ASHLEY, Henry (1548-aft.1605), of Wimborne St. Giles, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer




Family and Education

b. 11 Sept. 1548, 1st s. of Sir Henry Ashley of Wimborne St. Giles by Katherine, da. of Sir John Bassett of Umberleigh, Devon. m. Anne, da. of William, 4th Lord Burgh by Catherine, 2nd da. of Edward Clinton, 1st Earl of Lincoln, 1s.2 suc. fa. 1588. Kntd. 1603.

Offices Held

J.p. Dorset 1580; gent. pens. by 1586; v.-adm. 1588.3


Ashley owed all three parliamentary seats to his father. At Wareham, where he came in at a by-election in 1576, his father was a friend of the patron, Sir Richard Rogers; at Christchurch the patron was his father’s landlord, Henry, 3rd Earl of Huntingdon. Ashley’s return for Poole in 1589 was due to his father’s own connexions with the borough. In 1581 both father and son were called to order by the Privy Council after Sir Henry had besieged one Robartes in a farm supposed to have been leased to his son. Ashley commanded the Scout at the time of the Armada, and also concerned himself with the land defences of the county. In 1589 the son of Sir Matthew Arundell sent a long letter to Lord Burghley accusing Ashley (and his deceased father) of various extortions in Dorset, and stating that Ashley’s lands lay under a debt of £8,000. Ashley replied by accusing Sir Matthew Arundell of slackness in the Queen’s business, and three local justices of the peace were ordered to investigate. Eventually the Privy Council, considering Ashley’s ‘indiscreet dealings and that he is nevertheless a gentleman of good quality’, tried to effect a reconciliation between them. Ashley was in the Star Chamber over other disputes in 1592 and 1595; various libels, a forged warrant and an affray in the streets of Salisbury were among the highlights of these cases.4

Obtaining permission to travel to Ireland, where his brother-in-law Thomas, 5th Lord Burgh, was lord deputy, Ashley became keeper of a castle near Waterford, but the Privy Council had him relieved of this post. The following year he wrote to the Earl of Essex, then preparing his expedition to Ireland, ‘Love and duty commands me to present my service to you ... for ... it has pleased her Majesty to unworthy me, and to redeliver the fort I possessed by your means’. Again in 1602 Ashley visited Ireland, taking 100 men from Dorset by way of Bristol, and arriving in Munster in March of that year; again he was recalled by the Privy Council.5

Ashley was in serious financial difficulties by 1596, when he was trying to sell Wimborne St. Giles to his old enemy Sir Matthew Arundell, who found his terms too stiff. Ashley next turned to his cousin Anthony, who evidently bought the property, as he was speaking of ‘my house of Wimborne St. Giles’ in 1600. In 1605 Ashley begged Cecil to relieve the distressed estate of himself, his wife, and his children. Probably he died soon afterwards. As he left no lands no inquisition post mortem was held. Administration was granted to his son Henry many years later, 7 Nov. 16226

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 2. Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 594-5; Roberts thesis; Genealogist, ii. 221; CP.
  • 3. E407/1/16; R. Lloyd, Dorset Elizabethans, 181.
  • 4. C142/260/117; M. W. S. Hawkins, Armada Heroes, 114; G. Scott Thomson, Lords Lieutenants in 16th Cent. 71; PRO Index 6800, f. 317; HMC Hatfield, iii. 433; APC, xviii. 80, 105; Add. 24762, ff. 104 seq.; St. Ch. 5/A7/16.
  • 5. APC, xxvii. 189-90, 293; xxxii. 446, 452; HMC Hatfield, viii. 465, 217; xii. 539; CSP Ire. 1601-3, p. 351.
  • 6. HMC Hatfield, vi. 549; x. 282; xvii. 571; PCC admon. act bk. 1622, f. 205.