SHALLETT, Arthur (1650-1711), of Clapham, Surr.

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



Family and Education

bap. 3 May 1650, 6th but 4th surv. s. of Edmund Shallett of Exton, Hants by Frances, da. and h. of one Lomer of Exton.  m. lic. 9 June 1674, Sarah (d. 1720), da. of Joseph Bennett of St. Olave’s, Southwark, 4s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Commr. Greenwich Hosp. 1695.2

Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.3

Freeman, Woodmongers’ Co.; asst. London corp. for the poor 1698.4


A younger son of a minor Hampshire family, Shallett was already established as a City merchant by the time of his marriage, with a residence in Southwark and a wharf at Rotherhithe. He was a leading figure in the Newcastle coal trade, in which his connexions included Michael Mitford*, but his major field of operations was Spain, and in particular Barcelona, where for many years one of his sons was to serve as English consul. From at least 1685 onwards his principal partner in the Barcelona ‘factory’ and other associated ventures was Gilbert Heathcote*. Shallett himself described the flourishing state of his business in 1688: he

was possessed of a considerable estate, and yearly sold in this port of London fifty thousand chalder [chaldron] of coals . . . and traded much in exporting the manufactures and produce of this kingdom, together with great quantities of fish from the west of England and Newfoundland, to Spain, Portugal and other foreign dominions; and for return thereof did yearly import considerable quantities of wine, brandy, etc.

He was also a Dissenter, member of an Independent congregation and in due course treasurer and manager of the Common Fund, and manager of the Congregational Fund. This denominational allegiance may have been in some way at the root of a short-lived prosecution directed against him in 1686, and the following year he was one of three patrons of a Nonconformist charity school set up in Southwark in avowed opposition to a similar, Catholic enterprise. However, religious and political scruples did not interfere with business, and as late as November 1688 he was still engaged in delivering coal to the Sheerness garrison.5

After the Revolution Shallett, as a ‘great dealer in shipping’, became extensively involved in hiring out his vessels to the commissioners for transports and victualling. He was especially prominent in supplying ships for the Irish war of 1689–91, the 1693 campaign in Flanders, the evacuation of the army from the Continent after the peace in 1697 and the abortive expedition to Newfoundland in 1698. Presumably under Heathcote’s influence, he became a substantial stockholder in the New East India Company, being one of the merchants who petitioned the Commons for a charter and subscribing £2,000 to the 1698 loan. He kept to such Whiggish circles in his civic pursuits: brought into the governing body of St. Thomas’ Hospital in a Whig remodelling after the Revolution, he served as an assistant in the London corporation for the poor, likewise under the guiding hand of Sir Robert Clayton*. Furthermore, in common with other Dissenters he was attracted to the movement for the reformation of manners, and in 1693 joined a group of gentlemen pledged to promote the execution of the laws against profaneness and debauchery.6

Shallett’s return to Parliament may have been at the behest of the financial interests behind the New East India Company. Business difficulties could also have provided motives. The war had disrupted his trading lines: when his ships were not required for logistical purposes they were threatened, and sometimes taken or destroyed, by French privateers. Diversification into the Levant and the Caribbean markets was possibly a symptom of this commercial pressure. His domestic staple, the coal trade, suffered badly from losses at sea and from the new taxation introduced after the peace. Soon he was running up large debts for customs and excise. At the same time he was either not being paid at all for the hire of his vessels or was having to accept discounted tallies. He may thus have seen membership of the House as a reinforcement of his standing in negotiations with the Treasury, or in the last resort as affording him privilege against likely legal process. There had already been hints that desperation was pushing him towards methods of doubtful legality. He had, for example, been involved on the margins of the Exchequer bill scandal of 1697, when it was revealed that he had supplied John Knight I* with a parcel of bills signed by him but endorsed with neither date nor place. Shallett’s explanation, that this had been due simply to innocent neglect on his part, was accepted both by the Treasury and the Commons in a subsequent inquiry, but it is interesting that his election at Weymouth, probably on the government interest, was to the very seat that Knight had vacated. He was classified as a supporter of the Court party in a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments compiled after the general election, and voted against the disbanding bill on 18 Jan. 1699. A year later another list ascribed him to the following of Charles Montagu*. Aside from presenting a bill on 4 Mar. 1700 to explain the Acts relating to Thames watermen and wherrymen, he seems to have made little impact in the House.7

Defeat in the January 1701 election at Weymouth left Shallett exposed to the consequences of his indebtedness. He now owed some £26,000 for customs and excise, and in November 1700 had petitioned the Treasury to offset the money he was himself owed by the transport board against these liabilities. A further petition to the Treasury in June 1701 elicited a sympathetic response, but the customs commissioners were not disposed to leniency, and that very month an extent was taken out against him, ‘his body [was] carried to the Marshalsea prison, his goods sold by the sheriff of the county of Surrey and a full stop put to his affairs’. He was only released on the surety of ‘five credible merchants’. At this point he drafted and printed a petition to the Commons, in which, among other things, he claimed that he was still owed some £40,000 by the transports commissioners, and that he had paid at the custom house since about 1697 some £60,000 in duty. It does not appear that the petition was ever presented. Further approaches to the Treasury were partially successful. In March 1703 he was permitted to compound for half his customs debt of around £10,000, depositing debentures to cover the other half. The Treasury warrant noted that ‘he has lost £20,000 by losses in the war, and is reduced so low that he and his wife and children want bread’. Whether the excise debt, amounting to over £16,000, was ever paid is not known.8

Shallett died on 4 Feb. 1711, and was buried at Clapham. His will, drawn up in April 1710 when he admitted to being ‘infirm in body’, did not specify the extent of his surviving property, though the detailed bequests, to family and friends, amounted to no more than £50. An unusual feature was the prolixity of the preamble expressing his hope for salvation, even for ‘such unjust ones as I am’.9

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Ped. Reg. ii. 304–5; Mar. Lic. Fac. Off. (Harl. Soc. xxiv), 228; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 368.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 944–5.
  • 3. CJ, xii. 510.
  • 4. Macfarlane thesis, 370.
  • 5. Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxiv), 117; Ped. Reg. 306; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 572, 799, 918, 1000, 2122; ix. 575, 1611; x. 323, 940; CSP Dom. 1686–7, p. 131; 1687–9, p. 22; The Case of Arthur Shallett . . . [1701]; G. S. De Krey, Fractured Soc. 78; info. from Prof. G. S. De Krey; Manning and Bray, 591, 652.
  • 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 162, 518, 1029, 1657, 1678, 1810; x. 480, 596, 1122, 1213, 1405; xi. 97; xiii. 34; xiv. 91, 152, 179, 212; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 186, 364, 459; CSP Dom. 1693, p. 82; Case of Arthur Shallett . . .; D. W. Jones thesis, 441, 478; EHR, lxxi. 228, 237; info. from Dr C. Rose; Craig thesis, 69–70.
  • 7. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 1032, 1261; x. 480; xii. 298; xiii. 6–9, 140–1, 162; xvii. 501; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1557–1696, pp. 244, 453; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 322; Case of Arthur Shallett . . .; CJ, xii. 24, 35.
  • 8. Cal. Treas. Bks. xvi. 82, 160; xvii. 232; xviii. 210, 231; Case of Arthur Shallett . . .; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1702–7, pp. 19, 110; CJ, xv. 605.
  • 9. Manning and Bray, 368; PCC 37 Young.