SOWERBY, John, of Appleby, Westmld. and Carlisle, Cumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1386-1421, ed. J.S. Roskell, L. Clark, C. Rawcliffe., 1993
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Jan. 1397

Family and Education

Offices Held


Most of the surviving evidence about Sowerby relates to his involvement in legal affairs, and there can be little doubt that he maintained a flourishing practice as a lawyer in both Appleby and Carlisle, the two boroughs which returned him to Parliament. He first appears in February 1390, when he and John Monceaux* witnessed a conveyance of land in Shap for Hugh Salkeld I*. The lawsuit begun against him and others six months later by William Aglionby* over the ownership of land in Warwick, Cumberland, was probably designed to establish proof of title, and seems only to have concerned him as a trustee. In the following year he represented Appleby in the House of Commons for the first time; and not long afterwards he appeared at the assizes in Carlisle as attorney for John Cardoile, a prominent local figure. His circle of clients was already quite prestigious, since it also included the abbot of the Cistercian house of Holmcultram in Cumberland, who retained him to plead before the justices of assize at Penrith. Later, in August 1398, after he had attended another Parliament, Sowerby acted as an attorney in Appleby in a series of collusive suits brought by various members of the influential Redmayne family, including the courtier, Sir Richard*. During this period he supervised the affairs of Sir Thomas Colville*, who was busy on royal business in Scotland; and by the summer of 1402 he had added Sir John Beetham’s* son, Thomas, as well as many other landowners to his list of clients. Over the next few years the prior of St. Mary’s, Carlisle, and William Strickland, the bishop of Carlisle, likewise made use of his professional expertise in the courts.1

Not surprisingly, Sowerby was in considerable demand as a mainpernor, both in the north-west and at Westminster. In August 1401, for example, he and Thomas Warcop II* each offered sureties for £40 on behalf of a litigant at the Appleby assizes; and in October 1402, while he was attending Parliament as a burgess for Carlisle, he stood bail of £100 in Chancery for one of his neighbours. Among the other prominent local figures to employ his services when transacting business at the Exchequer were Robert Lowther*, Richard, the son of John Skelton*, and the above-mentioned Bishop Strickland, each of whom named him as a guarantor of their financial undertakings. It is interesting to note that Sowerby sometimes worked in partnership with John Helton, another lawyer (who represented Appleby with him in the Parliaments of 1397 (Jan.) and 1411) most notably when transacting business for the bishop. No more is heard of Sowerby after February 1413, when he either died or retired from public life.2

Ref Volumes: 1386-1421

Author: C.R.


Variants: Sawrby, Sourby.

  • 1. CCR, 1389-92, p. 101; C88/67/140; JUST 1/1500 rot. 33v, 35v, 1509 rot. 15, 1517 rot. 61, 63v, 66; Cal. Scots Docs. (supp.) v. no. 2080.
  • 2. JUST 1/1517 rot. 65; CCR, 1402-5, p. 128; CFR, xiii. 31-32, 173, 261.