I made a film about the Rowsell family connection to the Congreve family in Ceylon. Both were involved in tea planting in the late 19th century.
Vere Norman Rowsell (1887-1945) was born in Ceylon, the son of tea planter Norman Rowsell and his wife Florence Congreve. They were living at Abbotsleigh estate when he was born.
Vere was raised at first in the hills of Ceylon but was later sent to England to be educated at Wellington college, Berkshire. He is recorded as living there in 1901 at the age of 13. After school he joined the Coldstream Guards and fought in WWI as a lieutenant. Vere was wounded at Somme in 1916 then sent to NT Polesden Lacey in Surrey probably after treatment at Edward VII Hospital for Officers.He was wounded again at Paschendael 1917 and again in Cambrai. Vere was married in Somerset in 1917 and then returned to the front to fight yet again!
He was reported missing on 13th April 1918, just a few months after the wedding and was presumed dead. He was cited for a Victoria Cross but was discovered in a German hospital on 24th December 1918 and was awarded with a Military Cross instead.
Vere remained in the military until 1920 and was married in Somerset in 1917. His son Colin Merville Norman Rowsell (1919-2000) was born the same year that Norman Rowsell died. Vere and his family moved back to India in 1920, the year after his father’s death, and probably met up with his remaining family there (mainly Congreves). He received his MC that year at an address listed in Bulsar (Valsad). He seems to have gone back to England though as a passenger document in 1934 lists his home address in Cheltenham.
In 1935 Vere returned to India again, where he and his wife, Dorothy Isobel Edwards (1890-1971), remained until his death in 1945, after which she returned to England. Vere had been working in the State of Rajasthan as a Railway Traffic Superintendent on the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway when he died of a cerebral haemorrhage caused by an injury he had sustained during the war. Six months before he died, as part of The King’s Birthday Honours celebrating the official birthday of King George VI, Vere was awarded with an OBE, civil division, for his work on the Indian railways. At the time of Vere’s death, his son Colin had just finished fighting in WWII, and like Vere, tragically missed the last chance to see his father and share his experiences of battle.
I recently learned that in 1883 Norman Rowsell (1855-1919) was the Honorary secretary and treasurer of the Dickoya Maskeliya Cricket Club (which was actually also a rugby club) now known as the Darrawella Club. I managed to find some more photos of him and his younger brother Eustace Farquhar Rowsell (1867–1911) on the History of Ceylon Tea site. There is a whole album of photos from the Darrawella Club including an image of Nicholas II Emperor of Russia visiting the Club in 1881.
The photos of the Rowsell bros. are all of the Up-Country rugby team, which they both played for. Eustace had played for Blackheath 1st XV in England in 1891 (see first image) and was playing for the Up Country 11 in 1894, with his big brother Norman as Captain (see 2nd image)
The following year, it seems Norman was no longer on the squad. Maybe he wasn’t as good as his little brother? In any case, they were both playing in the 1897 Dickoya vs Maskeliya & Bogawantalawa game. For some reason Eustace’s nickname is written this year as “Family” Rowsell.
That’s the last year they are photographed together, but Norman reappears in 1902 as the referee for the Up-Country vs Colombo game.
There is also this photo below of the Darawella club from way back in 1885, a time when Norman was definitely there and one of the guys looks like him.
Samuel Rowsell (1777-1858) was a solicitor of Tulse Hill in London. 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 with whom this post is concerned.
- Elizabeth Rowsell (1797-1874)
- Sarah Rowsell (1798-1882) married Sir Charles Barry (1795–1860)
- Samuel William Rowsell (1800-1860) married Anna Alicia Penning (1810-1888)
- Charles John Rowsell (1802-1882) married Sarah Lewis (1809-1897)
- Rev.Evan Edward Rowsell (1804-1875) married Anna Maria Baker (1808-1893)
- Jane Rowsell (1804-1864)
- John Thomas Rowsell 1805-1894 married Eliza Thompson (b. 1813)
- Henry Rowsell (1807-1890)
- Jane Rowsell 1808-1890
- Eleanora Rowsell 1811-1888
- Thomas Rowsell (1811) [died as infant]
- William Rowsell (1812-1850) married Maria Lewis (1812-1889)
- Catherine Mary Rowsell (1815-1902)
- Rev. Thomas James Rowsell (1816 1894) married Marianne Norman
- Emily Rowsell (1819 1898) married Thomas Grueber
Sir Charles Barry
Samuel’s second child was Sarah Rowsell (1798-1882) 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. She married the famous architect Sir Charles Barry (1795–1860) on 7th December 1822 at St Matthew Friday Street, London, England and had seven children four of whom were also famous architects. In 1840 Barry began his great work with Augustus Pugin, the Houses of Parliament, including the clock tower that houses Big Ben.
One of Charles and Sarah’s sons, Sir John Wolfe Barry (1837-1918) married his own cousin Rosalind Grace Rowsell (1846-1937) who was daughter of Samuel Rowsell‘s sixth child, the Reverend Evan Edward Rowsell (1804-1875) of Hambledon. The cousins married in the village of Hambledon near Godalming in Surrey in 1874 and had four sons and three daughters. John Barry was most famous for his construction of the iconic Tower Bridge in London which he completed in 1894.
Samuel’s first son was named Samuel William Rowsell (1800-1860). He was married to Anna Alicia Penning (1810-1888) at Marleybone church in November 1828 and they had 6 sons and 5 daughters two of which are buried with their spouses, parents and grandparents in the Rowsell family grave in West Norwood Cemetery. In 1838 Samuel William Rowsell was an auditor of the Mutual Life Assurance Society at 37 Old Jewry, and by 1840 he was on the board of directors. One of Samuel and Anna’s 11 children was Sir Francis William Rowsell CB CMG (1838-1885) who was British commissioner of ceded Daira lands, Egypt and a commissioner for inquiry relating to the Government of Malta 1877–8 (see the The Rowsell-Julyan-Keenan Commission)
Samuel and Sarah’s second son was Charles John Rowsell (1802-1882) who had 4 children with Sarah Lewis (1809-1897).
Charles John Rowsell patented the graphoscope in 1864: “Apparatus for viewing photographic and other pictures, coins and medals, which is also applicable in the production of drawings and paintings“, British Patent: 270
The Reverend Evan Edward Rowsell (1804-1875) is Samuel’s third son. He married Anna Maria Baker (1808-1893) on 29th December 1831 at St Ann’s Limehouse, East London. They had 8 children, the first 7 of whom were born in London. Their last child, Clarence William Rowsell, was born in the district of Guildford, Surrey in 1849 at which point they were living near Godalming. Prior to living in rural Surrey, Evan was Curate-in-charge of the parish of Brinkley in Cambridgeshire and appears to have brought increased worship and growth to the little church there.
From 1859 he lived for a long time in the Surrey village of Hambledon . By 1859 he and his wife were living on Godalming high street. There is a touching entry in Godalming town centre parish church baptism records where we find him baptising his own son, Clarence. It appears that during this time, rather than leading a church, he is a private tutor.
Two of his sons went on to be clergy. Rev Evan Edward Rowsell is recorded as being involved in a £500 mortgage for the Cold Harbour Estate. The figure involved suggests not inconsequential private means, due to the affluence of the Rowsell family of Lambeth. Like many of the clergy of Hambledon before him, Rev Rowsell died in post and was buried at Hambledon in December 1875 and two of his grand-daughters were later buried with him.
As previously mentioned, Evan’s seventh child was married to the famous Sir John Wolfe Barry, but his eldest daughter Annie Marion Rowsell was also well matched with William Haig Brown Master of Charterhouse school near Godalming. See the following excerpt from his biography WILLIAM HAIG BROWN OF CHARTERHOUSE A SHORT BIOGRAPHICAL MEMOIR.
But it was towards scholastic work with its greater
opportunities of usefulness and its many problems of absorbing interest that his inclinations at this time were evidently leading him, and perhaps, too, the bent of his mind may have been quickened by reason of the fact that chance had lately thrown in his way the opportunity of becoming acquainted with the family of the Rev. Evan Edward Rowsell, who was then Curate-in-charge of the parish of Brinkley, in the neighbourhood of Newmarket. Haig Brown, as has been said, was fond of riding: Brinkley was at a convenient distance, and the rectory, with its congenial company of young people and its warm welcome, became a very pleasant and a very frequent terminus for a ride. Mr. Rowsell’s family consisted of four daughters, all of whom married well and happily in later life, viz., Annie Marion, who became Mrs. Haig Brown ; Adeline Mary, who married the Rev. Dr. Porter, afterwards Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge ; Flora Catherine, who married Colonel, afterwards General, Stewart, of the Royal Marine Light Infantry ; and Rosalind Grace, who became the wife of John Wolfe Barry, the engineer, now Sir John Wolfe Barry, K.C.B.; and four sons.
As the acquaintance ripened into friendship and in-
timacy, Haig Brown began to foresee that there was just a possibility that his affections might become seriously engaged to one of the ladies of that family, and so it might in consequence become ultimately necessary to resign his fellowship, and obtain work which would enable him to marry.
Samuel’s 12th child William Rowsell (1812-1850) has an interesting but very sad story. A poetic letter to Maria Lewis (1812-1889) reveals a romantic relationship with a mystery man when she was 23 years old.
Dear me how very odd it is
To have a letter from a Miss
Full of such tender loving matter
And see too how the girl can flatter
She talks of charms and…………… beauties
That never were in Polly Lewis
Surely to turn my shallow brain
And spite of reason make me vain
Can only be Miss Luffs design
In sending me this Valentine
And yet perhaps in this I err
And far more wisely should infer
That this is but a copy meant
For my inspection of one sent
To her by some admiring ..(gent?)…
Beseaching her to change her name
And she would ask a friend’s advice
Whether ’tis good with him to splice
If so I’ll lose no farther time
But criticize her Valentine
After deliberate attention
And more ….. study than I’ll mention
Ms my opinion dear Mifs Luff
That he who wrote such fulsome stuff
Is some old empty headed fool
Or else a boy just come from school
And I advise you to beware
Of his fine speeches and take care
He tempts you not to be his wife
Such hot love could not last thro’ life
And trust me you would aft reprise
You listened to his Valentine
I assume the letter was from William Rowsell because they were married 6 years later on 13th April 1842 in Toronto, Canada and had one son and two daughters there. At some point around 1848 they moved back to England and things went terribly wrong for them. The dashing William was committed to a lunatic asylum in Hackney after his Mother and then his one year old daughter Julia Maria Rowsell died. He perished in the asylum on 24th July 1850 after just 8 years of marriage. Maria moved to the village of Lewes in Sussex where she lived a long life and died aged 77.
Samuel Rowsell’s youngest son was The Reverend Thomas James Rowsell M.A. (1816-1894). He became a very popular preacher starting his career in Stepney in the East End and finally becoming Canon of Westminster Cathedral and Honorary chaplain to Queen Victoria. He received a BA at St John’s College, Cambridge, 1838; and a Masters degree in 1843.
Thomas James Rowsell was married to Marianne Norman about 1841 and they had 2 sons and 2 daughters. The following is a timeline of his impressive career.
- Domestic chaplain to Duke of Sutherland.
- Vicar, St Peter’s, Stepney, 1844-60.
- Rector, St Margaret’s, Lothbury, 1860-72.
- Select preacher at Cambridge, 1859-62.
- Honorary chaplain to the Queen, 1866;
- Chaplain in ordinary, 1869 to death;
- Vicar, St Stephen’s, Westbourne Park, 1872-83.
- deputy clerk of the Closet, 1879 to death.
- Canon of Westminster, 1880 to death.
He was present at the funeral of Charles Darwin at Westminster Abbey in 1882. Thomas died 23January 1894; his funeral service was held at Westminster Abbey, 27 January of that year and he was buried near to the Rowsell family grave at West Norwood Cemetery. The engraving below depicts Canon Rowsell preaching to “the mob” outside Westminster Abbey.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (1785–1864) and Eleanor Rowsell (1775 1862).
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.
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.