I’m trying to establish the exact nature of the link between Bartholomew Fowle, the last prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, and my own Fowle ancestors, since I have doubts about the claim made by some historical sources that he was the son of my 14th great grandfather Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, Kent. There are very few clues available to help with this quest, but I found one in the will of a certain William Fowle, a yeoman farmer who died in Mitcham, Surrey in 1547, in the first year of the reign of Edward VI. The will includes two bequests to ‘Sir bartholomewe ffowle preist’ (1), which suggests a family connection between William and Bartholomew.

Part of William Fowle’s will (via ancestry.co.uk)

We learn from his will that William Fowle was married to a woman named Ellyn and that they had two daughters, Eleanor and Joan, both of whom were unmarried when their father made his will. William also had a brother Richard, who was given responsibility for seeing that William’s wishes were fulfilled after his death. Interestingly, William entrusted Richard with ensuring that some of his money was used to maintain and repair highways in Kent, which suggests a connection to the county, despite William’s residence in Surrey.

In his will William Fowle describes himself as a yeoman, though he seems to have been a man of some property. He mentions a farm in Mitcham, which was probably his main residence, but also an interest in the ‘parsonage and lordship’ of Mitcham and in the parsonage and a garden in nearby Bansted, as well as a property in Camberwell that he bequeaths to Bartholomew Fowle. Interestingly, it seems that the priory of St Mary Overy owned land in Mitcham, known as the manor of Mitcham Canons. According to one source, at the time of the Dissolution the priory ‘held 6 acres of wood at 12d. an acre, 7s. rent and the rectory of Mitcham, worth £16.’ I wonder if this rectory is identical with the parsonage mentioned in William Fowle’s will?

William Fowle makes two bequests to Bartholomew Fowle. The first relates to ‘my …. gardeyn with thappurtenances at Camberwell’. Camberwell is about eight miles from Mitcham, and both are now part of the urban sprawl of south London, but in the sixteenth century, they were villages deep in the Surrey countryside. However, Camberwell is only about three miles from Southwark, where Bartholomew Fowle was given a house to live after the surrender of his priory to Thomas Cromwell. The second bequest to Bartholomew consists of ‘all suche money as Sir Edward Boughton knight and his sonne do owe unto me by their obligacon with condicion’. This seems to be the Sir Edward Boughton of Woolwich who, in the thirty-seventh year of Henry VIII’s reign, ‘conveyed to that king two parcels of land, called Bowton’s Docks, and two parcels, called Our Lady-hill, and Sand-hill’ in Woolwich.

Old map showing Mitcham and Carshalton (via visionofbritain.org.uk)

The source that first alerted me to the existence of William Fowle’s will, and its reference to Bartholomew Fowle, was the Tyler Index to Wills (apparently compiled by Frank Watt Tyler) which can be searched at Ancestry. The page referring to William Fowle contains the beginnings of a family tree, from which we learn that Willam’s widow Ellyn, also known as Eleanor, married for a second time, shortly after William’s death in 1547. Her new husband was a widower by the name of Nicholas Burton, who already had a number of children from his first marriage. Nicholas lived in Carshalton, about three miles to the south of Mitcham. Interestingly, Burton was the owner of the manor of Mitcham Canons, formerly the property of the priory of St Mary Overy. According to one source:

In 1545 Henry VIII sold the manor of Mitcham, described as lately belonging to St. Mary Overy and demised together with Buckwood (comprising 7 acres) to Thomas Fremonds, to Nicholas Spackman and Christopher Harbottell, citizen and haberdasher of London. Licence was given to Spackman and Harbottell in 1550 to alienate to Sir John Gresham, who again received licence the next year to alienate to Spackman and Harbottell. They re-alienated to Laurence Warren, who conveyed the manor to Nicholas Burton.

Nicholas Burton died in 1574 and in May of that year his widow Eleanor married her third husband, Ranulph or Randall Hurlestone. He was the author of a virulently anti-Catholic treatise entitled ‘News from Rome concerning the blasphemous sacrifice of the papisticall Masse with dyvers other treatises very Godly and profitable’, published in 1549 by Edmond Campion, who was (ironically) the father of the future Catholic saint and martyr of that name. It may seem an odd marriage for someone who was related to the former head of a Catholic religious house, but then religious allegiances were notoriously fluid, and family loyalties often divided, in those turbulent years: witness the example of the Campion family.

In April 1558 Eleanor Fowle, the daughter of William and Eleanor Fowle, married a man named John Russell.

In February 1566, Mary or Maria Burton, the daughter of Nicholas Burton from his first marriage, married a man named Robert Fowle. He was almost certainly a relative of William Fowle of Mitcham, but I’ve yet to establish their exact relationship. However, of greater interest for our purposes is that he was the son of another Robert Fowle, of Carshalton. In an earlier post I reproduced the Fowle family pedigree from the records of the Visitations of Sussex, which claims that Robert Fowle of Carshalton was another of the sons of my 14th great grandfather Nicholas Fowle of Lamberhurst, in addition to Bartholomew Fowle, the Augustinian prior, and my 13th great grandfather Gabriel Fowle.

Nicholas Burton’s son and heir Richard Burton married Anne Hampton in November 1574. Anne was the daughter and sole heiress of Barnard Hampton, Clerk of the Council to Edward VI, Mary, and Elizabeth. Richard and Ann Hampton had two sons that I know of: Henry and Charles. Richard Burton died in 1589. He made his will in the previous year, forgiving the debt of ‘Robert Fowle gent and brother in law’ and making him one of the overseers and beneficiaries of the will. Henry Burton, who inherited the family property in Carshalton, was made a knight of the Bath in 1603.

Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Bindon (via tudorplace.com.ar)

On 7th June 1576 Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Bindonmarried his third wife, who was Mabel Burton, the daughter of Nicholas Burton of Carshalton. They had a daughter, Frances Howard, who was born in 1578 and who eventually married Henry Prannell. Their other daughter, Anne Howard, married Sir William Thornhurst. Mabel died in 1580. Thomas Howard’s will, proved in 1582/3, bequeathed ‘£2000 for the better preferment and advancement of Frances Howard my daughter’, and decreed that ‘my loving sister in law Mary Fowle, wife unto Robert Fowle, gentleman, shall have the government and education of my said daughter until her marriage, etc., or if the said Mary shall happen to die or depart out of the Realm of England I will the government etc. to my loving brother in law Richard Burton of Carshalton in Surry, esq. or to mine executors until the time of her marriage unless she be preferred to her Majesty in service.’ Richard Burton was also one of the executors of the will.

In conclusion, I’d suggest that William Fowle of Mitcham was probably born in Kent, that his brother Richard remained there, and that they were both related in some way to ‘my’ branch of the Fowle family. More particularly, I believe that William was almost certainly a relative of Robert Fowle of Carshalton, whom sources agree was born in Kent. Perhaps William and Robert were cousins: the fact that both men moved from Kent to Surrey, and lived within a few miles of each other, hints at a close familial bond between them.

Robert Fowle of Carshalton, and his son Robert Fowle the younger, will be the subject of my next post.

  1. In medieval and Tudor times ‘sir’ was a common honorific title given to priests: see, for example, Eamon Duffy’s The Voices of Morebath, which tells the story of Sir Christopher Trychay, a priest in a sixteenth-century Devon parish.