Sir John Lowther

Sir John Lowther (9 November 1642 – 17 January 1706), only surviving son of Sir Christopher Lowther, of Whitehaven, Lord of the Manor of Saint Bees, succeeded to the estates and baronetcy in his infancy, on the death of his father, intestate, in April 1644. His father was responsible for the initial development of Whitehaven as a port.

He was baptized at St. Bees, Nov. 20, 1642, but it would almost appear from subsequent dates that circumstances may have delayed his baptism, unusual though it was at this period, and that he may have been a year or two old at this time. He had an only sister named Frances after their mother, who was Frances, co heiress of the Lancasters of Sockbridge and Hartsopp Halls, Westmoreland, and who married to her second husband John Lamplugh, of Lamplugh Hall.

On Oct. 1, 1675, Sir John bought from Sir George Fletcher, of Hutton, the mansion of the Flatt at Whitehaven; at a later date it was remodelled by Sir William Chambers and called the Castle; and ever since the purchase it has been the local residence of the owners of the Whitehaven estate.

Lowther owned large coal estates near Whitehaven, and worked to develop the mines and the port. He spent over £11,000 in expanding Lowther holdings in the Whitehaven area, concentrating on the acquisition of coal-bearing land, of land which would allow his pits unhampered access to Whitehaven harbour, and land which would hinder the working of others' pits. This, in turn, allowed him to improve the drainage of his pits, unworried by the thought that he was also draining his neighbours'.

He secured the grant of the right to hold a market and a fair to Whitehaven, and its recognition as a separate customs 'member-port' (under the 'head-port' of Carlisle) responsible for the Solway coast from Ravenglass to Ellenfoot (later Maryport). He also secured (against a rival grant to the Earl of Carlingford), recognition of his title to the foreshore (land between low-water and high-water) of the manor of St. Bees, containing 'houses lands staithes & salt pans at Whitehaven' valued at £400 a year.

He oversaw the rise of Whitehaven from a small fishing village (at his birth it consisted of some fifty houses and a population of about 250) to a planned town three times the size of Carlisle. At his death the 'port of Whitehaven' had 77 registered vessels, totaling about four thousand tons, and was exporting over 35,000 tons of coal a year.

He served as Member of Parliament for Cumberland from 1665 to 1701, and as a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty from 1689 to 1696. Lowther died at Whitehaven and was buried at St Bees.

Lowther had married Jane Leigh, a ward of his uncle Sir John Lowther of Lowther (because a daughter (by her first marriage to Woolley Leigh of Addington, Surrey) of Elizabeth Lowther (née Hare) who had taken as her second husband Sir John Lowther of Lowther). Lowther and Jane had three children:

  • Sir Christopher Lowther, 3rd Baronet (1666–1731)
  • Jane Lowther (1667 – 27 February 1730), unmarried
  • Sir James Lowther, 4th Baronet (1673–1755)

His elder son, Christopher, had a drink problem, and – when drunk – other problems: "when sober he is sometimes passable enough, but not without discovering by fits notions very extravagant. When drunk no man in Bedlam more wild or more dangerous. The reflections he pretends to make afterwards, but if either dice or strong drink come in his way, he never yet resisted the temptation." complained Lowther, who disinherited him with an allowance of £2 a week.

Lowther left the family estates (under entail) to his younger son, James, who although noted in 1688 to have "contracted a great liking for strong drink than is usual in those of his age" (13) was by 1701 declaring himself (to his father) to be a water-drinker for the sake of his health.

The Will Of Sir John  Lowther:


In the name of God, Amen. I'Sr John Lowther of Whitehaven in the County of Cumberland Baronett Do make this my last Will and testament in manner and forme following First I commit my Soul to Almighty God And my body to be decently interred with as little ceremony and expence as may be nigh my Father in the parish Church of St. Bees unless an Isle or seperate place of Sepulture appropriated for me and my family be made at the New Chapple of Whitehaven before my decease And my Will is that my neighbours of Whitehaven only do accompany the corps without giving my relations or the gentlemen of the County any trouble upon this account And as concerning my estate my Will is that it be disposed of in this manner vizt I give the summe of twenty pounds to the Overseers of the poore of St. Bees Quarter to be by them distributed amongst the poore of the Town of St. Bees To the Overseers of the poore of Preston Quarter the summe of twenty pounds to be distributed to the poore of the Town of Whitehaven not imployed in or about my Collieries and to the workmen labourers and leaders imployed in my Collieries I give the sum of twenty pounds to be distributed by the Stewards of my Collyeries And I Will that no other dole or distribucon shall be made to any poore of the said Townships nor of any other parish or place whatsoever And whereas I have in and by the settlement of my reali estate by me heretofore made by severall Indentures of Lease and Release bearing the respective dates of the twelfth and thirteenth days of February In the year of our Lord one Thousand seven hundred limitted an estate in the premises thereby settled to the use of or in trust for my son James Lowther for the term of his natural life with a remainder to the trustees therein named for the life of the said James Lowther In trust to preserve the contingent uses therein limited and further remainders to the use of or in trust for all and every the son and sons of the body of the said James Lowther and the respective heirs males of the respective bodyes of such son and sons to be begotten respectively successively one after another as they shall be in seniority of age as in and by the said settlement relacon being there unto had it doth more fully and particularly appears Now in regard that a considerable part of my said estate consists in Collieries and that the improvements as well of the said estate as the Town of Whitehaven and country adjacent in Trade and manufacture will after my decease depend upon the prudent and careful management of the said James Lowther (in case he do survive me) and for that many unforeseen occasions may fall out which may make it necessary to the ends aforesaid that the said James Lowther should have greater powers then consist with a bare estate for life And for as much as I do expect from and am entirely satisfied that he will by all prudent wayes and means apply himself to compleat those designes which I have laid and thus far carryed on for the growth and improvement of the said Town and Country and for advancing the said estate which cannot turne to account by any other course and hoping that the reasonable prospects he may have of affecting the same will animate his endeavours and for that it doth not seem reasonable to lay him in whose conduct I have a perfect confidence under greater restraints than those yet unborne of whose dispositions wee can have no foresight I do therefore according to the power to me reserved in and by the said settlement and all and every other powers and authorities whatsoever which I may have in that behalfe by this my last Will and testament in writing by me sealed and subscribed in the presence of three or more credible witness revoke annuli and make void all and every the said severall and respective estates so limited in and by the said Settlement to the use of or in trust for the said James Lowther for his life and to the trustees for preserving the contingent uses and to and for all and every the severall son and sons of the body of the said James Lowther to be begotten and the severall heirs males of the bodies of such son and sons to be begotten respectively And I do hereby limit substitute and declare that all and singuler the premises in the said Settlement menconed whereof the uses and trusts are hereby revoked shall in lieu and stedd thereof be to the use of or In trust for the said James Lowther and the heirs males of his body lawfully to be begotten Any thing in the said Settlement to the contrary hereof notwithstanding. And my Will further is and I do hereby devise All and singular the messuages lands tenements collieries and hereditaments what soever and wheresoever the same lye or be with their and every of their appurtenances which I have at any time or times since the making of the said Settlement purchased or taken in mortgage (in case mortgages be not redeemed) to the said James Lowther and the heirs male of his body lawfully to be begotten with remainders over to and for such respective person and persons and for such and the like limittacon of estates uses and trusts and in such course and order of succession and with such and the like provisoes and powers and in such manner and forme as are limitted settled and provided as to the rest of my freehold estate in and by the said Settlement And whereas I have in and by the said Settlement made such a provision for my eldest son by a weekly allowance as is most suitable to his unfortunate by past and hopeless future management (which is all that I do think fit to allow him) I do hereby fully and absolutely ratify and confirm all and every other the Estates powers and clauses in the said Settlement contained not hereby revoked or altered or other wise inconsistent with this my last Will and testament Item I give to my daughter Jane Lowther (besides the provison of Two hundred pounds per annum made her in the said Settlement) the summe of two hundred pounds to buy mourning I give her also the furniture of her lodgings at London and what else she is possessed of Item I give to Mrs. Dorothy Trevisa for her long and faithfull Service ten pounds per annum during her life and mourning Item I give to my servant Lancelott Lowther (if he be with me at the time of my decease) one tenth part of the yearly produce of the one hundred pounds which I paid into the Exchequer in his name upon the Act for Survivorships to be paid him during his life as it becomes due Item I give to the rest of my domestick Servants which shall be with me at the time of my decease in manner following vizt To my housekeeper gardiner and chief groome and to such of my Servants as came from London one years wages each of them And I desire my executor herein after named to assist them by recommendacon or preferment as he has opportunity perticulerly such of them as have been longest with me To Jno. Spedding and Wm. Cuppage each of them I give two years wages and for that they are fully apprized of all the perticulers of my estate especially my Collieries I recomend them both in a perticuler manner to my said son James Lowther to be imployed by him in comptrouling the Stewards Accounts or otherwise as he shall think fitt to the rest of my domesticks I give halfe a years wages each and for as much as it may be necessary that mourning be given to some of my domesticks and not all I give it to all to whom I have given one years wages or more but to the inferior Servants who have only half a year's wages given them I give no mourning The residue of my goods chattles rights credits and personell estate whatsoever (my debts legacies and funerali and other necessary expenses being paid) I give unto my said son James Lowther whom I do make sole Executor of this my last Will and testament Lastly I do hereby revoke all former and other wills and testaments and CodicilIs by me at any time heretofore made In witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seal the eighth day of October In the year of Our Lord One thousand seven hundred and five.

John Lowther.

Sealed and declared by the said Testator to be his last Will and testament and every sheet hereof (being three in number) by him signed in the presence of us who at his request and in his presence have hereunto subscribed our names as Witnessess.

W. Gilpin.
Tho. Benn.
Sam. Harrison.
John Spedding.

I Sr John Lowther of Whitehaven in the County of Cumberland Baronet Do (by this my Codicil! to be annexed unto my last Will and Testament and which I Will shall be taken as part of the same) give and devise all that messuage lands and tenement in Corkikle in the said County of Cumberland which I lately purchased of Peter Gibson and Barbara Gibson unto my son James Lowther and the heirs male of his body to be begotten And for default of such issue to such respective person and persons and for such and the like limittacon of Estates uses and trusts and in such course and order of succession and with such and the like provisoes and powers and in such manner and forme as the rest of my freehold estate is limitted and settled in and by the Settlement of my reall estate referred unto in my last Will and testament And I do hereby ratify and confirm my said last Will and Testament and everything therein contained In Witness whereof I have hereunto sett my hand and seal this twenty-sixth day of December Anno Dm.

One thousand seven hundred and five, The sign X of Sr John Lute ther he being ill of the Gout.

Signed sealed and declared by the said Sr John Lowther as a Codicill to be annexed to be his last Will and Testament in the presence of

W. Gilpin.
J. Spedding.
Sain. Harrison.

Probatum &c., cute Codicillo &c., aped London &c., 22 April, 17o6, Juramento Jacobi Louther.

Sir John Lowther
Sir John Lowther

TRENDING ON HERETOFORE

ABOUT WHITEHAVEN
Whitehaven had been small harbour and fishing village from 13th century or earlier. Expansion began in mid-17th century with building of piers by Lowthers 1632-4 and 1679-81 and granting of market charter 1660. By the 1680s it had grown rapidly, expanding from village of c.30 households in early 17th century to a town of over 1,000 inhabitants by 1685, which more than doubled to 2,281 by 1696. Sir John Lowther had laid out grid of streets by 1680s, making Whitehaven the earliest planned new town in post-medieval Britain.

Crafted by: Little Ireland.

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