ASHE, Sir James, 2nd Bt. (1674-1733), of Twickenham, Mdx.

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



Dec. 1701 - 1705

Family and Education

bap. 27 July 1674, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Sir Joseph Ashe†, 1st Bt., of Twickenham by Mary, da. of Robert Wilson, Draper, of London.  m. aft. June 1697, his cos. Elizabeth, da. of Sir Edmund Bowyer† of Camberwell, Surr., and half-sis. of Anthony Bowyer*, 1s. d.v.p. 4da. (3 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 15 Apr. 1686.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Wilts. 1706–7.


A minor at his father’s death, and regarded as a ‘very feeble’ youth, Ashe was secured with an annuity of £200 to be paid by his mother from the family’s extensive estates in Wiltshire and Yorkshire. His mother’s property, however, remained under her own control, and while his stockholding in the East India Company in 1689 was estimated at £1,000, hers amounted to over £9,000. It was she who put him forward as a candidate for his father’s old seat at Downton in 1695, as soon as he had reached his majority, but, partly through the duplicity of the family’s agent, John Snow, nothing came of the attempt. Ashe’s later marriage caused a rupture between mother and son, she complaining bitterly of ‘his perverseness to me, and crossness in not marrying where I desired’, but although she took pains to make sure that he should never come into possession of her fortune she could not prevent him from taking over his father’s property; by 1697 he was in possession of Downton manor as well as a further 700 acres in neighbouring parishes. His lands in south Wiltshire were sufficiently extensive that in January 1700 he petitioned Parliament against a bill for making the Avon navigable between Christchurch, Dorset, and Salisbury, suggesting that the value of his properties there would fall as a result of such work. Regardless of his mother’s antipathy towards him, manifested in her support of a rival candidate, Ashe made an interest at a by-election for Downton in May 1698. However, he was again unsuccessful and did not contest either of the two succeeding general elections, supporting John Eyre* and Carew Raleigh* at Downton in January 1701. Despite this failure, and an antipathy to ‘the town [London] I hate so much’, he took a great interest in parliamentary proceedings, sending down to Wiltshire in May 1701 a copy of the letter from the States General to King William appealing for assistance, and the Lords’ address in response, with the covering comment, ‘so now I hope we shall enjoy our liberties by entering into a war with France, which till now we had no hopes of’.2

Returned at last for Downton in November 1701, he was classed with the Whigs in Robert Harley’s* analysis of this Parliament. He is not known to have spoken, but in a private letter of early April 1702 gave his opinion of the recent Commons’ address as ‘a wretched thing and dirty’. At the 1702 election he was prepared to ‘relinquish’ to John Eyre but was not called upon to do so. He voted on 13 Feb. 1703 for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, was forecast on 30 Oct. 1704 as likely to oppose the Tack, and did not vote for it on 28 Nov. In 1705 he did step down in favour of Eyre, although he was still included in a list of the new Parliament, as ‘Low Church’. Ashe sought to advance himself again at Downton in 1708, but was squeezed out by the Eyre and Duncombe interests and by the freeholders’ hostility towards him. He did not stand again. To compound his misfortune, in March 1709 his wife, for whom he had sacrificed his mother’s local influence and from whom he was now ‘living separately’, successfully sought a legal judgment allowing her £300 a year in alimony.3

Ashe died at his house in Twickenham on 8 Nov. 1733, eight days after his younger surviving daughter. As he died intestate, his properties worth £4,000 p.a. together with £10,000 in cash devolved on his son-in-law Joseph Windham Ashe†, who was himself returned for Downton in the general election the following year.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: D. W. Hayton / Henry Lancaster


  • 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 2; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 409; R. S. Cobbett, Memorials of Twickenham, 64; PCC 41 North, 133 Pyne.
  • 2. PCC 39 Lloyd; Add. 24120, f. 19; 22185, f. 12; R. W. Ketton-Cremer, Felbrigg, 76; Wilts RO, Radnor mss 490/909, Snow to Lady Ashe, 14 Sept., Lady Ashe to Snow, 24 Sept., 4 Oct., 11 Nov. 1695, Ashe to same, 10 May 1698, 30 Nov. 1700, May 1701; Sloane 4078, f. 263; Wilts. N. and Q. iii. 354; Wilts. RO, 906/W51; CJ, xiii. 125.
  • 3. Radnor mss 490/909, Ashe to Snow, 6 Apr. 1702.
  • 4. Luttrell, Brief Relation, vi. 412; Gent. Mag. 1733, p. 607; Hist. Reg. Chron. 1733, p. 43; Prob. 6/109, f. 77v.