BOWYER, Thomas (1537-95), of Leythorne, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. 1537, 1st s. of Thomas Bowyer, citizen and grocer of London and subsequently of North Mundham, Suss. by his 2nd w. Jane, da. and h. of Robert Merry, grocer of London. educ. M. Temple 1558. m. (1) Magdalen, da. of Bartholomew Traheron, d.s.p.; (2) 1579, Jane, da. of John Birch, baron of the Exchequer, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1558.

Offices Held

Bencher, M. Temple 1577, Autumn reader 1577, Lent reader 1585; j.p. Suss. from 1587.


Bowyer’s first father-in-law and his stepfather, Alexander Nowell, the dean of St. Paul’s, were both Marian exiles, and in 1587 he himself was classified as ‘a great favourer of religion and the commonwealth’. In 1592 he and Richard Young examined two recusants, putting one of them, Robert Faux, to torture in an attempt to elicit a confession. He was involved in a longstanding dispute in the Star Chamber against John Caryll of Warnham, concerning the boundaries of some marshland near North Mundham, the manor of which, together with that of Roughton, he had inherited from his father.1

Since he had no direct connexion with Lord Montagu, lord of the borough of Midhurst, Bowyer’s returns there were probably due to his neighbour, and contemporary at the Middle Temple, Richard Lewknor. During the Chichester election dispute of 1586, which involved Lewknor’s seat, it was Bowyer from whom the mayor ‘promised to seek legal advice’.2

Bowyer was an active committeeman in his two Parliaments, being concerned with the bills dealing with church attendance (21 Apr. 1571), the preservation of woods (10 May), the river Lea (26 May, 28 May), vagabonds (22 May 1572), a private bill (22 May), Tonbridge School (29 May), bastardy (15 Feb. 1576), land (18 Feb.), the confirmation of letters patent (25 Feb.), rebels’ lands (8 Mar.), justices of the Queen’s forests (8 Mar.), excess in apparel (10 Mar.), the relief of vicars and curates (13 Mar.), wrecks (30 Jan. 1581), unlawful marriages (31 Jan.), the preservation of game (18 Feb.) and the ‘inning’ of Plumstead marshes (8 Mar.). One intervention in debate is recorded on 23 May 1572 when his loyalty to his stepfather led him to protest that the bill for chantry lands might be ‘to the prejudice of the dean of Paul’s’ and he ‘prayeth his counsel may be heard’.3

In a draft will written in 1585 on the fly-leaf of the family bible, Bowyer gave striking expression to his loyalty to the Queen:

I heartily pray the Almighty God to send a long, prosperous and happy life and reign to our good Queen Elizabeth and send us all grace that we may all live in His fear as good and dutiful subjects to our said gracious sovereign Lady and Queen, and all die before the sorrowful days of England shall come if God should take her from us before the end of the world. And that if for our sins he shorten her days, as he did the days of good King Edward, that yet he will grant me the grace to die at her feet before her, and that at the end of all things which is at hand we may joyfully rise again to life everlasting with perpetual joy and felicity. Amen. Amen.

He made his final will 4 Aug. 1590, appointing as executors his wife, son, brother and brother-in-law, John Birch; and as overseers, to each of whom he gave a gold ring, his uncle, his ‘good father’ Alexander Nowell, his ‘cousins’ Simon Bowyer and Henry Bowyer of Cuckfield, James Morice and John Agmondesham II of the Middle Temple, the two last being well-known puritan lawyers. He bequeathed the repair of North Mundham church, 40s. to the poor box and a bushel of wheat and a bushel of malt to 20 of the parish poor. His goods were to be divided after the custom of the city of London, a third to his widow, a third to his children and a third according to his specific bequests. His books, papers and writings—the ‘best jewels I have, which I esteem more than any jewels of metal’—he left to his son Thomas, with the proviso that his ‘cousins’ Robert Bowyer of the Middle Temple, Henry Norton, and John Bowyer, then at Oxford, should be able to use the legal texts until his heir was of age. Bowyer died 7 Mar. 1595, and the will was proved 9 May 1595, with a new grant of probate on 8 July 1602 to cover an executorship which he had held. His heir was Thomas Bowyer, who married as his first wife a daughter of Adrian Stoughton.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Authors: M.N. / P. W. Hasler


  • 1. Mousley thesis; Suss. Arch. Colls. xlii. 24-9; lxiv. 105-6; Add. 12504, f. 2; PCC 30 Scott; G. H. Garrett, Marian Exiles, 237-8, 308-9; Lansd. 54, f. 95 seq.; CSP Dom. 1591-4, p. 297.
  • 2. Neale, Commons, 269.
  • 3. D’Ewes, 176, 189, 220, 254, 255, 262, 290; CJ, i. 85, 88, 93, 96, 97, 99, 106, 108, 112, 113, 120, 121, 128, 132; Trinity Dublin, Thos. Cromwell’s jnl. f. 41v.
  • 4. Suss. Arch. Colls. lxiv. 108; PCC 30 Scott; C142/244/105.