HARRIS, William (c.1652-1709), of Hayne, 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



1690 - 1695
1698 - 1702
1708 - 17 Oct. 1709

Family and Education

b. c.1652, 1st s. of Christopher Harris of Hayne and Kenegie, Cornw. by Elizabeth, da. of Martin Trott of Langridge, Devon, bro. of Christopher*.  m. 4 Oct. 1685, Jane, da. of John St. Aubyn of Clowance, Cornw., 3s. d.v.p. 1da. d.v.psuc. fa. 1687.1

Offices Held

Common councilman, Plymouth 1696; sheriff, Devon 1703–4.2


Harris was descended from John Harris of Lincoln’s Inn, recorder of Exeter, who purchased Hayne in the mid-16th century. His father inherited Hayne from a cousin, Sir Arthur Harris, 1st Bt. (d. 1686). In 1682, with John Tredenham*, Harris was granted a patent for a new engine to drain water out of Cornish tin mines. Early in 1688 he was one of the Dissenters recommended by the King’s agents to be a justice for Cornwall, and as one who might be elected at Penryn or set up as knight of the shire. Successful for St. Ives in 1690, possibly by virtue of his estate at Kenegie, Harris was listed by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as a Whig and in December of that year as a probable supporter of Carmarthen should the chief minister come under attack in Parliament. On 29 Oct. he was given leave of absence for health reasons. Although it is not noted in the Journals, Luttrell recorded on 22 Dec. 1691 that Harris was given leave to waive his privilege in a suit. He was given further grants of leave on 14 Jan. 1692 (one month), 1 Feb. 1693 (21 days), 1 Feb. 1694 and 26 Feb. 1695. On Grascome’s list he appeared as a Court supporter. Although he did not stand in 1695, he was still involved in local politics, being included as a common councilman in the new Plymouth corporation charter of 1696, a body with a strong Whiggish make-up, chiefly promoted by Sir Francis Drake, 3rd Bt.*3

Returned in 1698 for Okehampton, where his family had an interest, Harris was classed as a member of the Country party in a list of the new House and forecast as likely to oppose the standing army. He was granted leave on 21 Mar. 1699 and was absent from a call of the House on 11 Dec. following, being taken into custody and released on the 19th. He was again granted leave of absence on 6 Feb. 1700, for the recovery of his health, and once more on 27 May, for ‘extraordinary occasions’. By now he had undergone a change of politics, for he was listed with the Tories by Robert Harley* in December 1701 and voted on 26 Feb. 1702 for the resolution vindicating the Commons’ proceedings in the impeachments. He did not stand at Okehampton in 1702 but retained an interest in local affairs, serving as sheriff and being active as a deputy-lieutenant in Devon in March 1705. He was defeated at the general election later that year, but was returned unopposed in 1708 when Drake commented, ‘after all my services I cannot tell what to make of him; we can have no comfort in bringing him into Parliament but that of turning [Thomas] Northmore [a Tory] out’. Again, Harris was inactive, being given leave of absence on health grounds on 22 Dec. 1708, and again on 18 Feb. 1709. Nicholas Morice†, another strong Whig, wrote to Joseph Moyle* on 4 Mar. 1709, rejoicing that Harris had returned to Hayne ‘in health and safety from the Parliament’. Harris died on 17 Oct. 1709, aged 57, leaving as heir and executor, his brother Christopher, who also inherited his parliamentary seat.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Stuart Handley


  • 1. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 450–1 (which misidentifies his brother).
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1696, p. 424.
  • 3. Burke, Commoners, i. 560; Boase and Courtney, Bib. Cornub.; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 371, 379; (1883), 217, 270; Luttrell Diary, 90; E. F. Eliott-Drake, Fam. and Heirs of Sir Francis Drake, ii. 113.
  • 4. HMC Lords, n.s. vi. 419; G. Holmes, Pol. in Age of Anne, 223; Bank of Eng. Morice mss, Nicholas Morice† to Joseph Moyle*, 4 Mar. 1708–9, same to Humphrey Morice*, 28 Oct. 1709; Vivian, 450; PCC 267 Smith.