OWEN, Thomas (c.1637-1708), of Cwmeog, Nevern, Pemb. and Gray’s Inn
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Family and Education
b. c.1637, 1st s. of William Owen of Cwmeog by his 1st w., da. of one Sheldon of Wenallt, Pemb. educ. G. Inn 1663, called 1665, ancient 1687, bencher 1692, treasurer 1704–5. m. lic. 17 June 1665, aged about 28, Mary, da. of Richard Dagnall, brewer, of Westminster, wid. of Zachary Worth of Westminster, 3s.1
Commr. taking subscriptions to land bank 1696.2
A member of an Independent congregation, and a manager of both the Common Fund and Congregational Fund, Owen had been active in Charles II’s reign in promoting measures for the relief of Dissenters. He was also reported as having favoured ‘toleration in King James’s time’ and his name had been put forward as a probable Court candidate for the projected Parliament in 1688. His desire for a parliamentary seat after the Revolution led him to refuse a strong request from Rachel, Lady Russell, for whom he may well have been acting in a business capacity, to stand down in a by-election for Westminster in 1691. Although earlier Lady Russell had spoken on Owen’s behalf to her father-in-law, the Earl of Bedford (Hon. William Russell†), who had said that he wished Owen ‘a Parliament-man with all his heart, because he thought you would vote well for your country’, Bedford and Lady Russell now wished the latter’s son-in-law Lord Cavendish* (William, Marquess of Hartington) to be the sole Whig candidate. Owen, having some interest of his own in the constituency through his marriage, would not desist and Cavendish consequently did not stand, but Owen was forced to admit defeat before the completion of the poll when opposed and outspent by Sir Stephen Fox*. At the following general election Owen made no move to stand, acting as a loyal agent of the Russell interest, to the extent of advocating the candidature of Bedford’s heir, the 14-year-old Lord Tavistock, a scheme Lady Russell judged inadvisable. Against the notional objection that a Commons career would jeopardize Tavistock’s education, Owen had argued that the House was ‘the best school a young nobleman can be in’. Little else is known of Owen at this period, other than that in May 1692 he was ‘taken up for suspicion of treason’, to be set free the same evening on a warrant from the secretary of state.3
Owen finally secured a parliamentary seat in the notorious campaign mounted by Samuel Shepheard I* for the New East India Company in the January 1701 election. He appeared as Shepheard’s nominee at Bramber, where he was ‘a perfect stranger’, and defeated John Asgill*, who petitioned. Although Shepheard was expelled the House for ‘unwarrantable practices’ in several constituencies, including Bramber, Asgill’s petition was not heard and Owen kept his seat. He was even able to retain it in the December election, when Asgill again petitioned in vain. Owen was classed with the Whigs in Robert Harley’s* list of this Parliament. He does not appear to have put up for re-election in 1702.
Owen’s will, dated 1 Jan. 1707, was proved on 30 Dec. 1708.
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Trans. Cymmro. Soc. (1943–4), 101; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 1003.
- 2. CJ, xii. 510.
- 3. D. R. Lacey, Dissent and Parlty. Pol. 1661–89, p. 431; info. from Prof. G. S. de Krey; Lady Rachel Russell Letters (1809), 291–3; Add. 70015, f. 244; 51319, ff. 103–4; SRO, Breadalbane mss GD112/40/5/30, Countess of Caithness to [Mrs Campbell], 10 Nov. 1691; Luttrell, Brief Relation, ii. 304, 305, 453; C. Clay, Public Finance and Private Wealth, 223; Devonshire mss at Chatsworth House, Owen to Lady Russell, 15 Oct. 1695; info. from Prof. L. G. Schwoerer.