from the commission of the peace. A moderately active Member of the second Exclusion Parliament he was appointed to nine committees, including those to bring in a bill for religious comprehension, to receive information about the Popish Plot, and to inquire into the proclamation against petitioning and the conduct of the judges. On 15 Dec. 1680 he spoke in favour of the bill to banish all the most considerable Papists from England. He was re-elected in 1681, but left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament.6
Rolle was regarded as one of the leaders of the ‘disaffected party’ in Somerset, and his name was mentioned by an informer after the Rye House Plot. Monmouth counted on his support in 1685, but he was committed to the Tower on 26 June before he could join the invaders. He was buried at Tytherley on 6 Apr. 1686. His son John was returned for Bridgwater as a Tory in 1713.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson
- 1. Som. Wills, i. 84; St. Mary Woolchurch Haw Reg. 361.
- 2. Q. Sess. Procs. (Som. Rec. Soc. xxviii), p. xxii; (xxxiv), p. xvii; C181/7/24; R. East, Portsmouth Recs. 358; Winchester corp. assembly bk. 5, f. 91; Cal. Treas. Bks. iii. 1080, 1212; iv. 129; v. 199.
- 3. DNB; Collinson, Som. iii. 427; VCH Hants, iv. 516; W. Prynne, Som. Divided into Classes, 7.
- 4. Voyce from the Watchtower, 124.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 467; 1677-8, p. 267; F. Weaver, Som. Incumbents, 332; CJ, ix. 118, 379, 403, 511, 523; Add. 32095, f. 52.
- 6. Som. RO, Sanford mss, Wm. to Edward Clarke, 11 Feb. 1679; Add. 32095, f. 170; Grey, vii. 310; Exact Coll. Debates, 166.