Percy STOWELL(19), my paternal grandfather, was born on 2 Oct 1872 in Salford, Lancashire 1, the 9th of 14 children of the Rev Thomas Alfred STOWELL(68) and Emma TATHAM (68). He was baptised by his father at Christ Church, Salford, on 17 Nov 18722 , his father being by then Rector of that church. I have not managed to find an entry for Percy in the GRO births index, and the Registry Office in Salford confirm that his birth was not registered3.

Percy died on my third birthday, 23 Dec 1942 at Southport, Lancashire, and was cremated at the Manchester Crematorium on 28 Dec and his ashes scattered in the Old Garden, December section, shortly afterwards. 4.

At the time of the 1881 census 5 he was at 46 The Crescent, Salford, with his parents and 12 of his siblings, a schoolboy. He does not appear in the 1891 census, and was possibly at sea at the time (see below).

According to my father, Percy was at one time a cadet on the training ship HMS Conway, and sailed to Tasmania. That he was a cadet is confirmed by the admission records of HMS Conway6 , which show that he joined on 9 Sep 1886, just before his 14th birthday. His last school is noted as Manchester Grammar School, although in response to an enquiry the school said thay had no record of him as a pupil.

Percy left HMS Conway in July 1888, to join the Sierra Madrona, belonging to Thompson Anderson & Co. of Liverpool. The Sierra Madrona was an iron sailing ship of 1430 net tons, built in 1875 in Stockton, and registered in Liverpool7. Her official number was 74461. It is not clear whether any logs or crew lists survive from this ship for the period between July 1888 and mid-1894 when she was presumed lost with her entire crew. I do not think it can have been with this ship that Percy went to Tasmania.

From newspaper shipping reports, there were four voyages of the Sierra Madrona which might have included Percy as a cadet:

  1. September 1888 to October 1889: Liverpool to Rangoon via Bombay and probably the Suez canal, then back via Cape Town and St Helena to Penarth, in Wales.
  2. About November 1889 to August 1890: To Bassein, Burma, via Cape Town, and back to Queenstown, Cork, and Holland.
  3. About September 1890 to June 1892: To Rangoon, probably vis Cape Town then back via Rio then Portland, Oregon, to Queenstown and the Channel to Calais and possibly Holland.
  4. July 1892 to August 1893: Liverpool to Rangoon, and back with a cargo of rice to Queenstown and Rotterdam, being towed from Roterdam to Liverpool.
  5. January 1894 to around April 1894 when she was presumed lost with all hands off the Cape at about 40 degrees south.

On none of the four voyages, of which only on the first can we be reasonably sure that Percy sailed, did the Sierra Madrona visit Tasmania. Her basic activity seems to have been to carry coal, from the South Wales coalfield, on the outward voyages, and rice from Burma, delivered to Holland, on the return. For the most part, the newspaper reports do not indicate her cargo. It is possible that Percy sailed in another ship to Tasmania, but I have found no record.

At some stage, Percy must have decided that the merchant marine was not for him, and by the time of the 1901 census8, aged 28, he was back in Broughton, Salford, boarding at 51 George Street, and an Assistant Secretary. Eventually he became a director and company secretary of A & S Henry, jute manufacturers of Manchester, with offices in Portland Street. In 1929 he was Secretary to the firm, then described as shipping merchants and general warehousemen 9. Some files of this firm, founded in 1805 in Manchester by Alexander Henry in partnership with his brother Samuel, are in the Dundee University Archives, Ref: GB 254 MS 86 covering 1853-1987, but they mainly relate to the Dundee branch of the firm. They do however indicate that Percy was listed in annual reports as assistant secretary, 1912-1914, and as secretary from 1920. He was still listed as secretary in the 1933 annual report, but in the 1935 report Arthur Crossland is Secretary. This report notes that Percy had retired at the close of the year, presumably 1934, after many years of discharging "the duties of his office with satisfaction to all concerned. His unblemished record, coupled with a delightful personality won for him the esteem of everyone connected with the Company". The report also stated that he had "a unique knowledge of the Company's history", and would continue to advise the company 10.

On 2 December 190311 Percy married Rose Emily BERTRAM (20). The marriage took place at St. Pauls, Portman Square, Marylebone, near Rose Emily’s home in London. The celebrant was the Rev. Reginald STOWELL(180), Percy’s brother, at the time Curate of Chorley.

Marriage register
  entry for Percy and Rose Emily

The witnesses were Alice BERTRAM, presumably Rose Emily's aunt, L.TATHAM, presumably Percy's uncle Leonard TATHAM, Emma T. STOWELL, presumably Percy's older sister Emma Tatham STOWELL, and Rhoda BERTRAM, who I am guessing was Rose's sister Alice Rhoda. The image above is from a photocopy from microfilm of the original parish marriage register for this marriage, and the image is also available online. No wedding photograph seems to have survived. It would be interesting to know how Percy and Rose Emily met, but I doubt that we will ever know.

Percy and Rose Emily lived initially at Rutland Drive, in Kersal, nowadays part of Salford, and then at 3 Hanover Square, Higher Broughton, not far away, where my father was born, and they were still there in 191112. Later they moved to Alexandra Road, Southport where they stayed until they separated in 1918 when Percy moved back to Manchester.

Percy and Rose Emily had three children:

I have no photograph of Percy and Rose together apart from the family group taken in about 1911.

Percy divorced Rose Emily for adultery in 1919. The story, as reported in The Manchester Guardian13 , was as follows:

In the Divorce Court yesterday, Mr Justice Horridge granted a decree nisi in favour of Mr. Percy Stowell, formerly of Alexandra Road, Southport, on the ground of the misconduct of his wife, Rosie Emily Stowell, with the co-respondent, the Rev. Frederick Lindon Coulson Parkyn, formerly vicar of Holy Trinity, Southport.

Mr. Le Bas represented the petitioner, and the suit was undefended.

The petitioner stated that he was secretary to a limited company and was married in December 1903, at St. Paul's, Portman Square, Marylebone. There were three children. He afterwards lived at Alexandra Road, Southport, and there made the acquaintance in 1916 of the co-respondent. He and his wife lived perfectly happily until July, 1917. Later that year, in view of the friendship between his wife and the co-respondent, he asked the latter to give his wife the "cold shoulder." The co-respondent said he would send in his resignation, and he hoped then the thing would stop.

His Lodrship: Was he a married man?

The petitioner said he was and had a family. In February, 1918, the petitioner had a breakdown, and was away for some weeks. In the meantime the co-respondent had gone to France with H. M. Forces as a chaplain. When he went to France the petitioner told him that he hoped that he would go out of their lives altogether.

Subsequently, however, he found the co-respondent writing letters to his wife "that no man should write to another man's wife," and he wrote to him on the subject. In reply he received a communication from the co-respondent in the course of which he said:-

Neither has my life work been a mockery, for no man has done his work more faithfully or earnestly than I have. I am bewildered by the fact that what I can only describe as the truest and purest affection is involving many people in great difficulty and endangering R.'s health and life.

The petitioner said he did no know that there was anything wrong until he received information as to his wife staying at the Greyhound Hotel, Richmond. He again wrote to the co-respondent on the matter of correspondence with his wife, and received from him a letter dated October 20, 1918, in which he said that when he returned to England he would give up his commission and his vocation.

After this his wife went to live with her sister in a flat in London. The petitioner broke up his home and went to Manchester, where his work was. He thought that if they were apart for a time matters would come right, and he told his wife that he would make another home. Finally he received a letter from his wife in which she said that she had "taken steps to relieve you from your situation as you have begged me to do."

In reply to Mr. Le Bas, the witness said the only thing he had asked his wife to do was to give up the co-respondent. On March 2 last, he said he received a letter from the solicitors acting for the respondent and co-respondent intimating that their clients had decided to live together as man and wife, and had been doing so in a flat in St. John's Wood, London. It was, they said, the desire of the co-respondent to marry Mrs. Stowell as soon as legal disabilities had been removed.

However, the legal disabilities referred to, namely that the Rev. Parkyn was already married with three children, did not allow themselves to be removed and he was never able to marry Rose Emily.

  Percy Stowell  

In 1924/5 Percy's address was 9 Alexandra Road, Southport 14, so he must have moved back to Southport after the divorce. His brothers Alfred, Hugh and Leonard were also living in Southport.

On 22 Nov 1926, aged 54, Percy disembarked at Southampton from the SS Windsor Castle, having embarked in Natal (presumably Durban). He gave his destination as 19 Spath Road, Didsbury, and his occupation as merchant. Then on 22 Sep 1929, aged 56, he disambarked from the SS Lancashire at Tilbury, having boarded in Marseilles. He gave his destination as 119a Palatine Road, Didsbury. Also on the trip were Richard T. Stowell, 61, Solicitor, of Linby Lodge, Knutsford, Herbert Stowell, 55, cotton spinner, of The Mount, Knutsford, and Leonard Stowell, aged 50, chartered accountant, of 70 Rawlinson Road, Southport. Again on 22 Oct 1931, aged 59, he disembarked at Southampton from the SS Atlantis, once more headed for 119a Palatine Road. This time only Leonard Stowell, 52, was with him, and they had been on a cruise of the Mediterranean and Atlantic Isles15. In all three cases he was travelling first class. It would appear that sea voyages were one of the holidays he liked.

In the index of Grants of Probate it is noted that Percy Stowell’s address at the time he died was 23 Cavendish Road, Southport, Lancs., and he died at The Infirmary, Southport. His will is dated 27 Nov 1939. A brief obituary appeared in the local paper16:

The cremation of Mr.Percy Stowell of 23 Cavendish Road, Birkdale, who died on Wednesday, took place at Manchester Crematorium yesterday. A service was held in the Crematorium chapel, conducted by the Rev. Bishop, of Christ Church, Didsbury. Mr. Stowell, who was a son of the late Councillor T. A. Stowell, a former Rector of Chorley, had been in business in Manchester for many years as a director of Messrs. A. and S. Henry Ltd., cotton goods shippers, and went to live in Birkdale on his retirement for ill health reasons. On Tuesday last he was taken ill again and on Wednesday afternoon was removed to Southport Infirmary, where he died the same night.

Mr. Stowell, who was 70 years, leaves two sons and a daughter. He was a prominent member of several Manchester Lodges and also Junior Warden of the East Lancashire Province. Since going to Birkdale, he had, along with his brother, Mr. Leonard Stowell, of 24, Trafalgar Road, Birkdale, been a member of the Union Club, Bath Street.

The chief mnourners were: Mr. L. T. Stowell, and Mr. B. Stowell (sons), Mrs. H. L. Birley (daughter), Mr. L. Stowell (brother), Mrs. R. Stowell (sister-in-law), Mr. C. Birley (grandson), Miss Windale, Mr. and Mrs. McGill, Mr. Padmore, Mrs. H. Stowell, Mr A. Dyckhoff, Mr. H. Birley.

So far as Percy's being a mason, my father remembered him spending hours of an evening learning and practising his words for the Masonic ceremonies.


1) His date of birth is given in the record of his admission to HMS Conway, see note 6 below. His birth does not seem to have been registered.
2) Baptismal register of Christ Church, Salford, Vol.2, entry no.109. Microfilm MFPR 171 at Manchester Central Library.
3) Email from the Deputy Registrar, Salford, 21 Dec 2011.
4) Death certificate. The death was registered in Southport, Dec quarter of 1942, vol. 8b, p.771. The date of his cremation was communicated by the Crematorium Superintendent and Registrar in an email.
5) 1881 England census, Salford, RG11, piece 3966, folio 37, p.11, through
6) HMS Conway admissions register, no.214. Photocopy kindly supplied by the National Museums Liverpool (Merseyside Maritime Museum).
7) Personal communication. Letter from the Merseyside Maritime Museum, 15 Jul 2003.
8) 1901 England census, Broughton, Salford, RG13, piece 3727, folio 105, p.16, through
9) 1929 Kelly's Directory of Manchester, Salford, and suburbs, through
10) Email from the University of Dundee, Archives Assistant.
11) Marriage Register of St. Paul, St Marylebone, London, London Metropolitan Archives, P89/PAU3, Item 002, via
12) British Phone Book, 1911, through
13) Former Southport Clergyman as Co-Respondent; The Manchester Guardian, 15 Nov 1919, p.7, from The Guardian on- line archive.
14) 1924-5 Seed's Directory of Southport and District, through
15) The information on these arrivals is contained in UK incoming Passenger Lists available on
16) The Southport Visitor of Tues. 29 Dec 1942.

© John Stowell 2012             This file last edited on 6 May 2013.