BOWES, Andrew Robinson (1747-1810), of Cold Pike Hill; Gibside, nr. Gateshead; and Streatlam Castle, co. Dur.
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Family and Education
b. 19 Jan. 1747, 1st s. of George Stoney of Greyfort and Portland, co. Tipperary by Elizabeth, da. of James Johnston of Ballynockane. m. (1) 5 Nov. 1768,1 Hannah, da. and h. of William Newton of Cold Pike Hill, Newcastle coal merchant, s.p.; (2) 17 Jan. 1777, Mary Eleanor, da. and h. of George Bowes, wid. of John Lyon, 7th Earl of Strathmore [S], 1s. 1da. On marrying her Stoney took, under the terms of her father’s will, the name of Bowes. She divorced him 3 Mar. 1789.
Ensign 4 Ft. 1764, lt. 1769; half-pay 1770.
Sheriff, Northumb. 1780-1.
Of Irish gentry and great-nephew of Maj.-Gen. Andrew Robinson (equerry to the Princess Dowager of Wales), this Member became connected with Newcastle through his first marriage. Hannah Newton had inherited Cold Pike Hill and a fortune of £20-30,000; he treated her abominably; but at her death retained her property. His second wife had inherited Gibside, Streatlam Castle, and a fortune of about £600,000, which, however, as ‘the effect of a lucid interval’ (as Lord Chancellor Thurlow put it) she had by pre-nuptial deeds conveyed to trustees; ‘by the terrors of personal violence’ he made her rescind them; even then his treatment of her grew more and more outrageous; and being ‘of a very savage and tormenting disposition’ he resorted to physical cruelty. The story of that marriage is fully told in contemporary and recent literature.2
A month after his marriage to Lady Strathmore a vacancy occurred at Newcastle, and Bowes (as he now was) declared his candidature.3 Supported by the local radicals, he carried on a demagogical campaign, but lost by 95 votes on a poll of 2231. He stood again in 1780, described by Robinson as ‘not adverse’ to the Government. This time he won by 50 votes. ‘Bowes is not the kind of colleague that a man would wish for’, wrote Nicholas Ridley, brother of the other successful candidate, 25 Sept. 1780. ‘... On Thursday the new-elected Members are to give a joint ball; we have not much expectation of the brilliancy of it as many of the neighbouring people are so very much dissatisfied with Bowes that they will not even go to a ball of his giving though on occasion of an election.’4 On 17 Feb. 1781 Charles Jenkinson wrote to John Robinson that the Duke of Northumberland could ‘secure Mr. Bowes’.5 But on 12 Dec. 1781, on Lowther’s motion against the American war, he voted with Opposition; on the motion against the Admiralty, 20 Feb. 1782, he seems to have voted with Administration;6 was absent from two divisions concerning America; and again voted with the Government over two motions directed against them, 8 and 15 Mar. In short, he would not vote for the American war but would not join in condemning the North Government as such. He was after an Irish peerage, and hoped to obtain it from North.
On 30 May 1782 Bowes wrote to Shelburne a long and verbose letter, disingenuous and empty, full of self-justification and in a high-falutin style. The winter of 1782-3 he spent in the north; and on 19 Feb. 1783 he wrote to Shelburne from Gibside: ‘it has not been in my power this winter, on account of a severe indisposition, to attend my duty in Parliament’.7 But to a friend he wrote, 15 Apr. 1783: ‘A want of money, not a want of health, has detained me here so long.’8 There is a good deal of bombast before the point is reached—‘I wish your Lordship ... to think me a moderate man who is so far endowed with common sense as not to be self sufficient ... I am only prompted by my ardour to obtain an object to which my mind has been long attached’: Lord North had absolutely promised him an Irish peerage; his application ‘was supported and enforced by the Duke of Northumberland’, but there was procrastination; still, North, after he had resigned, assured the Duke ‘that his Majesty approved of my wish; and that an Irish peerage would be conferred on me with the first opportunity’. He now repeats the request, ‘stimulated by my own enterprising mind and by my strong idea of your Lordship’s generosity’.
In March 1783 Robinson listed Bowes as connected with the Duke of Northumberland. On 7 May 1783 Bowes voted for Pitt’s parliamentary reform proposals. He did not vote on Fox’s East India bill; was listed by Robinson in January 1784 as ‘doubtful, some hope’; and was expected by him to retain the seat. But Stockdale’s list of 19 Mar. classed him as ‘Opposition’; and according to a news report in the Chelmsford Chronicle of 9 Apr., he had entirely prejudiced his chances ‘by his unfortunate attachment to Mr. Fox’. The election ended on 26 Apr., and on the 29th Nicholas Ridley wrote to his half-brother Richard:9
As we were preparing to go to the hustings, a messenger arrived from Mr. Bowes to inform us that he declined the poll, but would meet us at the place of polling as he had something to say to people: he made a handsome farewell speech ... Mr. B’s leavetaking seemed to be for ever.
His only recorded speech in the House was on Lord Mahon’s election bribery bill, 19 Mar. 1784: the laws, he said, were already too severe, and repugnant in particular ‘to the interests of the lower class of constituents’; an honest mechanic, burgess of Newcastle, could not be expected to travel 300 miles at his own expense to vote at an election.
Bowes never stood for Parliament again. Lady Strathmore, unable to stand the ill-treatment any longer, escaped from him in February 1785, and took legal proceedings: exhibited articles of peace against him; a bill of complaint to re-establish the antenuptial trust deeds; and filed a suit for divorce. While these were proceeding, Bowes, on 10 Nov. 1786, had her kidnapped in Oxford Street and carried off to the north, his aim being by force to put a stop to the proceedings she had brought against him. Rescued from him, she won her suits; while he spent the remaining 23 years of his life in prison or ‘within the prison rules’ first for his crime, and next for debts. He died 16 Jan. 1810.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Sir Lewis Namier
- 1. Gent. Mag. 1768, p. 542. Burke’s Irish Landed Gentry gives 1 Sept. 1769, but clearly the earlier date is more probable.
- 2. See foremost Jesse Foot, Lives of A. R. Bowes and the Countess of Strathmore, and R. Arnold, Unhappy Countess.
Before that he had thought of standing for Morpeth; see HMC Carlisle, 317, 319.
- 3. Before that he had thought of standing for Morpeth; see HMC Carlisle, 317, 319.
- 4. To his half-bro. Richard Ridley, Ridley mss at Blagdon.
- 5. Abergavenny ms 349.
- 6. Thus according to one list; in another he appears as absent.
- 7. Lansdowne mss.
- 8. Foot, op. cit. 78.
- 9. Ridley mss.