FORESTER, William (1655-1718), of Dothill Park, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. 10 Dec. 1655, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Francis Forester of Wellington by Lady Mary Newport, da. of Richard Newport†, 1st Baron Newport, of High Ercall, wid. of John Steventon of Dothill Park. educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1673. m. lic. 23 Apr. 1684, Lady Mary Cecil, da. of James Cecil, Visct. Cranborne, 2s. 3da. suc. fa. 1684; kntd. 20 Aug. 1689.1
Commr. for assessment, Salop 1677-80, 1689-90, Glos. 1690; j.p. Salop 1680-by 1683, ?1689-d., Westminster 1691-?d.; capt. of militia ft. Salop c.1680-2.2
Clerk of the green cloth 1689-1717.3
The Forester family were hereditary foresters of Wellington Hay and had resided in Wellington since at least the 13th century. They built the Old Hall on Watling Street in the 15th century and represented Wenlock in 1529 and 1554. The family’s long-lasting parliamentary interest in the borough, however, was not established until the early 17th century when Forester’s great-grandfather purchased the manor of Little Wenlock. The family appears to have avoided involvement in the Civil War, though his grandfather was appointed a commissioner of militia in 1648.4
Forester was returned to all the Exclusion Parliaments for Wenlock and to 11 of the next 12 Parliaments. Although he was considered ‘honest’ by Shaftesbury, he took part in the general boycott of the division on the exclusion bill by Shropshire Members and was added to the commission of the peace in February 1680. Nevertheless, he was becoming a staunch exclusionist, and on 26 June he joined with Shaftesbury and other members of his faction in presenting the Duke of York as a Papist to the Middlesex grand jury. His only committee in these Parliaments was to bring in a bill for the naturalization of all alien Protestants (31 Dec.). It was later alleged that Forester met other opposition Members in Coventry and then consulted Shaftesbury in Highgate on his way to the Oxford Parliament. By February 1682 he had lost his position in the Shropshire militia and was soon dropped from the commission of the peace. In September he accompanied the Duke of Monmouth on his northern tour. An informer later stated that he
was always very zealous for the Duke of Monmouth’s interest and the informant has often heard him argue for his title to the crown after the King’s death in relation to his legitimacy. He has heard Forester say that if the King should die he would take part with Monmouth against the Duke of York.
The following year Forester was implicated up to his neck in the Rye House Plot, and in July he was forced to give two sureties of £2,000 each to keep the peace. It was reported that
in Shropshire a gentleman of £2-3,000 per annum was discovered to have so muskets which he concealed and would not own, but by parcels, when he saw they were resolved to search and must find them. And they likewise found 700 weight of powder hid under ground; and when they were upon search one of the company put his stick into an oven and felt something which, upon stirring, jingled, which occasioned the emptying the oven of ashes, among which they found 50 pike heads. It seems Mr Forester, to conceal them, had sawed the pikes into small pieces and privately burnt them in the oven and forgot to take away the iron heads of them.5
Forester was not returned to James II’s Parliament, and in June 1685, in the wake of the Monmouth rebellion, he was sent to the Tower ‘suspected of dangerous and treasonable practices’. He probably bribed his way out, for on 28 June a warrant was issued to apprehend one Edward Goldegay, ‘who wilfully suffered Forester to escape out of his custody’. By 1687 Forester was living with his wife at The Hague acting as an intermediary between the English Opposition and the Prince of Orange. In March he was ordered by the King ‘to set aside all excuses and within 14 days after the letters are delivered to him to return into England and not to fail thereof upon pain and peril’. His name remained on Bentinck’s list of English correspondents, though no letters survive. He regained his seat at the general election of 1689, but he was not active in the Convention. He acted as teller for the Whigs on the motion for the adjournment of 8 Feb. 1689. His four committees included the committee of elections and privileges, and that to consider the security bill. He probably owed his post at Court to his wife, a friend of the Queen’s. He remained a supporter of William throughout his reign, signing the Association in 1696, and kept his Household office until shortly before his death. He was buried at Wellington on 22 Feb. 1718. His son sat for Wenlock as a Whig in three Parliaments.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: J. S. Crossette
- 1. Salop Arch. Soc. Trans. (ser. 2), iii, 167-70; (ser. 3), ii. 333-4.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1682, p. 81.
- 3. LS13/231/2; J. M. Beattie, English Ct. in Reign of Geo. I, 186.
- 4. Salop Arch. Soc. Trans. (ser. 4), vii. 145-8; Blakeway, Sheriffs of Salop, 126-7.
- 5. HMC Ormonde, n.s. v. 340; CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 386, 428, 429; July-Sept. 1683, pp. 82, 137, 175-6; North, Examen, 389.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 159, 229, 232; 1686-7, p. 391; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. n.s. xxiii), 67. Dalrymple, Mems. ii. bk. v. 86; J. R. Jones, Revolution of 1688, 225; Luttrell, v. 416, 417; PCC 58 Tenison.