STAWELL, Ralph (c.1641-89), of Low Ham, Som.

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



Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1641, 5th but 3rd surv. s. of Sir John Stawell. m. (1) settlement 8 Apr. 1667 (with £3,000), Anne (d. 3 Sept. 1670), da. of John Ryves of Ranston, Dorset, 1s. 1da.; (2) 2 July 1672, Abigail (d. 27 Sept. 1692), da. and h. of William Pitt of Hartley Wespall, Hants, 2s. 4da. suc. bro. 1669; cr. Baron Stawell of Somerton 15 Jan. 1683.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Som. 1663-80; dep. lt. Som. 1670-Feb. 1688, Wilts. 1672-5; j.p. Wilts. 1671-?d., Som. 1672-?d.; col. of militia ft. Som. by 1672-?Feb.1688, commr. for recusants 1675, sheriff 1676-7, ld. lt. Nov. 1688-9.2


Stawell’s parliamentary ambitions were aroused, he claimed, by the decay of ‘the King’s interest’ in the closing sessions of the Cavalier Parliament, so that ‘he resolved to stand for the first Member’s place which shall fall in Somerset, whether knight of the shire or other, and, commanding Bridgwater [militia] regiment, he thinks his interest best there’. He began to canvass before the dissolution, with the excuse that the sitting Member, Peregrine Palmer, could not be expected to live long. He succeeded Palmer as court candidate at the first general election of 1679, and was classed by Shaftesbury as ‘base’. However, there was a double return, and he never took his seat. He was successful in the autumn, but left no trace on the records of the second Exclusion Parliament, and lost his seat in 1681.3

Raised to the peerage in 1683, Stawell was active in prosecuting dissenters in Somerset, and instrumental in securing the surrender of the Bridgwater charter. He promised Sunderland that he would do his utmost ‘to promote the election of sound and loyal Members’ to James II’s Parliament in Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire as well as in his own county. In June 1685 he led his regiment against Monmouth, but most of his men deserted to the rebels. A well-meant effort by Jeffreys to console him by hanging Col. Bovett, one of his father’s chief persecutors, outside the gates of Cothelstone does not seem to have been favourably received. He moved to Low Ham, where he began to build an ambitious mansion measuring four hundred feet by one hundred, and by 1687 he was reckoned among the opposition peers. Although James II appointed him lord lieutenant in succession to the Roman Catholic Lord Waldegrave in November 1688, he at once rallied to William of Orange. Nevertheless after the Revolution he was replaced by Lord Fitzhardinge (Sir Maurice Berkeley). He died on 8 Aug. 1689, aged 48, and was buried at Low Ham. His architectural extravagance permanently crippled the family finances, and he was the last to sit in the Commons.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. G. D. Stawell, Quantock Fam. 111-13; Soc. of Genealogists, St. Peter le Poer par. reg.
  • 2. Stawell, 114; E. Green, Bibl. Som. iii. 344; CSP Dom. 1687-9, p. 342.
  • 3. Som. RO, Sanford mss 3109, Wm. to Edward Clark, 29 Dec. 1678; CJ, ix. 578; Prot. Dom. Intell. 4 Mar. 1681.
  • 4. CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, pp. 194, 322-3; July-Sept. 1683, pp. 9, 119, 401-2; 1685, p. 33; HMC 6th Rep. 347; HMC Sackville, i. 3; R. Locke, Western Rebellion, 9; N. Pevsner, South and West Som. 224; HMC 7th Rep. 348; E. Green, March of Wm. of Orange through Som. 57-58; Stawell, 119.