ASSHETON (ASHTON), Sir Ralph, 2nd Bt. (1652-1716), of Middleton, nr. Manchester, Lancs.

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



9 Mar. 1677 - Jan. 1679
6 Feb. 1694 - 1698

Family and Education

b. 11 Feb. 1652, 1st s. of Sir Ralph Ashton, 1st Bt., of Middleton, by Anne, da. of Sir Ralph Assheton, 1st Bt., of Great Lever; bro. of Richard Assheton (Ashton)*.  educ. privately; Brasenose, Oxf. 1668, MA 1669; travelled abroad 1673.  m. (1) Mary (d. 1694), da. and h. of Thomas Vavasour of Spaldington, Yorks., 1s. d.v.p. 3da.; (2) 30 July 1696, Mary, da. and h. of Robert Hyde of Denton, Lancs., s.psuc. fa. as 2nd Bt. 28 Apr. 1665; maternal uncle Sir John Assheton, 4th Bt., in Whalley Abbey estate 1697.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Preston 1682.2


Assheton’s family held extensive lands in the south of the county, and the family estates were augmented in 1697 when Assheton inherited the manor of Whalley, near Clitheroe. Raised as a Presbyterian, Assheton had conformed to the Church of England by 1673, but his Whiggish inclinations after the Revolution may have had their roots in his early religious allegiance. In the early 1690s Assheton was particularly active in supplying the government with information about suspected Jacobites, so much so that in 1690 Lord Brandon (Hon. Charles Gerard*) wrote to Secretary Shrewsbury of Assheton’s ‘zeal for his Majesty’s service’, and his loyalty to the new regime led Assheton to write to Roger Kenyon* in April 1690 in praise of the Commons’ vote of supply, which would allow Ireland to ‘be speedily reduced’, thereby frustrating ‘those that would destroy his Majesty and our happy government’. Assheton does not, however, appear to have been a violent partisan. He was the only man to serve on the Lancashire bench throughout the period 1689–1715, surviving numerous politically motivated regulations, and when Assheton stood for the county at the by-election of 1694, caused by Brandon’s succession as Earl of Macclesfield, his candidacy was welcomed by all sides in the county and, after rumours of a contest, he was returned unchallenged.3

Assheton was an inactive Member, being granted leave of absence on 28 Mar. 1694 and 23 Mar. 1695, and in an analysis of the Commons Robert Harley* was able only to class him as ‘doubtful’. His party loyalties were suggested by his support of the Whig (Sir) Alexander Rigby* at the Wigan election of 1695 and, having been returned unopposed for the county, he was forecast as a likely supporter of the ministry in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade. He signed the Association the following month, and on 27 Mar. was granted a leave of absence. He was absent from the division on the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†, but had reached London by the end of January 1697 in order to guide through Parliament a bill to ‘supply an omission . . . in his marriage settlement’. Despite opposition from Thomas Brotherton* and Sir William Williams, 1st Bt.*, the bill passed both Houses in February, but when the Commons was told that the Royal Assent had been granted Assheton had possibly already left London, having obtained leave of absence on 16 Feb. At the beginning of the following session Assheton was absent from the call of the House on 16 Dec. and was sent for and taken into custody. He was not released until 24 Jan. 1698, and on 12 Apr. he was granted a month’s leave of absence. He did not stand for Parliament again, being classed as a member of the Court party ‘out’ of the 1698 Parliament, and he seems to have harboured no further parliamentary ambitions, as it was his younger brother Richard who was returned for the county at the by-election of 1703. His inheritance of the manor of Whalley had given him some influence at Clitheroe but he chose not to use this for his own advantage, though he was approached in 1710 by the Earl of Derby (Hon. James Stanley*) to lend his weight to the opposition to the Tory Edward Harvey*. Assheton died on 4 May 1716, being buried at Middleton six days later, and was succeeded in his title by his nephew Ralph. The Whalley estates passed to his three daughters, two of whom had married Thomas Lister II* and Nathaniel Curzon†. Lister and Curzon were at this time in the process of consolidating their electoral interest at Clitheroe, and it may be that their wives’ inheritance at Whalley aided their endeavours.4

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. Dorm. and Extinct Baronetcies, 19–22; John Rylands Univ. Lib. Manchester, Legh of Lyme mss corresp. Anne Assheton to Richard Legh†, 29 Mar. [1673].
  • 2. Preston Guild Rolls (Lancs. and Cheshire Rec. Soc. ix), 180.
  • 3. VCH Lancs. iv. 163; vi. 383; Jacobite Trials at Manchester 1694 (Chetham Soc. ser. 1, xxviii), 48–49; CSP Dom. 1689–90, pp. 520, 541; 1691–2, p. 276; HMC Kenyon, 235–6, 238, 282, 284, 286; Lancs. RO, Hulton mss DDHu 48/45, Assheton to [William Hulton], 9 Jan 1693–4.
  • 4. Liverpool RO, 920MD 174 Sir Willoughby Aston diaries, 7 Nov. 1695; HMC Lords, n.s. ii. 368; HMC Kenyon, 413; Lancs. RO, Kenyon mss DDKe/HMC/1031A, Richard Wroe to Roger Kenyon, 28 Jan. 1696–7; Norf. RO, Harbord mss (unsorted coll.), Derby to Assheton, 18 May 1710; VCH Lancs. iv. 167; Dorm. and Extinct Baronetcies, 22.