George Bowes was baptized on 4 September 1701, the youngest son of Sir William Bowes, MP, and Elizabeth Bowes (née Blakiston). The Bowes family had been prominent in County Durham, with their ownership of the estate and castle of Streatlam but in 1713, George's father acquired (from his wife's family) the Gibside estate which included some of the area's richest coal seams and led to the family becoming immensely wealthy through the coal trade. George Bowes inherited the family estates in 1721, including Gibside. Although he was the youngest son, his elder brothers had died young. In October 1724 he married the fourteen-year-old Eleanor Verney, but she died in December of that year. Her death was commemorated in a poem, written by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, which implied that she had died as a result of Bowes' sexual vigour.
Bowes was rich and influential, largely on account of the coal which lay beneath his estates. In 1726 he was a founder of the Grand Alliance of coal owners, a cartel for the control of the London coal trade. At the 1727 British general election, Bowes was returned unopposed as Whig Member of Parliament for County Durham. He voted against the Government on the civil list arrears in 1729, and made his first reported speech on 23 February 1731. He voted against the government again on the excise bill in 1733, and on the repeal of the Septennial Act in 1734. He was returned unopposed again at the 1734 British general election. He voted against the Spanish convention in 1739, and against the motion for Walpole’s dismissal in February 1741. At the 1741 British general election he was returned again unopposed and continued to act against the Government until 1744. Then he spoke against opposition motions in January for an inquiry into the employment of Hanoverian troops in British pay and in February for adding a demand for an inquiry into the state of the navy when the loyal address to the King was to be made on the projected French invasion. He offered to raise a troop of horse at his own expense. In March 1745 he opposed a vote of credit but took an active part in raising forces against the rebels. He did not vote on the Hanoverians in 1746. He was returned unopposed again at the 1747 British general election and was classed in the Parliament as Opposition.
Bowes was returned unopposed for Durham again at the 1754 British general election and was still considered an opposition Whig. He spoke on the Tory side during the debates on the Oxfordshire election petitions.
Bowes married as his second wife Mary Gilbert on 14 June 1743/44 at St Botolph's, Aldersgate, City of London. They had one daughter, Mary Eleanor Bowes, born 24 February 1748 (old style)/1749 (new style). She married John Lyon, 9th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne, who later took the name "Bowes", as a condition of the will of George Bowes, in order to inherit the Bowes estate.
His principal residences were Gibside, a mansion on the banks of the River Derwent in County Durham, and Streatlam Castle, an estate close to the town of Barnard Castle, also in County Durham. The park surrounding Gibside includes a column, 140 feet high, dedicated to British liberty. On George Bowes' death in 1760, Gibside passed to his son-in-law, John Bowes, the 9th Earl of Strathmore. Lord Strathmore built a mausoleum chapel in the grounds, in Palladian style, in which Bowes was finally interred on its completion in 1812.
- "BOWES, George (1701-60), of Streatlam Castle, Co. Dur". History of Parliament Online (1715-1754). Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- Helen Berry and Jeremy Gregory (editors), Creating and Consuming Culture in North-East England, 1660-1830, Ashgate, 2004. ISBN 0-7546-0603-1
- "BOWES, George (1701-60), of Streatlam Castle, co. Dur". History of Parliament Online (1754-1790). Retrieved 5 March 2019.
- marriage register 1725-1769, St. Botolph Church
- The Bowes estates had been the source of considerable controversy down the years. Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir George Bowes, High Sheriff of Yorkshire (died 1580), for instance, married Timothy Hutton, also High Sheriff of Yorkshire, son and heir of Archbishop of York Matthew Hutton. The Hutton estates, combined with those of the Bowes family, devolved eventually onto Mary Hutton, daughter of Matthew Hutton, Archbishop of Canterbury. The enormous estates Mary Hutton inherited, principally in Lincolnshire, were left to Col. Thomas Blackborne Thoroton Hildyard of Flintham, whose Bowes grandmother was cousin to Mary Hutton. The sums involved set off a flurry of lawsuits, as well as bills in Parliament devoted to the infighting among the assorted claimants.
Primary source materials
- Bowes family of Strathmore and Gibside. Durham County Record Office Catalogue reference D/St contains family and estate papers.
|Parliament of Great Britain|
Sir John Eden, Bt
| Member of Parliament for County Durham
With: John Hedworth to 1747
Hon. Henry Vane (1) 1747–1753
Hon. Henry Vane (2) 1753–1758
Hon. Raby Vane from 1758
Hon. Raby Vane