BOWLES, William (1686-1748), of Burford, Worcs.
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Family and Education
b. 11 Feb. 1686, 1st s. of Phineas Bowles of St. Michael’s, Crooked Lane, London, and Loughborough House, Lambeth, by Margaret, da. of William Dockwra of London, merchant; bro. of Phineas Bowles. m. 29 Jan. 1736, Sarah, wid. of William Cook, s.p. suc. fa. 1718.
Director, South Sea Co. 1724-39; recorder of Bewdley 1738-45, steward 1738-d.
About 1667 John Bowles, a Turkey merchant, founded the Vauxhall Glass Works which, together with its subsidiaries, the Southwark and the Ratcliff factories, developed by the end of the century into the greatest glass manufactory in the country. On his death in 1709 the control of his business passed to his eldest son Phineas, who died in 1718, leaving legacies totalling £34,000. Under partnership deeds the business then became the property of Phineas’s widow and certain of his sons, of whom the eldest, William, became the predominant partner. In 1720 William Bowles bought the estate of Burford on the borders of Worcestershire and Shropshire for £35,000.1 In 1727 he successfully contested Bridport, voting with the Administration on the Hessians (1730), the army (1732), and the repeal of the Septennial Act (1734), but against them on the civil list (1729) and the excise bill (1733). On 30 Apr. 1733 he opposed a bill against ‘the infamous practice of stockjobbing’.
At the 1734 general election Bowles was returned for Bewdley where he had recently acquired a controlling interest, as well as for Bridport, choosing to sit for Bridport and bringing his brother Phineas in for Bewdley. He spoke against Sir John Barnard’s proposal for reducing the interest on the national debt in 1737; did not take part in the division on the Spanish convention in 1739; was included in a ministerial list of absent opposition Members on 21 Nov. 1739;2 and voted for the place bill of 1740. In 1740 he was spokesman for Carolina in opposing the inclusion of rice among prohibited exports.
Bowles was again returned for both Bridport and Bewdley in 1741, thenceforth sitting for Bewdley. He voted with the Administration on the chairman of the elections committee in December 1741, but was absent from a critical and close division of 21 Jan. 1742, when he ‘sat diverting himself all night at Garraway’s coffee house’.3 Included by Pelham in the court list of names for the committee of inquiry into Walpole’s conduct, he was one of the five members of the committee who were regarded as supporters of Walpole. Nevertheless he not only voted but spoke for the bill indemnifying anyone giving evidence against Walpole from the legal consequence of their disclosures.4 Thereafter he consistently supported the Administration. Classed in 1746 as Old Whig, and as a supporter in 1747, he died 14 May 1748.