ASHHURST, Henry (1645-1711), of St. John's Street, Clerkenwell, Mdx. and Waterstock, Oxon.
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Family and Education
b. 8 Sept. 1645, 1st s. of Henry Ashhurst, merchant, of Watling Street, London and Hackney, Mdx. by Judith, da. of William Reresby, merchant, of London; bro. of Sir William Ashhurst. m. lic. 26 Mar. 1670, Diana, da. of William, 6th Lord Paget, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. 1680; cr. Bt. 21 July 1688.1
Member, Merchant Taylors’ Co. 1661, Levant and Muscovy Cos. 1680; alderman, London Oct. 1688-9; commr. for assessment, London 1689-90, Lancs. and Mdx. 1690; j.p. Mdx. 1689-d., Oxon. by 1701-d.; dep. lt. London and Mdx. 1689-?d., Oxon. 1701-?d.2
Commr. of excise 1689-91, preventing export of wool 1689-92; agent, Massachusetts by 1689-1701, Connecticut 1699-d., New Hampshire by 1701-2.3
Ashhurst came from a minor Lancashire gentry family of staunchly Puritan outlook. His uncle, William Ashhurst, sat for Newton in the Long Parliament until Pride’s Purge, and represented the county in the first Protectorate Parliament. His father, a wealthy woollen draper who exported cloth to New England and Turkey, was a friend to ejected nonconformist ministers, and Ashhurst was himself a Presbyterian. When he stood for Liverpool in 1670 a supporter of Sir William Bucknall grumbled:
I wonder what should make some of the people so madly hot for Mr Ashhurst, who is but a very young man, neither doth he understand the interest of the town, nor so much as of the county; neither hath he concern among you to attend his endeavour.
He put up a strong fight against Bucknall’s ‘golden nets’, and eventually desisted only on a personal appeal from Lord Derby two days before the poll. He declined another invitation to stand in 1677.4
Ashhurst was first returned for Truro in 1681, presumably on the interest of Hugh Boscawen. He left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament, but as the brother-in-law of Henry Cornish he was involved in the opposition discussions that followed its dissolution. Titus Oates was a frequent visitor to his house in Clerkenwell, and he is said to have been privy to the Whig scheme to arrest Sir William Pritchard and his colleagues in April 1683. A ‘very good friend’ of Thomas Pilkington, he tried to salvage his business after his conviction, and frequently visited him in prison. When Baxter was tried before Judge Jeffreys as a conventicler in 1685, Ashhurst retained Henry Pollexfen and another capable Whig lawyer to defend him. In the same year he published a biography of a Lancashire nonconformist minister. Like his brother he was regarded as a Whig collaborator by James II, who gave him a baronetcy in the summer of 1688. He was elected alderman of London on the restoration of the charter in October, but did not continue after the Revolution.5
Ashhurst was involved in a double return for Truro at the general election of 1689, and was seated on the merits of the return. As London agent for the assembly of Massachusetts, he presented a loyal address to William and Mary. A moderately active Member of the Convention, he was appointed to 14 committees and three tellerships. Urged by Baxter to work for the abolition of religious persecution, he was among those named to the committee for the repeal of the Corporations Act, under which, he wrote, ‘so many were sentenced and struck dead in law as to any public service’. His other committees in the first session included those to receive proposals for raising money on the security of forfeited lands in Ireland, to hear a petition from Virginia against arbitrary exactions, to inquire into the delay in relieving Londonderry, to consider an attainder bill, and to examine prisoners of state. In the second session he was appointed to the committee of elections and privileges. A supporter of the disabling clause in the bill to restore corporations, he acted as teller for a conciliatory amendment on 10 Jan. 1690, and six days later he opposed proceeding with the bill of indemnity. His last committee was on the bill to impose a general oath of allegiance.6
Ashhurst remained a court Whig and a nonconformist sympathizer. He died on 13 Apr. 1711 and was buried at Waterstock, where he had built a great house. His son Henry sat for Windsor as a government supporter in the first Parliament of George I.7
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: Eveline Cruickshanks
- 1. London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 41.
- 2. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London, 19; CSP Dom. 1689-90, pp. 53, 487; 1690-1, p. 163; HMC Lords, iii. 47.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. ix. 82, 1097; T. Hutchinson, Hist. Mass. Bay, i. 330; ii. 96; CSP Col. 1689-92, p. 212; 1700, pp. 115, 498, 739; 1701, p. 383; Col. Recs. Conn. 1689-1706, p. 469; 1706-16, p. 291.
- 4. D. Underdown, Pride’s Purge, 89, 218; Hutchinson, i. 450; D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parl. Pols. 375; Trans. Hist. Soc. Lancs. and Cheshire, vi. 14; xciii. 68; Guildhall Lib. Stocken coll.; HMC Kenyon, 102.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1679-80, p. 620; 1682, p. 573; State Trials, x. 326; J. R. Davies, Richard Baxter, 405; Luttrell, i. 469, 508.
- 6. Hutchinson, i. 333, 344; ii. 134; Lacey, 375.
- 7. G. A. Holmes, Pols. in the Age of Anne, 205; VCH Oxon. vii. 221.