Friday, 11 August 2017

Lives revealed .......... a lot more on Mr John Cowen of Woolwich and a lesson in research

Yesterday I discovered a whole lot more on Mr John Cowen who in the summer of 1864 had posed
Mr Cown with hat in hand, 1864
for a group photograph at the Crossness Pumping Station.

There he stood with his hat in his hand surrounded by other men who had laboured to build the pumping station.

The picture yielded the names of those present and the caption a “group of workmen [of the] Local Board taken at Crossness during progress of the main drainage works, about midsummer 1864.”  

And as luck would have it l came up with a John Cowen who at the age of 40 had been admitted for three days to the infirmary of the Greenwich Workhouse which seemed to fit because he had described himself as a labourer and our man on the picture was part of that group of workmen at the Pumping Works.

But then as so often happens with research it all began to unravel.

First there was that simple observation that the man in the picture looked older added to which the profile of a labourer didn’t fit with a man who was qualified to vote in parliamentary elections which just happened to be the second discovery of the day.

The 1832 Reform Act had extended the electorate but not yet to those who merely laboured for a living.

Nightinggale Val  home of Mr Cown in 1874
And Mr John Cowen of Belmont-place, Nightingale Vale did just that in the summer of 1865 using his two votes for the conservative candidates.

At which point I should have dug deeper and gone looking for his home on the 1872 OS map.

Had I done so it would have confirmed that our man was no labourer for back then the road was full of large properties with big gardens set in pleasant surroundings.

All of which was confirmed By Tricia Lesley who had come across the original photograph and like me was drawn to finding out more about Mr Cowen, and I am glad she did because
"I looked John Cowen up in 'Vincents Book of Woolwich' and there are several references to him.

In 1849 under the heading of Woolwich Men it states he was an Ironmonger living at 31 Richard St Woolwich.

In 1852 he became an elected member of the Woolwich Local Board of Health with 947 votes. He served from 1852 -1860 and 1861-1867.

That group picture, midsummer 1864
He was nominated by the Poor Law Board and it states that Mr John Cowen many years Chairman of the Board after Rev F Cameron was continually nominated by the Local Government Board except on one occasion when the power lapsed, in which year Mr Cowen was elected for Kidbrooke in 1876.

He was born on April 1 1804 and died on July 12 1878 aged 74.

He married twice, his first wife Elizabeth died sometime between 1851 and 1868 

His second marriage was to a Mary Ann Morley in 1868 where it states he is a widow.”

All of which better fits with a man in the picture who was posing not as a labourer but indeed one of those directly responsible to the pumping station.

Well that’s the story so far.

Picture; group of workmen [of the] Local Board taken at Crossness during progress of the main drainage works, about midsummer 1864”, courtesy of Chris Mansfield, first posted by Tricia Lesley, and Nightingale Vale, 1874 from the OS map of London 1864-74, courtesy of Digital Archive Association,

No comments:

Post a Comment