FORSTER, William (1667-1700), of Bamburgh Castle, Northumb.

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



1689 - 1 Sept. 1700

Family and Education

b. 28 July 1667, 1st s. of Sir William Forster of Bamburgh by Dorothy, da. of Sir William Selby of Twizell, Northumb.; bro. of Ferdinando Forster*.  educ. Durham sch.; St. John's, Camb. 1682.  m. settlement 24 June 1693, Elizabeth (d. 1748), da. and h. of William Pert of Arnolds hall, Mountnessing, Essex, s.psuc. fa. 1674.

Offices Held

Common councilman, Berwick-upon-Tweed 1686–7.1


The first member of his family to sit in the Commons, Forster was returned to the Convention for Northumberland and retained his seat until his death. In 1689 he had voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, and following his return in 1690 was classed as a Tory and Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). On 17 May 1690 he told in favour of limiting the right of election at Aldborough to a select number of burgage-holders, and in the following session, around December, Forster was listed by Carmarthen as among those likely to support him in the event of a Commons attack. In April 1691 an analysis of the House among the papers of Robert Harley* listed Forster as a Country supporter. The following year, in February, he was injured while acting as a second for Hon. Thomas Bulkeley* during Bulkeley’s duel with Sir Bourchier Wrey, 4th Bt.* He told, on 18 Feb. 1693, against granting Sir Gilbert Clarke a leave of absence, and in the spring of that year was listed by Samuel Grascome as a placeman who was not a Court supporter. On 16 Feb. 1694 Forster told against receiving a petition against the salt duty, and later in the year, in an act which betrayed his growing financial difficulties, he threatened to take legal action in order to recover the £100 he had lost in 1691 when acting as surety for the appearance at the King’s bench of Lord Preston (Sir Richard Grahme, 3rd Bt.†).2

Having been returned unopposed in 1695, Forster remained an inactive Member. The only trace of any legislative involvement appears when he was named on 17 Dec. 1695 to draft a bill to prevent theft and rapine on the northern borders. His political sympathies were made clear, however, as Forster was forecast as a likely opponent of the Court in the divisions of 31 Jan. 1696 upon the proposed council of trade, refused to sign the Association, and in March voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. Early in the following session, on 9 Nov. 1696, Forster was ordered into custody for being absent at a call of the House, but he was released eight days later and on 25 Nov. voted against the attainder of his fellow Northumbrian Sir John Fenwick†. On 15 Dec. Forster was granted an indefinite leave of absence on the grounds of his wife’s illness, though six days later his name was added to an inquiry committee. Having successfully contested for re-election in 1698, Forster was forecast in the autumn as a likely opponent of the standing army, and was classed as a Country supporter in a comparison of the old and new Commons. He took little discernible part in the proceedings of this Parliament, though in the spring of 1699 a private bill was passed to enable Forster to vest certain of his estates in a trust for the payment of debts, while reserving to his wife an annuity of £350 p.a. after his death. This clause came into effect sooner than would, perhaps, have been expected, as Forster died on 1 Sept. 1700 and was buried at Bamburgh five days later. He was succeeded, in both his heavily indebted estates and his county seat, by his brother Ferdinando.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. New Hist. Northumb. i. 156-7; Morant, Essex, ii. 45; CSP Dom. 1686–7, pp. 231–2.
  • 2. Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 351; Norf. RO, Le Neve mss, [?Peter Le Neve] to John Millicent, 5 Feb. 1691[–2]; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 647, 686.
  • 3. CJ, xii. 634–5, 645; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 474; Six N. Country Diaries (Surtees Soc. cxxiv), 152.