BOWYER, William II (d.1569/70), of Wimbledon and Camberwell, Surr. and Fleet Street, London.

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

s. of Robert Bowyer by his w. Margaret; bro. of Robert I. educ. M. Temple 1553. m. Anne or Agnes, da. of John Harcourt of Staffs. and Stanton Harcourt, Oxon., 2s. inc. Robert II 1da.

Offices Held

Bailiff, Westminster 1560; keeper of recs. in the Tower from 1563; j.p. Surr. 1564.


Bowyer, of the Chichester and London merchant family, owed his office as bailiff of Westminster to Sir Thomas Parry. It was as bailiff that Bowyer wrote to Cecil in July 1561, advising him about the customary gifts expected of him as high steward. It was no doubt by arrangement with Cecil that Bowyer came into Parliament for Westminster in 1563, and, probably, it was Cecil who obtained him the keepership of the records. Bowyer was exercising the duties of the keeper by January 1563, though he did not receive a formal grant until 1567. After arguing that it had been customary from the Conquest for all public records to be deposited in the Tower, he was given custody not only of the records already there, but also, against opposition from the master of the rolls, those of Chancery and of Parliament.

Bowyer was classified in the 1564 bishops’ report as a ‘favourer’ of religion, and in his will of 15 Apr. 1569, he asked to be buried without pomp. His wife was executrix. He noted that Cecil owed him £500, of which he wished £300 to be set aside for his daughter. His library and literary manuscripts went to his son William, ‘as matters of greater value than all that I leave in the world besides’, asking him to finish that ‘which I meant and never had time to do’. His heraldic manuscripts went to his other son, Robert. Among others he remembered was Dean Nowell of St. Paul’s, ‘to whom for my bringing up in the fear and knowledge of God I more stand bound than to all flesh living’. The will was proved 23 June 1570.

W. Berry, Co. Genealogies, Suss. 134-5, 363; Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 62; A. Hay, Chichester, 569; Manning and Bray, Suss. iii. 409; J. Bayley, Tower of London, i. 230, 239; SP12/18/35, 31/44, 33/2; CSP Dom. 1547-80, pp. 181, 233, 234, 290, 292-3, 298; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 56; PCC 20 Lyon.

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: J.E.M.