Friend & Family: Bowrey’s Essex Connection

One of the surprises whilst researching Captain Thomas Bowrey was to find some of his papers at the Essex Records Office. They are included with the papers of Philip Gardiner, Bowrey’s father-in-law although the record office has no record of why and when they were deposited. Since this discovery, I have been trying to determine just what his connection with Essex was.

I have been spending the past few weeks searching the Essex parish register online at and taking advantage of the current sale. Bowrey’s early life remains a mystery. Essex is a large country but I have searched in three areas to which the evidence pointed without finding one record for anyone called Bowrey.

So what is Bowrey’s connection to Essex? First, one source claims that he was born in the county at Barking. If he was, there is no record that he was baptised there or in any of the contiguous parishes. The extant records are far from complete but, if his family lived there for any time, they have remained well hidden.

Philip Gardiner had property – Great and Little Stringers farms and Gate Land – at Great Clacton and was buried there in 1704. Two years earlier, a John Gardiner married Grace Peck in the Great Clacton parish church but, otherwise there are no other Gardiners recorded there during Philip’s lifetime. There are Gardiner families in the adjoining parishes of Little Clacton, St Osyth and Great Holland between 1682 and 1708. It is a common surname and there is no certainty that they were related to Philip. A further Gardiner family lived 10 miles from Great Clacton at Great Bromley. (see )

The Searle family of Epping are considerably easier to find in the records. The family owned a number of houses in the manor of Epping Upland including Chambers, Turlings, Hayes and Gills. Andrew was one of the family’s given names. Shortly before his death, Bowrey acted as a intermediary in a dispute between Captain Andrew Searle of Gills and his son, also called Andrew, although his relationship with the pair is not clear. It is possible that they knew each other through seafaring activities but, as Elizabeth Searle (the wife of Andrew senior) and Mary Bowrey (Thomas’ wife) also corresponded, there may be a family connection.

Captain Thomas Bowrey undoubtedly had Essex connections but how deep they go remains to be discovered.


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