FORESTER, Sir William (1655-1718), of Dothill Park, nr. Wellington, Salop.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1679 - Mar. 1681
1689 - 1715

Family and Education

b. 10 Dec. 1655, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Francis Forester of Wellington by Lady Mary, da. of Richard Newport†, 1st Baron Newport, wid. of John Steventon of Dothill Park.  educ. Trinity Coll. Camb. 1673, MA 1675.  m. lic. 23 Apr. 1684, Lady Mary, da. of James Cecil†, 3rd Earl of Salisbury, 2s. 3da.  suc. fa. 1684; kntd. c.20 Aug. 1689.1

Offices Held

Clerk of Bd. of Green Cloth 1689–1717.2

Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.3


Closely related to the Newports, the leading Whig family in Shropshire, Forester had been an active Whig conspirator against King James. Implicated in the Rye House Plot, and later, after Monmouth’s rebellion, committed to the Tower for a spell on suspicion of ‘dangerous and treasonable practices’, he had by 1687 taken himself over to The Hague, where he acted as an intermediary between King James’s enemies and the Prince of Orange. Having landed with William in November 1688, he was knighted the following year and given a place in the Household, which necessitated residing in Whitehall: he subsequently maintained a ‘lodging’ there throughout his official career.4

After the Revolution Forester was regularly returned for Much Wenlock, where he and the Welds of Willey Park, acting in alliance, enjoyed such influence that they were challenged only once in this period, and then unsuccessfully. He was classed as a Whig in Lord Carmarthen’s (Sir Thomas Osborne†) list of March 1690, and as a Court supporter in Robert Harley’s* list of April 1691. He also appeared in Grascome’s list of 1693–5 as a supporter of the Court, and was repeatedly classed as a placeman. An active Member, he was useful to the administration, though never recorded as speaking. In April 1691, in his official capacity, he stiffly resisted complying with demands for papers from the commission of accounts. He was a teller on 17 Jan. 1693 against a motion that the House debate on the following Friday the report of the committee appointed to consider how the privilege of Members, in regard to suits at law, might be regulated; and again on 4 Feb., in favour of the adjournment of a debate on a report from ways and means. He served as a teller thrice more during the next session: on 28 Nov. 1693, on the Court side, against an amendment to the triennial bill, to provide regular sittings of Parliament; on 22 Jan. 1694, for a clause in the land tax bill; and on 28 Feb., in favour of a resolution from ways and means for collecting £600,000 over and above the land tax. On 13 Feb. 1695 he told in favour of placing a duty on leather, and in March reported and carried up a private bill on behalf of the Earl of Salisbury, his young nephew by marriage. That same year Forester and his wife were together granted a fee farm rent which had formerly belonged to her family, and which they afterwards sold to her sister-in-law, the dowager Countess of Salisbury, for £2,000. On 30 Apr. Hon. John Beaumont* drew to the attention of the Commons that ‘upon a division . . . last night [possibly a division on the adjournment], he going out of the House, some words were said to him by Sir William Forester . . . fit for the House to take notice of’. No action having resulted from this complaint before the prorogation on 3 May, the two men shortly afterwards ‘meeting accidentally and falling into a heat about the particular words said in the House, which one affirmed and the other denied’, settled their dispute by means of a duel, in which Forester was disarmed.5

Early in the next Parliament, on 12 Dec. 1695, Forester was named to the committee to bring in a bill for regulating the coinage. He was forecast as likely to support the Court in the division of 31 Jan. 1696 on the proposed council of trade; readily signed the Association; voted in March for fixing the price of guineas at 22s.; and on 25 Nov. voted for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. Listed in about September 1698 as a Court placeman, he predictably voted on 18 Jan. 1699 against the disbanding bill. On 16 Apr. 1701 he told in favour of a Whig-inspired amendment to the address asking for the removal from office of Lords Portland, Somers, Orford and Halifax. The amendment pledged the Commons’ support for the King, should he act to protect the peace of Europe and the interests and trade of England from the dangers posed ‘by the present union of France and Spain’.

Forester was one of a number of Whigs listed by Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†) not long after Anne’s accession as to be continued in office. A teller on 9 Dec. 1702 in favour of a motion to enable Thomas Mansel I* to propose the release from custody of one William Mott, detained in connexion with a disputed election for Colchester, he voted on 13 Feb. 1703 for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, and four days later was again a teller, against a clause in favour of Colonel Luke Lillingston, which was proposed to be added to the bill continuing the Act to appoint commissioners to state the army debts. Forester was commissioned in August 1703 to go to The Hague and wait on the Archduke Charles on the latter’s journey to England, and remained as clerk of the Green Cloth in spite of rumours in April 1704 of his dismissal. Indeed, in the following October his daughter Mary was appointed a maid of honour to the Queen. Although he was forecast as a probable opponent of the Tack, and figured on Harley’s lobbying list, he appears to have abstained, and was listed in 1705 as a ‘Sneaker’.6

Having voted for the Court candidate in the election of a Speaker on 25 Oct. 1705, Forester supported the Court over the regency bill on 18 Feb. 1706, and was listed as a Whig in early 1708 and as a Court Whig in another list of 1708 with the returns added. On 28 Jan. 1709 he reported to a fellow Whig that he had been ‘laid up of the gout, brought upon me by attending the House to turn out Sir Simon Harcourt [I]* longer than I was able, so you’ll say I have suffered in a good cause’. In that year he also voted for the naturalization of the Palatines, and in 1710 for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell. He felt himself obliged to put up for re-election in 1710 despite having ‘grown . . . infirm’, in order to keep up his interest until his eldest son, William†, came of age and could take over; and out of loyalty to his party’s cause, which he was also supporting in other constituencies. When teased about his motives by his partner, George Weld II*, he replied: ‘I can assure you ’tis not to secure my place, but all that is dear to an Englishman that I desire to keep up my interest.’ In his next letter he added:

You need not have made the least excuse for what you said in a former letter relating to my place, for I took it only in the friendly sense you intended it, and though Cresswell [Richard*] talks of Lord B[radford (Hon. Richard Newport*)] and some others being out, he may find himself . . . mistaken . . . But I am not surprised at the rage and malice of that party, for what I did and ventured at the Revolution I find by yours is no more forgotten by some of my friends, than is forgiven by our enemies.

Forester was duly returned, together with Weld, and in the ‘Hanover list’ was described as a Whig. He retained his place under the ensuing Tory administration. Having been classed once more as a Whig in the Worsley list, and in a list comparing the Parliaments of 1713 and 1715, he decided not to stand for re-election after the Hanoverian succession, and his son William succeeded him as Member for Much Wenlock.7

Forester eventually retired from the Board of Green Cloth in April 1717, and was allowed, in consideration of his long service, ‘to keep his lodging at Whitehall for the rest of his life’. He died the following year, leaving, besides his estates, stock in the Bank and the East India Company. He was buried at Wellington in Shropshire on 22 Feb. 1718.8

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 2, iii. 167–70; ser. 3, ii. 333–4; Salopian Shreds and Patches, vii. 141; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 572.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1689–90, p. 5; J. M. Beattie, English Ct. in Reign of Geo. I, 186.
  • 3. CJ, xii. 508.
  • 4. LS 13/231/2; CSP Dom. 1694–5, p. 104; Cal. Treas. Bks. xv. 26, 209; Beattie, 186.
  • 5. EHR, xci. 45–46; Cobbett, Parlty. Hist. v. 787; D. Rubini, Court and Country, 110; Cal. Treas. Bks. xii. 331; Lexington Pprs. 86; Luttrell, iii. 468.
  • 6. Marlborough– Godolphin Corresp. 64; Luttrell, v. 331–2, 416–17, 477; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/2/7, James* to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*, 22 Apr. 1704; Hoare mss at Hoare’s Bank, Sir Richard Hoare’s* letterbk. p. 261.
  • 7. Salop RO, Forester mss 1224/21, Forester to Weld, 28 Jan. 1709, 23 May, 15, 20, 22 July, 5 Aug. 1710.
  • 8. Beattie, 186; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. 170; PCC 58 Tenison.