ELLYS, Sir William, 2nd Bt. (1654-1727), of Nocton, Lincs.
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Family and Education
b. 2 May 1654, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Ellys, 1st Bt., of Wyham, Lincs. by Anne, da. of Sir John Stanhope† of Elvaston, Derbys. educ. Lincoln, Oxf. matric. 1670, MA 1671. m. 2 Oct. 1672, Isabella (d. 1686) da. of Richard Hampden I*, and sis. of John Hampden†, 6s. (4 d.v.p.) 5da. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 1668, gt.-uncle William Ellys† 1680.1
Freeman, Grantham 1676; commr. inquiry into recusancy fines, Derbys., Lincs. and Notts. Mar. 1688, into losses in Fifteen, Lincs. 1716; trustee for rebuilding St. Peter-at-Arches church, Lincoln, 1719.2
The Ellyses, ‘an ancient family’ in Lincolnshire with strong Dissenting sympathies, had long supplied the area with MPs and had built up a formidable political interest. Ellys, himself possibly a Presbyterian, sat for Grantham from 1679 with only one break until his retirement from active politics in 1713, his interest being successfully maintained by many gifts to the town. An Exclusionist, he remained opposed to James II during his reign and, returned again for Grantham in 1690, was classed as a Whig in Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) list of the new Parliament. At the start of the second session Ellys’ brother-in-law, John Hampden, wrote to Robert Harley* about the latter’s election petition that Ellys ‘has desired me to tell you he will solicit for you, and do you all the service he can’. Further letters followed, from Ellys to Harley, over the next 13 years and are witness to a lasting friendship between the two men. On 5 Dec. the House allowed him two weeks’ leave after a division. The next year, in April 1691, Ellys was listed as a Country supporter by Harley, who also reported in August that Ellys had been left out of the lieutenancy in Lincolnshire. In the summer of 1693 he entertained Sir Christopher Musgrave, 4th Bt.*, at his recently completed house, Nocton Hall, where, Musgrave reported, ‘he lives like a prince’.3
At the end of August 1695 Ellys wrote to Harley thanking him for some (unspecified) good news, and adding that he needed ‘no pretence to say that your productions have always been worth my knowledge, and that I have received great advantage from your instruction’. Harley’s news was evidently not about the forthcoming dissolution, which Ellys was mistaken in thinking would not occur. Re-elected unopposed in October, Ellys was forecast in January 1696 as a probable opponent of the Court in the divisions anticipated on the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association promptly but voted against the government in March on setting the price of guineas at 22s. Ellys’ letter of 13 May 1696 to Harley referred, somewhat ironically, to Harley’s religious views in expressing some reservations over the planned land bank:
I must confess that honesty is a considerable part of my religion, and I shall not pretend to knowledge, because I would not be thought a favourer of that sect which I know you have no opinion of. I have read over your land bank and I can more easily trace you than Solomon could by his ship in the sea. I find you have delivered it of some monsters, but the court has been hard upon you, though you made them own there might be a failure of cash and credit in their project. I’m afraid you can’t raise a million in cash and specie before January, but I’ll not be wise at this distance.
In November that year, Ellys voted in favour of the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†.4
Ellys was again re-elected unopposed in 1698 when the compiler of a comparative analysis of the old and new Parliaments in about September 1698 could only class him as ‘doubtful’, an unsurprising verdict given his previous pattern of voting. A list of October 1698 probably forecast Ellys as likely to oppose a standing army and he does not appear on lists of those who voted for it in January 1699. An analysis of the House of January–May 1700 suggests that Ellys was associated with the Junto Lords as it listed Ellys as being in the interest of the Duke of Bedford (William Russell†) and Lord Orford (Edward Russell*): a connexion made plausible by the marriage of Orford’s heir, Edward Cheeke, to Ellys’ eldest daughter in July 1700. The next year the Ellys and Hampden families reinforced their ties when another of Ellys’ daughters married her cousin, Richard Hampden II*. In the 1701 Parliament, Ellys appears on a list of those likely to support the Court in agreeing with the committee of supply’s resolution to continue the ‘Great Mortgage’.5
In Anne’s reign Ellys did not abandon his Country Whig principles, but none the less was to be found more often giving his vote to the administration. On 13 Feb. 1703 he voted in favour of agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, and on 28 Nov. 1704 did not vote for the Tack. Listed after his re-election in 1705 as a ‘Low Churchman’, Ellys voted on 25 Oct. in support of the Court candidate for Speaker. Soon afterwards, however, he devoted his energies once more to a ‘Country’ cause, taking a substantial share in the attempt to secure a ‘place clause’ in the regency bill. He was appointed one of the managers for a conference with the Lords on 7 Feb. 1706 and after the bill had been lost on 18 Feb., one of its supporters, Sir John Cropley, 2nd Bt.*, reported that Ellys and ‘all such were firm to the last’. Harley’s offer to Ellys in the summer of 1706 of the power of recommending someone to a particular position may have been related to the former’s interference in the alterations being made to the Lincolnshire bench at that time. Ellys, though ‘extremely obliged for the great favour’, declined the offer, claiming that he did not know anyone worthy of it and, moreover, ‘I think the pot boils over everywhere, and if ’twas in my power I would empty it before I put more in’. The next year, in August, action by Harley in favour of the Grantham corporation’s petition to be allowed to collect money in Lincolnshire to repair the damage caused by a fire in the town in July, gave Ellys occasion to write to him,
You are the best friend in the world, . . . your generous temper prompts you to do favours for no other reason but to serve your friends. I hope our corporation are sensible of the great favour you have done them, I’m sure the method you’ve taken makes a greater impression upon me than I’m able to express.
An analysis of the House of early 1708 classed Ellys as a Whig, and in the subsequent Parliament he voted for the naturalization of the Palatines and for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. Described again as a Whig in the ‘Hanover list’ of 1710, he opposed the Tory ministry in the vote on 18 June 1713 on the French commerce bill. He did not stand for re-election that year, and seems to have retired from active politics.6
Ellys continued his role as local patron and benefactor, becoming a trustee for the rebuilding of the church of St. Peter-at-Arches, Lincoln, in 1719. He died at Nocton, 6 Oct. 1727, leaving large legacies to his daughters Sarah and Isabella, £100 to Grantham corporation, and the bulk of his estate to his son Richard*.7