Mrs Maria Eliza ROWELL, née Brown (1854–1874)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 16a, Grave D70

Maria Rowell


A.D. 1874




Maria Rowell was the young wife of the Oxford jeweller Richard Sydenham Rowell, who does not appear to be buried with her.

Richard Rowse Rowell established the family jewellery firm in Oxford in 1797. It became Rowell & Son Ltd when Richard Sydenham Rowell joined his father It originally operated from 36 Broad Street, and moved to 20 High Street in 1861. It then transferred to larger premises at 115 High Street in 1885, where it remained until 1986.

The shop Rowell of Oxford is now in Turl Street

Maria Eliza Brown (later Mrs Rowell)

Maria Brown was born at 43 Cornmarket Street, Oxford in 1854 and baptised at St Michael's Church on 5 May. She was the daughter of the Oxford ironmonger John Beck Brown (born in PIddington on 8 October 1824 and baptised there on 9 November) and Emma D’Arville (born in Ardley in 1828 and baptised there on 18 May). Her parents, who both came from farming families, were married at Ambrosden on 28 May 1850 and had the following children:

  • Annie Beck Brown (born at 43 Cornmarket Street, Oxford in 1851 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 7 March)
  • Charles John Brown (born at 43 Cornmarket Street, Oxford in 1852 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 6 June)
  • Maria Eliza Brown (born at 43 Cornmarket Street, Oxford in 1854 and baptised at St Michael’s Church on 5 May)
  • Thomas Brown (born at 43 Cornmarket Street, Oxford in 1857 and privately baptised on 1 February by St Michael’s Church; received into the church on 13 May).

At the time of the 1851 census Maria’s parents were living over their ironmonger’s shop at 43 Cornmarket Street with their firstborn daughter Annie, who was one month old. John Beck Brown was recorded as being the employer of six men, and they had a house servant. Two women were visiting the family: Annie D’Arville (21) and Eliza Woodward (29).

The family was still living over the Cornmarket shop at the time of the 1861 census, now with two house servants. The two daughters were not at home: Annie (10) was staying with her widowed grandmother Harriett D’Arville in Bicester, but Maria (7) is hard to locate.

By 1871 Maria’s father John Beck Brown was becoming prosperous: he was now the employer of seven men and three boys, and the family no longer lived over the shop, but had a house at Park Crescent, Park Town.

Richard Sydenham Rowell

Richard Rowell was born at Broad Street in 1848 and baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 7 July. He was the eldest son of Richard Rouse Rowell, a watchmaker admitted as a freeman of Oxford in 1834, and his first wife Emma Eliza Burgoyne, who were were married in the Woodstock district in the third quarter of 1846. His grandfather was the jeweller George Rowell (who in 1797 started up the jewellery business that still survives in Oxford today), and his grandmother was Mary Rouse.

Richard’s mother died at the age of 39 just after his birth, and her funeral took place at St Mary Magdalen Church on 19 June 1848. In 1851 Richard, who was nearly three, was living at 37 Broad Street with his father, who was a watchmaker employing two men, and his housekeeper. On 25 June 1855 he acquired a stepmother when his father married the widow Mrs Elizabeth Jarvis at St Michael’s Church. At the time of the 1861 census he was visiting John Sydenham, who was a doctor, at Islip. Richard became a watchmaker and jeweller like his father, and Rowell & Son was based at 20 High Street from 1861.

Maria Eliza and Richard Sydenham Rowell and their daughter

At the time of the 1871 census, both Richard Sydenham Rowell (22) and his future wife Maria Eliza Brown (17) were staying at Stanton Harcourt in the home of the farmer George Castle. Also visiting the Castles were Maria’s older siblings Ann Beck Brown (25) and Charles John Brown (18). By 1873 they were living at 40 Beaumont Street.

On 24 April 1873 at Ss Philip & James’s Church, Oxford, Maria Eliza Brown (19) married Richard Sydenham Rowell (24), and they had just one child:

  • Maria Eliza Sydenham Rowell (born at 40 Beaumont Street, Oxford in 1874 and privately baptised at Ss Philip & James's Church on 18 June; received into the church on 2 August).

Mrs Rowell died shortly after giving birth and before her daughter's baptism:

† Mrs Maria Eliza Rowell née Brown died at Beaumont Street at the age of 20 on 11 June 1874 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 16 June (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

After his wife’s death Richard Sydenham Rowell moved to 69 Woodstock Road. He was admitted as a freeman of Oxford at the age of 30 on 8 March 1878.

On 8 December 1880 at Manchester Cathedral, Richard Sydenham Rowell married his second wife, Catherine Eliza Sedgley (born in Manchester in 1858). The following announcement was inserted in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 11 December:

Dec. 8, at the Cathedral, Manchester, by the Rev. Arthur Jones, M.A., Richard Sydenham Rowell, of Allandale, Oxford, to Catherine Eliza, eldest daughter of T. G. Sedgley, of Balmoral Place, Old Trafford, Manchester.

At the time of the 1881 census Richard (32) and his new wife Catherine (22) were living Allandale, 69 Woodstock Road with his six-year-old daughter from his first marriage to Maria, and two servants.

Maria’s daughter Maria Eliza Rowell (16) was away at boarding school in Lewisham at the time of the 1891 census, and her life too was short: she died unmarried at the age of 23 (death registered in the Headington district in the first quarter of 1898). It seems likely that she would have been buried with her mother, but her name cannot be seen on the grave.

Richard Sydenham Rowell and his surviving children

Richard Sydenham Rowell and his second wife Catherine Eliza Sedgley had four children:

  • Richard Rouse Sydenham Rowell (born in Oxford in 1881, reg. Headington district fourth quarter)
  • Florence Dorothy Sydenham Rowell (born in Oxford in 1882, reg. Headington district fourth quarter)
  • George Sydenham Rowell (born in Oxford in 1884, reg. Headington district second quarter)
  • Guy Lennox Sydenham Rowell (born in Oxford in 1892, reg. Headington district fourth quarter).

On 1 April 1884 Richard’s father, Richard Rouse Rowell, died, leaving a personal estate of £8,327 13s. 11d. In that same year Richard Sydenham Rowell took out the first lease on 80 Woodstock Road, and shortly afterwards his business moved to larger premises at 115 High Street.

At the time of the 1891 census Richard and his second wife Catherine were living with their first three children at 80 Woodstock Road; and his widowed mother-in-law Helen Sedgley and Catherine’s unmarried sister Florence were also part of the household. Rowell was becoming more prosperous, and they had four domestic servants.

From 1887 to 1892 Richard Sydenham Rowell was in partnership as Rowell & Harris at 115 High Street, and in 1884 they were commissioned to make a new chain for Oxford’s Lord Mayor. From 1893 the firm was R. S. Rowell Ltd, watchmaker & jeweller.

By 1899 Richard and Catherine had moved to Cherwell Croft at 128 Banbury Road, where they can be seen in the 1901 census. Richard junior (19) was now a gold and silver smith like his father, There were still four servants.

Richard Sydenham Rowell died at Cherwell Croft at the age of 55 on 13 December 1903. His personal estate came to £65,154 12s. 8d.

His eldest son Richard Rouse Sydenham Rowell was a Major in the army. He and his wife Margaret Fletcher Rowell lived at Appleton, and then in Headington: first at Sandfield Cottage from at least 1911 to 1918, and then at Barton End in Headington from 1921 to 1923. Their son John Sydenham Rowell died in the Second World War.

See also the meteorologist George Augustus Rowell, uncle of Richard Sydenham Rowell,
and his cousin, George Joseph Rowell



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