The Bowerman Boys

Notes for the brief talk on 16th February
on the Bowerman Boys.
By Shaun Morley

Jonathan and Martha Bowerman baptised eleven children at Charlbury parish church between 1766 and 1791, eight boys and three girls. Three died in infancy but the pressure of bringing up a large family was immense. At the burial of one child, David in 1786 Jonathan the father is described as a pauper indicating he and his family were receiving relief from the parish overseers for the poor.

Three sons, James, George and Solomon would not see the end of their days in England. The Bowerman's were a Finstock family.

James Bowerman b. 1770
Aged 21, he was committed to Oxford prison with William Souch of Ramsden for killing a fallow deer in Wychwood forest. The outcome of that charge is unknown but 25 years later on 29th July 1816 he was transported to Australia on the ship ‘Atlas’ under the name James Alder (mothers maiden name).

Solomon Bowerman, b. 1784.
In 1816 Solomon (30) was acquitted at court for horse stealing in Finstock and Fawler, together with James Evans and John Townsend.However, later that year he was tried for horse stealing at the Old Bailey. [Proceedings of Old Bailey]
Found Guilty but commuted to Transportation for life.

[Report in The Times, 29th October 1816] Escape
Quite how he was caught we do not know, but he was subsequently transported to Australia.

George Bowerman, b. 1791
Brought from Reading on 27th February 1809 (17) for the burglary of two dwelling houses in Caversham and Shiplake. Not guilty, but sentenced to death on 18th March for another charge. Commuted to transportation.

18/12/1810 – arrived in Australia on the vessel ‘India’ with Samuel Franklin.

A nephew, David son of their sister Mary was also tried at the Old Bailey for theft of a bridle, transported and arrived 1820 aboard ‘Mangles’.

Another Jonathan Bowerman (relationship not confirmed) was committed to Oxford Gaol on 20th February 1809 for stealing lead off the church roof at Cogges with John Launchbury and John Townsend. (Transportation 7 years? 8/3/1809).

John Kibble, “In a village on the forest border I know an old cottage where had lived a party who possessed a cart that would travel quietly. The wheels were of wood, without iron tyres. One night it was used to fetch lead from the roof of Cogges church, it is said.”

[e-mail from Raymond Andrews]

James, Solomon and George Bowerman were hanged for highway robbery on 23rd December 1820.

The story did not quite finish there.

8 months later a convict William Geary stated it was not George but was in fact he, with James and Solomon who had committed the robbery. George was pardoned but Geary was found to be insane, much taller than George and with much of the booty found at George’s house it is likely that it was George after all. George’s wife was Mary and they had two sons, Solomon and George junior.

§ George jun. tried in 1832 for stealing fruit
§ Solomon in 1836 for maliciously destroying his mothers dog

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DOWN MEMORY LANE with Roy Townsend


My very first memory is coming home from the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford after having appendicitis with peritonitis. I remember riding in a car with a very long bonnet. I can't remember who was driving, but I have always thought it was Mr Harris.

Then there was the row of elm trees which ran from the allotment gate, opposite Patch Riding, down to the top of the new play area by the School, which at that time was the school garden. I loved playing under the elm trees and climbing them, much to the concern of a Great Aunty who lived at the end of Patch Riding. The house is now long gone. One rather amusing tale was that when the war started there were aeroplanes very high up and Aunty made us get under the trees in case they dropped bombs on us. So for just a while the elms were friendly, no longer a danger to us — as the old proverb says: "Elm Hateth Man and Waiteth"— because it drops branches without warning. Every November we used to have a bonfire which was supervised by Nurse Trinder, who lived in Patch Riding, next door to my Great Aunty and Uncle, and Nurse Trinder made very sure we did not get too close to the fire. Of course from 1939 there were no more bonfires, so I suppose the last fire was in 1938.

I was born in one of the Waterloo Cottages in the High Street, next door to the Miss Hutt’s, who always remembered my birthday. My parents later moved from High Street into an old thatched cottage, just below Patch Riding, with very wide walls and a big walk in larder. The apple tree in the garden is still there and grew some of the sweetest apples I ever tasted. Just over the garden wall was a long narrow field which went with Finstock House. Mr Trinder and Mr. Davidson used to have an allotment there, but the rest was kept for Mr and Mrs Fellows, who lived in Finstock House. I remember Sid Pratley ploughing this field and he would sing as he ploughed. He sang, "Oh, I wonder, yes I wonder, will the Angels way up yonder, will the Angels play their harps for me, 10,000 miles I've travelled and a million sights I’ve seen, and now I’m ready for the field". Mike Breakell is the only other person I have met who knows this song. After Sid had finished ploughing he would take me with him to stable the horses. He would put me up on Bonnie and if they turned the horses out on Finstock Heath, he would let me ride all the way up, but he always led the mare. But if Sid's brother Fred took the horses up to the Heath, he would let me ride without leading and I would think I was really grown up!