Sir George Bowyer, 7th Baronet (1811 - 1883)

George Bowyer, eldest son of Sir George Bowyer, 6th Baronet and Anne Hammond Douglas, was born in Radley House, the family home since the late eighteenth century, near Abingdon in Berkshire on 8 October 1811. His grandfather, also Sir George Bowyer, 5th Baronet, had been a naval officer and taken part in Howe’s victory off Ushant in 1794.

In 1815, the Bowyer family moved to Italy due to his father’s mismanagement of financial affairs. George Bowyer writes of his time in Italy, ‘I passed twenty years of my life with happiness and advantage’. Bowyer returned to England as a young man, and entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, but soon left to study law. On 1 June 1836, he was admitted as a student at the Middle Temple and three years later he was called to the Middle Bar. Shortly after publishing his first treatise entitled A Dissertation on the Statutes of the Cities of Italy; and a translation of the pleading of Prospero Farinacio in his Defence of Beatrice Cenci (1838), he was created an honorary MA by the University of Oxford. In 1844, he became Doctor of Civil Law at Oxford and by 1850, he was appointed Reader in Law at the middle Temple. By this time, he had published several important works on jurisprudence including, The English Constitution: a popular commentary on the constitutional law of England (1841), Commentaries on the Modern Civil Law (1848), and Two Readings delivered in the Middle Temple Hall (1850). He practised as an equity draughtsman and conveyancer and in later life, published an Introduction to the Study and Use of the Civil Law, and to commentaries on the modern civil law (1874).

George Bowyer influenced by lectures given by John Henry Newman at the Oratory Church on King William Street on the Strand, converted to Roman Catholicism in 1850. He used his literary and jurisprudence skills in support of his new faith. He was associated with two important court cases, that of Cornelia Connelly and the Achilli case in the 1850s. He actively defended his Church in his many letters to The Times and was considered the ‘only competent Catholic whose controversial letters were admitted into the English Protestant press’. Just after his conversion, he published several pamphlets in support of the newly installed Catholic Hierarchy including The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the New Hierarchy (1850) which went into four editions, The Roman Documents relating to the new Hierarchy: with an argument (1851) and Observations on the Arguments of Dr Twiss respecting the new Roman Catholic Hierarchy (1851).

He was an active member of Parliament for twenty-two years. From 1852-1868 for the Irish borough of Dundalk and from 1874-1880 from the Irish county of Wexford. He was both an active ‘Home Ruler’ and vigorously denounced Britain’s support of the Italian states. He wrote various supporting his views in the Dublin Review which were later reprinted as Rome and Sardinia (1856), and also Speech delivered by G. Bowyer ... during the adjourned debate on the “Treaty of Peace” ... House of Commons, Tuesday, May 6, 1856 (1856), In later life, he wrote, Of the Creation of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in England (1868) which went into two editions and The Private History of the Creation of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in England. A letter to the Right Hon the Earl Stanhope (1868)

Sir George Bowyer’s philanthropic contributions began closer to his family home, as he was instrumental in the building of St Edmund’s in Abington and the adjoining Presbytery. He was a well-known financial supporter of the Sisters of Mercy in Abingdon where he helped fund the building of the convent and school. He also supported the Sisters of Mercy in London, through his efforts on behalf of the Hospital of Sts John and Elizabeth in Great Ormond Street and the Church of St John of Jerusalem. He helped re-found the Catholic branch of the Knights of St John in England and made the hospital their headquarters.

He died on 7 June 1883 in his London chambers at No 13, King’s Bench Walk in the Temple.

The Catholic Encylopedia (1909) accessed 24 July 2006

Radley History Club accessed 24 January 2006

A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe accessed 24 January 2006