LOWTHER, John Henry (1793-1868), of Swillington, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1 Mar. 1816 - 1826
1826 - 1831
1831 - 1832
1835 - 1847

Family and Education

b. 23 Mar. 1793, 1st s. of John Lowther* of Swillington and Lady Elizabeth Fane, da. of John Fane†, 9th earl of Westmorland. educ. Westminster 1808-10; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1811. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd bt. 11 May 1844. d. 23 June 1868.

Offices Held

Sheriff, Yorks. 1852-3.

Capt. Cumb. militia 1820; lt.-col. 1st W. Yorks. militia 1830.


By the general election of 1820, when he was absent touring the northern European courts, Lowther had forfeited the confidence of his uncle and patron the 1st earl of Lonsdale, and he owed his third return for the family borough of Cockermouth to his father’s supplications on his behalf and usefulness to Lonsdale as Member for Cumberland.1 It was agreed that he would ‘not accept of a seat with any other view than that of supporting the measures of government’ and see Lonsdale on his return to discuss his future.2 He left Russia for England in late July 1820.3

In 1821 and for the remainder of the 1820 Parliament Lowther, of whom a radical publication of 1825 noted that he ‘attended frequently and voted with ministers’, divided steadily with his father at his cousin Lord Lowther’s* direction.4 He voted against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 20 Feb. 1823, and Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. He voted against censuring ministers’ handling of the Queen Caroline case, 6 Feb., and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 23 May, and was in the government majorities on retrenchment, 27 June 1821, tax reductions, 21 Feb., the salt tax, 28 Feb., and the public accounts bill, 13 Mar. 1822. He divided against abolishing one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, and investigating the lord advocate’s treatment of the Scottish press, 25 June 1822. He was in the ministerial minority against inquiring into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and voted against investigating chancery arrears, 2, 12 June 1823, and the spring guns bill, 21 June 1825. He had yet to speak in debate, and Lord Lowther cautioned Lonsdale against putting him forward for Cumberland in place of his father at the general election of 1826, ‘as I believe his political inclinations are opposed to us and he does not seem disposed to give us any assistance’.5 He turned down a requisition to stand for York and, under an exchange agreed by Lonsdale, made way for Lord Garlies at Cockermouth and came in for Wigtown Burghs in 1826 on the Galloway interest.6

Lowther, who received three weeks’ leave on urgent business after serving on the Dover election committee, 16 Mar. 1827, divided with his father as previously in the 1826 Parliament, against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and with the duke of Wellington’s ministry against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. Their patronage secretary Planta correctly doubted his support for Catholic emancipation in 1829, and he divided against it, 6, 18, 30 Mar. He joined Lord Lowther in opposing the Northern Roads bill, 3 June 1830. Condemned as ‘an ass ... or worse’ by Lonsdale’s son-in-law, the judge advocate Sir John Beckett*, for proposing a toast to the Whig lawyer Henry Brougham* at the assize ball in Carlisle shortly before the 1829 by-election, he was again rejected for Cumberland by Lonsdale, who suggested him for Plympton at the general election of 1830.7 However, when the arrangement with Garlies was belatedly revived, Lonsdale acquiesced in his preference to sit for Wigtown Burghs. He accompanied his father to the elections at Carlisle, Cockermouth and Whitehaven, where his speeches were ‘very well received’, particularly by the Ultras who felt ‘let down’ by the recent electoral pact between Brougham and Lonsdale.8

Though counted by the Wellington ministry among their ‘friends’, Lowther, like his father, was absent from the division on the civil list by which they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. Lonsdale, who anticipated an immediate dissolution, dismissed him as lazy, ineffective and of no use ‘beyond that of attending a committee of the House of Commons’, and was as reluctant as ever to seat him for Cumberland, though his father’s retirement was now certain.9 He remained in London, dined regularly at the Travellers’ Club and wrote regularly to his father of Lord Althorp’s shortcomings as chancellor of the exchequer, dissension within Lord Grey’s administration and their reform bill, which he thought would ultimately be carried.10 He voted against it at its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. He canvassed with Lonsdale’s sons at the ensuing general election and was seated for Cockermouth, which the bill threatened to deprive of a Member. On the hustings he refused to give any pledges, but conceded the need for some reform.11 Much to his embarrassment, for his relations suspected him of complicity, he was also requisitioned to stand for Cumberland, where Lord Lowther stood uninvited and was defeated by two reformers.12

Lowther found the constant attendance required of him as an opponent of ‘the odious reform bill’ in 1831-2 particularly irksome.13 He voted against the reintroduced bill at its second reading, 6 July, and committal, 12 July, to make the 1831 census the criterion for English borough disfranchisements, 19 July, and to postpone consideration of the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham, 27 July 1831. He intervened briefly next day to protest at the summary dismissal by ministers of all arguments in favour of Cockermouth’s retaining two seats, and joined in the protest against the intended boundaries for the new Whitehaven constituency, which he rightly surmised were calculated to minimize the Lowther influence, 6 Aug. He was one of only 15 anti-reformers to vote in favour of the proposed division of counties, 11 Aug. He was in the minority for preserving freemen’s voting rights, 30 Aug., when he backed the call for maximum electorates of 4,000. He divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and for the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. He voted against the revised reform bill at its second reading, 17 Dec. 1831, against its committal, 20 Jan., the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar., having, in view of his local interest, voiced support for Stockton’s petition for separate enfranchisement, 5 Mar. 1832. He divided against the Irish reform bill at its second reading, 25 May. 1832. When the Irish government was implicated in bribery at the Dublin election, he defended the conduct of his kinsman Edward Smith Stanley as Irish secretary, but voted for the opposition censure motion, 23 Aug. 1831. He divided against issuing the Liverpool writ, 5 Sept., with the West India lobby for a select committee on the sugar trade, 12 Sept., and against the Maynooth grant, 26 Sept. He had ‘no qualms’ in opposing the bankruptcy court bill, 15 Oct. 1831. Lord Lowther noticed the effort he made to be present to vote against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July 1832.14 Mindful of his interests in the North East, he opposed the South Shields-Monkwearmouth railway bill, 26 Mar. 1832.

Lowther ceased to act with the Lonsdale Lowthers and was defeated at York on the Conservative interest in 1832 and again at the 1833 by-election, when he declined nomination and went abroad. He topped the poll there in 1835, 1837 and 1841 and was cleared by the parliamentary inquiry of 1835 of personal involvement in bribery.15 In May 1844 he succeeded to the estates and the baronetcy conferred 20 years previously on his father. He retired from Parliament at the dissolution of 1847. He developed the 16-foot ironstone seam discovered under his Wilton estate in 1850, served as sheriff of Yorkshire in 1852-3 and died unmarried and without issue at his London home in Portland Street, Grosvenor Square in June 1868. A personal friend since 1833 of Benjamin Disraeli†, he was recalled as a patron of the opera and the Turf, and as a staunch high church Tory.16 His will, dated 12 Dec. 1863, was proved at Wakefield, 17 July 1868, and administered by his blind brother Charles (1803-94), his successor in the estates and baronetcy.17

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 462; Clwyd RO, Lowther mss DD/L/178, J. Lowther to Lonsdale and replies, 26 Jan.-24 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Lord Lowther to Lonsdale, 8 Feb.; J.R. McQuiston, ‘The Lonsdale Connection and its Defender’, Northern Hist. xi (1975), 155-6; Cumb. Pacquet, 14 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. Lonsdale mss, J. Lowther to Lonsdale, 12 Feb.; Lowther mss 178, Lonsdale to J. Lowther, 4 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Lowther mss 161, J.H. Randolph to J. Lowther, 16 July 1820.
  • 4. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 473.
  • 5. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 23 Mar. 1825.
  • 6. York City Poll ... Account of General Election of 1826 (1830), 95; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 23 May 1825; Cumb. Pacquet, 13 May 1826; Westmld. Advertiser, 2 Apr. 1831.
  • 7. Lonsdale mss, Beckett to Lowther, n.d. [1829], Lonsdale to same, 20 July; Lowther mss 178, J.H. to J. Lowther, 20 July 1830; 179, Lonsdale to same, 3, 5 Feb. 1829.
  • 8. Lowther mss 178, J.H. to J. Lowther, 22 July; 179, same to same, 28 Aug., Lowther to same, n.d., J. Lowther to wife, n.d.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 24 July 1830; McQuiston, 176-7.
  • 9. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 29 Dec., reply, 30 Dec. 1830.
  • 10. Lowther mss 166, 167, passim.
  • 11. Westmld. Advertiser, 2, 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 12. Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 29 Apr.; Lowther mss 167, E. Stanley to J. Lowther, 28 Apr., J.H. to J. Lowther, 29 Apr. 1831.
  • 13. Hants RO, Carnarvon mss 75M91/M12/7.
  • 14. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 Jan. 1832.
  • 15. Lowther mss 149, 168, passim; The Times, 18 Sept. 1832, 12 Sept. 1835, 1 July 1841; CJ, xc. 401, 457, 511-12, 560, 655; Add. 40422, f. 260; 40558, ff. 102-4; H. Owen, Lowther Fam. 369-71.
  • 16. Yorks. Post, 25, 27 June 1868; Disraeli Letters, i. 228, 242; Shelley Diary, ii. 296; VCH Yorks. N. Riding, ii. 405, J.S. Jeans, Pioneers of the Cleveland Iron Trade, 75-81.
  • 17. The Times, 22 Aug. 1868.