Show ContentsBowdler History, Family Crest & Coats of Arms

The many generations and branches of the Bowdler family can all place the origins of their surname with the ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. Their name reveals that an early member worked as a worker in iron, or a bowdler. Bowdler was originally derived from the older term, buddler. The word buddle, used in the north of England, meant to cleanse ore, and a vessel made for this purpose shaped like a shallow tumbrel was called a buddle. [1]

Early Origins of the Bowdler family

The surname Bowdler was first found in Shropshire, at Hope-Bowdler, a parish, in the union of Church-Stretton, hundred of Munslow. [2]

The first record of the family was found here in 1273. The Hundredorum Rolls listed Richard le Boudler as holding lands there at that time. [3]

"The Bowdlers, who are now best represented in Shrewsbury and its district, possess a very ancient Shropshire name. Ashford Bowdler is the name of a parish and a seat near Ludlow, the seat being held in the 12th and 13th centuries by the influential family of De Budler or De Bowdler or De Boilers, lords of Montgomery and of many places in Shropshire." [4]

Early History of the Bowdler family

This web page shows only a small excerpt of our Bowdler research. Another 114 words (8 lines of text) covering the years 1468, 1627, 1661, 1665, 1684, 1691, 1694, 1705, 1712, 1738, 1754, 1783, 1815, 1818 and 1825 are included under the topic Early Bowdler History in all our PDF Extended History products and printed products wherever possible.

Bowdler Spelling Variations

Before the last few hundred years, the English language had no fast system of spelling rules. For that reason, spelling variations are commonly found in early Anglo-Saxon surnames. Over the years, many variations of the name Bowdler were recorded, including Bowdler, Bowdlar, Boudler, Boudlar, Bowdless and many more.

Early Notables of the Bowdler family

Distinguished members of the family include

  • Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), English physician, author/editor of the "Family Shakespeare" (1818), and source of the expression: “to bowdlerise.' He also edited Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the...
  • John Bowdler the Younger (1783-1815), was an English author, the youngest son of John Bowdler the elder. born in London on 2 Feb. 1783. [5]

United States Bowdler migration to the United States +

To escape oppression and starvation at that time, many English families left for the "open frontiers" of the New World with all its perceived opportunities. In droves people migrated to the many British colonies, those in North America in particular, paying high rates for passages in cramped, unsafe ships. Although many of the settlers did not make the long passage alive, those who did see the shores of North America perceived great opportunities before them. Many of the families that came from England went on to make essential contributions to the emerging nations of Canada and the United States. Research into various historical records revealed some of first members of the Bowdler family emigrate to North America:

Bowdler Settlers in United States in the 17th Century
  • Andrew Bowdler who settled in New York in 1678
Bowdler Settlers in United States in the 19th Century
  • David Bowdler, who arrived in Allegany (Allegheny) County, Pennsylvania in 1876 [6]

Australia Bowdler migration to Australia +

Emigration to Australia followed the First Fleets of convicts, tradespeople and early settlers. Early immigrants include:

Bowdler Settlers in Australia in the 19th Century
  • Daniel Bowdler, English convict from Worcester, who was transported aboard the "Adamant" on March 16, 1821, settling in New South Wales, Australia [7]

West Indies Bowdler migration to West Indies +

The British first settled the British West Indies around 1604. They made many attempts but failed in some to establish settlements on the Islands including Saint Lucia and Grenada. By 1627 they had managed to establish settlements on St. Kitts (St. Christopher) and Barbados, but by 1641 the Spanish had moved in and destroyed some of these including those at Providence Island. The British continued to expand the settlements including setting the First Federation in the British West Indies by 1674; some of the islands include Barbados, Bermuda, Cayman Island, Turks and Caicos, Jamaica and Belize then known as British Honduras. By the 1960's many of the islands became independent after the West Indies Federation which existed from 1958 to 1962 failed due to internal political conflicts. After this a number of Eastern Caribbean islands formed a free association. [8]
Bowdler Settlers in West Indies in the 17th Century
  • Elinor Bowdler, who settled in Barbados in 1679 with servants

Contemporary Notables of the name Bowdler (post 1700) +

  • James Calloway "Cal" Bowdler (b. 1977), American professional (NBA) basketball player
  • William Garton Bowdler (b. 1924), American politician, U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador, 1968; Guatamala, 1971-73; South Africa, 1975-78 [9]
  • Michael D. Bowdler, American politician, Mayor of River Rouge, Michigan, 2005- [9]
  • Jane Bowdler (1743-1784), English author, born 14 Feb. 1743 at Ashley, near Bath, the eldest daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Stuart Bowdler, sister of John the Bowdler the elder
  • Henrietta Maria Bowdler (1754-1830), commonly called Mrs. Harriet Bowdler, English author, daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Stuart Bowdler, and sister of John Bowdler the elder
  • Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), English physician, philanthropist, and man of letters, eponym of the expression: 'to Bowdlerise'; editor of the 'Family Shakespeare,' the younger son of Thomas and Elizabeth Stuart Bowdler, born at Ashley, near Bath, on 11 July 1754 [10]
  • Ernie Bowdler (1872-1921), Shrewsbury Town F.C. and Wales international footballer
  • Lonza Bowdler (b. 1901), Welsh international rugby player
  • George Bowdler Buckton (1818-1905), English entomologist, best known for his study of aphids
  • Richard Bowdler Sharpe (1847-1909), English zoologist

  1. Lower, Mark Anthony, Patronymica Britannica, A Dictionary of Family Names of the United Kingdom. London: John Russel Smith, 1860. Print.
  2. Lewis, Samuel, A Topographical Dictionary of England. Institute of Historical Research, 1848, Print.
  3. Bardsley, C.W, A Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames: With Special American Instances. Wiltshire: Heraldry Today, 1901. Print. (ISBN 0-900455-44-6)
  4. Guppy, Henry Brougham, Homes of Family Names in Great Britain. 1890. Print.
  5. Smith, George (ed), Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1885-1900. Print
  6. Filby, P. William, Meyer, Mary K., Passenger and immigration lists index : a guide to published arrival records of about 500,000 passengers who came to the United States and Canada in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. 1982-1985 Cumulated Supplements in Four Volumes Detroit, Mich. : Gale Research Co., 1985, Print (ISBN 0-8103-1795-8)
  7. State Library of Queensland. (Retrieved 2016, October 27) Adamant voyage to New South Wales, Australia in 1821 with 144 passengers. Retrieved from
  9. The Political Graveyard: Alphabetical Name Index. (Retrieved 2016, January 29) . Retrieved from
  10. Wikisource contributors. "Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900." Wikisource . Wikisource , 4 Jun. 2018. Web. 5 Feb. 2019 on Facebook