Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Right of Election:

in the burgage-holders

Number of voters:

about 26


30 Mar. 1660THOMAS MOORE
4 Apr. 1661SIR JOSPEH ASHE, Bt.
  Double return. Election declared void, 17 May 1661
8 Oct. 1668WILLIAM ASHE vice Berkeley, deceased
22 Aug. 1679WILLIAM ASHE
22 Feb. 1681WILLIAM ASHE
31 Mar. 1685WILLIAM ASHE
14 Jan. 1689WILLIAM ASHE

Main Article

Thomas Moore had sold the manor of Heytesbury before the Civil War, but as late as 1656 the purchase price had not been paid in full, and he probably still enjoyed a proprietary interest in the borough in 1660. The other Member, John Jolliffe, stood on the interest of the purchasers, the Ashe family. This interest was challenged in 1661, when it was at its weakest; not only was the heir, William Ashe, a child, but the whole family, with two exceptions, was deeply compromised by the prominence of the elder branch during the Interregnum, even though John Ashe is said to have treated Royalists with moderation as chairman of the committee for compounding. Sir Joseph Ashe, however, had probably helped to supply the Court in exile, and with the neutralist Jolliffe stood on the family interest. On 12 Mar. the young heir’s mother wrote to the sheriff, Sir James Thynne, himself a former compounder:

The bearers of this being my very near relations ... I make it my humble request that you would please to assure those services you have formerly acknowledged to our relations as to gratify them with the precept for the election at my son’s manor of Heytesbury.

The other candidates were strong Royalists: Sir Charles Berkeley, who had sat for the borough in the early Parliaments of Charles I, had been appointed comptroller of the Household at the Restoration and could not attend the election, but his running-mate, Henry Coker, a colonel in both civil wars, lived nearby, and, with Berkeley’s son, did his utmost to secure the precept:

At this instant Sir Maurice Berkeley is at my house and going to Heytesbury about speaking with the burgesses. We suppose that the knight Sir Joseph Ashe is with you at this moment; his visit we suppose is to entreat the writ.

Ashe had three days’ start, but it appears from Thynne’s note that Coker got the precept. The result was a double return, with eight signatures for Ashe and Jolliffe, and 18, including the bailiff, for Berkeley and Coker. Rather surprisingly the elections committee seems to have had no difficulty in recommending that the election be declared void, even though Berkeley had already taken part in the business of the House to the extent of proposing the Speaker. Probably the by-election was a compromise, with Berkeley and Jolliffe returned.1

William Ashe was only a few months under age when Berkeley died, and henceforward country candidates took both seats without opposition. He returned his brother Edward to the three Exclusion Parliaments and in 1685. In 1688 Lord Yarmouth (William Paston), the new joint lord lieutenant, reported that:

These two have the sole interest in the borough. I was informed by Mr Jeffreys of the Devizes, one of Dr Cox’s agents, and by another dissenter that they would be moderate men in this matter.

The royal electoral agents described Heytesbury as

a borough that chooses by prescription. The election is in a few. The town is under the power of Mr William Ashe, who is a right man, who with his brother Edward Ashe, that’s also right, will undoubtedly be chosen.

But when it became clear that William Sacheverell would be rejected by the Derbyshire electors because of his ambiguous attitude to the Revolution, Edward Ashe stood down in his favour, much to the indignation of the local Tories, even though he had the support of Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne I). Their candidate was Dauntsey Brouncker, whose father had sat for Westbury in 1660. On 13 Jan. 1689 William Ashe wrote to Weymouth:

Yesterday Capt. [Henry] Bertie and some more gentlemen of the neighbourhood kept a great bustle most part of the night and did get the promise of a pretty many voices that in case my brother do not stand they would make choice of him, so that it will be impossible to bring in Sacheverell unless Dauntsey Brouncker can be made to desist. Our election is to-morrow and they have bespoken meat for forty men, and do say that my lord Abingdon will be here, so I must beg the favour of your lordship to be here to countenance me, for they report me to be the greatest enemy to kingly government that can be and a great deal of such stuff, which I hope your lordship’s presence will stop.

Presumably Weymouth’s authority was sufficient, for the bailiff returned William Ashe and Sacheverell, in a form of words surely devised by the latter, as elected by ‘the burgesses and inhabitants who have a right to vote according to the ancient custom and usage ... truly and uprightly without favour or affection to any person or indirect practice on proceeding’.2

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. PCC 381 Berkeley; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 10, ff. 73, 77, 88, Hawles to Thynne, 9 Mar. 1661, Elizabeth Ashe to Thynne, 12 Mar. 1661, Coker to Thynne, 15 Mar. 1661; CJ, viii. 253.
  • 2. HMC 13th Rep. VI