Sunday, July 27, 2014

Daffodil roots

As Lydiard House closes its walled garden doors on another successful  NGS Open for Charity Sunday, SPL takes a trip to neighbouring Cirencester on the trail of a once lost daffodil.

The Bowly family roots are dug deep in Cirencester.  From millers and brewers to local politicians and a slavery abolionist, the Bowly’s have left their stamp on the town.  But one Bowly wife had family roots of a different kind – daffodil roots.

Born in 1851 Sarah Aldam Bowly nee Backhouse, like her husband, came from a Quaker family.  Her father, William Backhouse began work in the Newcastle branch of the family banking business, but his first love was horticulture and in particular, daffodils.

Sarah and her four brothers, the children of William’s second marriage to Catherine Aldam, grew up at St. John’s Hall, near Wolsingham Co. Durham where her father owned 669 acres, an ideal setting for William’s studies and where he wrote his major horticultural work, Narcissus about the development of new varieties of daffodil.

Sarah married Cirencester widower Christopher Bowly in Darlington in 1874.  She was 22 years old and he was fifteen years her senior. The couple began their married life at Christopher’s home at 1 Queens Hill where he was described as a Cheese Monger and Merchant in the 1881 census.  By 1891 Christopher, by then a Justice of the Peace, and Sarah had moved into Siddington House.

In Wolsingham Sarah’s brothers Charles, Henry and Robert carried on their father’s work.  Following William’s death in 1869 Peter Barr, a seedsman of Covent Garden, bought his collection comprising 192 new distinct varieties of daffodils.   William’s most famous daffodil, the Weardale Perfection flowered for the first time some three years after his death and was named by one of his sons.  

Like previous generations of his family, Christopher took a prominent role in his local community serving as a member of the Board of Guardians, chairman of the Cirencester Highway Board and President of the Cirencester Liberal party.

Christopher left £130,291 in his will when died at his home on May 23, 1922 aged 85, appointing Sarah and his nephew Edward Gibbons of Cheltenham, as executors. Among his bequests were £500 to the Friends’ Foreign Missionary Society, £100 each to the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Gloucester Infirmary, Cirencester Cottage Hospital and the YMCA Cirencester Branch, £50 to the Aborigines Protection Society and £50 to each of his indoor servants - his head gardener, and chauffeur if of twelve months’ service, and a further £2 for each additional completed year of service.  A further £10,000 was bequeathed to his wife to dispose of at her discretion in benevolent, charitable, or other purposes according to his known wishes.

Christopher and Sarah also left their mark on Cirencester.  Following her husband’s death, Sarah commissioned Norwich born architect Norman Jewson, a member of the Arts and Crafts movement based in the Cotswolds, to build a row of six almshouses on Watermoor Road.

Sarah died on September 24, 1931.  Her daffodil growing father also left a legacy that has only recently been rediscovered.  A solitary example of the Weardale Perfection, once thought to be extinct, was discovered in a Wolsingham cottage garden in 1998 and has since been revived by Dr. David Willis of the Daffodil Society.

Images: Sarah Bowly nee Blackhouse (top); Harry Backhouse (facing right); Aldham Backhouse (reading); Charles J. Backhouse; Weardale Perfection

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Arthur William Burson

A walk through Radnor Street Cemetery reveals some striking new discoveries as the Community Payback Team continue their excellent job of work, for example, this striking monument with its crazy paving gleaming in the summer sunshine.

Ever Loving Memory of 
Arthur William
Who Fell Asleep 18th
May 1934 Aged 73 Years
Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to they cross I cling
Also of
Emily Anna
Wife of the above
Who entered into Rest
14th March 1950
Aged 85 years

Arthur William Burson was born in Steventon, Berks, the son of farmer Richard Burson and his wife Louisa. In 1871 Richard was farming 140 acres and employing six labourers and two boys at Sutton Courtney, but Arthur appears to have been unwilling to follow in his father's agricultural footsteps.

By 1881 Arthur had moved to Swindon and was working as a grocer's assistant, living above the shop at 57 Bridge Street. In 1888 he married Emily Anna Solway and at the time of the 1891 census the couple were living at 52 Fleet Street where Arthur appears to have his own business.

Ten years later and the family business was at 94 Commercial Road, approximately where the TSB Bank is now situated. Arthur describes himself as a Grocer & Provision Merchant. By now the couple have three daughters, Edith, Elsie and Hilda, fourth daughter Grace was born in 1903.

Arthur went on to become a JP and by 1903 the family were living at Hedworth House, 69 Bath Road.

Arthur died on May 18, 1934. Probate was made on June 26 to his widow Emily Anna  and his son in law Frederick Augustus Dadge, a railway clerk. Arthur's effects were valued at £56,668 6s 6d.

Emily outlived her husband by 16 years. She died on March 14, 1950 at the Cheriton Nursing Home in Westlecott Road. Her last home had been at number 4 Corby Avenue, Old Town.

She left her estate of £41,430 10s 7d to her daughter Edith Dadge who by this time was also a widow and Kenneth Burson Dadge, draughtsman, presumably her grandson.