WALLIS, John (1650-1717), of Soundness, Nettlebed, Oxon.

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



1690 - 1695

Family and Education

b. 26 Dec. 1650, o. surv. s. of Rev. John Wallis, Savilian professor of geometry and keeper of the archs. Oxf., by Susanna, da. of John Glynde of Northiam, Suss.  educ. Trinity, Oxf. 1666, BA 1669; I. Temple, called 1676.  m. 1 Feb. 1682, Elizabeth (d. 1693), da. of John Harris of Soundness, and sis. and h. of Taverner Harris†, 1s. 2da.  suc. fa. 1703.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Wallingford 1690.2


Wallis’ family came originally from Northamptonshire. His grandfather had been vicar of Ashford in Kent and his father, described by Sir Christopher Wren* as ‘the most learned prodigy of the age’, was a distinguished mathematician, who also became an expert cryptographer. During the Civil War, Dr Wallis had at first sympathized with the Parliamentarians, serving as one of the secretaries to the assembly of divines at Westminster in 1644 and being appointed professor of geometry at Oxford in 1649 and keeper of the archives in 1654. Later, however, he was able to render some services to the Royalists. As a result he was confirmed in his offices after the Restoration and remained at Oxford for the rest of his life. It was in this city that Wallis himself spent his early years until he went to London to read for the bar at the Inner Temple. For a while he pursued a career in the law, but the death of his brother-in-law, Taverner Harris, in 1685 put him in possession of an estate at Soundness in Oxfordshire, whereupon he gave up the law and devoted himself to the management of his property.3

After the Revolution Dr Wallis’ services as a cryptographer were much employed by Lord Nottingham (Daniel Finch†), the secretary of state, and Wallis began to help his father, becoming fairly proficient. On 12 Nov. 1689 Dr Wallis wrote to Nottingham asking for some preferment for his son and also pressed the claims of his son-in-law, John Blencowe*, another lawyer. Nothing was done at that time. Shortly afterwards Wallis was returned for Wallingford, a borough some eight miles from Nettlebed, which Taverner Harris had represented in 1681. He was classed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Whig in a list of the new Parliament. In April 1691 he was listed by Robert Harley* as a Country supporter but by Grascome as a Court supporter in his list of spring 1693 (extended to 1695).4

During this time Wallis’ father had been trying to gain some preferment for himself and his son, but with little success. Dr Wallis had been given three gifts of money as royal bounty between 1689 and 1692, but after he had been offered and refused the deanery of Hereford in August 1692 the ministry seems to have felt unable to oblige him. Possibly as a way of promoting both his own and his father’s prospects of preferment, Wallis stood down at Wallingford in 1695 in favour of Sir William Trumbull*, the newly appointed secretary of state. Simon Harcourt I* reported on 8 Sept. that Wallis had already ‘recommended Sir William to several of his friends’, and one of the other candidates, Thomas Tipping*, wrote to Trumbull on 10 Sept., ‘Mr Wallis informed me that you have thoughts of standing at Wallingford, and desires me to use my influence, being under obligation not to solicit for anybody himself’. In the event Trumbull did not stand at Wallingford but was returned for Oxford University, and Wallis’ father did not receive any recognition from the ministry until April 1701 when he was granted an annuity of £100 backdated to 25 Mar. 1699. After his father’s death Wallis donated Dr Wallis’ house to Oxford University. He himself died on 14 Mar. 1717 and was buried at Nettlebed.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Paula Watson


  • 1. HMC Downshire, i. 555; DNB (Wallis, John); Hearne Colls. v. 339; vi. 326–7; Add. 32601, f. 126.
  • 2. Berks. RO, Wallingford bor. statute bk. 1648–1766, f. 154v.
  • 3. Add. 32601; 32499, f. 88; VCH Oxon. iii. 50; VCH Berks. iv. 78.
  • 4. HMC Downshire, 586; HMC Finch, ii. 233, 252, 355; iv. 9; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 201, 205, 227, 314, 364–5, 488; Add. 32499, ff. 86, 88.
  • 5. Add. 32499, ff. 76, 86, 88, 208, 283, 297, 326, 327; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 364–5, 374; 1691–2, p. 90; 1700, p. 294; 1702–3, p. 136; Cal. Treas. Bks. xvi. 243; HMC Downshire, 543, 546, 547, 555, 586, 709; HMC Portland, iv. 197; Hearne, Colls. vi. 326–7.