FULFORD, Sir Francis (1583-1664), of Great Fulford, Dunsford, Devon and Toller Fratrum, Dorset

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




Family and Education

bap. 1 Sept. 1583, 1st s. of Thomas Fulford of Gt. Fulford and Ursula, da. of Richard Bampfield of Poltimore, Devon.1 educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1599; M. Temple 1601.2 m. 14 Sept. 1601, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Bernard Samways of Winterbourne St. Martin and Toller Fratrum, Dorset, 7s. (3 d.v.p.) 6da. (2 d.v.p.).3 kntd. 26 Feb. 1605;4 suc. fa. 1610.5 admon. 2 May 1664.6

Offices Held

J.p. Devon by 1614-45,7 Dorset 1625-at least 1640;8 commr. piracy, Devon 1614, 1619-24, 1630, 1637-9,9 Dorset 1639-42,10 oyer and terminer, Western circ. Feb.-June 1617, 1621-42,11 Dorset 1626, 1631, 1643,12 subsidy, Devon 1621-2, 1624,13 billeting and martial law, Dorset 1626,14 Forced Loan, Devon and Dorset 1627,15 sewers, Devon 1627, 1634,16 swans, W. Country 1629;17 commr. and collector knighthood fines, Devon 1630-3;18 dep. lt. Dorset by 1640;19 commr. array, Devon and Dorset 1642;20 sheriff, Dorset 1642-4;21 commr. roy. contributions 1643, rebels’ estates 1643,22 assessment 1661-3.23


‘A very ancient and noble family in Devonshire’, the Fulfords took their name from an estate at Dunsford that they had held since the late twelfth century. Noted in medieval times for their military prowess, they supplied knights of the shire for Cornwall in 1432 and Devon in 1553, the latter Member being Fulford’s grandfather.24 The family’s ancestral estates in the early seventeenth century comprised 14 manors in Devon and Somerset. Fulford’s marriage to a Dorset heiress eventually brought him an additional seat at Toller Fratrum, after a lengthy legal dispute with his wife’s brother-in-law, Francis Ashley*, which was apparently resolved in 1607.25 Knighted at Whitehall in 1605, Fulford succeeded to his patrimony five years later, but established a role in local government only slowly. Curiously, he was named in 1617 to the prestigious commission for oyer and terminer in the West Country, but was removed again just five months later, and not reinstated until 1621. Thereafter, he emerged as a very active administrator in both Devon and Dorset.26

Elected in 1625 as senior knight of the shire for Devon, Fulford made no recorded speeches but was named to the committee for privileges and seven legislative committees. Their subjects included the punishment of petty larceny, easier pleading of alienations, and the prevention of corruption in the judiciary (25 and 29 June). He attracted no business during the Oxford sitting, and may therefore not have attended.27

During the winter of 1625-6 Fulford removed his household to Toller Fratrum to avoid the plague outbreak in Exeter, just six miles from his Devon seat.28 Having recently been appointed a Dorset magistrate, he now became actively involved in that county’s affairs, supervising the billeting there of soldiers returning from the Cadiz expedition. However, he also remained a prominent figure in Devon, notably as a collector of knighthood composition fines during the early 1630s. Fulford won praise in 1640 for his ‘more than wonted care and diligence’ as a Dorset deputy lieutenant in recruiting troops to fight the Scots.29 An active royalist during the Civil War, he was captured and briefly imprisoned in Devon in early 1643, served two terms as sheriff of Dorset, and maintained a garrison at Fulford House until December 1645, when he surrendered to Fairfax (Thomas Fairfax, 3rd Lord Fairfax†).30 Despite this apparent militancy, he reputedly opposed the plundering of civilians, and displayed a ‘civil and fair carriage towards those of the Parliament party’. After Fairfax intervened on his behalf, he was allowed to compound for his estates in 1649 on relatively lenient terms, paying a fine of £270 6s. 8d., which was increased by £40 three years later.31

Viewed with suspicion under the Commonwealth as a potential royalist rebel, Fulford took no further part in public life until the Restoration.32 In his will, dated 7 Jan. 1664, he bequeathed more than £900 to his numerous grandchildren, one of whom was also his principal heir, his eldest son having been killed during the Civil War. Fulford died shortly afterwards, and was buried at Toller Fratrum. His will was proved in May 1664 by his younger son George, who inherited his Dorset property, and sat for Christchurch in two of the Exclusion Parliaments as a Tory.33

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 379-80.
  • 2. Al. Ox.; M. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Vivian, 380; Hutchins, Dorset, ii. 698-9.
  • 4. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 137.
  • 5. Vivian, 379.
  • 6. PROB 11/313, f. 368.
  • 7. C66/1988; M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 260.
  • 8. C231/4, f. 190v; C66/2859.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 200v, 348; 181/3, f. 130; 181/4, f. 52v; 181/5, ff. 84, 132v.
  • 10. C181/5, ff. 152v, 226v.
  • 11. C181/2, ff. 269v, 286v; 181/3, f. 30v; 181/5, f. 221.
  • 12. C181/3, f. 212; 181/4, f. 104; Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 81.
  • 13. C212/22/20-1, 23.
  • 14. APC, 1626, pp. 221, 224.
  • 15. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, ff. 10, 11v.
  • 16. C181/3, f. 217v; 181/4, f. 163v.
  • 17. C181/4, f. 2.
  • 18. SP16/187/18; E401/1917, 1920.
  • 19. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 291.
  • 20. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 21. Docquets of Letters Patent, 73; List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 39.
  • 22. Docquets of Letters Patent, 73, 75.
  • 23. SR, v. 330, 457.
  • 24. W.D. Christie, Life of Shaftesbury, i. p. xviii; Vivian, 378; W.G. Hoskins, Devon, 391-2; OR.
  • 25. C142/330/93; 142/548/20; Hutchins, ii. 697, 700; C78/155/8.
  • 26. Shaw, ii. 137.
  • 27. Procs. 1625, pp. 206, 245-6, 269.
  • 28. Newfoundland Discovered ed. G.T. Cell (Hakluyt Soc. ser. 2, clx), 238.
  • 29. CSP Dom. 1640, p. 291.
  • 30. Wolffe, 260; M. Stoyle, Loyalty and Locality, 66; Hoskins, 392.
  • 31. CCC, 1311-12; CCAM, 1295; SP23/213/667, 673, 677.
  • 32. HMC Portland, i. 584, 588.
  • 33. PROB 11/313, ff. 367-8; D. and S. Lysons, Devonshire, 172; Hutchins, ii. 698; HP Commons, 1660-90, ii. 370.