LOWTHER, Hon. Henry Cecil (1790-1867), of Barleythorpe, Rutland

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



1812 - 4 Dec. 1867

Family and Education

b. 27 July 1790, 2nd s. of William Lowther†, 1st earl of Lonsdale (d. 1844), and Lady Augusta Fane, da. of John Fane†, 9th earl of Westmorland; bro. of William Lowther, Visct. Lowther*. educ. Westminster. m. 19 May 1817, Lady Eleanor Sherard, da. of Philip Sherard†, 5th earl of Harborough, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 4da. (2 d.v.p.). d. 4 Dec. 1867.

Offices Held

Cornet 7 Drag. 1807, lt. 1808, capt. 1810; maj. 41 Ft. Apr. 1814, maj. 10 Drag. Nov. 1814; lt.-col. 12 Ft. 1817, half-pay 1818, ret. 1830.

Maj. commdt. Westmld. yeoman cav. 1819, lt.-col. commdt. 1821; col. commdt. R. Cumb. militia 1830.


Lowther, a fine horseman and career soldier who had served with distinction under Moore and Wellington in the Peninsular war, had represented Westmorland on his father Lord Lonsdale’s interest since 1812. Popularly known as the ‘silent Colonel’, he was no public speaker and since 1813 had dutifully followed the political leadership of his elder brother Lord Lowther, voting in support of Lord Liverpool’s administration and against Catholic relief.1 At the general election of 1820 the brothers faced a renewed challenge from the Whig Henry Brougham*, whom they had defeated in 1818.2 Reports that Lonsdale would seat Henry elsewhere to avoid a contest were dispelled by the prompt announcement of his candidature, and he was re-elected with his brother after an exhaustive seven-day poll, after trailing in third place for the first five days.3

Lowther, who made no reported speeches before 1831, was detained as a defaulter, 20 July 1820. He voted against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 20 Feb. 1823, 13 Apr. 1826, and Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. A radical publication of 1825 described him correctly as a Member who ‘attended occasionally and voted with ministers’.4 He divided with them on their handling of Queen Caroline’s case, 6 Feb., the additional malt tax repeal bill, 3 Apr., and the duke of Clarence’s grant, 18 June 1821. He voted against more extensive tax reductions to relieve distress, 11 Feb., abolition of one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, and inquiry into Irish tithes, 19 June, and for the aliens bill, 19 July, and the grant for publishing Irish government publications, 22 July 1822. He voted against investigating chancery arrears, 2, 12 June 1823, and against condemning the indictment in Demerara of the Methodist missionary John Smith for inciting slaves to riot, 11 June 1824. He divided against the spring guns bill, 27 Apr. 1826. At the general election in June he contested Westmorland successfully with his brother, canvassing arduously despite the extreme heat and making a valiant effort to contribute to the nightly close of poll speeches.5 Bingley Broadhead, a lieutenant in the 80th Foot who recognized him shortly afterwards in Manchester, wrote:

Such a figure you can hardly conceive. His face had come in contact with the mountain wind and sun, and no skin was left. Indeed, the old comparisons of a chapped face being like the bark of a plum tree was not the least exaggerated.6

Lowther divided against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, and with his brother in the Tory minority against the Coventry magistracy bill, 18 June 1827, and the Wellington ministry’s majority against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. Their patronage secretary Planta noted that he was ‘opposed to the principle’ of Catholic emancipation in 1829, and he presented hostile petitions, 4 Mar., and divided against it, 6, 18, 30 Mar., having paired against admitting Catholic Members, 23 Mar., and against bringing up the report, 27 Mar. His wife had a reputation for showing off at society gatherings;7 and Mrs. Arbuthnot, who met the couple in January 1830 at Cottesmore, where Lowther led the hunt, described her as ‘a fat ugly woman of seven or eight and thirty’ flirting with a dandy, while he ‘does not seem to care’.8 He voted against transferring East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb. His brother, a government minister suspected of disloyalty by his colleagues, was embarrassed by Lonsdale’s decision to ordered Lowther back to London to vote for the production of ex-officio informations involving the Morning Chronicle, 2 Mar., which government opposed, but there was no division.9 He voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830. Although a compromise left Cumberland and Westmorland uncontested at the general election of 1830, Lowther proceeded with a precautionary canvass and chaired the party dinner at Cockermouth prior to his return.10

Ministers counted him among their ‘friends’, but he was absent from the division on the civil list by which they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830. The Grey administration’s reform bill threatened Lonsdale’s electoral influence at Appleby, Cockermouth and Haselmere. As directed, Lowther voted against its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831.11 He refused to moderate his opposition to the bill, and his uncontested return for Westmorland at the ensuing election was secured through a pre-poll pact with the reformers, whose candidates defeated Lord Lowther in Cumberland.12 He divided against the reintroduced reform bill at its second reading, 6 July 1831. Representing Lonsdale’s interests in the Commons until his brother was seated for Dunwich in February 1832, he presented and endorsed Appleby’s petition against disfranchisement, 22 June, called in vain for its referral to a select committee to be heard by counsel, 12 July 1831, and brought up another on the 14th against the suggested boundaries for the new Whitehaven constituency, which he rightly complained had been drawn to minimize Lowther influence. On 6 Aug. he ridiculed the first lord of the admiralty Sir James Graham’s explanation that Harrington had been added to Whitehaven because they were neighbouring seaports, pointing out that Harrington, being one-and-a-half miles inland, was ‘no more a seaport than the Regent’s Park’. He voted to make the 1831 census the determinant of borough disfranchisement, 19 July, against taking a seat from Chippenham, 27 July, and to preserve freemen’s voting rights, 30 Aug. He divided against the bill’s passage, 21 Sept., and for the second reading of the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. He voted against the second reading of the revised reform bill, 17 Dec. 1831, the enfranchisement of Tower Hamlets, 28 Feb., and the third reading, 22 Mar., and against the Irish reform bill at its second reading, 25 May. He divided against government on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12 July, and the malt drawback bill, 29 Feb. 1832. He voted to reduce civil list expenditure, 18 July, against the Maynooth grant 26 Sept. 1831, and for Sadler’s scheme to tax absentee landlords to provide for the Irish poor, 19 June 1832. He presented petitions from Westmorland for the alienation of tithes, 30 July 1831.13

Lowther directed the Conservatives’ canvass of the new Cumberland and Westmorland constituencies at the general election of 1832, when his brother was abroad, came in for Westmorland with him, and represented the county for life.14 He was Father of the House when he died in December 1867, recalled for the good sense and brevity of his rare utterances and his prowess as a huntsman and cricketer.15 His successor at Barleythorpe and the principal beneficiary of his will, proved on 26 Feb. 1868, was his eldest son Henry Lowther (1818-76), Conservative Member for Cumberland West from 1847 until he succeeded his uncle as 3rd earl of Lonsdale in 1872.

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. H. Owen, Lowther Fam. 395-6; HP Commons, 1790-1820, ii. 405-8; iv. 460.
  • 2. W.A. Hay, The Whig Revival, 1808-1830, pp. 67-87.
  • 3. Lonsdale mss, W. Hodgson to Lonsdale, 18 Feb.; Clwyd RO, Lowther mss DD/L/178, J. Lowther to same [1820]; Cumb. Pacquet, 15, 29 Feb., 7 Mar. 1820; J.R. McQuiston, ‘The Lonsdale Connection and its Defender’, Northern Hist. xi (1975), 143-60.
  • 4. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 473.
  • 5. Cumb. Pacquet, 13 June-11 July 1826; Wordsworth Letters ed. M. Moorman and A.G. Hill (1970), iii. 456; McQuiston, 163-6.
  • 6. Northumb. RO, Middleton mss ZM1/S/76/52/2.
  • 7. Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 23 Sept. 1829.
  • 8. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 325.
  • 9. Greville Mems. i. 363-4; Lonsdale mss, Lonsdale to Lowther, 1 Mar., reply, 3 Mar. 1830.
  • 10. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 22 June; Carlisle Jnl. 17 July, 7, 14 Aug.; Cumb. Pacquet, 10 Aug. 1830; McQuiston, 176.
  • 11. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 25 Feb. 1831.
  • 12. McQuiston, 177-8; Westmld. Advertiser, 2, 30 Apr., 7, 14 May; Lowther mss 167, J.H. to J. Lowther, 29 Apr. 1831.
  • 13. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 27 Jan. 1832.
  • 14. Ibid. H.C. Lowther to J. Benn, 18 June, 7, 17 July, 27 Nov., 1, 4 Dec.; Brougham mss, W. Crackanthorpe to J. Brougham, 21 July, 11 Aug.; Carlisle Patriot, 22 Dec. 1832.
  • 15. The Times, 7, 9, 16 Dec.; F. Lillywhite, Cricket Scores and Biogs.(1860), i. 399; Sporting Gazette, 14 Dec. 1867; Gent. Mag. (1868), i. 108.