The Gowers of Droitwich

Thomas Gower was baptised in Hadzor in 1557, the son of Richard and Margaret.  Richard died in 1560 and Margaret married again, to John Wynnes, a gentleman of Droitwich.  When John died in October 1575 he mentioned his step-son Thomas in his will.

I will that Thomas Gower my son in lawe shall serve his mother for the end and term of six yeres after my decease and kepe her shop for her as he hath done for me  And at the end of the six yeres serving his mother to give him fourtie pounds.

In 1585 Thomas married Elizabeth the daughter of William Dethick, gentleman of Obden in Wychbold.     Thomas, described as a gentleman, is frequently mentioned in Winslow documents.  He had leased a salt bullary from Edward Winslow senior in 1606.  This would have given him the right to the salt produced by this bullary.  Also in that year the husband of his sister Eleanor died.  Eleanor had married John Yarnold of Hadzor in 1577.  In his will, John had made provision for his children, ‘placing  them in the hands of their uncle Thomas Gower of Droitwich gentleman’.  John and Eleanor had a son Gower Yarnold who had left his wife and children to travel to Ireland where he was taken ill.  He died in Dublin in 1614 and was buried in St Patrick’s church.  He asked his uncle Thomas Gower to look after financial matters for his wife and children.

Thomas was one of the burgesses of Droitwich.  This meant that he had rights to shares in the brine from Upwich and Netherwich pits.  This brine was boiled to produce salt, which was a valuable commodity.  In 1608 there was a grant from John Allen of Droitwich, gent, to Thomas Trymnell of Oakley and Thomas Gower, gent. of a house and land in Droitwich, a salt pit and a quarter of a bullary of salt water in Upwich and part of a house in St. Andrews parish, to hold in trust.  Thomas bought a property in the High Street on the corner of Leadsmiths Lane (Gurneys Lane), from Richard Foster  and his son Francis, gentlemen of Droitwich.

Thomas and Elizabeth had five sons: Thomas junior, John, Francis, Richard and Philip. The eldest son, Thomas, married Margery the daughter of Henry Harris of Droitwich.  Her father had salt interests too, like Thomas.  Salt rights could not be bought and sold and were inherited or passed to a husband when he married an heiress.  Their second son, John, married Alice Barrett in 1623 at St. Peter’s church.  She was the daughter of Edward Barrett, another gentleman of Droitwich.  Edward owned several bullaries of brine and was a burgess, being made bailiff at least three times.  Edward paid £200 to John as Alice’s marriage portion.  Before he died in 1619, Thomas senior had leased his property in the High Street to his son John.  John’s mother, Elizabeth, died in 1624, the same year that a leasing agreement was made between John Gower and Edward Barrett and William Andrews.  It describes a ‘great messuage or tenement’ in the High Street  and mentions halls, chambers, rooms, solars, cellars, houses, edifices, buildings, stables, backsides, ways, entries, outhouses, yards and gardens, together with two seals (flimsy salt making shelters) and a hovel and three cribs (buildings to store the salt in).  The land at the rear ran back to the River Salwarpe not far from the Upwich pit on the north bank of the river.  This is now 31, 33 and 35 High Street.

John and Alice had four children: Thomas, John junior, Edward and Elizabeth.  John senior became a bailiff in 1631 alongside Robert Wheeler.  John sadly died in 1642.  In his will he asks his wife to look after his children, who were all minors.  Only John junior and Elizabeth survived to adulthood; John marrying Elizabeth Davies and Elizabeth marrying Jonas Hanbury.  John’s two sons died before they had children and so this line of the Gower family ended.


Note:-

A bullary was a term for a full share of Droitwich brine, 6912 gallons per year (31,104 litres).  Other names for this valuable possession used in documents going back in time are boilery, vat, phate, phat(e) walling, and salina.


Sources:-

Wills from The Hive, Worcester and National Archives, Kew.

The Hive Worcester:-

Parish Registers: St Augustine, Dodderhill;  St Andrew and St Peter Droitwich.

Deed  10 November 8 James I  (1611) BA 4963 Ref 261.4  

Deed  1608  Ref 705:349/12946/1478413