Hugh STOWELL (1758-1835)

Hugh STOWELL(72) was christened at St. Mathew's, Douglas, Isle of Man, on 7 Dec 1768 1. He was the son of Thomas STOWELL(75) and Ann BROWN(76). A. W. Moore2 describes him as the third son, but as so far as can be made out he was the seventh.

According to Hinton Bird3 Hugh received his education in his early years at Ramsey Grammar School, which at the time was under the Rev. John Crellin. In 1782, at the age of 13, he went to Castletown Grammar School, whose then head was the Rev. Thomas Castley, MA Cantab. In 1783 his mother died, an event which he apparently described in his diary as the "first real Deletion" in his life. Soon Hugh was tutoring three or four boys himself, for which he was paid 3, and in 1786 was awarded an academic scholarship worth 22. He turned to divinity rather than classics.

He took Church of England orders, as the first in a series of Stowell clergymen, and was ordained Deacon in April 1791, serving as curate to Vicar General Moore at Arbory (a neighbouring parish to Malew, Malew being the parish within which Castletown lies). The following year, at the request of the inhabitants of Douglas, expressed I know not how, he was appointed to be Master of the Grammar School in Douglas and Chaplain of St. Matthews, then a chapel of ease in Douglas within the Braddan parish. He increased the number of pupils at the school, and also increased the congregation at St. Matthews by having a Manx service and sermon each Sunday4.

On 23 Apr 1793, at Bishopscourt, he was ordained Priest5. His health was not good, and after being confined to bed for seven weeks by a "putrid fever", followed by the death of his brother Joseph STOWELL(217) in 1801, Hugh requested a country parish. In 1802, following the death of the incumbent Samuel GELL in January, Hugh was appointed Vicar of Lonan on 15 Mar 1802. There, in March 1808, he founded a Sunday School, the first in the island, and led the Sunday School movement thereafter. He corrected the 1810 edition of the Manx New Testament.

Hugh was appointed Rector of Ballaugh on 20 Apr 1814, just a few months after the death of his wife (see below). He was to remain there until his death on 14 Oct 1835. During his incumbency, a new parish church was built, not without opposition. At the vestry meeting on 24 Apr 1830 at which the decision was taken, the proposal was carried only by 110 votes to 84. Both the Bishop Ward and the Rector voted for. The building required an act of Tynwald, which was passed on 20 Sep 1830, and the foundation stone was laid by the Bishop on 10 May 1831. The new church was consecrated by the Bishop on 27 Sep 1832, and on that day Hugh noted the consecration in the register, commenting "after much delay and many obstacles"6.

Hugh married Amelia CALLOW (73) on 20 Sep 1796 at Santon7. There are baptismal records for six children8, and a pedigree9 drawn up by John Arthur STOWELL(672) in 1993 contains two others. The survival rate of their children was not good, and only two of their lines have continued to the present.

Hugh's wife Amelia died on 09 Jan 1814, aged only 36, while the family were still at Lonan, and Hugh wrote a memoir of her10. Hugh himself died on 11 Oct 1835 at the age of 67. On 17 Oct he was buried in Lonan Old Yard11 where his wife and three of their children were already buried. The inscription on the grave reads:

Monumental Inscription on horizontal gravestone, D12 in Lonan Old Yard
In memory of
for 13 years Vicar of this Parish and 21
years Rector of Ballaugh where he closed
his earthly course October 11th 1835
aged 67 years
early called and affectionately kept by
Divine grace, his path was like the shining
light which shineth the more and more unto
the perfect Day, What he was as a father
watch his family as a pastor led his flock as
a Patriot let this Island say, As in life so
in death Christ was all in all to him
without Christ's aid in his last hours
all would be gloom and blackness of darkness
but with Christ all is love and joy and peace
Even from the dust the prophet cries
Prepare to meet thy God.

Wife of the Rev. H. Stowell departed
this life Jany. 9th 1811 aged 36 years

Daughter of the above departed this life
Octr. 26th 1833 in the 29th year of her age
and like her honoured Mother
found her God her all.

son of the above died the 16th day of
Jany. 1813 aged 7 months and 10 days.
Of such is the Kingdom of GOD.

daughter of the abve died Octr. 1st 1839
aged 20 years.
One Family in Heaven.

In his will dated 1832, Cornelius Smelt, Lieut Governor of The Isle of Man, wrote "As a small token of my respect and regard for the Rev Hugh Stowell of Ballaugh I request that a mourning ring may be offered for his acceptance." The dictionary says that a mourning-ring was a ring worn as a memorial of a deceased person. What was then a normal practice, seems nowadays a weird conceit.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no surviving portrait of Hugh STOWELL, or one would surely have surfaced by now. In addition to the memorial inscription at Lonan, a memorial window was installed at his last church in Ballaugh.

Memorial window in Ballaugh church


1) Familysearch, based on FHL film 106718, gives 07 Dec 1768 as the date of his baptism. The film is of parish register transcripts of St. Matthews Church, Douglas, Isle of Man, containing baptisms 1705-1848 and marriages 1730-1753. This Hugh was the third child to be given that name, so it was third time lucky.
2) Hugh Stowell, Senior (b.1768,d.1835); in Manx Worthies, by A.W.Moore, 1901. This brief biography is available online as part of the Manx Notebook website.
3) Hinton Bird, An Island That Led - the History of Manx Education Vol 1 & 2, Port St. Mary 1993/5.
4) A history of the Manx Church: 1698-1911 , by Canon John Gelling, The Manx Heritage Foundation, 1998, pp.49/50.
5) A history of the Manx Church. See note 4 above. Page 240.
6) A history of the Manx Church. See note 4 above. Page 68.
7) Familysearch, based on FHL film 106745, which contains parish register transcripts, 1690-1883, for St. Anne's, the name by which the parish was known until the late 19th century when Santon (or Santan in Manx) began to be used.
8) Familysearch, based on FHL film 106718, which is of parish register transcripts of St. Matthew's Church, Douglas, and contains baptisms, 1705-1848, and marriages, 1730-1753 for the first two children, Ann and Hugh, and on FHL film 106728, parish register transcripts of Kirk Lonan, 1718-1883, this film containing baptisms and burials 1718-1849, marriages 1718-1868 for the remainder, except that no IGI record exists for Catherine.
9) J.A.Stowell, chartB-S768, Nov 1993.
10) Memoirs of Mrs. Stowell,by the Rev. Hugh Stowell, Rector of Ballaugh, Isle of Man. F Houlston & Son, Wellington, Salop, 1817. A reprint of this book is available from Kessinger Publishing.
11) Kirk Lonan burial register.

© John Stowell 2011              This file last edited on 26 May 2011.

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