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Clippings from the Burney Collection of Early Newspapers

The Burney Collection of early newspapers was gathered by the Rev Charles Burney (1757-1817). It includes 700 bound volumes of London, provincial, British and colonial newspapers, many of which cannot be found elsewhere, and is the largest collection of newspapers from the 17th and 18th Centuries. The collection is now available on-line and a search for references to the Bowyers revealed 26 entries between 1722 and 1800. The cuttings have been pasted below.

Many of the articles relate to the voting for the City and Parliamentary elections. In the City elections, the Bowyers often had the smallest turn-out and in the lists of the numbers of liverymen eligible to vote for the City's Members of Parliament the Bowyers were one of the smallest companies with as few as 30 voters, only the Fletchers and Musicians being smaller.

On 14th February 1740, the London Evening Post uses the expression of "Mite Extraordinary" to describe the gift by the Bowyers of 20s to widows of liverymen and 10s to the poor of the Yeomanry whilst urging the wealthier companies to do likewise.

On 27th August 1761, The St James's Chronicle included a letter prompted by talk of a new poll tax describing an earlier tax after the Restoration in which every Liveryman of the Bowyers had been required to pay 5s. The same letter was published in the Public Advertiser.

On 4th October 1774, Adams's Weekly Courant included a letter quoting from a Harleian Society Manuscript which listed the roles played by the various guilds in the Chester Mystery Plays. Christ's Passion was acted by members of the Bowyers, Fletchers and Ironmongers. The reader is invited to smile at some of the combinations and to explain the nature of some of these ancient trades. This would suggest that even by 1774 some of the medieval trades were no longer recognisable. Most of the guilds of Chester have their London equivalent with the exception of Cappers (cap-makers), Wrightes (carpenters), Websters (weavers), and Corvesarys (not identified).

On 27th January 1776, The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser recorded the raising of £1,500 by the Court of Common Council for the relief of the poor of the City "in this severe and inclement weather". The Bowyers contributed 20s.

On 2nd August 1776, The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser recorded the election of William Heathcote as Master and William Barwick and John Waddington as Wardens of the Bowyers Company. (John Waddington went on to be master himself 1782-1784). They processed from the Half Moon to St Nicholas Cole Abbey, where they enjoyed a sermon by Dr Cockayne, then returned to the tavern for an elegant dinner (as usual).

On 30th September 1780, The Whitehall Evening Post recorded that the Sheriffs-elect and 16 members from the each of the Fishmongers and the Bowyers processed by coach and barge to Westminster. The names of the Sheriffs are not recorded in the newspaper but it is known from the monument in the parish church at Market Lavingon, Wiltshire, that one of the sheriffs was Thomas Sainsbury, Citizen and Bowyer. The same article appeared in the Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser.

On intriguing entry appears in The Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser of 6th November 1786.

"The Company of Bowyers have not been out with the Mayor for upwards of thirty years and are much disappointed in consequence of the show being put aside this year. They had provided new colours and every other paraphernalia to do honour to their brother Liveryman the Lord Mayor elect. The above Company have another Alderman belonging to them viz Mr Macauley (sic) so that probably a few years more will give them an opportunity of displaying their proud banners on board the City barge".

It would appear that the Lord Mayor's show for Thomas Sainsbury did not go ahead but what is intriguing is that we do not know which Bowyer is was that achieved high office thirty or so years before. It is possible that whoever it was may have been translated to one of the Great Twelve Companies before taking office in which case he would not have been recorded as being of the Bowyers' Company. George Macaulay did not serve as Lord Mayor but he did serve as Sheriff as recorded on 29th September 1790 in The Gazetteer and Daily Advertiser: having been sworn in, the new Sheriffs with members of the Bowyers and Salters enjoyed an elegant dinner paid for the by the senior alderman, Mr Macaulay.

Simon Leach
April 2012

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