Robert Fowler, Archbishop of Dublin 1724 - 1801

Between 1799 and 1801 Bassingbourne Hall was rented by Robert Fowler, the Anglican Archbishop of Dublin. Fowler died at the hall at the age of 77 still in possession of the Dublin Archbishopric.

Robert Fowler had been born in Lincolnshire in 1724 the third son of George Fowler of Skendeleby Thorpe in Lincolnshire . After an education at Westminster School, where he was a King’s scholar, he went to Trinity College, Cambridge & was ordained in 1764.

An appointment as chaplain to George II led to his becoming Dean of Norwich 1765, Prebendery of Westminster 1765 to 1771 & then Bishop of Killaloe and Kilfenola in 1771. The elevation to the Archbishopric of Dublin in 1779 gave him a seat on the Irish Privy Council & the appointment as Chancellor of the Order of St Patrick.

It has to be remembered that Fowler was the head of a minority religion in a united Ireland. He also seems to have been opposed to the more Evangelical arm of his own church & banned two ordained clergy for preaching justification by faith. He also opposed the Bill for the relief of Dissenters on the grounds that it would promote clandestine & improvident marriages.

He joined with other peers in the Privy Council of Ireland in protest at the appointment of the Prince of Wales as Regent during the illness of George III.

On the basis of these political activities he made his request to become a peer. The government under William Pitt refused his request on the grounds that it was no more than his duty as Archbishop. Fowler was furious, & travelled to England to remonstrate with Pitt, to no avail.

It would seem from the evidence that in spite of Philip Skelton’s commendation of his great regard for religion, Fowler’s main interests were in family, gardens & with little reverence for antiquities. The garden of the Palace at Tallagh was brought to a high state of perfection, & this interest may have been a factor in his renting of Bassingbourne. 

Fowler had married Mildred Dealtry, daughter of Sir William Dealtry of gainsborough. She died in 1793 & was buried at Tallagh. During the absence of the Archbishop in 1798 the palace was attacked by armed men & various weapons stolen. A rebellion was to follow in 1798, & these factors may have decided a prelate who was widely described as being an absentee, to come to England. In his justification it must be said that he was not alone in being an absentee prelate.

His children were to fulfil his ambitions to become a member of the peerage. His son Robert was Bishop of Ossory, Daughter Francis married Richard Bourke the Bishop of Wareford & Lismore & brother to the Earl of Mayo. Mildred married Edmund Butler, Viscount Mountgarret, later the Earl of Kilkenny. 

Until fairly recently the burial place of such a man of importance at Takeley church has presented something of a mystery, as there was no memorial, tomb, tablet of any kind to him.

The discovery of a vault filled in during the Victorian restoration has solved this mystery, & Robert Fowler, Archbishop of Dublin is buried under the Chancel of Holy Trinity, Takeley, with other local dignitaries. 

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