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References to the Bowyers in John Stow's Survey of London

John Stow, was born in 1525, the son of Thomas Stow, a tallow-chandler in the parish of St Michael, Cornhill. He was apprenticed as a merchant taylor, was admitted as freeman to the Merchant Taylor's Company in 1547, and set up business in Aldgate. In the 1570's he moved to a house in the Lime Street Ward where he lived until his death. However, he was to pursue another career as a historian and antiquarian. His best known work is the Survey of London of 1598 which was republished in 1603 and which gives a unique account of the buildings, streets, social conditions and customs of Elizabethan London. A reprint of the 1603 edition was published in 1908 edited by Charles Kingsford. Stow died in 1605 and is buried in the church of St Andrew Undershaft where his monument and terracotta figure still remain. He is not forgotten for, in April of each year, the Lord Mayor attends John Stow's Quill Pen Ceremony at which he places a new quill in the hand of John Stow's statue which remains in place until the following year. The old quill is presented to the child who is the winner of an annual essay competition on the subject of London.

The Survey includes a number of references to bowyers, the Bowyers' Company, Bowyer Row, Bowyers' Hall and the practice of archery. It tells us that by 1598, bowyers no longer frequented their traditional places of work, that the traditional shooting grounds were being lost to enclosure and that the noble practice of archery had been forsaken for gambling and unlawful games. It provides clear evidence that, when the Bowyers' received their first charter in 1621, the manufacture and use of longbows was already in serious decline.

References to bowyers

The Suburbes without the Walles In the East ende of Forestreete is More lane: then next is Grubstreete, of late yeares inhabited for the most part by Bowyers, Fletchers, Bowstring makers, and such like, now little occupied, Archerie giving place to a number of bowling Allies, and Dicing houses, which in al places are increased, and too much frequented. 1

The site of Grub Street is now under the Barbican Centre. It ran north from Fore Street and was not far from Bowyers' Hall.

Reference to the Bowyers' Company

Temporall Government

In 23. of Henrie the eight, these companies had place at the Maiors feast, in the Guild hall in order as followeth, I speake of president, for I was never feast folower.

1. Mercers, the wardens and 17. persons, five messe.
2. Grocers, the wardens and 16. persons, four messe. etc
35. Bowiers, the wardens and two persons, one messe.
36. Fletchers, the wardens and 2. Persons, one messe.2

The Bowyers and Fletchers are now ranked as 38 and 39 respectively in the modern order of precedence.

References to Bowyer Row

The 1908 reprint of the Survey includes a modern map of places and streets as described by Stow. Bowier Row can be seen leading from the West Front of St Paul's Cathedral to the church of St Martin's within Ludgate.

Detail of map from 1908 edition of John Stow's: A Survey of London

There are five references to Bowyer Row.

Gates of this Citie By meanes of this increase of the Church territorie, but more by inclosing of ground for so large a cemitorie, or churchyard: the high and large street stretching from Aldegate in the East, untill Ludgate in the West, was in this place so crossed and stopped up, that the cariage through the citie westward, was forced to passe without the said churchyard wall on the North side, through Pater noster row: and then South downe Ave Mary lane, and againe West through Bowyer row to Ludgate: or else out of Cheepe, or Watheling streete to turne south, through the old Exchange, then west through Carter Lane: againe north up Creede lane, and then west to Ludgate.3

Of Orders and Customes
Men of trades and sellers of wares in this City have often times since chaunged their places, as they have found their best advantage. For where as Mercers, and Haberdashers used to keepe their shoppes in West Cheape, of later time they helde them on London Bridge, where partly they yet remaine.... (There then follows many examples of trades which have moved from their traditional place of work) .......:Bowyers, from Bowyers row by Ludgate into divers places, and almost worne out with the Fletchers:4

Faringdon Ward within
Now betwixt the south ende of Ave Mary Lane, and the north end of Creede lane, is the comming out of Paules church-yard on the East, and the high streete called Bowier row to Ludgate, on the west, which way to Ludgate is of this ward. On the North side whereof is saint Martins Church. And on the South side is a turning into Blacke Friers.5

Faringdon Ward within
Betwixt the south end of Ave Mary lane, and the North end of Creed Lane, is the comming out of Paules Church yard, on the East, and the high street on the West, towards Ludgate, and this is called Bowier row, of Bowiers dwelling there in olde time, now worne out by Mercers and others.6

Faringdon Ward within
Now to turne againe out of the Black Fryers through Bowier Rowe, Ave Mary lane, and Pater Noster Row, to the church of saint Michaell ad Bladum......7

References to Bowyers' Hall

Creplesgate warde
The East side of this streete (Monkswell Street) downe against London Wall, and the south side thereof of to Criplegate, bee of Criplesgate Ward, as is afore shewd. In this street by the corner of Monkswell street is the Bowyers hall.8

References to the practice of archery

Of watches in London
In the Moneth of August about the feast of S. Bartholomew the Apostle, before the Lord Maior, Aldermen, and Shiriffes of London placed in a large Tent neare unto Clarken well, of olde time were diverse dayes spent in the pastime of wrestling, where the Officers of the Citie: namely the Shiriffes, Sergeants and Yeoman, the Porters of the kings beame, or weigh house, now no such men, and other of the Citie, were challengers of all men in the suburbs, to wrestle for games appointed: and on other dayes, before the sayd Maior, Aldermen and Shiriffes, in Fensburie field, to shoote the Standard, broad Arrow, and flight, for games: but now of late yeares the wrestling is onely practised on Bartholemw day in the after noone, and the shooting some three or foure dayes after, in one after noone and no more. What should I speake of the auncient dayly exercises in the long bow by Citizens of this Citie, now almost cleane left off and forsaken? I overpass it: for by the meane of closing in the common grounds, our Archers for want of roome to shoote abroade, creepe into bowling Allies, and ordinarie dicing houses, nearer home, where they have roome to hazard their money at unlawful games: and there I leave them to take their pleasures.9

Bishopsgate warde
Then is there a large close called Tasell close sometime, for that there were Tasels planted for the use of Clothworkers: since letten to the Crosse-bow-makers, wherein they used to shoote for games at the Popingey: now the same being inclosed with a bricke wall, serveth to be an Artillerieyard, wherunto the Gunners of the Tower doe weekely repaire, namely everie Thursday, and there levelling certaine Brasse peeces of great Artillerie against a But of earth, made for that purpose, they discharge them for their exercise.10

The Suburbes without the Walles
In the year 1498. all the Gardens which had continued time out of mind, without Moregate, to witte, aboute and beyonde the Lordship of Finsbery, were destroyed. And of them was made a playne field for Archers to shoote in. And in the yeare 1512. Roger Atchley Mayor caused divers dikes to be cast, and made to drein the waters of the sayde More fields, with bridges arched over them, and the groundes about to bee levelled, whereby the sayd fielde was made somewhat more commodious, but yet it stoode full of noysome waters: Whereupon in the yeare 1527. sir Thomas Semor Mayor caused divers sluces to be made, to convey the sayd waters over the Towne ditch, into the course of Walbrooke, and so into the Thames: and by these degress was this Fenne or More at length made main and hard ground, which before being overgrowne with Flagges, sedges and rushes, served to no use, since the which time, also the further groundes beyonde Fensbury Court have been so overheightned with Laystalles of dung, that now three windmilles are theron set: the ditches be filled up, and the bridges overwhelmed.

And now concerning the inclosures of common grounds about this cittie, whereof I mind not much to argue, Edwarde Hall setteth downe a note of his time, to wit in the fift or sixte of Henry the eight: before this time sayth hee, the inhabitantes of the Townes aboute London, as Iseldone, Hoxton, Shorsditch and others, had so inclosed the common fields with hedges, and ditches, that neyther the yong men of the City might shoote, nor the auncient persons walke for theyr pleasures in those fieldes, but that either their bowes and arrowes were taken away or broken, or the honest persons arrested or indighted: saying, that no Londoner ought to goe out of the City, but in the high Waies. This saying so grieved the Londoners, that suddainlie this yeare a great number of the Citie assembled themselves in a morning, and a Turner in a fooles coate came crying through the Citty, shovelles and spades, shovelles and spades: so many of the people followed, that it was a wonder to behold, and within a short space all the hedges about the City were cast down, and the diches filled up, and every thing made plaine, such was the diligence of these workmen; .......11

From the Notes to the 1908 reprint

Grubstreete. It was convenient for bowyers since it lay near the Archery- butts in Finsbury Fields. Randolph in Hey for Honesty ed 1651 p475 writes: -

Her eyes are Cupid's Grub-Street: the blind archer Makes his love-arrows there.12

This place was also known for being the street of scribblers and the phrase Grub Street is still used today to refer to the world of hack journalism.

Simon Leach
February 2010

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