Bowles DNA Project
The Bowles of London and Middlesex
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The earliest Bowles references in England go back to Medieval London with a Henry le Bole who was the Sheriff of London in 1292/93 and then an Alderman of London until 1298. There are many references in the 1300's for other Boles in London at that time who were cordwainers (shoemakers), skinners, butchers, bakers, tailors etc. The sheer number of references implies that the Bole family was well represented in London well prior to this period as well but the records from those very early times are very scarce and thise few surviving records were generally for only the wealthiest people. All of these references used the Bole spelling and several used the bull as their symbol on the wax seals on official documents. That would indicate a Saxon rather than Norman origin for these Boles. Bowles descendants should not be concerned about this Bole spelling at this early date as the Bowles name did not appear in England for many years after this but seems to have developed over time from the Bole, Bolle and possibly de Busli lines. Please see Middle English Origins of the Bowles, Norman Origins of the Bowles and Old English Naming Conventions
Please see The Early History of the Boles in London for an analysis of the earliest records I could find.
A member of the Bolles of Gosberton, Lincolnshire line became a very successful merchant/grocer in London in the late16th century. He eventually served a term as the Lord Mayor of London in 1617/18 and was one of the partners in the Virginia Company. See Sir George Bolles of London
In the late 17th century a Bowles printing dynasty developed which would largely dominate the flourishing London printing trade for over a century. The founder of the dynasty was Thomas Bowles, who is sometimes stated to have been the son of John Bowles, a joiner (carpenter) of St. Lawrence (Poultry) parish but that is unproven. His first known work was a broadside (pamphlet) published in 1683 but the family would become known for elaborate, detailed illustrations of historic events, people, buildings, scenery and maps. From a humble beginning, living over a small shop in London, the family's fortunes rose to a peak in the late 1700's/early 1800's with Carrington Bowles and his son Henry Carrington Bowles who built the great house, Myddelton, in Hertford in 1818. See The Bowles Families of London, Printers and The Bowles of Myddelton House for this family's story.
A second family of Bowles printers/stationers who also appeared in London at this time, James and Thomas Bowles, were a branch of The Bowles of Abingdon, Berkshire.
In the 1690's a George Bowles of London was a fellow Quaker and close associate of William Penn's. He may have had a connection to the Bowles of Wiltshire and to a Quaker branch in Cork, Ireland but who were possibly from Wiltshire, whose landlord was the famous Society of Friends (called Quakers) leader William Penn. See The Boles of Cork.
There was also a Sir William Bowles of Clerkenwell but that story has not yet been fully researched. Work on that is underway.