DOWDESWELL, John Edmund (1772-1851), of 7 Park Place, St. James's, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1812 - 1832

Family and Education

b. 3 Mar. 1772, 6th s. of William Dowdeswell† (d. 1775) of Pull Court, Worcs. and Bridget, da. of Sir William Codrington†, 1st bt., of Dodington, Glos.; bro. of William Dowdeswell†. educ. Westminster 1779; Christ Church, Oxf. 1789; I. Temple 1794, called 1796. m. 4 Sept. 1800, Caroline, da. of Charles Brietzcke of St. James’s Place, Mdx., 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da. suc. bro. William to Pull Court 1828. d. 11 Nov. 1851.

Offices Held

Recorder, Tewkesbury 1798-1833; commr. of bankrupts 1806-20; master in chancery 1820-50; commr. of lunacy 1832-6; bencher, I. Temple 1834, reader 1841, treas. 1842.


Dowdeswell, a lawyer whose family had been politically connected with Tewkesbury since the seventeenth century, was returned unopposed for the third time in 1820 with the advanced Whig, John Martin, after pledging his utmost exertions to ‘preserve the blessings of our constitution to ... posterity’.1 He was a fairly regular attender, who continued to give general support to Lord Liverpool’s ministry, but rarely spoke. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb. 1821. He divided against Catholic claims, 28 Feb. He voted against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and Hume’s economy and retrenchment motion, 27 June. He divided against disfranchising civil officers of the ordnance, 12 Apr., and Russell’s reform resolutions, 9 May. He voted for the forgery punishment mitigation bill, 23 May 1821. He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 11, 21 Feb., and reduction of the salt duties, 28 Feb. 1822. He voted against removing Catholic peers’ disabilities, 30 Apr., and for the aliens bill, 19 July 1822. He presented a Tewkesbury traders’ petition against the insolvent debtors bill, 21 Feb. 1823.2 He divided against further tax reductions, 3 Mar., reform of Scotland’s representation, 2 June, and inquiry into delays in chancery, 5 June 1823. He gave no recorded votes in 1824. He divided for the Irish unlawful societies bill, 25 Feb., paired against Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., and voted in that sense, 10 May 1825. He was reportedly one of the ‘country gentlemen’ who voted in the minority against the second reading of the Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825.3 He presented a Tewkesbury anti-slavery petition, 20 Mar.,4 and voted in the minority to consider the corn laws, 18 Apr. 1826. At the general election that summer he was again returned unopposed for Tewkesbury.5

He divided against Catholic claims, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828. He voted for repeal of the Test Acts, 26 Feb., and presented two favourable Tewkesbury petitions, 28 Feb. He produced one from the corporation against the alehouses licensing bill, 9 June 1828. In February 1829 Planta, the Wellington ministry’s patronage secretary, predicted that Dowdeswell would side ‘with government’ for Catholic emancipation, but while he voted to consider the matter, 6 Mar., he divided against the relief bill, 18, 30 Mar. 1829. He voted against the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and Jewish emancipation, 17 May 1830. He divided in the minority to prohibit sales for on-consumption in beer houses, 21 June. He spoke in the debate on the court of chancery, 24 June 1830, defending his fellow masters from the ‘unjust aspersions ... cast upon their character’ and rejecting complaints about excessive fees and insufficient hours of attendance. At the general election that summer he responded to an application from a group of Tewkesbury electors by affirming his anxiety to ‘witness the extinction of slavery with as little delay as possible’; he was again returned unopposed.6

The ministry regarded Dowdeswell as one of their ‘friends’, and he duly voted with them in the crucial civil list division, 15 Nov. 1830. He divided against the second reading of the Grey ministry’s reform bill, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. At the ensuing general election he faced a challenge at Tewkesbury from a second reform candidate, Charles Hanbury Tracy*. Dowdeswell denied that he was an anti-reformer, declaring that ‘those boroughs where there is ... no constituency should be disfranchised ... those boroughs denominated close boroughs should be thrown open and ... the larger towns, whose commercial power and wealth give them an importance in our nation, should be admitted to a participation in the elective franchise’. He explained that he had opposed the ministerial bill because of the ‘unjust’ way in which it deprived many voters and ‘considerable ... boroughs’ of their privileges. He was returned in second place behind Martin, after a severe contest.7 He voted against the second reading of the reintroduced bill, 6 July, for use of the 1831 census in determining the disfranchisement schedules, 19 July, and against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept. 1831. He divided against the second and third readings of the revised bill, 17 Dec. 1831, 22 Mar. 1832. In July 1832 it was reported that he would not stand for Tewkesbury at the forthcoming general election.8 He had inherited the family estates in Gloucestershire and Worcestershire from his brother William in 1828. He died in November 1851 and on the day of his funeral ‘the whole of the inhabitants’ of Tewkesbury ‘spontaneously closed their shops and houses’ and ‘150 of them, of all religious creeds and all shades in politics’, accompanied the coffin to the family vault.9 He left the bulk of his property to his only surviving son, William Dowdeswell (1804-87), Conservative Member for Tewkesbury, 1835-47.10

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Terry Jenkins


  • 1. Gloucester Jnl. 28 Feb., 13 Mar. 1820.
  • 2. The Times, 22 Feb. 1823.
  • 3. Buckingham, Mems. Geo. IV, ii. 242.
  • 4. The Times, 21 Mar. 1826.
  • 5. Gloucester Jnl. 5, 12 June 1826.
  • 6. Ibid. 24, 31 July 1830.
  • 7. Ibid. 30 Apr., 7 May 1831.
  • 8. Ibid. 21 July 1832.
  • 9. Gent Mag. (1851), ii. 651-2.
  • 10. PROB 11/2143/918; IR26/1896/861.