LOWTHER, John (1759-1844), of Swillington, nr. Leeds, Yorks.

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



1780 - Mar. 1786
10 Apr. 1786 - 31 May 1786
13 June 1786 - 1790
1796 - 1831

Family and Education

b. 1 Apr. 1759, 2nd s. of Rev. Sir William Lowther, 1st bt. (d. 1788), rect. of Swillington, and Anne, da. of Rev. Charles Zouch, vicar of Sandal. educ. Westminster 1771-3; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1776; L. Inn 1780. m. 4 Sept. 1790, Lady Elizabeth Fane, da. of John Fane†, 9th earl of Westmorland, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 3da. (2 d.v.p.). cr. bt. 3 Nov. 1824. d. 11 May 1844.

Offices Held


Lowther, who bore a strong physical resemblance to his brother and close confidant the 1st earl of Lonsdale, had been confirmed in possession of Swillington and Yorkshire estates worth £4,000 a year on the death in 1802 of their cousin Lord Lonsdale. Subsequently his interests focused increasingly on that county and the rebuilding of his castle at Wilton, near Middlesbrough, to the design of Smirke. Despite his growing disenchantment with parliamentary life, he remained one of the Lowther ‘ninepins’ for over 50 years, voting steadily with successive Tory ministries and against parliamentary reform and Catholic relief.1 His loyalty to his brother was severely tested at the general election of 1820, for Lonsdale threatened to refuse to seat his son and heir John Henry, Member for the family borough of Cockermouth since 1816. Lowther’s hopes of making way for him in Cumberland were thus dashed, and his fifth return for the county, where his non-residence was increasingly resented, was secured only after a three-day poll.2

Lowther was briefed personally on policy by Lonsdale as hitherto, but his votes were now directed by his nephew Lord Lowther*, whom he had advised to play a more prominent part in organizing the family Members.3 He voted against parliamentary reform, 9 May 1821, 20 Feb. 1823, and divided against Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821 (paired), 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and the attendant Irish franchise bill, 26 Apr. 1825. A radical publication of that session observed that he ‘attended frequently and voted with government’.4 He divided against censuring their handling of the Queen Caroline case, 6 Feb., abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 23 May, and Hume’s call for economy and retrenchment, 27 June 1821. He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb., to retain the salt tax, 28 Feb., for the public accounts bill, 13 Mar, and against abolishing one of the joint-postmasterships, 2 May, and investigating the lord advocate’s treatment of the Scottish press, 25 June 1822. He was in the ministerial minority against inquiring into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., and voted against investigating chancery arrears, 2, 12 June 1823. That autumn, with Lonsdale’s backing, he applied to Lord Liverpool for a peerage to pass on to his son, but had to be content with a promise of the Swillington baronetcy, eventually conferred on him on 3 Nov. 1824.5 He presented several anti-Catholic petitions, 25 Apr., and others that day and on the 28th against amending the corn laws.6 He voted against the spring guns bill, 21 June 1825. For want of a suitable replacement, Lonsdale prevailed on him to change his mind about retiring and he came in unopposed for Cumberland at the general election of 1826.7

Lowther, who received a month’s leave on urgent business, 16 Mar. 1827, remained one of his brother’s closest political confidants in the 1826 Parliament.8 He presented and endorsed constituency petitions for agricultural protection, 19 Feb. 1827.9 He voted against Catholic relief, 6 Mar. 1827, 12 May 1828, brought up petitions for repeal of the Small Notes Act, 6 May, and the abolition of colonial slavery, 3, 30 June, and divided with the Wellington ministry against ordnance reductions, 4 July 1828. They were right to doubt his support for Catholic emancipation in 1829, when he presented hostile petitions, 23, 26 Feb., 4 Mar., and divided against it, 6, 18, 30 Mar. (paired).10 He presented and supported his constituents’ petitions for relief from distress, 5, 23 Mar., and voted against Jewish emancipation, 17 May, and abolishing the death penalty for forgery, 7 June 1830. Afterwards, he helped to secure the compromise which left Cumberland and Westmorland uncontested at the general election of 1830 and, with a view to persuading Lonsdale to relent and bring John Henry forward for Cumberland at a future date, he made him accompany him to the Carlisle assizes and the election at Cockermouth, where the radical mob was out in force.11 The Wellington ministry counted Lowther among their ‘friends’, but, though summoned ‘for the trial of strength’ by Lord Lowther, he was absent from the division on the civil list by which they were brought down, 15 Nov. 1830.12 He presented petitions for the abolition of colonial slavery from Whitehaven and Shap, 17 Nov. 1830, before returning to Swillington, where John Henry sent him regular reports of the progress of Lord Grey’s administration.13 He divided against their reform bill at its second reading, 22 Mar., and for Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment, 19 Apr. 1831. There was ‘no hope’ of his standing for Cumberland at the ensuing general election, and as Lonsdale rejected his offer to sit for Cockermouth, he retired.14

Out of Parliament Lowther retained a keen interest in Yorkshire politics and John Henry’s career as Member for York, and he encouraged his son Charles Hugh, who was blind from infancy, to establish a library of embossed books for the blind. He died at Swillington in May 1844, eight days before his wife.15 He was succeeded in the baronetcy and estates by John Henry, who, with his grandchildren and Charles, was the main beneficiary of his will, dated 21 Feb. 1838 and proved under £45,000, 2 July 1844, but resworn at £10,000, 31 Oct. 1845.16

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: Margaret Escott


  • 1. H. Owen, Lowther Fam. 364-8; HP Commons, 1754-90, iii. 60; HP Commons, 1790-1820, iv. 462; VCH Yorks. N. Riding, ii. 375, 378.
  • 2. Clwyd RO, Lowther mss DD/L/178, J. Lowther to Lonsdale and replies, 26 Jan.-24 Mar., W.P. Johnston to J. Lowther, 27 Feb., E. Stanley to same, 6 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Lord Lowther to Lonsdale, 8 Feb., J. Lowther to same, 12 Feb.; Cumb. Pacquet, 14 Mar.; Whitehaven Gazette, 20 Mar.; The Times, 21 Mar. 1820.
  • 3. Lowther mss 161, Lonsdale to J. Lowther, 4 Dec.; 178, J. Lowther to Lowther, n.d. [1820]; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 23 Feb. 1821.
  • 4. Session of Parl. 1825, p. 473.
  • 5. Lowther mss 67, 79, passim.; Add. 38298, f. 82; 38299, f. 108; Lonsdale mss, Liverpool to Lonsdale, 23 Dec. 1823, 8 Aug. 1824.
  • 6. The Times, 26, 29 Apr. 1825.
  • 7. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 23 Mar. 1825, W. Hodgson to same, 1 June, P. Musgrave to same, 14 June; Lowther mss, Lonsdale to J. Lowther, 10 Mar.; The Times, 20 June 1826.
  • 8. Lowther mss 164, 165, passim.
  • 9. The Times, 20 Feb.; Carlisle Patriot, 24 Feb. 1827.
  • 10. Lowther mss 179, Lonsdale to J. Lowther, 3 Mar.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 24 Feb.; Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 18, 19 Mar. 1829.
  • 11. Lowther mss 178, J.H. to J. Lowther, 22 July 1830; 179, Lonsdale to same, 5 Feb. 1829, J.H. Lowther to same, 20 July, 28 Aug., Lowther to same, n.d., J. Lowther to wife, n.d.; Lonsdale mss, Lauderdale to J. Lowther, 6 June, 5 July 1830.
  • 12. Lowther mss 166, Lowther to J. Lowther, 16 Oct. 1830.
  • 13. Lowther mss 166, 167, passim.
  • 14. Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 28 Dec. 1830, 5 Apr.; Lowther mss 167, E. Stanley to J. Lowther, 28 Apr., J.H. Lowther to same, 29 Apr. 1831.
  • 15. Leeds Intelligencer, 18, 25 May; The Times, 22 May 1844.
  • 16. PROB 11/2002/560; IR26/1681/454.