BOWYER, John (by 1504-52/55), of Petworth, Suss.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

b. by 1504, 3rd s. of William Bowyer of Petworth by Elizabeth, da. of Robert Tredcroft of Billingshurst, Suss.; bro. of Robert I. m. Margaret, da. of John Berkeley of Winchelsea, Suss., 1s. 4da.1

Offices Held

Bailiff of Petworth for Henry Percy, 5th Earl of Northumberland by 1531-7, of King’s honor of Petworth 1537-d.2


Unlike his brothers, who went into trade, John Bowyer made his way in estate administration. In 1525 he became under steward of Midhurst for Sir David Owen, who two years later sued him for failing to return court rolls and other documents; Bowyer replied that he was holding these as security for his unpaid fee of 20s. a year. A few years later Sir Roger Lewknor brought a similar case against Bowyer as steward of his Sussex lands. First mentioned as bailiff of Petworth in 1531, Bowyer had doubtless succeeded to the office on his father’s death in 1528. He retained it after Petworth passed to the crown on the death of the 5th Earl of Northumberland, being styled ‘bailiff of the King’s honor’ [of Petworth] when returned to the Parliament of 1542 and receiving a patent of the office for life in November 1546. By 1552, and probably long before, he was collector of the Sussex revenues of the former Merton abbey in Surrey; in that year he received some of the lands concerned in exchange for property of his own absorbed by the extension of Petworth Park.3

Bowyer’s election for Steyning to the Parliament of 1542 would be easier to explain if the name of his fellow-Member and those of their precursors since 1529 were known, but as the borough had become virtually part of the honor of Petworth it was clearly his office which was his prime qualification, as indeed its inclusion in the return may have been meant to show. He could have been re-elected on the next occasion, when the names are again lost, but thereafter the Steyning seats usually went to outsiders. Nothing has been found to throw light on Bowyer’s relations with the 12th Earl of Arundel, who became steward of the honor in 1549. It is Arundel’s appointment of a new bailiff in February 1555 which shows that Bowyer had died shortly before. He appears to have left no will. Two of his daughters married London tradesmen, another married his ward Richard Mill of Sussex and the fourth died unmarried in London in 1563.4

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: R. J.W. Swales


  • 1. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Vis. Suss. (Harl. Soc. liii), 61-62; W. Suss. RO, Comber pprs. 14, f. 1; PCC 32 Stevenson.
  • 2. CPR, 1554-5, p. 41; LP Hen. VIII, xxi; Stowe 571, f. 55.
  • 3. Suss. Arch. Coll. xlii. 19 seq.; C1/551/72, 841/24; LP Hen. VIII, v, xxi; SC6/Edw. VI/457; CPR, 1550-3, p. 403; SP10/19, f. 48v; APC, iv. 146.
  • 4. CPR, 1554-5, p. 41; LP Hen. VIII, xxi.