STOCKDALE, William (1635-93), of Bilton Park, nr. Knaresborough, Yorks.

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



Mar. 1679
Oct. 1679
1690 - 3 Mar. 1693

Family and Education

bap. 3 Jan. 1635, o.s. of Thomas Stockdale of Bilton Park by Margaret, da. of Sir William Parsons, 1st Bt. of Bellomont, co. Dublin. educ. Knaresborough g.s.; St. John’s, Camb. 1652. unm. suc. fa. 1653.1

Offices Held

J.p. liberties of Ripon, Sutton, Marston and Ottley 1654-8; commr. for assessment, Yorks. (W. Riding) Aug. 1660 80, 1689-90.


Stockdale’s ancestors had been Yorkshire landowners since the reign of Henry VI and recorded their pedigree in the heralds’ visitation of 1584-5. His father bought Bilton Park, three miles from Knaresborough, in 1630, and in 1641 purchased a dozen burgages in the borough, thereby acquiring control of one seat. An ardent Calvinist and a ‘sufferer’ from ship-money, he was returned as a recruiter in 1645, sat in the Rump, and held local office under the Commonwealth.2

Stockdale was probably brought up a Presbyterian, since he held no office during the Interregnum. In 1652 he took out a licence to marry the daughter of a Hull merchant, but she married another Yorkshire gentleman, and he seems to have remained a lifelong bachelor. He was first returned for Knaresborough at the general election of 1660, and held the seat without a break until his death 33 years later, an unique record for the period, and all the more remarkable because he was never thought worthy of the county bench. Lord Wharton marked him as a friend, and assigned him to the management of Sir Thomas Widdrington and James Darcy. But he made no recorded speeches in the Convention, and was named only to the committee on the bill to confirm civil marriages, which may have held some personal significance for him. He remained equally inactive in the opening sessions of the Cavalier Parliament. Under the Clarendon administration he was appointed only to two private bill committees in 1661, and to the committee of elections and privileges in three sessions. Robert Walters, one of the principal figures in the Yorkshire anabaptist conspiracy, confessed that ‘he had acquainted his brother [-in-law] Mr William Stockdale with the plot in general terms before he came up to the last sessions of Parliament’ in 1663. But another witness, Rymer, deposed that Stockdale had attempted to dissuade him ‘from meddling in it’, and given warning that Sir Thomas Gower and Sir John Goodricke had full intelligence of the plot. On 23 Feb. 1664 (Sir) Robert Southwell wrote that the King

spoke much of a hot-headed young fellow of the House, one Stockdale, who is in restraint, but a great incendiary; and of many letters to him intercepted from the contrivers of the Northern troubles, directing how to breed distraction in the next session of the House

in concurrence with Clarendon’s enemy, the Earl of Bristol. Stockdale was presumably released before the next session, beginning on 16 Mar., and promised immunity from a charge of misprision if he would vote for the repeal of the Triennial Act, since he was listed among the court dependants and named to the elections committee. Gower was still anxious to bring him to trial in June, as a matter of

more than ordinary moment because he is a Member of Parliament, and also in the opinion of men of judgment as privy to the secrets of the conspiracy as any in the north (if not more); that he had constant converse with old Rymer in the town, and after in the country; that he had weekly correspondence with Walters while he sat in Parliament and afterwards...

However, the witnesses, two of whom had been daily in Stockdale’s company, now retracted their confessions, and he was never brought to trial. No doubt he judged it wise to lie low for a time, and he was scarcely more active under the Cabal, when his only important committees were to review the militia laws (3 Apr. 1668) and to prevent imprisonment overseas (3 Mar. 1670).3

Stockdale first became prominent in the House in 1673, and thenceforward acted consistently with the Opposition. On 29 Mar. he was teller against adjourning the debate on grievances. When the King opened the autumn session with a demand for further supply, Stockdale moved to defer the debate, and three days later, ‘after a long silence in the House’, he spoke against the proposed marriage of the Duke of York to Mary of Modena, asserting that he ‘would rather pay the money she is to have in portion than that the match should go on’. He acted as teller for an address against the marriage and helped to draft it. On the same day he was appointed to the committee to prepare a general test bill. On 31 Oct. he opposed voting any supply at that time. He was by now enough of a conformist to be chosen, with the strong Anglican Sir Thomas Monson, to thank the latitudinarian Stillingfleet for his sermon at the beginning of the next session. He took a leading part in the attack on Lauderdale and Buckingham, moving to begin the debate on grievances by considering the King’s ‘evil counsellors’, and speaking in all five times. He himself charged Buckingham with embezzling the revenue, encouraging Popery, and breaking the Triple Alliance, concluding with a motion ‘that a person so dangerous to the Government, and of so ill a life and conversation, may be removed from the King’s presence and from all his employments’. After hearing his defence at the bar of the House, Stockdale went further and recommended banishing him overseas. His concern for the reform of habeas corpus was unabated, and for the remainder of the Parliament he also regularly helped to consider the prevention of illegal exactions, as well as two matters of local interest, moor-burning and border thefts. He was appointed to the committees to inquire into charges of corruption against Members, to prepare reasons for amending the Lords’ resolution on peace with Holland, and to report on the condition of Ireland. When Parliament met again in April 1675 he was among those instructed to bring in a bill to prevent Papists from sitting in either House, and he probably reminded the Commons of the need for a measure against illegal exactions, since he was the first Member named to the committee. On 3 May he joined in the attack on Danby, saying that it was the lord treasurer’s duty

to have advised the King that his navy should have been in repair before he suffered any anticipation upon the customs, ... and for the future would have that part of the customs assigned for the navy to be irrevocably for that use and no other.

On 7 May he returned to his attack on Lauderdale, expressing his dissatisfaction with the King’s claim that the charges against him were covered by the Act of Indemnity. Three days later he took part in a rowdy scene in committee after the disputed division about British subjects in the French service. He was one of the country Members who became involved in ‘hot discourses’ with Sir James Smyth, and ‘set their feet up on the mace which lay below the table’, in an attempt to prevent the Speaker from restoring order. On 21 May Stockdale moved that Burnet, who had fallen out with Lauderdale, should be invited to preach, a tactless proposal, which, Sir Edward Dering reported,

was very unpleasing to the House, that a Scotchman and one forbid by the King to come into the Court should be pitched upon to preach before the House on the King’s birthday.

Nevertheless he was added to the managers of a conference on the dispute between the Houses over Shirley v. Fagg. On 31 May he supported a further address for the removal of Lauderdale, saying that ‘he now appears to be the adviser of the Declaration [of Indulgence] and of the French league. These we show to be the reasons why he is an ill man’. On 4 June he moved that Sir Edward Bayntun should be called to the bar for unparliamentary behaviour, ‘but it passed by’. He was very active in the short autumn session of 1675. His committees included those to report on scandalous and dangerous books, to bring in a declaratory bill against altering or suspending the established religion, and to consider appropriating the customs to the use of the navy, and recalling British subjects from the French service. On 27 Oct. he supported a motion for a test to purge the House of all Members who had accepted bribes. He was among those ordered to inquire into the release of convicted priests and Jesuits. On 19 Nov. he moved that no lawyer should appear in any appeal to the Lords against a Member of the Commons. After the long prorogation he was anxious to ensure that seamen should be specifically included among the British subjects to be recalled from France, and that offences under the bill should be defined as felony. He was again appointed to the committee, and marked ‘thrice worthy’ by Shaftesbury. On 11 Apr. Secretary Williamson delivered a message from the King that Parliament should meet again after Easter ‘to ripen’ supply, which he explained as meaning ‘that we should sit from time to time till October’. Many of the House were suspicious of frequent adjournments, and Stockdale successfully moved to have the message entered in the Journals. In February 1678 he was teller against the election of the court candidate at Eye, and against the defence estimates. He was named to the inquiry into the conviction of Quakers for recusancy. In the final session of the Cavalier Parliament he was appointed to the committees on the bill disabling Papists from sitting in Parliament and to draw up the address justifying the action of the House in sending Williamson to the Tower for issuing commissions to Papists. A moderately active Member, he had been appointed to for committees, made 28 recorded speeches, and acted as teller in four divisions.4

Classed as ‘worthy’ by Shaftesbury in 1679, Stockdale was moderately active in the first Exclusion Parliament. He was appointed to eight committees, including those to examine the disbandment accounts, to consider the extension of habeas corpus, and to inquire into miscarriages in the navy, and voted for the first exclusion bill. Less active in the second Exclusion Parliament, he was named only to the committees for bills to prevent the import of cattle from Scotland and Ireland and to reform the collection of hearth-tax. At Oxford he was appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges, and he did not speak in any of the three Parliaments. Sir John Reresby mentioned him among those who encouraged the ‘factious’ in York in 1682.5

Though Danby included Stockdale among the Opposition in James II’s Parliament, he was not active. He was appointed only to the committee on the bill to prevent theft and rapine on the northern borders, and acted as teller against the Government on the Buckinghamshire election. He may have become a Whig collaborator in 1688, for the King’s agents described his attitude on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws as good, and expected him to be re-elected for Knaresborough as usual. He was not affected by the double return in the general election of 1689, and became a moderately active Member of the Convention. He made no recorded speeches, but was appointed to 21 committees, including those to report on the coronation oath, to investigate quo warranto proceedings, to bring in a militia bill, and to inquire into the delays in the relief of Londonderry. He supported the disabling clause in the bill restoring corporations, and was among those appointed to consider the bill to impose a general oath of allegiance to the new regime.6

Stockdale was listed as a Whig at the beginning of the 1690 Parliament, but he died on 3 Mar. 1693. His estates went to his nephew, Christopher Walters, who assumed the name of Stockdale, and represented Knaresborough as a court Whig from 1693 until his death in 1713.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: M. W. Helms / Paula Watson


  • 1. Clay, Dugdale’s Vis. Yorks. i. 277 8; Leeds Central Lib. Bilton Park mss, 257.
  • 2. Vis. Yorks. ed. Foster, 410; J. T. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, 68, 258, 327, 346, 354.
  • 3. Clay, i. 253; EHR, xlv. 292; Reresby Mems. 47; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxxi. 357; CSP Dom. 1663-4, pp. 392, 621; Add. 33770, ff. IIV, 36; SP29/99/110.
  • 4. CJ, ix. 281, 284, 294, 437, 438; Dering, 152, 155; Grey, ii. 190, 209, 236, 240, 245-6, 286; iii. 83, III, 128-9, 213, 367; iv. 51, 131, 344; Dering Pprs. 89, 102.
  • 5. Reresby Mems. 580.
  • 6. CJ, ix. 717.
  • 7. M. Calvert, Knaresborough, 59-60; CSP Dom. 1694-5, p. 393.