John Rowlinson (1839 – 1925)


   1. His childhood

John Rowlinson, son of Mark Rowlinson (1808 – 1880) and Mary Leathwood (1806 – 1845) was born in ca 1839 at Barnton, Cheshire, England.1-5 The family lived on a farm at 80 Runcorn Road, Barnton in 1841. John’s grandfather, Jeffrey Rowlinson also lived with them.1 By the time John turned twelve in 1851, his mother already passed away.3 At the age of 22 years, he still lived with his father and four younger siblings on the farm at Barnton where his father worked the 45 acres of land. John remained with his childhood family until after 1871.1,6

   2. His wife

John’s wife, Mary Hewitt was the daughter of Richard Hewitt (1814 – 1895) and Martha NN (1816 – 1900) and was born in 1843 at Bunbury, Cheshire.1,2,7 She had an elder brother, Richard jr. who never married. Richard sr. farmed on ca 15 hectares of land at Birds Lane, Woodward Green (now Woodworth Green), Bunbury but supplemented his income by also surveying roads and supervising the ‘lengthsmen’ on the country’s roads. Some time between 1861 and 1871, Richard and Martha Hewitt moved to a house at The Highwayside, Alpraham, Cheshire.1

In 1861 at the age of 18 years, the unmarried Mary Hewitt worked as a barmaid in Nantwich, Cheshire and was residing with Mrs Elizabeth Bull at 31 High Street, Nantwich. Ten years later in 1871, Mary was working as a servant at The Royal Hotel, Nantwich Road, Crewe, Cheshire. When Mary was 37 years old, she married 41 year-old John Rowlinson on 21 December 1880 at St Boniface Church, Bunbury, Cheshire. The couple had two sons: Geoffrey (1882 – 1978) and Richard Hewitt (1886 – 1967), both born at Barnton.1,2

   3. His career

A year after their marriage, John and Mary Rowlinson lived at Bank Farm, Barnton where he farmed on 39 acres of land, employing one man.1 The family moved to Burland, Cheshire between 1886 and 1891, because by 1891, the family lived at Mount Pleasant, Burland, where John continued farming for himself.1,8,9 Ten years later, the 1901 Census recorded their address as Spring Lane, Baddiley, Cheshire where John worked on a farm as a carter (someone employed to drive a cart).1,10,11 Somehow, John and Mary fell on hard times and were living like those from the poorer labouring class. Their 15 year-old son, Richard was still living with them, but Geoffrey had already left home and was working on the farm Factor’s House near Whitley, Cheshire.1

At Spring Lane, John and Mary lived in a house where four rooms were occupied, which may indicate that John might have been employed by farmer Mary Johnson, a 40 year-old widow who had two children, Sarah and Thomas. At a farm owned by a widow, she certainly could make use of additional farm help. Also living at Spring Lane, were the elderly couple, John and Caroline Chester, 77 and 76 years respectively, and recorded as an employing farmer as well. Maybe he was related (the father?) of Mary Johnson? Mary Chester, the 19 year-old granddaughter of John and Caroline Chester were in their service as a general domestic servant. Also in their employ as an agricultural labourer, was Henry Mottram, a 63 years old bachelor.10

John might not have been very literate and this is deduced from the England & Wales Census Records of 1851, 1861, 1891 and 1901.3,6,8,10 It seems as if John had difficulty to calculate his own age (see table below). Mary was challenged in a similar way. John’s calculated birth year of ca 1839 is most likely the correct year of birth, based on the 1851 Census and 1861 Census, when John still lived with his father and also according his age specified on his gravestone.

Being from the poorer working class in England where social disparity was a harsh reality and clearly observable, it would not be surprising if John’s level of schooling was minimal. Children started out working from a young age as cheap labour, to help support their families. He grew up in the Victorian era during the reign of Queen Victoria from 1837 until her death in 1901. Her reign was characterized by the expansion of the British Empire via colonization abroad, and a general experience of peace and prosperity for Britain. Some large segments of the Victorian English society, particularly among the middle-class, were increasing both in number and power. Although living, schooling and health conditions within society slowly started to improve, and the industrial, engineering and technological revolution, as well as medical discoveries and religious revival took place, numerous poorer working class families barely survived and many of the middle class had to compete for jobs or even lose them due to the exploding population and the influx of immigrants.12,13 Even Cheshire in the north-western part of England, where the Rowlinson family resided, showed a steady growth in its population during the 19th century. By 1841, there were 206 063 residents, by 1861, 250 932 residents, in 1891, 324 494 residents and in 1901, 343 557 residents.14

The 1891 England and Wales Census provides some indication of the number of Rowlinson families and their whereabouts near the end of the 19th century. The highest concentration of Rowlinsons were found in the county of Lancashire, followed by the counties of Cheshire, as well as Stafford, Cambridge and Suffolk.15

   4. His death

By 1911, the elderly John and Mary Rowlinson were retired and lived with Mary’s bachelor brother, Richard Hewitt, also a retired farmer, at Swanley Bridge, Burland.1 John Rowlinson passed away on 12 April 1925 at the age of 86 years at Northwich, Cheshire. He was buried in Little Leigh Baptist Churchyard in Little Leigh, Cheshire in the same grave as his parents and older brother, Samuel. John’s wife, Mary died one year later in 1926 at the age of 83.1,2,5,16

   5. His children

5.1 Geoffrey

Geoffrey “Geof”, their firstborn, was born in ca 1882. By 1891, he was a nine year-old scholar who lived with his parents at Mount Pleasant in Burland.2,8 In 1897 at the age of 15 years old, Geof arrived in the quaint, peaceful village of Lower Whitley in Cheshire, about 5 km northwest of the town Northwich, to assist his uncle and aunt, Samuel Rowlinson (ca 1836 – 1900) and Sarah Rowlinson (née Saunders) (1843 – 1931) on their farm called Factor’s House situated on Back Lane.1,16-19 Geof never returned to Burland and 1901 at the age of 18 years, still worked on the farm as a farm assistant. By then his aunt was widowed as Samuel Rowlinson had died in 1900.1,20 Somewhere between 1901 and 1911 the occupancy of Factor’s House Farm changed to the Verdin family.1

Sarah’s daughter, Margaret Elizabeth (1874 – 1951) married Joseph “Joe” Glover (1873 – 1942) in 1901. By 1911, this couple lived at the farm called Lester House, a very short distance from Factor’s House.1,19,21 Sarah Rowlinson then lived with her daughter and son-in-law, and 29 year-old Geof was employed by his first cousin and her husband as a cowman.1,21 Some years later, Sarah and Geof moved back to Factor’s House, where Sarah died in 1931. Geof continued to farm at Factor’s House until the Land Commission requisitioned the land during the war (World War II) as Geof was unable to farm the land efficiently. Geof, however, continued to live of the farm.1,15 When the Roberts family came to live at Factor’s House in 1946, Geof moved into the converted cart shed, renamed Factors Cottage, next to the farm house. He died in his sleep in his bed on 26 February 1978, aged 96 years.1,2 He was buried in a large grave at the front on the left-hand side of St Lukes Church, Lower Whitley. The grave contains the remains of five people: 1) Frederick Saunders [†27 December 1923, aged 72 years], bachelor brother of Sarah Rowlinson; 2) Sarah Rowlinson [†16 July 1931, aged 88 years]; 3) Joseph Glover [†29 Augustus 1942, aged 69 years]; 4) Margaret Elizabeth Glover [†13 April 1951, aged 78 years] and 5) Geoffrey Rowlinson [†26 February 1978]. 1,22Geoffrey Rowlinson never married and had no issue. For some reason, he wasn’t too fond of his mother’s family, the Hewitts or as he would call them, the “Uits”. The only relatives that visited him on a regular basis were the two spinster daughters of his cousin Mark Rowlinson (1865 – 1954), son of Samuel and Sarah Rowlinson. Helen (1897 – 1977) and Mary (1902 – 1980) lived at Hazel Grove, Stockport, near Manchester. They would come by bus, then walk down from Northwich Road, Higher Whitley to Factor’s House (about 1.5 km) and spend the day ‘tidying Geof up!’ “I can never find anything after they’ve been”, he used to say. Geof always refered to them as ‘the girls’ although they were both pensioners. On one occasion, Geof asked the postman if he had seen two girls walking down Old Mill Lane to which the postman replied: “No, but I have seen two old women.” “That will be them!”, Geof gleefully replied. In the late 1960s and mid 1970s, several of his grand-nieces and -nephews from South Africa came to visit him.1

5.2 Richard Hewitt

Their second son, Richard Hewitt “Dick”, who married Rose Mary Stitson, was born on 14 January 1886, Barnton.2,8,23 In the early 20th century, he migrated to South Africa where, through mere hard work, he managed to chisel out a comfortable life for himself as a member of the South African middle class. Dick died at the age of 81 years on 17 August 1967.24 He became the stepfather of my husband’s grandfather, William Gustave (Sepp) Rowlinson. READ MORE on Richard Hewitt Rowlinson.


  1. Information received on 22 August 2017 from Ian Roberts of Factor’s House Farm, Whitley, Cheshire, England
  2. Rowlinson in All Collections.
  3. Mark Rowlinson. 1851 England and Wales Census, Barnton, Cheshire. National Archives, London, England.
  4. Barnton, Cheshire.,_Cheshire
  5. Mark Rowlinson. 1861 England and Wales Census, Barnton, Cheshire. National Archives, London, England.
  6. Grave of John Rowlinson.
  7. Bunbury, Cheshire.,_Cheshire
  8. John Rowlinson. 1891 England and Wales Census, Burland, Nantwich, Cheshire. National Archives, London, England.
  9. Burland.
  10. Mary Rowlinson. 1901 England and Wales Census, Baddiley, Cheshire. National Archives, London, England.
  11. Baddiley.
  12. The Victorian Period.
  13. Victoria Era.
  14. Cheshire.
  15. Rowlinson family history.
  16. Northwich.
  17. The History of Whitley, Cheshire.
  18. Whitley, Cheshire.,_Cheshire
  19. Information received on 28 June 2022 from Nick Colley of Northwich, Cheshire, England
  20. Geoffrey Rowlinson. 1901 England and Wales Census, Whitley Superior, Whitley Superior (Entire), Cheshire. National Archives, London, England.
  21. Geof Rowlinson. 1911 England and Wales Census, Seven Oaks, Northwich, Cheshire. National Archives, London, England.
  22. St Luke’s Church, Lower Whitley.,_Lower_Whitley
  23. Christening of Richard Hewitt Rowlinson. England, Cheshire Parish Registers, 1538-2000. FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 April 2016), Richard Hewitt Rowlinson, 24 February 1886, Christening; citing item 1 p 216, Barnton, Cheshire, England Record Office, Cheshire; FHL microfilm 2,106,995
  24. Death certificate, death notice & estate of Richard Hewitt Rowlinson. National Archives & Records Service of South Africa, Pretoria. TAB MHG 7583/67, 1967