Manuscripts and Special Collections

Biography of William Mellish (1708-1791)

William was born on 5 October 1708, the second son of Joseph Mellish of Blyth Hall. He was educated at Eton, and matriculated at Peterhouse College, Cambridge in 1726. He entered Lincoln's Inn in 1725 and the Inner Temple in 1734.

William's close connections with the Duke of Newcastle led to his being offered the sinecure of Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer in the Exchequer in 1733, a position he retained until 1754.

In 1741 he stood for parliament in East Retford, and was elected after bribing many constituents. He retained his seat unopposed in 1747 and sat until 1751, although his political career was undistinguished. He resigned his seat in favour of the salaried post of Commissioner of Excise, which he held from 1751 until 1760.

He was Receiver General of Customs from 1760 to 1763 and again from 1765 to 1786, and served as Joint Secretary to the Treasury in 1765. He was described by Lord Egmont in 1749-50 as one of 'the most obnoxious men of an inferior degree'.

William inherited the Blyth Hall estate on the death of his brother Edward in 1757. He undertook extensive work on the house at Blyth and the estates. In the 1760s he sold a number of small estates in Nottinghamshire to consolidate the family's holdings in North Nottinghamshire. Hodsock Priory and estate was purchased from the Clifton family in 1765.

William died on 17 December 1791 and was buried in Blyth church.


He married 1stly, in 1735, Catherine Rachel, 'Kitty', (1710-1747), daughter of Joseph da Costa, and widow of Joseph da Costa Villa Real of Blyth and Edwinstowe (d 1730), and had:

  • Joseph (died in infancy)
  • Charles (1737-1797)

Catherine already had two children from her first (Jewish) marriage:

  • Sarah da Costa Villa Real (1728-1792), baptised as Elizabeth in 1738. Married William Monckton (d 1772), later 2nd Viscount Galway in 1747
  • Abraham da Costa Villa Real (1729-1759), baptised as William in 1738, of Edwinstowe

He married 2ndly, in 1762, Ann (d 1794), daughter of John Gore of Bush Hill, Middlesex, and had:

  • John (1763-1798). Murdered by highwaymen. Married Charlotte Pinfold, 1795, and had:
    • Catherine Martha Mellish (b 1796)
  • William (1764-1838), of Bush Hill, Middlesex. M.P.
  • Joseph (1765-1787). Educated at Eton and entered Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1783. He was admitted to Lincoln's Inn in 1786.
  • Edward (1767-1830), rector of East Tuddenham, Norfolk, and Dean of Hereford. Educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge. Married in 1811 Elizabeth Jane Leigh, daughter of Rev. William Leigh of Rushall, Staffordshire, and had:
  • Ann. Married Theophilus Thornhagh Gurdon (1764-1849), of Letton, Norfolk, in 1796, and had:
    • Brampton Gurdon, M.P. (1797-1881)
    • John Gurdon Rebow (1799-1870), assumed surname Rebow in 1835 on marriage to Mary Martin Rebow of Wivenhoe Park, Essex (d 1842)
    • Rev. Philip Gurdon (1800-1874)
    • William Gurdon (1804-1884)
    • Rev. Edward Gurdon (d 1883)
    • Anne (d 1880), m. in 1825 Henry Wodehouse (1799-1834), son of the 2nd Baron Wodehouse
  • Thomas (d 1837)

Archive Collections

  • Papers relating to William Mellish are part of the Mellish Collection held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham
  • A copy of his will is part of the Portland (London) collection held in Manuscripts and Special Collections at the University of Nottingham (reference Pl E12/4/2/34)

Published Sources

  • M.J. Landa, 'Kitty Villareal, the da Costas and Samson Gideon', Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 13 (1932-1935), 271-291

Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

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