Bowles DNA Project
The Bolles of Chartham, Kent
When W. H. Bowles wrote his "Records of the Bowles Family", published in 1918, he did not have access to the Internet and online searchable indexes and catalogues of historic documents preserved in archives spread across England. Nor had the Church of England yet made its files available to public inquiry.
W. H. Bowles believed that a branch of the Lincolnshire family had arrived in Kent in the 15th century:
"That there was a family of our name settled in Kent from very early times, and possessed of estates in the neighbourhood of Canterbury, is shown by numerous references in county records. The earliest known settlement of this family was in Shalmesford Street, a hamlet in the parish of Chartham, about three miles from Canterbury. The family house is described in the ancient charters as “Bolles Hall, a Mansion,” which gave its name to a manor of which the Bolles’ were lords. They also had possessions at Chilham and the adjoining parishes, in the city of Canterbury, and at Feversham, and elsewhere in Kent."
The fact that the Bolles of Chartham re-named their "family house" (Chartham Manor) to be Bolles Hall was an indication to W. H. Bowles that this early line was connected to the ancient line of The Bolles of Swineshead and their Bolle Hall in Lincolnshire. This idea was further reinforced by their obvious wealth. However, it now appears that the Boles of Chartham were a local Kentish branch, although possibly with Norman roots, who built up their wealth over a period of time through land ownership and the tanning trade. See The Bolles Hall of Chartham
The Boles in this area actually pre-date the rise of the Swineshead Bolles. Both the Kent Hundred Roll of 1274/75 and the Kent Lay Subsidy of 1334/35 document Bolles of considerable standing in the Hundred of Westgate an area extending from the west gate of Canterbury to the Milton Church on the edge of Chartham. They also held land in the Hundred of Felborough (which included Chartham parish) and in the next hundred to the north, the Hundred of Boughton. These references would indicate that they were quite prosperous land holders and amongst the leading gentry of their hundred. See The Bolles of Westgate Hundred
A John Bolle was amongst the Earl of Lancaster's supporters who opposed the King from 1314 until an open rebellion broke out in 1321. John would have been at the same social level as the Bolles of Westgate as typically Lancaster's supporters were the Barons and other higher aristocracy of England the actions which he took part in on Lancaster's behalf all occurred near Canterbury so there may have been some connection. See John Bolle and the Civil War of 1321/22
The earliest sign of a Bole connection to Chartham is a grant signed between 1329 and 1350 involving Richard de Boles' land in Ickham (which had been in the Boles family since the early 1200's at least) which was apparently signed in Chartham as it was witnessed by Thomas Munde, Robert Torold and James upe Doune all of Chartham. Richard Bolle is also listed in the Kent Lay Subsidy of 1334/35 as holding land in Felborough Hundred (which includes Chartham) and in Boughton Hundred.
The next Bole reference I have for Chartham is for William Bolle of Chartham, tanner, acquiring a messuage (a dwelling with its out buildings), 10 acres of land and 1 acre of alder forest in Chartham in 1401 from Richard Tanner of Selling for 10 marks. ref.
The Roll of Freemen of the City of Canterbury of 1357 includes a Thomas Bolle, cooper and a John Bolle, son of Thomas Bolle, cooper was made a Freeman of Canterbury in 1406. (Canterbury Cathedral Archives (CCA), Rolls of Freemen)
There is a grant from 1367 in the CCA for a Thomas Bolle's purchase of some land at Blean about 5 miles north of Chartham. ref. The catalogue entry shows that it bears a seal which might be Thomas' and if so could be compared with other seals on other documents at the CCA.
Of particular interest is an Exchange Agreement signed at Chartham in 1407 witnessed by William Bolle, John Petite and three others. ref. This is another pretty good indication of a connection between the Bolles of Canterbury and The Boles of Ickham as we know from a land grant from 1467 that the heirs of John Petyt of Shalmsford inherited land adjacent to the Boles land in Ickham. Their relationship continued for years as John Petite's son William also bought some land from Henry Bole of Chartham in 1456. ref. Shalmsford is the village just SW of Chartham where William Bolle settled and is the location of the Bolles Hall. However, in 1407 the Bolles had not yet occupied the Hall. See The Boles of Ickham for more about the two other grants mentioned above.Chartham Manor had been granted to William Fordmelle and William Bacsnorthe, both of Chartham, and John Faunt of Chilham in the early 1400's for a term of 5 years and that was renewed at least once in 1423 for another 5 years. There is a draft lease attached to the renewal which referred to some land at Cooting in Adisham parish. That land would have been just south of Simon Boles former land in Ickham. Ref1 Ref2
In 1412 Thomas Bolle jr. of Chartham leased 8 ½ acres of land in Chartham from the Canterbury Cathedral Priory. ref.
The Will of John Darelle dated October 14, 1438 includes this: "I leave to the executors of the Will of William Bolle of Chartham 10 marcs." ref.
A grant to John Malvyll dated 1437 refers to his land "in Chartham parish with the King's Highway to south and the garden of Thomas Bolle to east" ref. and a lease dated 1462 refers to land in Chartham lying with "the land late of Thomas Bolle to the south, 'Malefeld' to west and the land of John Hewhet to north." ref. Note: from these two we can see that 'Malefeld' would be John Malvyll's field and that Thomas Bolle (II) had passed away prior to 1462 as his land was described as "late of Thomas Bolle". In fact he probably died just prior to 1759 (see below).
A grant from 1466 to Thomas Bolle (note: this is Thomas III) of Chartham parish refers to 1 ½ acres of woodland at 'Trenhamme' in Chartham parish lying with Thomas' (i.e. Thomas III) land to the south and the land of the heirs of Thomas Bolle (i.e. Thomas II) to the east." ref. Another grant from the same year to Thomas Bolle (III) of Chartham regarding 4 acres of land at Trenhamme lying with the land of the heirs of Thomas Bolle (II) to the north and states that Thomas (III) held the land as the gift of the late Thomas Bolle (II). ref. Note: a William Malvyle is a witness on both grants.
Chartham Manor was first granted to a Bolles in 1457 with a Lease from the Prior and Convent of Canterbury Cathedral Priory to Thomas Bynge, husbandman of Thanington; Thomas Bolle (II), husbandman of Chartham; Henry Goodbacon, husbandman of Chilham; William Pette, husbandman of Chartham and Hamon Pope, husbandman of Godmersham. ref. This lease has to be examined to verify just which portions of the Chartham Manor were included as the summary refers to exclusions. This is likely the house at Shalmsford unless the Bolles had two great houses close together and there are no indications of that.
Therefore Thomas II was alive in 1457 and appears to have died by 1459 when the house at Shalmsford was held by John Bolle of London.A Will drawn up in 1459 for John Bolle, a grocer in London but who was born in Chartham refers to his "grete house at Shamelford' which must refer to their house at Shalmsford which would later be called Bolle Hall. His earlier Will of 1449 did not mention the house so if John's father was Thomas II, as he appears to have been, it is likely that Thomas II had died just prior to John writing his new Will in 1459 specifying his new property. This is likely the same John Bolle who on Mar. 8, 1450 sold his rights to a house and land in Chartham 'John Bolle and others, convey to Henry and John Hope a house and 26 acres of land in Chartham' and then seems to have settled in London. (CCA-CC-WOODRUFF/36/8) It would be great to view that document to get the names of the 'others' who were mentioned in the sale.
From these Wills we also know that John's wife's name was Blanche with whom he had a son and heir John; that he had a half-brother William; brothers Richard, Thomas and Henry, a sister Alice and a nephew John, his brother Henry's son. See John Bolle, Grocer of London
That would be the same John Bolle and wife Agnes who sold a messuage, 26 acres of land, 2 acres of meadow and 4 acres of wood in Chartham to Henry Pesok, clerk, in 1449 for the very high figure for those times of 20 pounds sterling. ref.
The above assumes that the great hall passed from Thomas II to John directly as father to son but it wouldn't be the first time that a great house had passed to a nephew or a cousin rather than fater to son. It's possible that these siblings were the children of some close relation such as John Bolle and his wife Alice Clyndene of Kent who owned land in Seasalter on the estuary of the Thames in 1380. There were likely other John Bolle's in Kent but two in this very early period who were quite significant landowners were likely to be related. It would be consistent that John's mother would be an Alice as he also had a sister Alice.
The children did inherit the Bolles great house and the land at Trenhamme from Thomas Bolle II but if Thomas II was childless his heir could have been his nephew John. Perhaps Thomas II's Will will come to light some day.
A lease dated Sep 24, 1476 is from the Prior of Canterbury Cathedral Priory to Thomas Bolle (III), William Bolle, junior, William and John Harry and William Bacsnorth for Chartham Manor with crops and stock as specified except for specified buildings, lands and rights for annual payments of £34, 21 quarts of wheat and 42 quarts of barley. Another requirment was the keeping of records for the manor and for holding courts. (CCA-DCc-BB/43/6) This document includes 4 seals one of which is almost certainly the Bolle seal which should be documented. An undated lease from the same period mentions that John Bolle is bound by the same £100 bond as William Bolle of Chartham Manor. ref. The actual bond agreement is also available at the archives. From that catalogue entry it would seem that William Bolle jr. may be underage as the other four are providing the £100 bond on William's behalf. All five are also stated to be tanners. ref.
A deed dated 1478 involves Thomas and William Bolle holding the Chilham Rectory under the ownership of Elizabeth, the Abbess of the Convent of Svon. ref.
A grant dated 1481 to Thomas Bolle, tanner, of Shalmsford for additional land in Trenham has witnesses William a Pette, William Harry, John Strongge and others. It seems strange that Thomas Bolle, who is holding court at the Manor, would still be described as a tanner but that is confirmed in a land grant witnessed by Thomas Bolle for his co-leaseholder William Harry in 1481. ref.
Another bond from 1484 has William Harry, John Harry, Thomas Bolle and William Bolle Jr., son of Thomas, providing a £50 bond to William Selling, Prior of Canterbury Cathedral Priory, in support of their lease of Chartham Manor for one year. Thomas is again stated to be a tanner. ref.
In 1497, William Bolle obtained an exclusive 7 year grant for Chartham Manor, except for buildings, lands and rights as specified and for annual payments of £10 and a quantity of wheat and barley. One of his conditions was to hold the manor court but I have not obtained the complete document to establish the full terms of his grant. The grant summary includes a comment that William Bolle, John Bolle and Henry Gosebourne were bound by a bond of the same date for 100 marks. ref. It would have been after this that the house became known as Bolle Hall.
A release by John Bolle of Chartham dated 17 Henry VII (1501) refers to his wife Joan, one of the the kinswomen and heiresses of William Moyle through William's sister Agnes Hovynton and cedes their interest in a tenement in St. Sepulchre without Newgate parish in the ward of Faryngton Without to the use of Robert Rede, knight. ref.
In a very badly damaged document dated between 1503 and 1511, William Bolle, tanner, releases some land in Trenham which had been inherited from his father Thomas Bolle (Sr.). ref. So both Thomas Bolle Jr. and William Bolle were tanners.
On Aug. 12, 1486 a Richard Bolle leased a garden at Chartham to William Halle. (CCA-CC-WOODRUFF/36/7) This would likely be John Bolle's son Richard as mentioned in his 1459 Will or, as John had several brothers, this could be a nephew. This document is listed in the CCA catalogue as having a seal which I would like to document some day.The Calendar of Wills and Administrations lists Wills for the following Bolles of Chartham: Richard (1495), William (1509) and John (1521).
There are no later records in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives for Bolles in Chartham but that doesn't mean that there aren't more to be found yet. Hasted wrote that the Bolle family became "extinct" at Chatham at the beginning of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558). The above last two documents being Releases may be an indication that the family was in the process of moving on.
Possible Family Tree for the Bolle's of Chartham (this is just a best guess based on the above information)