DOWES (DAWES), Henry (by 1501-50), of Maldon, Essex and Launde, Leics.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1501, s. of John Dawes of Maldon by Beatrice.3

Offices Held


Henry Dowes, whose surname appears incorrectly in the Official Return as Dower, was the son of a wealthy Maldon merchant and for several years acted as tutor and preceptor to Cromwell’s only son Gregory Cromwell. In a letter probably dating from 1535 he reminded Cromwell of the charge given him ‘not only to give diligent attendance upon Master Gregory but also to instruct him with good letters, honest manners, pastimes of instruments and such other qualities as should be for him meet and convenient’. Although two other surviving letters from Dowes to Cromwell, and one to Gregory himself, show the writer to have been an educated man—with one of them he sent Cromwell his own translation of a colloquy by Erasmus—his role was less that of teacher than of supervisor of his pupil’s tuition in Latin, French and other subjects. Where he received his own education, and how he came to Cromwell’s attention, are alike unknown, but Cambridge may have played a part in both: there is no trace of Dowes at either university, but Gregory Cromwell was at Cambridge in 1528 and Dowes’s brother William graduated there in 1532 or 1533.4

Dowes appears to have kept up his connexion with Gregory Cromwell after ceasing to be his mentor. In March 1540 he sent Gregory a long report of a sermon preached by the heretical Master Jerome which had included ‘opprobrious words against the burgesses of the Parliament as calling them butterflies, dissemblers and knaves’. The two were also to be linked through property and domicile. In September 1544 Dowes bought the manor of Leighams Court in Streatham, Surrey, formerly belonging to St. Saviour’s, Bermondsey: several years earlier Gregory Cromwell had taken a 99-year lease of this manor and the price of £271 paid by Dowes was equal to 20 years’ purchase on the rent of £15 payable by Cromwell, less outgoings. Described in this transaction as of Launde, Dowes was in fact living in Cromwell’s principal mansion.5

It is not clear under whose sponsorship Dowes came to sit for Maldon in the Parliaments of 1542 and 1547. As the son of a leading townsman he must have been an acceptable candidate, particularly since he undertook not only to serve the borough’s interests in Parliament but to claim no wages, either then, or at any future time, for his services: he was made a freeman by virtue of his election. Support may have been forthcoming from Cromwell, who after his elevation to the peerage could have seen advantage in having followers in the Commons. Cromwell was, moreover, a brother-in-law of the Protector Somerset, as was Dowes’s fellow-Member in 1547, (Sir) Clement Smith.6

Dowes died on 16 Jan. 1550 and the inquisition held after his death found his brother William to be his heir; William Dowes was a man of 48 or more, vicar of All Hallows’ Barking and later rector of churches at Maldon and Rivenhall, where Smith had his principal seat. The manor purchased by Henry Dowes did not remain in the family, for his brother sold part of it in 1559 and the rest in 1561; no other freehold property is mentioned in the inquisition on Dowes, nor is he known to have left a will. Dowes was replaced in Parliament by William Bassett.7

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: D. F. Coros


  • 1. Essex RO, D/B3/1/2, f. 121.
  • 2. Did not serve for the full duration of the Parliament.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from age of presumably younger brother William. Essex RO, D/B3/1/5, f. 88v; C142/92/98.
  • 4. Orig. Letters, ed. Ellis (ser. 3), i. 343; LP Hen. VIII, vii, viii, xv, xx; C219/19, m. 31.
  • 5. SP1/158, ff. 124-5; E318/385 passim.
  • 6. Essex RO, D/B3/1/2, f. 121.
  • 7. C142/92/98; Trans. Essex Arch. Soc. v. 220; CPR, 1558-60, p. 11; 1560-3, p. 174.