POLE, John (c.1589-1658), of Shute, Devon; later of Colcombe Castle, Colyton, Devon and Bromley-by-Bow, Mdx.

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

b. c.1589, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Pole† of Colcombe Castle and his 1st w. Mary, da. and coh. of Sir William Peryam†, c. bar. Exch.1 educ. I. Temple 1606.2 m. (1) 5 Jan. 1614, Elizabeth (bur. 30 Apr. 1628), da. and coh. of Roger Howe of London, Mercer, 3s. (2 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.);3 (2) Mary, da. of Francis Everdon of Staffs. and wid. of William Leachland (admon. 4 Jan. 1647) of Bromley-by-Bow, s.p.4 cr. bt. 12 Sept. 1628;5 suc. fa. 1636.6 d. 16 Apr. 1658.7

Offices Held

Freeman, Lyme Regis, Dorset 1617;8 commr. sewers, Devon 1627, 1634,9 j.p. 1627-43, 1646-53;10 commr. swans, W. Country 1629, piracy, Devon 1630, 1637-9;11 lt.-col. militia ft. Devon by 1633;12 commr. incorporation of maltsters, Devon 1636,13 hard soap, W. Country 1638;14 sheriff, Devon 1638-9,15 dep. lt. by 1639-at least 1642,16 commr. assessment 1641-3, 1647-9,17 array 1642,18 sequestration 1643, levying of money 1643.19

Member, Dorchester New Eng. Co. 1624.20


Pole traced his pedigree from a Cheshire family that acquired a Devon estate through marriage in the fourteenth century. His grandfather William Pole, a successful lawyer, served in three mid-Tudor parliaments, and purchased Shute, in south-east Devon, as his country seat.21 Pole’s father, Sir William, who sat for Bossiney in 1586, participated prominently in local government, as both sheriff of Devon and as a West Country oyer and terminer commissioner. A noted antiquary, he owned more than a dozen manors in Devon and Dorset, and rebuilt Colcombe Castle, a few miles from Shute, as his own residence.22 Pole himself studied briefly at the Inner Temple, and evidently shared Sir William’s fascination with local history. John Prince later described him as ‘much addicted ... to this ingenuous study’, though the fruits of his labours remained unpublished. Married in 1614 to his stepsister, and presented with Shute as his own home during his father’s lifetime, he took little known part in public life until he was approaching middle age.23

Surprisingly, in 1626 Pole succeeded his brother-in-law Francis Courtenay as a Devon knight of the shire.24 During the Parliament’s first three months he attracted just one nomination, being added on 29 Apr. to a legislative committee concerned with some fraudulent conveyances.25 However, on 9 May, just after the Commons began formal impeachment proceedings against the duke of Buckingham, he tendered a bill to impose on Members an oath to act impartially in the House. The measure aimed specifically at preventing MPs from taking bribes to speak on behalf of other people, an understandable concern in the context of the Commons’ attack on the royal favourite. This ostensibly high-minded intervention was immediately supported both by government spokesmen and the duke’s enemies, thus making Pole’s own stance hard to assess. The bill was read twice and committed that same day, with Pole named to the committee. It was reported by William Coryton on 10 June, but was lost at the dissolution five days later.26

Although Pole never stood for election again, his brief stint in the Commons effectively launched his public career. He became a Devon magistrate in the following year, and acquired a baronetcy in 1628, during his father’s lifetime. As sheriff in 1638-9, Pole conscientiously implemented the county’s fourth Ship Money writ, despite his personal dislike of the levy. In January 1640 he claimed that he had raised all but £43 9s. 10d. of the £3,150 demanded. Similarly, he helped as a deputy lieutenant to impress soldiers for service in the two Bishops’ Wars. However, he declined to contribute financially towards these campaigns himself.27 Having helped to secure the restoration of Honiton, Devon as a parliamentary borough in 1640, he procured a seat there for his eldest son William at the November election.28

Pole sided with Parliament at the outbreak of the Civil War, and in 1643 he twice helped to lead anti-royalist raids in Devon and Cornwall. However, he also participated in abortive local peace negotiations that year, and by July 1644 he had withdrawn to Bromley-by-Bow, in the eastern suburbs of London. His position in Devon was complicated by his son William’s decision to fight for the king, and both Colcombe Castle and Shute were badly damaged during the war, by royalist and parliamentarian forces respectively.29 Pole was again active in local government from 1646, but he evidently disapproved of Charles I’s execution as he declined to serve under the Commonwealth, despite being retained on the Devon bench. He probably spent much of the following decade at Bromley, where he had remarried and where he died, intestate, in April 1658. However, he was buried on 13 July at Colyton, where he had erected a lavish monument to himself and his first wife. Pole was succeeded by his second son, Courtenay, who sat for Honiton in the Cavalier Parliament as a Court supporter.30

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Tim Venning / Paul Hunneyball


  • 1. W. Pole, Collections Towards a Description of Devon (1791), xiii; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 603.
  • 2. I. Temple Admiss.
  • 3. Vivian, 603; Reg. of Colyton, Devon ed. A.J.P. Skinner (Devon and Cornw. Rec. Soc., 1928), ii. 626; PROB 11/108, f. 291.
  • 4. Vivian, 603; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 54; PROB 11/199, f. 62v.
  • 5. CB.
  • 6. Pole, p. xiii.
  • 7. Vivian, 603.
  • 8. Dorset RO, DC/LR/B/6/11, p. 12.
  • 9. C181/3, f. 217v; 181/4, f. 163v.
  • 10. C231/4, f. 237; Docquets of Letters Patent 1642-6 ed. W.H. Black, 11; M. Wolffe, Gentry Leaders in Peace and War, 220; S.K. Roberts, ‘Devon JPs, 1643-60’, in Devon Docs. ed. T. Gray (Devon and Cornw. N and Q spec. iss. 1996), pp. 160-2.
  • 11. C181/4, ff. 2, 52v; 181/5, ff. 84, 132v.
  • 12. T. Westcote, View of Devonshire, 72.
  • 13. PC2/46, p. 374.
  • 14. C181/5, ff. 92, 102v.
  • 15. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 37.
  • 16. CSP Dom. 1639, p. 21; Wolffe, 151.
  • 17. SR, v. 61, 83, 150; A. and O. i. 90, 963, 1080; ii. 32, 296.
  • 18. Northants. RO, FH 133.
  • 19. A. and O. i. 111, 147, 228.
  • 20. F.R. Troup, John White, 458.
  • 21. D. and S. Lysons, Devonshire, cix; Vivian, 602; HP Commons, 1558-1603, iii. 227-8; Pole, 138.
  • 22. C181/1, f. 29; 181/5, f. 32v; List of Sheriffs, 36; C142/538/109; Pole, pp. xi, 136.
  • 23. Pole, pp. xi, 138; Vivian, 603.
  • 24. Vivian, 603.
  • 25. Procs. 1626, iii. 97.
  • 26. Ibid. 200, 205-6, 414-15.
  • 27. Wolffe, 215-18; M.D. Gordon, ‘Collection of Ship-Money’, TRHS (ser. 3), iv. 157; CSP Dom. 1639, pp. 20-1, 229; 1639-40, p. 299; PC2/51, p. 78.
  • 28. M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 308.
  • 29. Wolffe, 218, 220; CCAM, 419; Keeler, 308; S. Pugsley, ‘Landed Society and the Emergence of the Country House’, in Tudor and Stuart Devon ed. T. Gray, M. Rowe and A. Erskine, 111-12.
  • 30. S.K. Roberts, Recovery and Restoration in an English County, 14, 47; Wolffe, 220; Vivian, 603; W.G. Hoskins, Devon, 374; PROB 6/34, f. 155; HP Commons, 1660-90, iii. 254-5.