BOWLES, John (c.1649-1700), of Shaftesbury, Dorset.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690, ed. B.D. Henning, 1983
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. c.1649, 1st s. of William Bowles, attorney, of Salisbury, Wilts. by Anne, da. of Matthew Davys of Chicksgrove, Wilts. and Shaftesbury. educ. Magdalen Coll. Oxf. matric. 29 Mar. 1667, aged 18; M. Temple 1668, called 1673. m. lic. 7 Dec. 1675, Katherine, da. and h. of George Joyliffe, MD of Garlick Hill, London, 3s. 1da.1

Offices Held

Dep. recorder, Shaftesbury 1684-7, recorder 1689-d.; freeman, Salisbury and Wilton 1685; commr. For assessment, Dorset and Wilts. 1689-90; bencher, M. Temple 1697.2


Bowles’s father, the younger son of an armigerous Wiltshire family, had to compound for his delinquency in practicing as an attorney at Oxford during the Civil War. Bowles himself, however, was not originally intended for the legal profession; he was recommended by Ormonde and (Sir) Joseph Williamson for a fellowship of Magdalen, as ‘the son of a very loyal family, and related to several considerable persons in the country’, but unfortunately Hon. Henry Coventry had already proposed another and more senior candidate. As a barrister, his practice was probably chiefly on circuit; he kept no chambers at the Temple till he became a bencher.3

Two votes (presumably spontaneous) were cast for Bowles in the election of II Feb. 1679. Eight months later he was defeated by 97 votes by the sitting Whig Member, Thomas Bennett. In 1681 Bennett’s agent at first expected Bowles and Sir Matthew Andrews to join interests. Then it was reported that he had asked Robert Hyde to stand. But in the end he seems to have taken no part in the proceedings except to attend the amicable election dinner which terminated them.4

With the Tory reaction after the Oxford Parliament, Bowles’s father (who was to survive his son for many years) was added to the commission of the peace for Dorset, and became an alderman of Shaftesbury. Bowles himself, with Sir Henry Butler, played a prominent part in the surrender of the Shaftesbury charter, and they were returned for the borough in 1685. But in James II’s Parliament he was appointed only to the committee for the clandestine marriages bill, a measure sponsored by the Dorset Tories, (Sir) Winston Churchill and Anthony Ettrick.5

Bowles’s father returned negative answers to the lord lieutenant’s questions on the repeal of the Test Act and Penal Laws in 1687, though Bowles himself was among the Templars who were said to have concurred. Although he became recorder in 1689 after the restoration of the Shaftesbury charter, there is no evidence that he took any further part in politics. His will was proved on 5 Dec. 1700. No relationship has been traced with William Bowles, Member for Bridport in 1727, who came of a London family.6

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: John. P. Ferris


  • 1. Hoare, Wilts. Chalk 36; H. F. Waters, Gen. Gleanings, 263; London Mar. Lic. ed. Foster, 164; N. and Q. cxcii. 190; Hutchins, Dorset, iii. 52.
  • 2. Hutchins, iii. 9, 17; CSP Dom. p. 99; Hoare, Wilts. Salisbury, 483.
  • 3. Wilts. Arch. Mag. xxvi. 365; Keeler, Long Parl. 154; Dorset Hearth-Tax ed. Meekings, p. xxix; CSP Dom. 1675-6, pp. 176, 187; M. Temple Recs. 1456.
  • 4. Wilts. RO, 413/435; Pythouse Pprs. ed. Day, 88, 93, 95.
  • 5. Dorset RO, D124 (letter to Thomas Strangways), KG 1496, 1147; C. H. Mayo, Shastonian Recs. 12.
  • 6. R. Morrice, Entering Bk. 2, p. 71; PCC 175 Noel.