GOWER, Sir Thomas, 2nd Bt. (c.1605-72), of Stittenham, Sheriff Hutton, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Constituency

Dates

18 Dec. 1661 - 3 Sept. 1672

Family and Education

b. c.1605, 1st s. of Sir Thomas Gower, 1st Bt., of Stittenham by Anne, da. and coh. of John Doyley of Merton, Oxon. educ. Wadham, Oxf. matric. 7 Nov. 1617, aged 12; G. Inn 1621. m. (1) Elizabeth, da. of Sir William Howard of Naworth Castle, Cumb., s.p.; (2) settlement 29 Sept. 1631 (with £3,000), Frances, da. and coh. of Sir John Leveson of Lilleshall, Staffs., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. Kntd. 24 June 1630; suc. fa. 20 Oct. 1651.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Yorks. 1641-2, 1662-3, commr. of array 1642; j.p. (N. Riding) July 1660-d., co. Dur. 1662-d.; commr. for assessment (N. Riding) Aug. 1660-9, oyer and terminer, Northern circuit 1661, corporations, Yorks. 1662-3, loyal and indigent officers 1662; dep. lt. (N. Riding) 1662-6; receiver of taxes, Yorks. by 1663-7; gov. York 1663-d.; steward, honour of Penrith 1670-2.2

Col. of dgns. ?1642-5.

Commr. for trade with Scotland 1668.3

Biography

Gower’s ancestors were seated at Stittenham in the 12th century, and first sat for the county in 1338. Although his father was in trouble for insulting the council in the north in 1632, he was fined £200 for taking refuge in the Newark garrison, and the whole family was royalist in the Civil War. Gower himself diligently executed the orders of Parliament in the early months of 1642; but he was appointed to the commission of array, and advanced £1,200 to the King in August. He raised a regiment of dragoons, and was taken prisoner at Rowton Heath in 1645. (Sir) Thomas Fairfax (3rd Lord Fairfax) testified that he had been plundered by the northern Cavaliers, and that his ‘moderation towards the Parliament and their friends begot him a long imprisonment by the King’. He compounded for £730 on the Oxford articles. Fairfax was one of the trustees of Gower’s marriage settlement, and Gower assisted him to raise the county against Lambert in 1659.4

Gower was defeated by Thomas Danby at Malton, seven miles from Stittenham, in the general election of 1661, but he was awarded the seat on petition, though not until the eve of the Christmas recess. Listed as a friend by Lord Wharton, and initially a country Cavalier, he became a very active Member of the Cavalier Parliament. He was appointed to 389 committees, in six of which he took the chair, acted as teller in 11 divisions, carrried nine bills or messages, and made 16 recorded speeches. Even during the remainder of the first session he made his mark. He carried up the bill to make void the conveyances unduly procured from Lady Powell and was named to the committee on the bill reversing Strafford’s attainder. On 1 Mar. 1662 he took over temporarily from Robert Milward as chairman of the committee of elections and privileges. Ten days later he was teller for extending the duty on Tyneside coal to exports from Sunderland. On 16 Apr. he was teller in a division on the uniformity bill, and was named to a small committee to check the text of the revised Prayer Book. He favoured giving ministers until Michaelmas to conform, and helped to prepare reasons for a conference. He was appointed to the committee for the additional corporations bill, which was left in his hands during the recess, and helped to present an address asking the King to hear the rival claimants to the Lindsey level. He was pricked for a second term as sheriff of Yorkshire in November, but given leave to attend the 1663 session, having assured the Government that ‘there can be no dangerous design on foot in the county’. He was among those appointed to bring in a bill to prevent the growth of Popery, to hear a petition from the loyal and indigent officers, to consider the staple bill, and to provide remedies for meetings of sectaries. A member of the committee on the bill to make the lessee prove the lives in being, he opposed the motion of 23 Mar. to recommit it. He took over the chair of the committee on the long and complicated bill for draining the Bedford level, which had already proved too much for Henry North and (Sir) George Reeve, and, despite the insertion of two more provisos at the report stage, steered it to completion. He acted as teller on 23 July in a House reduced to under 50 against agreeing with the Lords on an amendment to the excise bill.5

The unrest in Yorkshire came to a head towards the end of Gower’s shrievalty, and he had ‘a hard part between those who believe nothing and those who believe too much’. His chief informer, Major Greathead, was exposed in September by an indiscretion in the office of Sir Henry Bennet; but by this time the whole conspiratorial organization had been deeply penetrated, and Gower knew all the leaders and even the date of the rising. His chief problem was the unreliability of the militia, but on 10 Oct. he was able to report that ‘almost all the heads of the fanatics are privately seized’. The failure of the plot has been ascribed ‘to the unwearied watchfulness and to the excellent system of espionage instituted by Gower’. He attended the next session primarily in order to present a petition from his constituency, which has not been traced. He was listed as a court dependant, and added to the committee on the bill for the abolition of the legal charges known as ‘damage clere’, opposing a successful amendment on third reading. He was again among those ordered to consider an additional corporations bill, and helped to manage the conference of 13 May 1664 on the conventicles bill. In the next session he served on the committee for the bill for the repair and maintenance of Bridlington pier, and acted as teller for the motion for engrossment, which was heavily defeated. Together with Sir Jordan Crosland he tendered unsuccessfully for the Yorkshire excise farm in 1665; but he succeeded in extracting from the hard-pressed Treasury £2,250 owed to him by the crown. In the Oxford session he was probably appointed to the committee for the five mile bill, as well as to those for the prohibition of cattle imports and the attainder of English officers in the service of the enemy. He reported the bill for naturalizing Bennet’s wife on 24 Oct. 1666, and helped to prepare reasons for prohibiting French imports and for desiring the cancellation of the Canary Company patent. As chairman of the committee of grievances he upheld the complaint against Lord Mordaunt and was named to the committees to draw up and manage his impeachment. On 29 Dec. he was sent to the Lords to desire a conference, which he helped to manage. His nomination to the abortive parliamentary accounts commission was approved by the House, and he was a manager of the conference on the bill of 24 Jan. 1667. He also helped to manage conferences on the bill to increase the amount of coinage and the plague bill. He was one of the Members to whom was committed the petition of the English merchants trading to France, and helped to present a joint address from both Houses on their behalf.6

Gower probably welcomed the fall of Clarendon, being among those appointed to bring in a public accounts bill, and to inquire into the miscarriages of the war, the sale of Dunkirk, and the further charges against Mordaunt. He spoke twice in the debates on Clarendon, helping to manage two conferences and to prepare for another, and served on the committee for the banishment bill. He took the chair for the estate bills promoted by his neighbour William Palmes and the 3rd Earl of Clare (Gilbert Holles). On 7 Dec. 1667 he carried up Palmes’s bill together with a bill empowering the bishop of Durham to lease out the leadmines on his estate, and a message reminding the Lords of a bill to prevent abuses in removing cases from inferior courts by writ of certiorari. As chairman of the inquiry into the restraints on jurors he began an account of the misdeeds of (Sir) John Kelyng on 9 Dec.; but ‘the time of day being far spent, and the rest of the report being long’, the House adjourned, and it was completed by Thomas Crouch two days later, though Gower remained deeply concerned with the subject. He was sent to ask the Lords to continue sitting in the afternoon of 18 Dec. to facilitate the passage of the accounts bill, and he was among the Members ordered to examine the accounts of the loyal and indigent officers fund during the Christmas recess. When Parliament resumed, Gower was the first of those sent to the lord chief baron (Matthew Hale) to inquire what had been done to ease sheriffs of their charges at the Exchequer. He was named to the committees on the bills to prevent the fining or imprisonment of jurors and to prolong the Conventicles Act, and took the chair for two more private bills. He ‘justified’ the bill to sever the entail on the estate of his colleague (Sir) Thomas Hebblethwaite during the second reading debate, reported it on 13 Mar. 1668, and carried it to the Lords three days later. On 3 Apr. he was ordered to bring in a bill about the miscarriages of the judges in general. He opposed a bill to settle the Leveson estate, ‘pretending that his son and Sir Richard Temple had a right to that estate and inheritance’, and the committee was ordered to have regard for their interests. On 28 Apr. he reported that it was possible, in the opinion of his committee, to relieve Brome Whorwood of paying alimony by a private bill without breach of the Judicial Proceedings Confirmation Act of the Convention.7

Gower took little part in the next session, though he was among those appointed on 8 Dec. 1669 to consider a bill to prevent exorbitances and abuses in parliamentary elections. Although he was considered a friend by Ormonde, Sir Thomas Osborne included him among the Members to be brought over to the Court by the Duke of Buckingham. On 26 Feb. 1670 he was ordered to bring in a bill to extend habeas corpus by forbidding the transportation of English prisoners overseas, and he served on the committee to consider it. He was again named to the committee for the conventicles bill, and given leave to revive the certiorari bill; but it never reached the floor of the House, probably because he had to concentrate on the bill for regulating juries, in which he took the chair. The bill was twice recommitted after debate, but on 26 Mar. he was able to carry it up. Gower, who had served on the commission to consider the balance of trade with Scotland, was the first Member named to the committee on the bill nominating commissioners to treat for union. He helped to prepare reasons for a conference on the juries bill in the autumn, and to manage the conference of 6 Feb. 1671 about the assault on Sir John Coventry, when he argued: ‘If a penalty for wearing a sword, should there not be a punishment for using it badly?’ His last important committee was to inquire into the causes of the growth of Popery. He died on 3 Sept. 1672, and was buried at Sheriff Hutton. His younger son William, who had taken the name of Leveson Gower on inheriting the Trentham estate, failed to succeed him at Malton, but was returned for Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1675.8

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Authors: P. A. Bolton / Paula Watson

Notes

  • 1. Collins, Peerage , ii. 445-6; Royalist Comp. Pprs. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. xviii), 129; Yorks. Arch. Jnl. xxvii. 153.
  • 2. HMC 8th Rep. pt. 1 (1881), 275; Cal. Treas. Bks. i. 566; ii. 52; iii. 545; CSP Dom. 1663-4, p. 332; 1665-6, p. 397; 1672, p. 594.
  • 3. Bulstrode Pprs. 17.
  • 4. VCH N. Riding, ii. 183; J. T. Cliffe, Yorks. Gentry, 301-2, 330, 334-5; CSP Dom. 1641-3, p. 365; 1665-6, p. 49; information from Brig. Peter Young; Cal. Comm. Comp. 1042-3; Royalist Comp. Pprs. 128-30.
  • 5. CJ, viii. 336, 354, 409, 444, 506; CSP