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The Bolles of Deal, Kent

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The Bolles of Deal have been a major focus for many Bowles family historians as they, Valentine and Tobias Bolles of Deal in particular, played a significant role in the development of the Virginia and Maryland colonies in America where their line continues today.  However, they did not appear in Deal until 1659 (baptism of Valentine's eldest son Tobias) and, while there are many theories, there is no proof of where they were before that.  Some have claimed a Lincolnshire origin for them through the Charles Bowles of Chatham line and show the Bolles of Swineshead, Lincolnshire coat-of-arms on their family history sites although there is no indication that the Bolles of Deal themselves used those arms.  This belief is likely based on the work done by W. H. Bowles in his Records of the Bowles Family in which he proposed a connection between the two families which was largely based on the use of the given name Phineas in both families and the baptism of a Valentine Bolles in Rochester which is adjacent to Chatham.

This connection is still entirely possible, nothing has disproved it, but more recent research has indicated a more likely local origin for this family.

The surname Bolle has been prominent in Kent since the 1200's and in the area around Deal since at least the early 1300's.  That doesn't necessarily mean that the Bolles of Deal must have descended from these early Bolles but it opens up that possibility.   I'll explore that further here.

The name seems to have appeared independently in many different locations in England, including a couple of places in Kent.  The Boles of Ickham and later Chartham line has been documented back to 1222.  Little importance should be given to the surname spelling as the Bolle spelling occurs throughout the Bole history as does the Bole spelling occur in Bolle records.  Some branches of both lines adopted the Bowles spelling in later generations as that name gradually became the most prominent in the country.

The earliest record that I can find for the Bolles in the immediate neighbourhood of Deal is in the Kent Lay Subsidy of 1334/35 for the Hundred of Cornilo ref. which included Great Mongeham, Deal, Ringwould and Walmer ref. (all places where we later find Bolles) and also in the adjoining Hundred of Blengate ref. where their assessment indicates they were pretty well off.  (look this one up)

Deal did not obtain a charter for its own administration until 1699.  Before that it was subject to Sandwich just to the north.  Bolles had lived in Sandwich from the 1300's to the 1600's, at Great Mongeham before 1552 (ref. Will of Stephen Bowll of Great Mongeham from 1552), at Ringwould by 1575 (see The Bowles of Ringwould) and at Walmer by 1615  but not right in Deal until 1631. Recent research by Sue Buckman makes a good case for Valentine being the son of Anthony Bowle who was in turn the son of a Richard Bowle who married Annis Heringe in Deal in 1568 and then settled in Ringwould. My attempt at The Bowles of Deal Family Tree presents that solution.

Whever Valentine Bolles of Deal's father was, the question remains, which Bolle line did his family come from?  I believe the strong case for a local origin, considering the large number of Bolle in the surrounding communities of St Margarets at Cliffe, Great Mongeham, Walmer, Ringwould and Sandwich, is the most likely.  Sandwich has the oldest references and like the Bolles of Deal were also merchants and mariners, so may be the common root.

There is also a very slight chance that Valentine (b. ca. 1630-1640 as he married in about 1658 and had 14 children between 1659 and 1676) was the son of one of the Dutch Bolles who had lived in Sandwich since 1561.  See The Dutch Bolles of Sandwich

I have a fair amount of research collected for the Bolles of Deal but it is not ready for publication yet.  The one part that I can post is regarding the role that this line played in the South Seas Company's slave trade.  See Bowles In The African Trade.  This aspect of our history has perhaps been previously left out of our family histories but I believe that it's not correct to selectively choose what history should be remembered.  See my note on Reporting People's Lives.  

The following reference is for Mongeham near Deal:

The Calendar of Wills and Administrations lists Wills for the following Bolles of Great Mongeham:

Stephen Bolles (1552)

Stephen Bowle (also 1552)

Richard Bowell of Kingsdown (1511)

From 1633 there was also an extensive Bowles family at St. Margaret's at Cliffe which is just about 8 miles south of Deal.  The Bowles of Deal and the Bowles of St. Margaret's at Cliffe both used the uncommon given name Phineas which is more commonly associated with the Charles Bowles of Chatham line indicating a very likely close relationship between all three branches or at least a common link with Charles Bowles' boss Phineas Pett,the Master Shipwright.

The following submission is courtesy of Mr. Nicholas Boles of London, England who has done extensive research on this line and who has also provided the accompanying family tree.  I would like to express my appreciation for his support of this site.  As well as this material, he has contributed extensively to my documentation of other Boles/Bowles lines in England and also in my documentation of his own line, The Boles of Cork.

Bowles of Deal, Kent, England
courtesy of Nicholas Boles

There has been much confusion over this line, partly due to the family historian WH Bowles mixing up Valentine II with a son of Charles Bowles of Chatham (~1610-1659, who gathered a vast fortune during the Commonwealth as Commissary for Kent), and because some of the family later settled in Maryland, where there are many Kent place names, but no Deal. The best evidence is from the Register of St Margaret’s Rochester, where a William Bowles was baptized on 1st October 1641, the son of Valentine Bowles I and his wife Frances. Rochester and Chatham are neighbouring Kent towns on the Thames Estuary – Rochester sits at the top of the hill with the Cathedral, leaving Chatham with the dockyards down below. Charles Bowles of Chatham was also living in Rochester in 1641, and there is certainly a close family connection between Charles and Valentine I to uncover (brothers or cousins?) – both lines use the name Phineas for example. Several of Valentine II’s children served as officers in the Royal Navy, suggesting the patronage of Charles’s son Phineas, who was high up in the service becoming Secretary after Samuel Pepys in 1689. There was a Valentine Bowles from Somerset, a Vintner living in Bow and Essex, but his 1637 Will mentions no sons, and no connection has been established.

Valentine II was a grocer in Deal, which was a thriving community servicing ships anchored in the lea of the Downs awaiting favourable winds. He was also a Quaker, spending 5 months in prison in 1684 for refusing the Oath of Allegiance, and the births of many of his children are recorded in the Monthly Meeting books. William Penn’s tour of Kent in 1672 (unpublished Journal and spelling erratic) records a visit to Deal where “one Valentine Brooks a notable wise man is there convinced”. His Will of 1710 is a lengthy document, and he was clearly not on trusting terms with all his family on his death! George “has laid too much useless money upon the house which I wish were as when he took it, and also made a shop next my conduit to little purpose”, while Jane had given credit to customers and “ought to bear the loss because she would trust many against my will”, whereas Valentine III “shall not have his part in his possession or disposal, but to have settled on him £16 or £18 pounds a year out of my estate”. His children appear not to have been Quakers.

The eldest son, Tobias, was a wealthy tobacco merchant trading with Virginia, which he visited several times. Tobias was active in politics, securing a Town Charter for Deal in 1699 (which had previously been under the control of Sandwich), serving as Mayor, and petitioning the Government on aspects of trade with the Colonies. In 1709, he was suggested as Governor of Maryland (after the death of Charles Bowles’s son-in-law, John Seymour), but this was not pursued. His son James settled in St Mary’s County, Maryland in 1699, buying 2,000 acres and building a house at Sotterley Plantation in 1703 which still stands (much extended) today. Valentine III was Captain of HMS Sheerness, and dismissed after a court-martial in 1698 for drunkenness and neglect of duty while stationed in the West Indies!

John and George (and possibly Valentine III, IV or V?) settled in Maryland after their father’s death. There are a number of puzzles in the Maryland line. Clearanna Bowles, claimed to be a daughter of Valentine, is born ~1675 in USA and marries William Billingsley ~1690. The Billingsley’s were Quakers, but there is no obvious link to Valentine I, II or III. George Bowles is reported (Mary Louise Donnelly, no sources) to have had children in the USA, but there is no evidence of their birth, and the Wills of George, his wife and John do not name any descendents.

This site was last updated 10/19/18