BULLER, Sir Richard (c.1578-1642), of Shillingham, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1640 (Apr.)
c. Dec. 1640 - Nov. 1642

Family and Education

b. c.1578,1 1st s. of Francis Buller of Shillingham and Tregarrick, Cornw. and Thomasine, da. of Thomas Williams† of Stowford, Devon.2 educ. M. Temple 1597.3 m. settlement 1601 (with £1,563),4 Alice, da. of Sir Rowland Hayward†, alderman of London, 7s. (2 d.v.p.) 6da. (2 d.v.p.).5 kntd. 13 June 1608.6 suc. fa. 1615.7 d. by 30 Nov. 1642.8 sig. Rich[ard] Buller.9

Offices Held

Collector, tenths and fifteenths, Cornw. 1610-11,10 under-sheriff 1611-12, sheriff 1636-7,11 j.p. 1614-27, 1628-42,12 commr. subsidy 1621, 1624, 1626, 1641,13 dep. lt. 1623-7, by 1629-at least 1640,14 commr. piracy 1624-6, from 1637,15 Privy Seal loan 1625,16 Forced Loan 1626-7,17 knighthood fines 1631,18 repair of St. Paul’s Cathedral 1633,19 incorporation of maltsters 1636,20 assessment 1641-2;21 under-steward, Trematon Castle, Cornw. 1619-30, 1631-4;22 commr. harbour clearance, Saltash, Cornw. 1624-5,23 martial law, Plymouth, Devon 1627,24 sick and injured 1628.25

Steward, Stannary Ct. Cornw. by 1627;26 recorder, Saltash by 1620-at least 1628.27


Buller belonged to the junior branch of a Somerset family which established itself in Cornwall during the early sixteenth century.28 Their estate was built around two purchases of former chantry lands in Devon and Cornwall, including the manor of Shillingham, with particular concentrations of property in and around the Cornish boroughs of Saltash and Looe.29 Buller’s father, who married the daughter of an Elizabethan Speaker, served as sheriff of Cornwall in 1600.30 Buller’s 1624 subsidy assessment of £25 made him one of the richest men in south-east Cornwall, outstripping more prominent neighbours such as Sir John Eliot* and Richard Carew* of Antony.31

In 1597 Buller was admitted to the Middle Temple, and bound with his cousin Thomas Williams. While not known to have become a barrister, he subsequently held a legal position in Cornwall, and retained chambers at the Middle Temple in 1627.32 Buller’s connection with the Inn broadened his ties with the puritan-minded gentry of Devon and eastern Cornwall. These included Richard Carew*, also admitted in 1597, the diarist Walter Yonge†, bound with Buller in 1600, and the future Presbyterian leader John Maynard†.33 Buller’s marriage in 1601 established contacts of another kind, as his wife’s uncle was Sir Richard Smythe*, shortly to become receiver-general of the duchy of Cornwall.34 This relationship may have prompted Buller’s appointment as under-sheriff of Cornwall in 1611, when Prince Henry nominally exercised the shrievalty. He was pricked as the actual sheriff in 1616, a year after inheriting his patrimony, but opted to fine for the office.35 Now a prominent local figure, in 1619 he was authorized with Edward Cosworth† to act on the county’s behalf against the earl of Tullibardine’s fish processing monopoly in Devon and Cornwall. They apparently agreed a provisional settlement with the patentees before John Arundell* of Trerice hijacked the negotiations.36

At the 1620 general election, Buller used his influence as recorder of Saltash to secure one of the borough’s seats for Sir Richard Smythe’s brother, Sir Thomas. He himself was returned at St. Germans with the backing of his Kekewich cousins.37 Unusually for a novice Member, he was named to the committee for privileges. He contributed to the debate on 9 Feb. about Members taking the Oath of Supremacy, and on 12 Feb. supported Sir Julius Caesar’s motion for a bill to protect parliamentary freedom of speech, but on neither occasion were his actual words recorded. On 23 Feb. he confirmed from personal experience the extent of Sir Francis Michell’s involvement in the patent for alehouse recognizances. Appointed on 12 Mar. to a conference with the Lords concerning abuses of monopolies, he was named two days earlier to the committee stage of Sir William Hele’s land bill.38 Buller is not known to have stood for re-election in 1624, but he successfully nominated his son Francis at Saltash. Competition from Prince Charles’s Council in 1620 and 1624 restricted his patronage there to the second seat, but in 1625 the borough fell entirely under his sway, and elected both him and Francis. However, no record survives of his activities in this Parliament.39

In 1627 Buller was described as a former servant of the duke of Buckingham, though no other details survive. In January 1625 he was one of several Cornish j.p.s who were warned about non-payment of composition for purveyance, but he co-operated with the collection of the Privy Seal loan later that year.40 In 1626 he was again returned as a Saltash burgess, this time alongside his brother-in-law Sir John Hayward.41 Reappointed to the committee for privileges, on 22 May Buller was also added to the select committee to consider the breach of privilege in the arrest of John More II*. While not prominent in the assault on Buckingham, he was nominated on 4 Mar. to attend the conference with the Lords about the Commons’ request for the duke to explain the second arrest of the St. Peter, and used his only recorded speech to revive the issue of the English government’s loan of ships to France (6 March). Named to a further conference on 7 Mar. about the defence of the kingdom, he was also appointed to select committees to draft a bill for finding arms, and to consider Sir Dudley Digges’s proposal for a privately funded naval campaign.42 Of the 15 legislative committees to which he was appointed, he is known to have attended one which considered the naturalization of Thomas Sotherne and Samuel Bave (27 March). His experience as a West Country deputy lieutenant explains his nomination to bill committees concerned with muster-masters (28 Mar.) and impressment (9 May). His inclusion on a legislative committee for dealing with recusancy (1 Mar.) may indicate a growing reputation as a ‘godly’ Member.43

Buller’s performance in the 1626 Parliament suggests that he was now aligned with the anti-Buckingham alliance orchestrated in Cornwall by William Coryton*, his immediate superior in the Stannary courts, who had been actively cultivating his friendship since 1625.44 Like Coryton, Buller opposed the 1626-7 Forced Loan, and duly felt the force of the duke’s displeasure. In July 1627, at Buckingham’s insistence, he was removed from the Cornish bench, and summoned to London. He also lost his office of deputy lieutenant. Buller bent before the storm. Having been careful not to refuse a contribution outright, in August he paid up and ingenuously made his excuses to the lord president (Sir Henry Montagu*). The government opted to give Buller the benefit of the doubt, and in November 1627 he was named to the commission for martial law at Plymouth, resuming his place on the bench in the following May.45

Nevertheless, Buller’s temporary disgrace created an opportunity for Buckingham’s West Country agent, Sir James Bagg II*. In March 1628 Buller was once again elected to Parliament for Saltash, but the borough’s mayor, Bagg’s ‘friend’, secured the other burgess-ship for the duke’s nominee, Sir Francis Cottington. Moreover, Buller’s own return was not a foregone conclusion; for the first time, and in contrast to the treatment accorded to Cottington, his name was inserted after the election indentures were drawn up.46 Buller’s performance in Parliament was markedly more subdued than it had been in 1626. Despite being named once more to the committee for privileges, he was unable to prevent his son Francis from losing his seat when the committee examined the Mitchell election dispute. On 13 June he was nominated to the select committee to consider petitions from the Goldsmiths’ and Exchangers’ companies, but his only other business during the first session was a legislative committee appointment concerning the River Medway (12 May).47 During the 1629 session he intervened unsuccessfully on behalf of his fellow deputy lieutenant, Charles, Lord Lambart*, following a complaint about Cornish militia funding (14 February). His godly reputation accounts for his nomination to a select committee and a bill committee concerned with recusancy (28 Jan., 23 February). He was also named to committees to consider bills addressing corrupt presentations and the long-running saga of Thomas Sutton’s estate (20 and 23 February).48

Restored as a deputy lieutenant in 1629, Buller nevertheless obstructed the government’s militia reforms. As sheriff of Cornwall in 1636-7 he succeeded, with some difficulty, in collecting his full quota of Ship Money, but his recalcitrant streak resurfaced in 1639, in his opposition to the First Bishops’ War.49 In 1640 he was returned for Cornwall to the Short Parliament, but his election for Fowey to the Long Parliament was questioned after he was returned on a blank indenture, forcing him to seek re-election.50 In Parliament, he allied himself with West Country puritan leaders including Lord Robartes, and with Robartes and Sir Alexander Carew he emerged as a leader of the parliamentarian forces in Cornwall at the outbreak of the Civil War.51 In October 1642 Buller and his forces were obliged to withdraw to Plymouth, where he died, apparently unexpectedly, sometime between 17 and 30 November. Negotiations with the royalist forces occupying Saltash for his body to be returned home proved unsuccessful, and he was buried in Plymouth on 1 December.52 Buller’s will, drawn up in 1640, was not finally proved until 1647.53 His parliamentary mantle passed to his sons Francis, George and Anthony.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


PROB 11/199, f. 373.

  • 1. C142/356/108.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 56-7.
  • 3. M. Temple Admiss.
  • 4. C142/356/108; W. Jay, ‘Sir Rowland Hayward’, Trans. London and Mdx. Arch. Soc. n.s. vi. 523.
  • 5. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 57; A.B. Beaven, London Aldermen, ii. 36.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 145.
  • 7. C142/356/108.
  • 8. Buller Pprs. ed. R.N. Worth, 86.
  • 9. SP16/74/78.
  • 10. E401/1887, 2415.
  • 11. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 23.
  • 12. C66/1988; CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 255; C231/4, f. 246v; 231/5, f. 529.
  • 13. C212/22/21, 23; E179/89/308, 329.
  • 14. Cornw. RO, DD.BU/393; SP16/72/57; 16/150/74; Buller Pprs. 24.
  • 15. C181/3, ff. 113, 195v; 181/5, f. 83.
  • 16. E401/2586, p. 82.
  • 17. C193/12/2, f. 7.
  • 18. SP16/187/18.
  • 19. GL, ms 25475/1, f. 13.
  • 20. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 21. SR, v. 82, 149.
  • 22. Antony House, Cornw. Carew Pole mss BO/21/1-2.
  • 23. J. Forster, Sir John Eliot, i. 186-9.
  • 24. CSP Dom. 1627-8, p. 440.
  • 25. APC, 1628-9, p. 208.
  • 26. Cornw. RO, DD.BU/608.
  • 27. Vis. Cornw. (Harl. Soc. ix), 284; SP16/74/78.
  • 28. Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 56.
  • 29. C142/356/108.
  • 30. List of Sheriffs, 23.
  • 31. E179/88/292.
  • 32. MTR, 380, 719.
  • 33. M. Temple Admiss.; MTR, 179, 678; E306/12/21.
  • 34. Arch. Cant. xx. 78-9; G. Haslam, ‘Duchy of Cornw. in principates of Henry Frederick and Charles’, Estates of Eng. Crown 1556-1640 ed. R.W. Hoyle, 277.
  • 35. SP14/135/41.
  • 36. CSP Dom. 1619-23, p. 123; APC, 1619-21, pp. 84, 136.
  • 37. Arch. Cant. xx. 77; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 56-7, 117, 252, 254.
  • 38. CJ, i. 513b, 514b, 517b, 548a, 551a; CD 1621, ii. 60, 130.
  • 39. J.K. Gruenfelder, Influence in Early Stuart Elections, 88-9.
  • 40. SP16/67/31; Buller Pprs. 10; Carew Pole mss, BC/26/13/1.
  • 41. Arch. Cant. xx. 79.
  • 42. Procs. 1626, ii. 7, 195, 208, 216, 279-80; iii. 301.
  • 43. Ibid. ii. 159, 374, 385; iii. 200; C.R. Kyle, ‘Attendance Lists’, PPE 1604-48 ed. Kyle, 229.
  • 44. CSP Dom. Addenda, 1625-49, p.112; G.R. Lewis, The Stannaries, 112; Carew Pole mss, BC/24/4/41-2.
  • 45. CSP Dom. 1627-8, pp. 231, 254-5; R. Cust, Forced Loan, 201; SP16/72/57; 74/78.
  • 46. CSP Dom. 1628-9, p. 65; SP16/96/36; C219/37/21; 219/39/61; 219/40/286; 219/41B/151, 152.
  • 47. CD 1628, ii. 29; iii. 367, 511; iv. 289.
  • 48. CJ, i. 923b, 931b, 932b, 932b; CD 1629, p. 206.
  • 49. SP16/150/74; CSP Dom. 1636-7, p. 435; M.D. Gordon, ‘Collection of Ship Money’, TRHS (ser. 3), iv. 156; PC2/50, p. 300; 2/51, p. 79.
  • 50. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 38-9.
  • 51. M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 27, 32; Buller Pprs. 68.
  • 52. Coate, 37; Buller Pprs. 84, 86; Vivian, Vis. Cornw. 638.
  • 53. PROB 11/199, ff. 373-4.