YORKE, William (c.1609-66), of West Lavington, Wilts.

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



1661 - Nov. 1666

Family and Education

b. c.1609, 1st s. of William Yorke of Bassett Down, Lydiard Tregoze by Anne, da. of Simon Stampe of Oxon. educ. Pembroke, Oxf. matric. 25 May 1627, aged 17, BA 1630; I. Temple 1630, called 1637. m. bef. 27 Oct. 1646, Elizabeth, da. and coh. of William Bower of West Lavington, wid. of Henry Danvers of Baynton, Edington, 1s. d.v.p. suc. fa. 1660.1

Offices Held

Commr. for excise, Wilts. 1644, j.p. 1646-51, 1652-7, 1657-d.; bencher, I. Temple 1652; commr. for assessment, Wilts. 1657, Jan. 1660-d.; freeman, Devizes 1660, recorder 1661-d., alderman 1662-d.2

Dep. gov. Society of Mineral and Battery Works 1652-d.; asst. Society of Mines Royal 1654-5, dep. gov. 1655-d.3


Yorke came from a yeoman family which had not aspired to gentry status before the heralds’ visitation of 1623. His father used no higher style than ‘gentleman’. He profited by an expensive education to become a professional lawyer and, on the testimony of John Aubrey, a notable antiquary. He was appointed to the royalist excise commission in the Civil War, but a charge of delinquency could not be proved. No doubt he was protected by the 5th Earl of Pembroke, who appointed him one of his trustees, but his return for the county in 1654 provoked great indignation among the republicans. He attended the county election of 1660, possibly as agent for John Ernle but it seems to have been a tame affair, and he devoted his time to planning with Aubrey, Ernle and Jeffrey Daniel a county history, for which his manuscript collections would have been invaluable. Yorke had acquired by marriage an interest at Devizes, which his wife’s first husband had represented in the Short Parliament; he seems to have resided on her inheritance at West Lavington, six miles from the borough, even after his father’s death. He was returned at the general election of 1661, and five months later succeeded Robert Aldworth as recorder.4

Yorke was a very active Member of the Cavalier Parliament, being appointed to 170 committees in its first five sessions. He was listed by Lord Wharton as a friend, to be managed by Sir Richard Onslow. On 14 May 1661 he was one of the five Members instructed to peruse the Journals every Saturday, and also named to the committee for the security bill. At a later state of the bill he helped to manage a conference on the privilege of peers. He was appointed to the committee for amending the dowager Lady Pembroke’s deed of jointure and to those for the corporations and uniformity bills. With three very distinguished lawyers he was ordered on 26 June to draw up the impeachment of the master of the ballast office. He helped to draw up the proviso confirming the abolition of the High Commission on 10 July, and took the chair in the committee for restoring advowsons and rectories to Cavalier impropriators. After the autumn recess he was named to the committees for cancelling the conveyance under which Devizes Castle (among other property) had been sold during the Interregnum, and for the execution of those under attainder. He acted as chairman for the bill against import of wool-cards and later carried it to the Lords. He was again concerned with the claims of privilege of the Upper House when he was among those ordered to report on a proviso to the bill to prevent dangers arising from schismatics.5

Yorke certainly conformed to the Church of England, and probably in general supported the Court; but he seems to have been one of the strongest Sabbatarians in the House. He was one of the four Members ordered to peruse the old laws for observation of the Lord’s day on 30 Apr. 1662, and his name stands first in the committee for the bill to supply their defects. In the next session he took the chair in a committee to draw up a comprehensive bill on the subject. The return of impropriated rectories to their Cavalier owners was still causing difficulty; Yorke was the only Member who was sent both to Sir Thomas Fanshawe I and to the King to obtain an order for the delivery of the relevant deeds and writings from the Exchequer. He was named to the committees for the bills to supply defects in the Corporations Act and to prevent the unlawful meetings of dissenters. On 20 July 1663 he helped to manage a conference on the Duke of York’s revenue. In 1664 he was again appointed to a committee for better observation of the Lord’s day, the previous bill having mysteriously disappeared in the Upper House while waiting for the royal assent. He was among those instructed to bring in a bill for regulating abuses in the courts of justice. As one of the Wiltshire Members, he attended the committee for the estate bill of Sir Edward Hungerford and was voted into the chair.6

Yorke attended the Oxford session, serving on the committee for the attainder of English fugitives in the Dutch service, but it may have been his last. On 10 Nov. 1666, he was given leave to go into the country, but he probably never saw Wiltshire again, for he was buried in the Temple Church on 26 Nov., the only member of his family to enter Parliament.7

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Wilts Vis. Peds. (Harl. Soc. cv), 221; Wilts. N. and Q. i. 326; PCC 93 Laud; VCH Wilts. ix. 82; The Gen. n.s. ii. 71.
  • 2. W. H. Black, Docquets of Letters Patent, 212; B. H. Cunnington, Annals of Devizes, i. 133; Devizes recs. bk. C; Add. 32324, f. 169.
  • 3. BL Loan 16.
  • 4. Aubrey and Jackson, Wilts. Colls. 3; Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxvi. 389; xxxvi. 263, 272; Cal. Comm. Adv. Money, 1049; Thurloe, iv. 610; Wilts. N. and Q. i. 276, 319; Bath mss, Thynne pprs. 10, f. 98, Yorke to Sir Jas. Thynne, 30 Mar. 1661.
  • 5. CJ, viii. 299, 324, 358.
  • 6. Ibid. 457, 468, 575; EHR, xxxii. 104.
  • 7. I.T. Recs. iii. 446.