TWISDEN, Sir William, 3rd Bt. (1635-97), of Roydon Hall, East Peckham, Kent

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



1685 - 1687
1695 - 27 Nov. 1697

Family and Education

b. 11 Dec. 1635, 1st s. of Sir Roger Twisden, 2nd Bt.†, of Roydon Hall by Isabella, da. of Sir Nicholas Saunders† of Ewell, Surr.  educ. privately in France 1643–7; travelled abroad (France, Italy) 1661–4.  m. 13 June 1665 (with at least £2,000), Frances (d. 1731), da. and h. of Josias Crosse, merchant, of Southwark, Surr., 10s. (3 d.v.p.) 7da. (5 d.v.p.).  suc. fa. as 3rd Bt. 27 June 1672.1

Offices Held

Commr. for recusants 1675; asst. Rochester Bridge 1680–d., warden 1681, 1688, 1695; freeman, Maidstone 1683, Rochester 1689[–?90], New Romney 1695.2


Twisden was described by his family’s biographers as a man who was ‘admired by his contemporaries as an accomplished gentleman, skilled in languages, and learned in constitutional law and history. The last was taught by his father; the former characters were ascribed in great measure to long residence abroad.’ On Twisden’s marriage in 1665, his father transferred Roydon Hall and nearly all the estate to his son, retaining a ‘pension’ of £200 p.a. and a small portion of land. The official marriage settlement included a cash sum of over £2,000, which was paid to Twisden’s father as ‘part of the marriage portion’ in return for the transfer of Roydon Hall. The marriage portion also included lands valued at £80 p.a., while Twisden’s wife stood to inherit land worth £240 p.a. on her mother’s death. As the owner of a sizable Kent estate, and with family roots in the county stretching back to the 13th century, Twisden was a significant member of the local gentry elite, so that politically he was always closely identified with the Country Tory interest. The other significant factor in his political affiliation was his family ties with his cousin the Earl of Nottingham (Daniel Finch†).3

Twisden had first endeavoured to enter Parliament in 1679, and sat in James II’s Parliament. In 1689 he intended to stand for the Convention, but his refusal to sign the Kentish Association to William of Orange lost him a great deal of support, which in turn forced him to withdraw on the first day of the poll. However, in February 1690 he wrote to the mayor of New Romney, stating that he had been informed ‘that many worthy persons in your corporation have been pleased to speak and think favourably of me’. However, while it appeared that Twisden was considering standing for New Romney, he was also thinking about recontesting the county election. On 10 Feb. Sir John Knatchbull, 2nd Bt.*, recorded that ‘my Lord Nottingham had a great mind to have Sir William Twisden stand’. Knatchbull, who described Twisden as ‘very sincere’ and ‘a man of great virtue and worth’, managed to discourage him from standing by telling him ‘he would hardly get through it’.4

During the next few years Twisden remained out of politics and seems to have been preoccupied by the considerable debts he had accrued. His main concern, and the cause of his debts, was the large family he had to provide for. However, by 1695 he was considering standing for election once again, though the financial cost had become a worry to him. On 21 Sept. the Duke of Leeds (Sir Thomas Osborne†) wrote to Lord Lexington about the forthcoming election:

The schemes which I hear are drawn by some of our grandees, makes it highly necessary to get some able, as well as honest men into the next Parliament; and Sir William Twisden . . . being such a one, I have endeavoured all I can to persuade him to stand again, his interest being as good as any man in that county, but I find him terrified with the expense, so that there will be no hope of having him, unless we can get him into some other place.

He went on to say that Sir Edward Seymour, 4th Bt.*, was ‘acquainted both with his [Twisden’s] honesty and his abilities in Parliament’, and that the ‘place’ which was in Seymour’s ‘power to reserve for Sir Christopher Musgrave [4th Bt.*]’, who looked to be provided for by Lord Thanet (Thomas Tufton†) at Appleby, could now be used for Twisden. Leeds was also ‘endeavouring to do what I can to introduce him at a borough in Yorkshire, but can not give myself any assurance of success’. In the end Twisden stood at Appleby along with Musgrave, presumably on the interest of Thanet. Despite the efforts to the contrary of Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II*, Twisden and Musgrave were returned. Twisden was also elected in his absence for New Romney, defeating the Whig candidate Sir Charles Sedley* by one vote, though had he not solicited his nomination there, and expressed surprise on being notified of his election. On 30 Oct. he wrote to the mayor stating that he had avoided the borough for fear of being disappointed and of being ‘denied a service in which I never can propose to myself any particular interest other than the public service of my country and of yourselves in particular’. Eventually he chose to sit for Appleby.5

Twisden was not active during the 1695–6 session. In a forecast for the divisions on the proposed council of trade on 31 Jan. 1696 he was listed as likely to oppose the Court, while in March he voted against fixing the price of guineas at 22s. He refused to sign the Association in February, on the basis of the same objections made by his kinsman Nottingham in the Lords. However, he eventually signed it in the King’s bench on 19 May. On 25 Nov. he voted against the bill for the attainder of Sir John Fenwick†. He was granted leave of absence on 12 Mar. 1697 to go into the country and took no further part in Parliament, dying in London on 27 Nov. of an internal impostume. He was buried at East Peckham on 3 Dec. and was succeeded in the baronetcy by his fourth but eldest surviving son, Thomas Twisden. Nottingham’s younger brother, Hon. Heneage Finch I*, informed Lord Weymouth (Thomas Thynne†) that Twisden’s death was ‘greatly lamented by all here, and doubtless by all his well-principled acquaintances’ and that Twisden was ‘not to be paralleled in this county [Kent]’. Nottingham agreed that Twisden’s death ‘deserves to be lamented, for he was a very good and a very considerable man’. By his will, dated 26 Mar. 1694, Twisden left two jointures for his wife, on the understanding that she would use these and her own legacies to provide for their children, apart from Thomas, who inherited the estate. The individual settlements included £2,000 a piece to his two surviving daughters, plus £100 each to buy wedding clothes. His second son, William, received £500 plus the income from the part share in the profits of the subpoena office in Chancery which Twisden had purchased. His four other sons were to receive £1,000 each on reaching the age of 21.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: Ivar McGrath


  • 1. J. R. Twisden and C. H. Dudley, Hist. of Fam. of Twysden and Twisden, 156, 169, 175, 181, 271, 284–5; Add. 34168, ff. 65–66, 68; 34177, f. 41.
  • 2. Cal. Treas. Bks. iv. 788; info. from P. F. Cooper, Bridge Clerk, Rochester Bridge Trust; Twisden and Dudley, 279; info. from Medway Area Archs; Centre Kentish Stud. New Romney bor. recs. NR/AC2, New Romney common assembly bk. 1622–1702.
  • 3. Twisden and Dudley, 182, 271; info. from Mr C. Lee; H. Horwitz, Revol. Politicks, 40, 262; HMC Finch, iii. 111.
  • 4. Twisden and Dudley, 278–80, 283–4; info. from Mr C. Lee; New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEP 56/2, Twisden to the mayor, 12 Feb. 1689[–90]; Add. 33923, ff. 458–62, 468.
  • 5. Twisden and Dudley, 286–7; Add. 46554–9, Leeds to Lexington, 21 Sept. 1695; Lowther Corresp. ed. Hainsworth, 443; Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/3/5, [Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II*] to [Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. I*], 28 Oct. 169[5]; Bagot mss at Levens Hall, Timothy Banks to James Grahme*, 1 Nov. 1695; HMC Downshire, i. 578; V. De Sola Pinto, Sir Charles Sedley, 197; New Romney bor. recs. NR/AEP 58/1–2, John Brewer* to the Mayor, 29 Oct. 1695, Twisden to same, 30 Oct. 1695; New Romney Common Assembly bk. 1622–1702, pp. 746, 760; CJ, xi. 582.
  • 6. Twisden and Dudley, 286–9, 293–4; Luttrell, Brief Relation, iv. 60; CSP. Dom. 1697, p. 492; Bath mss at Longleat House, Portland misc. mss, 17, ff. 253–6; BL, Althorp mss, Halifax pprs. box 7, Nottingham to Ld. Halifax (William Savile*), 29 Nov. 1697.