Mowbray, John Robert (DNB01)

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MOWBRAY (formerly Cornish), Sir JOHN ROBERT, first baronet (1815–1899), 'father of the House of Commons,' born at Exeter on 3 June 1815, was the only son of Robert Stribling Cornish of that city, and his wife Marianne, daughter of John Powning of Hill's Court, near Exeter. Admitted at Westminster School on 16 Sept. 1829, he matriculated from Christ Church, Oxford, on 23 May 1833, was elected student in 1835, was president of the Union, and graduated B.A. in 1837 with a second class in lit. hum., and M.A. in 1839. In 1841 he was called to the bar from the Inner Temple and went the western circuit. On 19 Aug. 1847 he married Elizabeth Gray, only surviving child of George Isaac Mowbray of Bishopwearmouth, Durham, and Mortimer, Berkshire, having previously on 26 July assumed by royal license the surname Mowbray. He now abandoned law for politics, and on 25 June 1853 was elected in the conservative interest member of parliament for Durham city, which he represented until the general election of 1868; he then succeeded Sir William Heathcote as junior member for Oxford University, for which he sat until his death. In 1858 and again in 1866 Lord Derby appointed Mowbray judge-advocate-general; and from 1866 to 1868 and from 1871 to 1892 he was church estates commissioner. On 30 Nov. 1868 he was created hon. D.C.L. of Oxford, in 1875 he was elected hon. fellow of Hertford College, and in 1877 hon. student of Christ Church. On 3 May 1880 he was created a baronet and sworn of the privy council. From 1874 to his death Mowbray was chairman of the House of Commons' committee of selection and committee on standing orders, and on the death of Charles Pelham Villiers [q. v.] in 1898 he became 'father of the house.' He was held in highest respect by both parties, but rarely spoke except on such ceremonial occasions as when moving the re-election of Mr. Speaker Peel in January 1886, the election of Sir Matthew White (now Viscount) Ridley as speaker in April 1895, in which he was unsuccessful, and the re-election of Mr. Speaker Gully after the general election in the following August. His 'Seventy Years at Westminster,' parts of which appeared in 'Blackwood's Magazine,' was posthumously published (London, 1900, 8vo), and contains some instructive and entertaining material for the parliamentary history of the period. He died at his house in Onslow Gardens on 22 April 1899, and was buried at Strathfield Mortimer on the 27th. A portrait, painted bv Mr. Sargent in 1893, is reproduced as frontispiece to Mowbray's 'Seventy Years at Westminster.' A bronze bust of Mowbray by Mr. Conrad Dressier was on 22 April 1901 unveiled by Mr. Speaker Gully in committee-room No. 14 in the House of Commons. By his wife, who predeceased him on 16 Feb. 1899, aged 76, he left issue three sons and two daughters; the eldest son, Robert Gray Cornish Mowbray, who succeeded as second baronet, was sometime fellow of All Souls' and M.P. for the Prestwich division of Lancashire from 1886 to 1895, and since 1900 M.P. for Brixton.

[Mowbray's Seventy Years at Westminster, 1900; Barker and Stenning's Westm. Seh. Reg.; Foster's Alumni Oxon. 1715-1886, and Men at the Bar; Burke's Peerage, 1900; Official Ret. Memb. of Parl.; Hansard's Parl. Debates; Times, 18 Feb. and 24, 26, and 28 April 1899.]

A. F. P.