BAMPFIELD, Thomas (c.1623-93), of Exeter, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. c.1623, 8th s. of John Bampfield of Poltimore by Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Drake of Brendon Barton, Week St. Mary. educ. Exeter, Oxf. matric. 15 May 1640, aged 17; M. Temple 1642, called 1649, assoc. bencher 1659.1

Offices Held

Dep. recorder, Exeter 1652, recorder 1654-Oct. 1660; j.p. Devon 1653-65, June 1688-9, commr. for scandalous ministers 1654, assessment, Devon 1657, Aug. 1660-1, Exeter 1689-90, militia, Devon Mar. 1660, recusants 1675, dep. lt. Mar.-Oct. 1688; commr. for inquiry into recusancy fines, Cornw., Devon, Exeter and Dorset Mar. 1688.2

Speaker of House of Commons 14-22 Apr. 1659.


Bampfield, the uncle of Sir Coplestone Bampfylde, was a professional lawyer. A lifelong Presbyterian he contributed towards the building of a wall in Exeter cathedral to separate his congregation from the Independents. At an exceptionally early age he served briefly as Speaker in Richard Cromwell’s Parliament, when he was described as ‘a man of wit and learning, exactly fitted for the post’. Although considered favourable to the republicans, he presented the Speaker of the Rump on 14 Jan. 1660 with a petition for the return of the secluded Members.3

At the general election of 1660 Bampfield was successful both for Exeter and Tiverton, choosing to sit for the former. Listed by Lord Wharton as a friend, he was one of the most active Members of the Opposition in the Convention. He was named to 74 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges, made 23 speeches, and acted as teller in six divisions. He helped to consider the petition which he introduced from the intruded dons at Oxford and to investigate unauthorized Anglican publications. A member of the committee for the indemnity bill, he took a prominent part in the debates. The proposal to except acts of sacrilege moved him to pathos: ‘a little child which he saw once carrying away something of ornament to the church was concerned in it’. He also opposed the imposition of the oaths of allegiance and supremacy on those who wished to benefit from the bill, ‘for then you press persons for the saving their lives and estates to damn their souls’, and he objected to the usual clause in the poll bill to impose double taxation on recusants. On 4 July he complained to the House about several orders issued by the House of Lords, especially one affecting George Pitt, and was appointed to the committee to prepare reasons for a conference. Very early in the session it had been foretold that ‘we shall tomorrow and every day be perplexed with Bampfield and the Presbyterians in the bill of religion, who design to confirm all ministers in their sequestered livings’. If the 39 Articles were imposed on the clergy, he told the House, ‘not five out of a hundred but must beg’. Nevertheless he was appointed to the committee on the bill for settling ministers, helped to manage a conference, and took the chair for drafting a proviso about crown livings. On 13 Aug. he reported to the House on the effect of the amendments made by the Lords to the bill of indemnity, and he helped to draft the petition to the King in favour of John Lambert and Sir Henry Vane. He reported the bill to confirm civil marriages on 3 Sept., and five days later was sent to the Lords to desire the speedy dispatch of this and other measures. On the disbandment bill, he was among those ordered to bring in a clause leaving the guards to the last and to consider supplying certain defects. He acted as teller against imposing a penalty of £5 for defaults in delivering lists of dependants. Before the adjournment he helped to manage a conference on the poll-tax, and moved that ‘the King should be desired to marry, and that it should be to a Protestant’.4

During the recess Bampfield lost his recordership, but his activity in the second session scarcely diminished. Wharton sent him a copy of the case for modified episcopacy with objections and answers, and he seconded the motion of Sir Anthony Irby to give statutory force to the Worcester House declaration. He moved that no form of prayer might be enjoined on the House lest ‘the mass might be introduced’, and the horrified Speaker at once agreed to dispense with the chaplain’s services till a committee had made recommendations. The prevention of profanity was another subject very close to his heart. He moved successfully for a bill on 10 Nov., was given special responsibility for perusing the laws against drunkenness, and reported the bill a week later. On the same day he was added to the committee to bring in a bill for modified episcopacy, and urged the House to ignore the pamphlet provocatively entitled The Long Parliament Revived. He was ‘against an everlasting excise’, and in a ‘smart speech’ on 22 Nov. urged the rejection of the militia bill:

He never saw such a bill. ... There was a strange arbitrary strain all through it. He repeated several passages in it to which he took exception ... adding that this was directly taken out of the bill intended in ’56 in Oliver’s Parliament for settling major-generals throughout the kingdom.

He was given the congenial task of carrying to the Lords not only his own profanity bill, but also the bill for better observance of the Lord’s day, and on 30 Nov. he acted as teller for hearing the report on the bill to prevent marital separation. When it was proposed to revive the dukedom of Norfolk, he told the House bluntly that ‘he did not understand why they should confer honour on a madman; neither was it fit to give an act of grace to those of the popish religion’. Although he acted as teller for the noes on second reading, he was appointed to the committee. He helped to prepare reasons to induce the Lords to expedite public bills. He also served on the committee for the attainder bill, but on the report stage urged extensive amendment, ‘otherwise most of the conveyances in England would be destroyed’. He acted as teller against a bill to oblige John Hutchinson to compensate two leading Nottinghamshire Royalists, and complained that the Lancashire militia had used excessive force in removing an intruded minister from his parsonage. As a manager of the conference on the poll-tax he was against agreeing that lords should be assessed by their peers. ‘The Lords did it out of incogitancy’, he remarked several times amid rising mirth; and there with half his life still before him his parliamentary career ended.5

Bampfield had already received £50 from the Exeter corporation, probably for his part in resisting the claim of the freeholders to the franchise rather than as parliamentary wages, and on 19 Feb. 1661 they resolved to pay him an additional £2 19s. ‘for so much laid out by him for several petitions drawn and printed in London for the affairs of this city’, presumably including the petition against the Merchant Adventurers. But he did not stand for re-election, though he survived on the county bench until 1665, perhaps as an act of favour to his nephew. He returned briefly to public life under James II, and the King’s electoral agents listed him as one of the court candidates for Tiverton in the abortive election of 1688. He is unlikely to have stood at the general election of 1689, and when he opposed the Tory Christopher Bale at a by-election for Exeter in June he desisted after five or six hours in favour of the unscrupulous Whig publicist Hugh Speke. He died on 8 Oct. 1693 and was buried at St. Stephen’s, Exeter.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / J. S. Crossette


  • 1. DNB; Vivian, Vis. Devon, 40; Trans. Devon Assoc. lxi. 212.
  • 2. Devon RO, Exeter corp. act bk. 10, ff. 12, 44, 139; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 1804.
  • 3. A. Brockett, Nonconformity in Exeter, 12; CSP Ven. xxxi. 300; xxxii. 112; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 163.
  • 4. Bowman diary, ff. 24v, 46v, 48v, 53, 70, 110; CJ, viii. 27, 74, 106, 163, 167, 168; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 163; Old Parl. Hist. xxii. 477.
  • 5. Devon RO, Exeter corp. act. bk. 10 f. 139; Old Parl. Hist. xxiii. 5, 6, 9, 17, 22, 24, 36, 43, 52, 79; CJ, viii. 194, 196, 205, 233.
  • 6. Exeter corp. act bk. 10, ff. 136, 143; CJ, x. 254.