POLLEXFEN, John (c.1638-1715), of Walbrook House, London and Wembury, Devon

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Oct. 1679 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 1690
26 Apr. 1690 - 1695

Family and Education

b. c.1638, 2nd s. of Andrew Pollexfen of Sherford, Devon by Joan, da. of John Woolcombe of Pitton, Yealmpton, Devon; bro. of Henry Pollexfen†.  m. lic. 10 May 1670, aged 32, Mary, da. of Sir John Lawrence, Haberdasher, of Great St. Helen’s, London, 2s. 2da.1

Offices Held

Gent. of privy chamber 1678–85, 1690–1702; commr. preventing export of wool 1689–92; ld. of Trade 1696–1707.2

Freeman, Plympton Erle by 1689.3


Pollexfen, a wealthy London merchant with an estate in Devon and property in Plympton, lost his seat in controversial circumstances in 1690, but, after the election had been declared void, successfully contested the ensuing by-election with his cousin and fellow Whig, Sir George Treby*. Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter in April 1691. Listed as a defaulter at a call of the House on 16 Nov. 1691, he was sent for in custody and discharged on the 30th. He spoke on 18 Dec. 1691 against the East India Company’s monopoly, and was appointed on 8 Jan. 1692 to the drafting committee for a bill to establish a new company. He spoke against the bill to lessen interest rates on 15 Jan., but four days later was granted a month’s leave of absence for the recovery of his health. He did not return to the House until the session of 1692–3, having explained to Treby that he would remain in Devon to bolster the Whig interest at the by-election for Plympton caused by Treby’s promotion to the bench, and also to deal with local problems arising from the depredations of French privateers. This latter concern probably gave rise to his nomination (though not in first place) to the committee on 22 Nov. 1693 to examine a petition complaining of recent losses in merchant shipping. He was a teller in favour of going into committee on another bill to establish a new East India company on 9 Jan. 1694. Granted a further leave of absence on 28 Mar. 1694, he returned early in the following session. Poor health drove him to seek leave of absence on 29 Mar. 1695, and he stood down at the next election.4

Pollexfen’s public career continued after his retirement from the House. He was nominated to the abortive council of trade in December 1695, and the following year was made a founder member of the Board of Trade, at a salary of £1,000 p.a. Continuing to be highly critical of the East India Company, he gave evidence to an inquiry by the Lords in the spring of 1696, and the following year engaged in a brief pamphlet war with Charles Davenent*. Pollexfen was opposed to monopolistic practices and advocated the rights of private traders, the so-called ‘interlopers’. He maintained, moreover, that the East India Company’s trade was responsible for depleting national reserves of gold and silver. In his private concerns, Pollexfen was involved in a dispute over the inheritance of his elder brother’s estate, but despite his complaints about sharp practice on the part of Sir Francis Drake, 3rd Bt.* (whose daughter had married Pollexfen’s nephew), he was unable to prevent the property passing out of the family. During the early years of Queen Anne’s reign he evidently changed his political colours and was turned out of office in April 1707 as ‘too strongly attached to the Tory party’. He died in 1715 and was buried at St. Stephen Walbrook on 15 Feb.5

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. E. F. Eliott-Drake, Fam. and Heirs of Sir Francis Drake, ii. 57; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1071; PCC 30 Fagg.
  • 2. N. Carlisle, Gent. Privy Chamber, 193, 205.
  • 3. J. B. Rowe, Plympton, 183.
  • 4. Luttrell Diary, 88, 130; HMC Carlisle, 32.
  • 5. EHR, liv. 49; HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 11, 58–59; DNB; Discourse of Trade, Coin and Ppr. Credit (1697); Eng. and East India Inconsistent in their Manufactures (1697); Eliott-Drake, 120–7, 133–4; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. vi. 383; St Stephen’s Walbrook (Harl. Soc. Reg. xlix), 124.