Cowper, William (1701-1767) (DNB00)

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COWPER, WILLIAM, M.D. (1701–1767), antiquary, was the third son of the Rev. John Cowper, M.A., of Overlegh, Cheshire, by Catherine, daughter of William Sherwin, beadle of divinity and bailiff of the university of Oxford. He was baptised at St. Peter's, Chester, on 29 July 1701, was admitted a student at Leyden on 27 Oct. 1719, and probably took his doctor's degree in that university. For many years he practised as a physician at Chester with great reputation. In 1745 he was elected mayor of Chester. He died at Overlegh on 20 Oct. 1767, and was buried at St. Peter's, Chester. He married in 1722 Elizabeth, daughter of John Lonsdale of High Ryley, Lancashire, but had no issue.

Cowper, who was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, published anonymously ‘A Summary of the Life of St. Werburgh, with an historical account of the images upon her shrine (now the episcopal throne) in the choir of Chester. Collected from antient chronicles and old writers, by a Citizen of Chester,’ Chester, 1749, 4to. This work is said to have been stolen from the manuscripts of Mr. Stone. He was also the author of ‘Il Penseroso: an evening's contemplation in St. John's churchyard, Chester. A rhapsody, written more than twenty years ago, and now (first) published, illustrated with notes historical and explanatory,’ London, 1767, 4to, addressed, under the name of M. Meanwell, to the Rev. John Allen, M.A., senior fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and rector of Tarporley, Cheshire. In this work Cowper takes a view of some of the most remarkable places around Chester distinguished by memorable personages and events. He was an intelligent antiquary and preserved many valuable manuscript collections of Williamson and others which would otherwise have perished. He also left several works of his own compilation relative to the ancient history of Cheshire and Chester. These manuscripts, which are frequently quoted by Ormerod, the Cheshire historian, are preserved in the family archives at Overlegh. They consist of various small volumes, most of the contents of which are fairly transcribed into two larger ones, containing memoirs of the earls of the palatinate and the bishops and dignitaries of the cathedral, lists of city and county officers, and a local chronology of events. In his Broxton MSS. he takes Webb's ‘Itinerary’ as the text of each township, adds an account of it transcribed from Williamson's ‘Villare,’ and continues the descent of property to his own time. He also wrote a small manuscript volume, entitled ‘Parentalia,’ containing memoirs of the Cowper family, and the account of the siege of Chester, which is printed in Ormerod's ‘Cheshire,’ i. 203 seq. This description of the siege had been printed twice previously at Chester (in 1790 and 1793), but with considerable alterations.

[Nichols's Lit. Anecd. v. 316; Gough's British Topography, i. 249, 253, 264; Ormerod's Cheshire, i. 293, 294; Peacock's Leyden Students, p. 24; Gower's Sketch of Materials for a Hist. of Cheshire, 61, 90; Notes and Queries, 5th ser., x. 388.]

T. C.