CFHS code : PL569

Parish : St Paul

Inscription : In Loving Memory of WILLIAM JOHN BOWYER d November 8th 1898 aged 60 also of JOHN WILLIAM BROWN ROOKE d September 18 1903 aged 46 also of ELIZA BOWYER remainder missing

Monument : Stone cross/Kerb stones

Above information from Cambridge Family History Society Survey

Lat Lon : 52.202453, 0.13605893 – click here for location

Bowyer and Rooke headstone March 2017
The monument in 1913 taken from a photo of a neighbouring grave.



In Loving Memory of WILLIAM JOHN BOWYER died November 8th 1898, aged 60.

Also of JOHN WILLIAM BROWN ROOKE died September 18 1903, aged 46.

Also of ELIZA BOWYER wife of the above died March 1st 1910, aged 87.

“Peace Perfect Peace”

Relationship: Husband, wife, step-son

William John Bowyer (1838 –  8 November 1898)

William was the only son of William (1808-1850) and Elizabeth (née Hobourn) (1807-). His father was a labourer and he grew up at 37 Coronation Street (1841) and then Bradmore Street (1851/1861). After she was widowed Elizabeth Bowyer was a pauper and then worked as a needlewoman.  Aged 22 William was living at Bradmore Street and working as an architectural draughtsman. He married widow Eliza Rooke in 1865 and they lived at Rosendale, Clarendon Road (1871), Bateman Street (1881) before returning to Clarendon Road (1891).  He was deputy town surveyor, and in November 1877 was apointed town survey ‘at the invitation of the Urban Sanitary Authority’. His salary was £3 per week and the use of a horse and trap.  William oversaw the building of a drain from Brooklands Avenue to the Leys School (1885), a  sewer in Coldham Lane (1886) and a sever in Bin Brooke (1886).

At a Council meeting in October 1886 the role of town surveyor was discussed in length. The paving, drainage and lighting committee recommended appointing him for a further year as surveyor.  Dr. Fawcett said he would agree, if the ‘surveyor’s duties especially with regard to the tramways [be] more clearly pointed out’. He thought that the ‘hole and channels had not been attended to , and the street was he asserted a disgrace to the surveyor. He had had a great deal of trouble in telling him his duties on these points’. Mr Bailey said that ‘he believed Mr Bowyer’s duties were heavier than any three men could perform and if they expected from him more than it was possible for him to carry out, they had themselves to blame’. The chair of the committee objected to William’s Bowyer adding £52 to his salary ‘which was allowed for horse hire or for vehicles’. The chairman felt that William should have to provide receipts as  he frequently saw him taking the tram.  Some members of the committee suggested that the £52 for horse hire was added to his current salary of £250 per year. Dr Porter ‘hinted that the Surveyor might provide himself with a bicycle or tricycle’. The committee finally decided to extend  the contact and to increase William’s salary to £302 per annum.

Letter to the Cambridge Improvement Board

Tension between the committee and William Bowyer appear to have increased however and in December 1886 a special committee was appointed to hear ‘the alleged irregularites and misconduct on the part of the surveyor…to recommend to the board that owing to irregularities, his constantly neglecting his duties, and his refusal to obey the lawful orders of the Chairman, the surveyor be dismissed’.   As a result William resigned his post ahead of the adoption of the report.

In 1891 he was living with Eliza at Clarendon Road and was described as an architect and surveyor. He died aged 60 years old.

John William Brown Rooke (20 January 1857 – 18 September 1903)

John was the son of John Radford Rooke (1818-1857) and Eliza (née Gotobed). He was baptised on 8 February 1857 and his father died the next month. He lived at 7 St Andrew’s Street with his mother and brother, before moving to Clarendon Road after his mother married William Bowyer.  He also became an architect/surveyor and was articled to Richard Reynolds Rowe, surveyor of Cambridge from September 1871 for five years.  He worked for Richard for ten years, and served as ‘resident engineer in charge of the construction and repair of public bridges’ throughout the county.  From 1881-1889 he was assistant to his step-father ‘directing the construction of sewers, roads and other works of public utility’.

John married Isabella Emma Pratte (1860-1898) in Cambridge in 1889. In January 1889 he was appointed Borough Surveyor of Leominster and the couple moved to live on the Hereford Road, Leominster. Whilst there he ‘designed and carried out a difficult and effectutual scheme for augmenting the supply of the Leominster water works.  In September 1892 he was appointed engineer and surveyor to the Abercarne local board, Monmouthshire.

Around 1894 he later went to work for Biggleswade Rural District Council and the couple lived at London Road, Biggleswade.  By January 1898 John had relinquished his role.  The house contents were auctioned in June 1898 under what was described as ‘under a distress’ and consisted of bed and bedding, a writing desk, easy and other chairs and new carpenters’ tools’.

He was arrested on 18 August 1898 for ‘unlawfully and wilfully and with intents to defraud [made] certain false entries in certain books which belonged to the Council’.  He was bailed on 20 September and tried on 3 November 1898, but the jury was unable to agree a verdict. A second trial was held on 24 November 1898 where the jury  found him guilty and sentenced him to a month’s imprisonment with hard labour. Isabella died whilst he was in prison aged 42 years old.  

In 1901 he was living at Clarendon Road with his mother and was documented as  land surveyor and civil engineer.

Eliza Bowyer (née Gotobed) (1823 – 1 March 1910)

Eliza  was the daughter of George and Rose Ann (née Gathercole).   George ran the Black Bull Inn, Trumpington Street (until 1825) and then The Bull Inn, Trumpington Street before he died in 1831. In 1841 Eliza was living at Fitzwilliam Court, Trumpington Street with her two siblings,  Rose and Rose’s second husband Otho Dusgate Brown.

She married John Radford Rooke (1818-1857) on 20 September 1849 at St. Mary the Less Church.  They had two sons: Frederick Charles (1850-1883) and John William and lived at 13 St. Mary’s Street (1851).  John worked as a clerk to solicitor Stephen Adcock and he died on 20 March 1857 aged 39 years old. Eliza then married William Bowyer and died at Clarendon Road aged 87 years old.



Newspaper archives

by Claire Martinsen

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Eliza Bowyer; William John Bowyer; John William Brown Rooke