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Thomas Bowles of Hagley, Worcestershire

Back to The Bowles of Worcestershire or to Bowles in the African Trade

In his book, 'The Forgotten Trade', Nigel Tattersfield describes the role that the South Seas Company played in the African slave trade.  While discussing the Bowles of Deal's involvement with the trade he states that "amongst others of the Bowles family engaged in the slave trade of the time were Tobias and Valentine's (note: of the Bowles of Deal line) first cousins, Thomas and William, who both held senior positions in the South Sea Company."

As I was not aware of any such cousins connected to the Deal line I contacted Mr Tattersfield who has very cooperatively explored that statement with me.  After further research we were able to establish that Thomas Bowles, a Director of the South Seas Company, was in fact connected to the Bowles of Hagley line while William Bowles, also a Director of the same company was from the Bowles of Eltham, Kent line.  Neither of these lines has so far been definitively been connected to the Bowles of Deal line or to each other.  They may yet turn out to be very distant cousins but there is no indication of that yet.

Mr Tattersfield had written in his book that "Thomas returned to England in 1718, settled in West Ham, Essex where he died in 1721.”  Our key find was the Will of Thomas Bowles, merchant of West Ham, Essex dated July 7, 1720 and proved Feb. 8, 1721.

Here are a few notes from his Will:

Thomas Bowles, merchant, Late of London but now of the parish of West Ham, county of Essex ...

His sister Mary Bowles of Clent, Staffordshire had married Thomas Nash; their 7 children included: Thomas Nash, Mary Nash married to Edward Hewetson, Anne Nash, Bridget Nash, Katherine Nash married to Charles Dancer, Bowles Nash, William Nash.
His sister Elizabeth Bowles married Thomas Smart,Attorney at Law, of Wolverhampton, Staffordshire; 5 children named: Josiah Smart, Bridget Smart, Anne Smart, Elizabeth Smart and Diana Smart.
His sister Bridget Bowles, deceased, who married Downing; he left a bequest to her son John Downing, clerk of Enfield, Staffordshire.
Thomas also left bequests to Mrs Elizabeth Bumpsted the Younger who has tended and cared for him through his several years of weaknesses of body and he names her husband, William Bumpsted of London, merchant, to be his Executor.


Thomas Bowles is first on record as 'son of William Bowles of Hagley in the county of Worcester, Gent' being apprenticed to Joseph Bowles, citizen and merchant-taylor of London for 7 years from October 1, 1678.  At an usual age of 14 for an apprenticeship that would make him born about 1664 and he would complete his apprenticeship in 1685.

The 1695 Index of London Inhabitants listing for St Lawrence Pountney parish includes a Mr Joseph Bowles, merchant, widower, and a Thomas Bowles, merchant, batchelor.  Joseph Bowles' Will written in 1699 refers to his cousin Thomas Bowles as his Executor but in case Thomas shall be out of the country when Joseph dies that his cousin Henry Bowles of Kings College, Cambridge to be his Executor.  The probate of this Will in 1703 is to Henry Bowles as the court was advised that Thomas was away in Cadiz, Spain. 

There are other references to Thomas being involved in trade trips abroad.  In February 1696 his ship the St George which he had fitted out as a private man-of-war had captured a French privateer loaded with fish which he had brought back to Bristol but was then charged more duty than the value of the fish but he appealed to the Treasury and the duty was discharged.  In June 1696 he was allowed to bring a large quantity of whalebone and blubber into England without duty although the Customs Officers in London had demanded Foreign duty.  The goods had been taken from the French ship Ann of St John D'Luz by his privateer ship Joseph, John Pennington, master, which he had outfitted at very great charge. ref.

In 1713 the South Seas Company was established to supply the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean and Central and South America with slaves from Africa.  In England they were granted a monopoly for all English trade to the South Seas which at that time referred to the Caribbean, Central and South America.  Spain awarded them a 30 year monopoly with their contract to supply them with slaves which proved to be very problematic as the Spanish authorities in Spain and in the Americas proved to be difficult to deal with.  The company's representative to the Spanish Court was a critical position if the company was to succeed and Thomas was chosen for the job in 1713.  He remained in Spain, with his family, until 1718 when he was recalled to England at his own request due to his failing health.  He wrote to the company's Board of Directors that should he die “contrary to all the Priviledges the English formerly enjoyed, an alcaldi of the corte will enter my house, seize all the goods as well belonging to the Company as to me, and turn my Poor Family and Servants into the Streets upon pretence there is no Legal Heir of their Religion Present." 

There is a bit of a clue there that Thomas was a Catholic as he stated that after his death there would be no-one in his house that met the Spanish requirement that a legal heir of their religion be present.  That may have been one of the requirments for that position in the first place.  Many of the more prominent Bowles lines in England were steadfast Catholics even through the Tudor period.  I'm working on a proof of that statement.  More to come.

According to Thomas' Will, Mrs Elizabeth Bumpsted the Younger tended and cared for him at his home in West Ham, Essex through his several years of weaknesses of body until his death in 1721.  He named her husband, William Bumpsted of London, a merchant and one of the partners in the South Sea Company, to be his Executor.


This site was last updated 10/19/18