DAVALL, Sir Thomas I (1644-1712), Dovercourt, Essex

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



1695 - 1708

Family and Education

b. 18 May 1644, er. s. of Thomas Davall, merchant, of St. Mary at Hill, London, by Anne, da. of Thomas Potts.  educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1655.  m. 18 May 1676, Rebecca (d. 1714), da. of Daniel Burr, merchant, of Amsterdam, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.  suc. fa. 1663; kntd. 21 Feb. 1683.1

Offices Held

Asst., Haberdashers’ Co. 1685, master Nov.–Dec. 1686; member, R. Lustring Co., Levant Co. 1689; cttee. E. I. Co. 1682–6.2

Recorder, Harwich 1690–d.; freeman, Colchester 1701.3

Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696, to S. Sea Co. 1711.4


Davall was a Country Tory who became a supporter of Robert Harley*. He was born in Amsterdam, where both his father and father-in-law traded as merchants, and his wife was a member of the Dutch Church in London. He was evidently considered to be ‘loyal’ by both Charles II and James II since he was knighted in 1683 and served as a commissioner for the London lieutenancy in 1685. Described at the time of his marriage as a merchant living at St. Martin Orgar, he owned £3,700 of East India Company stock by 1689 and was rich enough to offer security for £4,300 for the East India Company on 28 Dec. 1691. In March 1687 he had bought the manor of Dovercourt, which lay within the borough of Harwich, and in 1690 sought to use his interest there to become one of the corporation’s MPs, though competition was fierce. If Lord Cheyne had declined to stand, as was reported, Davall and four or five other candidates would have ‘put in’ for election, with Sir Thomas being thought to have the best chance of winning. In fact Cheyne did stand, and Davall had to wait until the 1695 election for his seat.5

Although granted leave of absence on 27 Mar. 1696, after signing the Association, Davall’s mercantile interests had already become apparent in the first session, since he was forecast as likely to oppose the Court over the proposed council of trade on 31 Jan. 1696. As a financier he had a special interest in the coinage: he voted in March against fixing the price of guineas at 22s., cut his teeth in committee at the start of the next session over the issue of the importation of money, and told on 3 Jan. 1698 against a motion to amend a bill to prevent hammered coin from entering the currency. On 8 Mar. 1697 he and fellow Levant merchant Thomas Molyneux* were granted leave to bring in a bill to exempt two Turkey merchants from the law that prohibited the import of their goods in foreign-built ships. He told on 30 Mar. with Sir William Ashurst*, a leader of the Presbyterian merchants in the City, on a motion to commit the wine duties supply bill. On 13 Jan. 1698 Davall and his Harwich colleague, Sir Thomas Middleton, were ordered to prepare a bill to prevent the influx of poor people by packet boats at the port, and, after a fortnight’s leave of absence granted on 15 Mar., he resumed his concern about the numbers of poor in Essex when he was appointed to the committee for erecting hospitals and workhouses in Colchester. Davall seems to have been one of the underwriters of the Royal Company dealing with lustrings, a glossy silk fabric imported from France; on 16 Apr. 1698 the House heard that one of those accused of illegally importing the French goods was ‘bound for the company’ to Sir Thomas who ‘had double the value of the money lent, in goods, in his hands, as security’, and on 19 May he was appointed to the committee examining ways to encourage the trade legally.6

Davall was re-elected in July 1698, and the following session was to prove the most active of his career, probably because of his strong sympathies for the Country party at this time, which were noted on one contemporary list. Forecast as a likely opponent of a standing army, he used his local knowledge to attack the administration of the navy, rehearsing in committee on 10 Mar. 1699 the charge that ‘preference to particular men’ had resulted in ‘a great damage to the nation’. On 27 Mar. he pressed home his dissatisfaction by acting as teller with Sir John Bolles, 4th Bt., on an amendment to a resolution on the state of the navy that would have moderated condemnation of its victuallers. On 5 Jan. 1699 he told in favour of a resolution concerning the suppression of vice and immorality, and on 17 Mar. was teller for Country Tory Sir Henry Gough* in the disputed election for Tamworth. On 21 Jan. he promoted Harwich’s important fishing industry by presenting a bill to make Billingsgate, in London, a free market for the sale of fish; on 16 Mar. he reported from its committee, and managed a subsequent conference with the Lords over amendments to the bill. He was also one of three Members ordered to bring in a bill for expanding trade with Russia, and on the 25th and 27th chaired and reported on the subject. A friendship between Davall and Sir George Hungerford, who had also been appointed to the Russia committee and was also interested in the navy, may explain why Sir Thomas was a teller on 21 Apr. on a motion about reflections on the Whig Henry Blaake, who was Hungerford’s son-in-law, even though the reflections centred on Blaake’s support of Davall’s hated standing army. In the next session Davall maintained his Country stance, acting as teller on 4 Mar. 1700 against a motion to consider supply. He also told on 10 Jan. 1700 on an amendment to the bill to restore Blackwell Hall market to the clothiers. He was classed as being in the Old East India Company interest in early 1700.7

Davall was re-elected in January 1701 and was listed among the likely supporters of the Court over making good deficiencies in parliamentary funds. On 23 May he asserted that the excise revenues would raise far more in peacetime and that the King could therefore be allowed a very generous settlement of the civil list. This change from hostility to sympathy for the Court reflected William’s turn to the Tories, and Davall seems to have felt a diminished need for activity now that the administration seemed to be in more trustworthy hands. He was only active in this and subsequent Parliaments on private estate bills. He was again returned in November 1701, and was marked as a Tory by Harley the following month. As befitted the lord of the manor, he made time for local concerns, being consulted over Harwich’s custom house in 1700, and by the captains of its packet-boats in 1703. Despite being blacklisted as an opponent of the war with France, Davall was once more elected in 1702. He was listed as a supporter of the motion vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachment of King William’s ministers on 30 Mar. Having been listed as a probable opponent of the Tack, he duly voted against it or was absent from the House on 28 Nov. 1704, though he was marked as ‘High Church’ on an analysis of Parliament the following year. Preparations for the 1705 election began early, with rumours circulating in May 1704 that Davall intended to put up his son, Thomas II*, as a candidate, perhaps to run alongside him. In July it was thought that he only ‘aims for himself, and very coldly for any colleague, having thoughts for his son’, but in the event Sir Thomas stood alone, and was successful. Although he voted for the Court candidate as Speaker when the new Parliament met on 25 Oct. 1705, possibly through Harley’s influence and not, as has been suggested, because he was a placeman, there is little other evidence of his activities in the House. He was marked as a Tory in early 1708, and was one of those marked as a Tory loss in the May election of that year, but his defeat can have come as no great surprise. As far back as March 1707 he was reported ‘to be in fear for himself’ on account of the growing interest of Thomas Frankland I*, a Whig who used his place in the Post Office so successfully that by August 1707 Davall was already thought to have lost the struggle. Indeed in April 1708 the corporation were alleged to be ‘unanimously agreed to sink’ him. Always determined to stand on his own, to the point of selfishness, Davall was unwilling to join with the courtier John Ellis, though the latter was informed that even if Davall was to do so ‘he has not honour enough in his temper not to drop you to preserve himself’. The following spring Frankland and Sir John Leake* joined interests, so that, as one mocking report had it, ‘the liberal, magnificent, strong-brained Sir Thomas Davall will no more . . . appear for that corporation. They design to turn him out of his recorder’s place.’ The end of Davall’s parliamentary career was not, however, so clear-cut. When Leake opted to serve for Rochester, a by-election was held on 6 Dec. 1708 at which a double return was made of Davall and Kenrick Edisbury*. On 18 Dec. Davall petitioned that he had one more undisputed vote than his rival, but Edisbury counter-petitioned two days later that Davall’s agents had been guilty of malpractice. On 13 Jan. 1709 the Commons voted the by-election void, and ordered a new one, at which Sir Thomas was finally defeated.8

Although Davall had been appointed as a commissioner for the London lieutenancy in 1704 and was ‘drunk to’ in April 1709 by the lord mayor to nominate him for sheriff, his public life was effectively over. He may have sold all his East India stock by 1702, perhaps to his younger son Daniel who first appears as a committee man of the company that year, but must have reacquired it since he was an unsuccessful Tory nominee for a directorship in April 1711. He died the following November, and according to the local historian Taylor, who wrote less than 20 years later, was buried on 7 Dec. 1712 at Ramsey church; Davall’s wife stated in her will that he was buried at St. Michael Stone, near Harwich, and bequeathed money for the minister there.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Mark Knights


  • 1. Merchant Taylors’ Sch. Reg. ed. Hart; The Gen. n.s. xxxi. 237–8; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxiv), 169; J. H. Bloom, Her. and MIs Harwich, ped.; Shaw, Knights, ii. 258.
  • 2. Guildhall Lib. Haberdashers’ Co. minute bk. 15842/3, ff. 279, 299; info. from Prof. R. R. Walcott and Prof. H. Horwitz.
  • 3. Harwich bor. recs. 98/4, f. 167; S. Taylor, Hist. and Antiquities of Harwich (1730), 207; Oath Bk . . . of Colchester ed. Benham, 249.
  • 4. CJ, xii. 508; Pittis, Present Parl. 349.
  • 5. The Gen. n.s. xxxi. 237–8; A. W. C. Boevey, Perverse Widow, 235; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. 169; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 56; Taylor, 207; CJ, x. 602; W. Suss. RO, Shillinglee mss Ac.454/816, Hippolitus de Luzancy to Sir Edward Turnor*, 17 Mar. 1690.
  • 6. Add. 61611, f. 179; Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 62; CJ, xi. 568.
  • 7. Cam. Misc. xxix. 389–90.
  • 8. Add. 28886, f. 158; 28890, f. 358; 28891, ff. 241, 278, 322; 28927, ff. 176, 180, 322; Cocks Diary, 144; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1697–1702, p. 420; Bull. IHR xlv, 51.
  • 9. Taylor, 207; Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 43; EHR, lxxi. 227; Daily Courant, 13 Apr. 1711; Boevey, 237.