Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Rowe, Samuel (1793-1853)

ROWE, SAMUEL (1793–1853), topographer, born on 11 Nov. 1793, was second son of Benjamin Rowe, yeoman, of Sherford Barton, Brixton, Devonshire, by his wife, Mary Avent, of St. Budeaux in the same county. This branch of the Rowe family had been settled at Brixton for several generations. After attending the neighbouring grammar school of Plympton, Samuel was apprenticed in 1810 to a bookseller at Kingsbridge, Devonshire. In 1813 his father purchased for him an old-established bookselling business at Plymouth, in which he was soon afterwards joined by his younger brother, Joshua Brooking Rowe. His leisure was devoted to study and literary pursuits. In 1817 he was elected a member, and in 1821 the secretary, of the Plymouth Institution, which was then the centre of all literary, scientific, and artistic life in South Devon. In 1822 he decided to give up bookselling and take holy orders. He accordingly matriculated at Cambridge as a member of Jesus College, and graduated B.A. in 1826 and M.A. in 1833. After serving as curate of St. Andrew, Plymouth, he was presented to the incumbency of St. Budeaux, and in 1832 he became the first minister of a new church, St. Paul, at Stonehouse, Plymouth. The incumbency of St. George, the older church of Stonehouse, shortly afterwards falling vacant, he was transferred to it, the gift, like the other preferments, being with the vicar of St. Andrew, the Rev. John Hatchard. Here he stayed until 1835, when out of seventy candidates he was elected vicar of Crediton, Devonshire. He died at Crediton on 15 Sept. 1853, and was buried in the churchyard. By his marriage, in 1829, to Sydney, daughter of Adam Neale, M.D. [q. v.], he left a son and five daughters.

Of Rowe's numerous writings, the most important is his ‘Perambulation of the Antient and Royal Forest of Dartmoor,’ royal 8vo, Plymouth, 1848 (2nd edit. demy 8vo, 1856), which has long been recognised as the standard account. A third and thoroughly revised edition, published in 1895 under the editorship of the author's nephew, Mr. J. Brooking Rowe, F.S.A., contains a portrait of Rowe, and numerous illustrations by a Devonshire artist, Mr. F. J. Widgery.

Rowe also published useful topographical works on Plymouth and the neighbourhood, epitomes of Paley's ‘Philosophy,’ and ‘Evidences,’ and several religious books and tracts. With Thomas Byrth [q. v.] he projected in 1814 the ‘Plymouth Literary Magazine,’ which expired at the sixth number. He wrote likewise: 1. ‘Iskander, or the Hero of Epirus, by Arthur Spenser,’ a romance, 3 vols. 12mo, London, 1819. 2. ‘Antiquarian Investigations in the Forest of Dartmoor,’ 8vo, 1830. 3. ‘Gothic Architecture, its Decline and Revival,’ 8vo, London, 1844.

[Trans. of Devonshire Assoc. xiv. 395–401; Gent. Mag. 1854, i. 215, 543; information from J. Brooking Rowe, esq.]

G. G.