ASHHURST, Sir William (1647-1720), of Watling Street, London and Highgate, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



14 May 1689
Feb. 1701
Dec. 1701

Family and Education

b. 26 Apr. 1647, 2nd s. of Henry Ashhurst, merchant, of London, and bro. of Henry Ashhurst. m. lic. 3 Aug. 1668, Elizabeth, da. of Robert Thompson, merchant, of Newington Green, Surr., 7s. (1 d.v.p.) 6da. Kntd. 29 Oct. 1687.1

Offices Held

Freeman, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1669, master 1687-8; common councilman, London 1678-83, auditor of Bridgehouse accounts 1682-3, alderman 1687-d., dep. lt. 1687-1702, by 1710-d., sheriff 1691-2, ld. mayor 1693-4; pres. Christ’s Hosp. 1688; j.p. Mdx. 1689-d.; commr. for assessment, London and Mdx. 1689-90; v.-pres. Hon. Artillery Co. 1689-1703, pres. 1708-d.; col. yellow regt. of militia ft. London 1689-90, white regt. by 1700-2, 1705-d.2

Commr. for preventing export of wool 1689-92, excise 1698-1700, 1714-d.; director, Bank of England (with statutory intervals) 1697-1714.3


Ashhurst was apprenticed to his father in 1662, and became a successful woollen draper, trading with North America and regarded as a special friend of New England. On his father’s death in 1680 he inherited the family house in Watling Street, where he normally resided, Castle Hedingham in Essex, and six other houses, held of the dean and chapter of Windsor. A nonconformist like the rest of his family, he was a friend of Edmund Calamy, who often spent his evenings at Ashhurst’s house. He was an active and influential Whig member of the common council, was appointed to the committee to draw up the London address for the calling of a Parliament on 13 May 1681, and the following year was on the committee to prepare the City’s defence against the quo warranto writ. James II regarded him as a Whig collaborator, for he appointed him alderman by royal commission in the summer of 1687 and master of the Merchant Taylors’ Company in succession to a Tory. On the restoration of the London charter in October 1688, he was elected alderman for Billingsgate ward.4

Ashhurst supported the Revolution, being appointed by the common council to the committees to draw up the City’s address to William of Orange on 11 Dec. 1688 and to raise a loan of £200,000 for the Prince in January 1689. In March he was a member of another committee working for a reversal of the judgment of quo warranto against the City, and chairman of the committee to make proposals to Parliament about clearing the orphans’ debt in the city chamber. Returned for London at a by-election on the death of William Love he was an active Member of the Convention, with 28 committees. He was among those appointed to consider the bill for preventing the export of wool, to devise new oaths of supremacy and allegiance, to inquire into the delay in relieving Londonderry, to reverse the quo warranto against London, to prepare reasons for a conference on Titus Oates, and to bring in a temporary book of rates. After the recess he was named to the committee of elections and privileges, and to those to inquire into the miscarriages of the war and to consider the mutiny bill. He served on the committee for restoring corporations, and supported the disabling clause in the bill. Branded as a republican, he lost his seat at the general election; but in later Parliaments he voted consistently with the court Whigs. He died on 12 Jan. 1720 at his house in Highgate, father of the City. His son Henry, town clerk of London, represented Preston from 1698 to 1702.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 414; Guildhall Lib. Stocken coil.; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 41; PCC 22 Shaller.
  • 2. Information from H. Horwitz; J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 19; HMC Lords, iii. 45, 58; Mdx. RO, MJP/CP5a; Guildhall Lib. mss. 186/2/702; Luttrell, v. 193; G. A. Raikes, Hist. Hon. Artillery Co. ii. 474.
  • 3. CSP Dom. 1698, p. 366; Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 96; xxix. 149; N. and Q. clxxix. 57.
  • 4. Mass. Col. Soc. Pubs. xvii. 35; xx. 190-200; D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 376; Cal. Treas. Bks. vii. 990; London Corp. RO, common council jnl.; Guildhall Lib. Gregory mss 1104, ff. 69-77; CSP Dom. 1680-1, p. 280; 1682, p. 35; G. M. Clode, Merchant Taylors Co. ii. 349; Luttrell, i. 412, 469.
  • 5. Ellis Corresp. ii. 350; HMC Finch, iii. 433-4; HMC Downshire, i. 429; Pol. State, xix. 16.