CULLIFORD, Robert (1617-98), of Encombe, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



16 May 1661

Family and Education

b. 22 Feb. 1617, o. (posth.) s. of Robert Culliford of Encombe by Margaret, da. of Robert Hyde of West Hatch, Wilts. m. (1) 14 May 1638, Elizabeth, da. of Sir Edward Lawrence of Creech Grange, Steeple, Dorset, 6s. (1 d.v.p) 5da.; (2) bef. 10 Oct. 1676, Jane, da. and h. of John Williams of Tyneham, Dorset, wid. of Sir Robert Lawrence of Creech Grange, s.p. suc. fa. at birth.1

Offices Held

J.p. Dorset July 1660-June 1688, Nov. 1688-d., Poole 1665; commr. for assessment, Dorset Aug. 1660-3, 1666-80, 1689-90; dep. lt. I. of Purbeck 1661-?76; freeman, Lyme Regis 1662; commr. for corporations, Dorset 1662-3, recusants 1675.2


Culliford was the sixth of his name to own Encombe, a depopulated tithing in the Isle of Purbeck. The estate was valued at £400 p.a. by the sequestrators during the Civil War, but the farmstock was worth £800. His grandmother, who was still enjoying her jointure in 1643, contributed £100 to Parliament; but his step-father, Thomas Veale, became a royalist colonel and Culliford probably shared his sympathies. His activity, however, was directed solely at the preservation of his property, particularly his cattle, and in this cause he assisted the royalist capture of Wareham in 1644 and raised a force of 250 men from his neighbours in 1646 to blockade the Cavalier garrison of Corfe Castle. This service exempted him from compounding for his delinquency and from the decimation tax in 1656. But his real sentiments are clear from his eager acceptance of a post at the exiled Court ‘as attendant to the young gallant there’ for one of his sons.3

Culliford was returned for Wareham at the general election of 1660, though his candidature must have been dubious under the Long Parliament ordinance against Cavaliers. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he made no recorded speeches, but was named to 16 committees, of which the most important were for the navigation bill and the bills to settle ministers in their livings and to reduce interest to 6 per cent. He also helped to consider bills for compensation to two great Dorset landowners, the Marquess of Winchester and the Earl of Bristol. He was given leave on 30 Aug., and there is no evidence that he returned to Westminster for the second session.

Although Culliford could add to his personal popularity in the neighbourhood his kinship through his mother’s family with Lord Chancellor Clarendon, a connexion that was not forgotten in the next generation, he was involved in a double return at the general election of 1661 with his brother-in-law Robert Lawrence, who had at one time commanded the royalist garrison of Corfe Castle. There may have been a personal flavour about the contest, for he was later to marry Lawrence’s widow. Although the House seated him on the merits of the return as early as 16 May, and their decision was confirmed on the merits of the election on 15 June, he had been granted leave on the previous day, and was not appointed to his first committee in the Cavalier Parliament till 26 Nov. Thereafter he was moderately active, with 185 committees. In the adjourned first session these included those for the bills to prevent customs frauds, to restrain exports of leather and rawhide, and to regulate abuses in the packing and weighing of butter, and for the additional corporations bill. In March 1663 he was among those ordered to consider a petition from the loyal and indigent officers, and bills were referred to him to prevent the growth of Popery and to cancel several judgments and securities obtained by practice against his colleague George Pitt, whose grandfather had been one of his guardians. Later in the session he was one of the Members called on to devise remedies for meetings of sectaries and to inspect the Corporations Act. Legislation with which he was concerned included the staple bill, and the bills to regulate the sale of offices and titles and to prevent butchers from selling live fat cattle. He was an active and successful recruiting officer for the navy during the second Dutch war, and attended the Oxford session, in which he was appointed to the committee for the five mile bill.4

Culliford’s activity naturally diminished after his kinsman’s fall, though with five sons to place in the customs service his loyalty to the Government of the day was not easily undermined. He was named to the committees to consider an additional bill against Irish cattle and to inquire into customs fees, and his name appears on both lists of the court party in 1669-71 as one of the Members to be engaged by Clarendon’s son-in-law, the Duke of York. Nevertheless he was appointed to the committee that produced the test bill in 1673. In the following year he was named to the inquiry into the state of Ireland, and he was also among those entrusted with the bill to reform the pressing of seamen. His name was included in the working lists among those Members to be influenced by Edward Seymour through his son, presumably William Culliford. But the position of his name on Wiseman’s list suggests that he was in opposition under Danby, and Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’ in 1677, when he was appointed to the committee on the bill for the recall of British subjects from the French service. His chief interests seem to have been ecclesiastical legislation and local estate bills, and his last committee was on a bill to enable the executors of (Sir) Ralph Bankes to sell land for payment of debts (4 Mar. 1678). Nevertheless he was in London in September, when his wife sent him an account of the rumoured French landing in Purbeck that had greatly increased the Popish Plot hysteria.5

It It is unlikely that Culliford stood again. His answers to the questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws were negative, and he was removed from the commission of the peace. But during the Revolution he saved his Roman Catholic neighbours at Lulworth Castle from a threatening mob: ‘God has been pleased to raise up a friend of almost an enemy’, was how one of them described the incident. He was buried at Corfe Castle on 10 Feb. 1698. His son William sat for Corfe from 1690 to 1699.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Wards 5/11/1946; Hutchins, Dorset, i. 516; Add. 29976, f. 5; PCC 67 Lort.
  • 2. Hutchins, i. 22; Lyme Regis mss B6/11, f. 24.
  • 3. Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 986; Add. 8845, pp. 11, 12; SP23/152/665-9; C. H. Mayo, Dorset Standing Committee, 16; CSP Dom. 1645-7, p. 348; 1656-7, p. 151; Bodl. Rawl. A41, f. 210.
  • 4. CJ, viii. 251, 271; Ellis Corresp. i. 227; Shaftesbury (Wimborne St. Giles) mss, Culliford to Ashley, 10 Apr. 1665.
  • 5. Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 524, 726; ii. 244; vi. 711; vii. 1324; x. 945; Add. 28053, f. 126.
  • 6. Dorset RO, D10/C3/1, Joseph Tomes to Clara Weld, 25 Dec. 1688; Soc. of Genealogists, Corfe Castle par. reg.