SANDYS, William (c.1607-69), of Axe Yard, King Street, Westminster.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Apr. 1640
Nov. 1640 - 21 Jan. 1641
1661 - c. Dec. 1669

Family and Education

b. c.1607, 2nd s. of Sir William Sandys of Fladbury, Worcs. by 2nd w. Margaret, da. and h. of Walter Colepeper of Handborough, Oxon.; bro. of Sir Miles Sandys. educ. Gloucester Hall, Oxf. matric. 13 June 1623, aged 16; M. Temple 1626. m. lic. 24 Apr. 1633, with £3,000, Cecily, da. of Sir John Stede of Stede Hill, Harrietsham, Kent, 2s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Alderman, Evesham by 1640-?42, by 1661-d.; j.p. Worcs. July 1660-d.; commr. for assessment, Mdx. and Westminster 1661-3, Worcs. 1661-d., Evesham 1663-4, loyal and indigent officers, Worcs. 1662.2

Servant to Queen Henrietta Maria by 1648; gent. usher of the privy chamber 1653-June 1660; gent. pens. extraordinary 1661-d.3


Sandys, a great-nephew of the archbishop, was only distantly related to the Ombersley family. His grandfather, an Elizabethan official, has been described as a typical carpet-bagger, sitting for eight different constituencies in as many Parliaments. So prolific was the Sandys family in the early 17th century that, either at Oxford or later, Sandys had to be distinguished from his spendthrift cousin ‘Golden Sandys’ by the nickname of ‘Waterwork Sandys’, and for the best part of his life, interrupted only by the Civil War and Interregnum, he devoted himself to drainage and inland navigation projects. His most notable achievement was making the Warwickshire Avon passable for 30-ton barges as high as Stratford, greatly reducing the cost of fuel in Evesham, but ruining himself in the process. Charles I took a personal interest in the project and granted Sandys and his partners a duty of 1s. a chaldron on Newcastle coals. For this, he was expelled from the Long Parliament as a monopolist, and took refuge from his creditors abroad. During the Civil War he was engaged in purchasing arms at Dunkirk and shipping them to the Royalists by whatever routes were available. After the execution of Charles I he was authorized to borrow 60,000 guilders to finance the new King’s expedition to Scotland, and he travelled as far afield as Moscow and Bergen in search of funds. He was given the supernumary post of gentleman usher in 1653, but, as ‘a creature of Lord Percy’ and a member of the Louvre party, he was discouraged from attendance at the exiled Court.4

Sandys had long since alienated Fladbury, three miles from Evesham, but as an alderman and j.p. for the borough he was again returned at the general election of 1661, and at once became one of the most active committeemen of the Cavalier Parliament. He was named to 206 committees, all but a handful in the nine sessions of Clarendon’s administration. He was concerned with seven navigation projects, including those for the Wey, Wye, Mersey, Derwent and Medway, and 12 bills for land reclamation and drainage. But he was not inactive politically, sitting on the committees for the security, corporations, and uniformity bills and for the bill of pains and penalties in the first session. He was one of the ten Members instructed to perfect the bill for the regulation of the press on 26 July, and was appointed to another small committee to draft a bill for stamp duty. He carried two messages to the King, once to petition for the disarming of the disbanded soldiers on 21 Nov. and again on 20 Dec. to desire the royal assent to the supply bill. He was on the committee for a bill to naturalize several Cavaliers’ children born in exile, but the name of his son Thomas was struck out at the report stage because as an ‘infant’ he had not received the sacrament. Nor apparently did he succeed in obtaining a salaried post at Court. After the Christmas recess he acted as teller for adding to the poor bill a proviso about soldiers and their families. With the Members for Honiton, he was ordered to bring in a bill forbidding lace imports, and he was one of four Members instructed to peruse the fishery bill and supply any defects. But his chief concern was the Wey navigation bill. As he put it himself, ‘he brought a bill into Parliament, and locked up the river, so that no boats could pass without duty’. Unfortunately, his profits were diminished by grants of exemption to barges carrying timber for the Admiralty, and the committee to which he was appointed on 21 Mar. 1662 never reported. On 11 Apr. he was teller for retaining the words ‘by oath’ in the bill for relief of the loyal and indigent officers. He was one of the Members sent to ask the King to hear the various claims to the Lindsey level.5

Sandys was appointed to the committee to review the Act for regulating the press on 4 Apr. 1663. He was also among those instructed to draw up a bill to prevent encroachments on English trade and to amend the Bedford Level bill to make the lands of adventurers liable to sale for non-payment of tax. He was appointed to the committee for the bishop of Winchester’s estate bill on 30 May, and twice acted as teller for it on the third reading. On 15 Feb. 1664 the Bristol corporation, for whom he was acting in a dispute over precedence, begged him ‘to improve his utmost interest with Sir Henry Bennet’, and in the next session he was listed as a court dependant. On 28 Mar. he reintroduced his Wey navigation bill, and his name stands first on the committee list. But again petitions were received against it, and it never got through committee. He was even less fortunate in the next session when the bill was rejected on the first reading, though he had the consolation of being chosen to carry another private bill for the bishop of Winchester to the Lords on 24 Feb. 1665.6

Sandys doubtless welcomed the fall of Clarendon, after which he was appointed to the committees to inquire into the sale of Dunkirk and the mismanagement of the second Dutch war. But he took no part in the impeachment proceedings, and his parliamentary activity sharply declined. He was still fertile in projects, however, petitioning for a lease of the gravel in the Thames: ‘through my experience I can improve the navigation of the river, now much prejudiced by shelves, and furnish ballast, which is of great importance’. He does not appear to have taken part in debate himself, though he praised the speech of Samuel Pepys in defence of the Navy Office on 6 Mar. 1668. He was appointed to his last committee on 24 Nov. 1669, and died about the following Christmas, leaving, according to Lord Cramond (Thomas Richardson), some shares in the Wey navigation, but no other estate he could learn of. His widow endeavoured to recover part of her jointure by a suit in Chancery. None of his descendants entered Parliament.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Edward Rowlands


  • 1. Vis. Worcs. (Harl. Soc. xxvii), 123-4; Keeler, Long Parl. 333; SP29/85/78; C5/61/68; Denization and Naturalization (Huguenot Soc. xviii), 82.
  • 2. W. R. Williams, Rocs. Members, 143-4; Townshend’s Diary (Worcs. Rec. Soc.), ii. 276.
  • 3. HMC Pepys, 214; SP29/26/78; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 79; Beaufort mss 600.2.
  • 4. Rudder, Glos. 554; Habington, Survey of Worcs. ii. 468-9; CSP Dom. 1638-9, p. 507; 1661-2, p. 628; HMC Hodgkin, 94, 118-20; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 338, 360; Cal. Cl. SP, ii. 18, 341; iii. 117, 123.
  • 5. VCH Worcs. iii. 354; CJ. viii. 309, 360, 366, 368, 378, 435; CSP Dom. 1661-2, p. 79.
  • 6. CJ, viii. 468, 484, 520, 540, 547, 549, 602; SP29/92/91, 118; CSP Dom. 1668-9, p. 569.
  • 7. CSP Dom. 1667-8, p. 111; Pepys Diary, 6 Mar. 1668; C5/45/82; C5/61/68; E177/74.