In the previous post I shared my transcription of the will of William Fowle of Mitcham, Surrey, which is dated 1547. I’m interested in William primarily because his will makes bequests to Bartholomew Fowle, a priest who had been the prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, until its dissolution in 1539, and whose precise relationship to my own Fowle ancestors I’m seeking to clarify.

Churchyard, Mitcham, Surrey

Churchyard, Mitcham, Surrey

In this post I want to explore what William Fowle’s will can tell us about him, his family, and perhaps his connection to Bartholomew. We learn from his will that William was married to a woman named Ellyn and that they had two daughters, Eleanor and Joan, both of whom were under the age of twenty-one and unmarried when their father made his will. William also had a brother Richard, who was given a degree of 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 family connection to the county, despite William’s residence in Surrey. I know that my own Fowle ancestors originated in Kent: my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle was born in Lamberhurst, on the Kent-Sussex border.

In his will William Fowle describes himself as a ‘yeoman’, but he was also something of a landowner. He mentions a farm in Mitcham, which was perhaps where he lived, but also an interest in the ‘parsonage and lordship’ of Mitcham and in the parsonage and a garden in nearby Bansted, as well as the garden in Camberwell that he bequeaths to Bartholomew Fowle. Interestingly, it seems that the priory of St Mary Overy owned land in Mitcham, knowns 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?

Reconstruction of a Tudor farm (via flickr.com)

Reconstruction of a Tudor farm (via flickr.com)

William Fowle makes two bequests to ‘Sir Bartholomew Fowle’, priest. The first relates to ‘my …. gardeyn with thappurtenances at Camberwell’. Camberwell is about eight miles from Mitcham: in the sixteenth century, both were villages deep in the Surrey countryside but are now part of the urban sprawl of south London. Camberwell is also 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. Sir Edward died in 1550 and his son may be the Nicholas Boughton of Plumstead who died ten years later.

The page from the Tyler Index to Wills (apparently compiled by Frank Watt Tyler) which was my original source of information about William Fowle, and which I reproduced in my last post, contains the beginnings of a family tree. As I understand it, the author suggests that Willam Fowle’s widow Ellyn, also known as Eleanor, married for a second time after William’s death in 1547. Her new husband was a certain Nicholas Burton from 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. (fn. 12) They re-alienated to Laurence Warren, who conveyed the manor to Nicholas Burton.

The same source states that in 1589 a Richard Burton died ‘seised of the manor of Mitcham, leaving a son Henry’. Tyler’s notes suggest some confusion between Nicholas and Richard Burton. Although Nicholas is said to have married William Fowle’s widow Eleanor, William’s daughter Eleanor is described, at the time of her marriage to John Russell on 18th April 1558, as ‘Ellenor Fowle daughter of Richard Burton’. Tyler further suggests that at least one child resulted from the second marriage of William’s widow to Nicholas Burton: a daughter named Maria. In 1566 she apparently married a Robert Fowle, who presumably was a relative of her mother’s first husband William.

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

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

Nicholas Burton seems to have died before his wife, as Tyler has a note at the foot of the page which reads ‘3.5.1574 = Elnar Burton, w[idow].’ This could be read as the date of Eleanor’s death, but the ‘=’ sign when used elsewhere denotes a marriage, and above Eleanor’s name is the name of one Randall Hurlestone. He was the author of a virulently anti-Catholic book 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.

If Eleanor Burton, formerly Fowle, did indeed marry for a third time to this man, then it seems an odd decision for the relative of a former Catholic priest. However, we now that religious loyalties were volatile during this period, and that contrasting opinions were often held within the same family (witness the example of the Campions).

A final note on this page suggests that Richard Burton married Anne Hampton in 1574. Another source gives the date as 9th November and describes Anne as ‘the daughter and sole heiress of Barnard Hampton, Clerk of the Council to Edward VI. Mary, and Elizabeth’, and Richard as ‘brother to Mabell Viscountess Bindon, and uncle to Frances Duchess of Richmond and Lennox’.

On 7th June 1576 Thomas Howard, 1st Viscount Bindon, married (for a third time) to Mabel Burton, the daughter of Nicholas Burton of Carshalton, Surrey. Howard’s will, proved in 1582/3, bequeathed ‘£2000 for the better preferment and advancement of Frances Howard my daughter, 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. And I wholly refer her advancement in marriage unto her Majesty.’ Richard Burton was also one of the executors of the will. Richard Burton of Carshalton made his own will in 1588, forgiving the debt of ‘Robert Fowle gent and brother in law’ and making him one of the overseers and beneficiaries of the will.

My analysis of William Fowle’s will, and of Tyler’s notes, has supplied some useful information about William’s family and its connections. However, I’m still no clearer about his relationship with Bartholomew Fowle. It’s odd that, despite the generosity of William’s bequests to Bartholomew, he fails to provide any information about their relationship. Further research is clearly needed, perhaps into the identities of William’s brother Richard Fowle, and the Robert Fowle who married Maria Burton.

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