Family & Friends: The Bowrey Family

In editing Bowrey’s Bay of Bengal, Richard Carnac Temple reasoned Of Thomas Bowrey’s parentage nothing certain is known, but it seems reasonable to conjecture that he was related to John Bowrey, Thomas Bowrey, and Joseph Bowrey, who all served in the Royal Navy in the latter   half of the 17th century. … The fact that this Thomas Bowrey (whose estate was administered 25 January 1666) resided at Stepney and that T.B. eventually settled down in that parish, added to the similarity of their Christian names, is ground for assuming their near relationship, though there is no proof of the connection nor even the identity of Thomas Bowrey of Stepney with Captain Thomas Bowrey of the Roe Ketch.

At the time Temple edited the Bay of Bengal, the papers of Captain Thomas Bowrey were yet to be discovered. These papers include the document by which Elizabeth, the wife of Samuel Smith, in 1668 assigned her power of attorney to her brother, John Bowrey, and Philip Gardiner (Captain Thomas Bowrey’s future father-in-law). Another document within the papers is a letter from 1680 in which Stephen Aderton addresses Captain Thomas Bowrey as Lo(ving) Son. The best explanation I have for this is that Bowrey’s widowed mother had remarried but I have no other evidence for this. At this stage, this is the only documented evidence of Captain Thomas Bowrey’s ancestry. What is known about the three members of the Bowrey family Temple believed were related to Captain Thomas Bowrey?

John Bowrey

It would appear that John Bowrey served in the Royal Navy from 1652 or earlier and, although making at least one voyage as commander of a merchant ship and privateer, continued to serve in the Royal Navy following the Restoration until stopped by ill health in 1667.

The first that is known of John Bowrey is when in October 1652 he was awarded £30 compensation for wounds received whilst serving on the Unity under Sir George Ayscue. In October 1653, he was awarded a privateer’s commission for one trading voyage on the Hope of London. In July 1655, he commanded the Hunter fireship against the Dutch. In February and March 1655/6, he was on the East Coast (East Anglia) attempting to press a crew on the ketch, Eaglet, and then carrying our convoy duties. After the Eaglet sprang a leak, he commanded the Death, Drake, Hunter and Rey. In August 1658, he transported sick men home from the Downs for the commander of the Naseby. He continued convoy duties on the South Coast.

In April 1659, he was appointed to transport the body of Lord Henry Percy home from France on the Drake accompanied by some of the Algernon Percy (Earl of Northumberland) according to an order from his Highness. I am not sure whether this is any indication of John Bowrey’s political leanings because the allegiances of the two Percys were ambiguous having served and fallen out with both the King and Cromwell.

In July 1660, he dismissed a number of his men for making a disturbance for pay. He was supported in this action by Lord Edward Montagu who, although loyal to Cromwell, played a considerable role in the Restoration.

In 1662, he was recommended to Pepys by Lord Inchiquin who declared for Parliament in 1644 after being snubbed by the King. Inchiquin converted to Catholicism after an acute illness in 1657, was appointed steward of Henrietta Maria.

In February 1663 Samuel Pepys, following an unfortunate incident when someone tried to serve a writ against him and take him prisoner, wrote in his diary: … Well, at last they went away, and I by advice took occasion to go abroad. And walked through the street to show myself among the neighbours, that they might not think worse than the business is. Being met by Captn. Taylor and Bowry (assumed to be John as there is other evidence of him preparing for a voyage to Tangier at the time), whose ship we have hired for Tangier, they walked along with me to Cornhill talking about their business, and after some difference about their prices we agreed, and so they would have me to a tavern, and there I drank one glass of wine and discoursed of something about freight of a ship that may bring me a little money, and so broke up, and I home …

In February 1667, he was discharged as the master of the Antelope because he was uncapable to perform the voyage to Gottenburg. A John Bowrey of Wapping was granted a Certificate of Competency by Trinity House in March 1673 and may have worked as a Thames pilot. In November 1673, the effects of Johannes Bowry lately of H.M.S. Swiftsure were administered by his widow Juditha.

Thomas Bowrey

It would appear that Thomas Bowrey served in the Royal Navy from 1653 and, from 1654, spent most of his career as commander of the ketch, Roe. He continued to serve in the Royal Navy for at least a few months following the Restoration.

The first that is known of Thomas Bowrey is when in January 1653 he was recommended as Lieutenant of the Constant Warwick under Captain Potter. By 1654 he was commanding the ketch, Roe. In December 1654, a petition of 40 officers and seamen of the Roe ketch, under Capt. Thos. Bowrey was sent to the Admiralty Commissioners. We have been employed 31 to 34 months to the keepers of the liberties of England in and about the northern and eastern seas, and are in great straits and worn out for want of money and necessaries, and our conditions as deplorable as may be expressed by many aggravations, so that we are obliged to present before you the map of out misery that we may obtain relief, and not be unfit to equip and deport ourselves like men, and relieve our families like Christians. Let our small salaries be paid, and our families relieved, and you will be the redressor of our grievances, and we shall hope better days, for though our government be changed, we have a reparation of it, and since God has put into your hands the opportunity to do good, we hope he will put it into your hearts to effect a matter of such consequence to us.

From then until 1660 he continued to command the Roe but, for short periods, also commanded the Warwick and the Nonsuch. Similarly to John, Thomas spent most of his time on convoy duty on the South and East Coasts protecting merchant shipping from both the enemy and pirates.

In January 1659/60, he reported to the Admiralty Commissioners that he had come from Gravesend by order of Vice-Admiral Lawson.

In September 1660, he carried the Spanish Ambassador’s goods to Gravesendon the Roe by order of Major Holmes, commander of the Henrietta frigate.

In January 1666, the goods of Thomas Bowrey of Stepney were administered by his widow, Elizabeth Bowrey.

Joseph Bowrey

Very little is known of Joseph other than, in June 1672, The goods of Joseph Bowrye of H.M.S. Le Royall James, were administered by his widow, Marareta Bowrye.

Matthias Bowrey

Elsewhere in the Bay of Bengal Temple mentions Matthias Bowrey. In November 1669 the Bombay documents of the East India Company records that … to carry on the work of your fortification … Mr Robert Barbor may be employed … and for his assistance you may appoint Captain Bowry who wee understand hath some knowledge in the art. As there are also records of a solider named Matthias Bowrey living in Bombay at the time, it is likely that this Captain Bowry was Matthias Bowrey.

There is nothing in this to suggest that Matthias Bowrey was related to Captain Thomas Bowrey, or John, Thomas and Joseph Borwey but it is an interesting coincidence that Matthias was, in effect, replacing Samuel Smith who was married to Elizabeth Bowrey.

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