LOWER, William (1519/24-84), of Polscoe in St. Winnow, Cornw.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1519/24, 1st s. of John Lower of Polscoe in St. Winnow by Margaret, da. and coh. of Thomas Upton of Trelaske. m. settlement 6 Oct. 1540, Agnes, da. of Thomas Treffry of Fowey and St. Kew, 5s. 2da. suc. fa. by 1540.2

Offices Held

J.p. Cornw. 1569-d.; v.-adm. by 1570; sheriff 1578-9.3


The Lowers had been seated in St. Winnow from the 14th century. William Lower’s father died while William was a minor and his wardship was acquired by his uncle Nicholas Lower, who in 1540 sold it to Thomas Treffry on condition that William should marry one of Treffry’s daughters before 2 Feb. 1541. William Lower was probably glad to be out of his uncle’s custody, for the two were not well disposed to each other. Part of their ill feeling arose from disagreement over the partition of the Upton inheritance between Lower’s mother and her sister, Nicholas Lower’s wife. Matters came to a head during September 1545 in Lewannick church ‘when the uncle called Lower "boy"', and he retorted 'that he would play a boy's part with the said Nicholas ere it were long'. He seems to have been true to his word for on the 30th of the month he allegedly waylaid his uncle at Northill and gave him a wound, from which Nicholas Lower was to die within three months, but at the inquest it was found that he had killed his uncle in self-defence. His aunt complained about the verdict on the grounds that the coroner William Cavell*, a neighbour of Lower's, had brought undue influence to bear on the jurors, but their verdict was upheld.4

In January 1545 Lower attended the county court for Cornwall for election of the knights of the shire. Two years later he sued out a general pardon. During the western rising of 1549 he rallied to the side of Sir John Russell*, Baron Russell, and served under his command in the restoration of order. Among the alleged rebels was John Bealbury of Liskeard, whose plate he appropriated. This action, which Lower claimed was sanctioned by one of Russell's proclamations, led to litigation between him and Bealbuty's executor, John Cruwys*. Proceedings initiated by Cruwys were under way when Lower obtained his election as the junior Member for Liskeard to the fourth Parliament of Mary's reign, presumably in an effort to delay the course of justice. As he had no tied of his own with the town, his Membership was probably the work of John Gayer*, to whom he was related by marriage. (A more obvious constituency for Lower in 1555 would hav been Lostwithiel only two miles north of his home, but apparently he had been on bad terms with the townsmen there since 1545, when he and Laurence Courtenay had been involved in a dispute with them over grazing rights.) Lower's fellow-Mmeber was Cruwys who is unlikely to have relished his company, but their differences are not known to have affected their part in the work of the House. Nearly two months after the dissolution of the Parliament Lower petitioned the Council to terminate the action against hhim in Chancery, apparently with success since no more is hearrd of it, and not long aftrewards Cruwys brought a second charge against him in the same court, this time for debt.5

Elizabeth put Lower in the Cornish bench in 1569, the year in which he subscribed to the Anglican settlement, and he cut a figure in local management until his death on 24 June 1584, his will being proved at Exeter three months later.6

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: J. J. Goring


  • 1. C219/24/29; OR gives ‘Lowrd’.
  • 2. Date of birth estimated from marriage and appearance as a county-elector in 1545. Vis. Cornw. ed. Vivian, 299; J. Maclean, Trigg Minor, iii. 378.
  • 3. SP12/60, ff. 83-84; APC, vii. 357.
  • 4. Maclean, iii. 375-8; C. S. Gilbert, Cornw. ii. 191; St.Ch.2/30/40.
  • 5. C1/1343/44-7, 1418/62; 219/18C/15; CPR, 1548-9, p. 153; A. L. Rowse, Tudor Cornw., 248; APC, v. 237; St.Ch.3/2/39.
  • 6. APC, vii. 146 et passim; xi. 181; Vis. Cornw. 299.