PROWSE, Thomas (c.1707-67), of Compton Bishop, Som.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



26 Nov. 1740 - 1 Jan. 1767

Family and Education

b. c.1707, o.s. of John Prowse, M.P., of Compton Bishop by his 2nd w. Abigail, da. of Rt. Rev. George Hooper, bp. of Bath and Wells. m. 1 Mar. 1731, Elizabeth, da. of John Sharpe of Grafton Park, Northants., 3s. 5da. suc. fa. 1710.

Offices Held

Recorder, Wells 1745-52; recorder, Axbridge.


Prowse’s grandfather, a Somerset country gentleman, married a coheiress of the ancient family of Newborough, who brought him the estate of Berkley. Under Anne his father was returned for the county, which Prowse himself represented unopposed in five Parliaments. A moderate Tory, he withdrew on the motion for the removal of Walpole in February 1741, and was one of the opposition members of the secret committee elected by the Commons in April 1742 to inquire into Walpole’s Administration. During the invasion crisis of February 1744 he dissociated himself from a factious opposition motion against the immediate suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, walking out in the middle of its proposer’s speech. He voted against the Hanoverians in all the three recorded divisions on them, speaking second for the Opposition in that of April 1746; but on 5 Dec. he did not directly oppose the vote for 15,000 British troops in Flanders, merely suggesting that a decision might be deferred until it was known what contribution was to be expected from Britain’s allies during the forthcoming campaign. Though no Jacobite, he was angry with the Government for allowing evidence to be given at Lovat’s trial in 1747 inculpating Lord Barrymore, Hynde Cotton and Watkin Williams Wynn, asking the Speaker

if some notice ought not to be taken of it in the House. Mr. Onslow intimated that he believed the parties concerned would not choose it. Prowse replied ‘That I cannot help; others know themselves best’.1

After the peace Prowse twice spoke in favour of reducing the army to 15,000 men, 7 Nov. 1749 and 27 Nov. 1751. Horace Walpole, 4 Mar. 1749, wrote to Mann that the Tories were ‘now governed by one Prowse, a cold plausible fellow, and a great well-wisher to Mr. Pelham’, to whom he compared him in affecting to be candid and in being ‘a man of some sense without parts’. In the 2nd Lord Egmont’s list of offices he is put down for surveyor general of woods in a future reign. His other reported speeches during this Parliament were on the regency bill of 1751, which he criticized for giving too much power to the council, 16, 17 May 1751; against subsidy treaties in peacetime, 29 Jan. 1752, and a bill for settling foreign Protestants on estates in Scotland forfeited in the late rebellion, 28 Feb. 1752; and for the repeal of the Jewish Naturalization Act, 27 Nov. 1753, and an inquiry by the House of Commons into the management of the lottery for establishing the British Museum, 4 Dec. 1753.2 His subsequent career was prejudiced by ill health, which prevented him from accepting nomination for the Speakership in 1761. He died 1 Jan. 1767.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Shirley Matthews


  • 1. Owen, Pelhams, 215, 306 n. 3; Mahon, iii. p. lxxviii.
  • 2. Coxe, Pelham, ii. 94; Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 124-5, 139-40, 213, 254, 257, 363; Add. 47097/8.