FOWLE, Sir Thomas (1637-92), of the ‘Black Lion’, Temple Bar, London
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Family and Education
bap. 22 Jan. 1637, 5th s. of Edward Fowle of Stanton St. Bernard, Wilts. m. lic. 9 June 1666 (with £900), Jane, da. of Roger Norton, Citizen and Stationer, of St. Anne Blackfriars, London, 2da. Kntd. 22 Sept. 1686.1
Freeman, Goldsmiths’ Co. 1660, prime warden 1689; alderman, London 1686–Oct. 1687, 1691–d., common councilman 1688–9; sheriff, London and Mdx. 1686–7.2
A younger son of a Wiltshire ‘yeoman’, Fowle was apprenticed in 1652 to a goldsmith in the City and after becoming a freeman of the Goldsmiths’ Company set up on his own as a banker in 1664. He may have returned to his family house in Wiltshire during a quiet trading period following the plague of 1665, but after his shop in Fleet Street fortuitously escaped the fire in the following year he was able to capitalize on the absence of Lombard Street and Cheapside competitors, enabling his profits from the interest of loans to increase from £1,000 p.a. in 1672 to £3,000 p.a. by the end of the decade. This revenue allowed him to invest in property in Wiltshire, notably in Pewsey near Stanton St. Bernard, and Fifield Bavant. His business continued to flourish under King James, to whom he lent £500 in 1686. Having been elected an alderman of London in that year, Fowle was soon after chosen as sheriff and knighted. He was transferred as alderman from one ward to another in July 1687 by royal commission, but four months later was discharged. His Tory sympathies were first evident in 1683 when he offered to give evidence against suspected Whig plotters, and though at the Revolution he was still regarded by Whigs as one of the staunchest Tories in London, he proved willing to co-operate with the Williamite regime, lending some £20,500 to the government between 1689 and 1692, and acting as a member of the committee of City financiers that negotiated further loans in April and May 1690. Supported by Lord Abingdon and other Tories, he stood on the Tory interest in 1690 at Devizes, the borough nearest his birthplace, and where he had recently acquired some property. Despite the fears of friends that his Whig opponent John Methuen* had ‘been too forward for him’, Fowle was able to secure a double return and when the House considered the merits of the return it decided in his favour. Lord Carmarthen (Sir Thomas Osborne†) had already marked him as a Tory in his list of the new Parliament, and his name appears on one other list of likely Court supporters. Fowle’s only important committee appointment, on 8 Apr. 1690, was of local significance, to prepare a bill to reverse the quo warranto against London. He was unseated on petition on 22 Dec. 1690.3
Although out of Parliament, Fowle was re-elected an alderman in 1691. He died ‘of an apoplexy’ on 11 Nov. 1692 and was buried in his parish church of St. Dunstan-in-the-West on the 24th, after, as one observer described it, ‘the greatest funeral we have had a long time’: his remains were
brought from Stationers’ Hall, where he lay in state; the lord mayor and court of aldermen accompanying the corpse, with 120 mourners and 700 other persons: about 1,000 rings were given away of 10s. apiece, 100 of 20s. each: the bishop of London and some of the nobility walked on foot: the dean of St. Paul’s preached his sermon.
He was popularly supposed to have died ‘very rich’: one son-in-law, indeed, put his personal estate at ‘upwards of £40,000’. His will referred to his Wiltshire estates and other property in Middlesex and Somerset. The residuary legatee was a nephew, Robert Fowle, who had formerly been his apprentice and now took over his business. Robert had been left, it was ‘generally said’, £10,000 ‘to continue that trade, with the house and shop in Fleet Street where he lived, so his dealings seems the same as if Sir Thomas was yet living’. After his death the College of Heralds questioned the coat of arms which he had assumed, and his elder brother Robert, also a goldsmith, was forced to disclaim any right to it.4
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Authors: D. W. Hayton / Henry Lancaster
- 1. Wilts. RO, 495/1; Le Neve’s Knights (Harl. Soc. viii), 407; Mar. Lic. Vicar-Gen. (Harl. Soc. xxxiii), 18; C104/115/II/664.
- 2. J. R. Woodhead, Rulers of London (London and Mdx. Arch. Soc.), 72–73; Luttrell, Brief Relation, i. 414.
- 3. Woodhead, 72–73; F. G. Hilton Price, London Bankers, 61; Wilts. RO, 727/12/21; C104/120/1; CSP Dom. July–Sept. 1683, p. 75; Cal. Treas. Bks. viii. 905; ix. 380, 682, 882, 1692, 1979–80, 2002, 2005; Luttrell, 385; Beaven, Aldermen, i. 135; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Portland (Harley) mss Pw2 Hy 502, ‘Reasons against Sir Bartholomew Shower’s* being recorder of London’; PCC 6 Coker; Bath mss at Longleat House, Thynne pprs. 12, f. 97; 24, f. 161.
- 4. Portledge Pprs. 126; Luttrell, ii. 614, 623; Nat. Archs. Ire. Wyche mss, W. Ball to Sir Cyril Wyche*, 15 Nov. 1692, 24 Jan. 1693; BL, Verney mss mic. 636/46, John Verney* (later Ld. Fermanagh) to Sir Ralph Verney, 1st Bt.†, 12 Nov. 1692; HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 270; PCC 6 Coker; Le Neve’s Knights, 407; Hilton Price, 61.