ASHE, William (1647-1713), of the Inner Temple and Heytesbury, Wilts.
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Family and Education
b. 17 Nov. 1647, 1st surv. s. of Edward Ashe, Draper, of Fenchurch Street, London, being 1st s. by 2nd w. Elizabeth; bro. of Edward Ashe. educ. I. Temple, entered 1652; St. Edmund Hall, Oxf. matric. 11 Nov. 1664, aged 17. m. (1) lic. 27 June 1670, Anne, da. of Alexander Popham of Littlecote, Wilts., 4s. (2 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) Mary, da. of John Rivett, Skinner, of London, wid. of Sir Henry Appleton, 4th Bt., of South Benfleet, Essex, s.p. suc. fa. 1656.1
Commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1673-80, Kent 1677-80, Kent and Wilts. 1689-90, recusants, Wilts. 1675, j.p. 689-d., dep. lt. by 1701-?d.
Capt. of ft. regt. of Mq. of Worcester (Henry Somerset) 1673-4.
Ashe’s father, a brother of John Ashe, Sir Joseph Ashe and Samuel Ashe, bought the manor of Heytesbury in 1640, just in time to sit in the Long Parliament, though over £3,000 of the purchase money was still outstanding 16 years later. An Independent in religion, it was nevertheless only after some hesitation that he sat in the Rump. Ashe was returned for the family borough just under age when living in chambers at the Inner Temple, and held the seat in ten successive Parliaments. An inactive Member, he was appointed to 15 committees in the Cavalier Parliament, and acted as teller in three divisions. The first was on 27 Mar. 1673 for the rebuilding of a City church. A more important division was on appropriating the customs for the use of the navy on 11 Nov. 1675, and four days later he was appointed to the committee for the liberty of the subject. He was marked ‘thrice worthy’ by Shaftesbury in 1677, and in the same year acted as teller with William Sacheverell in the division on the Bewdley election. On 21 Nov. 1678, Ashe was involved in a scuffle in the House with Jonathan Trelawny I, who accused him of ‘tolerating presbytery’. Ashe replied, ‘I am no more a Presbyterian than you are a Papist’, whereupon Trelawny ‘upbraided him of coming from a rebellious family’, and they soon passed from words to blows. It was clear that Trelawny was the aggressor in both respects, and Ashe received only the mildest of reprimands for striking back, to which he replied: ‘I acknowledge that I have committed a great fault, but there was a great provocation to it’.2
Ashe was again marked ‘worthy’ in 1679. Either he or his brother was appointed to the committees to search for precedents for punishing false electoral returns and to secure the better attendance of Members. A member of the Green Ribbon Club, he voted for exclusion. He may have served on the committee appointed to inquire into the conditions and circumstances of Popish priests in prison on 8 Jan. 1681, but he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament. He remained a Whig, and was visited in 1683 by Henry Cornish when he was trying to buy an interest at Hindon. In James II’s Parliament, Ashe may have served on the committees for the clandestine marriages bill and the general naturalization of Huguenot refugees. He was listed among the Opposition, but in 1688 the King’s electoral agents believed that both he and his brother would be ‘moderate’ over the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. His compliance may have been due to embarrassed circumstances, for at the general election of 1689 he was described as ‘the greatest enemy to kingly government that can be’, a description which he repudiated. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was named to 15 committees, including those to consider the petition of Edmund Prideaux, the abolition of the hearth-tax, and the complaints against the East India Company. Although he had brought Sacheverell in for his borough in this Parliament, he did not support the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations. He remained a court Whig, rising to the dignity of county Member in the last Parliament of William III. He died on 22 Oct. 1713 and was buried at Heytesbury. His descendants continued to represent the borough until they became extinct in the male line in 1750.3