David Colyear

David Colyear (First Earl of Portmore)
Birth and death
1656 - 1730
Related place
Charlotte Powell and Joanna Tapp

Life in Elmbridge

Colyear's connection to Elmbridge came with his second marriage, to Catherine Sedley. Catherine was a former mistress of James II and the King had settled her in a property in Weybridge to avoid scandal at court. Catherine, in turn, gave the property to Colyear on their marriage in 1696. At this time it was called Dorchester House. However, when Colyear was created Lord Portmore in 1699, the house became known as Portmore House (Lansdell, 3). Colyear was later raised to earl of Portmore in 1703.

The Portmore estate lay in the area now bounded by Church Street, High Street, Thames Street and the River Wey. Apparently a rather unimpressive property under previous owners, Colyear greatly improved the place, adding a tower and decorative turrets.

Although Colyear's affairs often took him abroad, it was to Weybridge that he returned when he came back to England. He took an active part in community life, sitting on the Vestry Council that administered parish affairs (Lansdell, 4). He also invested £3,000 in shares in the Wey Navigation (Wey River website).

Catherine and David Colyear had two sons: David Colyear, Viscount Mislington and Charles Colyear, 2nd Earl of Portmore.

Colyear died in Weybridge on 2nd January 1730 and was buried in the family vault he had commissioned on 13th January. The Portmore vault can still be seen in St James' Churchyard in Weybridge.

Life beyond Elmbridge

David Colyear was the eldest son of Sir Alexander Colyear, a baronet, and his wife Jean. Sir Alexander was apparently of Scottish extraction, a descendant of the Robertson family, although he took the name Colyear and made his home in the Low Countries (ODNB, 2004).

In 1674 David Colyear joined the army of William of Orange. He rose up the ranks of both army and nobility, inheriting his father's baronetcy in 1680 and accompanying William to England during the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688 as Lieutenant Colonel. Along the way he married Arnolda de Beyer and lost the sight of one eye during a duel with Sir Peter Fraser (ONDB, 2004). For his role in several Irish campaigns and afterwards in Flanders, Colyear was created a Peer of Scotland on 1st June 1699 and given the title of Lord Portmore and Blackness.

In 1702 Colyear was promoted to the rank of Major General and played a role in the attack on Vigo Bay (in Northern Portugal) during the War of the Spanish Succession. Colyear continued to be involved in affairs in this part of the world, and in 1713 he was appointed governor of Gibraltar - a position he held until 1720. In 1727 he assumed command when Gibraltar was besieged by the Spaniards.

Colyear's character and qualities were summed up by chronicler John Macky: 'He is one of the best footsoldiers in the world, is very brave and able, has a great deal of wit; very much a man of honour and nice in that way, yet he married the Countess of Dorchester and had by her a good estate; pretty well shaped; dresses clean; hath but one eye' (Memoirs, 1733).


  • Evelyn, J., The Diary of John Evelyn, Volume 3
  • Henderson, T. F., 'Colyear, David, first earl of Portmore (bap. 1657, d. 1730)', rev. J. Spain, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • Lansdell, A. (ed.), The Portmore Story: Four Generations of Colourful Eighteenth Century Aristocrats, (Elmbridge Borough Council, 1975)
  • Macky, J., Memoirs of the Secret Services of John Macky during the reigns of King William II, Queen Anne and King George I, (1733).
  • Manning, O., and W. Bray, The History and Antiquities of Surrey vol.ii (1814).
  • Wedlake, E. et al., A topographical History of Surrey, (London, 1850).
  • weyriver.co.uk/theriver/people_3_names.htm
  • www.queensroyalsurreys.org.uk/colonels/012.html
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