SEYMOUR, Sir Edward, 3rd Bt. (1610-88), of Berry Pomeroy, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

Apr. 1640
Nov. 1640 - 16 Jan. 1643
31 July 1660
1661
Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
1685

Family and Education

bap. 10 Sept. 1610, 1st s. of Sir Edward Seymour, 2nd Bt. of Berry Pomeroy by Dorothy, da. of Sir Henry Killigrew of Lanrake, Cornw.; bro. of Henry Seymour I. educ. Sherborne; Blandford g.s.; Exeter, Oxf. 1630; travelled abroad (France and Low Countries). m. Anne, da. of Sir John Portman, 1st Bt., of Orchard Portman, Som., 5s. 1da. suc. fa. 5 Oct. 1659.1

Offices Held

Commr. for piracy, Devon 1637; j.p. Wilts. by 1640-6, Devon 1643-6, July 1660-July 1688, Dartmouth 1684; col. of militia ft. Devon bef. 1642, July 1660-86, commr. of array 1642, oyer and terminer, Western circuit July 1660; dep. lt. Devon c. Aug. 1660-80, commr. for assessment Aug. 1660-80, corporations 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662, inquiry into Newfoundland government 1667; sub-commr. for prizes, Plymouth 1673-4; commr. for recusants, Devon 1675, v.-adm. 1677-d., sheriff 1679-80; recorder, Totnes 1684-7; freeman, Plymouth 1684.2

Col. of ft. (royalist) 1642-5; gov. Dartmouth 1643-5, 1677-?d.

Biography

As Seymour’s son found occasion to tell William of Orange, he was head of the family to which the Duke of Somerset belonged. The Protector had acquired Berry Pomeroy in 1548, and it descended to his heirs by his first marriage, while his titles went by special remainder to his second family. Seymour, an ardent Royalist, compounded under the Exeter articles at £1,200 for lands in possession and reversion worth £676 p.a., but he was one of a large family which required a heavy provision for annuities and marriage portions. Though less active than his brother during the Interregnum, he was twice imprisoned.3

Seymour’s Cavalier record precluded him from standing at the general election of 1660. Asked to choose his reward at the Restoration, he replied: ‘I only desire that your Majesty will bestow a sword upon me, wherewith to serve you against your enemies’. He was returned to the Convention at a by-election for the county, and attended the House conscientiously, or so he indicated to his wife. But he sat only on the committee for the Marquess of Winchester’s estates, in order to protect the interests of his cousin Robert Wallop, and made no speeches.4

In 1661 Seymour was returned for his family borough of Totnes, within two miles of Berry Pomeroy, but he was soon overshadowed by his colleague Thomas Clifford, to say nothing of his own son. There are only 34 references in all to him in the Cavalier Parliament. He was named to the committees for the corporations bill in 1661 and for establishing a public accounts commission in 1667, and he was teller for the motion to put the question on one of the charges of mismanagement in the debate on the Dutch war in 1668. But otherwise he was chiefly interested in non-political subjects with a west country flavour, and he was probably a poor attender, though he was only once named as a defaulter. This cannot plausibly be imputed to age or ill-health, for he was fit enough to be in danger from the press-gang at Gravesend when he went to see his son off with the fleet in 1666. In 1671 he was one of the ‘Triumvirate’ of independent Devon magnates who successfully opposed the court candidate for the county. He was made sub-commissioner for prizes at Plymouth on 9 Feb. 1673 on the rather odd grounds that ‘the others are now attending as Members of Parliament’. Probably the explanation is that he did not care to submit himself to the authority as Speaker of his masterful son. He received the government whip in 1675, and next year Sir Richard Wiseman, indignant at this loss of a certain vote for the Court, noted that he ‘must be sent to by the King that he may attend’. He was named to two committees in the next session. Such diligence was not allowed to go unrewarded; the Earl of Bath pointed out that ‘Sir Edward Seymour hath not received any mark of his Majesty’s favour and bounty proportionable to his merit’. This was strictly accurate, though with one brother groom of the bedchamber and clerk of the hanaper, another auditor in the Exchequer, a third comptroller of customs, three sons respectively treasurer of the navy, captain of a frigate and captain in the Irish army, and a nephew clerk of the patent office, the Seymour family had not been neglected. Seymour, who ‘never loved much the cumber and fatigue’ of business, seems to have been promised £400 a year; though the payment was irregular, it did not escape the vigilant author of A seasonable Argument who duly labelled the Speaker’s father ‘an indigent pensioner’, and he was marked ‘doubly vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list.5

By way of emphasizing the value of Seymour’s services, his son reported that he was the only Devonshire Member likely to be re-elected in February 1679, though actually this was an exaggeration, even if country candidates are not counted. He was noted as ‘vile’ on Shaftesbury’s list and voted against the exclusion bill, but otherwise was totally inactive both in this Parliament and the next. It is not known whether he stood for election in 1681; certainly his son was in the best position to advise him of its futility. On 4 Sept. 1681 Seymour, with Sir Coplestone Bampfylde and Sir Bourchier Wrey, presented a Tory address from the deputy lieutenants, justices of the peace and militia officers of Devon. He was named recorder of Totnes in the new charter of 1684, and returned to James II’s Parliament next year, being named only to the committee of elections. So strongly entrenched was the Seymour interest at Totnes that when James ordered the freemen to remove him as recorder in 1687 in favour of a Roman Catholic, they refused to obey by 33 votes to four, with two abstentions. On the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, Seymour was doubtful,

till it be debated in Parliament how the religion by law established may be otherwise secured. ... He will assist and contribute his utmost endeavours to the election of such Members of Parliament, and no other but such only as he either knows or believes to be loyal subjects, and who will most faithfully serve his Majesty in all things, with security to our religion.

Seymour’s example was followed by 49 out of the 62 magistrates present. He lived just long enough to send news of the landing of William of Orange, dying on 4 Dec. 1688.6

Prince, the Devonshire historian whom Seymour presented to the living of Berry Pomeroy, painted an attractive portrait of his patron. ‘He never failed either the county in general or any borough in particular their expectations, he always answering the just wishes and desires of all honest and loyal persons’. Although he retained to his death an excellent memory for the classics, his great delight lay in ‘the music of axes and hammers’, making him ‘a very good poor man’s master’, who ‘not only kept many of them awork, but was careful to see them duly paid their wages’.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris

Notes

  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 703; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xxxi. 71-72; Reg. Coll. Exon. ii. 291.
  • 2. Keeler, Long Parl. 337; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 65, 92, 104, 105, 111;