FOWNES, Richard (1652-1714), of Steepleton Iwerne, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

bap. 25 Aug. 1652, 1st s. of Thomas Fownes of Steepleton Iwerne by Alice, da. of John Mynne of Woodcote, Epsom, Surr. educ. Oriel, Oxf. 1668. m. (1) aft. 1677, Elizabeth, da. of Gabriel Armstrong of Rempstone, Notts., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.; (2) settlement 21 Nov. 1693, Elizabeth, da. of William Aysh of South Petherton, Som., wid. of Samuel Cabell of Buckfastleigh, Devon, s.p. suc. fa. 1670.1

Offices Held

Commr. for assessment, Dorset 1679-80, 1689-90, dep. lt. 1680-May 1688, Oct. 1688-d.; commr. for visitation, Poole 1681; capt. of militia horse, Dorset 1683-?June 1688, j.p. 1685-June 1688, Nov. 1688-d., commr. for rebels’ estates 1686; freeman, Poole 1691; steward of crown estates, Som. 1705-7.2


Fownes was the grandson of a Plymouth merchant who served as mayor in 1619-20. His father, who was too young to take part in the Civil War, bought a Dorset estate from George Pitt in 1654 for £6,000. At the Restoration he was appointed colonel of the East Dorset militia, and acted as sheriff for the general election of 1661 and as a commissioner for corporations. Fownes himself, a churchman and a Tory, threatened to oppose Thomas Bennett at Shaftesbury in 1681; but Thomas Freke I found him a seat at Corfe Castle at the expense of a less prominent exclusionist, Nathaniel Bond. The first of the family to sit, he left no trace on the records of the Oxford Parliament, but he was active in suppressing nonconformity in Poole, and as a deputy lieutenant he helped to search the house of Edward Norton after the Rye House Plot. He was again totally inactive in James II’s Parliament. He gave negative answers on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws, and was removed from local office. The King’s electoral agents described his interest at Corfe as dependent on William Culliford. He supported the Revolution, signing the warrants for raising money for William of Orange on 30 Nov. 1688, and was reelected to the Convention. He voted to agree with the Lords that the throne was not vacant, and was appointed to the committees for two estate bills. With one brief interval he retained his seat for the rest of his life, voting with the Tories and refusing the Association in 1696. He was reported dead on 20 July 1714. The defeat of his son at the general election in the following year concluded the parliamentary history of this branch of the Fownes family.3

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Herts. RO, Cheshunt par. reg.; Vis. Dorset (Harl. Soc. cxvii), 4; F. Brown, Som. Wills, iv. 98-99; Exeter City Lib. 48/14/76/1.
  • 2. SP44/53/53; Churchill College, Camb., Erle-Drax mss; Cal. Treas. Bks. v. 1204; viii. 546; xxii. 270; Poole Archives, B17.
  • 3. Vivian, Vis. Devon, 272-3; Hutchins, i. 299; Eg. 2537, f. 264; Pythouse Pprs. ed. Day, 89, 97; CSP Dom. Jan.-June 1683, p. 376; Erle-Drax mss; HMC Portland, v. 473.