DARELL, Sir John (1645-94), of Calehill, Little Chart, Kent

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679 - Mar. 1681
1689 - c. Jan. 1694

Family and Education

bap. 20 Aug. 1645, 1st s. of Edward Darell of Gray’s Inn by Dorothy, da. of Robert Kipping of Tudeley, Kent.  educ. G. Inn, entered 1658; Corpus, Oxf. 1663.  m. 4 Aug. 1670, his cos. Elizabeth (d. 1672), da. and h. of Sir John Darell of Calehill, s.psuc. fa. 1664; kntd. 26 July 1670; suc. his uncle Sir John Darell at Calehill 1675.1

Offices Held

Member, Soc. of Mines Royal 1666, asst. 1669–74, 1675–7, 1682–3; member, Soc. of Mineral and Battery Works 1667, asst. 1671–7.

Commr. recusants, Kent 1675; freeman, Maidstone 1678; recorder, Canterbury 1687–Oct. 1688.2

Chairman. cttee. of privileges and elections Nov. 1693–Jan. 1694.


Darell’s father, the younger son of a long-established Kentish gentry family, had made a modest fortune at the bar. From him, Darell inherited in 1664 a small estate in the parishes of Little Chart and Charing, as well as investments in two mining companies, the Mines Royal and the Mineral and Battery Works. He received a more substantial inheritance of land in the same area from his uncle, Sir John, in 1675, by which time he had been knighted and had become a j.p. At the time of the Exclusion Crisis he made himself prominent in his county as a Whig activist, as a result of which he twice lost his place on the bench. He was especially well regarded in Canterbury by the ‘fanatics’, and it was they who initially recommended him to the corporation of Rye at the second Exclusion election. At the election of 1685, when James II installed his own nominee for the Rye seat alongside another Tory, Darell apparently refrained from initiating any challenge. Within the next few years he emerged as a willing collaborator in the King’s religious policies, and in February 1688 was reinstated as a j.p. and appointed to the county lieutenancy. None the less, it pained him that his heir, a young distant cousin, had lately been thrust into a Catholic seminary in France in order, as he later complained, ‘to pervert him in his principles of religion’. Unlike the other two Whig contestants at Rye in the election of 1689, Darell himself seems to have encountered no challenge and was returned to the Convention unopposed.3

Re-elected in 1690, Darell appears to have been something of an independent. On the eve of the new Parliament Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) noted him in general terms as a Whig. In April 1691, Robert Harley* marked him as a Country supporter, subsequently qualifying this notation as ‘d[oubtful]’. By 1692 Darell’s behaviour appears to have crystallized and Carmarthen felt able to include him in a list of Court supporters under Lord Nottingham’s (Daniel Finch†) influence, possibly because of his Kentish connexion. However, this impression of a general leaning towards the Court needs to be treated with caution when his particularly full record of parliamentary activity is examined in detail. He had a strong attachment to ‘Country’ notions of a purified legislature and governmental thrift, but his prime (almost obsessive) concern was that the Commons should take the initiative to regulate agriculture, trade and industry to beneficial effect. In his speeches he articulated the basic anxieties of country gentlemen about their local economies, in which the preservation of agriculture, and of its markets and outlets in industry, was seen as essential to the buoyancy of rents and land values. In advocating the fundamental interests of traditional, landed wealth it was not surprising that he should regard with suspicion the paper wealth of the new financial interests, especially their tendency to form themselves into monopolistic bodies. He was a conspicuous exponent of an unimpeded domestic market, and was sure that most instances of fiscal and monopolistic restriction upon agriculture, manufacture and other forms of enterprise retarded the nation’s prosperity, frequently calling for such obstacles to be removed. As these designs often entailed the removal of government imposts, his regard for Court policy may therefore have often seemed lacking.

During the 1690 session Darell appears to have been disposed towards the idea of establishing a commission of accounts. Early in December 1691 he supervised the passage of a bill (of which he may well have been the initiator) to encourage the sowing of hemp and flax by lifting obstructive and ‘vexatious’ tithing practices. The bill’s preamble stressed that these two new agricultural crops – vital to the production of linen, rope, canvas and netting – were ‘exceedingly beneficial to England by reason of the multitude of people that are and would be employed’, a statement which could easily have been one of Darell’s pronouncements on the virtues of cultivation and manufacture. On 12 Dec. he spoke in favour of the bill to prevent false and double returns of MPs. He opposed on the 29th the first reading of the bill to encourage privateers to operate against France, on the grounds that this measure would facilitate, rather than hinder, trade with the French. On the 31st, he spoke against the Lords’ addition of a clause to the treason trials bill, to remove the crown’s power of appointing juries in the trial of peers, arguing that in the current circumstances of ‘great danger’ such a measure was inopportune. When the Irish revenue was considered in supply on 1 Jan. 1692, Darell joined with other Country speakers in disagreeing with the low estimates given by the Irish revenue commissioner William Culliford* of the yield anticipated from ‘hearth money’. The following day, at Darell’s own instigation, a select committee was appointed to review the book of rates in order to ascertain which goods were being withheld from export owing to the heavy duties they carried. Under Darell’s chairmanship the committee worked quickly, and he reported back on 5 Jan. with a recommendation to repeal the tonnage and poundage duties imposed in 1660 on beef, pork, butter, cheese and candles. Though a bill for this purpose was authorized, Darell did not pursue the opportunity. Instead, his attention switched to a bill ‘for encouraging the breeding and fattening of cattle’, which he introduced on 8 Jan. and which he had seen through all its Commons stages by the 16th. On 15 Jan. he supported a bill for reducing interest rates from 6 to 4 per cent, doubtless in order to encourage trade. He served as teller on the 22nd in favour of granting a second reading to a routine bill enabling the bishop of London to sell off episcopal property in Worcestershire. His antipathy to the privileged status of the livery companies was in evidence on the 29th during a debate on proposals to establish a fund out of City revenues from which the ‘orphans’ debt’ could be liquidated. Objecting to suggestions that new duties be laid on coals and chimneys, he told the House that ‘there are diverse companies in the City who have great rents and revenues and little to do with them. They are persons within the City and who have helped towards this debt, and therefore I am for laying 5s. in the pound upon their lands.’ However, Darell’s intervention, more protest than proposal, was ignored. He evidently sympathized with the approaches made at this juncture by impoverished French Protestants for financial assistance, supporting on 17 Feb. the motion for their cause to be considered in the supply committee in accordance with the King’s request. His personal crusade against the powers of privileged bodies was again seen on 19 Feb. when he spoke against the bill for confirming Cambridge University’s charter, while on the 22nd he joined Paul Foley I* in voicing ‘exceptions’ to the bill. It was probably for similar reasons that he opposed the bill to incorporate the proprietors of the waterworks in St. Paul’s, Shadwell parish, Middlesex, at the third reading on 20 Feb.4

On 10 Nov. 1692, a week after the new session began, Darell spoke in the debate on the King’s Speech. Though he felt it ‘a very good speech’, he considered Thomas Neale’s* motion to meet the King’s requests in full ‘a little too fast’. He suggested instead that the House await the commission of accounts’ first report ‘and then you will be better able to judge what is necessary’. Paradoxically, however, as the House made preparations the following day for an inquiry into the recent conduct of the naval high command, he appeared as an advocate for the Court in speaking against a motion by one of the commissioners, Sir Peter Colleton*, requiring the attendance of Admiral (Edward) Russell*. On the 17th he resumed his efforts of the previous session for a measure to encourage the exportation of home manufactures. In favour of his proposed bill he told MPs that improved exports would

raise the value of your land. If you take off the duty on these English commodities at the exportation, there will be more transported . . . and it is but a small loss to the Crown in customs in a year – about £1,500 per annum. The duty I would have taken off on these several commodities are mutton, veal, oats, grafts, raw hides, English soap, tallow and biscuit flour.

However, Sir Edward Seymour’s* arguments that demand for these goods already exceeded supply, and that the present circumstances of war made it undesirable that they should be exported in quantity, were convincing enough to forestall consideration of Darell’s own proposals. Even so, his initiative clearly succeeded in stirring some anxiety about the state of the nation’s ‘balance of trade’ and the following day a select committee was appointed to re-examine the Book of Rates, with himself as a nominee. In the proceedings on naval ‘mismanagements’ on 19 Nov. he moved that Admiral Sir John Ashby be admitted to explain his failure to give chase to the French following the English victory at Barfleur; and when Ashby had reassured the House of the propriety of his conduct, it was Darell who moved (unsuccessfully) to pass a vote of thanks for his ‘good services’. On 24 Nov. he presented a petition against a bill to renew the term allowed the partnership concerned in supplying ‘convex lights’ to the City. The bill became a matter of contention, and Darell spoke against it on two subsequent occasions: on 6 Dec. he asserted that it was ‘pernicious to the interest of England’ in hindering the consumption of tallow, ‘which is the concern of all landed men’, and that the continuation of fiscal obstacles to its exportation only encouraged its price to fall still further. At the bill’s third reading on the 30th, Darell reiterated these objections, adding that the partnership ‘was a direct monopoly and had been adjudged so at law’. He found similar opportunities to advertise his protectionist views in relation to other measures. On 3 Dec. he spoke against a bill aimed at preventing the export of rabbitskins and hareskins as setting a limit to prices, while on the 7th he opposed another allowing the importation of Italian thrown silk. Supporting on the 8th a bill to prevent the export of gold and silver, he spoke of the need to curb what had become a ‘beneficial trade’ among the merchants, defending it again on the 31st at its second reading. The loss of specie was also considered on the 8th in relation to payments abroad for army supplies, Darell seconding Sir Richard Temple’s* recommendation that the army be provisioned with home-produced stores. He argued that a buoyant export trade was the key to a stable currency: ‘the more of your commodities you export beyond sea, you raise the value here of what is left. The exportation of your money is very pernicious unless it bring in such commodities that being carried out will bring in more money.’ On 14 Dec., on one of the comparatively few occasions when he intervened on important matters of state, Darell spoke somewhat reservedly for committing the hotly contended bill ‘for preserving their Majesties’ sacred persons and government’.5

Early in the new year, on 6 Jan. 1693, Darell took up the cause of the London cloth-dyers, presenting a petition from them which called for exports of undyed woollen material to be forbidden in order to preserve their trade. It was referred, however, to the dormant grand committee on trade, and thus received no attention. On the 10th he came to the government’s defence over a resolution that the King be advised to replace the present Admiralty board. He believed it ironic that mismanagements had not been found in the aftermath of Lord Torrington’s defeat in June 1690, but were now being pursued at a time of improved naval effectiveness. The following day he also opposed a separate motion requesting the King to appoint a new board. On 19 Jan. he was one of several Members whose opposition to a bill for the encouragement of the English woollen industry, ‘as a project drove on by the factors of Blackwell Hall for their own interest’, blocked its further progress. On the 26th, during report proceedings concerning the levy of additional duties on merchandise, he acted as a minority teller in favour of retaining the high duty proposed on flax, which suggests that he may have tried to safeguard the industries dependent upon flax-growing whose interests he had previously upheld. He was strongly opposed to a bill to outlaw the activities of hawkers and pedlars; as he explained at its report stage on 2 Feb., such a measure would seriously disrupt the infrastructure of internal commerce:

for it was to take away the living of several thousand people, which consequently would tend to dispeople the nation which he thought not our interest. Then this bill puts it into the inhabitants of corporations to exact upon the country gentlemen as they please. And it tends to spoil and ruin your servants whom you must [send] to a town if you want never so small a thing, whereas before they were brought home to your door.

At the bill’s third reading on the 15th, he acted as teller against its passage, albeit for the minority. On 6 Feb. he spoke out against a bill for prohibiting the import of foreign buttons as more likely to stultify than to encourage home manufacture of the item. He was a majority teller on the 10th in favour of allowing Granado Pigot*, a Tory Member, three weeks’ leave of absence. A second bill designed to protect the English woollen industry was given a third reading on 17 Feb., but, as with the earlier measure, Darell ‘thought it against the interest of the nation to limit and confine trade to companies, who will set the dice upon others and sell at their own price’. On 20 and 24 Feb. he offered further amendments to the ‘additional duties’ supply bill, one (which was rejected) to exempt from the usual impositions small vessels coming in to London from Kent and Essex; and another with a distinct ‘Country’ appeal (which was adopted) requiring customs officers to take an oath ‘for the due and true execution of their places’. Darell’s vision of economic freedom and prosperity seems also to have embraced the holding of lotteries: he was certainly prepared to lay before the House on the 28th a petition on behalf of individuals whose interests were threatened by a bill to ban them. His final recorded act during the 1692–3 session was on 2 Mar., in connexion with the ‘privateers bill’, when he served as a majority teller in favour of Hon. Goodwin Wharton’s clause to give scope to privateers to operate against the French in the East Indies as well as the Mediterranean.6

Darell’s parliamentary career took a new turn in November 1693 when, during the first week of the next session he was selected to the chair of the committee of privileges and elections. He was an appropriate choice in view of his earlier involvement in legislative attempts to regularize electoral procedure, though a deciding factor in his favour would almost certainly have been the impartiality which characterized much of his performance in the House. On 20 Nov. he chaired the committee of the whole on the bill to permit the importation of brandy, aqua vitae and other spirits from France, which he reported the following day. He presented on the 23rd a bill to facilitate the import of saltpetre, but did not superintend its subsequent stages. He addressed the House at length on 5 Dec. when the paymaster-general, Lord Ranelagh (Richard Jones*), presented estimates for an army of over 93,000 men costing nearly £3,000,000. While ‘amazed at this estimate as much as any man’, he recognized that it was now imperative to confront the French menace at whatever cost. His typical concern was that such an unprecedented wartime demand should be laid equitably as in other countries: ‘this charge is borne by the fortieth part of England. If every shoulder bore part of the proportion, the sum of two millions would be easily borne.’ But despite his willingness to acquiesce in the government’s requirements, he nevertheless concluded by adding his support to the motion put forward by Sir Thomas Clarges* calling for the names of the ministers who had put their signatures to the estimates. On 6 Dec. he reported from a committee which had examined complaints from small tradesmen of Worcester and Stafford against the oppressions of the farmers of the aulnage duty. The House agreed with the committee that the duty was long since ‘unnecessary and obsolete’, but the bill which Darell presented on the 7th to effect its removal made no further progress. His only report from the privileges and elections committee was on the 18th and concerned a breach of privilege, but he was one of five Members named on 23 Dec. to prepare a bill for settling the right in elections and for preventing undue returns to Parliament.7

Darell appears to have succumbed to serious illness in January 1694. He added a codicil to his will on the 16th, leaving his estate to a kinsman, John Darell, and died towards the end of the month. He was buried at Little Chart on 2 Feb.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Andrew A. Hanham


  • 1. Vis. Kent (Harl. Soc. liv), 45; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 240; Arch. Cant. xvii. 46–48; Little Chart Reg. 50, 113, 116, 146, 148, 153.
  • 2. Centre Kentish Stud. Maidstone burghmote mins. Md/RF2/1, list of freemen, 1598–1721.
  • 3. PCC 14 Bruce; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 51; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 535.
  • 4. Luttrell Diary, 76, 78, 94, 101, 102, 104, 130, 148, 164, 169, 192, 194, 196, 200.
  • 5. Ibid. 215, 218, 233, 239, 258, 286, 296, 299, 301, 302, 318, 340, 343.
  • 6. Ibid. 352, 358, 363, 374, 388, 395, 402, 416, 424, 428, 435, 446, 454, 459; Grey, x. 295.
  • 7. Luttrell, Brief Relation, iii. 226; Grey, x. 340–1.
  • 8. PCC 30 Box; Little Chart Reg. 153.