Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Ashurst, Henry

ASHURST, HENRY (1614?–1680), a wealthy and benevolent merchant of London, noted for his gifts of money to pious or charitable purposes, the founder of the family of Ashurst or Ashhurst of Waterstock, Oxfordshire, was descended from an old Lancashire family, seated at Ashurst, in the township of Dalton and parish of Wigan, distant five miles north-west of that town. His father, Henry, a justice of the peace, is described as a wise and pious gentleman, zealous for the reformed religion in a part of the country where Roman catholics abounded. His mother was one of the Bradshaws of Bradshaw, near Bolton. Of the sons of this marriage William engaged in politics, becoming M.P. for Newton, Lancashire, in 1641, and for the county in 1654; John became a colonel in the civil war; and Henry, born about 1614, entered into trade; all being very zealous in the interests of the parliamentarians and presbyterians. A daughter, Mary, became the wife of Dr. Theophilus Howorth, of Manchester. Henry was apprenticed at the age of fifteen to a London draper; and his prospects were much advanced by a loan of 300l. from the Rev. James Hiet, of Croston, Lancashire, and by his marriage with Judith Reresby. He became a successful merchant, entered the common council, and, though ejected in 1662, subsequently became an alderman. In 1667 he was living at Lauderdale House, but at the time of his death, which occurred in November 1680, he is called of Hackney. He had the intimate acquaintance of Henry Newcome, of Manchester, Richard Baxter, who preached his funeral sermon, Matthew and Philip Henry, and others; and the writings of all these divines abound in references to him. His charities to his Lancashire countrymen were very extensive: he allowed needy ejected ministers in that county 100l. per annum, and liberally relieved the widows of ministers. He was deeply interested in Elliot's missionary efforts in North America, and that apostle to the Indians termed him his worthy and true friend. Ashurst acted as treasurer for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, was a trustee of Boyle's Lecture, and was a great patron of religious literature. Baxter describes him as 'the most exemplary person for eminent sobriety, self-denial, piety, and charity that London could glory of, as far as public observation, and fame, and his most intimate friends could testify.' His son Henry, also a tried friend of Baxter's, became a baronet; he was the builder of Waterstock. The second son, William, was knighted in 1689, and was lord mayor of London in 1693. Each brother received 20l. by bequest of Robert Boyle.

[Dugdale's Visitation of Lancashire, p. 9; Burke's Visitation of Seats, ii. 11; Baxter's Funeral Sermon, London, 1681, 4to; Sylvester's Reliquiæ Baxterianæ, ii. 290, iii. 17, 189; Le Neve's Knights, 414; Newcome's Autobiography and Diary; Matthew Henry's Life; Life of Antony à Wood, 8vo, 157-8.]

J. E. B.