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?-1606: Henry Bowyer MP JP

The magnificent screen in the Morning Room of Cuckfield Place.

In 1573 the 4th Earl of Derby sold his quarter of the Manor of Cuckfield to Henry Bowyer a local ironmaster. Iron was a major industry in the area from as early as the 13th century right up until the early 18th century. Bowyer along with the Burrells and another local family the Coverts all had their iron making sites at Slaugham and Horsted Keynes.

Henry and his wife Elizabeth dismantled the medieval manor hall near the church to build a new Manor house, now Cuckfield Park (although then known as Cuckfield Place). Their initials and the date 1574 can still be seen on the stone chimney piece in the dining room.

The 'History of Parliament' Online tell us more about Henry Bowyer, son of Henry Bowyer who built Cuckfield Place:


Bowyer was the grandson of John Bowyer, yeoman, of Hartfield, Sussex, who was probably the successful ironmaster of that name but whose connexion with the Bowyers of Petworth, North Mundham and Chichester, Sussex, is doubtful. Henry’s father, third of the yeoman’s eight sons, had married the daughter and heiress of a clerk comptroller of Henry VIII’s household, and made his fortune in the Wealden iron industry.

He owned a forge and several furnaces, managed others for the Queen, and acquired considerable property in Cuckfield - where he built Cuckfield Place—and in Crawley, some in joint ownership with his son Henry. Henry inherited most of this wealth and with it his father’s stocks of timber, coal and iron.

Bowyer’s failure to sit in Parliament before 1601 may have been due to local unpopularity. His father, though the leasehold tenant of Lord Bergavenny’s Bentley Park since 1565, and in 1575 purchaser from Henry, 4th Earl of Derby, of a fourth part of Cuckfield manor, had not been a social success in the neighbourhood; many Cuckfield families had combined against him in his feud with the vicar, Edmund Curteys, brother of the bishop of Chichester. It is not known why Bowyer was at last returned for Bramber in 1601.

In his will, made two days before his death, which occurred 23 May 1606, he asked to be buried in Cuckfield Church. He left £100 for the relief of certain godly poor ministers, £20 for the poor of Cuckfield, and small bequests to household servants and friends.

Among the relatives who benefited were his uncle Mr Vaux, his ‘kind and loving’ sister-in-law, now a widow, Mistress Anne Goring, and her children, the youngest of whom ‘little Tom Goring’, was to have £10 for ‘all his pretty jests wherewith he did often recreate my mind’.

He appointed his wife, Dorothy, executrix, leaving her for life his mansion house in Cuckfield, with remainder to his nephew and heir Sir Thomas Hendley of Cranbrook, Kent. His property in Worth, near Crawley, Sussex, was to go to his cousin William Bowyer. The widow married as her second husband John Shurley II of Isfield.

Family and Education

Third but only surviving son of Henry Bowyer of Cuckfield by Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Thomas Vaux of Caterham, Surrey education, Clare College, Cambridge. 1576; Clement’s Inn; Mdidle Temple 1579. married Dorothy, daughter of George Goring I of Ovingdean, without issue succeeded father 1589. Knighted 1603. Died 1606.

Offices held

JP Sussex from c.1592, q. (?) 1594.

Parliamentary Constituency Bramber date 1601


Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1558-1603, ed. P.W. Hasler, 1981

Contributed by Malcolm Davison


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