ROWLEY, William (c.1690-1768), of Tendring Hall, Suff.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



27 Feb. 1750 - 1754
1754 - 1761

Family and Education

b. c.1690, s. of William Rowley of Whitehall. m. bef. 1729 (with a ‘great fortune’), Arabella, da. and h. of Capt. George Dawson of co. Derry, 4s. d.v.p. 1da. K.B. 12 Dec. 1753.

Offices Held

Entered R.N. 1704, lt. 1708, capt. 1716, r.-adm. 1743, v.-adm. 1744, adm. 1747; ld. of the Admiralty June 1751-Nov. 1756, Apr.-July 1757; adm. of the Fleet 1762.


Rowley entered the navy as a volunteer, serving under Captain, later Sir John, Norris. His career was undistinguished until 1741, when he joined the Mediterranean fleet, taking part in February 1744 in the engagement off Toulon in which he was one of the few flag-officers concerned whose conduct was not called into question. Appointed in August that year to the command of the Mediterranean fleet in succession to Thomas Mathews, he presided over a court martial which was conducted with extraordinary partiality to the officer concerned, the son of Sir John Norris.1 On 30 Apr. 1745 the House of Commons, during its inquiry into the Toulon action, passed a resolution that the trial was ‘partial, arbitrary, and illegal’. The Admiralty found that the proceedings were improper and that Rowley was unfit to remain in command. Recalled in July, he never went to sea again.

Notwithstanding this affair Rowley was promoted to be admiral in 1747. In 1749 he was one of a number of admirals and captains who signed an address to the Admiralty against a new article of war subjecting half-pay officers to courts martial and were summoned to the Admiralty, where he spoke against the article.2 In 1750 he was brought into Parliament by Lord Egremont (Sir Charles Wyndham) who wrote on 9 Feb. to Newcastle:

I pitched upon him, not only from my own personal regard and friendship to him, but likewise from knowing that your Grace honoured him with your protection; and also from my hopes that ... it might not be disagreeable to the King to have him in Parliament.3

Next year he was appointed by the influence of Lord Granville to a seat on the Admiralty board.4

He died 1 Jan. 1768.

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Shirley Matthews


  • 1. H. W. Richmond, Navy in the War of 1739-48, ii. 141, 252-3.
  • 2. D. Erskine, Augustus Hervey Diary, 81.
  • 3. Add. 32720, f. 90.
  • 4. Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 194.