Fowler, William (1761-1832) (DNB00)

FOWLER, WILLIAM (1761–1832), artist, was born at Winterton, Lincolnshire, 12 March 1761, not, as is wrongly stated in the parish register, 13 March 1760. He became an architect and builder at Winterton, and about 1796 made drawings of Roman pavements discovered there. These were so much admired that he took them to London to be engraved. He there studied the process of copper-plate engraving, and in April 1799 brought out a fine coloured engraving of a Roman pavement at Roxby. From that time to 30 Jan. 1829, the date of his latest engraving, he published three volumes, containing coloured engravings of twenty-five pavements, thirty-nine subjects from painted glass, five brasses and incised slabs, four fonts, and eight miscellaneous subjects. He also executed at least twenty-nine engravings, mostly of objects of antiquity, which were never published. Many of the published plates are accompanied by printed broadsides. Most of the lettering on the plates was done by professed engravers. Those which he did himself are much more characteristic and interesting. He became acquainted with Sir Joseph Banks, Sir Walter Scott, and other celebrities, and was once at least presented to the royal family at Windsor.

Fowler, though an earnest member of the church of England, was at the same time a ‘class-leader’ among the methodists. Some of his neighbours used to say that they ‘did not know whether he was more of a methodist or a catholic.’ He died 22 Sept. 1832, and was buried at Winterton under a cruciform slab, in accordance with his own desire. Sir Joseph Banks once said: ‘Others have shown us what they thought these remains ought to have been, but Fowler has shown us what they are, and that is what we want.’ His works are distinguished by a strict fidelity especially remarkable at the time. Whenever it was possible he worked from tracings, rubbings, &c., reducing the scale by means of the pantograph. It is said that he was the first to introduce the lead-lines in representations of painted glass. There is a characteristic portrait of him by W. Bond, from a painting by G. F. Joseph, A.R.A., dated 4 June 1810.

[Notes on William Fowler and his Works, by H. W. Ball of Barton-on-Humber, reprinted from the North Lincolnshire Monthly Illustrated Journal, April 1869; Bibliotheca Lindesiana; Collections and Notes, No. 2; Fowler's Mosaic Pavements, &c., by Ludovic, earl of Crawford and Balcarres, London, 1883; information from the Rev. J. T. Fowler.]

H. W. B.