Bowly, Samuel (DNB00)

BOWLY, SAMUEL (1802–1884), slavery abolitionist and temperance advocate, son of Mr. Bowly, miller at Bibury, Gloucestershire, was born in Cirencester on 23 March 1802. During his youth he had a sound business training under his father. In 1829 he removed from Bibury to Gloucester, and commenced business as a cheese factor. He became chairman of many local banking, gas, railway, and other companies, and for the last twenty years of his life he was looked upon as a leader in commercial circles and affairs. In the agitation against the corn laws he took a prominent part, and loyally supported Messrs. Cobden and Bright. It was one of his endeavours to give the people cheap and universal education, and he was not only one of the founders of the British and ragged schools in Gloucester, but a consistent advocate of a national system. Like his father, he belonged to the Society of Friends; he was a faithful though courteous and fair supporter of disestablishment.

Bowly took an active part in the anti-slavery agitation, and by his powerful appeals completely beat Peter Borthwick [q. v.], the pro-slavery lecturer, off the ground. He was one of the deputation, 14 Nov. 1837, which went to Downing Street to have an interview with Lord Melbourne about the cruelties exercised towards the slaves under the seven years' apprenticeship system, and in the following year took an active part in the formation of the Central Negro Emancipation Committee, which was ultimately instrumental in causing the abolition of the objectionable regulations. But his advocacy of temperance made him best known. It was on 30 Dec. 1835 that he signed the pledge of total abstinence, and formed a teetotal society in his own city. One of his earliest missions was to the members of his own religious society, undertaken in company with Edward Smith of Sheffield, throughout Great Britain and Ireland. During his later years he held frequent drawing-room meetings. As president of the National Temperance League, as president of the Temperance Hospital from its foundation, and as a director of the United Kingdom Temperance and General Provident Institution, he was able to draw the attention of scientific men to the injurious effects of alcohol on the human system. On behalf of the National Temperance League he attended and addressed 107 meetings during the last year of his life, travelling many hundreds of miles.

The eightieth anniversary of his birth was celebrated in Gloucester in 1882, and he died in that city on Sunday, 28 March 1884, the eighty-second anniversary of his birthday. He was buried in the cemetery on 37 March, when an immense concourse of people, both rich and poor, attended the funeral.

He married, first. Miss Shipley, daughter of Mr. John Shipley of Shaftesbury. His second wife was the widow of Jacob Henry Cottrell of Bath, especially known for his connection with the Rechabite Friendly Society. Bowly published:

  1. 'A Speech delivered 1 Oct. 1830 at a meeting to petition Parliament for the Abolition of Negro Slavery,' 1830.
  2. 'Speech upon the present condition of the Negro Apprentices,' 1838.
  3. 'A Letter to J. Sturge on the Temperance Society and Church Rates, by L. Rugg, with a reply by S. Bowly,' 1841.
  4. 'An Address to Christian Professors,' 1850.
  5. 'Total Abstinence and its proper Place,' 1863.

[Sessions's Life of Samuel Bowly, 1884, with portrait.]

G. C. B.