BOWES, Sir Martin (1496/97-1566), of London, Woolwich and North Cray, Kent.

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



Mar. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. 1496/97, 1st s. of Thomas Bowes of York. m. (1) by 1526, Cecily Eliott, at least 2 prob. 3s.; (2) by 1538, Anne (d. 19 Oct. 1553), da. of John Barrett of Belhus in Aveley, Essex, at least 5s. 2da.; (3) 1554, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Harlowe, wid. of William Billingsley of London, at least 1s.; 18 ch. in all. Kntd. 13 Jan./10 Oct. 1541.1

Offices Held

Warden, Goldsmiths’ Co. 1532-3, 1534-6, upper warden 1537-8, 1540-2, 1549-51, 1553-7, 1558-62; dep. master of the mint by 1526-30/33, master 1533-44, under treasurer Tower I 25 Mar. 1544-29 Sept. 1550; auditor, London 1536, alderman 1536-d., sheriff 1540-1, mayor 1545-6; j.p. Kent 1539-d., Mdx. 1547, 1557-d.; commr. chantries, London, Westminster and Mdx. 1546, contribution, London 1546, relief, Kent, Mdx. and Southwark 1550, goods of churches and fraternities, Kent 1553; other commissions 1538-65.2


Martin Bowes was born in the parish of St. Cuthbert in Peaseholme, York. Presenting a ceremonial sword to the mayor and aldermen in 1549 he looked back to his early life in the city and remembered ‘how and in what sort I was brought up and nourished in my tender days by my father and mother dwelling in York from the time of my birth unto the age of 14 years old and then came hither up to London, young and with small substance, and so have continued here these 38 years ever since’. The family was of some consequence in York: Bowes’s great-grandfather had been mayor and his grandfather sheriff, but his father, probably the Thomas Bowes, goldsmith, admitted to the freedom of the City in 1498, played no part in local government. An earlier Thomas Bowes, born in the same parish in York, had become an official of the mint in London, holding office until his death in 1479.3

In 1513 Bowes was apprenticed to Robert Amadas, a noted London goldsmith who was also a deputy master of the mint; in 1525 he was admitted into the livery of the Goldsmiths’ Company and in the following year Amadas made Bowes his deputy at the mint. When in 1530 Amadas and Ralph Rowlett, the two deputy masters, and Bowes himself were called to account by Lord Mountjoy, the master of the mint, they counter-claimed that he owed them £784. The dispute continued for three years, Mountjoy suing Rowlett and Bowes in Chancery and common pleas, while they tried to supplant him in his office, making ‘very chargeable’ attempts to secure his ‘good will’ towards this end: Bowes also appealed to Cromwell, promising him a chain of gold worth £30 for his intervention with the King. Finally Mountjoy surrendered his patent and in April 1533 Rowlett and Bowes became joint masters of the mint.4

Bowes was by this time a leading commoner in the ward of Langbourn. He was probably already established in the house that he built in Lombard Street, which Stow described as having ‘a very fair forefront towards the street’. After his election as alderman in 1536, Bowes petitioned for a discharge from the shrievalty for three years: his request was granted but directly the time limit expired he was elected sheriff. Five years later, as mayor and knight, Bowes negotiated with the King for the purchase of St. Bartholomew’s priory in Smithfield and the house and site of the Grey Friars. For some years the arrangements hung fire, but in January 1547 letters patent were issued granting both houses to the City. Bowes’ expenses were met from the income from the new property and the sale of plate, tombstones and lead from the church of the Grey Friars. The rebuilding of St. Bartholomew’s and the foundation of Christ’s Hospital on the site of the Grey Friars could not be met from the incomes of the two houses, and Bowes devised a scheme to supplement it by a monthly collection in every parish ‘of the devotion of the citizens’. The financial expedients varied but his interest persisted: from 1558 until his death he was comptroller general of all the City’s hospitals.5

Bowes was returned to Parliament for the first time in 1547; the wardens of the Goldsmiths, announcing the impending election, asked the liverymen of the Company ‘by all means to give their whole election to Sir Martin Bowes’, which they agreed to do. He had a number of bills committed to him during this Parliament, including two in the last session of particular interest to London, one for the assize of firewood, drawn up by the recorder of London, Robert Broke, the other for journeymen and apprentices: he also took care, as he wrote to the mayor and aldermen of York, to ‘put my good will with all the help of my friends’ behind an Act for the union of churches in York (1 Edw. VI, c.9). As one of London’s Members at the next Parliament Bowes was asked by the court of aldermen to attend the mayor to the Parliament chamber on 11 Mar. 1553 ‘for the moving of the Lords for their assents and furtherance of the bill devised for fuel for the city of London’: three days later the mayor and six aldermen, including Bowes, sought the lord chancellor’s ‘lawful favour’ for this bill, which was introduced in the Lords on 20 Mar. and quickly passed (7 Edw. VI, c.7).6

Bowes sat in three of Mary’s Parliaments and in Elizabeth’s first, but without leaving much trace of his activity. On 12 Jan. 1555 the court of aldermen sent him with two other aldermen and the recorder Ralph Cholmley to seek the support of the lord chancellor and the lord treasurer for the ‘weighty causes of the City which are to be holpen by the Parliament’: what these causes were remains unknown. The account of Bowes’s participation as mayor in the examination of Anne Askew has been too much improved in the telling to provide any satisfactory evidence as to his religious views, but at this time he was not overtly unsympathetic to Catholic doctrine and practice. In 1556 he had the rood screen, statues and cross of his parish church gilded and painted and the following year presented ‘a fair cloth for the sacrament’: he also made preparations for the establishment of a chantry within the church of St. Cuthbert in York, while regretting his inability to endow it more generously, ‘but I have had 18 children, whereof I have alive at this day seven (that is to say) five sons and two daughters, which nature bindeth me to provide for them’. Five years later, in 1561, ‘forasmuch as it hath pleased God to send me life to see certain alterations in the world’, Bowes transferred to the poor of the parish the money allotted for purposes since condemned as superstitious.7

For all his disclaimer, Bowes was undoubtedly a rich man: in 1559 he was assessed for subsidy at £700 in goods. In 1539 he paid £1,044 for the White Horse in Lombard Street, then in the occupation of George Tadlowe, and other property of the dissolved nunnery of the Minories. In 1540 he purchased further monastic property, including messuages in Woolwich, Plumstead and Bexley, Kent, and three years later he received another large grant of lands in Kent, which he seems to have re-sold before his death; in 1546 he bought the manor of North Cray, Kent, from Sir Roger Cholmley and in June 1553 the manor of East Wickham, in the same county, from the crown. When in January 1551 Bowes, who had been under treasurer of the mint since the reorganization of the department in 1544, surrendered his patent at the King’s request, John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, and (Sir) William Herbert reported to the Council that ‘with much ado’ they had persuaded him to pay £10,000 to settle his account. On 24 Jan. 1551 he received a pardon of all monetary offences and was granted for life the fee of 200 marks which he had received as under treasurer, but a supplementary annuity of 100 marks was not renewed.8

In addition to his work in the City and at the mint, Bowes was an active local official in Kent and Middlesex. He was omitted from the commission of the peace for Middlesex issued in 1554, but in June 1557 he was restored to the bench, at the request of the mayor, under the charter granted to London by Henry VI which recognized the right of every alderman who had served as mayor to be a justice of the peace. Bowes died on 4 Aug. 1566 and was buried in St. Mary Woolnoth, ‘in the vault in the high choir’. His portrait in Goldsmiths’ Hall was painted in the year of his death.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: Helen Miller


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from statement made in 1549, York Civic Recs. v. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cx), 20, 153; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 27, 145-6; C142/146/118; CPR, 1550-3, p. 433; LP Hen. VIII, xiii, xvi; Machyn’s Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 335; City of London RO, Guildhall, rep. 13 (1), f. 126v; Reg. St. Mary Woolnoth, 2-6, 8, 183, 189; PPC, vii. 256; DNB.
  • 2. Goldsmiths’ Co. mss (with acknowledgment to the Worshipful Co. of Goldsmiths); LP Hen. VIII, iv-vi, xiii-xvii, xix-xxi; CPR, 1547-8, pp. 65, 78-79, 85-86; 1549-51, p. 226; 1553, pp. 355-6, 362, 414; 1553-4, pp. 20, 28, 35; 1554-5, p. 107; 1555-7, p. 396; 1563-6, pp. 23, 24, 41, 120; 1569-72, pp. 216-17; City of London RO, jnl. 14, ff. D, 45v, 216; 15, f. 194; rep. 9, f. 223v; 13 (2), ff. 518v-19; Brit. Numismatic Jnl. xlv. 56.
  • 3. York Civic Recs. v. 20, 152; York Freemen, i. (Surtees Soc. xcvi), 223; PCC 12 Logge.
  • 4. Brit. Numismatic Jnl. xlv. 54; C. E. Challis, Tudor Coinage, 80 seq.; Goldsmiths’ Co. min. bk. A, p. 486; D, p. 204; LP Hen. VIII, iv, vi; SP1/68, f. 133; C1/697/27.
  • 5. City of London RO, jnl. 13, f. 364; rep. 9, ff. 223v, 229v; 11, ff. 263, 346, 353v, 358v; 14, ff. 72v, 216, 391v; 15, ff. 125v, 281v, 378v, 472v; Stow’s Survey of London, i. 203, 319-22; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; N. Moore, St. Bartholomew’s Hosp. ii. 194-6.
  • 6. Goldsmiths’ Co. min. bk. I, p. 15; CJ, i. 2-3, 12, 16-20; City of London RO, rep. 12 (2), ff. 454v, 458v; 13 (1), ff. 30v, 31v; York Civic Recs. iv. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cviii), 173; LJ, i. 437-8.
  • 7. City of London RO, rep. 13 (1), f. 247; Foxe, Acts and Mons. v. 538; Narr. Ref. (Cam. Soc. lxxvii), 40-41; Reg. St. Mary Woolnoth, p. xvi; York Civic Recs. v. 152-3; vi. (Yorks. Arch. Soc. rec. ser. cxii), 27.
  • 8. Guildhall Misc. ii. 185; LP Hen. VIII, xiv, xv, xviii, xxi; C2 Eliz./B4/38; CPR, 1549-51, p. 226; 1553, p. 306; APC, iii. 188.
  • 9. City of London RO, rep. 13 (2), ff. 518v, 519; C142/118; Reg. St. Mary Woolnoth, 189; W. S. Prideaux, Mems. Goldsmiths’ Co. i. facing p. 56.