Bowles DNA Project
The Bowles of Essex
Back to The Bowles of Great
While the Bowles surname, and variants, appears all over Essex the earliest would be a branch of the de Boelles. This family first arrived in England as knights of their Lord Hugh de Gournay who was one of the most powerful Norman Lords to support William, Prince of Normandy's conquest of England in 1066. After winning the Battle of Hastings and setting himself up as the new King of England, William assigned large areas of England to his Norman supporters. The de Boelles would have initially helped de Gournay to claim his assigned territory but once that was achieved they would have sought their own land to hold. This could have been assigned to them by their own Lord or by their own initiative. Younger sons of the family would have attached themselves to other Lords who needed additional knights to maintain order in exchange for land in their demesne. Another way was to marry an heiress with land or was likely to inherit land as a woman could not legally hold land once married, it went to her husband. The de Boelles established themselves in Bedfordshire in the 1100's and in several other counties including Essex by the 1200's.
A team research project by Alan Bowles, David Cooper and Tom LaPorte
The earliest record of a Bowles in Essex that I have found is one from 1480 when John Bolle of Kent held a joint lease on Southchurch Hall which today is the oldest standing building in Essex. ref. ref.
Most of the Bowles records I received were concentrated in the Colchester area chiefly at Halstead, Earl's Colne and Wake's Colne to the northwest and at Kelvedon to the southwest. These two areas are about 5 to 8 miles apart so their records can be considered together. The Estate of Kelvedon came into the possession of the Bolles of Swineshead and Haugh, Lincolnshire in 1464 but they sold it again in 1469 ref. and it's not known if the Bowles of that area are their descendants.
I have also found a large number of Bowles references at Romford.
The Bowles of Eltham, co. Kent also had a connection to Essex. Humphrey Bowles (see 2.3.12 in the Bowles of Eltham family tree) bought Wanstead Grove near Romford in 1759 and the property was passed down through several generations until it was sold in 1849. Also from the Eltham line, the Rev. George Cranley Bowles (see 184.108.40.206.1.2 in the Bowles of Eltham family tree) was the Rector of East Thorpe from 1845 until his death in 1878.
The lone Bowles of Great Bromley reference was married at Halstead so I've included it with the Bowles of Colchester mentioned above. There are a few records at Waltham Abbey and at Great Waltham which have not yet been connected up but I've also included them under Colchester.
I have heard something of a Bowles line at Tollesbury but not in enough detail to include specific information here yet. However in this same area there are references for Bowles at Maldon, Heybridge, Ulting, Woodham Walter and at Hatfield Peveril. See the Bowles on the Blackwater Estuary