Where do the Bowker names come from?

The Bowker Coat of Arms

The surname of BOWKER was derived from the Old French word 'bochier' an occupational name, a butcher. The name was derived from the Old French word BOUCHIER, and was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066. Early records of the name mention Ailwardus le Bochere, 1184 London. Alan le Boucher, 1327 County Sussex. William Bourchier of County Somerset, was documented during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). Thomas le Bouker of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379. The name could have also been an occupational name for someone whose job was to steep cotton or linen in lye (a strong alkali) to cleanse it, from an agent derivative of Middle English bouken ‘to wash’ (from Middle Dutch buken). Jonathan Butcher and Mary Ellen Dosset, were married at St. George's, Hanover Square, London in 1794. Since the dawn of civilisation the need to communicate has been a prime drive of all higher mankind. The more organised the social structure became, the more urgent the need to name places, objects and situations essential to the survival and existence of the social unit. From this common stem arose the requirements to identify families, tribes and individual members evolving into a pattern in evidence today. In the formation of this history, common usage of customs, trades, locations, patronymic and generic terms were often adopted as surnames. The demands of bureaucracy formally introduced by feudal lords in the 11th century, to define the boundaries and families within their fiefdoms, crystallized the need for personal identification and accountability, and surnames became in general use from this time onwards. An eminent member of the name was Samuel Henry Butcher (1850-1910) the Irish classical scholar, born in Dublin. He was educated at Marlborough and Trinity College Dublin, and was elected to extraordinary fellowship at University College Oxford, and in 1882, he became professor of Greek at Edinburgh. He translated the 'Odyssey' in 1879 and is well known for his work on Aristotles 'Poetics' in 1895. He was the M.P. for Cambridge University from 1906. The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
from http://www.4crests.com/bowker-coat-of-arms.html

For some time there has been speculation that the Bourchiers, as a result of Sir John Bourchier (1595 - 1660) being a signatory to the regicide of Charles I, changed their name to Bowker to avoid retribution later when Cromwell was overthrown. This, we think has been shown as fantasy, as the Bourchiers were given their lands back, and continued to be Bourchiers associated with Beningbrough Hall until 1827, after Miles Bowker and Anna Maria Mitford were married and had left for South Africa. I have over the years communicated with various 'experts' in English history in an attempt the get the truth behind this name change, and they have not found any evidence that it happened. There would have been notes in Burke's Peerage and Debrett's Nobility books if there had been a name change. I personaly think that as most of the population in those days could not read or write, those who could wrote down what they thought they heard, depending on the speakers accent. Bourchier, Bowshire, Bowcher, Boucher, Bouker, Bowker could have all been interpreted as the same name. Likewise I have seen my Tremaine part of my surname spelt as Tremain, Tremayn, Tremayne, Treeman and Truman.

You just need to watch the above video to get some of the variey of accents in the UK.

It is a known fact that Oliver Cromwell did marry an Elizabeth Bourchier, but she was not of the above well known Bourchiers, but daughter of a London merchant, James Bourchier. 'Elizabeth Bourchier was born in 1598, the daughter of wealthy London fur and leather merchant Sir James Bourchier and his wife Frances'. Elizabeth and Oliver probably became acquainted through a family connection; Elizabeth’s father and Oliver’s aunt, Joan Barrington, were near neighbours and both families were of an equal social standing.

see https://goodgentlewoman.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/elizabeth-bourchier-mrs-oliver-cromwell and http://www.olivercromwell.org/faqs6.htm

The Death Warrant of Charles I

John Bourchier's signature and seal impression (second column, 4th down)

The silver seal which Sir John Bourchier impressed on the death warrant is preserved at Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire, now in National Trust hands.

One side has the Bouchier Knot, and when 'flipped' the other has the Bouchier Seal ( the central piece is on a pivot )

I received an email letter from the House and Collections Manager at Beningbrough Hall, indicating that the seal will shortly going back on display and below is the text has been written for its interpretation:
This tiny silver seal above looks rather innocent and insignificant – but it has a surprising past and played its part in changing the course of British history.
In 1649, by impressing this seal onto Charles I’s death warrant (a copy of which is above), John Bourchier of Beningbrough was one of 59 signatories who sentenced the King to execution.
So why did Sir John Bourchier help condemn the King to death?
He was staunchly against the King as he was a devout Puritan and he is said to have clashed with Charles I on several occasions over land and taxes. He lived at Beningbrough Grange, a Tudor House which archaeologists believe was located to the south east of the current Hall. When he was called to be one of the judges at Charles’ trial, he was very much against the King and after the execution, he remained unrepentant even though he faced trial for signing the death warrant, following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Before facing trial however, John Bourchier died proclaiming, “I tell you, it was a just act; God and all good men will own it.”
The seal features the Bourchier coat of arms on one side and the Bourchier knot on the reverse. If you look closely you will see some remnants of red wax, possibly surviving from the moment it was used on the death warrant.
The seal was discovered in a small gold box. The box bears the initials ‘E’ ‘C’ and is thought to have belonged to Lady (Enid) Chesterfield, owner of Beningbrough between 1916 and 1957. Inside the box was a piece of eighteenth century parchment with the following inscription:
‘This silver seal being the coat of arms of the Bourchier family of Beningbrough, York, in York, descends as heir loom to the person in (possession?) of that estate.
It was (affixed by?) Sir John Bourchier to the condemnation of King Charles I, 1649’

The piece of parchment mentioned above, and its transcription

see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beningbrough_Hall

Benningbrough Hall in 1880

and various other articles:
from http://www.information-britain.co.uk/county40/townguideBeningbrough/ On the banks of the Ouse (said to offer good barbel fishing here), Beningbrough is a tiny settlement on the York plain, just four or five miles from York itself. Although York with its many attractions is a great draw for anyone staying in the area, the great reason for visiting Beningbrough is to see the wonderful Georgian mansion of Beningbrough Hall, built by John Bourchier. There was a Tudor mansion on the site before the present hall was built in 1716, and panelling from the older building was salvaged to be used in the new one. Beningbrough Hall has a fine frontage, the two main storeys looking out boldly at the world, and the attic floor almost hidden with its minute casements set in the frieze supporting the roof. The building has two rather unusual elements for the era. Firstly the cantilever stairs with treads seven feet wide, the balustrade artfully carved to make the wood seem like the wrought-iron work then fashionable. And secondly the central corridors on both the main floors, which run the full length of the building. The National Trust owns the property now, and since 1978 it has housed a fine collection of 18th century portraits (and some 17th century) provided by the National Portrait Gallery. Also worth seeing is the silver seal used by John Bourchier’s ancestor of the same name, when he signed the death warrant of Charles I in 1649. Outside the house is a fine park of nearly 400 acres, well wooded and with gentle water meadows to give a calm elegance to the land. The calm may not be to the taste of all visitors, so there is a children’s playground, wilderness area, and fort for those with energy to burn.

from http://www.york-united-kingdom.co.uk/beningbrough-hall/ The mansion's stately interior contains many highlights, in the main hall and on three floors. Look out for the majestic cantilevered staircase and an unconventional central corridor which runs the entire length of the house. Additonally worth noting is the fine carving work can be seen throughout the rooms, particularly on the cornices, overdoors and overmantels. Numerous pieces of rare Chinese and Japanese porcelain adorn much of the furniture. The state bedroom is an exercise in opulence. It boasts a sumptuous William and Mary bed that's heavily draped with crimson damask. Also an exquisitely wrought frieze depicting the four seasons. Additionally worth noting is the historic silver seal. This seal was impressed on the death warrant of Charles I during the Civil War by former owner of the estate, John Bourchier II.

So, various questions arise;

• Where did the Bourchier Seals come from, that are in South Africa with the head of the Bowker clan?

The South African Bourchier Seals (photo per Andrew Bowker)

• These were most likely to be the seals from the Counts of Essex Bourchiers, or Earls of Eu, and one is very similar to the 'regicide' seal in that it has the Bourchier arms. According to Debrett's genealogical Peerage of Great Britain and Ireland, on page 841 in the section on Dormant and Extinct Peerages, the title of Earl of Essex died out with Robert Bourchier, the 2nd earl, in 1646 as he had no male heirs, and the baronetcy went into abeyance. This was 3 years before the signing of Charles I death warrant! The Earls of Essex and Barons Bourchier, while descended from the same William Bourchier, the first Count of Eu, born 1374, as the Berners line from whom the regicide John Bourchier, they would have had their own sets of seals.

• How did Miles Bowker's father Thomas acquire them? He claimed descendancy from the Counts and Earls above, not yet proven, but said the seals were sent to him when he became head of the family. I have yet to find a link between the first born descendants of the Essex and Eu Bourchiers where they died out and a Thomas Bowker who could have been the next heir. This quest is on-going, and I am constantly reviewing my findings over the past 20 years as new information becomes available. Ivan Mitford-Barberton, in The Bowkers of Tharfield, has written a fair amount on this history. I have a note written by Raymond Mitford-Barberton in my copy of The Bowkers of Tharfield, that the Bourchiers were not ancestors of the Bowkers. In the links below, there is a link to a PDF file of Chapter 1 of The Bowkers of Tharfield where Ivan Mitford-Barberton discusses his and his brothers findings if you have not read their book yet.

• Why does the name Bourchier and Berners only become associated with the Bowkers with Miles and Anna's children and descendants, and their cousins, and not earlier in the family tree?

We can see from the included family trees, where some of the ancient names of Osbaldeston, Monkhouse, de Bohun, Redesdale, etc., come from - the Mitford ancestry rather than the Bourchier or Bowker ancestry. Interestingly, both the Bourchier line and the Mitford line descend from Elizabeth Plantagenet, daughter of Edward I, King of England known as Edward Longshanks, and there are many other associations of the Mitfords and Bourchiers with the English Royalty. You may also spot the famous Mitford sisters in the Mitford line.

For the Ancestors link, I chose to use Miles' 5th son Robert as the starting point, but any of the children would give the same ancestry from that point.

During my research into these families, I found two pages on Wikipedia which list all the Kings and Queens of England in their succession order. List of English Monarchs  for Kings and Queens up to Queen Anne in 1707, which includes the Crowellian period, and List of British Monarchs  for those from Queen Anne to the present day. While at school many years ago, I learnt a little poem which helped me remember them and thier order of succession from the Norman invasion in 1066 up to the reign of Queen Victoria:

Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste,

Harry, Dick, John, Harry three.

One, two, three Neds, Richard two,

Henry four five six, then who?

Edwards four, five, Dick the bad

Harry's twain then Ned the lad.

Mary, Bessie, James the vain,

Charlie, Charlie, James again.

William and Mary, Anna Gloria,

Four Georges, William and Victoria.

... another stanza has been added to bring it up to date:

Edward Seven, Georgie Five,

Edward, George and Liz (alive)


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