FOWLER, Brian (by 1526-87), of Bettisfield, Flints and St. Thomas, Staffs.
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Family and Education
J.p. Staffs. 1547-64 or later, q. by 1573/74-5, q. Flints. 1564; escheator, Staffs. 1550-1; commr. relief 1550.2
Brian Fowler’s father, a distant kinsman of the family seated at Rycote, Oxfordshire, was a man of small means who became a member of the garrison of Berwick but was killed in action against the Scots. The widow’s death by 1538 left eight orphans in the care of her brother Rowland Lee, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, who was the eldest son’s godfather. Lee did his best for them, seeking in particular a grant of the Augustinian priory of St. Thomas near Stafford, which on its dissolution in 1539 he asked for ‘at an easy rate that the poor boys, my nephews, may have some relief thereby’. Under a settlement of 1540 Brian Fowler received the site and most of the property when his uncle died three years later, the remainder being divided between his three surviving brothers.3
His uncle’s provision for Fowler gave him a stake in Staffordshire, where he sat on the county bench from 1547 until his removal by Elizabeth. His marriage to a Flintshire heiress also brought him an estate in North Wales and a residence there. By the accession of Mary he had returned to Staffordshire and it was as ‘late of Bettisfield’ in Flintshire that he sued out a general pardon in 1554. He enjoyed the confidence of a neighbouring magnate in Staffordshire, the 1st Viscount Hereford, who acknowledged their friendship in his will and made Fowler a feoffee of the lands settled on his wife. It was doubtless his nearness to Hereford as much as his own standing which accounts for his election as a knight for the shire to the last Parliament of Mary’s reign: in the House he was joined by his younger brother James, returned for Stafford presumably with his help. Nothing is known of Fowler’s part in Parliament, but on 4 Aug. 1558, during the prorogation, he witnessed Hereford’s will at Chartley.4
In 1564 Bishop Bentham was advised that Fowler was ‘meet to continue in office’ as a justice of the peace but himself rated Fowler among ‘adversaries to religion and no favourer thereof’ although ‘better learned than the rest’, adding that David Pole, the deposed bishop of Peterborough, was living with Fowler and that ‘divers lewd priests’ resorted there: as one of those recommending continuance was Roger Fowke, whose wife was related to Fowler, the bishop may well have found the advice given him less than impartial. Fowler was none the less retained on the commission until 1575, when following the Queen’s visit to Staffordshire he was summoned before the Privy Council to explain his failure to attend the parish church. On 18 Aug. he was examined by four bishops with the result that, although licensed to return home to settle a debt, he was committed to the custody of the bishop of Worcester. Unlike John Giffard he was not allowed home after discussions with the bishop but on 7 Dec. was sent to the Fleet. Unshaken in his beliefs, he was released from prison but kept under recognizance and surveillance, frequently summoned for further examination, and again put in the Fleet in 1581. He died at St. Thomas on 15 Oct. 1587 and was buried in Baswich church. He appears to have left no will but an inquisition held on 2 Oct. 1588 found his heir to be his son Walter, aged 36 years and more, and Fowler possessed of property in Flintshire as well as Staffordshire.5
Ref Volumes: 1509-1558
Author: A. D.K. Hawkyard
- 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Shaw, Staffs. ii. 203; Wm. Salt Arch. Soc. 1882(2), pp. 79-80; J. C. Wedgwood, Staffs. Parl. Hist. (Wm. Salt Arch. Soc.), i. 349; C142/216/21.
- 2. CPR, 1547-8, p. 89: 1553, p. 358; 1555-7, p. 116;1563-6, p. 19.
- 3. Trans. Salop Arch. Soc. lvi. 273; VCH Staffs. iii. 261, 265-6; C142/69/119.
- 4. CPR, 1553-4, p. 419; PCC 47 Noodes.
- 5. Cam. Misc. ix(3), 40, 42-43; APC, ix. 13, 15, 17-18, 47, 57, 80, 213; xii. 179; xiii. 42; Cath. Rec. Soc. xxii. 92; Trans. Birmingham Arch. Soc. lxix. 13; C142/216/21.