CHOWNE, Thomas (1679-1724), of Alfriston, Suss.
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Family and Education
bap. 22 Apr. 1679, o. surv. s. of Thomas Chowne of Alfriston, by Elizabeth (d. 1688), da. of James Foice, yeoman, of Horsham, Suss. educ. Wadham, Oxf. matric. 1696; I. Temple 1696. m. 29 June 1703, Phoebe (d. 1713), da. and coh. of William Westbrook* of Ferring, Suss. 1s. 2da. suc. fa. 1688.1
Chowne’s family had been settled at Alfriston since the early 17th century, having previously been established in Kent at Fairlawn, near Wrotham. It was his great-grandfather, Thomas, son of Sir George Chowne, MP for Rochester in 1593, who had brought the family to Alfriston. His grandfather, Henry, had served for Horsham in the Cavalier Parliament and enjoyed links with London’s trading community. Chowne himself was still a minor when he inherited his father’s estate in 1688. As soon as he came of age he began to assume the local responsibilities of a squire, becoming in 1701, for example, a surveyor of highways. In January the following year he landed himself the more exalted role of parliamentarian almost by chance. When one of the Seaford MPs, Sir William Thomas, 1st Bt., opted to sit for the county, Chowne, who held property in the port and whose Alfriston estate was only a short distance away, was a convenient replacement, and in the circumstances his return was a mere formality. Nothing is known of his political conduct in the House, though it is known that his sympathies were Tory. In the general election in the summer of 1702, Sir William reclaimed his old seat, and Chowne, apparently in deference to Sir William’s seniority and long service in county affairs, stood down.2
Chowne attempted unsuccessfully to regain the seat at a by-election in December 1706 following Sir William Thomas’ demise. Having avoided the election of 1708, he evidently saw his chances ripen with the improvement of Tory fortunes in 1710, and his candidacy at Seaford in that year forced a contest in which he displaced one of the sitting Whigs. He was marked as a Tory on the ‘Hanover list’ of the new Parliament and during the first session featured as a ‘worthy patriot’ who assisted in revealing the mismanagements of the old Whig ministry. He also became a member of the October Club. But he was equally preoccupied at this time with the affairs of his parish, serving in the offices of churchwarden and overseer of the poor in 1712.3
Chowne stood down at the 1713 election, and made no subsequent attempt to re-enter Parliament. He died on 16 Sept. 1724 and was buried at Alfriston, having made bequests of £2,000 each to his two daughters, while the bulk of his estate passed to his only son.4