ROBERTS, Sir William, 1st Bt. (1638-88), of Neasden, Mdx.
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Family and Education
b. 21 June 1638, 5th but 1st surv. s. of Sir William Roberts of Neasden by Eleanor, da. and h. of Robert Aty of Kilburn Priory, Mdx. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. 1655-7. m. 7 Apr. 1658, Sarah, da. of Robert Holte, Merchant Taylor, of London, 1s. 1da. cr. Bt. 8 Nov. 1661; suc. fa. 1662.1
Commr. for assessment, Mdx. Aug. 1660-80, j.p. 1663-82, commr. for recusants 1675, hackney coaches, London and Westminster 1675-d.; capt. of militia horse, Mdx. 1678-82, dep. lt. by 1680-2.2
Roberts traced his ancestry to Thomas Roberts, who built Neasden House in the reign of Henry VIII. His father, an ardent supporter of Parliament in the Civil War, held several important offices under the Protectorate, bought extensive church property in Willesden, and sat for Middlesex until called up to the other House. He was defeated at the Middlesex general election of 1660, but proposed for the order of the Royal Oak, with an income assessed at 1,000 p.a.3
Roberts himself was given a baronetcy a year after the Restoration, but it was not until 1676 that Lord Treasurer Danby succeeded in extracting the fee of £1,095. He was elected for Middlesex unopposed at the first general election of 1679. He declined to commit himself to instructions from a group of freeholders for measures to ease Protestant dissenters, saying ‘he was for the Church of England and the prerogative, and he thought he had none of their votes that opposed these things’. Classed as ‘base’ by Shaftesbury, he nevertheless voted for the exclusion bill. A moderately active Member, he was appointed to seven committees in the first Exclusion Parliament, including those to consider the habeas corpus amendment bill, to secure the better attendance of Members, and to investigate the working of the excise laws. He came at the top of the poll in the autumn election. An active Member of the second Exclusion Parliament, he was appointed to 12 committees, including the committee of elections and privileges, and those to investigate Dangerfield’s charges against his fellow Member, Sir Robert Peyton, and to consider regulating the trial of peers and parliamentary elections. In December 1680 he took the chair of a committee to examine additional papers concerning the Popish Plot. Successful in 1681, he ‘gratefully accepted’ an address from Middlesex freeholders requiring the repeal of the Corporations Act and other statutes against dissenters. He was appointed to three committees at Oxford, including the elections committee again, and that to report from the Journals on the progress of Danby’s impeachment. As chairman of the Middlesex grand jury, he was responsible for finding a true bill against Danby on the uncorroborated evidence of Fitzharris. But he failed to appear at Fitzharris’s own trial. He was classed as an opponent of the Court and removed from the Middlesex commission of the peace. He died on 14 May 1688, and was buried at Willesden. The baronetcy became extinct ten years later without further parliamentary experience.4
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. The Gen. v. 300-7; Bodl. Rawl. mss D715.
- 2. CSP Dom. 1675-6, p. 173; 1678, p. 438; 1682, p. 73.
- 3. Lysons, Environs, iii. 624; CP, iv. 632; G. E. Aylmer, State’s Servants, 99, 251-3; Cal. Cl. SP, iv. 644; PCC 142 Laud.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 98; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 248; Bodl. Carte 228, f. 147; Smith’s Prot. Intell. 17 May 1681; K. W. D. Haley, Shaftesbury, 447; Eg. 2543, f. 251; State Trials, viii. 333, ix. 14; Hatton Corresp. (Cam. Soc. xxiii), 14.