In my last post I wrote about Robert Fowle, the ‘captain in Ireland’ who married Mary Burton, daughter of Nicholas Burton of Carshalton, Surrey. Nicholas Burton had married Eleanor, widow of William Fowle of Mitcham, after the latter’s death in 1547. I’m interested in this branch of the Fowle family because of their possible connection with my own Fowle ancestors, and specifically because William’s will bequeaths property to Bartholomew Fowle, the former prior of St Mary Overy, Southwark, whom some sources claim was the brother of my 13 x great grandfather Gabriel Fowle of Lewes, Sussex.



My fellow Fowle family researcher, Bill Green, has reminded me that Robert Fowle is mentioned in Catherine Pullein’s history of the village of Rotherfield, Sussex, which was published in 1928. Pullein has two chapters on the Fowles, though Bill has himself cast doubt on her pedigree of the family, and its reliance on inaccurate information gathered at the Heralds’ visitations in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Nevertheless, Pullein’s book contains useful information that adds to, and in some instances corrects, what I’d managed to discover about Robert Fowle and his relatives.

I’d forgotten that a Robert Fowle is mentioned in the Fowle family pedigree included in the records of the Visitations of Sussex, on which Pullein relies so heavily. According to this source, my ancestor Gabriel Fowle was the son of Nicholas Fowle and his wife Joan Vince of Lamberhurst, and the grandson of Thomas Fowle of Lamberhurst and his wife Ellen. Thomas is said to have died in the seventeenth year of the reign of Henry VII (i.e. in 1502) and Nicholas at some time during the same reign (i.e. before 1509). As Bill points out, there is no evidence to support these claims, and indeed they are contradicted by the evidence of Nicholas’ will, which was actually made in 1522.

Also to be treated with caution is the same source’s listing of the children of Nicholas Fowle. Gabriel is said to have had an older brother William, who lived at Riverhall in Wadhurst, Sussex, and two younger brothers: Bartholomew, the prior of Southwark, and Robert, who lived in Carshalton, Surrey. In fact, Nicholas’ will gives his sons’ names as Thomas and John, not Bartholomew and Robert. However, the pedigree gets at least one thing right: it correctly names Gabriel’s son Magnus, even if it claims that the latter’s daughter married someone with the surname ‘Bird’ from Burwash, when in fact Agnes Fowle married Edward Byne of that village.

Elizabethan harquebusiers and pikemen on the march in Ireland (via

Elizabethan harquebusiers and pikemen on the march in Ireland (via

However, it is interesting for our purposes that the Heralds discovered a connection of some kind between the Fowles of Lamberhurst and those of Surrey, and a link between both branches and Bartholomew Fowle of Southwark. The Visitation pedigree claims that it was the son of Robert Fowle of Carshalton, also named Robert, who served in Ireland. The information about him is in Latin and describes Robert Fowle the younger as ‘p[ro]positus Marischellus Conucie usus in bello Tirenensi in hiberniae’: in other words, he was Provost Marshall of Connaught during the war in Tyrone, Ireland. If we compare this to the Surrey Visitation records, we have to conclude that it was Robert the younger who married Mary Burton. Pullein, who seems unaware that Mary’s mother (or possibly stepmother) was the widow of William Fowle of Mitcham, failed to find any reference to a Fowle in the Carshalton parish registers before 1557, when Eleanor Fowle married John Russell; in the following year Joan Fowle is said to have married John Haydon. Pullein writes: ‘doubtless they were Robert’s daughters, named after his grandmother and mother’. This is contradicted by Tyler’s notes, my original source for the information about William Fowle of Mitcham, which claim that Eleanor and Joan were actually William’s daughters.

Pullein reports that she has failed to find a will for either Robert the elder or his son. However, on making enquiries at the Four Courts in Dublin (presumably about Robert Fowle the younger), ‘a copy of a letter doing duty as a will, and addressed to “Cousin Boyle”, was received, and was wholly disappointing since no relatives we named except “my wife daughter and her children”, a rather puzzling phrase that suggests that he had lost his first wife and married a widow with a daughter’. The letter is dated 1595 and Pullein notes a source that claims Robert Fowle the younger ‘lost his life in a skirmish of arms in Ireland’ and that probate was made on 15th January 1595/6 to the executor, Robert Boyle. The latter was apparently born in Cantebury in 1566 and went to Ireland in 1588 where, after a distinguished legal career he was created the first Earl of Cork in 1620. I wonder if Boyle was a relation of Robert Fowle’s unnamed second wife?

At this stage it’s impossible to prove or disprove Pullein’s and the Heralds’ claim that Robert Fowle of Carshalton was descended from the Fowles of Lamberhurst. If this turns out to be true, then the same would probably apply to William Fowle of nearby Mitcham. How and why these members of the family came to re-locate from the borders of Kent and Sussex to Surrey, some forty miles away, remains a mystery.

St James' Palace and garden (via

St James’ Palace and garden (via

Even more intriguing than Pullein’s additional information about Robert Fowle, however, is her discovery of yet another branch of the family with a connection to Bartholomew Fowle of Southwark. Apparently the record of the Visitation of London for the years 1633-34 and 1635 includes a Fowle pedigree of four generations, headed by a coat of arms that is very similar to that of the Fowles of Riverhall in Sussex. The first person in the tree, one Adam Fowle, is described as ‘Keeper of the house and garden of St James’ and ‘servant to Queen Elizabeth’. However, for our purposes, the most interesting part of the description is that which states he was ‘nephew to the prior of S. Mary, co. Surrey’.

Pullein found an earlier and fuller pedigree of the same family in the Middlesex pedigrees collected by Richard Mundy, Somerset Herald, in 1623. In this pedigree, the coat of arms is apparently identical with that of the Riverhall branch of the family. Much of the information given echoes that of the London pedigree, though no mention is made of the Prior of Southwark. However, from this earlier version we learn that Adam Fowle was of Faversham in Kent, but ‘descended out of Sussex’.

Both pedigrees have Adam marrying Anne Dryland, also from Kent, the widow of a man named Webb. Their son was Alphonsus Fowle, described in the earlier pedigree as a justice of the peace in Middlesex, ‘dwelling near St James’, beyond Westminster’, and in the later pedigree as ‘sometime servant’ to Queen Elizabeth, King James, Prince Henry and Prince Charles’ as well as (like his father before him) ‘sometime keeper of the house and gardens of St James’. Alphonsus Fowle was said to be still alive and 74 years old in 1634: I’ve found the record of hs baptism at St Martin in the Fields in 1559. He was married firstly to Eleanor, daughter of a Mr Medley, who died in 1624, and secondly to Ellen, daughter of Mr Chapman of Tuts(h)am Hall, which was near Maidstone, and widow of John Lawrence of Essex.

Catherine Pullein was unable to find any reference to Adam Fowle in the parish registers, nor was she able to locate his will. The only references I can find to Adam Fowle at the National Archives are two certificates of residence, from 1563 and 1571, declaring him to be liable for taxation in the Royal Household. His son Alphonsus made a will in 1635 but, as Pullein reports, there are no clues in it as to his father’s origins or connection to any other branches of the Fowle family. Pullein speculates that Adam might be have been another son of Robert Fowle the elder of Carshalton; but if so, it seems odd that he did not figure in the Surrey pedigree, especially given his status as a royal servant.

As an alternative, Pullein falls back on the explanation that ‘nephew’, like ‘cousin’, was used very broadly at this period. However, the name given at the end of the London pedigree – presumably the Heralds’ informant? – is Alphonsus Fowle. This is probably Adam’s grandson, another Adolphus (who by this stage was married with a daughter), rather than Adam’s 74-year-old son. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely that this Alphonsus would have made a mistake, or used an inaccurate term, about a key relationship of his grandfather’s, especially as his own father was still alive to correct him.

This means that Adam Fowle’s father was the brother of Bartholomew Fowle, prior of St Mary Overy in Southwark. Since Adam was said to be ‘descended out of Sussex’ there’s a good chance that he was connected to the Lamberhurst or Wadhurst Fowles in some way. Now, if we could only find the name of Adam Fowle’s father…