ROLLE, John (1626-1706), of Marrais, Week St. Mary, Cornw. and Stevenstone, 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

bap. 23 Sept. 1626, 4th but 2nd surv. s. of Andrew Rolle of Marrais by Grace, da. of one Roberts. m. lic. 28 Feb. 1648, Florence, da. and coh. of Dennis Rolle of Stevenstone, 4s. (3 d.v.p.) 2da. suc.bro. George 1645, cos. Henry Rolle in Stevenstone estates 1647; kntd. Sept./Oct. 1660; KB 23 Apr. 1661.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Devon 1648, 1652, 1657, Aug. 1660-80, 1689-90, j.p. 1652, 1656-July 1688, Oct. 1688-d., commr. for militia Mar. 1660, col. of militia ft. Apr. 1660; commr. for oyer and terminer, Western circuit July 1660; dep. lt. Devon c. Aug. 1660-78, capt. of militia horse by 1666, commr. for recusants 1675; freeman, Exeter 1675, Barnstaple 1684; sheriff, Devon 1682-3; alderman, Torrington 1685 Oct. 1688.2


Rolle’s great-grandfather, a successful lawyer, founded the fortunes of the family. He bought Stevenstone in 1524 and represented Barnstaple, some ten miles off, in 1545. Rolle, the younger son of an obscure Cornish branch, inherited the bulk of the family property through a series of deaths without male issue in the 1640s. A working farmer in his younger days, he was mowing hay when news was brought to him of his succession to the Stevenstone estate. He wasted no time before consolidating his position financially by marrying his cousin. During the Interregnum he resided chiefly at Bicton in south-east Devon and held local office, though it was later claimed that he had ‘spared neither purse nor pains for his Majesty’s Restoration’. Elected for Barnstaple in 1660, he was marked by Lord Wharton as a friend, but he was not active in the Convention. On 8 May he had leave to go to Holland ‘upon his own occasions’. He was named to at most eight committees, none of major importance.3

Rolle’s journey to Holland may have been responsible for his nomination as knight of the Royal Oak, when his income was estimated as £1,000 p.a., though when Prince Cosmo of Tuscany was staying at Rolle’s house in Exeter some years later he was told that his host’s estates brought in six times this figure. He was probably one of the richest gentlemen in the county when he was returned for Devon unopposed at the general election of 1661. A moderately active Member of the Cavalier Parliament he twice defaulted on calls of the House and made no recorded speeches, but he was appointed to 70 committees and acted as teller in four divisions. His most important committee in the opening session was for the security bill, and he supported the committal of a naturalization bill. His attitude to the impeachment of Clarendon is not known, but he was added to the inquiry into the indigent officers fund on 12 Dec. 1667. In the county by-election of 1671 he was trusted by both sides, but eventually he gave active support to the country churchman, Sir Coplestone Bampfylde. With Bampfylde he acted as teller against a bill to reform the trial of peers in 1674. His name appeared on the working lists as one to be influenced only by the King, and in 1676 Sir Richard Wiseman reckoned him ‘an honest gentleman’ who ‘ought to be applied to’ for a vote for the Government. In the next session he was teller for a rejected clause in the supply bill to indemnify former commissioners, and helped to prepare the address for an alliance against France. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677, and on 15 Mar. 1678 he acted as teller with (Sir) Thomas Mompesson for proceeding with the Lindsey level bill before discussing supply. In the last session he was named to the inquiry into the Popish Plot.4

Rolle never stood again after the dissolution of the Cavalier Parliament. Though his son was defeated at Barnstaple by two Tories in 1685, he was himself nominated to the Torrington corporation in the new charter. His attitude to the Revolution is not known; his refusal of office as deputy lieutenant in 1701 is sufficiently explained by his age. He was buried at St. Giles in the Wood on 1 May 1706, leaving over 40 manors in Devon alone. Two of his grandsons sat for the county as Tories before and after the Hanoverian Succession.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 656.
  • 2. Parl. Intell. 16 Apr. 1660; HMC 14th Rep. IX, 273-4; A. Jenkins, Hist. Exeter, 178; T. Wainwright, Barnstaple Recs. i. 74; CSP Dom. 1685, p. 281.
  • 3. W. G. Hoskins, Devon, 469; Western Antiquary, i. 97; Merc. Pub. 25 Apr. 1661.
  • 4. L. Magalotti, Travels of Cosmo III, 129, 132; Merc. Pub. 25 Apr. 1661; Devon and Cornw. N. and Q. xviii. 316; CJ, viii. 264; ix. 314, 416, 455; E. Granville, Hist. Granville Fam. 359-62.
  • 5. CJ, ix. 724; CSP Dom. 1700-2, p. 251.