Priests and Lawyers of London – the 4th Generation


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This post is about the children of Thomas Rowsell (b.1772, died between 1836-1851) and Frances Hall (1786-1871), who were the fourth generation of the Rowsells of Lambeth. I already wrote about Thomas’s son (Thomas Spooner Rowsell) from his previous marriage to Eleonora Catherine Grainger (1775–1814) in my last post.

Thomas and Frances had 5 children :

  • Nicholas Henry Rowsell (1817-1860) who married Mary Ann Bishop (b.1823)
  • Frances Rowsell (b.1819) who was married to Thomas Huggins
  • Benjamin Rowsell (1820-1886)  whose wife was named Sarah Norman
  • Angela Mary Rowsell (1823-1871)
  • Edward Pugh Rowsell (1827-1878) who married Amelia Gordon

The eldest son Nicholas Henry Rowsell followed the family’s legal tradition and became a solicitor. His solicitor’s firm was situated at the Verulam Buildings of Gray’s Inn Road, in London. He and his wife Mary Ann Bishop resided on Foxley Road, North Brixton up until 1860 when Nicholas died, aged just 33. They had three sons and one daughter. Their second son was John Rowsell (1853-1914) who was born on the 4th of January in Kennington, Surrey (now South London). John was baptised one week later at St Mark’s Church in Kennington.

John went to study at Cambridge and became a priest. Canon Rowsell was rector of Beccles in Suffolk from 1882-1910. You can learn all about his life and work on the Relics of Beccles blog.

In the year after Nicholas’ death there was a legal dispute between his Mother and his brother Benjamin regarding his estate but I do not know who won.

nicolas henry rowsell death case

Frances and Thos’ second child was Frances Rowsell (b.1819) whose husband was Thomas Huggins of Swanscombe, Kent. They were married on 12th October 1843 in St Mark’s of Hadlow Down, Sussex which was built by her uncle Benjamin Hall (d.1847) of Buxted lodge. There was a solicitors firm on Threadneedle street called Huggins and Rowsell so perhaps the families were connected before hand?

frances rowsell marriage

The third child was Benjamin Rowsell (1820-1886), who was named after his wealthy uncle of Sussex and was baptised on 11th March 1825 at Christ Church in Southwark. He married Sarah Norman (1821-1903) of Lambeth in October 1854 in Lambeth. They had 7 children, all of whom I will write about in a future post, particularly their eldest, Norman Rowsell (1855-1919) who moved to Ceylon and became a planter.

Threadneedle Street 1900

In 1855 Ben and Sarah were living in the Brixton area. They seemed to stay around Lambeth as their first 5 children were born over the course of 6 years (1855-61) and in the 1861 census they are recorded as living in Lambeth, when Benjamin was working as a stock broker. By 1865 they had moved further out to Clapham. Later sources show them in Croydon and Benjamin’s will of 1886 records that he was formerly working as a stockbroker at no. 1 Threadneedle Street in the city but had more recently been living in Lee, Kent.

electoral register ben rowsell

Electoral register of 1865

electoral register ben rowsell 2

Electoral Register 1869

benjamin rowsell WILL 1886

Benjamin Rowsell’s will

One electoral register lists Benjamin Rowsell and many of his relatives in the skinners section even though most of them were working as lawyers. This is because the men of Rowsell family had been admitted freedom of the city among the Company of Skinners. Benjamin was granted freedom of the City in the Company of Skinners in 1844 but it is unlikely he ever actually worked as a skinner.

Rowsells listed after skinners in London Electoral Registers

Rowsells listed as skinners in London Electoral Registers

On both Benjamin’s and his sister Angela’s birth certificates, their father Thomas’ job is listed as “solicitor” but Thomas was also a member of the Company of Skinners.

Births of Ben Rowsell and Angela Mary Rowsell

Births of Ben Rowsell and Angela Mary Rowsell

Benjamin and Sarah were both buried in West Norwood Cemetery half way down the hill from Benjamin’s uncle Samuel Rowsell‘s grave and those of his cousins and other Rowsells. Unfortunately their grave was neglected and was therefore difficult for me to locate, but after a bit of heavy gardening I managed to find it. See the following video.

Benjamin and Sarah Rowsell's grave inscription at West Norwood Cemetery.

Benjamin and Sarah Rowsell’s grave inscription at West Norwood Cemetery.

The Headstone of the grave in which Benjamin, Sarah and 5 of their 7 children are buried

The Headstone of the grave in which Benjamin, Sarah and 5 of their 7 children are buried

Thos’ and Frances’ fourth child was Angela Mary Rowsell (1823-1871) who was born in Kennington on 10th September. She lived with her parents for her whole life and died a widow at 48 years old.

Their fifth child was Edward Pugh Rowsell (1827-1878) who was named after his grandmother Eleanor Pugh (1748-1833). He was still living with his parents in 1871 when he was 44 but moved out soon after and married Amelia Gordon around 1873. They has a son named Alexander Gordon Rowsell in 1874. Edward died on 23rd May 4 years later.

If you have any information concerning these people, then please contact me.


19th Century Lawyers in Lambeth – Samuel Rowsell and Thomas Rowsell


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Of John Rowsell’s (1737-1792) 8 children, most are buried in West Norwood Cemetary in Lambeth, South London, near Brixton. As mentioned in the previous post, his second son Thomas Rowsell (born 1772) was given the opportunity to begin a career as a solicitor and is recorded as a legal clerk at age 14 in 1786 and was sworn into the King’s bench in in 1793. His job is listed as “solicitor”  in 1820 at the time of his son Benjamin’s birth when he was 48 years old while he is simply listed as “Gentleman” 7 years later on his son Nicholas’ birth record. He may have pursued other things too because more obscure sources refer to him as as a skinner (Rowsell men were usually admitted freedom of the city among the company of skinners)  as well as a parish clerk, although this may be another Thomas Rowsell who is known to have inhabited Lambeth at the same time. The following is an excerpt from “A Bishop Family History” Prepared by Reverend John Bishop.

Earl Spencer, grandfather of the Princess of Wales, showed me a letter at Althorp which indicated he (Thomas Rowsell) was Parish Clerk. He was also a skinner, married twice and his line is still going strong, although we are not in touch, except rarely.

Both of the Thomas Rowsell’s in Lambeth married women called Frances [one Frances Lester (died 1844) and one Frances Hall (died 1871)] This makes things very confusing, especially since they were all buried in the same cemetery! My ancestor died leaving a widow, while the other Thomas died 2 years after his wife. The grave of this Thomas and Frances at West Norwood is no longer there because Lambeth council illegally resold the plot. I only later realised this was not my ancestor’s grave but have not located the Thomas and Frances I am looking for yet. The wrong Thomas and Frances lived at Miles Street in Lambeth (see pic below) while my ancestors lived a bit further South in Brixton.

thomas rowsell burial

Thomas, who was described as a “Gentleman of Lambeth”, first married Eleonora Catherine Grainger (1775–1814) on 1 May 1798 at St Marylebone, England. They had 2 sons one of whom went to Melbourne in 1865. This son was named Thomas Spooner Rowsell (b. abt 1805). He had his handkerchief stolen on 28th of July 1828 – a boy by the name of William White was found guilty and sentenced to 3 months and a whipping; you can view the proceedings here.

 I was opposite the Mansion-house , on the 28th of July, about a quarter before three o’clock – I heard some one call, “Sir, you are robbed;” I missed my handkerchief, and saw it on the ground – I had had it not ten minutes before; this is it: I saw White and Wood in custody when I turned round; Jeffries had one and Breakwell another – I did not see Wells. – THOMAS SPOONER ROWSELL .

But TSR, who worked with his father as a legal clerk, later fell a foul of the law himself. He was imprisoned for unpaid debts and under the Insolvent Debtors Act of 1813 was granted a hearing on Thursday the 9th of June 1836. The following is a quote from the Gazette of that year.

 Thomas Spooner Rowsell, formerly of Caroline-Cottages, St. Ann’s-Road, Brixton, afterwards of Slough-Lane, Wandsworth, both in Surrey, and late of Camera Square, Chelsea, Middlesex, Attorney at Law, and Joint Clerk with Thomas Rowsell, of the Court of Requests for the Western Division of the Hundred of Brixton, Surrey.

According to The Monthly Law Magazine and Political Review, in 1838 TSR made an application for a re-admission as an attorney, so I expect his career and reputation had been severely damaged. TSR emigrated to Australia and there is a man by that name recorded there who married and had children leaving a line in that country. TSR’s Mother died when he was still young and his Father remarried.

Marriage of Rowsel and Grainger in 1798

Marriage of Rowsell and Grainger in 1798

Marriage of t Rowsell and Frances Hall

Marriage of Thomas Rowsell and Frances Hall. Benjamin Hall was present.

Thomas Rowsell‘s second wife was Frances Hall (1786-1871), whose brother was Benjamin Hall (d.1847) of Buxted lodge (now known as The Grange), a large house near Hadlow Down in Sussex (see pic below). Benjamin was a wealthy man with great concern for the well-being of the rural poor. In 1834, to prevent villagers having to walk too far for church or from attending the weird non-conformist church that was in the village, Benjamin campaigned for the construction of an Anglican church, St Mark’s of Hadlow Down, which still stands there (although not the original structure). He also contributed £15 and a four acre field to the church grounds.

Southdown Hunt meet at the Buxted Lodge, Hadlow Down (June 1913 postmark)

Southdown Hunt meet at Buxted Lodge, Hadlow Down (June 1913 postmark)

Benjamin wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley, seeking permission and funds to build a church in the village—adding that “very many poor children [were] wandering about the lanes in ignorance of almost every duty, moral or religious”. The following is a quote from a book of sermons from Lambeth, although the specific sermon is from 1836 and is perhaps the first in St. Mark’s itself which is described as a “new church on the boundary of the parishes of Mayfield and Buxted” and it specifically mentions Benjamin Hall of Buxted.

I cannot omit testifying how much we owe him (Benjamin Hall), by whom, as residing on the spot, it was reasonable that the ancient necessities and evils should best be known; from whom therefore, it is but justice to mention, that the suggestion of the scheme first distinctly came; who has prompted the work by his bounty, in a variety of ways, spared no anxiety or time to further its progress; and will now, I doubt not, watch the success with almost paternal care.

Like the Rowsells, Benjamin Hall was an attorney, and is recorded as such in legal records of the 1820’s and 40’s. Frances Rowsell is described as his “dear sister” in Benjamin’s will (see below). Benjamin married Angela Pugh who was his brother in law Thomas Rowsell’s cousin.

St Mark’s Church, Hadlow Down

ben hall will to frances rowsell

Benjamin Hall’s will

frances rowsell marriage

The Gentleman’s Magazine, and Historical Chronicle

Thomas and Frances had three sons; Nicholas Henry Rowsell (1817-1860) who married Mary Ann Bishop, Benjamin Rowsell (1820-1886), who was named after his uncle and whose wife was named Sarah Norman, and Edward Pugh Rowsell (1827-1878) who was named either after his grandmother Eleanor Pugh (1748-1833)  or his Aunt Angela Pugh (b. 1788). Edward married Amelia Gordon. Thomas and Frances also had two daughters; Frances Rowsell (b.1819) who was married to Thomas Huggins in her uncle Benjamin’s church in Hadlow Down on 12 Oct 1843, and Angela Mary Rowsell (1823-1871). Frances lived for many years as a widow on Vassal Street in Brixton. She is recorded there in the 1851 census as the Head of House and land holder living with her children Benjamin (30), Angela (28), Edward ( 24) and a servant called Maria Norman (22). She remained there until her death 20 years later. Click here to learn more about Thomas and Frances Rowsell’s children.

samuel rowsell

Thomas Rowsell‘s brother Samuel Rowsell seems to have lived a more glamorous life. He married Sarah Smith (1775-1847) on 18 Jul 1794 in London and they had 15 children! Among them are some famous and prominent people who you can read about here. Samuel’s second child was Sarah Rowsell (1799-1882) who was listed in the Visitations of England and Wales, which were tours of inspection undertaken by Kings of Arms to regulate and register the coats of arms of nobility and gentry and boroughs.

These photographs are of the surviving graves of some of John Rowsell‘s children at West Norwood Cemetary, including Samuel and his wife Sarah, Evan Edward Rowsell (17851864) and Eleanor Rowsell (1775 1862).

Grave of Eleanor Rowsell and Evan Edward Rowsell

Grave of Eleanor Rowsell and Evan Edward Rowsell

Samuel Rowsell Grave Lambeth

Samuel and Sarah Rowsell’s grave

18th to 19th Century – John Rowsell


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Thomas Rowsell (1702-1773) had 10 children with Sarah Fuller of which only one is of concern to this blog. John Rowsell (1737-1792) was born in Wimbledon and had eight children with Eleanor Pugh who he married on 1st September 1769, at St. Andrews in Holborn London. Eleanor was the daughter of John Pugh and Jane Jones. John Pugh’s brother Evan Pugh worked as a lawyer.

Evan introduced John Rowsell to legal work and began a family tradition. By the age of 49 in 1786, John was an attorney at HM The Court of King’s Bench and a Solicitor at Court of Chancery. It was at this time that his son Thomas began a legal clerkship at Westminster. John died only 6 years later. Thomas appears to have worked as a Parish Clerk at some point too, so perhaps law wasn’t for him. Thomas wasn’t the last Rowsell to work in the church either.

Thomas Rowsell clerkship

Two of John’s children spawned lines of prominent solicitors of Lambeth; his second son Thomas Rowsell (1772-1846) and his fifth child Samuel Rowsell (1777-1858). Each of these lines will be explored on this blog.

samuel rowsell

Samuel Rowsell, a solicitor of Lambeth in the 19th century.

The Rowsell Family of Lambeth


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The Rowsells arrived in Britain with the Norman Conquest and settled in Somerset. Most Rowsells around the world can trace their roots to Somerset but this website is concerned only with the descendants of one man, Thomas Rowsell (1702 -1773) whom I presume was born in the West Country, but who lived all his life from the age of 30 around Wimbledon. I would like to find out who his parents were!

His descendants became prominent Gentlemen of Lambeth and London, particularly in the 19th century. In the course of time I will reveal the achievements of his numerous progeny, among whom I may be counted.

Thomas Rowsell was a tenant-farmer on the Duchess of Marlborough’s Wimbledon estate. At one time he had a press gang working for him to recruit for the Militia. He had ten children, who survived, by Sarah Fuller. After she died in 1754 he married Mary Laws, but had no further children. Mary died in 1775. This is a screenshot from “Surrey, England, Marriages, 1754-1937”

thomas rowsell mary laws wedding

The record of the marriage of Thomas Rowsell and Mary Laws

The Rowsell’s spring from Somerset but we first meet Thomas Rowsell in Wimbledon as a small farmer, headborough, supplier of food to local workhouse and father, with Sarah his wife, of some seven children. Thomas died in 1773 aged 72.”

Extract from “A Bishop Family History” Prepared by Rev. John Bishop.
(NB… A headborough is a parish officer (an officer for the church) having the same functions as a petty police constable.