Introduction: Notes on the Stow family

A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603. Originally published by Clarendon, Oxford, 1908.

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'Introduction: Notes on the Stow family', in A Survey of London. Reprinted From the Text of 1603, (Oxford, 1908) pp. xliv-xlviii. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


Early History.

Stow no doubt belonged to an old London family. His grandfather Thomas (d. 1527) in his will refers to his own parents as being buried at St. Michael, Cornhill (see p. vii above). This carries the descent one generation further back than John Stow could do. The name occurs occasionally in early records. There is mention of a John de Stowe in 1283 (Sharpe, Cal. Wills Husling, i. 65). Henry de Stowe, draper, had a lease of the Coldharbour in 1319 (see i. 236 below). Another John Stowe occurs in 1351 (Cal. Wills, i. 641), and William Stowe in 1387 (Anc. Deeds, B. 2055). Thomas Stow was Dean of St. Paul's in 1400. But I cannot connect any of these with the chronicler.

I must pass, therefore, to contemporary documents, and will then sum up their evidence.

The Will of Elizabeth Stowe.

The xxvijth of June 1568.

'In the name of God Amen. I, Elizabeth Stowe beinge sicke in bodye &c.' Her body to be buried 'in the cloyster by my husbande in the parisshe of S. Mychell in Cornehill.' Her executor to spend 'xxxvli. vpon my buryall to burye me decentely withall'.

Itm. I will myne executor to gyve vnto Iohn my eldeste sonne fyve poundes. Itm. I gyve vnto Iohn My younger sonne the monye beinge in the handes of Thomas ffarmer my sonne in lawe, the some of xiijli. vjs. viijd., which shalbe due as apperethe by one obligacion. And yf it happen that the saide Iohn the yonger doe departe this worlde within the time specified in the obligacion, that then it remaine vnto William Stowe my sonne, and yf he dye also then it to remaint vnto my executor his heires executors or assigns'.

To William Stowe, ten pounds. To her daughter Iohan, five pounds 'for she hathe had fyve alredy'. To her daughter Margaret 'the yearely rent of the house which Stephen Rowlandson dwelleth in, which is xxxv by year' with remainder to her executor.

Vnto my daughter Alyce my best pettycoate for a remembrance, for she hathe had tenne poundes of me alredye.'

'Vnto my brother William Archer his wyfe, my cassocke edged with conye, and to his son harye xls. in monye.'

'Vnto my cosen Cuttler my worste cassocke.' Ten shillings 'for my children and fryndes to drincke withall after my buryall', Five shillings for the poor in bread. To the Tallow-chandlers six shillings and eight pence to follow her corpse.

'My sonne Thomas Stowe my full and whoale executor' is named residuary legatee, and Harry Johnson is appointed overseer and to have six shillings and eight pence for his pains.

Elizabeth Stowe makes her mark. Willyam Eyre, and Harrye Johnson (fn. 1) sign. Proved by Thomas Stowe on 13 Oct. 1568.

The Will of John Stowe.

'In the name of God amen. The xxx day of August 1603 I Iohn Stowe Citizen and Marchant Tailor of London &c.

'My bodye to be buryed where it please God to take me to his mercye. fyrst I gyve and bequeath to my daughter Julyan Towers the some of x poundes. And to my daughter Jone foster ten poundes. And that they to be satysfyed and contented for any further porcyons after my death. And for the rest of my goodes household stuf and appareyle I gyve vnto Elizabeth my wyfe, as also I gyve vnto her the lease of my house with the Residue of the yeares to come.'

Elizabeth Stow is appointed executrix, and George Speryng (fn. 2) overseer, 'desyryng hym moste hartely to take so moche paynes to help my pore wyfe in her busynes, that she be not ouerpressed to take any wrong.'

Signed in a very shaky but characteristic hand: 'Iohn stow, Iohn stow aged 78 yeres.'

Proved by Elizabeth Stow on 6 April 1605.

Both wills were proved in the Bishop of London's Court, and the above abstracts are taken from the originals.

Entries in Parish Registers.

St. Michael, Cornhill.

Christenings: 20 Sept. 1547, William Stowe.

12 Dec. 1574, Thomas; 4 May 1578, Elizabeth; 10 April 1580, Judith; 25 Dec. 1581, Emmanuel; 3 June 1584, Judith; all children of Thomas Stowe.

Burials: 16 June 1559, Thomas Stowe.

15 Aug. 1571, Margerye, wife of Thomas Stowe. 16 Dec. 1583, Elizabeth, d. of Thomas Stowe. 21 Sept. 1594, Judith, wife of Thomas Stowe. 8 Oct. 1602, Thomas Stowe 'dwelling in the Churchyard'.

St. Andrew Undershaft.

Christenings: 27 Jan. 15 59/60, Jone, d. of John Stowe.

20 Feb. 15 63/64, Marie, d. of John Stoe.

29 June 1582, Peter; 9 Feb. 15 83/84, Francis; 20 March 15 85/86, Elizabeth; 2 June 1588, Thomas; 8 Nov. 1590, Susan; 6 Oct. 1594, Peter; 23 Jan. 159 6/7, Robert; 19 Feb. 159 7/8, Gregorye; all children of Peter Towers.

Marriages: 31 Aug. 1567, Thomas Stowe and Margerie Kent, widdow.

23 April 1581, Peter Towers and Julyan Stoe.

15 July 1582, Pawle Walter and Annes Stowe (or Stone).

4 Feb. 1587, Gylles Dewbery and Margaret Stowes.

Burials: 18 Jan. 158 0/1, Anne Stow, the wiffe of Jo. Stow. 18 Feb. 158 3/4, Joyce Stooe, wiffe of Jo. Stooe. 31 Oct. 1591, Elizabeth Towers. 22 March 159 1/2, Peter Towers. 19 Oct. 1593, Margaret Dewbery, widdow.

6 Nov. 1600, Peter; 5 Sept. 1603, Thomas; 13 Sept. 1603, Robert; 22 Sept. 1603, Susanna; the last four being all children of Mr. Peter Towers.

8 April 1605, 'Mr. John Stoe was Buryed the viijth day of April, 1605.'

14 Feb. 16 10/11, Mrs. Julyan Towers, wiffe of Mr. Peter Towers.

15 July 1611, Mr. George Spering, late Alderman's Deputie.

9 Sept. 1613, Mr. Francis Towers, son of Mr. Peter Towers.

24 Jan. 162 5/6, Mr. Peter Towers, householder.

St. Dionis Backchurch

Marriage: 8 Oct. 1571, Thomas Stowe of St. Michael, Cornhill, to Judith Health of this parish.

The Registers of St. Michael, Cornhill, and St. Dionis Backchurch, have been printed by the Harleian Society. For permission to search the Register of St. Andrew Undershaft, I have to thank the Bishop of Islington, who is Rector of St. Andrew.

Thomas Stow (d. 1559), who married Elizabeth Archer, was the father of John Stow, and had other issue: Thomas, William (b. 1547), and John the younger; Johan, married Mr. Rolfe, alias Frowyke; Margaret; and Alice, married Thomas Farmer. From the terms of Elizabeth Stowe's will, I conjecture that 'John the younger' was under age at her death; I find no other mention either of him or of William Stowe. It will be observed that in St. Michael's Register there is no entry of the death of Elizabeth Stowe; but in the Churchwardens' Accounts (p. 162, ed. W. H. Overall) there is a note under 1568: 'Receyved for the buryall of Mystris Stowe iijs. iiijd.'; she died in Oct. 1568 (see p. lx). The later entries in that Register probably relate to the chronicler's brother Thomas, his wives and children. The first marriage of Thomas Stowe is probably that of 1567 in the St. Andrew's Register; from the story on p. lx it appears likely that he had married a widow called Margery Kent or Kemp shortly before 1568; his second marriage is clearly that of the St. Dionis Register. But it is curious that in Harley MS. 538, f. 147vo, there are two stray notes: 'Mastar Burcheley in the towne of Hartford is Thomas Stow's cosyn, and Iohan Frowyk's cosen in houndsdytche. Master Burchely of Hertford is a cosen to Iohan Frowicke in houndsdytche, to Thomas Stowe in Cornell, but no kyn to Iohn Stowe.' We know, however, that John Stow's sister Johan or Joan was sometimes called Frowyke (see p. lx), and the facts which we know about Thomas Stow fit so well with the entries in the Registers, that I can only conjecture that the true purport of these notes is lost; possibly John Stow, in the bitterness of his quarrel, disowned the kinship. Of Thomas Stow of Cornhill we learn something from the Churchwardens' Accounts (p. 247); he was one of the wardens of St. Michael's between 1582 and 1588; in the latter year it was 'agreed that Thomas Stowe after all suche grants now in esse or beinge for his sister Margaret, or for his owne dwelling if nede shalbe, shall have one of the houses in the churchyard of or parishe, first empty after the xpiacion of all the same graunts'. It will be remembered that John Stow's sister Margaret appears to have been unmarried.

From the entries at St. Andrew Undershaft, it seems clear that there were at least two parishioners called Jo. Stow or Stoe. It is therefore impossible to be certain that any of the entries relate to the chronicler except those of his own burial, and of his daughter Julyan's marriage; in both the name is curiously spelt Stoe. It is hardly possible that the Jone Stowe of 15 59/60, and Marie Stoe of 15 63/64, should be his daughters, since at these dates he probably still lived in St. Katherine Cree Church parish (fn. 3); moreover, Stow's three daughters were 'marriageable and in service with right worshipfull personages' by 1569 or thereabouts (see p. lxii). It has been commonly assumed that the Anne Stow, who died in 1581, was the chronicler's first wife, but for this I can find no evidence. Joan Foster's mother was clearly alive when she wrote the letter to her father which is given on p. lxx; if she had only dated it fully the point might have been settled. On the whole it does not seem safe to connect either Anne Stow or Joyce Stooe with the chronicler. Elizabeth Stow is mentioned by name only in her husband's will, on the tomb, and in the copy of the Survey, which presumably belonged to her, and is now in the British Museum; but one of her husband's grandchildren was named Elizabeth. Of Stow's three daughters two survived him. Julyan, apparently the elder, married Peter Towers in 1581, and died in 1611; the description of her husband as 'Mr.' seems to indicate that he was well-to-do. The second, Joan Foster, lived at Warwick, whence she wrote the letter on p. lxx; her marriage does not appear in the St. Andrew's Register, but Foster was a common name in the parish. The Margaret Stowes, who married Gylles Dewberry in 1587, and died a widow in 1593, might possibly be the third.

Mr. George Spering, the Alderman's Deputy, was no doubt the Overseer of John Stow's will.

Of the other persons named in Elizabeth Stow's will, 'my cosen Cuttler' appears also in John Stow's history. The poor uncle, who was overcome by Elizabeth's injustice (see p. lviii), is presumably William Archer, whose son 'Harye' may perhaps be identical with the Henry Archer who served in the Netherlands in 1587, and apparently supplied John Stow with material for his Annales (pp. 1199, 1221, ed. 1605).


  • 1. See pp. liii and lviii below.
  • 2. Deputy of Limestreet Ward, see next page.
  • 3. Unfortunately there are no Registers for St. Katherine Cree Church earlier than 1637.