ASHE, Sir Joseph, 1st Bt. (1617-86), of Twickenham, Mdx.
Available from Boydell and Brewer
Family and Education
b. 16 Feb. 1617, 4th but 3rd surv. s. of James Ashe, clothier, of Westcombe, Batcombe, Som. by Grace, da. of Richard Pitt, merchant, of Weymouth, Dorset; bro. of Edward Ashe, John Ashe and Samuel Ashe. educ. Merchant Taylors’ 1627-32. m. by 1652, Mary, da. of Robert Wilson, Draper, of London, 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 7da. cr. Bt. 19 Sept. 1660.1
Member, Drapers’ Co. 1650; commr. for assessment, London and Mdx. 1657, Mdx. Aug. 1660-80, Wilts. 1673-80, Yorks. (E. Riding) 1679-80, militia, Mdx. and Wilts. Mar. 1660; committee, E.I. Co. 1661-2, 1682-d., gov. 1684-d.; j.p. Mdx. 1662-d., commr. for recusants 1675.2
Keeper of briefs, common pleas Nov. 1660-d., commr. for trade Nov. 1660-8.3
Ashe came from a leading family of west-country industrialists, who had been steadily rising in the world since the middle of the 16th century. His eldest brother was chairman of the committee for compounding, and a Cromwellian; but Ashe himself, a merchant, was probably abroad during the Civil War, and shortly after his return was arrested on a charge of corresponding with the enemy. Although he succeeded in covering his traces, he may have been associated with his niece’s husband, John Shaw, in transferring funds to Antwerp for the use of the exiled Court, in which case his baronetcy was well earned. He was called as a juryman for the regicide trials, but challenged by the defence. He first stood for Parliament unsuccessfully at Heytesbury in 1661 in partnership with John Jolliffe during the minority of his cousin William Ashe. Soon afterwards he leased the manor of Downton from the bishop of Winchester. Although an absentee landlord, he greatly improved the estate by the construction of water-meadows, to such good effect that its annual value rose from £600 to £841 in 20 years. He was elected for the borough at the first vacancy, though not without opposition from a henchman of Lord Ashley (Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper). He was not an active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, in which he was named to only 15 committees, including five concerned with the cloth trade, and made no speeches. In 1675 he was appointed to the committees on the bills for preventing illegal exactions (in which his common pleas office might be involved), and for excluding Papists from Parliament, and took part in considering a petition against the East India Company. He was noted by Danby as an official, and his name appears on the working lists as one of the Members to be influenced by the Speaker (Edward Seymour). But in 1675 he was marked ‘bad’ on the list of servants and officers, Ashley (now Lord Shaftesbury) listed him ‘worthy’ in 1677, and he remained in opposition for the rest of his parliamentary career, though he was never conspicuous. On 18 Dec. 1678 he acted as teller in favour of excusing Sir John Duncombe for his default in attendance.4
Ashe was re-elected to the three Exclusion Parliaments, though he would have stood down in favour of his Norfolk son-in-law, William Windham, if the borough had not proved adamant against electing strangers. Shaftesbury again marked him ‘worthy’, and he voted for the first exclusion bill. Otherwise he leaves no trace on the records in 1679 or 1680, and in 1681 reports probably emanating from Shaftesbury reached his constituents that he had ‘neglected the service of the House’. This he vehemently denied:
It’s very true this Parliament being very unanimous in opinions, there was the less cause to be constantly there, and ’tis as true in the last long Parliament there was as much cause to give due attendance, for you may remember one, two and three votes carried then the question, and I am sure I stuck to it close, oftentimes till 8 o’clock at night. Now I go to town Tuesdays and come home on Saturdays, unless by accident I have not been well, and I have been present when all our great businesses have been debated.
His activity in the Oxford Parliament was unquestionable, for he was appointed to the committees to examine the Journals about the impeachment of Danby and to prepare the third exclusion bill. Nevertheless he was allowed to serve as governor of the East India Company in 1684-5, perhaps through the mediation of (Sir) Josiah Child, to whom he bequeathed 20 guineas ‘for his kindness’. Ashe does not seem to have stood in 1685, and died ‘very rich’ on 15 Apr. 1686, aged 69. He must have been one of the largest investors in the East India Company, since at the Revolution his widow held £9,000 stock and another £1,000 remained in the hands of his trustees. ‘A great benefactor in this parish’, he was buried at Twickenham. His charitable bequests included £100 to the free grammar school which he had founded at Downton. Portions of £7,000 each were provided for his two unmarried daughters, and his sons-in-law, Windham and Lord Townshend (Sir Horatio Townshend), received £100 each for mourning. His ‘very feeble son’, the second baronet, sat for Downton from 1701 to 1705.5
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: John. P. Ferris
- 1. Merchant Taylors’ Sch. Reg. i. 120; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xvii), 355.
- 2. Soc. of Genealogists, Boyd’s London Units, 16285; information from H. Horwitz.
- 3. CSP Dom. 1660-1, p. 366; 1675-6 p. 559.
- 4. Som. Wills, iii. 45; Vis. London (Harl. Soc. xv), 27; Keeler, Long Parl. 90-91; Cal. Cl. SP, i. 429; iv. 303; CSP Dom. 1651, p. 524; State Trials, v. 1009; Hoare, Wilts. Downton, 18; Wilts. RO, Radnor mss 970, 1015.
- 5. Wilts. RO, Radnor mss, Ashe to John Snow, 5 Feb. 1681; Add. 22185, f. 14; R. S. Cobbett, Mems. of Twickenham, 84; R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 1, p. 528; PCC 39 Lloyd; Savile Corresp. (Cam. Soc. lxxi), 286.