STOKES, William (1624-91), of Biggen Street, Dover, Kent.

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

Family and Education

bap. 4 Apr. 1624, 1st s. of Thomas Stokes, maltster, of Dover by Elizabeth, da. of William Nethersole of Canterbury, Kent. m. Elizabeth (d. 28 Aug. 1687), da. of Joseph Loper of Dover, 3s. d.v.p. 2da. suc. fa. c.1657.1

Offices Held

Common councilman, Dover 1659-84, jurat 1659 66, 1668-76, 1679 83, 1689-d., mayor 1666-8, 1676-9, 1683-4, Oct. 1688-9, commr. for assessment 1667-9, 1677-80, 1689-90, capt. of militia by 1674 9, dep. mayor 1682-3, 1691-d.2


Stokes’s father was a tradesman of sufficient standing in Dover to become a churchwarden, but never attained the highest municipal office. His mother came from a prominent local family, one of whom had represented the port in the Reformation Parliament. Stokes himself, as his record shows, was most active in the affairs of the borough, but he did not impinge on national politics until 1678. In that year he took up the cudgels on behalf of the corporation with the muster-master of the Cinque Ports militia and complained of the billeting of soldiers on the inhabitants instead of the castle. His official letters are equally remote from servility and impudence, and, if of his own composition, are remarkable productions for a man without higher education. ‘A person of very good conduct and command’ seems a fair description, even if he were not ‘extraordinary well beloved’ by all the townsmen, as was claimed for him. As mayor, he acted with perfect propriety in detaining Ralph Montagu in January 1679, even to the extent of discharging the seasick fugitive’s bill at the inn. More dubious was his election in March, since he used his position as returning officer to oust the lieutenant-governor, John Strode II. He was marked ‘honest’ on Shaftesbury’s list, and voted for the exclusion bill, though serving on no committees. On hearing of his intention to stand for re-election in October, Strode cancelled his militia commission. In the second Exclusion Parliament, Stokes was named to the committees to inspect the preparations for Lord Stafford’s trial and for the repeal of the Corporations Act. In the Oxford Parliament he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges and to that to inspect the Journals relating to Danby’s impeachment.3

In August 1681 Strode complained that Stokes ‘absolutely refused’ to break up two conventicles in Dover. After the Rye House Plot a report was made to Sir Leoline Jenkins that he had said:

If the Parliament should set up the devil, I’ll be true to him, for he’d be true to his trust, and said that he was not so much entrusted by the King as by the Parliament, and that those were the men that would stand by him, with slight words of the King.

When he had lost office on the surrender of the charter, a Cavalier’s widow whom he had caused to be evicted from her brewhouse and home complained that ‘all true loyalists could never have any justice in Dover since the late King’s death till now, for William Stokes, the late mayor, and his factious party always by threats and other contrivances kept them under hatches’. On the withdrawal of the new charter, he resumed his interrupted term as mayor. A Whig collaborator, he tried to prevent the seizure of Dover Castle by ‘the rabble’ on behalf of the Prince of Orange in December 1688. He continued to hold office after the Revolution, but in 1690 the press master complained of his obstruction and discouragement. He died on 6 Nov. 1691 and was buried at St. Mary’s, Dover. His only surviving child married Edward Wivell, mayor of Dover 1698-1701 and 1707-10.4

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Society of Genealogists, Dover par. reg. passim; Add. 29625, f. 54v; PCC 435 Ruthen; The Topographer, i. 78; Kent AO, RC 56, f. 76; Misc. Gen. et. Her. (ser. 5, ix), 69.
  • 2. Dover corp. minute bk., if. 205, 206, 213, 214, 217, 225; Eg. 2t20, fl. 64, 68, 70, 78; Add. 28037, ff. I, 14, 28, 31, 49, 53, 64.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1678, pp. 276, 364; 1679-80, pp. 46, 53; 1680-1, p. 429; 1682, p. 543; Dom. Intell. 17 Oct. 1679.
  • 4. CSP Dom. 1683-4, p. 32; 2684-5, p. 25; 1690-1, p. 84; S.P.H. Statham, Hist. Dover, 269, 293; HMC 7th Rep. 412, 414, 421.