John Bowtell (1753–1813) was an English topographer.


Bowtell was born in the parish of Holy Trinity, Cambridge, in 1753, became a bookbinder and stationer there. He compiled a history of the town to include the University and Barnwell Priory, keeping it by him unprinted; collected fossils, manuscripts, and other curiosities;[1] and was a member of the London College Youths.[2] He was also an enthusiastic bell-ringer, and in 1788, at Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, he rang on the 30-cwt. tenor bell as many as 6,609 harmonious changes 'in the method of bob maximus, generally termed "twelve-in."'

Death and legacy

Bowtell had no family, and dying on 1 December 1813, aged 60, he made the following important bequests for the benefit of Cambridge: £7,000. to enlarge Addenbrooke's Hospital;[3] £1,000. to repair Holy Trinity; £500. to repair St. Michael's; £500. to apprentice boys belonging to Hobson's workhouse; and his 'History of the Town' and other manuscripts, his books, his fossils, and curiosities, to Downing College.[4] He was buried at St. Michael's, where the Addenbrooke's Hospital governors erected a tablet to his memory. The governors also placed a portrait of him in their court-room.


  1. ^ Cambridge University Calendar 1830., p. 369, (Cambridge). His collections (MSS. Bowtell) were provided to Downing College, founded in 1800. This unpublished compilation contains town accounts from A.D. 1510 to 1787.
  2. ^ British clubs and societies, 1580-1800: the origins of an associational world, Peter Clark, p. 48 (Oxford 2002).
  3. ^ Cambridge University Calendar 1830., p. 214.
  4. ^ The Academy, vol. iv. No. 70, pp. 154-157 (Historical MSS. Commission III), 15 April 1873.


"Bowtell, John" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.