STEPHENS, Sir William (c.1641-97), of Barton, I.o.W.
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Family and Education
b. c.1641, 1st s. of William Stephens† of Barton by Anne Redman, wid. of Edward Harbert, yeoman, of Birchmore, Arreton, I.o.W. educ. M. Temple 1656; New Coll. Oxf. 1658. m. 1665, Elizabeth (d. 12 Jan. 1695), da. of Henry Hillary of Meerhay, Dorset, 2s. 5da. (4 d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1658; kntd. 1684.1
Freeman, Newtown 1658–96; lt. gov. I.o.W. c.1689–93.
Stephens, a colonel in the Isle of Wight militia, had been a Tory in the reign of James II and had replied affirmatively to the questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws. After 1689 his support for the new regime was secured by the governor of the Isle of Wight, Sir Robert Holmes*, who appointed him lieutenant governor. Returned again for Newport in 1690, he was classed as a Tory by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) in a list of the new Parliament, while in December 1690 he was noted as a probable supporter of Carmarthen in the event of a Commons attack upon him. The following April Robert Harley* saw grounds to list Stephens as a Country supporter. He was included on several lists of placemen drawn up in 1692 and 1693. On 14 Dec. 1691 he was given leave of absence for 14 days to attend the funeral of a near relation, and was given leave again on 26 Feb. 1694, this time for three weeks for health reasons. After Holmes’s death, his successor as governor, Lord Cutts (John*), removed Stephens from the lieutenant governorship, saying that he acted ‘not out of any unkindness to him, whom he assures of his friendship upon all occasions; but because it requires one that shall have no other business in mind but reside always at the castle, and give himself wholly to it’. Stephens did not stand in 1695 and in 1696 refused to sign the Association, whereupon Cutts had him expelled from the freedom of Newtown. This act was one of the grievances cited in a petition by the island gentry against Cutts the following year, but before the matter was resolved, Stephens died on 26 Sept. 1697 in his 57th year, leaving his fortune much depleted.2
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: Paula Watson
Unless otherwise indicated, this biography is based on T. Stephens, The Castle-Builders; or, the History of William Stephens (1759).