ASHHURST, William Henry (1778-1846), of Waterstock, Oxon.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



12 Oct. 1815 - 1830

Family and Education

b. 19 Oct. 1778, 1st s. of Sir William Henry Ashhurst, judge of KB 1770-1800, of Waterstock by Grace, da. of Robert Whalley, MD, of Oxford. educ. Charterhouse 1790-4; Worcester, Oxf. 1796-8. m. (1) to Dec. 1806, Elizabeth (d. 2 Oct. 1828), da. of Oswald Mosley of Bolesworth Castle, Cheshire, 5s. 3da.; (2) 15 Aug. 1839, Selina, da. of Sir John Morshead, 1st Bt.*, of Trenant Park, Cornw., wid. of Sir Charles Mill, 10th Bt., of Newton Berry, Hants, s.p. suc. fa. 1807.

Offices Held

Cornet, Bullington cav. vols. 1798, lt. 1806.

Sheriff, Oxon. 1810-11; chairman of qtr. sessions 1822-d.; pres. Oxon. Agric. Soc. 1837-d.


Ashhurst came of an ancient Lancashire family, the Ashhursts of Ashhurst, near Wigan, but his grandfather had acquired Waterstock in Oxfordshire by marriage to a distant relation. His father was a King’s bench judge remembered chiefly for his advice to the jury in 1792 when trying radical agitators, which provoked a series of pamphlets in protest. Ashhurst himself was ‘a thorough English country gentleman’; his chief interests were dairying and agriculture, which he wished to see protected, and the sessions, over which he presided for 24 years before his death, much admired for his ‘calm and admirable discharge’ of the office and ‘the manly and benevolent character of his countenance’.

In August 1815 Ashhurst filled the vacancy in the county representation unopposed. He was a reluctant candidate, but the independent gentry were dissatisfied with the candidature of the 4th Duke of Marlborough’s grandson, who was believed to incline towards opposition, whereas Ashhurst was thought to be ‘a decided supporter of the present administration’. In fact, he was capable of independence. On 6 Mar. 1816 he was in the minority, but on 8 Mar. in the majority, on the army estimates. On 11 Mar. he reverted to the minority on the Household troops and a week later joined the opposition majority against the property tax. He voted with ministers on the civil list, 6, 24 May. He opposed Catholic relief in 1816 and 1817. He was in the minority on the composition of the finance committee, 7 Feb. 1817, but in the majorities against Admiralty retrenchment 17, 25 Feb. He voted for the suspension of habeas corpus, 23 June 1817, and his only known speech before 1820 was in defence of the conditions obtaining in Oxford county gaol, 17 Feb. 1818. He joined the opposition majority against the Duke of Clarence’s marriage grant, 15 Apr. 1818, though ministers had tried to muster his support. He was also in the minority against the chancellor’s proposals on the bank-note forgery bill, 14 May 1818. His conduct was approved on his re-election in 1818. On 3 Feb. 1819 he was appointed to the secret committee on the Bank, and a few days later, as in the two previous sessions, to the Poor Law committee. He voted with ministers on Wyndham Quin’s* case, 29 Mar., against Tierney’s censure motion, 18 May, and for the foreign enlistment bill, 10 June 1819.

Ashhurst, who retired from the House in 1830, died 3 June 1846: ‘his high qualities as a Christian gentleman endeared him to everyone’.

Burke LG (1849), i. 28; DNB; Gent. Mag. (1846), ii. 98; VCH Oxon. vii. 225; Add. 38458, f. 200; 51827, Shaftesbury to Holland, 17 Aug. 1815; Davenport, Oxfordshire, 96.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: R. G. Thorne