Bowles Stories and Accounts


Here are some of the interesting and remarkable Bowles stories over the years.


1595. Sir John Bolle and The Green Lady of Thorpe Hall

Tradition has it that amongst the prisoners taken at Cadiz it fell to the lot of Sir John Bolle to take charge of a lady of extraordinary beauty and of distinguished family and great wealth. The noble knight treated her with the care and tenderness which was the right of her sex.

This generous care evoked feelings of gratitude that ultimately warmed into love. She threw herself at his feet and entreated him to allow her to accompany him back to England as his page. But the gallant knight had a wife at home and demurred. The beautiful and inconsolable lady retired to a nunnery, there to spend the remainder of her days in sorrow and seclusion.

On Sir John’s return, he sent as presents to his wife a profusion of jewels and other valuables, amongst which was the lady’s portrait, taken as she was, dressed in green. The picture was hung in Thorpe Hall. The picture, being in green, led her to be called the Green Lady.

Superstition has it that the old hall was haunted by her and that she used nightly to take her seat by a particular tree near the mansion. It was also said that, during the lifetime of Sir John’s son, a knife and fork were always laid for her at table, if she chose to make an appearance.

1637. Poem Written on the Marriage of Robert Bolles

"To Robert Bolles is Mary Hussey wed.
The God of marriage fruitful make their bed.
Thus cinnamon mixed with spikenard one become
Thus massike wine with attic honeycomb.
Thus elms with vines are joined; lothe tree in wet,
And myrtle in the shore loves to be set.
About their bed let concord always watch;
Let sweet love aye attend so sweet a match.
May she him love when old grown; and to him
Let her, when aged, not aged seem."

1663. Francis Bowles’ Petition to King Charles II

“I remind his Majesty of the promise made when he lately took a view of his wounds in the service of the late King, of which no man in the three kingdoms can show the like. I engaged in your services in the late wars. At Edgehill, I was the first man struck and was stripped and left for dead, but being found alive the next day was taken to Oxford where the late King ordered great care to be taken of me, so that I was able to serve at Bristol and Naseby and taken prisoner at the Vale of Evesham.

I beg the Mastership of the Tents, void by death. My father and grandfather were Yeoman and Groom of the Tents for over a hundred years.”

1677. John Bowles and His Southwark Glass Factory

Glass used to be scarce in England and a privilege of the aristocracy. Pane glass would come from Normandy to meet their needs in coaches and pictures; whilst the secret of looking-glass plates remained the preserve of the Venetians and was jealously held. Glass also required a special ingredient, a weed known as barilla which yielded carbonate of soda, and this could only be sourced from the Mediterranean.

The late seventeenth century saw a change in house construction as sash windows came into fashion to replace the old lattice casements. This created a new demand for glass. And it was John Bowles, a well-to-do and well-connected merchant, who first met the demand.

He came by this business by a combination of luck, opportunism, good contacts, and business planning. The Duke of Buckingham had secured the royal license for making glass in England. However, his charter was revoked when he was declared a traitor and thrown into the Tower. John Bowles eventually secured the concession and was able to outmanoeuvre a rival group who were operating a small glass-making business at Ratcliff in Southwark. He financed there on a six-acre site new glasshouses and workshops and recruited foreign craftsmen who brought with them their skills in glass-making. The plant opened in 1677. Its main product was crown glass, so named because it was made for many years with a crown embossed in the centre of each plate.

The premises at Ratcliff were imposing. They included a house of some size, stabling, a coach house, a garden and an orchard, and were approached through an archway which bore the Bowles arms. John Bowles’ business was handed down through four generations. But a fire broke out in 1794 which destroyed most of the buildings. Only a wharf onto the Thames remained.

1726-1727. A Quaker Bowles from Ireland

“In the year 1726, I travelled with Abigail Bowles from Ireland through the lower counties on Delaware, the eastern shore of Maryland, Virginia, Cape May, the Egg Harbors, and other parts of New Jersey and through the province.

Having had a concern in the love of Christ to visit the churches of England and Ireland, and on March 12, 1727, in company with our dear friend Abigail Bowles, I went onboard the ship Dorothy bound for Bristol.”

Extract from Jane Hoskins’ memoirs as a faithful servant of Christ.

1731. A Thomas Bowles Print

Baynton-Williams catalog item no. 7

A composite sheet with a plan of London from the reign of Queen Elizabeth onwards set above six insets.

The insets are

(1) old buildings near the Temple Gate in Fleet Street
(2) Bayard’s castle
(3) west views of Old St. Paul’s
(4) Cheapside and the Cross before the fire of 1666
(5) inside the Royal Exchange, and
(6) the south prospect of London as it would appear when it lay in ruins after that dreadful fire of 
    1666.

The sheet, although intended as a broadsheet, was evidently bound into a volume. It is one of the earliest plans of London to incorporate vignettes of the principal buildings and one of the most attractive plans issued before the nineteenth century.

1784. Captain Bowles and the Runaway Slave

Ona gained passage upon a sloop named the Nancy, piloted by Portsmouth's Captain John Bowles. The sea captain navigated back and forth between Portsmouth and the American federal capital once a month. He ran a profitable freight business carrying harnesses, bridles, saddles, and other leather products to be sold in New Hampshire.

By the third day of June, the mariner was back in New Hampshire advertising his cargo of new wares and announcing his intentions to sail again on the 25th of the month. It is not known if Ona sailed on this late May tour or if she remained in hiding until the Washingtons left town and sailed with him on his late June or July journeys.

Did Captain Bowles realize he carried a fugitive slave on board, and that this human property belonged to the America's Commander-in-Chief, George Washington? Most likely he did know that she was a runaway but kept her voyage and his participation in her escape a secret in order to keep Ona safe and protect his own neck. Many slave states equated the harbouring and abetting of runaways to an illegal confiscation of property and those found guilty could be sentenced to death.

1797. A Runaway Notice

“John Bowles ran away with a “mulatto” woman named Ursula and her nine year old daughter Rachel. John is a waterman in Charlottesville and they are believed to be in the neighbourhood of Charlottesville or Milton.”

Notice in the 8 November 1797 issue of the Virginia Gazette & General Advertiser.

1803. The Capture of William Bowles

At a feast given by Indians in the Creek town of Tukabatchee, Bowles declared himself president of all the Indian nations present. However, the next day Colonel Hawkins, an American Indian agent there, had gained enough support among the Indians to have him captured and put in irons. He was placed in a canoe full of armed warriors who then rapidly rowed down the river. Arriving at a point in present day Dallas County Alabama, the canoe was tied up, the prisoner set upon a bank and a guard set upon him.

In the night, the guard fell asleep. Bowles gnawed his ropes apart, crept down the bank, quietly paddled across the river, entered a thick cane field, and fled.

At the break of day, the astonished Indians arose in great confusion. But they saw the canoe on the opposite side of the river, which Bowles had foolishly neglected to hide, and they were soon on his track. By the middle of the day, they once more made him a prisoner. He was conveyed to Mobile and thence to Havana, where, after a few years, he died in the dungeons of Moro Castle.

1835. Phineas Bowles on Trial in Australia

On February 13, 1835, William Phineas Bowles was indicted in Sydney for the murder of Sarah Bowles, his wife, by stabbing her in various parts of the body with a knife. The deceased woman was 33 years old. She had come to Australia on the Bussorah Merchant and had been confined after her arrival and before her marriage to this man.

When called on for his defence, the prisoner commenced by stating to the jury and to his friends and the public at large that he was incapable of the atrocities that had been alleged against him. The newspapers had already pronounced him guilty. But had he been a person of no education and moving in a humbler sphere, the case would not have excited so much interest.

The prisoner threw much odium on his deceased wife. She had imposed herself upon him as a widow, even though after the marriage he had discovered her child to be illegitimate. The young man with whom she had cohabited had found her to be incontinent and on one occasion had taken her to a notorious brothel. The prisoner then proceeded to call upon a number of witnesses. On his examination of them, he elicited so much malice against her that the judge had on more than one occasion to stop him.

His wife had disappeared from his house and, after seeking her for seven days, he had found her at the home of Mrs. Howell. He urged her to give up prostitution and entreated Mrs. Howell to effect a reconciliation. He was told that she was to be sent to England and that he would be left a married man without a wife.

On one prior occasion, she had run at him with a knife in hand and threatened his life. She had frequently sought to induce him to assault her so that she might have him bound to the peace. On this occasion, it was her who commenced the attack and he had struck her only in defence of his own life.

The jury retired for a few minutes. They returned with the verdict of guilty. The prisoner was sentenced to be hung on the Monday.

1839. John “Chief” Bowles and the Battle of the Neches

John “Chief” Bowles was eighty three years old when he led his Cherokees against Texan troops in the Battle of the Neches. The following is an eyewitness account of that battle:

“Throughout the battle his voice could be heard urging his troops on. He was a magnificent specimen of manhood. His horse was shot several times and fell to the ground, throwing off his rider. The chief slowly rose to his feet and as he walked away he was shot in the back by Henry Cromer. Bowles took several steps and fell and then rose to a sitting position. He was approached by Captain Smith. I said, “Captain Smith, don’t shoot him,” but as I spoke, he fired, shooting the chief in the head.

Bowles’ body was mutilated by the Texans. His unburied body lay for several years on the spot where he fell.”

On a little plain above the Neches river some 12 miles outside Tyler, Texas, a small monument stands like a forgotten sentinel. The inscription reads: “On this site the Cherokee Chief Bowles was killed on July 16, 1839, while leading 500 Indians of various tribes against 500 Texans, the last engagement between Cherokees and whites in Texas.”

Nothing else marks the site. The monument seems austere, a grudging acknowledgement by the state of Texas of a troublesome enemy.

1848. A Tragic Accident in Montreal

After a Friday evening service in January 1848, John Bowles the congregational minister in Chateauguay and some of his flock were driving home in a procession of sleighs. The roads were not good so they changed to the ice on the Chateauguay River.

Close to the shore the ice was firm but it grew thinner farther out in the river where the current was fast. The night was dark and the minister drove a little too far from shore. The ice sank and splintered. The parishioner in the sleigh was thrown out but landed on firm ice. The minister, with horse and sleigh, went down and was carried out of sight. Nothing was seen; nothing could be done.

Next morning at dawn many men turned out with saws and axes. Horse and sleigh were found, but the sleigh was empty. The following day, a Sunday, they found the minister’s body downstream in open water, lying against a large boulder.

1850’s. A Limerick on the Reverend Bowles

A vicar, the Reverend Bowles
Took care to protect all our souls;
With a stern but fair grin
He would steer us from sin
And make godly living our goal.

The Rev. Frances Bowles was a minister in Limerick in the 1850’s.

1850’s. David Bowles in Montgomery County

David Bowles was a great hunter during his time in Montgomery County, Missouri. He killed 120 deer, three elk, and 400 raccoons during one winter, as well as gathering 350 gallons of honey from the various bee trees that he found. The same year, he killed the famous buck dubbed General Burdine which had 33 prongs on its horns. But one day his favourite dog got hung by a grapevine and he gave up hunting.

After the death of his first wife, he was married in his old age to Widow Giles and his neighbours told the following story about him. “When he got his new wife home, he was so overjoyed that he danced about the room and waved his hat over his head in an excess of delight. He happened to strike the lamp that was standing on the mantel and he threw it to the floor where it was dashed to pieces. In a moment the house was on fire and it was only by the prompt and energetic efforts that they were enabled to save it from destruction.”

1864.  William Bowles and the Knights of the Golden Circle


In the 1850's as North-South tensions mounted, French Lick in Indiana was a key station in the slave "underground railway."  To counter this, Dr. William Bowles had organized a Confederate secret society, the Knights of the Golden Circle.

Federal troops were stationed nearby in the early days of the Civil War and Captain Ritter was instructed to go to French Lick to capture Bowles.  On arrival at his house, Ritter was met by one of Bowles' wives (it was siad that he had two wives).  She protested that her husband was not at home.  However, on search, they found him hidden in a closet, dressed in women's clothing.  He was taken to Orleans, put on a special train, and incarcerated in Indianapolis.

He was found guilty of treason in Federal court in 1864 and sentenced to execution.  Fortunately for him, his friendship with Governor Morton of Indiana enabled him to secure a commutation of the sentence and later a pardon.

1883.  Black Bart’s Last Holdup

After the Sonora to Milton stagecoach was robbed on November 3, 1883, a Charles Bolton of 37 Second Street in San Francisco was arrested from the evidence of a laundry mark on a handkerchief dropped at the scene.

What the Wells Fargo officers found was a dapperly dressed man in his mid-fifties. He sported a brushy moustache and an "Imperial" below the bottom lip, and, with clear blue/grey eyes, stood 5 feet 8 inches. There was a bible in the apartment with the following inscription: "This precious Bible is presented to Charles E. Boles by his wife as a New Year’s gift. God gives us hearts to which His faith to believe. Decatur, Illinois, 1865."

This man was actually Charles Bowles who was born in Norfolk England, grew up in upstate New York, set out for the California goldfields, and then embarked on a career of stagecoach robbery. He gained local notoriety by leaving signed poems at the scene of his crimes. He styled himself as the “black bart” after a dime thriller character.

1889. Tommy Bowles and the Turkish Bath House

With the death of Urquhart, standards at the Hammam had declined. Bowles, a regular bather who had bought a share in the company, had himself elected to the Board and then took it upon himself to become a one-man ginger group. While Bowles did improve standards, his skills and energy were not always combined with tact and modesty. One of the other shareholders wrote to a friend:

“I was in at the Turkish bath the other day. They tell me that the new Director, "Vanity Fair" Bowles has rather upset the formerly placid order of things there. He swaggers about in the bath advertising himself as a Director, and "means to have things done properly" etc, bullies the servants and so forth.”

Tommy Bowles had become quite a local celebrity after caricatures of him by Spy were published in Vanity Fair.

1915-1935. Gussie Bowles’ Garden

Gussie Bowles inherited Myddelton House in Hertfordshire in 1918. He kept the house much as it was left to him by his parents, installing neither electricity nor telephone.

His passion was the garden. He developed the gardens there into one of the finest examples of an English country garden, breeding several new varieties of flowers. He wrote several books about plants. In these books, he sought to convey the pleasure that could be obtained from a garden planned with much diversity. Later in his life he stated that within his five acres he had experimented with most plants which had appeared in the lots marked "new" or "rare." He tried each of them three times in different positions.

He was described at the time “as the greatest amateur gardener in the country and the most distinguished botanist and horticulturist serving the Royal Horticultural Society.”

1985. Paul Bowles in Tangier

“When I arrived around six, a tape for oboe by his friend Aaron Copeland was playing. Paul Bowles was waiting at the door of his fourth-floor apartment. A fire was blazing, the unpretentious Moroccan-European salon inviting. He did not appear at all mysterious. In the United States he was considered mysterious chiefly because little was known about him since he lived his life abroad and wrote little about the American experience.

My host proposed a cup of tea only to discover he had no cooking gas. But at that moment his friend the Moroccan writer Mohammed Mrabet arrived, put in a full bottle of gas, and water was soon boiling. His Spanish-speaking chauffeur then walked in and took a seat along the wall as if it were his assigned place. He was followed by two servants who started cleaning rather ineffectually. Paul didn't seem to notice.

While we were drinking tea and smoking kif - fresh kif-filled cigarettes were always drying by the fireplace every afternoon in the Bowles household - the door banged open and another Bowles literary discovery entered, Mohammed Choukhri. Choukhri presented Bowles with his latest essay on Jean Genet, which he on the spot dedicated to his friend, drank a cup of tea, smoked a kif cigarette, and left.

Unexpected entertainment was then offered by a "jilala" musician, the quaspah player, Abdalmalek, an illiterate for whom Bowles had promised to write a letter.

Bowles explained to me that when a sick or depressed Moroccan says "I think I need to dance," it means he needs "jilala" therapy. Abdalmalek provides it. His music-therapy group plays the flute-like quaspah, bendir drums and bronze castanets called quarquaba until the frenetically dancing patient falls into a trance and leaves his body so that his saint can enter and clean house. Scenes like that appear frequently in Bowles literature.

"Probably no worse than many other treatments," Bowles commented at the end of the impromptu 15-minute concert.”

From an interview with Gaither Stewart.

2005. The Marriage of Tom Parker Bowles

Perhaps the bride had always intended to be fashionably late. Alternatively, it might have been wedding-day nerves - or even fears over how her wedding outfit would go down with critical fellow writers from the fashion world. Sara Buys, however, arrived fully 20 minutes behind schedule yesterday afternoon for her wedding to Tom Parker Bowles, keeping 180 guests, including the Prince of Wales, waiting at a rural church in Oxfordshire.

If the bride was nervous, she was not alone. The groom had stopped on his way to the church for a stiff drink at the local pub, the Maltsters Arms, with his best man, Ben Elliot. He apparently wanted to steady his nerves and catch up on the Test match score.

Mr. Parker Bowles, an Eton-educated food writer for the Tatler, is Prince Charles's godson. His life has been scrutinized by the media because of his mother's long on-off relationship with Prince Charles. Six years ago, he was exposed by a tabloid newspaper for taking cocaine at a West End party.