DAINES, Sir William (1647-1724), of St. Leonard’s, Bristol

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Jan. 1701 - 1710
1715 - 1722

Family and Education

b. 1647, s. of William Daines of Norfolk county, Virginia by Phillis, da. of Thomas Bembrigg of St. Giles Cripplegate, London.  m. c.1662, Elizabeth (d. 1726), da. of Captain James Harris of Norfolk county, Virginia, 1s. (d.v.p.) 2da.  suc. fa. 1687; kntd. 28 Nov. 1694.1

Offices Held

Member, Merchant Venturers’ Soc. of Bristol 1690, warden 1692–3, master 1698–1700; common councilman, Bristol 1691–1702, sheriff 1694–5, mayor 1700–1, alderman 1702–d.; asst. Bristol corporation of the poor 1696–8, gov. 1705–6.2


Daines’s parents were resident in London at the time of their marriage at St. Dunstan’s, Stepney, in 1636, and emigrated to Norfolk county, Virginia, in around 1645. William Daines snr. soon established himself in the colony as a planter and attorney and became a county commissioner. His son William, the future MP, was born in the colony and contracted an ‘under-age’ marriage in 1662. In the later 1680s, possibly just after his father’s death in 1687, he emigrated to Bristol where his involvement in Virginia’s tobacco-growing trade provided him with essential connexions and the basis for a thriving mercantile business. He was undoubtedly a key figure in the expansion of Bristol’s engagement in the Virginia and Maryland trade at this time, and his pre-eminence in this field and the local influence which it brought him are clearly indicated by his swift rise during the 1690s in both the city’s Merchant Venturers’ Society and the corporation.3

Elected to the common council in September 1691, Daines aligned himself with the Whig faction in its bitter struggle with the power-holding Tories, and his selection to the city shrievalty in 1694, within a year of the Whigs’ success in ending the Tory grip on the corporation, indicates the significance of his own contribution in this process. In November 1694, during his term as sheriff, he and the serving mayor, Thomas Day, were received and knighted by the King. Along with other leading Whig citizens he was involved in the foundation of the Bristol corporation of the poor, and during 1699–1700 received a foretaste of parliamentary life when he assisted the city MP Robert Yate in procuring for the corporation an Act to improve the navigation of the Frome and Avon and for ‘cleansing’ Bristol’s streets. In the election of January 1701, three months into his mayoralty, Daines was returned to Parliament for Bristol and retained the seat until 1710. He was present at the opening of Parliament in February 1701, the former Member Sir Thomas Day deputizing for him as mayor, and remained in attendance until obliged to obtain three weeks’ leave of absence on 16 Apr.4

For a Bristol MP, Daines was surprisingly inactive and hardly ever featured on inquiry committees concerned with trading issues. During several sessions he was allowed lengthy spells of absence, possibly on account of his extensive business activities. His Whiggish political views were apparent in his vote on 13 Feb. 1703, for agreeing with the Lords’ amendment to the bill for extending the time in which the oath of abjuration could be taken. He was forecast in October as a probable opponent of the Tack, and did not vote for it in the division on 28 Nov. After his re-election in 1705 he was classed as ‘Low Church’ in a list of the new House of Commons and voted on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate for Speaker. On 18 Feb. 1706 he supported the Court against the ‘place clause’ of the regency bill. He was also listed as a Whig in two lists from 1708, voted in 1709 in favour of naturalizing the Palatines and the following year in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Defeated in two hotly contested elections for Bristol in 1710 and 1713, he returned to Parliament in 1715 and supported the Whig administration.5

In 1708 Daines had transferred a large tract of his Virginia lands to his sister Elizabeth Lawson and her son while the remnant appears to have been retained by his only son, William, who continued to manage the plantation until his death in 1717. Daines himself died ‘at his residence’ in Bristol on 5 Sept. 1724, and was buried at the city church of St. Augustine the Less. The extent of his wealth is indicated by his bequest of £10,000 to the children of his two daughters, one of whom, Anne, the wife of 1st Viscount Barrington [I] (John Barrington†), Daines named as his sole executrix.

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Inhabitants of Bristol 1696 (Bristol Rec. Soc. xxv), 99; IGI, London, and USA; A. Beaven, Bristol Lists, 285; PCC 205 Bolton; Boyer, Pol. State, xxxi. 228.
  • 2. Soc. of Merchant Venturers in 17th Cent. (Bristol Rec. Soc. xvii), 33; Beaven, 116, 125, 187, 209, 225, 285; Bristol Corporation of the Poor 1696–1834 (Bristol Rec. Soc. iii), 46.
  • 3. Info. from Mr J. Deans, Texas, USA.
  • 4. CSP Col. 1702–3, pp. 57, 95; Bristol AO, common council procs. 1687–1702, ff. 171, 205, 219.
  • 5. Info. from Mr Deans; The Gen. n.s. vi. 105; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1724, p. 41; Beaven, 285; W. Barrett, Hist. Bristol, 408; PCC 205 Bolton.