BOWYER, Thomas (1586-1650), of Leythorne, North Mundham, Suss.
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Family and Education
b. 28 Nov. 1586,1 o. surv. s. of Thomas Bowyer†, cllr.-at-law, of Leythorne and the Middle Temple, London with his 2nd w. Jane, da. of John Birch of St. Giles-in-the-Fields, Mdx., bar. Exch. 1564-81.2 educ. M. Temple 1605.3 m. (1) by 1610, Anne (bur. 18 June 1623), da. of Adrian Stoughton* of West Stoke, nr. Chichester, Suss., at least 3s. (2 d.v.p). 4da. d.v.p.; (2) 21 June 1624, Jane (bur. 10 Apr. 1640), da. and h. of Emery Cranley, yeoman, of Dunsfold, Surr., wid. of Samuel Austen of Shalford, Surr. and (Sir) George Stoughton* of Stoughton, nr. Guildford, Surr., s.p.; (3) c.1641, Anne (bur. 11 May 1683), da. and coh. of James Maxwell, 1st earl of Dirletoun [S], 2s. 1da. (d.v.p.). suc. fa. 1595; cr. bt. 23 July 1627. bur. 28 Feb. 1650.4
Commr. sewers, Suss. 1610-at least 1641, Hants and Suss. 1641,5 j.p. Suss. 1611-35, 1641-at least 1642;6 steward, Chichester dioc. 1619;7 commr. brewhouse survey, Suss. 1620,8 subsidy 1621-2, 1624, 1641-2;9 sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1626-7;10 collector, billeting money, Chichester rape, Suss. 1626;11 commr. Forced Loan, Suss. 1627,12 oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1635-6, 1642.13
The Sussex Bowyers traced their earliest ancestors to the Staffordshire family of the same name, but they themselves had lived in west Sussex as clients of the Percy family since the early fifteenth century. Bowyer’s great-uncle Robert represented Chichester in 1529. His grandfather, a London Grocer, purchased the manors of North Mundham and Runcton, in the parish of North Mundham, two miles south-east of Chichester, but settled on the manor of Leythorne, in the same parish, which he leased from the dean and chapter of Chichester. Bowyer’s father, a Marian exile, was elected for Midhurst in 1571 and 1572, probably thanks to his friendship with Richard Lewknor†, the legal advisor of the borough’s electoral patron, the 1st Viscount Montagu (Anthony Browne†).14
While still a minor Bowyer inherited the estates of his father, whose executors bought his wardship and marriage for £100.15 In 1605, at the age of 19 he was sent to the Middle Temple, where he shared chambers with his cousin Robert Bowyer*, who may have brought the former into contact with his patron, lord treasurer Dorset (Thomas Sackville†). Dorset had married his daughter to Anthony, 2nd Viscount Montagu, who had inherited the 1st viscount’s interest at Midhurst. In addition, Bowyer’s first wife, whom he had married by 1610, was related to the Lewknors, who remained influential in the borough. It was presumably with the backing of both interests that he was returned to Parliament for Midhurst in 1614. He made no mark on the surviving records of the Addled Parliament.16
In 1620 Bowyer was returned for Bramber. The nature of his interest in the borough is unknown, but there seems to have been a family connection, as Henry Bowyer†, whom Bowyer’s father described as his cousin when appointing him overseer of his will, represented the borough in 1601.17 Bowyer was subsequently re-elected for Bramber six times.
In the third Jacobean Parliament Bowyer was appointed to consider bills to reduce the interest rate to eight per cent (7 May), regulate inns (28 May), and correct rogues (22 November).18 In the debate of 29 May 1621 on expiring laws, he moved for free transport of corn ‘from port to port among ourselves without pleading licence and such troubles’. His motion reflected local conditions in Sussex, as the eastern part of the county depended on shipments of grain from the western rapes.19 In the fourth Jacobean Parliament Bowyer was named to five committees, including those on bills to prevent secret inquisitions (8 Mar.), to continue or repeal expiring statutes (13 Mar.), and to enable clergy to take leases (22 March). He spoke in the debate of 24 Mar. 1624 on the Arundel election dispute, but to what effect is unknown, and was ordered with Edward Alford and Richard Lewknor to assess the charges to which the town had been put by the irregular conduct of the mayor.20 He was among those appointed on 5 Apr. to consider the Lords’ bill for settling the 2nd Viscount Montagu’s estate.21
Bowyer’s only committee in the first Caroline Parliament, on 27 June 1625, was for the subscription bill.22 In 1626 he was appointed to four, including the committee for privileges on 9 February. His other appointments were to consider bills against secret inquisitions (14 Feb.), to explain the 1606 Recusancy Act (23 Feb.), and to inquire into purveyors’ abuses (25 May). He made no recorded speeches in either Parliament.23
Bowyer served as sheriff between the second and third Caroline parliaments, and acted as collector for billeting expenses in the rape of Chichester. His second wife, the widow of George Stoughton*, was described in a subsequent memoir of the Stoughton family as ‘a mad, prodigal, proud and spending lady’, of mean birth, who made Bowyer purchase his baronetcy in 1627, ‘that she might take place of other ladies’. The purchase must have been from a courtier, as no money was paid into the Exchequer.24
Bowyer was appointed to seven committees in the third Caroline Parliament. As well as the committee for privileges, to which he was once again named (20 Mar.), he was among those ordered to investigate abuses of billeting in Surrey (28 Mar.), to consider the bill for peace and unity in church and state (7 Apr.), and to examine the new books of customs rates (17 May). He was appointed to consider two private bills, these being to settle the estates of the 2nd earl of Devonshire’s (Sir William Cavendish I*; 21 Apr.) and to entail property, predominantly in west Sussex, on the earl of Arundel (11 June). On 13 June he was named to draft the address concerning billeting and coat and conduct money. Once again he made no recorded speeches.25 Later in the year he secured a lease of the Chichester rectory of St. Peter the Great from the chapter.26 On 3 Feb. 1629 he was granted privilege in a Chancery suit, but otherwise played no documented part in the second session.27
In 1630 Bowyer compounded for knighthood at £70, more than three times the usual rate for the county.28 Five years later he was removed from the bench, probably for inactivity.29 Although in 1637 his estate was said to be worth £1,200 p.a., he was by then financially embarrassed. Nevertheless, he was re-elected for Bramber to both the Short and Long Parliaments. He was disabled from sitting in 1642, along with Sir William Morley*, after assisting the commissioners of array to seize the county armoury at Chichester. He drew up his will on 20 Jan. 1649 and was buried in North Mundham the following month, leaving debts of £8,000. He was posthumously fined £2,034 for his royalism. None of his descendants are known to have sat in Parliament.30
Ref Volumes: 1604-1629
Author: Alan Davidson
- 1. Soc. Gen. North Mundham par. reg.
- 2. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 61; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 473-4.
- 3. M. Temple Admiss.
- 4. Soc. Gen. North Mundham par. reg.; J. Patching, ‘Sir Thomas Bowyer’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xlv. 211; Add. 45193, f. 10; CP, iv. 387; PROB 11/221, f. 152; CB, ii. 31.
- 5. C181/2, f. 134v; 181/5, ff. 115v, 296.
- 6. Cal. Assize Recs. Suss. Indictments, Jas. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 38; C231/5, pp. 157, 475; ASSI 35/84/8.
- 7. Acts of Dean and Chapter of Cath. Church of Chichester ed. W.D. Peckham (Suss. Rec. Soc. lviii), 221.
- 8. APC, 1619-21, p. 203.
- 9. SP14/122/89; C212/22/21, 23; SR, v. 66, 156.
- 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 138.
- 11. E.S. Cunliffe, ‘"Booke Concerning The Deputy Leiuetennantshipp"’, Suss. Arch. Colls. xl. 22.
- 12. C193/12/2, f. 59v.
- 13. C181/5, ff. 8v, 36, 222.
- 14. P.A. Bowyer, ‘Notes concerning the Bowyer Fam.’, Suss. Arch. Colls. lxiv. 105-8; VCH Suss. iv. 158, 162-3; Acts of Dean and Chapter of Cath. Church of Chichester, 202; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 261, 474.
- 15. WARD 9/158, f. 155.
- 16. MTR, 461.
- 17. PROB 11/85, f. 233v; HP Commons, 1558-1603, i. 471-2.
- 18. CJ, i. 611a, 628b, 641b.
- 19. CD 1621, iii. 341; CJ, i. 630b; Fletcher, 151.
- 20. CJ, i. 748a-b.
- 21. Ibid. 755a.
- 22. Procs. 1625, p. 253.
- 23. Procs. 1626, ii. 7, 33, 102; iii. 331.
- 24. Add. 6174, ff. 136v-7; SCL, EM 1284(b).
- 25. CD 1628, ii. 29, 168, 323; iii. 3, 447; iv. 236, 280.
- 26. Acts of Dean and Chapter of Cath. Church of Chichester, 239.
- 27. CJ, i. 926a.
- 28. ‘Compositions for knighthood’ ed. H. Ellis, Suss. Arch. Colls. xvi. 50; Fletcher, 213.
- 29. Fletcher. 129.
- 30. CSP Dom. 1637, p. 238; M.F. Keeler, Long Parl. 112-13; C. Thomas-Stanford, Suss. in Great Civil War and Interregnum, 39; PROB 11/221, f. 152; CCC, 833.