HEYSHAM, William (1666-1716), of Lancaster

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



1705 - 13 June 1716

Family and Education

bap. 27 Jan. 1666, 3rd s. of Giles Heysham of Lancaster; bro. of Robert Heysham*.  m. 3 Sept. 1687, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Humphrey Brockden of Barbados, 3s. 1da.

Offices Held

Member, Barbados assembly 1699–1703.1


A West Indian merchant trading in partnership with his brother Robert, Heysham resided in Barbados from at least 1688. By the late 1690s he had come to prominence in the government of the colony, becoming a member of the Barbados assembly and being appointed to the colony’s committee of public accounts in 1700. The following year the governor described him as ‘one of the most considerable merchants in these parts, and lays out near £20,000 every year in the produce of the island’, and Heysham was active in preparing the defences of the colony upon the outbreak of the War of Spanish Succession. Appointed one of the colony’s agents to England in 1703, he had returned to England by the following year and, along with his brother, played a leading role in the successful campaign to secure the removal of Sir Bevill Granville* as governor of Barbados. Heysham’s ties to Barbados remained strong, as he served as the colony’s agent in England throughout his parliamentary career, and what land he owned was in Barbados.2

Heysham was added to the Lancashire bench in March 1705, and in the election later that year was returned with his brother for Lancaster. As they both continued to represent the borough until 1715, it is difficult to disentangle much of the activity recorded in the Journals under the name of ‘Heysham’. Unless specifically relating to William, any significant instances of such activity have been noted in Robert’s biography. In an analysis of the 1705 Parliament William was classed as a ‘Churchman’, and on 25 Oct. he voted against the Court candidate as Speaker. The 1706–7 session saw Heysham active with his brother in support of Lancaster’s attempt to obtain a bill to allow the port to import Irish wool. During the 1707–8 session Heysham joined his brother in pressing for the provision of adequate convoys for merchant ships, and he spoke in the debate of 6 Dec. 1707 on this issue. Early in 1708 he was classed as a Tory. The only activity that can be definitely ascribed to Heysham in the 1708 Parliament is his vote in 1710 against the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, and later the same year he was classed as a Tory in the ‘Hanover list’. His partisan loyalties were confirmed by his inclusion in the summer of 1711 among both the ‘Tory patriots’ who had opposed the continuation of the war, and the ‘worthy patriots’ who had pursued the mismanagements of the previous ministry. Although he presented petitions from Lancaster supporting the peace negotiations in 1712 and praising the peace terms in 1713, Heysham voted on 18 June 1713 against the French commerce bill, indicating that he shared Robert’s growing disenchantment with the ministry. Heysham was returned for Lancaster in 1713 but no activity in this Parliament can be confirmed as being his rather than his brother’s. Successful at Lancaster again in 1715, he was included on the Worsley list as a Whig who would often vote with the Tories, classed as a whimsical Whig in another list of that year, and described as a Whig in a third list of 1715. Heysham was one of the few Tories left on the Lancashire bench when the commission of the peace was remodelled the same year, but he remained in opposition until his death, at Bath, on 13 June 1716. He was succeeded as Lancaster MP by his son William who, with his sister, inherited Heysham’s estate estimated to have been worth £17,000.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. CSP Col. 1699, p. 550; 1702, p. 565.
  • 2. Ibid. 1699, pp. 559, 577; 1700, p. 88; 1701, p. 318; 1702, pp. 50, 565–6; 1702–3, p. 697; 1704–5, pp. 250–1; Jnl. Commrs. of Trade and Plantations, 1704–9, pp. 48, 98, 123.
  • 3. Info. from Dr L. K. J Glassey; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 293; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Robert Heysham to James Grahme*, 11 May 1705; Vernon–Shrewsbury Letters, iii. 286–7; London Gazette, 19–22 July 1712, 30 May–2 June 1713; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxvii. 412, 418; PCC 178 Fox.