WALLER, Robert (d. 1698), of York

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



1690 - 1695

Family and Education

s. of Thomas Waller of Middlethorpe, Yorks. by his w. Susannah.  m. Jane, at least 1s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Freeman, York 1652, chamberlain 1662, sheriff 1674–5, alderman 1681–Aug. 1685, Nov. 1688–d., ld. mayor 1683–4, Nov. 1688–9, coroner ?–d.2

Keeper of the King’s manor in York 1690–d.3


Waller’s grandfather Lancelot was a citizen of York, and his father later purchased the manor of Middlethorpe, just outside the city. A wealthy attorney, Waller was prominent in the Whig faction in the corporation of York during and after the Exclusion crisis and was described by Sir John Reresby† in 1682 as ‘very spiteful and open’. According to Reresby he had been responsible for setting up in a church in York a ‘memorial’ bearing an inscription ‘against the papists’. During the Rye House Plot Reresby made a point of searching his house for arms, though without success. Lord mayor in 1684, when the corporation was forced to surrender its charter by the threat of further legal action, Waller was renominated as an alderman in the new charter of February 1685. Then in the general election of that year he was one of five Whig aldermen, led by Edward Thompson*, who sought a reconciliation with their former opponents by supporting Reresby’s candidature for the city. Afterwards, the two hotter Tories who had opposed Reresby presented the five as ‘disaffected’ to the government and in August 1685 they were purged from office. Because of his services in assisting the Earl of Danby (Sir Thomas Osborne†) to bring York over to the Prince of Orange in 1688, Waller received a grant of the office of keeper of the King’s manor house in York from the crown in 1689. Subsequently he took a 31-year lease of the whole site, formerly the abbey of St. Mary’s, and developed houses and various commercial premises there.4

Returned for York in the general election of 1690, Waller was evidently a candidate whom men of both parties could support, including the Osborne interest. Waller was classed by Danby, now Marquess of Carmarthen, as a Tory and on three other lists as an adherent of the Court, although this may indicate nothing more than a general attachment to Carmarthen. More confusingly, in April 1691, Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. It is impossible to disentangle his parliamentary activities completely from those of Edmund Waller*, although some attempt has been made according to his known interests. The 1691–2 session saw the beginning of a burst of legislative activity from ‘Mr Waller’ which was to last until the end of the Parliament, but significantly not beyond, when the York Member also ceased to sit. This suggests that Waller was more active on legislative committees than his Buckinghamshire colleague. As an alderman, he was probably the Member appointed on 31 Oct. to the committee drafting the bill for maintaining and securing the rights and privileges of corporations. His concern with measures to improve the working of the law suggests that he may well have been involved in the bills to prevent malicious informations in King’s bench; to prevent frauds by clandestine marriages; for the relief of creditors against fraudulent devises, and against escapes (a separate bill), all of which he helped to manage through the Commons.5

The 1692–3 session saw the bills to prevent malicious informations in the court of King’s bench and frauds by clandestine marriages revived, with Waller again to the fore in attempting to get them onto the statute book. Thus on 2 Jan. 1693 he successfully offered a rider at the third reading of the former bill to make it more acceptable to the Lords, stipulating that it should not ‘extend to informations exhibited by the attorney-general’. Likewise, he was probably involved in the bill for the better discovery of judgments in the Westminster courts. Constituency business loomed large in this session: on 1 Dec. he acted as a teller for the motion that the Gloucestershire petition against allowing the free export of wool be referred to the committee on a similar petition from the west of England clothiers. On 21 Dec. he presented a petition for York and Hull asking for legislative backing for the Hamburg Company’s charter (monopolizing woollen exports). At the report stage of the bill on 19 Jan. 1693 Waller made a further attempt on behalf of the Yorkshire woollen trade, offering a rider to save the Hamburg Company’s rights to export to the Elbe, Weiser and Eider rivers in Germany. On 5 Dec. 1692 he opposed a bill put forward by Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, to take away the custom within the province of York by which a woman ‘shall have her share of her husband’s personal estate, though he hath made a settlement on her before and even contrary to a man’s own will, yet she shall have her part’. Waller was certainly active in January 1693 in forwarding solicitations from York for a new borough charter, and in general maintained a regular correspondence with civic officials.6

Listed as a placeman in 1693, probably because of his office of keeper of the King’s manor in York, Waller was also classed as a Court supporter by Grascome. The grant of a leave of absence to Edmund Waller on 8 Jan. 1694 makes it even more than likely that the majority of references in the Journals to ‘Mr Waller’ are to the Member for York. Legal concerns again figured largely in his legislative activity: he was involved in the management of bills on the credit of merchant insurers; the ease of jurors; the encouragement of sheriffs; repeal of the capiatur fine; bail in King’s bench; and to prevent vexatious suits. Other drafting committees which can probably be attributed to him are those for encouraging the cloth trade; the registration of deeds; the repeal of the aulnage duty; against coin clippers; and the assize of bread. He may also have been involved in five estate bills, one of which concerned the estate of Letby in Yorkshire.

Despite this activity there is evidence that Waller’s political influence in York was waning, for he was defeated in a contest for the lord mayoralty in November 1694. This did not reduce his involvement at Westminster. Most of the drafting committees in this session may be attributed to Waller. They included measures to recover minors’ debts; regulating prisoners and prisons; vesting interest of judgments and other securities in assignees; dividing lands between joint heirs; continuing expiring laws; against highway robbery; and levying duties on paper. Of these measures, he only undertook the further management of the bill continuing expiring laws. In addition, he seems to have overseen several private bills, possibly as many as eight. His name appears on Henry Guy’s* list of ‘friends’, presumably in connexion with the parliamentary attacks on Guy.7

It was probably because of his defeat in the mayoral election in November 1694 that Waller did not stand for re-election to Parliament the following year. He died intestate on 2 June 1698. Administration of his goods was assigned first to his daughter Penelope, wife of Anthony Roberts, and then to Waller’s widow. His son Robert Waller died in 1711, leaving in his turn another son and heir of the same name.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / D. W. Hayton


  • 1. York City Archs. ‘Ms. Catalogue of Mayors and Bailiffs of York’ ed. Straife, f. 442.
  • 2. Ibid. f. 442; Surtees Soc. cii. 112, 126, 158; J. Torr, Antiq. York, 126–7, 129–31.
  • 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 712, 1532.
  • 4. Reresby Mems. 308, 342, 346, 389, 521, 569, 580; CSP Dom. July–Sept. 1683, p. 62; 1685, p. 19; 1689–90, p. 195; Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 711–12, 1416, 1502, 1532; Torr, 127–8; Drake, Eboracum, 176, 210, 599–601; VCH Yorks. City of York, 530–1.
  • 5. Egerton 3337, f. 182.
  • 6. Luttrell Diary, 293, 345, 476–7; York City Archs. B39, corp. house bk. 1688–1700, f. 59; E85, Andrew Perrot to Waller, 2 Dec. 1693.
  • 7. N. Yorks. RO, Worsley mss ZON13/1/115, Joel Savile to [Thomas Worsley I*], 12 Nov. 1694.
  • 8. Torr, 138; Borthwick Inst. York, probate reg. 1679–1705, f. 400v; 1688–1712 (Ainsty), f. 12v; 1706–17, f. 44v.