SPENCER, William (c.1655-90), of Ashton Hall, nr. Lancaster, Lancs.

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



Oct. 1679

Family and Education

b. c.1655, 1st s. of Hon. William Spencer of Ashton Hall by Elizabeth, da. of Dutton, 3rd Baron Gerard of Gerard’s Bromley, wid. of Philip Wenman. educ. Emmanuel, Camb. 1672; L. Inn 1673. m. Mary, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. aft. 1683.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Preston 1676; commr. for assessment, Lancs. 1677-80, 1690, sheriff 1686-9, dep. lt. 1687-?d.; j.p. Apr. 1688-9; bailiff, Garstang 1688-9.2


Spencer’s father, the next younger brother to Robert Spencer, acquired an estate in north Lancashire worth £600 p.a. by marriage during the Interregnum. Doubtless a Royalist like the rest of his family, he served as commissioner of corporations and militia officer after the Restoration. In 1670 the Earl of Derby recommended him as a candidate for Liverpool, but he does not seem to have canvassed.3

Spencer stood for the county in February 1679, when he was defeated by Peter Bold after a prolonged and expensive contest. Shaftesbury marked him ‘base’, presumably in the expectation that he would prove a follower of his courtly cousin, the 2nd Earl of Sunderland. However he attached himself to another kinsman, more distant in blood but geographically nearer, the Hon. Charles Gerard, on whose interest he was returned for Lancaster, three miles from his home, in September. His only committee in the second Exclusion Parliament was to receive information about the Popish Plot. Together with Christopher Philipson he stood bail on 1 Feb. 1681 for Sir Robert Peyton for challenging William Williams. He was re-elected, but took no known part in the Oxford Parliament.4

After the Rye House Plot Spencer and his father were ‘said to be Whiggish and to have been acquainted with Shaftesbury’. It was reported that he would stand for re-election in 1685 with Gerard, but he did not go to the poll. Like Gerard, he became a Whig collaborator in 1688, but as sheriff of Lancashire he was less successful in changing sides again at the Revolution. He was retained as deputy lieutenant, but his name disappears from the assessment commission in 1691, and no other member of this branch of the Spencers sat in Parliament.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Irene Cassidy


  • 1. Vis. Lancs. (Chetham Soc. lxxxviii), 279; Exch. Deps. (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. xi), 40-41; Hist. Garstang (Chetham Soc. civ), 44; CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 187.
  • 2. Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix). 150; HMC Kenyon, 187-8; Lancs. RO, QSC99-102; Hist. Garstang, 61.
  • 3. VCH Lancs. viii. 52; Letters of Dorothy Osborne, 258; SP29/61/157; W. Beamont, Hale and Orford, 87.
  • 4. HMC Le Fleming, 153, 158, 179; CJ, ix. 570; Luttrell, i. 67.
  • 5. CSP Dom. July-Sept. 1683, p. 87; Westmld. RO, D/Ry 2902 (letter of 13 Apr. 1685); HMC Le Fleming, 213.