Many antiquaries coincide in attaching a long and distinguished line of ancestors to this family, and in giving it an Anglo-Saxon origin.
They differ, however, as to the identity of its founder, some tracing that honour to Sir Allan Gower, Lord of Sittenham, in Yorkshire, and high sheriff of that county at the time of the Conquest; while others name William Fitz-Guyer, of Sittenham, who was charged with a mark for his lands in the sheriff's accounts, in 1167.
In more than a century afterwards, towards the close of the 13th century, we find
SIR JOHN GOWER, one of the persons of note summoned to be at Carlisle, with horse and arms, on the feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, to march against the Scots; and again, in the following year, the same personage is summoned, for a like purpose, to proceed to Berwick.
After Sir John comes
LAWRENCE GOWER, who obtained the King's pardon in the reign of EDWARD II for having been concerned with the Earl of Lancaster in the murder of Piers Gaveston (1st Earl of Cornwall), at Blacklow Hill, in 1312.
This Lawrence was succeeded by
SIR NICHOLAS GOWER, who was returned one of the knights of the shire, in Yorkshire, during the reign of EDWARD III, to a great council summoned by Edward the Black Prince, then guardian of the realm, and held at Northampton; for which service, being in attendance fourteen days, he received the sum of £5 and 12s.
Twelve years later, we find Sir Nicholas obtaining the King's permission to go to Rome, with six valets and seven horses in his retinue; and in 1351 he was commissioned to investigate some outrage committed upon Hugh, Archbishop of Damascus, at Newstead, near Boland.
From Sir Nicholas we pass to his grandson,
SIR JOHN GOWER, who was standard-bearer to Prince Edward, son of HENRY VI, and having been made prisoner at the battle of Tewkesbury, in 1471, was there beheaded.
This gallant but unfortunate soldier had married Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Goldsborough, one of the Barons of the Exchequer in the reign of HENRY VII, and left, with other children, his successor,
SIR EDWARD GOWER, who was succeeded by his eldest son,
THOMAS GOWER, who was captain of a band of light horsemen in the army which invaded Scotland, under the Duke of Somerset, in 1547, and Master of the Ordnance in the expedition against the same kingdom in 1560.
SIR EDWARD GOWER, was succeeded by his son,
THOMAS GOWER, whose son,
SIR THOMAS GOWER, Knight, of Sittenham, Yorkshire, was created a baronet, in 1620. He wedded Anne, daughter and co-heiress of John Doyley, of Merton, Oxfordshire, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
SIR THOMAS GOWER (1605-72), 2nd Baronet, twice sheriff of Yorkshire, who remained firm in his allegiance to CHARLES I, and was ultimately a considerable sufferer.
He was succeeded by his grandson,
SIR THOMAS GOWER, 3rd Baronet, a colonel of foot, who died in the camp at Dundalk in 1689; and never being married, the title reverted to his uncle,
SIR WILLIAM LEVESON-GOWER, 4th Baronet, who, by the adoption of his uncle, Sir Richard Leveson KB, of Trentham, in Staffordshire, inherited the entire of that gentleman's extensive estates.
Sir William was one of the Duke of Monmouth's bail in 1683, and represented Newcastle-under-Lyme in the four parliaments of CHARLES II.
He espoused Lady Jane Granville, eldest daughter of John, Earl of Bath; and was succeeded in 1691 by his eldest son,
SIR JOHN LEVESON-GOWER (1675-1709), 5th Baronet, who was elevated to the peerage as Baron Gower, in 1703.
His lordship married Lady Catherine Manners, daughter of John, 1st Duke of Rutland. He died at Belvoir Castle in 1709, and was succeeded by his eldest son,
JOHN (1694-1754), 2nd Baron. This nobleman was constituted Lord Privy Seal and sworn of the Privy Council in 1742; and subsequently, having been twice one of the Lords Justices during the King's absence from the realm, was created, in 1746, Viscount Trentham and EARL GOWER.
His lordship wedded thrice and had a numerous family.
His eldest son,
GRANVILLE (1721-1803), 2nd Earl, who married thrice.
His lordship, when Lord Trentham, was unanimously returned to parliament for the City of Westminster in 1747; but vacated his seat two years later, in consequence of being appointed one of the Lords of the Admiralty.
He filled the high offices of Lord Privy Seal, Lord Chamberlain, and Lord President of the Council.
His lordship was installed a Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter; and created MARQUESS OF STAFFORD, in 1786.
He died in 1803, he was succeeded by his eldest son,
GEORGE (1758-1833), 2nd Marquess, KG, PC, who, during the lifetime of his father, had been summoned to parliament as Baron Gower (a courtesy title).
His lordship, who was a Knight of the Garter and a privy counsellor, was created DUKE OF SUTHERLAND in 1833.
He espoused, in 1785, Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland and Baroness Strathnaver in her own right.
- George Leveson-Gower, 1st Duke (1758–1833);
- George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Duke (1786–1861);
- George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 3rd Duke (1828–1892);
- George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Earl Gower (1850-58), died in childhood;
- Cromartie Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 4th Duke (1851–1913);
Other titles (6th Duke onwards): Earl of Ellesmere and Viscount Brackley, of Brackley in the county of Northamptonshire (1846)
- George Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 5th Duke (1888–1963).
- John Egerton, 6th Duke (1915–2000);
- Francis Egerton, 7th Duke (b 1940).
- Heir apparent: James Egerton, styled Marquess of Stafford, eldest son of the 7th Duke. He has three daughters.
DUNROBIN CASTLE, near Golspie, Sutherland, has been the ancestral seat of the Dukes and Earls of Sutherland.
It was originally a fortified, square keep, with walls six feet thick and a vaulted ceiling, looking out from a cliff-top position.
The keep stood isolated for some two centuries until a staircase and a high house were added.
It was encased by a series of additions from the 16th century onwards.
In 1785, a large extension was constructed. Remarkably this early keep still survives, much altered, within the complex of these later extensions, making Dunrobin one of the oldest inhabited houses in Scotland.
Sir Charles Barry was retained in 1845 to completely re-model the castle, to change it from a fort to a house in the Scottish-Baronial style that had become popular among the nobility, who were inspired by Queen Victoria's new residence at Balmoral.
There is very much a French influence with conical spires to the whole project, including the gardens, based on Versailles, which he laid out in the 1850s.
Much of Barry's interior was destroyed by a fire in 1915 and the interior today is mainly the work of Scottish architect, Sir Robert Lorimer, who altered the top of the main tower and clock tower at the north side of the building to the Scottish-Renaissance style.
Following the death of the 5th Duke in 1963, the earldom and dukedom were separated.
The Dukedom passed on through the male line; whilst the present Countess of Sutherland inherited the Earldom.
The Castle became a boys’ boarding school for a period of seven years from the late 1960s before reverting back to being a family house.
TRENTHAM HALL, Staffordshire, was a seat of the Dukes of Sutherland.
In 1803, when the 1st Marquess of Stafford died, his son succeeded to the family estates, including Trentham, and married Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland.
Thus Trentham was acquired by the future Dukes of Sutherland.
Trentham Hall, it has been said, was the principal residence of the Most Noble George Granville [Leveson-Gower], Duke of Sutherland, Marquess of Stafford, Earl Gower, Viscount Trentham, and Hereditary Sheriff of Sutherland, who owned 12,744 acres of land in Staffordshire.
It was an elegant mansion, situated near the village in a park of 500 acres.
It has been entirely rebuilt during the last 14 years, and now has an elegant stone front and a lofty square tower.
The remodelling was also the work of Sir Charles Barry.
The Hall was one of many to be demolished in the 20th century, when in 1912 its owner, the 4th Duke of Sutherland, razed it after his offer to give it to the people of Stoke-on-Trent was rejected.
However, the gardens and the ornamental park with its lake and the estate woodlands have all been preserved.
There have been tentative proposals to rebuild Trentham Hall as a five star hotel.
However, in 2013, the developer St Modwen stated that the cost of refurbishing what remains of the buildings into a conference centre and an hotel was too much, at £35 million.
First published in February, 2014.