BOWES, Sir Martin (c.1497-1566), of London, Woolwich and North Cray, Kent.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Mar. 1553
Apr. 1554
Nov. 1554

Family and Education

b. c.1497, 1st s. of Thomas Bowes of York. m. (1) by 1526, Cicely Eliott, at least 2s.; (2) by 1538, Anne, da. of John Barrett of Aveley, Essex, at least 5s. 3da.; (3) 1554, Elizabeth, da. of Thomas Harlowe, wid. of William Billingsley, haberdasher of London, at least 1s. Said to have had 18 ch. in all. Kntd. 1541.1

Offices Held

Warden, Goldsmiths’ 1532-3, 1534-6, upper warden 1537-8, 1540-2, 1549-51, 1553-7, 1558-62; dep. master of the mint from 1526, master 1533-44, under-treasurer Tower I 1544-50; auditor, London 1536, alderman 1536-d., sheriff 1540-1, mayor 1545-6.2

J.p. Kent from 1539, Mdx. 1547-54, from 1557.


Bowes was born at York, and came to London at the age of 14. A goldsmith and mint official, he was an energetic member of the City corporation for over 25 years, serving for many years on the governing bodies of the London hospitals, making generous donations to local charities, and in 1559 being assessed for the subsidy at £700 in goods. In 1560 he gave £20, an outstandingly high contribution, towards the London grant for providing soldiers for the Queen’s ships, and in the following year he presented to the Goldsmiths a handsome standing cup bearing his arms, the Bowes cup, still one of the company’s finest pieces. During the last years of his life he seems to have spent much of his time at Woolwich, where he founded almshouses, enfeoffing them in September 1565 to the Goldsmiths’ company.3

Few references have been found to his character or private life: his portrait in Goldsmiths’ Hall, painted in 1566, shows him as a stout, jovial, clean-shaven man, wearing a furred gown and a heavy gold chain—a typical City father. Since he was an active member of the corporation throughout the ecclesiastical changes of the period, it is not surprising to find him described in the bishops’ reports of 1564 as ‘indifferent’ in religion. On one occasion he referred, neutrally, to ‘certain alterations in the world’. His dislike of the task of examining the heretic Anne Askew was probably due as much to humanity as to protestant sympathies, but his will, made in August 1565, is protestant: in it he provided for memorial sermons to be preached in London by three puritan clergymen, Crawley, Gough and Philipott. He left large sums to poor prisoners and lazar houses in London, and for the repair of highways in and near the City; also to provide an ‘honest dinner’ for the Goldsmiths on the day of his burial, and another, at his house, for the lord mayor and aldermen and the parishioners of St. Mary Woolnoth. He arranged for the custody of his two youngest children, and left lands to his second son Martin, one of the executors. The other executor, the eldest son Thomas (‘God forgive his folly’), had already cost his father four times more than his portion of goods through evil living. Sir William Cordell and Justice Southcott were appointed supervisors, and asked to see that the executors paid all outstanding debts although, Bowes added, ‘to my knowledge I do not owe £20’. He died 4 Aug. 1566 and was buried in St. Mary Woolnoth. His widow afterwards married Thomas Seckford I of Woodbridge.4

Ref Volumes: 1558-1603

Author: N. M. Fuidge


  • 1. DNB; Hasted, Kent, Blackheath, ed. Drake, 149 n; Harl. 897, f. 21; PCC 3 Stonard; Vis. Essex (Harl. Soc. xiii), 27; CPR, 1550-3, p. 433; W. S. Prideaux, Mems. Goldsmiths’ Co. i. App. 336; Reg. St. Mary Woolnoth, 2 et passim; York Civic Recs. v. 20, 153; vii. 256.
  • 2. Goldsmiths’ Company mss; LP Hen. VIII, passim; CPR, 1549-51, p. 226; E381/2078, ex inf. Dr. C. E. Challis; London, jnl. 14, ff. D, 45b, 216a; 15, f. 194a; London recs. rep. 9, f. 223b; 13, ii. ff. 518b, 519a.
  • 3. J. B. Carrington and G. R. Hughes, Plate of the Worshipful Co. of Goldsmiths, 55 seq.; Prideaux, i. 69; J. Stow, Survey of London, ed. Strype, i(2), p. 161.
  • 4. Prideaux, i. 56, 77; Cam. Misc. ix(3), p. 60; York Civic Recs. vi. 27; Narratives of the Reformation (Cam. Soc. lxxvii), 40-1; PCC 3 Stonard, abstracted by R. R. Sharpe, Cal. of Wills in Court of Husting, ii. (2) 694 seq.; C142/146/118; Machyn Diary (Cam. Soc. xlii), 335-6 n; Stow, Survey, loc. cit.