ASHTON, William I (1575-1646), of Swan Close, St. Martin's Lane, Westminster and Tingrith, Beds.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



17 May 1624

Family and Education

bap. 6 Apr. 1575,1 4th s. of Robert Ashton (d.1590)2 of Woburn, Beds. and Alice, da. of one Furneys.3 m. by 1605, Anne, da. of one Moate, 4s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.4 kntd. 9 Dec.5 bur. 10 Nov. 1646.6

Offices Held

Clerk of the market 1604-8;7 servant to Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury by 1611;8 gent. of the privy chamber extraordinary bef. 1628.9

Commr. inquiry, Mdx. 1615,10 sewers, Mdx. 1619, 1637-9, Stepney marshes, Mdx. 1629-30, Westminster 1634, 1645,11 swans, Mdx., Beds., Bucks., Berks., Cambs., and elsewhere 1627, 1629;12 j.p. Westminster 1630-d.;13 commr. sequestration, Westminster 1643, levying money Mdx. and Westminster 1643, vols. Mdx. 1644, subscriptions, Worcs. 1644, assessment 1644, Mdx. 1644-5, New Model ordinance 1645; elder, Westminster classis 1645.14


This Member’s father, who claimed descent from the Lancashire Assheton family seated at Great Lever, was gentleman of the horse to the ‘good earl of Bedford’ (Francis Russell†). Nothing is known of Ashton’s own career before the accession of James I, but in 1604 he became responsible as clerk of the market for the unpopular practice of purveyance. By 1611 he was in the service of lord treasurer Salisbury, paying doctors’ bills ‘by my lord’s commandment’, and he received some modest grants of recusants’ land, perhaps only as a trustee.15 He also acquired the Bedfordshire manor of Tingrith in 1611.16 Ashton’s Westminster home was leased from Sir William Maynard*, and in 1619 he helped to welcome Sir George Calvert* to the neighbourhood, subsequently acting with George Mynne* as his trustee.17 The adjacent property was developed by the 2nd earl of Salisbury (William Cecil*), from whom Ashton leased further holdings in Bermondsey worth £400 a year.18

On Salisbury’s recommendation Ashton was returned for Hertford when the borough was enfranchised in 1624, though only after a hotly contested election.19 He sat again in 1625 but left no trace on the records of either Parliament. Ashton stood surety for the ‘necessities’ of Salisbury’s only sister, whose husband Henry, Lord Clifford*, nominated him for a seat at Appleby at the next election.20 He was appointed to the inquiry into the defects in victualling Mansfeld’s expedition (22 Mar. 1626), and added to the committee for a bill to confirm customary tenures on a Lancashire manor (20 April).21 Re-elected in 1628, he was knighted at Theobalds during the recess, but played no ascertainable part in either session of the third Caroline Parliament.

Ashton continued to prosper after his parliamentary career was over, purchasing Feckenham Forest in Worcestershire from the Crown, and a small estate in Hertfordshire.22 Like the earl of Salisbury he was not deterred by his Court connections from active support for Parliament in the Civil War. He served on the Middlesex county committee and became a Presbyterian elder. He drew up his will on 16 Feb. 1646, leaving £20 to the poor of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, to be distributed ‘as my wife shall think fit, provided she be careful not to dispose of it to undeserving beggars’. Generous legacies were provided for his widow, and two unmarried daughters each received portions of £2,000.23 Ashton was buried at St. Martin-in-the Fields on 10 Nov. 1646, the only member of the family to sit in Parliament.24

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: John. P. Ferris / Rosemary Sgroi


  • 1. Woburn Par. Reg. (Beds. Par. Regs. iii), 4.
  • 2. Ibid. 139.
  • 3. Vis. Beds. (Harl. Soc. xix), 76-7.
  • 4. Ibid.; PROB 11/198, ff. 286-7.
  • 5. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 195.
  • 6. WCA, St. Martin-in-the-Fields par. reg., unfol.
  • 7. Lansd. 1217, f. 68v.
  • 8. HMC Hatfield, xxi. 289; xxiv. 206.
  • 9. LC3/1, unfol.
  • 10. C181/2, f. 223v.
  • 11. Ibid. f. 347v; C181/4, ff. 23, 63v, 191; 181/5, ff. 81, 143, 255.
  • 12. C181/3, ff. 227v, 270v.
  • 13. C231/5, p. 30; SP16/405, f. 86.
  • 14. A. and O. i. 114, 232, 383, 507, 536, 542, 623, 636, 796, 873.
  • 15. HMC Hatfield, xxi, 360, xxiv. 206; CSP Dom. 1611-18, p. 100; 1623-5, p. 577.
  • 16. C66/180/4; VCH Beds. iii. 436.
  • 17. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 102; C66/363; LCC Survey of London, xxiii. 5.
  • 18. PROB 11/198, f. 286.
  • 19. HMC Hatfield, xxii. 205.
  • 20. Ibid. xxii. 167.
  • 21. Procs. 1626, ii. 340; iii. 29.
  • 22. C66/2470; R. Clutterbuck, Herts. i. 251.
  • 23. PROB 11/198, ff. 286-7.
  • 24. WCA, St. Martin-in-the-Fields par. reg., unfol.