OWEN, Sir William (?by.1584-1663), of the Council House, Shrewsbury, Salop and Condover, Salop

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



Family and Education

b. ?by 1584,1 5th s. of Thomas Owen† (d.1598) of L. Inn, London and Condover, j.c.p. 1595-8, and 1st w. Sarah, da. and coh. of Humphrey Baskerville, alderman of London; bro. of Sir Roger*.2 educ. ?appr. by 1598. m. (1) 1 Jan. 1611 (with £1,500), Eleanor (bur. 22 July 1623), da. of Sir Robert Needham* of Shavington, Salop 3s., 9da. (2 d.v.p.);3 (2) by 1630, Lettice, 2s., 4da. (1 d.v.p.).4 suc. bro. Sir Roger 1617;5 kntd. 26 Aug. 1617.6 bur. 8 Mar. 1663.7 sig. William Owen.

Offices Held

J.p. Salop 1619-42;8 snr. bailiff, Shrewsbury 1621-2;9 sheriff, Salop 1622-3;10 commr. subsidy, Shrewsbury 1624, 1628, Salop 1641, Forced Loan, Salop 1626-7, poll tax 1641, assessment 1642, Irish aid 1642, array 1642.11


In 1598 Owen’s father bequeathed him a portion of £500 on condition that he served out the term of his apprenticeship. His trade is unknown: his most obvious vocation would have been as a draper or mercer at Shrewsbury, but neither company admitted a freeman of that name over the next few years, and he must either have joined one of the London livery companies, or failed to complete the term of his indenture.12 In any case, his career in trade was a brief one, as in 1609 his eldest brother Sir Roger, bereft of male heirs after a decade of marriage, opened negotiations with the widow of Sir John Thynne* for a match with one of her daughters, under the terms of which William became his heir presumptive. This deal fell through, but a similar agreement was concluded with a daughter of Sir Robert Needham* a year later. Condover remained in the hands of the Owen family until the death of Sir Roger’s widow in 1629, and while it was originally intended that William should live on one of the family’s outlying estates at Burcott, Berkshire, the sitting tenant demurred, and he was housed at the Shrewsbury mansion formerly occupied by the Council in the Marches.13

Owen had no formal connection with the Shrewsbury corporation before his election as senior bailiff in 1621, but thereafter, during his term as sheriff in 1622-3, he promoted a petition to the Privy Council in support of the Shrewsbury drapers’ trade in Welsh cloth, then threatened by proposals for a staple at Oswestry.14 By coincidence, this modest intervention marked the end of a decade-long struggle for control of Shrewsbury’s main industry, and if Sir William’s contribution to the success of the campaign was negligible, his own tenure as bailiff and the previous service of his father and eldest brother as legal advisers to the town provided a legacy of goodwill which helps to explain Sir William’s election as borough MP from 1625.

With the Welsh cloth trade firmly under control, Shrewsbury had little parliamentary business for its MPs to promote, and Owen was an obscure figure at Westminster. In 1625 he was nominated to attend a conference with the Lords about the release of the inmates of the Fleet prison for the duration of the plague epidemic, and to the committee for the bill to simplify the passage of sheriffs’ accounts (9 July), a process with which he was obviously familiar. During the 1626 session, he was named to committees for four private bills and another to draft a bill to prevent the spread of the plague (29 April). More significantly, he was one of those ordered to pen the final draft of the grievance petition to be submitted to the king at the end of the session (25 May).15 Two years later, he was appointed to the committee for the Gerard jointure bill promoted by his brother-in-law Robert Needham*, and volunteered the name of a witness able to corroborate the allegation that the 2nd earl of Suffolk (Theophilus Howard, Lord Howard de Walden*) had breached parliamentary privilege with an offhanded remark that the lawyer John Selden* should be hanged.16 Finally, at a debate on the Tunnage and Poundage bill on 24 June 1628, he complained that non-parliamentary impositions comprised three-quarters of customs revenue, an assertion which may have been based on a misunderstanding of figures previously quoted in the House.17 The Shrewsbury corporation hoped their MPs would promote a bill to confirm the charter of the town’s grammar school in 1629, but Owen left no trace on the records of the brief session.18

Owen had little impact on local affairs during the 1630s, and in 1640 he yielded his parliamentary seat at Shrewsbury to Francis Newport. A royalist during the Civil War, he was captured at the fall of Shrewsbury in February 1645, but he later protested that he had been ‘thrust into’ the commission of array at the start of the war, and escaped with a trivial fine of £314. Nevertheless, in 1655 he and his son Roger were detained in Shrewsbury for six months as a precautionary measure in the aftermath of Penruddock’s rising.19 Owen was buried at Condover on 8 Mar. 1663.20 No will or administration has been found, and none of his descendants sat in Parliament.

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Assuming that he was an apprentice in 1598. PROB 11/93, f. 107v.
  • 2. Vis. Salop (Harl. Soc. xxix), 387-8.
  • 3. C142/374/84; St. Mary’s, Shrewsbury (Salop par. reg. soc. xii), 66.
  • 4. Condover (Salop par. reg. soc. vi), 81-2, 85, 89, 91.
  • 5. C142/374/86.
  • 6. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 165.
  • 7. Condover Parish Reg. 1570-1812 (Salop par. reg. soc. vi), 116.
  • 8. C231/4, f. 87.
  • 9. H. Owen and J.B. Blakeway, Hist. Shrewsbury, i. 532.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 119.
  • 11. C212/22/23; E179/167/203; C193/12/2; SR, v. 65, 88, 107, 141, 155; Northants. RO, FH133.
  • 12. PROB 11/93, f. 107v.
  • 13. C142/374/86; Salop RO, 946/B/752, 755-6.
  • 14. Oswestry Town Hall, A75/1/9; T.C. Mendenhall, Shrewsbury Drapers and Welsh Wool Trade, 197-200.
  • 15. CJ, i. 806b, 807a, 851a, 865a.
  • 16. Ibid. 883b, 893a; CD 1628, ii. 460.
  • 17. CD 1628, iv. 449, 458. For the speeches he cited, see ibid. iii. 302; iv. 203, 210.
  • 18. Salop RO, 6001/290.
  • 19. CCC, 1815; Owen and Blakeway, i. 474-5.
  • 20. Condover, 116.