Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


Leonard Bowman (1598–1666)

Mayor of Oxford 1641/2 and 1661/2

Leonard Bowman was born in 1598 and baptised at St Mary’s Church in Witney on 8 September. He was the son of Edward Bowman. Only one possible sibling is listed in the baptismal register for that church: Robert Bowman, son of Edward, baptised eight years earlier on 30 September 1590. The Edward Bowman buried in Witney on 24 August 1612 could be their father.

In about 1613 Leonard Bowman was apprenticed to the Oxford mercer John Brown, and he was admitted free on 17 September 1621.

On 12 January 1622/3 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church, Oxford, Leonard Bowman married Elizabeth Potter, the daughter of William Potter. They had at least nine children:

  • Jane Bowman (baptised on 26 September 1623 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Thomas Bowman and William Bowman (baptised on 25 September 1624 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church;
    both buried within three days)
  • Edward Bowman (baptised on 1 November 1625 in Witney at St Mary’s Church)
  • Robert Bowman (baptised on 7 November 1627 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Leonard Bowman (baptised on 6 November 1629 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Elizabeth Bowman (baptised on 1 December 1631 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Judith Bowman (baptised on 13 August 1633 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church)
  • Rebecca Bowman (baptised on 16 September 1635 at St Mary-the-Virgin Church).

Leonard Bowman came on to the Common Council in October 1626, paying 3s 4d for not serving as Constable. In October 1627 he was elected Junior Chamberlain.

Bowman took on William Cornish, the son of Thomas Cornish of Witney deceased, on 25 March 1628/9.

After serving several years as a Keykeeper, Bowman was elected Senior Bailiff on 17 September 1632.

In 1636, when their youngest child was about eight months old, his first wife Elizabeth Bowman died. She was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 8 May that year.

On 31 January 1640, Leonard Bowman married his second wife, Jane Adeane (à Deane), the daughter of Ralph à Deane.

On 27 February 1640 Bowman was elected one of the eight Assistants.

In October 1640 Bowman’s apprentice, William Merriott, was admitted free.

On 23 May 1641 his s second wife Jane Bowman was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church. Anthony Wood made a record of her tombstone in that church: “Here lyeth the body of Jane Bowman the wife of Leonard Bowman, daughter of Ralph à Deane of Brittwell in the countie of Oxon, who deceased the 21 day of May an. 1641”.

On 20 September 1641 Bowman was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1641/2), granting Sampson White a Bailiff’s place as his Child. On 10 February (St Scholastica’s Day) 1642, it was agreed that Bowman should go alone to swear the annual oath to observe the University’s privileges:

At this councell being Scholasticus day, Mr. Mayor shewed that he and his brethren have had conference touchinge his goinge to St  Maries on this day with Sixtie and two citizens more to heare prayers, receave the Sacrament and to make theire Oblacon for a pennie a peece for the Slaughter of 63 Schollers in or about the Raigne of King Edward the third, and have prayed Mr Recorder’s opinion and advise therein, who advised that Mr Mayor should goe himselfe and for the residue of the 63 he cannot compel them, netiher are 62 willinge to accompanie him though he hath requested them soe to do.

The city of Oxford was occupied from August 1642 by Royalist forces under Sir John Byron, and Bowman ordered the publishing of Royal Proclamations. Both the City and the University began to arm themselves, and on 16 August Bowman personally contributed six pounds of powder and two yards of match. Byron was welcomed by the Vice-Chancellor of the University and by Bowman in his capacity as Mayor, and Bowman “gave Sir John and his companie wine drinke and a free welcome”; but the city council rejected Bowman’s proposal to join the University in fortifying the city.

Byron and his royalist forces left the city on 20 September 1642. Anthony Wood(I:63) records:

The Lundon troopers went out about noone; and as they came alonge downe the high streete, Mr. mayor [Leonard Bowman] presented them with wyne at his doore freely; and passinge by St Marie’s church, one of them discharged a brace of bulletts at the stone image of our lady over the Church porch, and at one shott strooke of her hed and the hed of her child which she held in her right arme; another discharged at the image of our Saviour, over All Soules gate, and would have defaced all the work there, had it not byn for some townesmen (amongest whom, they saye, Mr. alderman Nixon was one) who entreated them to forbeare; they replienge that they had not byn so well entertayned here at Oxford as they expected &c.

After the Battle of Edgehill, King Charles I came to Oxford (“the only city of England that he could say was entirely at his devotion”) on 29 October 1642, and Bowman contributed £10 towards the money presented by the City to the King.  

The accounts of the Vice-Chancellor for 1641/2 show the payment of £5 14s to Leonard Bowman, mayor “toward the keeping of those that were sick of the plague”.

Around this time Leonard Bowman married his third wife, Frances, and he may be the Leonard Boman who married Frances Staunton at Avon Dassett, Warwick on 2 May 1642.

His third wife Frances Bowman died about two years after their marriage, and was buried at St Mary-the-Virgin Church on 31 March 1643/4.

By ordinance of Parliament in 1648, Leonard Bowman as a staunch royalist was no longer allowed to hold his position on the council. It was not until 17 September 1660, after the Restoration of King Charles II, that he was able to return to his position as one of the Mayor’s Assistants. He accompanied the Mayor to the Coronation at Westminster on 23 April 1661, and when the King visited Oxford in August, Bowman was one of the group who rode out to meet him in a scarlet gown with footclothes, accompanied by a footman dressed in the same way.

On 17 September 1661, Leonard Bowman was elected Mayor a second time (for 1661/2). This was a controversial election, with a “very great disturbance” (especially by Robert Mills and Richard Sherwood who were subsequently disfranchised). Bowman took his place as Mayor on 30 September, nominating Stephen Webb as his Child to have a Chamberlain’s place, and requesting that Edward Greene should have his freedom.

During his mayoral year, on 23 April 1662, Bowman was elected an Alderman (for the South-West Ward), and on 28 May 1662 his eldest surviving son, Edward, was admitted on to the council and given a Bailiff’s place.

After his mayoral year, Bowman continued as one of the eight Assistants, but abandoned his civic duties around the end of 1663 and moved into the country near the end of 1664 (although the 1665 Hearth Tax return lists him as still paying hearth tax on his uninhabited house in the parish of St Mary the Virgin, and also on Haberdashers Hall).

On 19 December 1664 it was ordered that the Town Clerk and one of the Bailiffs should visit Bowman and request him either to repair at once to the city and perform his duties as alderman, or to resign from his aldermanship. He evidently did not respond to this request, because on 4 January 1666 a letter to be signed by the Town Clerk was read to the council, giving Bowman an ultimatum: if he did not return and execute his office on or before 1 February, a new alderman and assistant would be elected in his place.

In the event, no action had to be taken, as Leonard Bowman evidently died within a few months

† Alderman Leonard Bowman died early in 1666, but no burial has been found. A new alderman was elected in his place on on 30 April 1666.

His will of 10 December 1665 was proved in February 1667 (see transcript here). He left legacies to a fourth wife, Ann Bowman, and to his sons Edward, Robert, and Leonard Bowman and his daughters Judith Bowman, and Rebecca Eustace.

See also:

  • PCC Will PROB 11/323/331 (Will of Leonard Bowman, Gentleman, Alderman of Oxford, proved 26 February 1667)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 25 September, 2018

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