HARRIS, John III (c.1596-1648), of Radford, Plymstock, Devon and Lanrest, Liskeard, 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.)
1640 (Nov.) - 22 Jan. 1644
1644 (Oxf. Parl.)

Family and Education

b. c.1596,1 2nd s. of John Harris I* (d.1623) of Lanrest and Joan, da. and h. of Robert Harte of Plimston, Stoke Climsland, Cornw.; bro. of Christopher*. m. (1) 30 Sept. 1630, Elizabeth (bur. 26 July 1637), da. of Emorb Johnson of Bridge, S. Petherton, Som., 1s.;2 (2) 1641, Mary, wid. of Thomas Wise* of Sydenham, Devon and da. of Edward, 1st Visct. Chichester of Carrickfergus, s.p.3 suc. bro. Christopher 1623, gt.-uncle Sir Christopher Harris† 1625.4 d. by 24 Apr. 1648.5 sig. John Harris.

Offices Held

Under-steward, Liskeard manor, Cornw. by 1624-at least 1634;6 feoffee town lands, Liskeard 1625;7 provost-marshal, Cornw. 1629;8 commr. inspect Catwater harbour, Plymouth, Devon 1636,9 piracy, Cornw. 1637, Devon 1637, 1639;10 v.-adm. Devon (jt.) 1638-at least 1642;11 commr. assessment, Cornw. 1641-2,12 array, Devon;13 j.p. Devon 1643;14 commr. duchy of Cornw. assessions 1645.15

Recorder, Liskeard from 1636.16


No record is known of Harris’ education, although his performance in Parliament and his appointment as a recorder suggest a legal training. Under the terms of his father John’s will, of which he was initially appointed executor, he stood to inherit only an unspecified interest in four Cornish manors. However, the premature death of his elder brother Christopher in November 1623 left him as heir to the remaining family estates, which consisted of approximately 1,500 acres, including two manors and two rectories. This legacy was doubly encumbered. His father had died leaving debts of almost £4,790, and had placed both manors in trust for 21 years with a view to clearing this sum.17 In addition, because the jointure arrangements for Christopher’s wife Gertrude had been left unresolved, Harris inherited a legal battle with her father Sir Bernard Grenville† over this issue. The latter burden was the more pressing of the two. In February 1624, Harris offered to pay Gertrude an annuity, initially of £200, a deal which the Grenvilles accepted. However, in the following August he attempted to revive the original jointure agreement, and was promptly sued for non-payment of the annuity. The affair dragged on through successive courts until 1628, at which point Harris finally conceded an enhanced jointure settlement worth £250 a year, along with arrears of £1,125.18 By now his underlying financial difficulties had been eased by an inheritance from his great-uncle Sir Christopher Harris, which included three Devon manors and a seat at Radford, near Plymouth. Nevertheless, this prevailing economic weakness may help to explain why Harris took so long to secure significant local office.19

Unlike his father, Harris enjoyed good relations with Liskeard, the borough closest to Lanrest, his principal Cornish residence. A feoffee of the town lands there by early 1625, he secured one of the borough’s seats in the 1628 general election.20 For a Member with no previous experience of the Commons, he was surprisingly active during the first session, particularly when the liberties of the subject or of Parliament were under discussion. On 28 Mar. he was included on the sub-committee appointed to search for legal precedents on imprisonment. His only recorded speech, on 2 Apr., was a contribution to the debate on deputy lieutenants’ abuses, and he was named the next day to the select committee for drafting a bill on impressment and related issues. Nominations followed to the bill committee concerned with Parliament’s privileges (28 Apr.), the committee appointed on 7 May at Eliot’s request to check on the accurate recording of the Commons’ proceedings, and the sub-committee for examining old grievances (13 June). Most strikingly, on 5 May he was chosen with Secretary Coke, Pym, Rich and Digges to produce a written record of the king’s speech to the Commons earlier that day on liberties and the royal prerogative.21 Harris apparently enjoyed a reputation as a solid Protestant, since he was also named to committees to consider a bill against recusancy and the names of recently reported recusant officeholders (23 and 24 April).22 Certain other appointments focused on legal matters. These included bill committees addressing the procurement of judicial posts by bribery (23 Apr.), the reversal of a Chancery decree (10 May), and the naturalization of Robert Dyell, George Kirk and Giles Vanbrugh (25 Apr. and 13 June). That he was nominated on 28 May to the legislative committee to consider the restitution in blood of Carew Ralegh was ironic, given that his father had been a commissioner for surveying Sir Walter Ralegh’s† confiscated estates.23 Harris’ remaining committee appointments dealt with economic issues in London, namely the regulation of the exchange market, a petition by the merchants and clerks of the Custom House, and duties incurred when unlading goods (13, 20 and 25 June).24 He is not known to have contributed to the fraught proceedings of the second session.

Harris’ apparent interest in Parliament in matters of liberty was reflected at home in his opposition to the Crown’s militia reforms. In October 1629, in his capacity as Cornish provost-marshal, he allegedly joined forces with deputy lieutenants Sir Richard Buller* and Sir Francis Vyvyan* to sabotage the militia’s musters. While antipathy towards Sir Bernard Grenville, an enthusiast for militia reform, may well have influenced Harris’ stance in Cornwall, it should be noted that two months earlier he had also failed to attend musters in Devon. However, the extent to which he might have been associated earlier in the 1620s with leading Cornish opponents of arbitrary government, such as William Coryton*, is difficult to establish.25 The 1630s at length brought administrative responsibilities in both Harris’ counties of residence, in particular the post of vice-admiral of Devon which had once been held by his great-uncle Sir Christopher. As recorder of Liskeard, Harris was returned by the borough in both parliamentary elections of 1640. Like his brother-in-law Jonathan Rashleigh* he sided with the king during the Civil War, and was disabled from Commons’ membership in January 1644. Harris subsequently attended the Oxford Parliament. However, reports that he played an active military role appear to be unfounded, and although he suffered sequestration, parliamentary assessments of £1,000 and £600 against his estate in 1644 and 1646 were not pursued during his lifetime. Harris drew up his brief will on 24 Mar. 1648, and died within the following month. He was succeeded by his son John, who sat for Liskeard after the Restoration.26

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. Aged 27 in Nov. 1623, and 28 in Jan. 1625: WARD 7/58/57; C142/688/38.
  • 2. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 447-8; Som. and Dorset N and Q, ii. 230, 233.
  • 3. G.H. Radford, ‘Wyses of Sydenham’, Reps. and Trans. Devon Assoc. xli. 133, 137.
  • 4. Vivian, 448.
  • 5. CCC, 117.
  • 6. SC2/160/47-9.
  • 7. Cornw. RO, B/LIS/26 (no. 10).
  • 8. A. Duffin, Faction and Faith, 124.
  • 9. Devon and Cornw. N and Q, xii. 239.
  • 10. C181/5, ff. 83v, 84v, 132v.
  • 11. HCA 30/620, no. 45; HCA 14/49, nos. 178, 307.
  • 12. SR, v. 82, 149.
  • 13. Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 14. Devon RO, QS 28/1-2.
  • 15. M. Coate, Cornw. in Gt. Civil War, 182.
  • 16. Cornw. RO, B/LIS/288.
  • 17. PROB 11/142, ff. 163v-4; WARD 7/58/57, 202.
  • 18. C78/333/2.
  • 19. C142/688/38.
  • 20. Cornw. RO, B/LIS/282.
  • 21. CD 1628, ii. 255, 277; iii. 122, 252, 301; iv. 290; vi. 105.
  • 22. Ibid. iii. 43, 61.
  • 23. Ibid. iii. 44, 70, 355; iv. 3, 292.
  • 24. Ibid. iv. 289, 389, 467.
  • 25. SP16/150/74, 76.iii; Duffin, 125.
  • 26. Vivian, 447; CJ, iii. 374a; Historical Collections ed. J. Rushworth, v. 573; J. Prince, Devon Worthies, 470-1; Clarendon, Hist. of the Rebellion ed. W.D. Macray, iv. 129; P.R. Newman, Roy. Officers in Eng. and Wales, 177; J. Allen, Hist. Liskeard, 470-1; CCAM, 435, 718-9; PROB 11/210, f. 175-v.