Bowles DNA Project
Charles Bowles of Chatham
Back to The Bowles of Kent
Note: My Bowles line in Canada has now been traced back, with a reasonable likelihood, to this Charles Bowles of Chatham. See William Bowles of Wingfield, co. Wexford for a discussion of this connection.
Charles Bowles of Chatham's line has long been accepted to have its origins with the Bolles of Gosberton as is indicated by the family's use of The Bolles of Swineshead, Lincolnshire's Coat of Arms. They seem to share a common root with the Bolles of Deal and The Bowles of St. Margaret's at Cliffe, Kent. The recent discovery of an extensive line of Boles in Kent going back to the 1200's though warrants a closer examination of this assumed relationship. See The Boles of Ickham.
Charles Bowles and his descendants could not have used his arms without being able to justify that use to the Heralds College. There are no signs that the Bolles of Deal or St Margarets used those same arms though so until such use or other proof is found their origin in Lincolnshire cannot be assumed.
Charles Bowles was a wealthy landowner in Kent and Sussex who held a number of important offices during the Commonwealth which gave him many opportunities for personal enrichment. He was a friend and employee of the great shipwright Phineas Pett, who refers to him in his diary on several occasions in a way that suggests Charles was a good-natured, bright young man. One of Charles' sons, Phineas Bowles, probably named in honor of Pett, succeeded Samuel Pepys as Secretary to The Navy in 1689. Another son, John Bowles of Eltham, established a first window pane manufacturing factory in England using technology he came across in Venice while conducting trade between England and Turkey. Other descendants in this line include the poet laureate Caroline Bowles Southey , Charles Bradshaw Bowles, and Brigadier General Phineas Bowles.
For help keeping the many Phineas Bowles in this line straight in your mind, please see Sorting Out The Various Phineas Bowles.
Charles Bowles of Chatham's Story
We don't know Charles' parents and we don't know where he came from prior to the first reference to him in Chatham in 1632 when as a young man he took on the position in the Navy Office as Clerk to the great shipwright Phineas Pett who was then Commissioner of Chatham Dockyard. We do know that he was somehow related to Sir Edward Nicholas (1593-1669), the Secretary of the Navy (1630-1640) at that time. ref.
Phineas Pett recorded in his diary entry of July 5, 1633: "being a Friday, I began a journey from Chatham by sea into Suffolk in the little Henrietta pinnace commanded by Captain Cook, one of the Master Attendants of his Majesty's Navy, accompanied with young Mr. Henry Palmer, Mr. Isackson, son Yardley, cousin Joseph, my sons Peter and Christopher, man Charles Bowles and George Parker." The trip was to call on Mrs. Cole at Woodbridge regarding the planned marriage of Phineas' son Peter Pett to her daughter Katherine Cole. On the Tuesday, Mrs. Cole and her daughters were entertained aboard their ship. This was probably the occasion on which Charles met Mrs. Cole's third daughter, Agnes, who he would marry in Chatham on Oct. 26, 1637. This marriage indicates that Charles was already of good family and fortune or his marriage to such an heiress would not have been permitted.
See also Charles Bowles and Phineas Pett for more about Charles career with Phineas Pett.
Charles and Anne made their home at Chatham where they raised a family. During the civil war, Charles supported the Parliamentary side and held a commission as Captain in the Parliamentary Army balancing his civil duties with his duties in the field. In 1647 Charles was Keeper of the New Dock at Chatham. Around 1649 he moved across the river to Rochester where several more children were baptized at St. Margaret's, Rochester. During this period he grew rich and prosperous probably benefitting largely from his position as Keeper of the Out Stores at Chatham Dockyard (reference dated Oct. 24, 1644). Around 1653 he purchased Rome House adjoining St. Mary's churchyard in in Chatham. In the last year of his life, 1658 to 1659, Charles served the office of High Sheriff of Kent. According to W.H. Bowles, Charles extensive landholdings at that time included land in Kent, Suffolk and Yorkshire. He was Lord of the Manors of Court Lodge, Frindesbury in Kent and of Melton and Kingston in Suffolk.
Despite the wealth of documentation around Charles' life in Chatham there are no references to any others of his family. While a connection to Lincolnshire is suspected it may have been Charles' Parliamentary sympathies which seperated him from the strongly Royalist Lincolnshire family.