The only son of Sir Joseph, James, was still a minor at his father’s death, and succeeded to the baronetcy at the age of 12. James was secured with an annuity of £200 to be paid by his mother from the family’s extensive estates in Wiltshire and Yorkshire. His mother’s property, however, remained under her own control and, while his stockholding in the East India Company in 1689 was estimated at £1,000, hers amounted to over £9,000. It was she who put him forward as a candidate for his father’s old seat at Downton in 1695, as soon as he had reached his majority but, partly through the duplicity of the family’s agent, John Snow, nothing came of the attempt.
James’ later marriage caused a rupture between mother and son, she complaining bitterly of ‘his perverseness to me, and crossness in not marrying where I desired’, but although she took pains to make sure that he should never come into possession of her fortune she could not prevent him taking over his father’s property. By 1697 he was in possession of Downton Manor as well as a further 700 acres in neighbouring parishes. His lands in south Wiltshire were sufficiently extensive that in January 1700 he petitioned Parliament against a bill for making the Avon navigable between Christchurch, Dorset, and Salisbury, suggesting that the value of his properties would fall as a result of such work.
Regardless of his mother’s antipathy towards him, manifested in her support of a rival candidate, James made an interest at a by-election for Downton in May 1698. However, he was again unsuccessful and did not contest either of the two succeeding general elections, supporting John Eyre and Carew Raleigh at Downton in January 1701. Despite this failure, and an antipathy to ‘the town [London] I hate so much’, he took a great interest in parliamentary proceedings, sending down to Wiltshire in May 1701 a copy of the letter from the States General to king William appealing for assistance, and the Lords’ address in response, with the covering comment, ‘so now I hope we shall enjoy our liberties by entering into a war with France, which til now we had no hopes of’.
Returned at last for Downton in November 1701, he was classed with the Whigs in Robert Harley’s analysis of this Parliament. He is not known to have spoken, but in a private letter of early April 1702 gave his opinion of the recent Commons’ address as ‘a wretched thing and dirty’. At the 1702 election, he was prepared to ‘relinquish’ to John Eyre but was not called upon to do so. He voted on 13 February 1703 for agreeing with the Lords’ amendments to the bill for enlarging the time for taking the oath of abjuration, was forecast on 30 October 1704 as likely to oppose the Tack, and did not vote for it on 28 November. In 1705 he did step down in favour of Eyre, although he was still included in a list of the new Parliament, as ‘Low Church’. James sought to advance himself again at Downton in 1708, but was squeezed out by the Eyre and Duncombe interests and by the freeholders’ hostility towards him. He did not stand again.
He appears to have been a man of lesser metal than his father, being held in low estimation by his mother who regarded him as “a very feeble son”. He contracted a disastrous marriage with Catherine Bowyer and she left him in 1707, as noted by Isabella Wentworth: “it seems Sir James transgressed and went astray, which enraged her so much that ever since her last child, which was nine months old, she never bedded with him again. Never man humbled himself more than he did to her . . . “. Compounding his misfortune with his non-election in 1708, his wife, for whom he had sacrificed his mother’s local influence and from whom he was now ‘living separately’, successfully sought a legal judgement in March 1709 allowing her £300 a year in alimony.
James died at his house in Twickenham on 8 November 1733, eight days after his younger surviving daughter. As his son had died some 30 years earlier and as he died intestate, his properties worth £4,000 p.a. together with £10,000 in cash devolved to his surviving daughter, Martha, who made them over to her husband, Joseph Windham, who took the name of Ashe. Joseph Windham Ashe was himself returned for Downton in the general election the following year.
Upon the death of James, the baronetcy became extinct.
Extract from “Memorials of Twickenham: Parochial and Topographical” by the Rev. R.S. Corbett (1872)
Joseph, son of Sir James Ashe, Bart , January 10th, 1702.
Katharine, daughter of Sir James Ashe, Bart, February 15, 1704.
Dame Mary Ashe, relict of Sir Joseph Ashe, December 6th, 1705.
Mary, daughter of Sir James Ashe, Bart, July 14th, 1706.
Frances, daughter of Sir James Ashe, July 4th, 1707.
[These last two extracts reveal a strange and melancholy coincidence.]
Madame Martha Ashe, August 1st, 1714.