In the 1200s and 1300s the family name evolved from de Bouler, to de Boudler then into Bowdler, although one branch adopted the name of Ridge (as they lived on a ridge). It is believed that most of the Ridges reverted to Bowdler at a later time. The family owned various lands in Shropshire, two of which took on their name – Ashford Bowdler and Hope Bowdler.
The Bowdlers remained almost exclusively in Shropshire until the late 1500s. During this time the families were roughly centred on Hope Bowdler, Shrewsbury, Marrington, Ashford Bowdler and Chirbury.
During the 1600s and 1700s, the Bowdlers spread into Madeley, Ludlow, Hereford and London. In the 1800s, Bowdlers were in Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Lancashire; then in Newport, Welshpool, Cinderford and Worcester. By the end of the 1800s the family had spread widely across the UK but it can still be seen on the map that the greatest concentration of UK Bowdlers was in Shropshire and the Midlands.