BOWYER, Sir John, 2nd Bt. (1653-91), of Knypersley, Staffs.
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Family and Education
b. 25 Apr. 1653, 1st s. of John Bowyer. educ. Christ Church, Oxf. 1668. m. lic. 10 July 1672, Jane (d. 19 Oct. 1727), da. and coh. of Henry Murray of Berkhampstead, Herts., groom of the bedchamber to Charles I, 1s. suc. fa. as 2nd Bt. July 1666.
Commr. for assessment, Staffs. 1673-80, 1689-90, dep. lt. 1675-81, 1686-d., j.p. 1676-81, 1686-d.1
Bowyer first attempted to enter Parliament at a by-election at Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1675. He was unsuccessful, and it was not until 1678 that he obtained a seat at Warwick, where he had spent ‘a considerable share of his time and his moneys’ since his marriage at St. Mary’s. His wife’s uncle, Sir Henry Puckering, from whom she had expectations, lived in the town, and he also enjoyed the corporation interest of Lord Brooke (Fulke Greville). He was marked ‘doubly worthy’ on Shaftesbury’s list, but during the last year of the Cavalier Parliament he was named to only two committees, both dealing with private bills.2
Bowyer divided Staffordshire in the three Exclusion Parliaments with the court supporter Sir Walter Bagot. Shaftesbury marked him ‘worthy’, but in 1679 he was appointed only to the committee of elections and privileges. He made default in attendance on 25 Apr. and was still absent for the division on the exclusion bill. In 1680, he was again named to the elections committee, and also to that for the bill prohibiting the import of Irish cattle. On 8 Nov. during the debate in the grand committee on the exclusion bill, Bowyer made his only recorded speech, suggesting that its provisions should come into force on 17 Nov. ‘which was Queen Elizabeth’s birthday’. He left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament.3
Bowyer was in attendance on Monmouth for part of his progress through the Midlands. He was marked ‘naught’ on the Staffordshire militia list, and on the discovery of the Rye House Plot it was alleged that he had about a hundred muskets new stocked and locked, ‘besides arms which may amount to as many more for horse’. The informant thought that Monmouth might conceal himself in Bowyer’s house, which was ‘at an odd nook in the country, where he and all his neighbours are brutish beasts and all cursed fanatics’. Another informant alleged that Bowyer had been among a group of Members of Parliament who had, before one of the Exclusion Parliaments, met well-armed at Coventry, saying that they were in danger of attack from Papists on the road, and that they were due to meet Shaftesbury at Highgate, in order to consult on the conduct of affairs in Parliament.4
By October 1683 Bowyer had decided that the wisest course was to admit the error of his past actions. ‘I still do own’, he wrote,
and am heartily sorry for all my failings in my hot and undutiful as well as indiscreet votings in the House of Commons, which transactions, were they to begin de novo or were it my fortune to be employed in any subsequent Parliament wherein the same things should be started again, I would never give my assent unto them. I mean plainly and unreservedly the bill of exclusion: and to this resolution by the grace of God I will ever be firm; you may remember I acquainted you that I was the sole author and promoter of that address which Newcastle sent up to his Majesty since his deliverance and [that of his] royal highness from the late intended hellish plot and conspiracy, though I believe his Majesty knows nothing of my diligence and duty therein ... You know likewise that I did what in me lay to persuade the corporation of Newcastle to surrender their charter. ... I am truly sensible of my former miscarriages and have truly endeavoured to make all those cordially loyal over whom I had any the least interest, for though to my shame I own that formerly the name of being popular and having the votes of my country was my ambition, yet now I declare that next to the love of God the favour and good opinion of the King is my chiefest aim and happiness.
The letter was endorsed by its recipient, ‘his Majesty read it and commanded me to keep it safe as a record of Sir John’s recantation’.5
Despite Bowyer’s apparent volte face the precaution was taken of imprisoning him at the time of Monmouth’s invasion. His release was ordered on 30 June 1685, and he was restored to local office. He was included among James II’s opponents ‘considerable for interest’. To the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Penal Laws and the Test Act, he replied that he had resolved not to stand for Parliament; but if he were elected then he would vote according to the reasons offered in debate. As to support for court candidates he said that he would give his vote with the majority of the gentlemen of the shire, and that as he had always disliked religious persecution for the sake of conscience he freely consented to live on friendly terms with his neighbours. The King’s electoral agents not only expected him to be returned for the county, but engaged him to ‘discourse’ Sir Thomas Bellott and William Leveson Gower, the court candidates for Newcastle-under-Lyme. He accompanied Lord Delamer (Hon. Henry Booth) to Nottingham during the Revolution, but at the general election of 1689 he nominated Leveson Gower for the county, and apparently did not stand again, though the Earl of Shrewsbury hoped that he would appear as a court Whig in 1690. He was buried at Biddulph on 18 July 1691, leaving an estate said to be worth £2,500 a year, and adjuring his widow to educate their son in the principles of true religion: ‘I mean those of the Church of England as now by law established; in the principles of true and unfeigned loyalty towards the King; but above all in the fear of God, which will certainly teach him the other two’. He was the last of the family to sit in Parliament.6
Ref Volumes: 1660-1690
Author: A. M. Mimardière
- 1. CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 315, 320, 326, Staffs. Dep. Lts. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1931), 285.
- 2. Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt. Arch. Soc.) ii. 138; Warwick Castle mss 2670.
- 3. Grey, vii. 431-2.
- 4. CSP Dom. 1682, pp. 383, 388, 408.
- 5. CSP Dom. 1683-4, pp. 141-2.
- 6. CSP Dom. 1685, pp. 234, 242; 1686-7, p. 24; 1689-90, p. 470; Add. 41805, f. 248; Luttrell, v. 44; PCC 44 Irby.