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 wealth through the coal trade. This wealth was, however, gained through the employment of men, women and children in conditions that would now be considered intolerable.
George Bowes inherited the family estates in 1721. Although he was the youngest son, his elder brothers 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.
Much later, Bowes married Mary Gilbert in 1743. 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. They formed the Bowes-Lyon family, one of whose descendants was the late Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, known in Britain as The Queen Mother. Hence, George Bowes would be the present Queen Elizabeth II's great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.
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. He was for some years the Member of Parliament for County Durham.
George Bowes' principal residence was Gibside, a mansion on the banks of the River Derwent, in County Durham. The surrounding park was laid out by Lancelot "Capability" Brown and includes a column, 140 feet high, dedicated to British liberty. On George Bowes' death, Gibside passed to his son-in-law, the Earl of Strathmore. Lord Strathmore built a chapel in the grounds, in Palladian style, as a mausoleum, in which Bowes was finally interred, when it was completed it in 1812.
- Helen Berry and Jeremy Gregory (editors), Creating and Consuming Culture in North-East England, 1660-1830, Ashgate, 2004. ISBN 0-7546-0603-1
- The Bowes estates became 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.
|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