The surname of BOWLS was derived from the Old French BOULE - one who played bowls. Occupational surnames originally denoted the actual occupation followed by the individual. At what period they became hereditary is a difficult problem. Many of the occupation names were descriptive and could be varied. In the Middle Ages, at least among the Christian population, people did not usually pursue specialized occupations exclusively to the extent that we do today, and they would, in fact, turn their hand to any form of work that needed to be done, particularly in a large house or mansion, or on farms and smallholdings. In early documents, surnames often refer to the actual holder of an office, whether the church or state.The name was brought into England in the wake of the Norman Conquest of 1066, and BOWLE (without surname) appears to be the first of the name on record in 1086.
Many of the early names recorded in medieval documents denote noble families but many also indicate migration from the continent during, and in the wake of, the Norman invasion of 1066. There was a constant stream of merchants, workmen and others arriving in England during this time. In 1086 the Record of Great Inquisition of lands of England, their extent, value, ownership and liabilities was made by order of William The Conquerer. It is known as the Domesday Book.
Early records of the name mention John de Boweles of the County of Huntingdonshire in 1292.
James Bowle of the County of Sussex in 1297. Edward Bowles of Yorkshire, was listed in the Yorkshire Poll Tax of 1379, and William Bowles appears in County Lancashire in 1400. Thomas Bowles in 1553, ibid.
The associated arms are recorded in Sir Bernard Burkes General Armory. Ulster King of Arms in 1884.
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