After spending some time on the Glasgow branch of the Robb family, I’ve turned my attention back to London and the Bowmans. Louisa Bowman (1856 – 1905) was my great grandmother: she married my great grandfather, Charles Edward Robb (1851 – 1934), in 1877. I’ve written about Louisa’s family before, but I’ve been prompted to revisit the Bowmans by some new findings by my recently-discovered second cousin, Mike Robb, which in turn have spurred me on to further digging around in the archives.
Since we now have more information about the Bowmans, I’ve decided it’s time to set down what we know about them in roughly chronological order. But first, a reminder of Louisa’s origins. She was born at 15 Pell Street, between Cable Street and Ratcliffe Highway, in the parish of St. George in the East, the second of the six children of umbrella frame maker John Bowman and his wife Elizabeth Jane Larke. John was the eldest of the five children of labourer Robert Bowman and his wife Caroline Reed.
Until now, the only definite records we’ve had for Robert Bowman were his marriage to Caroline in 1828 and the census record for 1841, which shows Robert, Caroline and their children living in Harrow Alley, Aldgate. Robert is said to have been born in Middlesex and to be 35 years old, but we know that the 1841 census officials had a habit of rounding ages up or down to the nearest 5 or 10. At the time of the next census in 1851, Caroline would be described as a widow, but until recently it was unclear when Robert died. Now the record of his burial has come to light, revealing that Robert Bowman of Harrow Alley was buried on 12 January 1842 at St. Botolph without Aldgate.
The burial register gives no indication of the cause of death, but it helpfully provides us with Robert’s age at the time of his death, which was 40. This means that he was born in about 1801 or 1802. Using this information, I searched for records of his birth and came across the baptismal record for a Robert Bowman, born on 14 August 1801 and baptised on 20 September at All Saints church, Edmonton. This Robert was the son of Joseph and Sarah Bowman. Other records suggest that he was probably their fourth child, and that before Robert they had three daughters: Charlotte (1793), Hester (1798) and Elizabeth (1800). All were christened at All Saints church and Elizabeth’s christening record informs us that Joseph was a labourer and the family lived at Wood Green, Tottenham.
As yet, I have no definite proof confirmation that this is ‘our’ Robert Bowman, but there are a number of factors pointing in that direction. One is the location. Robert and Caroline Bowman would move around London during their married lives, and their children were born in a number of different boroughs, including Bow, Southwark and Aldgate. Their third son Joseph was born at Barrowfield Lane, Edmonton, and (like his father?) baptised at All Saints church, suggesting a possible family connection with the area. Then there are the naming patterns. As well as naming one of his sons Joseph (after his own father?), Robert Bowman also had one of his daughters christened Charlotte, perhaps in honour of his sister?
Sarah Bowman’s maiden name was Foreman and she and Joseph were married at All Saints church on 6 August 1780. I’m not sure when Joseph died but a Sarah Bowman died at the Post House, Edmonton in 1837 and was buried on 31 March. She was 76 years old, which means she would have been born in 1761.
I haven’t been able to find out what happened to the Bowmans’ three daughters. At first I thought that Charlotte had married Thomas Hucks in Southwark in 1822, but there’s a Bermondsey-born Charlotte Bowman who looks like a better candidate. However, we know that Robert and Caroline Bowman would live in Bermondsey at one point, so it’s possible that the Bowmans of that area (of whom there appear to be many) were related.
Some of the biblical first names favoured by the Bowmans – Joseph, Sarah, Hester – suggest a Nonconformist background. We know that Edmonton, Tottenham, and the north London suburbs generally, were popular refuges for Dissenters in the 17th and 18th centuries. This suspicion that the Bowmans were Nonconformists is borne out by another piece of new evidence, which I’ll reveal in the next post.