WISE, Ayshford (1786-1847), of Wonwell Court, nr. Modbury, Devon.

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



1812 - 1818

Family and Education

b. 20 Apr. 1786, 1st s. of John Wise, banker, of Wonwell by Elizabeth, da. of Robert Proude of Edmiston, Modbury. educ. Brasenose, Oxf. 1804. m. June 1809, Mary, da. of Rev. Thomas Whitby of Cresswell Hall, Staffs., 3s. 4da. suc. fa. 1807.

Offices Held

Capt. Ermington batt. S. Devon militia 1809.


The Wise family had settled in Devon by the 13th century and were active in the municipal affairs of Totnes, where, by the 16th, they owned the manor of Little Totnes. This Member’s father was recorder of Totnes from 1779 until his death and a partner in the Totnes Bank, founded about 1800 as Wise, Baker & Co. and later known as Wise, Farwell, Baker and Bentall. Like the Bentalls, the Wises were connected (in their case through marriages into the Dacres family) with William Adams* and his son William Dacres Adams, who had a strong electoral interest in the borough after 1801.1

Ayshford Wise was returned for Totnes at the contested general election of 1812 as the second nominee of the Adams-Bentall party; it was later said that he ‘came in by chance’.2 He was expected to support government and is not known to have voted against them; but he was clearly a poor attender, for his only recorded votes, apart from those in favour of Catholic relief, 2 Mar., 13 and 24 May 1813 and 30 May 1815, were for continuation of the property tax, 18 Mar., for the Irish deputy vice-treasurer’s grant, 20 June 1816,3 and for the Duke of Clarence’s marriage allowance, 15 Apr. 1818. His maiden and only known speech, 26 Feb. 1813, when he numbered himself among the country gentlemen and boasted that he had been returned ‘free of expense and unclogged by promises’, was in favour of inquiry into Catholic claims.

Wise did not seek re-election in 1818. Early in 1820 he told Lady Liverpool that although he was ‘confined almost entirely to the country and consequently obliged to withdraw from Parliament’, his interest in the success of her husband’s administration was ‘in no way diminished’.4 In the same year he sold Wonwell and rented Forde Abbey near Newton Abbot, where a branch of his bank had been opened in 1817. The banks failed in 1841.5 At some stage he became a partner in a firm of merchants and shipowners based at Shaldon on the Teign estuary and trading to Newfoundland and Labrador; his partnershp with Nicholas Baker and Andrew Howard was dissolved in 1832.6 Wise sold his Totnes property to the 11th Duke of Somerset in the late 1820s and his descendants migrated to Staffordshire. He died 5 June 1847.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: P. A. Symonds


  • 1. C. Worthy, Devon Wills, 340-3; Trans. Devon Assoc. lvi. 222; lxxxi. 230-1.
  • 2. Sidmouth mss, Lee to Sidmouth, 20 Oct. 1817.
  • 3. Morning Chron. 22 June 1816.
  • 4. Add. 38458, f. 278.
  • 5. Worthy, 343; Trans. Devon Assoc. lxxx. 226.
  • 6. Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 5 May 1832.