Fowke, John (DNB00)

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FOWKE, JOHN (d. 1662), lord mayor, third son of William Fowke of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, by his wife, Alice Carr of Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire (Visitation of London, 1633–5, Harl. Soc. i. 288; Stow, Survey, ed. Strype, bk. v. p. 145), came to London, and eventually rose to be one of its leading merchants. He was a member of the Haberdashers' Company, and an alderman (Orridge, Citizens of London and their Rulers, p. 236). In 1627 Fowke, in obedience to the vote and declaration of the commons against paying tonnage and poundage, persistently refused to pay, although ‘a man of great trading at that time.’ Accordingly he had ‘currans, muscadels, grograms, mohairs, raw-silk, and other goods, seized to his prejudice of 5,827l.’ In August 1627 and January 1628, for attempting to obtain legal redress, he was imprisoned and lost more merchandise. In the following February he was prosecuted by the Star-chamber for ‘pretended riot and seditious words’ used by him to the officers sent to execute the replevin. About the same time Charles openly expressed his displeasure against him at the council table, and shortly afterwards named him in a declaration printed and published in March 1628. In October 1629, on Fowke again refusing to pay the impost, an information was laid against him at the council, and ‘great endeavours used to take away his life and estate upon false pretences of clipping of money and piracies.’ After witnesses had been examined he was committed to the Fleet, ‘without any cause expressed,’ and his ship and cargo, with a prize of sugar, seized. All his endeavours to regain his liberty proved ineffectual, and, after spending a large sum on law costs, he was forced ‘to give 40,000l. bail in the admiralty about the said prize.’ In June 1641 he petitioned the commons for relief, as he had previously done in 1628, setting forth that he had then lost 20,000l. The house, by an order of 30 June 1645, nominated a committee to consider how he might have reparation out of delinquent's estates (Commons' Journals, vols. iv. vi. vii.) Fowke served the office of sheriff in 1643. He had naturally become a bitter opponent of the court party. Charles, in his answer to the city petition of 4 Jan. 1642–3, speaks of Fowke as one of the leaders of the parliamentary party in the city, and a person ‘notoriously guilty of schism and high treason’ (cf. also the King's Letter and Declaration to the City, 17 Jan. 1642–3, and the Speech of Pym, 13 Jan. 1642–3, in reply to Charles's Answer to the City Petition). In the ordinance of 29 March 1642–3 for assessing such as had not contributed according to the propositions of the parliament for raising money, Fowke was one of the persons empowered to nominate collectors in each ward. Having afterwards been appointed a commissioner of the customs, and refusing to deliver up an account upon oath of what money he had received, he was fined for this contempt 100l. by the committee of accompts, 18 April 1645, and in the end sent to the Fleet. Thereupon a deputation from the common council, headed by his friend William Gibbs, goldsmith, then sheriff, petitioned the commons on 23 July for his release on bail, praying besides that the house would appoint a committee to hear his cause; ‘he being committed not upon the matter of his accompt, but upon the manner of his accompting.’ After a ‘serious and long’ debate on 4 Aug. it was resolved that Fowke ought to ‘accompt jointly with the rest of the late commissioners and collectors of the customs;’ it was further ordered that he ‘do accompt for the three hundred pounds and such other monies and goods for which he is accomptable’ (Commons' Journals, vol. iv.). Despite these irregularities he appears to have retained his commissionership, for so late as July 1658 he was reported to have in his keeping 1,500l. of public money, which he refused to deliver up (cf. Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1658–9, pp. 58, 102). He was in fact treated by all factions, until the Restoration, with the greatest deference. By virtue of two decrees made by Lord-keeper Coventry, on 21 Nov. 1631 and 9 June 1635, the East India Company had detained Fowke's ‘adventures in their hands, by him alleged to be sixteen hundred pounds in their second joint stock, and twenty-one hundred pounds more in three of their voyages.’ Fowke therefore petitioned the lords, 8 July 1646, to have these decrees reversed. On 6 May 1647 judgment was given in his favour. He obtained full restitution, with interest, and 100l. costs (Lords' Journals, vols. viii. ix.) At a meeting of the common council for nominating a new committee for the militia of London, 27 April 1647, Fowke's name was ordered to be omitted from the list to be presented to parliament. However, on the following 12 June, upon a rumour of the army's near approach to London, he was asked to head a deputation to parliament to desire its approbation of the city's answer to Fairfax, and early next morning he set out along with his fellow-commissioners to carry it to the general at St. Albans. He was restored to the militia committee by an ordinance of both houses dated 23 July and 2 Sept. 1647. On 12 July 1648 Fowke presented to both houses a ‘petition for peace in the name of divers well-affected magistrates, ministers, and other inhabitants in the city of London, and parts adjacent,’ and delivered himself of a short speech. The petition, which with the speech was published, expressed a hope that the parliament might take a course to secure peace. When, a few weeks later, the army returned to London, ‘some false brothers in the city,’ says Lord Holles, ‘as Alderman Foulks and Alderman Gibbs, bewitcht the city and lull'd it into a security’ (Memoirs, 1699, pp. 110, 160). At the sale of bishops' lands Fowke acquired, 28 Sept. 1648, the Gloucestershire manors of Maysmore, Preston, Longford, and Ashleworth, the property of the sees of Gloucester and Bristol, for 3,819l. 14s. (Collectanea Topographica et Genealogica, i. 124). He was named one of the king's judges, but refused to attend. On 27 Feb. 1651 a parliamentary committee reported that compensation to the extent of 27,615l. ought to be awarded him (Commons' Journals, vii. 99–100). The matter was referred to a committee of the council of state, 9 Sept. 1652 (ib. vii. 177), who suggested, 25 Oct., that state lands in Waltham Forest, Essex, worth 500l. a year should be settled on him and his heirs for ever, ‘according to his own propositions given in to council’ (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651–2, p. 455). This proposal, although backed up by innumerable petitions from Fowke, did not receive the assent of the council until 9 May 1654 (ib. 1654, p. 162). Elated by his success, Fowke now besought them to take his ‘sufferings’ into consideration. Finally, it was enacted, 4 Aug. 1654, that 5,000l. be assigned him from the fines set by the Act of Grace for Scotland, ‘and if any part remained unpaid, it should be provided for some other way’ (ib. 1654, p. 287). During 1652–3 Fowke served the office of lord mayor. In January 1653 he was acting as a commissioner for the sale of the king's goods (Cal. of Clarendon State Papers, ii. 171). Along with four other commissioners he was appointed, 10 March 1653–4, to consider ‘how the business of the forests might be best improved for the benefit of the state,’ and to draw up a report thereon (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1654, pp. 19, 97). He was one of the committee chosen by the city to confer with Fleetwood, 9 Dec. 1659 (Mercurius Politicus, 8–15 Dec. 1659, p. 945). Three weeks later he laid before the court of common council a report which was printed on the ‘imminent and extraordinary danger of the City.’ When the city corporation agreed to send their thanks to Monck for his services, Fowke was one of the three commissioners appointed for that purpose, 19 Jan. 1659–60 (ib. 19–26 Jan. 1660, p. 1043). On 30 Jan. he reported to the lord mayor, in the name of the other commissioners, the effect of their journey (ib. 26 Jan. to 2 Feb. 1650, p. 1068). In March he appears as a commissioner for the City of London militia (ib. 8–15 March 1660, p. 1170). When the Restoration seemed inevitable, Fowke hastened to clear himself of all complicity in the king's death by issuing an advertisement (ib. 22–9 March 1660, p. 1199), denying that he was ‘one of those persons that did actually sit as judges upon the tryal,’ to which he appended a certificate to the like effect from Henry Scobell, clerk of the parliament, dated 28 March 1660. For a while he appears to have lived in retirement at his country seat at Clayberry, situated in the north-east side of Barking, near Woodford Bridge, Essex. He was, however, elected M.P. for the city of London on 19 March 1660–1, when he headed the poll (Lists of Members of Parliament, Official Return, pt. i. p. 525), and was chosen in the same year president of Christ's Hospital (Trollope, Hist. of Christ's Hospital, p. 310), to which and to Bethlehem Hospital he proved a liberal benefactor. He bequeathed to the former institution certain estates in Essex for the maintenance of eight boys, of whom two were to be of the parish of Barking and two of Woodford (Lysons, Environs, iv. 104, 286; Trollope, p. 117, note). Under this bequest Clayberry was sold by his trustees in 1693 (Lysons, iv. 85). Fowke's portrait, dated 1691, is at Christ's Hospital (Trollope, p. 344). He died of apoplexy on 22 April 1662 (Smyth, Obituary, Camden Soc., p. 55). By his wife Catherine, daughter of Richard Briggs of London, he had two sons, John and Bartholomew, and a daughter, Elizabeth.

[Wood's Athenæ Oxon. (Bliss), iii. 683; Noble's Lives of the English Regicides, i. 237–242; Rushworth's Historical Collections, pt. iv. vol. i. pp. 472, 558, 634, pt. iv. vol. ii. p. 797.]

G. G.