DOWDESWELL, William (1760-1828).

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790-1820, ed. R. Thorne, 1986
Available from Boydell and Brewer



19 Mar. 1792 - Nov. 1797

Family and Education

b. 27 Feb. 1760, 3rd s. of William Dowdeswell of Pull Court, Worcs., and bro. of John Edmund Dowdeswell*. educ. Westminster 1770. unm. suc. cos. William Pennyman to Little Ponton, Lincs. 1806; bro. Thomas to Pull Court 1811.

Offices Held

Ensign 1 Ft. Gds. 1780, lt. and capt. 1785, capt. and lt.-col. 1794, brevet col. 1797; lt.-col. 60 Ft. 1798; priv. sec. to gov. Madras 1802; lt.-col. 86 Ft. 1803, maj.-gen. 1803; c.-in-c. Bengal 1807; lt.-col. 60 Ft. 1808-14; lt.-gen. 1810, gen. 1821.

Gov. Bahamas 1797-1801.


Dowdeswell’s father was chancellor of the Exchequer in the Rockingham administration and leader of the Rockingham group in the Commons from 1766 until his death in 1775. His third son and namesake was befriended by Burke and by Rockingham’s successor, the 3rd Duke of Portland, who employed him as aide-de-camp during his brief viceroyalty of Ireland in 1782 and sponsored his election to Brooks’s in 1786.1

Dowdeswell was returned unopposed on the family interest for Tewkesbury on a vacancy in March 1792. No record of parliamentary activity has been found, but he presumably supported government from the outset, as he was not listed among the Portland Whigs in December 1792 and was marked ‘pro’ in the ministerial survey drawn up for the general election of 1796, when he was reelected for Tewkesbury after a contest. He served with the Guards throughout the Flanders campaign of 1793. His appointment as governor of the Bahamas, procured for him by Portland, vacated his seat in November 1797.2

In 1802 Dowdeswell went to India as private secretary to Portland’s son, Lord William Henry Cavendish Bentinck*, governor of Madras. He subsequently joined the army and fought in the Mahratta campaigns of 1804 and 1805. Ill health forced him to return to England in 1808 after a brief period as commander-in-chief. A celebrated collector of prints, he inherited the family estates in 1811, when his younger brother, ruling him out as a possible candidate for Tewkesbury at the next general election, commented that ‘he has, I know, as great an antipathy to the House as any person whatever’.3 He died 1 Dec. 1828.

Ref Volumes: 1790-1820

Author: M. J. Williams


  • 1. Grey mss, Goodwin to Grey, 20 Jan. 1813.
  • 2. Geo. III Corresp. ii. 1644.
  • 3. Glos. RO, Codrington mss D 1610 X 17, Dowdeswell to Bethell Codrington, 27 July 1811.