LOWTHER, William II (1663-1729), of Swillington, Yorks.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Dec. 1701 - 1710
22 Mar. 1716 - 6 Mar. 1729

Family and Education

b. 8 June 1663, 1st s. of Sir William Lowther*.  educ. Barwick-in-Elmet sch. Yorks.; Christ’s, Camb. 1682; G. Inn 1682.  m. c.1691–2 Anabella (d. 1734), da. of Banastre Maynard†, 3rd Baron Maynard, 3s. 2da.  suc. fa. 1705; cr. Bt. 6 Jan. 1715.1

Offices Held

Sheriff, Yorks. 1697–8; commr. Aire and Calder navigation, 1699; burgess, Wigan 1725.2

Gent. of privy chamber by 1704–?20.3

Commr. taking subscriptions to S. Sea Co. 1711.4


Lowther’s most notable characteristic, his short temper, was first demonstrated in August 1688 when after the Pontefract sessions he ‘quarrelled’ with a West Riding deputy-lieutenant who had just given positive answers to a request to support the repeal of Penal Laws and Test Acts. The disagreement culminated in a duel. Following his marriage, in either late 1691 or early 1692, Lowther remained in Flitton, Bedfordshire for over three years until returning to Yorkshire to build a house at Swillington. While serving as Yorkshire sheriff, Lowther campaigned in 1698 for the return of Lord Downe (Henry Dawnay*) in opposition to Sir John Kaye, 2nd Bt.*, for the county, one contemporary alleging that Lowther closed the poll even though ‘Kaye had a great number to come in’. Given Lowther’s subsequent Whiggery, his support for the Tory Downe, rather than the equally Tory Kaye, is difficult to explain. His decision may be connected to some agreement concerning the disposal of Downe’s interest at Pontefract, where Lowther’s family possessed influence, or may be attributable to Kaye’s friendship with Lowther’s father. Lowther’s poor relationship with his father was evident from a lengthy dispute between the two concerning Lowther’s marriage settlement and the management of the Swillington estate. Beginning in the late 1690s, the disagreement was not settled until 1702 when Archbishop Sharp resolved the dispute largely in favour of Lowther’s father. His parliamentary aspirations became apparent at the first election of 1701; he had not campaigned at the Pontefract by-election of February 1700, despite receiving a single vote at this poll. Faced by the opposition of his father, who claimed that Lowther stood ‘only to insult me and protect himself from his just debts’, he was defeated, but was returned unopposed at the second election that year, having resolved to stand, ‘though it be inconvenient’, to prevent the return of two Tories.5

Classed as a Whig in Robert Harley’s* analysis of the new Parliament, Lowther consistently lived up to this description during the following nine years. It is impossible to distinguish his activities in the 1701–2 Parliament from those of his cousin James, but his infrequent contribution to Commons’ business during the 1702 Parliament when James was not in the House suggests he was generally inactive. Granted a month’s leave of absence on 7 Dec. 1702, he had returned to the Commons in time to vote on 13 Feb. 1703 in favour of the Lords’ amendments to the bill enlarging the time for taking the Abjuration, and on 28 Nov 1704 did not vote for the Tack. During the course of this session he was appointed to draft, and subsequently presented, a bill to prevent secret outlawries in private legal actions, and was a teller against referring to committee a bill for encouraging the manufacture of needlework buttons (23 Jan. 1705), and against accepting an additional clause to the bill levying duties on re-exported East India goods (21 Feb.). An analysis of the new Parliament of 1705 listed Lowther as ‘Low Church’. He subsequently voted on 25 Oct. for the Court candidate for Speaker and, though granted leave of absence on 12 Dec. due to the death of his father, he supported the Court in February 1706 on the regency bill proceedings. On 20 Jan. 1707 he told against committing the bill to make Lancaster a staple port for the import of wool, but it is unclear whether it was Lowther or his cousin Robert who twice told in favour of the Commons going into a committee of the whole upon the Union in February. An analysis of the House dating from early 1708 classed Lowther as a Whig, and it was probably he rather than his cousin who told on 23 Mar. in favour of the Lords’ amendment to the bill for establishing an East Riding land registry. The 1708 Parliament saw him involved in the preparation of a bill to regulate Yorkshire’s woollen manufacture, which he presented on 4 Feb. It was, however, withdrawn on this date due to its failure to leave requisite matters blank, but ‘Mr Lowther’ presented this measure again three days later. Lowther’s Whig sympathies were confirmed during this Parliament. In 1709 he supported the naturalization of the Palatines, and in March the same year, petitioned the secretary of state for the removal of a West Riding justice whom he characterized as ‘one of the discontented party’. In 1710 he voted for the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell.6

Defeated at Pontefract in 1710, when he was described by the Duke of Leeds (Sir Thomas Osborne†) as ‘one of the worst men, and who brought up both a false and counter-address to that loyal one that was sent up by the knights of Yorkshire’, Lowther was removed from the West Riding bench in the regulation of the commissions of the peace that followed upon the appointment of a Tory lord keeper. In the autumn of 1712 he failed in his attempt to have a ‘Whig mayor’ elected at Pontefract, and in the election the following year was again defeated. He met the same fate when he again stood for the borough in 1715, but the following year unseated the Tory Members upon petition. In the years that followed he was able to consolidate his interest at Pontefract, and sat for the borough until his death on 6 Mar. 1729. He was buried at Swillington, and was succeeded in his estates, baronetcy and parliamentary seat by his son William.7

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Authors: Eveline Cruickshanks / Richard Harrison


  • 1. H. Owen, Lowther Fam. 306–7, 347–8, 351.
  • 2. HMC Lords, n.s. iii. 204; Wigan RO, Wigan bor. recs. AB/MR/11.
  • 3. Info. from Prof. R. O. Bucholz.
  • 4. Pittis, Present Parl. (1711), 350.
  • 5. Cumbria RO (Carlisle), Lonsdale mss D/Lons/L1/34/6, Sir William to Sir John Lowther, 2nd Bt. II*, 22 Aug. 1688; D/Lons/L1/1/45, same to Lady Lonsdale, 11 Dec. 1700; Duckett, Penal Laws and Test Act (1882), 87–88; Owen, 347–50; Yorks. Diaries (Surtees Soc. lxxvii), 75–76; Nottingham Univ. Lib. Galway mss 12259/5, pollbk.; W. Yorks. Archs. (Leeds), Temple Newsam mss TN/C9/150, Lowther to Ld. Irwin (Arthur Ingram*), 17 Nov. 1701.
  • 6. Thoresby Diary, ii. 20; L. K. J. Glassey, Appt. JPs, 188.
  • 7. HMC Portland, iv. 642; v. 221; Glassey, 207; Lonsdale mss D/Lons/W2/3/16, Jane to James Lowther*, 17 Feb. 1714–5; Quinn thesis, 210–22; Owen, 350–1.