PALK, Lawrence (?1766-1813), of Haldon House, nr. Exeter, Devon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



12 Mar. 1787 - 1796
1796 - 1812

Family and Education

b. ?1766 at Madras, o.s. of Sir Robert Palk, 1st Bt., gov. Madras 1763-7, by Anne, da. of Arthur Vansittart of Shottesbrooke, Berks. educ. Harrow Christ Church, Oxf. 29 Mar. 1784, aged 18; European tour 1785-6. m. (1) 7 Aug. 1789, Lady Mary Bligh (d. 4 Mar. 1791), da. of John Bligh, 3rd Earl of Darnley [I], 1s. d.v.p.; (2) 15 May 1792, Lady Dorothy Elizabeth Vaughan, da. of Wilmot Vaughan, 1st Earl of Lisburne [I]*, 6s. 2da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 29 Apr. 1798.

Offices Held

Lt. S. Devon militia, capt.-lt. 1792, capt. 1793, maj. 1798.


An anonymous Member before 1790, Palk was marked ‘hopeful’ in the ministerial election survey of 1788, did not vote on the Regency question and was classed as ‘doubtful’ by government in 1790, when he was again returned unopposed for Ashburton on the family interest. In April 1791 he was listed ‘doubtful’ on the question of repeal of the Test Act in Scotland. He voted against government on Oczakov, 1 Mar. 1792, but is not known to have done so again during the remainder of the 1790 Parliament, and in 1795 endorsed his brother-in-law’s claims to ministerial support at Berwick on the ground of his ‘steady determination to support the measures of government in this arduous crisis’.1

He was listed ‘pro’ in the government election forecast for 1796 when, having stood successfully for both Ashburton and Devon, he opted to sit for the latter, but his conduct in the new Parliament was spasmodically independent. He voted against government on the Bank stoppage, 28 Feb., was present, with his county colleague, at a meeting of the ‘armed neutrality’, 9 Mar. 1797, and voted against Pitt’s proposal to revive the secret committee on the Bank the same day. He divided against the land tax redemption bill, 23 Apr. and 18 May, and on 19 June 1798 condemned the plan to send the militia to Ireland as ‘hostile to the constitution’ (though he professed willingness to do his duty if his own regiment’s services were called on) and acted as teller for the minority in the subsequent division. His only other known speech was a brief comment on the corn importation bill, 17 Mar. 1800.

Before he was far into his thirties Palk fell victim to gout, which by 1809 had reduced him to a pitiful cripple and probably seriously interfered with his parliamentary attendance.2 He voted for inquiry into the Prince of Wales’s debts, 4 Mar. 1803, but seems otherwise to have supported Addington, with whom he shared the friendship of Dr Henry Beeke, dean of Bristol and Palk’s tutor on the European tour of 1785. He was listed under ‘Addington’ in the ministerial analysis of May 1804, but apparently did not vote against Pitt’s additional force bill until 15 June. In the government list of September he was placed under ‘Addington’ and ‘Addington’s friends on whom some impression might be made’. He voted for the repeal of the Additional Force Act, 6 Mar., and twice against Melville, 8 Apr. and 12 June 1805, and was again described as a follower of Sidmouth in the list of July. There is no record of any parliamentary activity during the ‘Talents’ ministry and he was reported neither to have voted nor paired in the division on Brand’s motion condemning the ministerial pledge, 9 Apr. 1807, when he was probably officially absent because of ill health.3

In May 1807 his wife was described as ‘quite a Sidmouth’,4 but Palk does not seem to have been regarded as a confirmed member of the Sidmouth connexion in the new Parliament, where he was largely a cypher and appears in only four of the surviving division lists. He voted against government on the question of Castlereagh’s alleged corruption, 25 Apr. 1809, was listed as ‘hopeful’ by the Whigs in March 1810 and among the absent critics of government on the Scheldt issue in the Morning Chronicle of 4 Apr. 1810. On 20 Nov. 1810 the Prince’s friend Thomas Tyrwhitt* told William Adam* that it was unlikely that Palk would be able to attend for the Regency proceedings and on 20 Dec. he obtained two weeks’ leave because of ill health, but he voted with opposition against the Regency bill, 21 Jan. 1811.5 He divided with ministers against Stuart Wortley’s call for the formation of a stronger administration, 21 May, but voted against the leather tax, 1 July 1812. His rapidly failing health forced him to retire from Parliament at the ensuing dissolution.

Palk, who owned and improved much of Torquay, was said to be worth £15,000 a year. When Farington met him in 1809 he wrote that despite his painful affliction, ‘his countenance had all the expression of good humour, and his deportment was simple and unassuming’.6 He died 20 June 1813.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. Portland mss PWF7329.
  • 2. Farington, v. 264.
  • 3. PRO, Dacres Adams mss 10/4; CJ, lxii. 209, 283.
  • 4. Fortescue mss, Buckingham to Grenville [7 May 1807].
  • 5. Blair Adam mss; CJ, lxvi. 21.
  • 6. Farington, v. 260, 267.