BOWYER, Sir Edmund (1552-1627), of Camberwell, Surr. and Lincoln's Inn, London

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



c. Mar. 1593

Family and Education

b. 12 May 1552, 3rd but 1st surv. s. of John Bowyer, barrister of L. Inn and Camberwell, being 1st s. with his 2nd w. Elizabeth, da. of Robert Draper of Camberwell. educ. L. Inn 1568, called 1577. m. 25 May 1573, Katherine (bur. 12 July 1609), da. of William Byne of Washington, Suss., s.p. suc. fa. 1570;1 kntd. 11 May 1603.2 d. 18 Feb. 1627.3

Offices Held

J.p. Surr. by 1579-d.;4 commr. suppression of Jesuits, 1592,5 subsidy 1594-5, 1608, 1622, Southwark, Surr. 1608, 1622, 1624,6 sewers, Surr. 1598, 1613, Surr. and Kent 1603, 1624, 1625;7 sheriff, Surr. and Suss. 1600-1;8 commr. oyer and terminer, Home circ. 1602-d., the Verge 1604-d., Surr. 1608, the Marshalsea 1620, 1623,9 preservation of ditches on the Thames, Mdx., Surr., Berks., Kent, Essex, 1602, 1605,10 inquiry into lands of Henry Brooke alias Cobham†, 11th Lord Cobham, Surr. 1603,11 audit the accounts of St. Saviour’s Southwark, 1606,12 inquiry into lands of John Deacon, Surr. 1608;13 commr. and collector aid, Surr. 1609, 1612;14 commr. inquiry, Wandle River 1610,15 annoyances, 1611, Mdx. 1613;16 collector, Privy Seal loan, Surr. 1611-13;17 dep. lt. Surr. by 1615-d.;18 gov. of Camberwell g.s. 1615;19 commr. brewhouse survey, Surr. 1620,20 collector, Benevolence 1622,21 commr. inquiry into concealed lands, London and Mdx. 1623,22 Forced Loan, Surr. 1626-7,23 martial law 1626.24

Commr. poor prisoners by 1589-at least 1600, 1624, suppression of Jesuits 1593,25 starch manufacture 1620,26 trade 1625;27 member, High Commission, Canterbury prov. 1625-d.28

Member, Virg. Co. by 1610.29


Bowyer’s father, a lawyer from Somerset, settled in Camberwell on his marriage to the daughter of Robert Draper, a minor court official, and became a bencher of Lincoln’s Inn. Bowyer also qualified as a barrister and retained his chambers till his death, sharing them for a period with Sir Roger Owen*, though he does not seem to have practised. In the early 1580s he purchased substantial property in the Camberwell area and the following decade established himself as a significant figure in Surrey local administration, helping, for instance, to administer the county’s composition for purveyance.30 Bowyer was also closely connected with the City of London, and in June 1603 was among those appointed by the Court of Aldermen to arbitrate between the Plasterers’ Company and non-free bricklayers. In 1605 one Michael Palmer was granted the freedom of the City at Bowyer’s request.31

Bowyer was elected for Morpeth in 1593, the first of the family to be returned to Parliament, and represented Southwark in 1597. He may have owed his election as knight of the shire for Surrey in 1604 to the support of the lord lieutenant of the county, the 1st earl of Nottingham (Charles Howard†). Bowyer was appointed at least twice to investigate slanderous words that had allegedly been spoken against Nottingham in the late Elizabethan period, suggesting that he was connected in some way to the earl.32

Bowyer received 64 committee appointments in the first Jacobean Parliament, 22 of them in the first session. He was appointed to attend two conferences with the Lords about wardship, on 26 Mar. and 22 May, and on 3 Apr. was among those instructed to consider a bill for the better execution of the laws against purveyors.33 Although Surrey had entered into an agreement to compound, such deals did not exempt counties from all forms of purveyance and as a consequence he was one of the Members named on 7 May as able to ‘make more pregnant proof’ of the articles drafted by the Commons against the abuses of purveyors.34 On 27 Mar. he was appointed to the committee to examine the consequences of the privilege asserted by Sir Thomas Shirley I, and two days later he was named to consider a bill to confirm the liberties of the subject.35

Bowyer’s previous involvement in the London building trade probably explains his appointment to consider a bill on that subject on 27 April.36 He was also named to other committees for bills relating to London, including two to confirm the charter of Bridewell hospital (27 Apr. and 9 June), and another to regulate the Thames watermen (9 May).37 Other appointments may suggest an interest in clothes; he was named on 31 Mar. to the committee for the bill to regulate the millinery trade, to which he was added on 28 Apr., and he was also appointed to consider two bills to regulate apparel (11 Apr. and 2 June).38 His other bill committees were concerned with the separation of the Surrey village of Blindley from the parish of Godstone (11 May), and the proper observance of Exchequer procedure (14 June). On 29 June, as the session drew to a close, he was appointed one of the collectors of the Commons’ Benevolence.39

In the second session, Bowyer was among those instructed on 22 Jan. 1606 to consider the best means of providing a learned and resident ministry.40 Of his 13 other committees, several concerned London. One dealt with the revived bill to restrict new building (24 Jan.), while others were concerned with repealing a clause in the 1604 Thames Watermen Act, the collection of small debts (both on 28 Jan.), and the construction of the New River, which would provide the City with water from the Lea Valley (31 January).41 On 30 Jan. Bowyer was named to consider the bill against purveyance.42 He was appointed to attend the supply conference of 12 Feb. with the Lords, and was among those ordered to consider the bill to repair a Surrey highway between Nonsuch and Tolworth (2 Apr.) and to attend the king with the Commons’ grievances on 14 May.43

On 30 Oct. 1606 Chancery appointed Bowyer, together with George Rivers*, to examine the parish accounts of St. Saviour’s, Southwark as part of a continuing lawsuit between the select vestry and an opposing group among the local inhabitants. The following December the critics of the vestry, presumably perceiving Bowyer and Rivers as sympathetic to their cause, tried to refer seven articles detailing further grievances to the commissioners, but were blocked by the vestry.44 The inhabitants also sponsored a bill in the Commons in the 1606-7 session to enlarge the select vestry, which measure Bowyer was appointed to consider on 25 Feb. 1607.45

Bowyer was named to a further ten committees in the third session. Once again these included committees on bills to halt new building in London (8 Dec. 1606) and to regulate watermen (3 Mar. 1607).46 He was also appointed to consider a private bill to enable the father of John Evelyn* to sell lands in Surrey (26 Nov. 1606). Finally, on 28 May 1607, after Members drifted back only slowly to the Commons after the Whitsun recess, he was added to the privileges committee to consider a bill to improve attendance.47

Early in 1610 Bowyer joined in the local protest against a project to supply London with water from the River Wandle in Surrey.48 Among his 17 committees during the fourth session was one to consider a bill to repeal the 1606 New River Act, which had authorized a rival scheme to the Wandle project (20 June).49 On 15 Feb. he was appointed to attend the conference at which the earl of Salisbury (Robert Cecil†) outlined the Crown’s offer to surrender various feudal incidents in return for a fixed annual income. He was subsequently named to committees to consider bills to confirm Magna Carta (3 Mar.); protect magistrates from ‘troublesome and contentious suits’ (28 Mar.); reform the Marshalsea Court in Southwark and the debtors’ prison attached to it (29 Mar.); and (it seems most likely) to establish London’s Leadenhall Market rather than Blackwell Hall as the place in which to buy and sell ‘new drapery’ cloths (19 April).50

In October 1613 Bowyer was sued by the Virginia Company for failing to pay £37 10s. which he had subscribed three years earlier.51 Re-elected for Surrey the following year he was named to four committees, three of them on 8 Apr., when he was named to the committee for privileges, ordered to assist in the search for precedents concerning the eligibility of the attorney-general (Sir Francis Bacon*) to sit in the Commons, and to recommend statutes for repeal or continuance.52 Twelve days later his colleague Sir George More successfully moved that he might have leave ‘to go to the Bath, for prevention of the palsy, whereunto he is subject’.53 He had returned by 24 May, when he was named to the committee to consider a bill against the false and deceitful dyeing of silk.54 On what proved to be the last day of the Parliament he was presumably the ‘Sir John Bowyer’ who proposed that consideration of the subsidy should be postponed for two days.55 He contributed £20 to the Benevolence levied after the dissolution.56

The following year Bowyer was appointed one of the first governors of Camberwell grammar school, and in 1619 he was present at the formal opening of Dulwich College, the foundation of his neighbour Edward Alleyn.57 In 1620 he was active in raising money for the Elector Palatine in Surrey, but was among those summoned before the Privy Council in early 1622 for refusing to pay the Benevolence levied for the same purpose.58 He presumably made payment, as he subsequently served as a collector.

Bowyer did not sit in the third Jacobean Parliament, but was returned for Gatton in 1624, presumably with the support of the earl of Nottingham, who had significant influence in the borough, and William Copley, the Catholic lord of the manor to whom Bowyer was related by marriage.59 He was again named to four committees: to consider bills about drunkenness (26 Feb.), bankruptcy (22 Mar.), infanticide (29 Apr.), and London’s brewers (19 May).60 The following year he was appointed to the court of High Commission.

Bowyer drafted his will on 11 July 1626. He had asked to be buried in the chancel of Camberwell Church, near to his wife, ‘and that to be done in the day time, my body not to be bowelled, but to go to the earth as I came into this world, and with such decency as fitteth the honour of a knight’. He was generous to the poor of Camberwell and other parishes, left a mourning gown and £5 to his chaplain Edward Wilson as well as a mourning gown to the vicar of Camberwell and £5 to the lecturer. Having no children of his own his nephew Edmund, who was elected for Gatton in 1660 and Surrey in 1661, succeeded to the Camberwell property and to his books, both in his home and in his study at Lincoln’s Inn. He died the following February.61

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Authors: Alan Davidson / Ben Coates


  • 1. Coll. Top. et Gen. iii. 151-2; LI Admiss.; Vis. Surr. (Harl. Soc. xliii), 32.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 107.
  • 3. WARD 7/75/17.
  • 4. Cal. Assize Recs. Surr. Indictments, Eliz. I ed. J.S. Cockburn, 182; E163/18/12, f. 78.
  • 5. Surr. Hist. Cent. LM/1380/2.
  • 6. HMC 7th Rep. 652; Surr. Hist. Cent. LM/1510; SP14/31/1; C212/22/21, 23.
  • 7. APC, 1597-8, p. 491; C181/1, f. 46; 181/2, f. 191; 181/3, ff. 114v, 161v.
  • 8. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 137.
  • 9. C181/1, ff. 31, 93v; 181/2, f. 73v; 181/3, ff. 1, 97, 198v, 208v.
  • 10. C181/1, ff. 5v, 113v.
  • 11. C181/1, f. 71v.
  • 12. C33/112, f. 21.
  • 13. C181/2, f. 70.
  • 14. SP14/43/107; Harl. 354, f. 68v; E403/2732, f. 129v.
  • 15. M.S. Giuseppi, ‘River Wandle in 1610’, Surr. Arch. Colls. xxi. 176.
  • 16. C181/2, ff. 142, 199.
  • 17. Add. 27877, f. 140.
  • 18. HMC 7th Rep. 670; C66/2384/3.
  • 19. W.H. Blanch, Ye Par. of Camerwell, 251.
  • 20. APC, 1619-21, p. 203.
  • 21. SP14/135/62.
  • 22. C181/3, f. 98v.
  • 23. T. Rymer, Foedera, viii. pt. 2, p. 144; C193/12/2, f. 57v.
  • 24. C66/2384/3.
  • 25. Rymer, vii. pt. 1, p. 117, pt. 4, p. 136; APC, 1589-90, p. 91; 1599-1600, p. 644.
  • 26. CD 1621, vii. 442.
  • 27. Rymer, viii. pt. 1, p. 59.
  • 28. R.G. Usher, Rise and Fall of High Commission, 346.
  • 29. Recs. Virg. Co. ed. S.M. Kingsbury, iii. 45.
  • 30. J.G. Nichols, ‘Bowyer of Camberwell’, Surr. Arch. Colls. iii. 220-6; LI Black Bks. ii. 14; PROB 11/151, f. 211; VCH Surr. iv. 29; Manning and Bray, Surr. iii. 411, 422; HMC 7th Rep. 651.
  • 31. CLRO, Rep. 26/1, f. 163; Rep. 27, f. 44.
  • 32. APC, 1588, p. 223; CSP Dom. 1598-1601, p. 322; R. W. Kenny, ‘Parlty. Influence of Charles Howard, Earl of Nottingham’, JMH, xxxix. 223.
  • 33. CJ, i. 154b, 162b, 222b.
  • 34. Ibid. 202a.
  • 35. Ibid. 155b, 157a.
  • 36. Ibid. 188a.
  • 37. Ibid. 187b, 204a, 235b.
  • 38. Ibid. 160b, 167a, 189a, 984a.
  • 39. Ibid. 206b, 238b, 250b.
  • 40. Ibid. 258a.
  • 41. Ibid. 259b, 260b, 262b.
  • 42. Ibid. 261b.
  • 43. Ibid. 267a, 292a, 309a.
  • 44. LMA, P92/SAV/450, p. 381.
  • 45. CJ, i. 340b.
  • 46. Ibid. 328b, 352b.
  • 47. Ibid. 376a.
  • 48. Giuseppi, 179.
  • 49. CJ, i. 442a.
  • 50. Ibid. 393b, 404b, 415b, 416a, 419a. For a discussion of the Leadenhall Market bill, see LONDON.
  • 51. Recs. Virg. Co. iii. 45.
  • 52. Procs. 1614 (Commons), 33-5.
  • 53. Ibid. 109.
  • 54. Ibid. 330.
  • 55. Ibid. 439.
  • 56. E351/1950.
  • 57. Blanch, 424, 429.
  • 58. Loseley Mss ed. A.J. Kempe, 223; SP14/127/80.
  • 59. Manning and Bray, Surr. ii. 473, 513.
  • 60. CJ, i. 674b, 705b, 745a, 779a.
  • 61. PROB 11/151, f. 211; WARD 7/75/17.