WALLIS, Robert, of Cambridge.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
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Family and Education

?s. of Edward Wallis, bailiff of Cambridge.

Offices Held

Alderman, Cambridge, mayor 1596-7, 1597-8, 1606; commr. gaol delivery, Cambridge 1597, j.p. 1598.


Though his parentage is uncertain, Wallis certainly came of a Cambridge family, many of whom were christened in the parish of St. Michael. By 1587 he had established his own household, and in that year paid 40s. to the corporation for lead pipes running from Chevin’s well to his cistern. Elected mayor in the autumn of 1596, he intensified the friction prevailing between town and university by refusing to take an oath to conserve the privileges of the university. Despite a joint order by Lord Keeper Egerton, the recorder of the borough, and Lord Burghley, chancellor of the university, Wallis refused, denying however in a letter to Burghley that he had made ‘malicious speeches’ to the lord treasurer’s ‘prejudice and dishonour’. Re-elected as mayor the following year, he took the oath in a grudging manner, his head covered, ‘not so much offering to put hand unto head when he heard the name of Jesus Christ’. In April 1601 the university authorities made further accusations, and a suit against him was brought into the Exchequer. Later in the year, however, to the disgust of the vice-chancellor, who described him as a ‘turbulent and factious townsman’, he obtained the backing of Sir Robert Cecil over an infringement of regulations concerning Stourbridge fair in the interest of a royal purveyor.

For the Parliament of 1597 Wallis was paid £22 12s. wages at 4s. daily as well as another £23 7s.6d. for charges. In this Parliament he was appointed to the committee for the bill against the excessive making of malt (12 Jan. 1598). He was appointed to committees for draining the fens (3 Dec. 1597, 28 Nov. 1601) and for bread (13 Jan. 1598). In 1601, his ‘parliament fees’ amounted to only £10 16s. In addition to his parliamentary wages, several other sums are recorded as paid to him by the borough: £49 15s.10d. in 1598 for the corporation’s suit against King’s Lynn, for imposing a duty on coal; £15 10s. to repay a loan in 1601 and £20 in 1605, lent ‘about the charter’. In 1606 he became mayor for the third time, after the sudden death of John Edmonds. In 1611 he fell foul of the majority of the town council, for unseemly speeches against the mayor. By 1612 he was so estranged from the corporation that he was forced to sue out a writ for his parliamentary wages, which were paid him not directly, as on previous occasions, but through the under-sheriff of the county. He took no further part in borough administration, but continued to pay a few trifling rents to the corporation for a number of years.

F. Blomefield, Coll. Cant. 225; Lansd. 82, f. 74; 84, ff. 204, 220, 225; PRO Index 4208; C. H. Cooper, Cambridge Annals, ii and iii, passim; Cambridge Bor. Docs. ed. Palmer, i. 91; Reg. St. Michael’s, Cambridge ed. Venn (Cambridge Antiq. Soc. xxv), 1-3, 109; Downing Coll. Camb. Bowtell mss; HMC Hatfield, xi. 186, 187, 192, 289, 316, 454-5; D’Ewes, 567, 578, 579, 657.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: R.C.G.