ASHE, Edward (c.1673-1748), of Heytesbury, Wilts.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1695 - 1747

Family and Education

b. c.1673, 1st s. of William Ashe I* by his 1st w.; bro. of William Ashe II*.  educ. Wadham, Oxf. matric. 7 Apr. 1690, aged 16.  m. 17 Aug. 1710, Frances, da. of Francis Luttrell*, wid. of Edward Harvey, jnr., of Coombe, Surr. (s. of Edward Harvey*), s.p.ssuc. fa. 1713.1

Offices Held

Storekeeper of the Ordnance Apr. 1710–12, clerk Dec. 1714–18; ld. of Trade 1720–46.2


‘Ned’ Ashe was put up for the family borough in the 1695 election, the first opportunity after his coming of age. The records of the House do not differentiate between Ashe and his father, but Ashe is likely to have been the more active. He may have been the ‘Mr Ashe’ who presented a petition from William Fowell on 9 Mar. 1696 praying to be heard on an estate bill, only for him to be given leave to withdraw the petition on the 16th when it transpired that it had not been signed, nor had it been presented by order of the petitioner. Ashe was forecast as likely to support the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade and signed the Association. In the second session he voted on 25 Nov. for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. It was certainly Edward who was given three weeks’ leave of absence on 21 Jan. 1697, and he may have been the Member given leave on 17 May 1698, for an unlimited period.

Returned again for Heytesbury in 1698, Ashe was classed with the Court party on a comparative analysis of about September. In December 1701 Robert Harley* listed him as a Whig. From 1702 to 1708 Edward was the only ‘Mr Ashe’ in the Commons. During this period he acted as a teller on as many as 20 occasions. On 13 Feb. 1703 he voted in favour of agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration. Forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, he did not vote for it on 28 Nov. 1704, and served as a teller on 5 Dec. against engrossing the occasional conformity bill itself.

In the 1705 election Ashe was returned not only at Heytesbury but also at Marlborough, on the Duke of Somerset’s interest. His declared function at Marlborough, however, was to hold a seat until Somerset’s heir, the Earl of Hertford (Algernon Seymour*), reached his majority in November, when Ashe switched his interest to Heytesbury. Ashe voted for the Court candidate as Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, and, as well as telling on the Whig side on several election cases, he told on 8 Dec. against a proposal to go into a committee to consider the ‘Church in danger’ motion. He was also a teller against the motion on 12 Jan. 1706 to include in the regency bill a clause explaining the Act of Settlement, and he voted with the Court party on 18 Feb. in the proceedings over this ‘place clause’. He had confided to his friend Lord Townshend in April 1708 that ‘as to politics, I’m out of pain, I make no doubt that Whiggism will be triumphant’.3

Not surprisingly, Ashe was classed as a Whig in two analyses of the 1708 Parliament, one of them following the general election. However, his subsequent Commons career is not clearly distinguishable from that of his brother, William Ashe II, though again he was probably the more active and thus more often the ‘Mr Ashe’ named to tellerships. There were five such during the 1708–9 session, several on election cases. Ashe was also listed as having voted for the naturalization of the Palatines. In September 1709 Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) recommended him to the vacant place of storekeeper of the Ordnance, as ‘a very honest, well-tempered young gentleman’ who ‘has always been firm and right, and [has] waited too long for some opportunity of having a mark of the Queen’s favour’. Godolphin added, ‘this gentleman will have £2,000 a year’. The Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) quickly agreed to the nomination, as presumably did Ashe’s friend Robert Walpole II*, but it was not until April 1710 that the Queen’s consent could be obtained and the appointment made. He was also promised the governorship of Barbados when that place became vacant, although nothing came of this. Meanwhile Ashe had voted in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and may have acted as a teller on 2 Feb. 1710, for approving the text of the Commons’ ‘replication’ to Sacheverell’s ‘answer’.4

The change of ministry in 1710 was not an immediate catastrophe for Ashe. In the past his kinsman Robert Harley, though failing to secure for him the posts he coveted, had nevertheless given him ‘many expressions of . . . favour and esteem’. On hearing the news of Harley’s appointment as chancellor of the Exchequer Ashe waited on him to offer congratulations, and received what he took to be a snub. ‘Your porter denied you to me’, he wrote to Harley,

though I knew you were at home. I can’t doubt but he did it by your order, because he has formerly served me so several times. This is strong treatment to one that has the honour to be related to you. Perhaps you are apprehensive that I came to ask some favour of you, but I assure you that, as I never received the least friendship from any great man that ever I was acquainted with in my life, you shall never have any trouble in that kind.

He was, however, continued by Harley in his office in the Ordnance, and this despite refusing to modify his Whig politics, probably serving as a teller on 3 Apr. 1711 on the Whig side in the Cockermouth election case. His vote on 7 Dec. 1711 for the ‘No Peace without Spain’ motion may have been decisive, for a month later Harley (now Earl of Oxford) was canvassing candidates for his place. Even then he was not removed until June 1712. In the meantime he may well have been a Whig teller on 17 Jan. on a motion to adjourn during the debate on the expulsion of Walpole. He voted against the French commerce bill, as a Whig, on 18 June 1713, and in the following general election unsuccessfully contested the county with Thomas Pitt I* against two Tories. Although returned for Heytesbury, he still joined Pitt in petitioning. He voted on 18 Mar. 1714 against the expulsion of Richard Steele, and, as the only ‘Mr Ashe’ in the Commons, was a teller on 8 July 1714 for a motion to have the debts of the army stated. The previous month he had been paid £50 ‘as royal bounty’. He was classed as a Whig in the Worsley list and in a list of the Members re-elected in 1715.5

Ashe continued to sit for his family’s borough until shortly before his death, and his subsequent fortunes mirrored those of his party. He was reinstated to the Ordnance in December 1714 and secured a place on the Board of Trade in 1720, which he held until frailty compelled him to retire. This latter post may have assisted him financially following losses incurred in the South Sea Company, for in July 1720 he wrote plaintively to Harley of his losses, asserting that ‘I that have neither money nor friends have not been the better for it’, and asking Harley to recommend him to Sir John Blunt, one of the directors of the Company, who he hoped would ‘find out some way to enable me to provide for my family, who when I die might perish for want if he does not do it’. Ashe made his will on 25 Jan. 1744, leaving his wife Frances an annuity of £500 together with a life interest in the rental of Heytesbury and Knook parsonages, Wiltshire, leased by him since 1710. Bequests of £40 were made to the poor of the three parishes in which his principal property lay, further annuities and gifts were made to a number of servants, and £100 each was given to his nephews Edward, Pierce† and William A’Court†, the last of whom was made executor and principal beneficiary. Ashe died on 22 May 1748 and was buried at Heytesbury.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Hoare, Wilts. Heytesbury, 118, 150; BurnetDuckett Letters ed. Nichol Smith, 157.
  • 2. CJ, xvi. 427, 428; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 257; Boyer, Pol. State, i-ii. 387.
  • 3. HMC 15th Rep. VII, 190; Wilts. RO, Ailesbury mss 1300/1317, Charles Becher to Hon. Robert Bruce*, 23 May, 13 Sept. 1705; HMC Townshend, 331–2.
  • 4. MarlboroughGodolphin Corresp. 1366, 1381, 1455; Add. 38507, f. 83; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxiv. 257.
  • 5. Add. 70209, Ashe to Harley, 9 Nov., n.d.; HMC Portland, v. 136; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvi. 336; xxviii. 308; HMC 15th Rep. VII, 212; Letters of Burnett to Duckett, 59.
  • 6. Add. 70209, Ashe to Harley, 30 July 1720; PCC 169 Strahan; Hoare, Wilts. Heytesbury, 150; Wilts. RO, 859/2.