Obituary of John Rolle


Woolmer's Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, Saturday, April 9, 1842

      It is our melancholy duty to announce the death of this beloved and venerable Peer.
      Some weeks since his Lordship took to his chamber, and gradually sank until Sunday last the 3rd inst., when at half-past eleven, A.M., he breathed his last, apparently without any pain. The melancholy event took place at his Lordship's seat, Bicton Park, in the county.
      The Right Hon. John Lord Rolle, who was on the 20th June, 1796, created a Peer by the style of Baron Rolle, of Stevenstone, the County of Devon, was born on the 16th Oct., 1751, and was consequently in the 91st year of his age. His Lordship was Colonel of the South Devon Regiment of Militia, and of the Royal First Devon and North Devon Regiments of Yeomanry Cavalry, in which corps he always took great interest, and the the support of which he contributed most liberally. He was also Recorder of Torrington.
      The family of the late Peer is one of considerable antiquity in this county and in Dorsetshire. Lord Rolle's family was of Dorsetshire extraction, but subsequently removed into Devon, where it has continued planted to the present day. His first Devonshire ancestor was George Rolle, Esq., a merchant of great opulence and repute in the City of London, about the middle of the sixteenth century, and became an extensive purchased of abbey lands at the time of the Reformation. One of the notable of his ancestors, was Henry, Sergeant-at Law, and member of the three first Parliaments of Charles I. He subsequently became Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, and grew so much in the confidence of Cromwell, as to be one of his State-Councillors.[1] His descendant, Sir John Rolle, on the other hand, attached himself to the Court of Charles II., was made a Knight of the Bath at that Monarch's coronation, and died at an advanced age, one of the wealthiest Commoners in England.
      George Rolle, Esq., of Stevenstone, Devon, had six sons and five daughters, John the eldest died in 1579; George was the second son Christopher died without issue; Henry was ancestor of that branch which possessed the barony of Clinton and Saye, now enjoyed by the family of Trefusis, by a daughter of Samuel Rolle, Esq.; Robert was the fifth son, whose daughter married Hugh Boscawen, Esq.; an ancestor of the present Earl of Falmouth; Maurice the youngest son had no issue; George, the second son, left issue, Andrew, whose son John was a Knight of the Bath, and died in 1706, leaving issue four sons and two daughters; John the eldest died in 1689 having married Christian Bruce, daughter of Robert Earl of Aylesbury, by which lady he had one daughter and three sons; Robert, the eldest, died without issue in 1726; John , the second son, who sat in Parliament, and was offered an Earldom by Queen Ann's Ministry, died in 1730, having married Isabella, daughter of Sir William Walter, Bart., leaving issue four sons and three daughters. Henry, the eldest, also M.P. for his paternal county, was created by George II. Baron Rolle, of Stevenstone, in 1748, but died without issue in 1750, when the title became extinct; John, the second son, took the name of Walter; William, third son, died without issue; Dennis fourth son, died on July 25, 1797, leaving issue the late Baron and two daughters, the present Misses Rolle, of Hudscot, in this county.
      The late Lord Rolle sat in Parliament at an early age, and soon after he had been called to the bar; we find him the year 1783 as member for Devonshire strenuously opposing Mr. Fox's India Bill.—In the year 1785, on the occasion of the Westminster scrutiny, he characterised the conduct of the Whigs as derogatory to the dignity of the House, and unconstitutional in its tendency; on the question of the Regency, Mr. Rolle acted with Mr. Pitt, and on the trial of Lord Melville, upon articles of impeachment, he supported the claims of that Nobleman to an acquittal by his Peers. Down to the very close of his life he was an ardent and unflinching supporter of those Conservative principles which for so many years as Member for Devonshire he advocated in the House of Commons. Of late years he was not a frequent speaker; but no Peer was more uniform in his attendance, more Constitutional in his principles, or more consistent in his votes. He was an uncompromising opponent of political change, and was ever distinguished by devoted attachment to the established institutions of the country. On every occasion whey they required his advocacy, his influence, his pecuniary aid, or even his personal exertions, this excellent Nobleman was found devoting them all to the interest of the public; while in private life—in the relations of Landlord, Neighbour, and Friend—his character was in every respect worthy of and consistent with the honours he had earned as a patriot and philanthropist in his public career.
      The late Peer did honour to his princely wealth. He always employed and treated it as a means of conferring benefit on his fellow creatures, and as a gift confided to his just and conscientious stewardship. He was a munificent donor to many public institutions of usefulness; and to the charities of Devonshire, as well as many other public charitable institutions, and to the poor he was ever a most liberal benefactor. They will indeed feel their loss, for his Lordship's liberal and considerate bounties were invariably bestowed with Christian munificence.
      Lord Rolle married on the 22nd July, 1778, Judith Maria, only daughter and heiress of Henry Walrond, Esq., of Bovey House, Devon, who died on the 1st Oct., 1820. On the 24th Sept., 1922, his Lordship married the present Lady Rolle, who was the Hon. Louisa Trefusis, youngest daughter of Robert George William 15th Baron Clinton, and sister of the present Lord Clinton. He has not left issue by either marriage, and the title therefore becomes extinct.
      His Lordship was distinguished by a high tone of religious feeling. He was an ardent supporter of the Church, and a faithful member of her Holy Communion, and he was exemplary in the performance of religious duties, and in attendance on the services of the Church.
      His Lordship contributed largely to the building and enlargement of several Churches, and we may instance in our county as a modern example, the beautiful Church of Exmouth, which stands a fitting monument to his christian piety and well-applied munificence. His Lordship's sentiments of philanthropy have thus been made applicable to the benefit of his fellow-creatures, not only in this world, but beyond the grave; to their spiritual as well as their temporal interests; and in passing from earthly splendour, in exhanging his earthly coronet for one of immortality, we must feel assured that he has gone to the possession of the treasures he has laid up in eternity.
      The bell of the Cathedral was tolled on Monday; at Great Torrington and neighbouring Parishes mournful peals were rung on the same day; and a gloom has been thrown around thousands by his decease.
      We hear that the funeral of this justly beloved and venerable Peer will take place on Tuesday, and that it is intended to be private.
      Bicton, his Lordship's favourite seat, and where he was accustomed to spend great part of his time, was vested in his family by gift of Henry the First. The first holder of it was surnamed Janitor, or door-keeper, from the peculiar nature of the office, and the tenure in which it was held, consisting of the keeping the prison for the county—a service which, to the present day, is still performed by the possessors of the manor. From the Janitors, it descended to Sir Thomas Dennis, who was knighted in Holland by the Earl of Leicester in 1586, and who daughter conveyed it by marriage to Sir Harry Rolle, of Stevenstone, ancestor to the late owner. The mansion is a spacious building, standing in a pleasant park, plentifully stocked with beach and oak trees, and abounding in deer. Bicton church, which is within a bowshot of it, is encircles in a beautiful screen of woods: it contains a very chaste elegiac inscription on its walls, written by the famous Dr. Fuller, to one of his Lordship's ancestors. Stevenstone, in the same county, not far from Torrington, also belonged to his Lordship's family.

[1] This is incorrect. Henry Rolle (1588-1656) was a descendant of George Rolle's fourth son, Henry Rolle. Lord Rolle was a descendant of George Rolle's second son, George Rolle.