TEMPEST, William (1654-1700), of Old Durham, co. Dur.

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



Mar. - July 1679
Mar. 1681
1690 - 1695

Family and Education

bap. 31 Jan. 1654, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Tempest† of Old Durham by Elizabeth, da. and h. of John Heath of Old Durham.  educ. Queen’s, Oxf. 1670; L. Inn 1671.  m. 23 Dec. 1677, Elizabeth (d. 1728), da. of one Sudbury, draper of Coggeshall, Essex, sis. of Sir John Sudbury, 1st Bt., of Eldon, co. Dur., 6s. (2 d.v.p.) 7da. (1 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. 1697.1

Offices Held

Capt. of ft. Henry Cavendish† (Earl of Ogle) 1673–4, (Duke of Newcastle) Sept. 1688–Jan. 1689.

Commr., recusants co. Dur. 1675, superstitious uses co. Dur. 1690; freeman, Durham 1674; mayor, Hartlepool 1681–2, 1687–8, 1693–4; receiver-gen. hearth tax, Northumb., co. Dur., Cumb. and Westmld. 1686–Sept. 1688.2


Tempest owed his electoral interest at Durham to his possession of one of the borough’s three chief manors, and, having been successful at the 1690 election, was classed as a Tory and a Court supporter by Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†). On 15 May the Commons heard allegations that a ‘Colonel Tempest’ had been involved in Jacobite intrigues, and at the end of the month a warrant was issued for the arrest of this man on suspicion of high treason, but it is uncertain whether these were allegations against the Member or against Stephen Tempest, a Jacobite resident in Yorkshire. What is certain is that during May a relation of Tempest’s had been arrested on his return from France under suspicion of acting as a Jacobite messenger. Little is known of Tempest’s parliamentary activity, though in December 1690 he was listed among those thought likely to defend Carmarthen from parliamentary attack, while in April 1691 Robert Harley* classed him as a Country supporter. Tempest made his only recorded speech on 12 Dec. 1691, when he responded to an allegation in the report of the commission of accounts that he owed over £3,500 to the crown from his tenure in the late 1680s as hearth tax receiver of the four northern counties. Tempest ‘informed the House that he had received a great misfortune by the running away of one employed under him’ and ‘desired about 10 days to look out his papers and make up his accounts’. He appears, however, to have experienced complications in settling the full debt, as in April 1693 he petitioned the Treasury concerning a remaining £1,500 still outstanding, claiming that he had returned such a sum by a bill drawn on two merchants but that both these men had gone bankrupt before the money reached the Exchequer. Tempest stated that he had obtained a judgment of recovery, of which £930 had been received, and requested that in return for signing this recovery over to the crown he be discharged from paying the outstanding £570. The request was refused by the Treasury lords. While the matter of his arrears was pending, Tempest had become actively involved in plotting to restore James II, receiving a commission in June 1692 as colonel in a Jacobite regiment of dragoons. In the Commons he remained an inactive Member. He was granted a leave of absence on 1 Jan. 1694 to recover his health. During the 1694–5 session he was listed among the ‘friends’ of the Treasury secretary, Henry Guy*, probably in relation to the plans for an attack upon Guy in the Commons. Tempest did not stand at the 1695 election but remained a Jacobite conspirator. In April 1695 he may have had meetings with Dennis Granville, the former dean of Durham, who since the Revolution had become chaplain-in-ordinary to the exiled Stuart court. After the discovery of the Assassination Plot, a government informer claimed he had been told that ‘Mr Tempest of Durham had a commission from King James for a regiment of dragoons’. An order was issued for Tempest’s arrest, but it was never carried out, as by this time Tempest was suffering acutely from gout and was too ill to be moved. He remained resident at his house at Old Durham, and died there four years later. He was buried at St Giles’s in Durham, of which he was patron, on 15 Mar. 1700, and was succeeded by his eldest son, John*.3

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. Surtees, Dur. iv(2), 93.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 749; ix. 530, 1849; Surtees, iv(2), 23; C. Sharp, Hist. Hartlepool, 74–75.
  • 3. Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 40, 42, 49, 50; iv. 47; CSP Dom. 1690–1, p. 23; HMC 13th Rep. V, 406; Luttrell Diary, 77; Cal. Treas. Bks. x. 58, 161–2, 313–4; Bodl. Carte 181, ff. 559, 562; Hopkins thesis, 436, 472; By Force or By Default? ed. Cruickshanks, 40; State Trials, xii. 1310; VCH Dur. ii. 172; L. Gooch, The Desperate Faction? 20.