A most unusual local man


An article by Roy Wood


Above: A Derby Named View Shaped Circular Harrow Plate, painted by Edwin Trowell. The plate is igned, with Caernarfon Castle from the sea, cobalt blue border, applied with five oval reserves and white seed pears and gilt sprigs and scrolls, 22cm diam, printed mark in green, titl



A fine pair of named view Crown Derby plates dating to 1889.   They feature central areas painted with Chee Tor and Chee Dale respectively which are part of the Peak District in Derbyshire.  The plates are monogramed to the reverse for Edwin Trowell but are not signed to the painting which is typical for this period.

The central painting is somewhat stylistic but very effective and seems to capture movement in the water.  The outer margins are of fine white glaze and there is gilt and cobalt detailing around the edge along with raised white enamel jewelling.

To the reverse are the Derby marks with impressed and printed forms.  The plates are also titled to the reverse.


Edwin Trowell is described as a most unusual ‘Local Man’, as he was actually born in Derby in 1869, the Son of a railway worker.

He was first employed, by Royal Crown Derby, at just thirteen years of age, and it was not long before he was hand painting various pieces of delicate porcelain that the factory is so famous for. At the age of fifteen came his big opportunity. The local Liberal party decided to make a presentation to the then Prime Minister, the Right Honourable William. E. Gladstone, of a very valuable 40 piece dessert service painted with intricate scenery, emblems and other decoration. Edwin was asked to go to the Managers office where he was asked ‘Could you manage the work on your own?’ Edwin’s response was a categorical and confident ‘Yes!’


It was some ten years later that the life of Edwin Trowell took a very different track, when he left Royal Crown Derby and moved into the field of medicine.  

He joined Rainhill Asylum where he sat the exam for the Certificate of the Medical and Psychological Association of England and Ireland, which he duly passed on 7th November, 1894. It could well be said that part of his reward was the hand of the Head Nurse of the Hospital, Mary Margaret Tebay, who he married in 1895 when he was 26 years old.



Margaret, having passed her own exam, had worked at two previous hospitals.  Firstly at Blackburn Infirmary, from 1879 -1890, where she spent three years as a pupil, and a further eight years as Head Nurse. She moved onto Suffolk General Hospital from 1890- 1892 as a Nursing Sister before moving to Rainhill later in 1892.

In 1902 Edwin and Mary arrived at The Hemel Hempstead Union Workhouse where one achievement stands out, and this was duly recorded by the West Herts and Watford Observer of January 27th 1906, under the heading ‘THE MASTER AND THE GAS’.




The Clerk reported that he had received an application for a testimonial for the Matron and himself. The Master stated he had effected a considerable saving in the gas usage due to attention to burners etc. The reduction during the Christmas quarter of 1905, in comparison with the similar quarter in1904 was 37,800 cubic feet!

Clearly, here we had two people dedicated to their chosen careers, and with clear and attainable targets. As we know they gave twenty years of outstanding service to the Workhouse, and this was commented on with the presentation of a framed accolade presented to them on their retirement in 1923.

The Trowell’s had already made plans for their retirement and had obtained a dwelling on the Isle of Man, and they moved there after their retirement.

The Isle of Man is a beautiful place, and it became the focal point for most of Edwin’s Water colour paintings. Indeed he may have exhibited at The Royal Academy Exhibition of 1934 with a painting called Grich S W.




Sadly Mary Margaret Trowell, his wife of 47 years, passed away in 1944 at the grand age of 84 years, and she was buried in the Heath Lane Cemetery in Boxmoor.

As time went on Edwin met Ethel Margaret Bushrod, the daughter of a Retired Army Officer, and they married on 1st June, 1946, he being 75 years old, and she just 47 years old. However, she died in September 1960.

It is fitting somehow, that despite having lost her some fifteen years earlier, that when Edwin died in Bournemouth in 1959, aged 91 years, he was brought back o Hemel Hempstead, and interred in the same grave as his first love - Mary Margaret.

The one aspect of this man, not touched on, was his life as a dedicated Mason.

He celebrated 50 years at the King Henry VIII Lodge in Hemel Hempstead. It is the ambition of any Mason to be elected Master of his Lodge, and this he was awarded on three occasions, in 1914, 1917, and 1918. He was also elected Provincial (Hertfordshire) Grand Senior Deacon.

Impossible to reproduce in these few lines, this is an intriguing tale of a remarkable couple who came to Hemel Hempstead and proved themselves a couple of great tact, diplomacy and compassion, both of whom showed remarkable business acumen.

I conclude by saying that, in my opinion, both Edwin and Margaret should be adopted as Hemel Hempsteadians and we should be proud to do so, I have even approached the Council to see if a new road or building in that area could be named after them. Their tireless work at the head of the Union Workhouse as we know it has never been fully recognised, nor indeed have the names of Edwin and Margaret Trowell – until now!

                                         Roy Wood 2016

POSTSCRIPT - If any current members of King Henry VIII Lodge in Hemel Hempstead are able to find out more information, and possibly a photograph of Edwin Trowell please do get in touch with the secretary. (See Contact above) and also the webmaster on http://www.lgchronicle.net/CONTACTPAGE.html   [The Secretary is sadly in hospital (September 2016) and we cannot as yet be sure when he will return home. ]  Thankyou.