GOWER, William (b. c.1662 ), of Ludlow, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. c.1662, 3rd but 2nd surv. s. of Abel Gower of Boughton, nr. Worcester, and Napton-on-the-Hill, Warws. by Mary Hodges. educ. New Inn c.1673; I. Temple c.1676, called 1685. m. (1) 7 Apr. 1683, Sarah (d. 1686), da. of Thomas Lambe, Haberdasher, of St. Clement Eastcheap, London, 2da.; (2) bef. 1693 (with £400), Jane (d. 1736), da. of James Stedman of Strata Florida, Card., 3s. 7da.1
Freeman, Ludlow 1689; common councilman 1689–90, 1696–?d.; bailiff 1710.2
Keeper, Ludlow Castle 1703–4; commr. of appeals in excise Jan.–Dec. 1714.3
After several rejections, Gower was eventually called to the bar in May 1685. He appears then to have removed himself to Ludlow, where his brother-in-law Edward Ketelby lived, and where he himself may have practised as an attorney in the court of the council in the marches. Although he had not been included at first in the Tory-dominated corporation named in the charter granted to the borough by James II in 1685, he was sworn a freeman and common councilman of this corporation in October 1689 and, at the general election held in the following March, was returned with Thomas Hanmer I* under the terms of the Jacobite charter. However, on petition from the two defeated candidates, both Whigs, who claimed that the election should properly have been held under the old charter, the Commons declared void the election on 22 Dec. 1690. A by-election took place the next month, according to the old charter and under the auspices of the old corporation, now reconstituted, and Gower and Hanmer were defeated by two Whigs. They petitioned, but on 8 Dec. 1691 the Commons upheld the return. Meanwhile there was a dispute in the borough as to which charter and which of the two corporations had legal authority. It was reported in August 1691 that Gower had organized a petition from ‘several of the inhabitants’ of the borough against the proceedings of the restored corporation, and that he was hoping that new municipal elections would be ordered as a result. But this petition also came to nothing, and in 1692 a new charter for Ludlow was issued, confirming the authority of the pre-1685 corporation.4
Re-elected as a common councilman in 1696, Gower stood in 1698 as a Tory and was successful. He was listed in about September 1698 as a member of the Country party and forecast as likely to oppose a standing army, but in the following March was unseated on petition. In January 1701 he was returned again, and in April he introduced a private bill which he subsequently managed through all its stages in the Commons. On 10 May he told in favour of Richard Dyott* at the hearing of a disputed election for Lichfield. Gower lost his seat at the next election, in December. His petition against the return of Francis Herbert* was never reported.
In 1702 Gower did not stand, being persuaded to withdraw at Ludlow in favour of Sir Thomas Powys*. Robert Harley* was informed that a scheme was in train by which Powys was to be chosen in two constituencies and was to be persuaded to sit for the second, so that Gower could come in at the ensuing by-election at Ludlow. ‘It will be urged upon him [Powys]’, wrote Harley, ‘that it will for ever hereafter secure Ludlow to him, Gower giving assurance never more to appear, who otherwise will always find him trouble enough by his friends, and by his activity.’ Powys, however, having been returned for both boroughs, elected to sit for Ludlow.5
In August 1703 Gower was appointed keeper of Ludlow Castle, probably through the intercession of Robert Harley. The castle had been in disuse since the abolition of the council in the marches in 1689: its keepership carried a salary of £20 p.a. and accommodation in ‘a little dwelling house’ within. After ten months Gower wrote to Harley to request that he be granted a lease of the buildings and grounds, since the castle was dilapidated and of no possible further use to the crown, ‘and that the castle may be pulled down and the ground built into a handsome square, to the great advantage of the loyal subjects of the ancient corporation’. In fact, very shortly afterwards, on 3 July 1704, Gower was dismissed and his predecessor, Thomas Jones, reappointed as keeper. Before asking for a lease of the castle, Gower had appealed to Harley that he might not be ‘trampled upon by Mr Jones’. After the change-over, Jones was ordered to allow Gower ‘a reasonable time for removing his family and effects’ and in October 1704 Gower was given leave from the Treasury to stay at the castle until the following February. He was paid a portion of his salary and expenses in 1704 but had to petition for payment of the balance, and did not receive it until July 1705. Meanwhile at the general election in May 1705 he stood at Ludlow, against Powys and Acton Baldwyn*, but was defeated.6
Despite reportedly declaring in March 1707 that he would certainly stand at the next general election, Gower was not a candidate in 1708 but gave his vote at Ludlow against the sitting Members. In 1710, although he made preparations to stand, his hopes were quickly abandoned. In September of that year Robert Price* reported from Ludlow to Robert Harley that ‘poor Will Gower is set up by some of his old friends, though with little prospect of success. I have persuaded him into Sir Thomas Powys’ interest and to act as he shall direct him.’ (Gower did in fact vote on this occasion for Powys and Acton Baldwyn.) Price also gave an account of the condition of Gower and his family:
I met with a melancholy scene to find him, his wife and ten children under deplorable straits . . . I did promise them to remind you of their circumstances; their whole dependence for bread is upon you. If Gower were made one of the commissioners of appeals in the excise, which is £200 per annum, he might follow his profession besides, which he has neglected, being under difficulties.
In December Price wrote again to Harley on his behalf:
Unless your charity and goodness will speedily put him in some employ, he and his numerous family will be entirely ruined; you was [sic] pleased to write to me, to know what is fit to be done for him; what is proper and what will do him good I humbly conceive to be one of the commissioners of appeal in the excise.
Not until January 1714 was Gower made a commissioner of appeals, and then he was dismissed by the Whig ministry in the following December. The date of his death is unknown.7
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Cal. I. Temple Recs. iii. 194; PCC 137 Hare; W. Wales Hist. Recs. viii. 100–1; Salop Par. Reg. Soc. Hereford dioc. xiii. 566; J. R. Phillips, Hist. Cilgerran, 110; Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. ser. 2, v. 95.
- 2. Salop RO, Ludlow bor. recs. min. bks. 1684–90, 1690–1712.
- 3. Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 383; xix. 286; xxviii. 79; xxix. 193.
- 4. Cal. I. Temple Recs. iii. 194, 219, 220; T. Jones, Hist. Brecknock, ii. 246; H. T. Weyman, Ludlow in Bye-Gone Days, 51–52; Add. 70015, f. 167.
- 5. Add. 28055, ff. 3–4.
- 6. Cal. Treas. Bks. xviii. 380, 383; xix. 286, 299, 319, 378; xx. 142, 366; O. Baker, Ludlow Town and Neighbourhood, 17; Salopian Shreds and Patches, vii. 144–5; HMC Portland, viii. 125, 129.
- 7. PRO 30/53/107; Staffs. RO, Aqualate mss, Ludlow polls 1708, 1710; HMC Portland, iv. 592; Add. 70254, Price to Harley, 16 Dec. 1710; Cal. Treas. Bks. xxviii. 79; xxix. 193.