Sir Bourchier Wrey, 6th Baronet

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Sir Bourchier Wrey, 6th Baronet (c. 1715 – 1784), depicted on a ship at sea serving from a punch bowl, the rim of which is inscribed from Horace, IV Odes, xii, closing line: Dulce est Desipere in Loco ("It is sweet at fitting time to act foolishly"). 1744 portrait by George Knapton (1698–1778) for the Society of Dilettanti.
Arms of Wrey of Trebeigh, Cornwall and Tawstock, Devon: Sable, a fesse between three pole-axes argent helved gules[1]

Sir Bourchier Wrey, 6th Baronet (ca. 1715 – 13 April 1784) of Tawstock, Devon, was Member of Parliament for Barnstaple, Devon, in 1747–1754.[2] The manor of Tawstock, about two miles south of Barnstaple, had been since the time of Henry de Tracy (died 1274) the residence of the feudal barons of Barnstaple,[3] ancestors of the Wrey family.


He was the eldest son and heir of Sir Bourchier Wrey, 5th Baronet (c. 1683 – 1726), lord of the manor of Tawstock, a Jacobite sympathiser, by his wife (who had married him as her second husband) and first cousin Diana Rolle (born 1683), a daughter of John Rolle (died 1689), eldest son and heir of Sir John Rolle (1626–1706) of Stevenstone, near Great Torrington, Devon, Sheriff of Devon in 1682[4] and one of the largest landowners in Devon.


He was educated at Winchester College and New College, Oxford and succeeded his father as 6th baronet on 12 November 1726.

He made his Grand Tour in 1737-40 during which he visited Paris, Geneva, Rome, Florence and Milan. While living in Rome, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu recorded him as having slept with his landlady, with the encouragement of his landlord. In 1742 he was elected to the Society of Dilettanti, a group of gentlemen who wanted to maintain an interest in the antiquarian and artistic pursuits which they had enjoyed abroad. George Knapton (1698–1778), the official portraitist of the society, painted his portrait in 1744, in which he is depicted on board a ship holding a punch bowl inscribed with a line from Horace's Odes: "dulce est desipere in loco" (it is sweet on occasion to play the fool).

He was elected Member of Parliament for Barnstaple in 1748 and supported the Whigs. In this seat he replaced his first cousin Henry Rolle, 1st Baron Rolle (1708–1750) who had been elevated to the House of Lords in 1748.[5] In 1752 he went to Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck as a delegate for the 'Society for Carrying on the Herring Fishery'. He rebuilt the pier at Ilfracombe, of which manor he was lord, and established better arrangements for English fishermen in Bremen, Hamburg, Lübeck and Copenhagen.

Marriages and children[edit]

Wrey married twice. His first marriage was in 1749 to Mary Edwards (died 1751), daughter of John Edwards of Highgate. She died in 1751 without issue and was the subject of a long Latin epitaph in The Gentleman's Magazine of that year. Secondly in 1755 he married Ellen Thresher (1733–1813),[6] daughter and co-heiress of John Thresher of Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. She died at her house in The Circus, Bath, Somerset, on 3 December 1813.

By Ellen he had two sons and four daughters.[7] His eldest son and heir was Sir Bourchier Wrey, 7th Baronet (1757–1826). The second son was Rev. Bourchier William Wrey (1761–1839), Rector of Tawstock 1801-1839, who re-built as his residence Corffe House within the parish,[8] and in 1789 married Sophia Bethell, daughter of George Bethell. His mural monument survives in Tawstock Church.[9] The four daughters were Ellen, Dyonisia, Florentina Wrey, who married Richard Godolphin Long and Anna Maria.

1784 monument to Sir Bourchier Wrey, 6th Baronet (c. 1715 – 1784), south transept, Tawstock Church. Viewed from south-east

Death and monument[edit]

Sir Bourchier Wrey died on 13 April 1784 and was interred in Tawstock church where his monument survives. He was succeeded by his eldest son Sir Bourchier Wrey, 7th Baronet (1757–1826).

A monument to Sir Bourchier Wrey, described by Pevsner as "stately", exists in the south transept of Tawstock Church, being a plain free-standing urn on a big square pedestal, railed off by iron railings.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Debrett's Peerage, 1968, p.877, Wrey Baronets
  2. ^ Matthews
  3. ^ Pole, Sir William (died 1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.17
  4. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895 , p.656, pedigree of Rolle
  5. ^ Matthews, Shirley, biography of Wrey, Sir Bourchier, 6th Bt. (?1715-84), of Tawstock, published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
  6. ^ Dates per monument in Tawstock Church
  7. ^ Per monument in Tawstock Church
  8. ^ Lysons, Magna Britannia, 1822
  9. ^
  10. ^ Pevsner, Nikolaus & Cherry, Bridget, The Buildings of England: Devon, London, 2004, p.790


Further reading[edit]

  • The case of Sir Bouchier Wrey Baronet, an infant, by John Burrington Esq ; his guardian ; and of Charles Allanson Esq ; John Evans and Hugh Evans gentlemen: lately referred to the Committee of Privileges and elections of the Honourable House of Commons (1698)
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Henry Rolle
Thomas Benson
Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
With: Thomas Benson
Succeeded by
John Harris
George Amyand
Baronetage of England
Preceded by
Bourchier Wrey
(of Trebitch)
Succeeded by
Bourchier Wrey