VACHELL, Tanfield (1668-1705), of Coley, Reading, Berks.

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



Dec. 1701 - 19 Oct. 1705

Family and Education

bap. 14 Apr. 1668, 1st s. of Thomas Vachell of Coley by Anne, da. of William Tayleur alias Danvil, surveyor of works at Windsor Castle.  m. bef. 1685, Dorothy (d. 1726), da. of Thomas Breton, merchant, of London, 6s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.  suc. fa. 1683.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Berks. 1696–7.


The Vachells had resided in the Reading area from the 13th century, settling at Coley, in the parish of St. Mary’s, Reading, during the following century. Vachell’s grandfather had been a Royalist but his father inherited Coley from his uncle, Tanfield Vachell†, a Parliamentarian colonel. Vachell’s father served as sheriff of Berkshire in 1671 and stood at Reading in February 1679, finishing third in the poll. Very little is known about Vachell’s early career, although the sale of the property at Upton in 1693 is suggestive of the financial troubles that beset the family in later years. In November 1696 he signalled his willingness to serve as sheriff, being anxious to ensure that Reading gained the economic benefits of hosting the assizes. In March 1700 he exerted pressure on Reading corporation to favour his own candidate for the receipt of aid from the charity founded by his distant ancestor, Sir Thomas Vachell (d. 1638). This may indicate determination to demonstrate his influence in the borough, preparatory to a challenge for a parliamentary seat. Such a view is strengthened by the admission of his brother William as a freeman in November 1700, followed by his own unsuccessful election bid in January 1701. However, he captured a seat at the next election in December 1701.2

On his election into the Commons in December 1701 Vachell was listed as a Whig on Robert Harley’s* analysis of the new Parliament. This assessment of his political views was borne out later when he was forecast on 30 Oct. 1704 as an opponent of the Tack and by the fact that he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. Further, an analysis of the Parliament elected in 1705 classed him as ‘no Church’. He was marked as absent on the division list of 25 Oct. 1705 on the choice of Speaker, Dyer noting that he had died on the 19th just before the opening session of the new Parliament. His death revealed the full extent of his indebtedness, for on 22 Nov. 1705 his widow and eldest son, Thomas, petitioned the Commons for a private Act to confirm various conveyances of lands made by Vachell to trustees to be sold to pay off debts. An Act was necessary as prospective purchasers required a stronger title to the estates offered for sale as Thomas Vachell was only 20 and hence still a minor. A list of Vachell’s debts included in the draft bill amounted to £5,000, but at least one creditor petitioned the Commons claiming that his debt had been understated at £50 rather than £200. Other interested parties petitioned against the bill, including members of the Breton family, so that it never emerged from committee. Once Thomas Vachell turned 21 and a Chancery suit between the Vachells and Bretons was resolved, the sales envisaged in the bill presumably went ahead. This attempt to retain the family’s ancient connexion with Coley did not long survive the death of Vachell’s wife in 1726. His second son, William, sold the estate in 1727, having settled his family in Cambridgeshire.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Stuart Handley


  • 1. Berks. Arch. Soc. iii. 69, 38; St. Mary’s, Reading Par. Reg. i. 92.
  • 2. VCH Berks. iii. 283, 357, 361, 364–5; HMC 11th Rep. VII, 197; HMC Downshire, i. 709–10, 747; Berks. RO, Reading corp. diary, 18 Mar., 1 Nov. 1700.
  • 3. Add. 70075, Dyer’s newsletter 23 Oct. 1705; Berks. RO, T/A 34, draft bill; LJ, xviii. 277, 232; VCH Berks. 364–5.