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William Rowley (Royal Navy officer)

Sir William Rowley
Williamrowley.jpg
Sir William Rowley
Born1690
Died1 January 1768 (aged 77–78)
BuriedSt Mary's Church, Stoke-by-Nayland
Allegiance Kingdom of Great Britain
Service/branch Royal Navy
Years of service1704–1768
RankAdmiral of the Fleet
Commands heldHMS Bideford
HMS Lively
HMS Barfleur
Battles/warsWar of the Austrian Succession
AwardsKnight of the Order of the Bath

Admiral of the Fleet Sir William Rowley KB (c. 1690 – 1 January 1768) was a Royal Navy officer. He distinguished himself by his determination as commander of the vanguard at the Battle of Toulon in February 1744 during the War of the Austrian Succession. He went on to be Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet in August 1744 and successfully kept the Spanish and French fleets out of the Mediterranean area but was relieved of his command following criticism of his decision as presiding officer at a court-martial.

Rowley later became a Lord Commissioner of the Admiralty on the Board of Admiralty. He was a Member of Parliament for Taunton and then for Portsmouth.

Early career

Born the second son of William Rowley and his wife, Elizabeth Rowley (nee Baldwin), Rowley joined the Royal Navy as a volunteer in 1704.[1] He was assigned to the third-rate HMS Orford, commanded by Captain John Norris, and saw action in the Mediterranean during the War of the Spanish Succession.[2] Having passed his exams for lieutenant on 15 September 1708, he transferred to the third-rate HMS Somerset in December 1708.[2] After carrying out diplomatic duties for King George I in Paris in early 1716, he was promoted to captain on 26 June 1716 and given command of HMS Bideford at Gibraltar and was involved in naval action against pirates.[2] He transferred to the command of the sixth-rate HMS Lively in the Irish Sea in September 1719 and then went on half-pay in June 1728.[2]

Senior command

Rowley served as commander of the vanguard at the Battle of Toulon in February 1744

Rowley was recalled and appointed to command second-rate HMS Barfleur in 1741.[2] Promoted to rear-admiral on 7 December 1743,[3] he hoisted his flag in HMS Barfleur and distinguished himself by his determination as commander of the vanguard at the Battle of Toulon in February 1744 during the War of the Austrian Succession.[4] Promoted to vice-admiral on 23 June 1744,[5] he became Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Fleet in August 1744 and successfully kept the Spanish and French fleets out of the Mediterranean area.[1]

Rowley was asked to preside over a court-martial of Captain Richard Norris (son of Admiral Sir John Norris) on the second-rate HMS Torbay in relation to Norris's conduct at the Battle of Toulon.[6] Rowley found the court incompetent to try the case and Norris escaped censure. Rowley was suspected of showing favour to the son of an old colleague and relieved of his command in May 1745.[2]

The front door of Tendring Hall: all that remains of the Rowley family home in Stoke-by-Nayland
Tendring Hall Park

Promoted to full admiral on 15 July 1747,[7] Rowley became Rear-Admiral of Great Britain on 4 July 1749.[8] He entered Parliament as Whig member for Taunton in 1750.[9] He also bought Tendring Hall in Stoke-by-Nayland in Suffolk in 1750: the house was subsequently rebuilt to a design by Sir John Soane and remained in the Rowley family until it was demolished in 1955.[10][11]

Rowley joined the Board of Admiralty led by Lord Anson as Senior Naval Lord[12] in June 1751.[13] He was appointed a Knight Companion of the Order of the Bath on 12 December 1753 and was elected as Member of Parliament for Portsmouth in May 1754.[14] When the First Newcastle Ministry fell in November 1756 he left office but then returned, briefly, as Senior Naval Lord again,[12] during the caretaker ministry which lasted from April to July 1757.[13]

Promoted to Admiral of the Fleet on 17 December 1762,[15] Rowley died on 1 January 1768 and is presumed to have been buried at St Mary's Church in Stoke-by-Nayland in Suffolk.[1]

Memorial to William Rowley in St Mary's church, Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk

Family

William Rowley married Arabella Dawson and had five children: four sons and one daughter.[1] Several of his descendants reached high positions in the Navy including his son Vice Admiral Sir Joshua Rowley,[16] his grandson Admiral Sir Josias Rowley,[17] his grandson Admiral Sir Charles Rowley[18] and his grandson Admiral of the Fleet Sir George Martin.[19]

References

  1. ^ a b c d "William Rowley". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Heathcote, p. 222
  3. ^ "No. 8282". The London Gazette. 6 December 1743. p. 3.
  4. ^ Schomberg, Isaac (1802). Naval Chronology Volume V. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  5. ^ "No. 8338". The London Gazette. 19 June 1744. p. 8.
  6. ^ "Minutes taken at a court-martial, assembled on board His Majesty's ship Torbay". W. Webb. 1745. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  7. ^ "No. 8658". The London Gazette. 14 July 1747. p. 2.
  8. ^ "No. 8863". The London Gazette. 1 July 1749. p. 4.
  9. ^ Heathcote, p. 223
  10. ^ "Rowley of Tendring Hall". National Archives. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Tendring Hall". Scowen. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  12. ^ a b Rodger, pp. 51–52
  13. ^ a b "Sainty, JC, Lord High Admiral and Commissioners of the Admiralty 1660-1870', Office-Holders in Modern Britain: Volume 4: Admiralty Officials 1660-1870 (1975), pp. 18-31". Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  14. ^ "No. 9369". The London Gazette. 4 May 1754. p. 2.
  15. ^ "No. 10275". The London Gazette. 1 January 1763. p. 1.
  16. ^ "Joshua Rowley". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  17. ^ "Josias Rowley". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  18. ^ "Charles Rowley". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 26 April 2015.
  19. ^ "George Martin". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 26 April 2015.

Sources

Military offices
Preceded by
Lord Anson
Senior Naval Lord
1751–1756
Succeeded by
Edward Boscawen
Preceded by
Edward Boscawen
Senior Naval Lord
April 1757–July 1757
Succeeded by
Edward Boscawen
Preceded by
Lord Anson
Admiral of the Fleet
1762–1768
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Hawke
Parliament of Great Britain
Preceded by
Sir Charles Wyndham
Robert Webb
Member of Parliament for Taunton
1750–1754
With: Robert Webb
Succeeded by
John Halliday
Lord Carpenter
Preceded by
Sir Edward Hawke
Isaac Townsend
Member of Parliament for Portsmouth
17541761
With: Sir Edward Hawke
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Hawke
Sir Matthew Fetherstonhaugh, Bt
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Thomas Mathews
Rear-Admiral of Great Britain
1749–1763
Succeeded by
Sir Edward Hawke