POWELL, John (1645-1713), of Gloucester and the Inner Temple.

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. 26 May 1645, 1st s. of John Powell of Dewsall, Herefs. and Gloucester by w. Bridget. educ. I. Temple 1664, called 1671. unm. suc. fa. 1666; kntd. 4 Nov. 1691.1

Offices Held

Common councilman, Gloucester 1672-4, town clerk 1674-85, 1687-91; commr. for assessment, Gloucester 1679-80, Glos. and Gloucester 1689-90, j.p. Glos. 1679-87, ?1689-d.; bencher, I. Temple 1689.2

Serjeant-at-law 1689, baron of the Exchequer 27 Oct. 1691; j.c.p. 1695; j.Q.b. 1702-d.


Powell’s father was in arms for the King in the first Civil War and compounded in July 1646 for £268 for property in Herefordshire and Gloucester, though this was later found to be an undervaluation. He was elected mayor of Gloucester after the purge of the corporation in 1663.3

Powell himself became a lawyer, and has to be distinguished from his contemporary, one of the judges at the trial of the Seven Bishops. He was named to the common council of Gloucester under the new charter of 1672, and two years later became town clerk. At the general election of 1685 the freemen ignored the recommendations of the Duke of Beaufort, their high steward, and returned Powell instead of the duke’s son, Charles Somerset. Nevertheless he was probably a Tory. A moderately active Member of James II’s Parliament, he was appointed to four committees, none of any political importance, and on 1 July he reported an estate bill. In September he was replaced as town clerk by Robert Price, no doubt on Beaufort’s demand. He applied for a writ of quo warranto and regained his post in 1687. Beaufort considered him a supporter of James II’s religious policies, and he was recommended as court candidate in 1688. But he did not stand again.4

After the Revolution Powell was raised to the coif, and in 1691 William ordered a patent for his appointment as judge of common pleas. But Sir John Trevor, as master of the rolls, objected, and Powell had to be content with a seat on the exchequer bench till 1695, when he was promoted. Three months after the accession of Queen Anne he was transferred to the Queen’s bench where he remained until his death on 14 June 1713. His reputation as a judge was deservedly high, and he is said to have killed one witchcraft case by remarking that there was no law against flying. Dean Swift described him as ‘the merriest old gentleman I ever saw, spoke pleasing things, and chuckled till he cried again’. The provisions of his will indicate that he had prospered. His nephew and heir, John Snell, represented Gloucester as a Tory 1713-26.5

Ref Volumes: 1660-1690

Author: Basil Duke Henning


  • 1. Rudder, Glos. 119-20; J. Stratford, Glos. Biog. Notes, 80; PCC 168 Mico.
  • 2. Gloucester Guildhall, council bk. 1656-86, pp. 498, 604, 892; 1681-90, p. 66.
  • 3. Stratford, 76.
  • 4. Bodl. Carte 130, f. 24.
  • 5. Luttrell, ii. 220-1; DNB.