WALLIS, Robert (fl.1594-c.1624), of White Bull House, St. Clement's, Cambridge, Cambs.
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Family and Education
Wallis, a man of obscure background, occupied his own residence in Cambridge by 1587.7 A merchant dealing in coal and rye, it is possible that he was also a chandler, as he was lampooned as such in Club Law, an anonymous play performed at Clare College around the turn of the century.8 Described by the vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, John Jegon, as a ‘turbulent and fractious townsman’, Wallis’ two terms of mayoralty in the late 1590s were a time of bitter disputes between town and gown.9 In 1596 Wallis refused to take the mayoral oath because it contained a clause requiring the university’s privileges to be conserved, despite being ordered to do so by Cambridge’s recorder, lord keeper Egerton (Sir Thomas Egerton I†), and the University’s chancellor, Lord Burghley (Sir William Cecil†).10 The following year, upon his re-election as mayor, Wallis took the oath in an ‘irreverent manner’ and slandered Burghley, who informed Jegon that he meant ‘to seek mine own remedy against him’.11 In 1598 Jegon complained bitterly after Wallis and John Yaxley* succeeded in obtaining a new commission of the peace which excluded the majority of University officials. As a result the commission was replaced with another from which both Wallis and Yaxley were removed.12 Wallis remained unrepentant, however, and in 1599 was summoned before the Privy Council to answer allegations that he and the town clerk, Henry Slegge, had forcibly prevented University officials from entering a property to ascertain whether it was a tippling house.13
Elected to his third Parliament as a Cambridge MP in 1604, Wallis’s first committee appointment was to consider a bill concerning the evasion of customs (15 Mar. 1606).14 In the third session he was named to consider four bills. These were to enable Richard Sackville to surrender the office of chief butler to the king (28 Mar. 1607); confirm Southampton’s charter (11 May); suppress the use of logwood in the dyeing industry (15 May); and ensure the better execution of sewer commissions (12 June).15 Wallis spoke forcibly against a bill to facilitate fen drainage at its second reading on 27 Apr., when he and Sir John Peyton, knight of the shire for Cambridgeshire, presented various petitions against the measure. On 9 May he again opposed the bill and informed the House that its proponents had threatened to complain to the king that he was hindering the project.16 This opposition was evidently successful, as the bill never re-emerged from committee.17 On 26 Mar. 1610 Wallis opposed a further fen drainage bill, but was not named to the committee, probably because he spoke against the ‘body of the bill’, and thus, according to parliamentary custom, was ineligible.18 Of the two committees to which he was appointed in the fourth session, one concerned the double payment of debts (20 Feb. 1610) and the other the perennial dispute between Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth over fishing rights (13 March).19 Due to lack of records, Wallis’s part in the fifth session, which met in the autumn of 1610, is unknown. Wallis received the normal parliamentary wage paid by Cambridge of 4s. per diem, but he evidently had some difficulty in recovering what he was owed and it was not until 1615 that he received a final payment of £19, settling his wages and other expenditure for the Parliament.20
Despite his service in Parliament, Wallis was censured by the corporation in September 1611 for making unjust verbal attacks on the outgoing mayor, Thomas French.21 This seems to have presaged Wallis’ estrangement from Cambridge, for although he was again appointed an auditor in 1614 he was no longer active on the corporation. In the following year he was removed from the aldermanic bench due to non-residence and taken off the commissions of peace and gaol delivery.22 Nothing further is known about his life, although the Cambridge historian, John Bowtell, says he died in about 1624.23 No will, inquisition or letters of administration have been found.
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Chris Kyle
- 1. Downing Coll. Camb. Lib., Bowtell ms 11, Metcalfe’s Thesaurus, f. 77.
- 2. J.M. Gray, Biog. Notes on Mayors of Camb. 31.
- 3. Downing Coll. Camb. Lib., Liber Rationalis, 1590-1610, ff. 113v, 225v, 244, 247, 269; Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm. Shelf C.7, f. 43.
- 4. C231/1, f. 53; C181/1, f. 39v; 181/2, f. 147v.
- 5. C181/1, f. 25v; 181/2, f. 207.
- 6. SP14/31/1.
- 7. Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm. Shelf D (A), ff. 79v-80v.
- 8. C.H. Cooper, Annals of Camb. ii. 595-6; G.C.M. Smith, Club Law, xliii; T. Fuller, Hist. Univ. Camb. ed. J. Nichols, p. 218.
- 9. CUL, Mm.1.35, pp. 345-53; Univ. Archives, Misc. Collection 7, p. 136.
- 10. Smith, xviii-xix.
- 11. CUL, Mm.1.35, pp. 355-61; Cooper, ii. 582.
- 12. CUL, Mm.1.35, pp. 386-8; Univ. Archives, Misc. Collection 7, p. 154; CSP Dom. 1601-3, p. 68.
- 13. CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 374.
- 14. CJ, i. 285a.
- 15. Ibid. 356a, 372a, 374a, 382a.
- 16. Ibid. 364a, 1035b, 1043a; H.C. Darby, Draining of the Fens, 32-5.
- 17. Darby, 35.
- 18. CJ, i. 414b.
- 19. Ibid. 379b, 410a.
- 20. Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm. Shelf C.7, f. 65v.
- 21. Ibid. Box II/9, ff. 36v-7.
- 22. Cambs. RO, Mun. Rm. Shelf C.7, f. 63v.
- 23. Gray, 31.