Category Archives: Stow’s origins and family

William Stow 1823-1852: Stow’s eldest son

William was born on 12th September 1823. His baptism and the registration of his birth was witnessed by William Buchanan, who was a member of the Glasgow Educational Society GES); and by James Playfair who, in addition to being a member of GES was also a member of the Glasgow Infant School Society (GISS).1He nearly died in infancy through ‘active inflammation of the lungs’,2causing his parents great emotional and spiritual distress. ‘We have been visited’, Stow wrote, ‘with a fatherly correction in the near prospect of the loss of our dear and only child, William’.3

‘In the family (William) was kind and affectionate – to his parents very strongly attached. As a boy at school, he displayed much energy and activity both of body and of mind. He had great facility in his studies, and variety did not perplex him. In his hours of relaxation, he engaged in games and amusements with all his heart; and on such occasions his ardent and conciliating spirit generally secured for him the place of leader among his companions. His principle of action was to do nothing ‘by halves’.4

He was a student at Glasgow University from 1837-41:5his name, along with those of his two brothers, is recorded in the Matriculation Albums of the University 1728-1858. In the Census of 18416he was living at home in Sauchyhall (sic) Street with his parents: his age is given as 18 with a date of birth in 1823. It is not clear what he studied at Glasgow but on December 14th 1841, he was enrolled as a Pensioner in Peterhouse College, Cambridge, with the intention of studying for the bar, becoming a scholar in 1842.  Wagner states that he was at the top of the list in his first examination and might have distinguished himself in law had he felt not felt it right to devote his energy to studies which bore more directly on the work of the ministry. In 1846, at the age of 23, he graduated from Cambridge University with a Bachelor of Arts to which he added, in 1851, a Master of Arts.7

He was ordained in December 1846, and in January, aged 47, was appointed to the first of two curateships at Sherborne, Dorset, by the Rev John Parsons, vicar of the parish.

‘His field of labour consisted of 2600 souls, being half of the whole population. He had generally three services on Sunday, there being three churches to serve; and he added two cottage lectures during the week. He also gave religious instruction to the factory young women; and had a class for preparing the Sunday School teachers to conduct Bible lessons, on the natural and efficient principle developed by his father in ‘The Training System;’ thus leaving only one evening in the week disengaged. At the same time, systematic visiting from house to house made him intimately acquainted with all his parishioners. He continued these abundant labours two years and a quarter, and on his leaving Sherborne, was presented with several public and private testimonials; one from the inhabitants of Sherborne and Castleton, another from the factory girls, who had attended his weekly class, a third from the use of the public Grammar School, and a fourth from the Sunday school teachers, who had attended his ‘Bible training’ class; to which may be added, one to his daughter by the children of the National School.

 He became Parish Curate of Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire from 1848-50.

‘The Manor of Daleton, or Dylton, was formerly a place of note for the manufacture of Broad and Woollen cloths; but is now reduced to a small village. It is situated in the Hundred and Parish of Westbury. Many who read the History of the Church will be in doubt as to the reason why it was built in such a thinly populated district. But when we find that Dilton was formerly, with so many more houses, as well as the large Cloth or Woollen Mills, and a Grist Mill, in full employ, it seems to have been a much more populous place than it now is; and remembering, too, that Dilton Marsh Church was not built till a comparatively recent date, we shall better understand why this church was built; the villagers of Marsh being in the habit of attending the old Church until the erection of the new one in their own village. ‘In connection with Dilton Church there was a well attended Sunday School for the children of Dilton and the district round.8

 Wagner wrote ‘In March, 1849, (William) entered upon the incumbency of Dilton’s Marsh, Wiltshire, a widely-extended and neglected parish, to which he had been presented by Bishop of Salisbury. In the morning of the day, on which he entered on his public duties, 15 persons only attended Divine worship; at the evening service 40 were present; and, in the course of two or three months, the church, which holds 700, became well filled. Here, also, he added a third service, re-established the Sunday schools on an improved basis, and organised two day schools at great expense and labour, on the ‘Moral Training System,’ which he in general visited daily; and gave two evening lectures during the week, one in the church, and one in a small hamlet, 3 miles distant from his house. His cottage and Sunday evening lectures were generally delivered from notes. The morning sermons were uniformly written and read, except on one occasion, which may be deemed worthy of notice’.9

William introduced the Training System into the local school at Dilton’s Marsh which received good evaluations in two Reports. Rev E. D. Tinling writes:

‘Dilton’s marsh, Mixed. A mixed (juvenile) school under a master aided by two pupil teachers. Discipline was very good, the Glasgow Training System being tried. The master was trained at Glasgow. He has not yet been long enough in the school to bring his system into full operation. The Rev. W. Stow has lately reorganised his school and introduced the Glasgow training system. No expense or trouble is spared to give the system a fair trial.’10

Rev H. Mosely, inspecting the schools in the counties of Wiltshire and Berkshire, refers to a school at Dilton’s Marsh which was taught by a master from Glasgow and where Stow’s son, William, was incumbent of the parish:

‘It is impossible not to be favourably impressed with the moral aspect of schools conducted on this plan. Children placed under influences so calm, and so humanising as these, for six hours a day, of three or four years of the most impressionable period of their lives, cannot become the same men and women as they would have been under other and less favourable circumstances.’11

Stow’s pride in his son is reflected in a letter to Kay-Shuttleworth, dated Glasgow, December 26th, 1843, where he discusses the idea of ‘my son’s writing or inspecting schools under the Church of England or Government’ (as a way of filling in time until he was old enough to obtain a curacy).

‘As to the idea of my son’s visiting or inspecting Schools under the Church of England or Government, it is chiefly to get employment in a way suited to his task. The fact is he cannot occupy the office of Curate in a parish for two years being only 21 years of age & he wishes to be employed not so much for support for he has some property of his own & I am willing to assist farther, but I think his being actively employed professionally might be of service to himself and to the public. Although young he is very mature in judgment, prudence & management as much so as most young men of 26 or 27 years of age. Even a year ago when at home during his University vacation & I ill at home he took my place as Superintendent in the Normal Seminary & while he pleased & maintained a good feeling with the Masters he kept all in order conducting the Strangers & explaining the System.’12

William eventually succeeded to the vicarage of Avebury with Winterbourne-Monkton in September 1851, through the offices of the Marquis of Lansdowne, a friend of his father. 13 A Fire Insurance policy of 1783 shows that there was a Charity School in Avebury at that time.14 A School Inspection Report 15of April 27th, 1877, states that the National School was built in 1844-49. It was a Church of England School attached to a school house but without internal communications. It was also used as a Sunday School but without any alteration of the desks or other furniture. The teacher was Henrietta Higgins, born January 19th, 1843. She was appointed to the school on September 30th, 1876. She was previously a pupil-teacher at the Girls’ School, Penkridge, Staffordshire. The original teacher at the Wesleyan School at Penkridge was trained at the Glasgow Normal Seminary. The report of the 6th August, 1877 states that ‘The Certificate awarded to Mrs Higgins under Article 59 will shortly be issued.’

The common interest in education shared by father and son must have deepened the sorrow caused by William’s illness and then death on April 23rd, 1852 at the age of twenty-eight. Wagner writes: ‘In February, 1850, he was seized with pleurisy whilst conducting the morning service, and was confined to his bed several weeks. He has weakened frame required a long rest, and he therefore secured the services of a curate the 12 months, and retired to Scotland. In the following winter another illness ensued, which led him to Brighton. In September, 1851, he left Brighton, and entered upon his duties as vicar (of Avebury) early in December last, and was only permitted to preach twice in each church, and to call upon some of his parishioners, when it please God completely and finally to lay him aside by congestion of the lungs. In March, 1851, he resigned his incumbency, and took leave of his parishioners in an earnest and affectionate printed address’16

Stow wrote to his son from Glasgow on March 11th, 1852, the day of the baptism of ‘dear little Charles George’, referring to Charles’ brother and sister. His final letters to his son, written daily, and recorded verbatim by Fraser, are deeply religious in emotion and Biblical detail.

A few hours before his departure, William calmly delivered at Bible to each of his three children, making a pencil mark by way of distinction, and requesting his father to write their names in them, as a ‘gift from a dying father with his blessing’.

William died at 13, Hans Place Chelsea, on 22nd April, 1852 at the age of 28.17 He is buried in Avebury Churchyard.18 The gravestone is to the left of the church door and reads:

Rev William Stow
Vicar of Avebury
Died 22nd April 1852
In his 29th year.

The remainder of the inscription is indecipherable but appears to mention that he was the husband of Catherine, his children, and that he was the son of David Stow. A text, including the words ‘who believe that’ is at the bottom of the stone.

William married Catherine Bannister19 and had three children: William David, Charles George (as above) and Marion. (Stow’s first wife was ‘Marion’.) A ‘Catherine Stow’ was staying with the Bannister family on the night of the 1851 Census.20

William and Catherine had three children:

  • Marion Catherine Stow (1846-1876)
  • David William Stow ((1850 – 1880)
  • Charles George Stow (1852-1852)

Marion and David received £4,000 between them from Stow’s will plus £1,000 already paid to William and Catherine, plus the share of the property from Elizabeth MacArthur. The interest from this was payable as required for their education and clothing.

Marion Catherine Stow married James Chancellor (1830-1889), a clergyman, and they had one child, Wilfred George Chancellor who was born in 1876 and died in 1935. He married Jessie Elizabeth (b. 1878) in 1909 and they had a son, Alexander Chancellor in 1909. On 22nd September 1924, Alexander sailed to Southampton from Buenos Aires, Argentina. On 15th May 1951 he arrived at Liverpool from Bombay, India. No other information has been traced.

William Stow officiated at the weddings of:

    • his brother David George Stow and Jessie Smith, 25th June, 1850
    • his cousin John Wilson Wilson (sic) and Mary Wilson Boyce on 4th September 1849 in St Peter’s Church, Dublin

As a footnote, after William’s death, Catherine remarried a William Burnley and settled in Edinburgh. He was thirteen years older than Catherine, and a West India Merchant. A ‘Marion Stow’, his stepdaughter, and William D. Stow, his stepson, are with them in the Scottish Census for 1861. Emily and Georgina Bannister are also shown as Sisters-in-Law. Catherine died of peritonitis in Dunoon on 23rd October 1866 aged 42. Since William Burnley lived to 1903 it is tempting to suppose that Stow offered her his Lodge in  Dunoon when she became ill.

Stow’s relationship with Paisley

After the bankruptcy of Fenwick Stow  William Fenwick Stow, Stow’s father, the family moved to Scotland. He was baptised on 7th October 1753 in Berwick-upon-Tweed.  When he was 16 he was apprenticed to Mark Patterson on 27th September, 1770. The ‘Book of Enrolments’21records that he was the son of ‘ffenwick Stow’.  He is mentioned in the Guild Rolls of Berwick-upon-Tweed, 1774-1775, where he is described as a merchant, as the eldest son of Fenwick Stow. However, by the time he became a Freeman of the Burgh, on 28th June, 1779 at the age of 25, he is described as a ‘Merchant in Paisley’. This is one year after Melkington was sold (1768) when the bankruptcy order was finally concluded. By that time William is recorded as the eldest son and had to leave England for legal reasons.

Paisley seems an odd choice for an Englishman, despite the eulogies of those such as William Fraser, Stow’s first biographer, who lived there. In 1868, a reviewer in the Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette (based on the biography of Stow by William Fraser) describes Paisley at the time of William’s move:

‘From the middle till the close of last century Paisley was unrivalled among Scottish towns in taste, in thoughtfulness, and in the consistent observances of Christian life. Beautifully trimmed gardens, spreading closely over the healthful space which then lay behind almost every street, had long been the uncovered evening homes of the working population, in which was sustained a graceful rivalry in the culture of plants and flowers. The river, which divides the town, was not then polluted by the refuse of public works, nor the atmosphere by their smoke; and amid the quiet competitions of commerce, the intellectual, social, and moral life of the community was vigorous and comparatively untainted. In every home, through every street, might be heard, morning and evening, the voice of praise and prayer. An impressive Sabbath stillness marked the commencement and the close of each day; and so deep was the religious repose of the place, that Rowland Hill delighted to describe it as the “Paradise of Scotland”’.

The manufacturers of Paisley, during the greater part of the eighteenth century held a high place in the commercial world. In silk gauze, lawn, linen gauze, shawls and thread, their markets were, for many years, pre-eminently attractive. The workmen were held in high repute for sobriety, intelligence and taste. English capitalists opened branch establishments in the town, and appointed partners or sons for their management.’2

William ordered machinery from McConnel & Kennedy, and McConnel & Co., Manchester. James McConnel and John Kennedy were ‘two Scots who travelled south in the 1780’s to become apprentices in the Lancashire cotton industry where they made their fortunes. Maybe William hoped to do likewise. However, the Monumental Inscriptions of Paisley High Kirkyard record the plot and death of a Thomas Grieve and children, 19th February, 1813.3

Since the Grieve family was eminent in Berwick-upon-Tweed, William may simply have moved to Paisley to be near an old friend.

Date Manufacturing
1731 Linen gauze
1760 Silk weaving introduced
1778 3,600 looms in silk manufacture
1,360 looms in the manufacture of cambrics. Lawns and other linen goods
1802 Making of the Paisley shawl commenced
1818 Depression from foreign competition and the growth of the cotton industry

The population of Paisley grew dramatically through the 1700s. During the century muslin and silk gauze manufacturing grew in importance, and by its end cotton was replacing flax. In the early 1800s cotton thread manufacture became the biggest game in town, though not before Paisley’s ability to use patterns originating in India to produce fine shawls made Paisley better known worldwide as a type of patterned cloth than as the place in which it was produced.

The family home

The ‘New Chart of the Streets of Paisley, 1810, shows the quarters of the town as divided by the River Cart and by the line of streets from East to West Toll Bars. The South West Division runs from South Side of High Street to Canal Street. Stow Place is shown as running from South Side Canal Street to Stow Street. This means that both Stow Place and Stow Street existed long before the William Stow moved there in 1827. Almost certainly, therefore, the streets were named after Stow the Councillor rather than Stow the owner.

Date Business address Home address Other residents:
1783 (earliest Glasgow/Paisley) Not mentioned
1810 William Stow, Cotton yarn merchant, Causeyside

William Stow, Thread manufacturers, Causeyside

1812-1813 William Stow, Thread manufacturer: Causeyside Street and lodging the same
1820-21 Stow, William, Cotton yarn warehouse, 175 Causeyside Thread warehouse and house, 125, Causeyside
1823 William Stow and Co. Cotton yarn merchants, 165 Causeyside Street 125 Causeyside Street
1827 William Stow Stow Place Stow Place:
Mrs Bell
John Campbell
William Hill
William Blair
Thomas Cook
William Morton

Stow Street
Thomas Gilmore
James Lawson
James Hamilton

1828 William Stow Stow Place
1829-30 William Stow Stow Place
1831-32 William Stow Stow Place

William followed in the family footsteps and became a member of Paisley Town Council, being elected a Baillie by the Council on six occasions between 1793 and 1807. In both 1806 and 1807 he was elected first or chief Baillie, then the leading office on the Council, the office of Provost not being established in Paisley until 1812.  He served on the ‘Allocation of Statute labour Committee (1810).4The Stow family were closely associated with the Paisley Sabbath and Weekday Evening School Society. William Stow was President of the Society in 1803 and 1817.

 John Stow (Stow’s eldest brother) was born/baptised 7th May 1786 in Paisley. He became a Freeman of the Burgh of Berwick on August 5th 1817, where he is described as the eldest son of William. He, too, was a manufacturer and merchant. The Paisley and District Trade Directories give:

Date Business address Home address Other residents
1810 John Stow and Co. Thread manufacturers, Causeyside
1812-1813 Stow, John and Co, Manufacturers, foot of Causeyside Street
1820-1821 John Stow and Co, Manufacturers175, Causeyside (no street)
1823 Stow, John and Co, Manufacturers, 165 Causeyside Street
1827 Stow, John and Co. Manufacturers, 175 Causeyside Street
1828 John Stow and Co. Manufacturers

175, Causeyside

1829-30 John Stow, 175 Causeyside Street
1831-32 John Stow and Co. Manufacturer, 175 Causeyside Street
1832-33 John Stow and Co. manufacturers, 175 Causeyside Street Stow Place Stow Place
Alex. Law
John Roberton

Stow Street
James Hamilton

1834-5 John Stow, Manufacturer, 5, Stow Place


Stow Place
Rev James Begg
John Crawfurd
John Lawson
Robert Leslie
Miss Barbara Sproul

Stow Street
William Hattrick
Peter Halls

John was a Sabbath School leader in Brown’s Lane School which had a roll of 60 and met at 4.00pm.5 He was also the Treasurer of the Paisley Sabbath and Weekday Evening School Society. This Society managed 36 Sabbath Schools, two of which were Gaelic schools, with 1,745 children enrolled, and three week-day schools with a total of 136 children, 120 young men and 365 young women.6In 1828 he was Treasurer of the Paisley Infant School Society, Instituted June 16th, 1828.7

The progress of this school is recorded in the First Report of the Glasgow Infant School Society:8

“The Committee have received the following account of the School at Paisley, by the kindness of the Rev Mr McNair, of the Abbey Church, Secretary of the Infant School Society.

The Paisley Infant School was opened on 7 July last, with upwards of 100 scholars. Since that time the number has varied. During part of the winter season, not more than 60 attended. At present there are about one hundred and ten scholars. When the school was opened, each pupil brought with him a penny a week, which was paid on the Mondays. The fee has, however, since October, been two-pence per week, without any diminution in the number of the scholars. The Teacher is Mr Wright, who, since his appointment, has given great satisfaction to see Committee of Managers. The success which has attended the Institution hitherto has been very encouraging; and, it is hoped, that the liberality of the public will be such as will enable the Committee to continue their exertions, still the school be in a condition to support itself.”

 The GISS report continues with ‘Extracts from the Report of the Paisley Infant School Society’:

 “The Committee cannot help stating their happiness in perceiving, from the recorded opinion of visitors, a diminution of those prejudices which at first existed against the system of Infant School instruction. Even Teachers have, in many instances, recorded their high approbation of it. They probably at one time thought it might tend to diminish the numbers attending schools the general education. But they now seem to find it has rather a contrary effect. While pupils are admitted from the time they are capable of running about till five years of age, and to leave the school at six, they have generally, by that time, got so much knowledge as excites in their parents a desire immediately to continue their education, lest they lose what they have bought; and even the little children themselves, accustomed to school, and become fond of it, sometimes give no rest to their parents till they are induced to send them some seminary for farther instruction. At all events, it is most gratifying to the Committee to find Teachers coming forward and bearing honourable testimony in favour of the utility of this institution; and expressing their wish, that all their pupils had passed through the hands of your Teacher, — they find those from the Infant School so much better behaved, and so much more tractable, than others. — the following, among many, is the testimony of a Teacher — “I this  day visited the Infant School, and I heartily confess that I was gratified beyond my expectations, prior to my witnessing the different performances which the children exhibited. And I approve of the mode in which they are taught.”9

The Infant Schools, however, did not survive the initial burst of enthusiasm. In 1845 Stow wrote: ‘We may state that in the neighbouring town of Paisley, containing five training schools — one Initiatory and four Juvenile, they shared the same fate, and from similar causes.’10

By 1810 John was an elected Manager of the Dispensary and House of Recovery at 10 Bridge Street. Lorrain Wilson of Ferguslie House, his father-in-law, was a subscribing manager. John was also a Director of the Town Hospital (or Workhouse)11and the President of the Paisley Society against Frauds.12He was the Secretary of the Paisley Society for the Reformation of Manners, instituted on 26th December, 1757. The object of the Society was ‘to provide the observance of good morals and to counteract the progression of immorality. Its funds are employed, when necessary, in restraining and prosecuting the vicious and especially in bringing to justice the occupiers of irregular houses, thieves, resetters etc. The sum of £500 was lately given by this Society towards the erection of a Bridewell. The payment of seven shillings and sixpence, at entry, constitutes a member of the Society’.13He was on the Committee of Directors of the Paisley and Renfrewshire Bible Society. John was elected a Councillor in Paisley on 11th October 1828; and a Baillie two years later on 9th October 1830.14He died on the 17th December 1837, at the age of 51, leaving a will. Among the bequests are:
£100 to the ‘House of Recovery”
£100 to the Youth Church
£100 to the Parochial Sabbath School Society, addressed thus ‘to the heirs of John Stow’

There is currently no record of John marrying or of any children and the wording of the bequest to the Sabbath school Society suggests that he regarded the Sabbath School pupils as ‘his’ children.

Elizabeth Stow (William’s fourth child) was born 24th March 1791. It was Elizabeth Stow who gifted the school in Stow Street which is mentioned on the plaque which marks the site of Stow’s birth. She appears to have lived all her adult life at 5, Stow Place along with Mary, Margaret and Margery. They owned the house they lived in together and the house next door which was rented out furnished.[15Their successive wills ensured that the remaining sisters had the life-rent of the properties. Margaret left £19.19.00 to each of the following:
Paisley Female Benevolent Society
Paisley Tract Society
Scottish Missionary Society
Paisley Educational Society
The General Assembly Church Extension Fund

The impact of Fenwick Stow’s bankruptcy on James Boswell

The Temples, like the Stows, were one of a small number of families who dominated the trade, politics and social life of Berwick-upon-Tweed. William Temple (1710-1774) was Mayor in 1749 and 1753; his name appears on the portico of the Town Hall; and on the Number 4 ‘William’ tenor of the bells in the belfry. There is a memorial to ‘William Temple, Mayor of Berwick when the Town Hall was built’ in Trinity Parish Church. William’s son, William Johnstone16 Temple 2 (1739-1796) was a close friend of James Boswell (1740-1795), the traveller and writer, whom he met at the University of Edinburgh. His friendship has been documented through the letters they exchanged. 3

By 1764, William Johnstone Temple was courting Anne Stow, the daughter of William Stow-Lundie either by his first wife Anne Blake 4 or more likely by his second wife, Mary Mow. 5 Whichever, Anne had a personal fortune of £1,300 probably resulting from the family’s connection with Sir Francis Blake of Twizel Castle, near Tillmouth. 6

Separate correspondence 7 suggests that Anne’s relatives were against the marriage and, given the difference in fortunes at this stage, perhaps this is not surprising. Anne was the grand-daughter of David Stow and Anne Selby and therefore the cousin of Fenwick Stow. Anne was regarded as well-read even before her marriage to William Johnstone Temple and she (or one of her contemporaries) had been to Bath.8

As an independent woman with income of her own, Anne was able to marry William Johnstone Temple against the wishes of her family.They were eventually married in Holy Trinity Church, Berwick-upon-Tweed on 6th August 1767 but the marriage was not particularly happy. They started their married life in cramped accommodation in Mamhead on very little income 9 which had to stretch to supporting both William’s bankrupt father and his brother whose military career had suffered at the conclusion of the Seven Years’ War.

At the time of his courtship and marriage, William was already beginning to suffer financial difficulties.  ‘In 1761 his father had been finding it difficult to keep his head above water, and in the second half of that year had got his son to join with him in a bond for raising £200 to discharge part of his debts. For some years he had “used or Exercised the Trade of a Merchant Dealing in Exchange”: that is, he was a primitive banker and discounter of bills, and it may well have been his bill-broking which pushed him over into insolvency in a time of considerable economic fluctuation. The joint bond, however, was not enough to keep all creditors at bay; it proved impossible, “on account of prior encumbrances”, to raise a mortgage on certain properties (including fisheries) which they owned jointly; whereupon the “said William Temple requested the said Wm. J. Temple to raise the sum of £500 upon a mortgage of his own separate Estate” at the same time promising to indemnify him “on account of the said two sums of money”. The son agreed, but before the necessary legal business could be completed William Temple was declared bankrupt. When it appeared that his assets could not realise as much as five shillings in the pound for his creditors, Temple, “out of filial regard”, as the Title Abstract put it, increased the amount to that sum, and in return was given ownership of what was left of his father’s lands and goods once certain debts and legal expenses had been paid. But Temple soon found that he had no option but to sell the lands and houses he had just acquired in Berwick’. 10

Possibly in an attempt to recoup their losses, Anne Stow (now Temple) lent money to Fenwick Stow, Stow’s grand-father, for his precarious and ultimately calamitous business venture. In the summer of 1767 Fenwick heard that there had been crop failures in Spain and Italy and therefore ordered substantial quantities of wheat and rye from America for onward sale.  He lost £5,000 resulting in a deficit for William and Anne of £1,100. (It will be recalled that it was Fenwick Stow’s bankruptcy which caused his son William, father of David Stow, to move to Paisley.)

The Temple marriage came close to breaking point. In the event, they decided to stay together producing a total of eight children. Life improved when William was appointed to the vicarage of St Gluvius in Penrhyn in Cornwall with a living of over £300 a year and he produced one of his best books ‘Moral and Historical Memoirs 1779’.

James Boswell continued as a family friend and was one of the Godfathers at the baptism of their first child, William Johnson Temple. Boswell, however, never really liked Anne. ‘I was glad to turn my back on Mrs Temple, whose meanness of dress and manner and peevishness of temper quite disgusted me.’ In Temple’s letter to Boswell of 11th July 1792 he blames her peevishness from her ‘having been spoilt by her grandmother in girlhood, and her ‘incapacity of receiving satisfaction or pleasure. She hardly knows what an agreeable sensation is of any kind ….. Is not that person to be pitied who derives no satisfaction from conversation, nor from any of the pleasures of the sense? 11 Such criticism might have arisen, however, out of the Temple’s inability to help Boswell financially when he needed it. Boswell applied to William Johnson for support, but the Temples, as a result of Fenwick Stow’s bankruptcy, were in no position to give it.

Despite the documented difficulties in their marriage, when Anne died unexpectedly early in 1793 William was devastated. He wrote to Boswell two days after her death: ‘I never knew till now how dearly I loved her, more indeed than words can express. She had her failings (as we all have) but they were forgot in her many excellent and estimable qualities. Denying everything to herself, grudging nothing to others; temperate even to abstemiousness – naturally indolent, yet never deficient in what concerned her children and family; submitting to give pleasure, tho’ I fear little susceptible, perhaps, averse to it; wishing for no enjoyments but those we afforded her, and rather enduring company than deriving any satisfaction from it; frugal and retentive in matters of small moment, but truly generous when duty or propriety demanded it’. 12

Stow’s relationship with the Temple Family

Frederick Temple (1821-1902) was Stow’s fourth cousin, his grandmother (Anne Stow) being a cousin of Stow’s grandfather (Fenwick Stow). There is no solid evidence that Stow and Temple ever met but ‘Frederick Temple claimed to belong to the Stowe branch of the Temple family, of which Richard Grenville, third duke of Buckingham and Chandos, was the head’13 and it is inconceivable that Sir James Kay Shuttleworth, a mutual friend, did not introduce the two men. Following an education at Eton, Temple went on to Oxford leaving in 1848, ‘on the advice of Sir J. P. Kay Shuttleworth to undertake work under the committee of council on education, first as examiner in the education office at Whitehall until the end of 1849, then as principal of Kneller Hall, between Whitton and Twickenham, a training college for workhouse schoolmasters’.2

The training school was not a success, there was controversy over its use in the educational field, and it was closed in 1856.3

Temple went on to be inspector of training colleges for men, another area in which he and his cousin, Stow, shared an interest. Temple also contributed an essay on ‘National Education’ to the Oxford Essays of 1856, a further connection with Stow. Temple became Archbishop of Canterbury, as did his grandson, the well-known William Temple.4

In all, Kneller Training College received £41,809 in grants from the CCE (to 1851), a sum which must have infuriated Stow.5

Stow’s association with Dunoon

The Stow family originally owned a large house and estate in Cornhill-on-Tweed, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, called ‘Melkington’. Stow’s grandfather, Fenwick Stow, was bankrupted through a business speculation and he lost the estate in the 1780s. Stow’s father, William, moved to Paisley where he became a merchant and magistrate.

The Stows appear to have regretted the loss of ‘Melkington’ for David Stow owned a house of that name in the West Bay in Dunoon. The house is mentioned in a newspaper article of 23rd September, 1843 (see below) and in the inventory of his will in 1865.  In the Census of 1881 the house was occupied by John and Frances Black and their four sons and daughters.  In addition, Stow’s nephew was called Frederick Melkington Stow.

David Stow was the secretary of the Glasgow Infant School Society and of the Glasgow Educational Society.  James Ewing, who lived at the Castle in Dunoon, was President of the Glasgow Infant School Society, Vice-president of the Glasgow Educational Society and a benefactor of both.  He was also President of the Model School, Green Street, Saltmarket, which was built and maintained by the Society as a ‘Model’ for both training teachers and exemplifying how other schools should be run. Kirkman Finlay, who lived at Castle Toward, was a benefactor of both Societies.

The following is a Newspaper account which describes David Stow at his house in Dunoon. It is not clear which of Stow’s sons, William or John Freebairn, was in the boat, but both, unfortunately died in 1852.

The Scotsman, 23rd September 1843: Melancholy accident at Dunoon

‘We regret to state that a fine young man of the name of Ferguson, a seaman, belonging to Rothesay, and the only son of a widow, was unfortunately drowned on Saturday night, when attempting to land from a yacht at the West Bay of Dunoon. The yacht, which belonged to Ferguson, had been attending the regatta held that day in the Holy Loch. She had on board Mr Stow, son of Mr David Stow of Glasgow, with a Mr Hamilton and Mr Chancellor from Edinburgh. The yacht had been brought up immediately in front of Mr Stow’s residence in the West Bay, and Mr Stow, senior, Mrs Stow, and other friends, were waiting on the beach. There was a partial swell at the time, but nothing to cause any alarm. The gentleman above named had got into a punt and Ferguson was just stepping in, when it was upset, and the four were immersed in the sea. At first, Ferguson, who was an excellent swimmer, exerted himself to support Mr Stow. Afterwards however, he had ceased to give him any aid, and came in contact with Mr Hamilton, who found difficulty in getting disentangled from him. Having managed to do so, Mr Hamilton exerted himself in supporting both Mr Stow and Mr Chancellor, whom he succeeded in enabling to hang on by the punt. Their clutches seem to have caused it again to turn, and led to their being again immersed. By this time, however, Mr Hamilton (who appears to have acted with much courage and self-possession) saw that a boat was pushing from the beach, and as his own strength was failing, he made for the land. As the boat neared him, he called out to the persons in it not to wait him, but to make for the punt. He succeeded in reaching the beach in a very exhausted state, and, at the same time, Messrs Stow and Chancellor were picked up by their friends in the boat, and brought safely ashore. The greetings natural on such an occasion may be readily conceived. Several persons were present who heard the cry repeated, ‘we are all safe,’ and, being satisfied with the assurance of this fact, naturally withheld themselves from intruding on the agitated feelings of those more immediately interested in the scene. But after Mr Stow’s party had withdrawn, it began to be surmised that another man was still in the water. By this time, however, no one was present who could give any information, and some time was lost before it was ascertained that Ferguson had also been thrown out of the punt, and no efforts made to search for him. With the information that has reached us we do not feel authorised to see where the blame of this negligence is imputable, but we know that great regret was felt by persons present, that some more active effort had not been made to save Ferguson’s life. He was, as we have said, an excellent swimmer and, as he had not been able to save himself, it is possible he may have sunk from some stun received in the upset or subsequent struggle in the water, so that even the promptest possible aid might have been unavailing. At an early hour this morning his body had not been found — Glasgow Chronicle of Monday.

There are some interesting details in this account which helps to pinpoint Stow’s house on the West Bay. The ‘Mr Stow’ mentioned was probably William, aged 20, home on holiday from Cambridge where he was studying law. John Stow would be 16 at the time and the younger son, David George, was 15: neither might have been addressed as ‘Mr’, have taken part in a yachting race or had two friends with them addressed as ‘Mr’. The ‘Mr Hamilton’ was probably a member of the Hamilton family, while it is intriguing to note that Marion Catherine Stow (1848 – 1876) Stow’s grand-daughter and heir, married a James Chancellor in 1865. Their son, Wilfred George Chancellor (1876-1835) was Stow’s great grandson.

Other family connections

Stow’s eldest son, William (1823-1852), married Catherine Bannister (1824-1866). They had three children, Marion Catherine Stow, as above, (1848-1876), David William Stow (1850-1880) and Charles George Stow who died in infancy. After William Stow’s early death, Catherine remarried William Burnley (1811-1903). Catherine died in the parish of Dunoon and Kilmun on 23 October 1862 at the age of 42. Her second husband did not die until 7th January 1903, at the age of 92. Why Catherine should die in Dunoon is currently not known, but Stow had many properties in the area and she may have been convalescing.

Educational Connections

Mary Brown, who trained at the Church of Scotland Training College taught at the Female School in Dunoon.

‘Within the last few years also, a female school of industry has been set on foot in Dunoon, with the object of instructing the rising female generation in the necessary and useful departments of knowledge. It owes its commencement and support to an Association of ladies resident in the parish, and it usually resorting to Dunoon in in the summer season. It has been attended with very gratifying success, is well conducted by a committee of ladies annually chosen, and  is very efficiently taught. This seminary promises to be a very great benefit and blessing to the female youth of the village and its neighbourhood.  The salary offered the Female School of Industry, Dunoon, is £30 with house and garden. ‘The school-house and teachers accommodation at Toward have been liberally granted and erected at the sole expense of the late Kirkman Finlay Esq. Salary of the teacher £22.’ 6

Donald McDonald, who trained at the same college between 1857 and 1860, taught at nearby Sandbank.

Stow’s Personal Life

Though devoid of those striking incidents which interest while they instruct the reader, the record of Mr Stow’s life may be of some practical value as an exposition…of the beneficial changes which an original and independent thinker may effect in any department of philanthropy to which his energies may be persistently directed.

Memoir of the life of David Stow (1868)
William Fraser

David Stow

David Stow was born, conspicuously, on 17th May 1793: a plaque erected by the Educational Institute of Scotland a century later, and now on the corner of Stow and Causeyside Streets in Paisley, Renfrewshire, proclaims the fact.2

Indubitably, therefore, Stow was Scottish by birth. He was educated at The English School and the Grammar School both in Paisley.2

He lived all his life in Glasgow, owning many properties in the city, and he died at Bridge of Allan on 6th November, 1864. He was a silk merchant and subsequently manufacturer of worsted carpets, owning warehouses and providing employment on the south side of the City. He was also a landowner leaving, at his death, more by way of property 3than stocks and shares in his carpet factory. 4

He was an active member of the Church of Scotland being a deacon of the Tron Church, and an elder in St John’s and St Margaret’s Parish Churches. Following the ‘disruption’ of the Church of Scotland, he was one of the four founders of St Margaret’s Free Church in Elmbank Street, Glasgow. He stood for election to Glasgow City Council and was a Director of the ‘Scottish Provident Institution’ in Edinburgh. All his five children were born in Scotland, as was his second wife and most of his grandchildren. He was familiar with the Glasgow dialect.5

He was closely associated with the establishment of infant, juvenile and senior schools and the foundation of two colleges for the training of teachers, all in Glasgow. His experiences formed the basis of his educational writings, often referred to as the ‘Glasgow’ or ‘Scottish’ System. He, and several members of his immediate family, are buried in the Gorbals cemetery.

Yet aspects of his life suggest that his English roots were also significant. David’s father, William Stow, was a bankrupt’s son, probably fleeing to Paisley in 1778-9, about fourteen years before David was born. Although by then domiciled in Scotland, William still enrolled his four sons 6as a Freemen in the city of Berwick-upon-Tweed7carrying on a family tradition of nearly two hundred years. Stow owned a house, Melkington Lodge, in Dunoon named after the family estates in England. When his father moved north, a significant uncle, also named David, remained in Berwick, along with at least two grandparents, eight other uncles and aunts and thirteen nephews and nieces. Stow’s first wife came from Islington. Stow’s eldest son, William, named after his grandfather, chose to move to England, where he married, where his three children were born and where he died. The two surviving grandchildren, though brought up by a step-father in Scotland, died in England. Stow’s second son, John Fairbairn, died in Southend. After Stow’s death, his third and remaining son, David George, and his family of eleven children moved to London. Many of the family occasions – births, baptisms, marriages and deaths – thus took place in England. Furthermore, Stow had regular business dealings in London and was in partnership with his two brothers, William Fenwick Stow and Matthew Kenyon-Stow, who were both merchants in Leeds. If it helps to define who Stow was we should probably consider his family as Anglo-Scottish, domiciled in Scotland for three generations only.

The family origins in Berwick-upon Tweed

Stow considered that his family originated in County Durham and William Fraser, his first biographer, states as much. 8While strictly true at the time of his birth, a parliamentary change in county boundaries during Stow’s lifetime placed the family estate firmly in Norhamshire, Northumberland, an alteration which has confused biographers ever since! Stow’s forbears held a large house and lands at Melkington, Cornhill-on-Tweed, just across the river from Coldstream. Almost certainly an earlier David Stow (1653-1733) purchased the Melkington Estate since he is the first to be referred to as ‘David Stow of Melkington’.9The house, now a listed building, still stands on rising ground just outside Cornhill-on-Tweed. A serious fire is known to have occurred on December 23rd 1718 10but the building survived to be passed, unusually, to the second son George (1684-1767). He presumably occupied the home with his wife Sarah and their four children, the eldest of whom was Fenwick, Stow’s grandfather (1716-1782).

The Melkington Estate gave the Stow family considerable prestige and status in the Parish of Norham and beyond. Families of Temples, Lundies, Blakes, Comptons, Selbys, Watsons and Fosters were all inter-linked with the Stows by marriage, connecting the lands of Norham, Twizeldale, Allerdean, Tillmouth and Ford. 11

Apart from their Estates, the families appeared to dabble in any entrepreneurial activities offered by improvements in transport and communication. Various members of these families rose in the ranks of the army, navy, civil service and church. 12

Indeed, the church was the focal point for the baptisms, marriages, and burials of many of these families – and inevitably of business also. The Stows, ignoring the large, imposing ‘St Helen’s Parish Church’ on their doorstep drove thirteen miles in the opposite direction to worship at the Commonwealth Church of the Holy Trinity. William Stow-Lundie erected a gallery over the portal to provide the family with sufficient seats 13and numerous Stows are buried in the most prominent tomb in the churchyard.

This church, of course, was situated in the prosperous town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. While Coldstream was the nearest large village to Cornhill, being but a mile and a half away compared with the thirteen miles to Berwick, the Tweed here defines the English-Scottish border and, in any case, was not bridged until 1767. Perhaps more importantly, Berwick offered far greater facilities, especially for merchants. The expansive river mouth provided safe harbour; the bridge 14spanning the river allowed easy access north and south; the military were barracked in the town ensuring a degree of stability; and the Spittal Head, promenades along the broad sea walls, and spacious and cobbled town streets attracted wealthy, leisured families. Berwick was the ideal situation for business.

The Stow family was clearly part of a small group of merchants who organised and possibly controlled Berwick-upon-Tweed for over two hundred years. They bought, rented and sold property, particularly on Holy Island; engaged in the shipping trade; and speculated audaciously before the banking (or bankruptcy) systems had been formalised. The names of the freemen, aldermen and mayors give a fair indication of the influence of these families who dominated the politics and social life of the town. The list includes, for example, David Stow (1653-1733) who was mayor for three years from 1701; Stow’s great grandfather who was mayor in 1721; and Fenwick Stow, his grandfather, who in addition to being a Justice of the Peace was mayor on four occasions after which David Stow, Stow’s uncle, took office six times.

The move to Paisley

This lifestyle of wealth and influence was to end abruptly.

15Within three years of inheriting Melkington, Fenwick Stow, Stow’s grandfather, ran into financial difficulties. In the summer of 1767, hearing that there had been crop failures in Spain and Italy, he ordered substantial quantities of wheat and rye from America for onward sale. This venture left him short of £5,000, probably because of the loss of the ships ‘The Charming Jennet’ and ‘The Mary John’ in Lisbon. 16

At all events, by the following year (1768), despite pledging the Melkington Estate against the loan, he was declared bankrupt 17

Although this was announced in 1768, the legalities dragged on until 1778 when the Estate was sold. Fenwick sought sanctuary within the Abbey of Holyrood in Edinburgh – a right enjoyed by insolvent debtors and Berwick-upon-Tweed being then within the diocese of Holyrood. 18

Perhaps, as well as escaping the law, he was also glad to evade those who had lent him the capital for his ventures. William Johnstone Temple, for example, lost the £1100 which Anne Stow, his wife and cousin of Fenwick, had invested in the scheme. Temple was eventually forced to sell his lands at Allerdean as a result.19

After any settlement, according to Fraser, Fenwick Stow’s remaining money was divided between at least two of his sons – William, Stow’s father and David, Stow’s uncle. Fenwick continued to live at a small farmhouse, ‘Greystonelees’, which still exists five miles north of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Its situation just within Scotland 20is probably significant, being outwith further pursuance by the law.

Fenwick Stow’s bankruptcy thus split up the family. All Stow’s aunts and uncles remained in Berwick along with the offspring of, by 1800, exceedingly numerous relations. 21

The Stows had large families and the branches of the family tree become increasingly expansive – but always throughout England. It is unlikely that Stow re-visited Melkington, yet his will states that he owned a ‘Melkington Lodge’ in Dunoon; and in 1844, sixty-six years after the Estate was sold, Stow’s nephew (his brother, Matthew’s, son) was baptised ‘Frederick Melkington’. It can surely be assumed that Stow would visit his Uncle David who, after a long and successful career in the navy, retired at the rank of Rear Admiral and settled in Berwick-upon-Tweed fulfilling many duties as a magistrate, including laying the foundation stone of the lighthouse. His uncle did not die until 1826 when Stow would be 33. Stow is named as a Trustee of his uncle’s will and was present in Berwick-upon-Tweed when it was signed.22

The uncle was also named as a Trustee in his father’s will.23Fenwick’s bankruptcy had other implications. When William headed north to Paisley,24 in 1779 at the age of 25, he was the eldest son of a bankrupt. There he met Agnes Smith,25whom he married on 19th April 1783.26

They had ten children of whom David was the fifth and second son. Despite William becoming a Provost and Magistrate in the town, the family was always comfortably off rather than wealthy. Stow was born and brought up in a thread and cotton warehouse rather than the more expansive lands of a Northumberland Estate. Indeed, his father became increasingly anxious about his financial affairs as the value of property slumped and the silk trade foundered. Codicils to his will refer to his mounting anxiety over the fate of his four unmarried daughters. He makes provision for his wife to have ‘privilege of access’ to ‘the necessary’ (that is, access to the outside toilet); he instructs his family to ‘live together in the cheapest way’ and the furniture, bed linen and plate are left, first to his daughters and then, when his brother in Berwick provides for them,27to his two younger sons. Although William left about £5000, much of that was owed to him by members of his family, probably in property. Cash-in-hand, amounting to £398, had to be shared out among his wife and nine surviving children. It seems a far cry from Melkington. Nor were his children much better off. His eldest son, John, left about £741 including debts owed to him and the gold watch he inherited from his Uncle David in Berwick. Interestingly, Stow, his brother’s executor, refers to ‘The deceased (being) likewise possessed of funds in Canada amounting to about Five thousand, five hundred pounds but the particulars cannot at present be precisely stated’ which may well be the money still owed to his grandfather Fenwick, and which should have descended to first William and then his son, John. The four surviving unmarried daughters – Elizabeth, Mary, Margery, and Margaret – lived all their lives at 5, Stow Place, Paisley, existing on the rent from the furnished flat next door. Each of their wills, while leaving small sums to charity, ensures that the life-rent of the two houses passed to the surviving sister(s). In 1853, David, as the eldest surviving male, successfully established his right to the houses. 28Elizabeth, the last sister to go, left her remaining estate to William Fenwick and Matthew, her two brothers – but not, interestingly, to her third surviving brother. By that time, David had money of his own.

Stow’s early life

Very little is known of Stow’s early life. He started his education at the English School29

‘I remember being taught English reading in a parochial school in which were children of the weaver, the mechanic, the chief magistrate of the town, the clergyman, and the merchants, sitting in the same class and learning the same lessons’. 30

Fraser notes that later he attended Paisley Grammar School regularly and received an ‘ordinary English and classical education given in such institutions to pupils of his rank, and he held an honourable place in all his classes’. 31

Fraser’s description of Stow continues: ‘A fair-haired and beautiful boy, quick in the glance of his eye, and with a countenance of highly intellectual caste, he delighted rather to observe the amusements of his companions and witness their happiness, than to mingle with them’ 32

The school Stow would have attended was the third to be built on the same site. It was newly opened on Church Hill in 1802, when Stow was nine. ‘The lower floor was used for the school, while the upper floor was the Rector’s house. The only drawback was the lack of playground but otherwise no expense was spared in its construction’.33

Stow was later to write disparagingly of the education he received, contrasting the dull, mechanical repetition of meaningless words with his own methods. His later insistence on the importance of ‘the uncovered classroom’ (the playground) may have been prompted by personal experience. He also opted to have the Rector’s house above the school in his own plans.

The move to Glasgow

Stow probably left school at the age of fourteen when at least some of his peers would go on to university. Instead, he worked at a loom,34either with his father or his eldest brother, both of whom had premises in Causeyside Street. 35

In 1811, however, at the age of eighteen, Stow was ‘extensively engaged with a commercial firm’36

in Glasgow. The move to Glasgow could suggest that there was no room for another son in the family business in Paisley, or that Stow was sent to the industrial capital to extend the business, or that the demise of the silk industry in Paisley was already becoming apparent,37or simply that since his sister Anne had married into the silk trade, there was an obvious position available for her brother in her husband’s firm.38

The firm he joined was Wilson, Hervey and Co., situated at 115, Trongate. The Wilsons and the Herveys were clearly friends as well as partners. John Hervey, along with John Stow (Stow’s brother), witnessed the registration of the Wilson’s second child.39

Fraser refers to Stow, at this time, as a clerk in a counting house but by 1817, both Stow and Wilson had become partners in the firm of Wilson, Stow and Company and, according to the records of the Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow, admitted as Burgesses:
‘Stow, David, merchant, one of the partners of Wilson, Stow and Company, silk merchants, 115, Trongate, (admitted Burgess and Guild Brother by purchase – August 11th, 1817’. 40

(For more about Stow’s working life see ‘Stow’s Business Interests’.)

Stow’s family life

At the age of 28, Stow married Marion (or Maryanne) Sarah Freebairn, on March 12th 1822 in St Mary’s Church, Islington (although the marriage was also registered in Scotland). Fraser 41describes her as ‘a young lady of decided piety, highly accomplished, and of great personal attraction’.42

David and Marion had five children: William, Sarah, John Freebairn, David George, and Agnes. William was born on 12th September 1823. His baptism and the registration of his birth was witnessed by James Playfair, who was a member both of the Glasgow Infant School Society (GISS)43and the Glasgow Educational Society (GES), and by William Buchanan, similarly a member of GES. William nearly died in infancy through ‘active inflammation of the lungs’,44causing his parents great emotional and spiritual distress. ‘We have been visited’, Stow wrote, ‘with a fatherly correction in the near prospect of the loss of our dear and only child, William’.45William, however, survived to adulthood. He became a student at Glasgow University from 1837-41:46his name, along with those of his two brothers, is recorded in the Matriculation Albums of the University 1728-1858. In the Census of 1841,47when he was 18, he was living at home in Sauchyhall (sic) Street but by December 14th 1841, he was enrolled as a Pensioner in Peterhouse College, Cambridge, becoming a scholar in 1842. In 1846, at the age of 23, he graduated from Cambridge University with a Bachelor of Arts to which he added, in 1851, a Master of Arts.48

He became Curate in Sherborne, Dorset in 1848, Parish Curate of Dilton Marsh, Wiltshire from 1848-50, and eventually succeeded to the vicarage of Avebury with Winterbourne-Monkton in 1850 through the offices of the Marquis of Lansdowne, a friend of his father. 49

It was William who often replaced his father at the Normal Seminary when on vacation, and during his father’s illness: ‘He pleased and maintained a good feeling with the masters, he kept all in order conducting the strangers and explaining the system’.50

He introduced Stow’s system into the parish school while at Dilton Marsh in Wiltshire, which received a glowing inspector’s report. Stow’s pride in his son is reflected in a letter to Kay-Shuttleworth, dated Glasgow, December 26th, 1843, 51where he discusses the idea of ‘my son’s writing or inspecting schools under the Church of England or Government’ as a way of filling in time until he was old enough to obtain a curacy. The common interest in education shared by father and son must have deepened the suffering caused by William’s death on April 23rd, 1852 at the age of twenty-eight. During his illness, Stow wrote daily to his son including March 11th 1852, the day of the baptism of ‘dear little Charles George’, his grandson. His final letters, recorded verbatim by Fraser, in which he expounds Biblical exegesis, are profoundly emotional and devotional. William died at 13, Hans Place Chelsea, on 22nd April, 1852 surrounded by his father, his wife and his three children to whom he gave a Bible each, with a request that they be signed by their grandfather. 52

His time at Avebury is attractively recorded in the Record of Vicars beside the chancel and he is buried in the graveyard just outside the church door. His gravestone records that he was the husband of Catherine and son of David Stow and concludes with a partly obliterated text.

William had married Catherine Bannister 53and had three children: Marion, Charles George (as above) and William David. After William’s death, Catherine remarried, a William Burnley, and settled in Edinburgh. Burnley was thirteen years older than Catherine, and a West India Merchant. The Scottish Census for 1861 records Marion Stow, his stepdaughter, and William D. Stow, his stepson. ‘Dear little Charles George’ died in infancy, but Stow had his remaining two grandchildren near him in Edinburgh. He made a contribution to their education and left them a total of £5,000 in his will.54

Stow’s second child, Sarah Rebecca Stow, was born on 23rd July, 1825. Her baptism and the registration of her birth were witnessed by John Wilson, Stow’s brother-in-law and Partner in the business; and by James Playfair described above. 55

The English Census for 1841 records a ‘Sarah Stow’ who was born in Scotland and was now at school in Euston Square, St Pancras, and since there is no record of a ‘Sarah Stow’ in the Scotland Census for 1841, although her parents and brothers are all mentioned, it seems likely that this is Stow’s daughter. A letter written by Stow to his children on December 31st, 1840 ‘See that you three unite together in prayer’ 56also suggests that one of the four surviving children was not at home. In 1873, at the age of 48, she suffered the first recorded attack of what was probably some form of bi-polar disorder although her condition was diagnosed as ‘insane’. She was admitted to Dr Winslow’s private asylum, Brandenburgh House, in St Pancras, London.57

They had ‘59 patients, 39 male and 20 female, the patients in the most part belong to the middle and upper classes, and the payments are generally liberal’. Sarah appears to have been required to leave Dr Winslow’s asylum for financial reasons. 58

The second recorded attack took place in January 1884: two months later she was admitted to Glasgow Royal Asylum at Gartnavel by her nephew, David Frederick Stow of Greenvale, Dunbarton. Her next of kin is recorded as David George Stow, her brother, of 17, Springfield Road, St Leonards, Surrey. He stood surety for her fees as a private patient. She was recorded as ‘of unsound mind and a proper Patient to be placed in an Asylum’. 59The records show that she was unmarried, and an Anglican which suggests that she spent most of her life in England although she lived in Charlotte Street, Ayr, prior to her admission to Gartnavel Hospital. She died on June 23rd 1886, 60at the age of 60. Her hospital records may simply suggest she suffered from depression or may sum up a sad story.

John Freebairn Stow, the third child, was born in 1827. His baptism was witnessed by John Wilson, as above, and John Stow, Stow’s elder brother. This son also took a degree at Glasgow University and then entered his father’s business. Fraser records that he ‘was becoming by the frankness of his disposition and his integrity in business transactions, a favourite in commercial circles’. 61

He also took part in Sabbath-School teaching and, on his death, a ‘touching tribute was paid by the society of which he was a member’.62

There seemed ‘nothing ominous’ in John going to Brighton for a holiday, yet ‘Mr. Stow was ‘confounded by the sad announcement that his son was dying’. 63

John died in Brighton on Christmas Eve, 1852 aged 25, just eight months after his elder brother. ‘Mr. Stow’s anguish was intense’.64

Fortunately, Stow’s third son, David George Stow, outlived him. David George was born on 1st November 1828: his baptism was witnessed by James Playfair and Allan Buchanan, (a member of GISS and joint-founder member, with Stow, of St Margaret’s Free Church of Scotland). As his two brothers before him, David George attended Glasgow University. 65He is also described as a ‘Worsted Spinner and Carpet Manufacturer’. On 25th June 1850 he married Jessie Crum Smith. In a little bit of family history, the minister officiating at the ceremony was his brother, Rev William Stow, minister of Dilton Marsh in the County of Wiltshire. 66 Jessie and David George had eleven children, providing Stow with a quiver full of grandchildren of whom he would have known six.

David George and his wife were able, periodically, to offer Stow a home at Bridge of Allan. This son wrote to the Congress of the Educational Institute of Scotland, held at Paisley on 5th January 1893, at which John G. Thomson gave the Centenary Address: ‘Mr. Thomson kindly sent me the handbook-programme, and I need hardly say how deeply I, and all the various members of our family, are interested in the contents thereof and feel intense gratification at the great honour to be paid to the memory of my sainted and revered father’.67

David George probably retired after the disastrous fire at his father’s Port Eglinton 68factory in 1874 for he died at Southend, Essex, on 22nd February 1895.

Agnes Stow was born on 10th October 1830 and baptised the following November on the 14th. Both the registration and baptism were witnessed by John Wilson and James Playfair (as above). She died on 26th July 1831 aged nine months and was buried beside her mother and, in the fullness of time, with her father. 69

Marion Freebairn and Elizabeth McArthur, his wives; William and John Freebairn, his sons; Charles George, his grandson; John, Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret and Marjorie, his brothers and sisters; John Wilson his brother-in-law; Mary and Marjorie his aunts and David his uncle; and Elfrida Susan and George Herbert his nephew and niece. There may have been more, for example Sarah Wilson who is mentioned in a letter from Stow to Thomas Chalmers as being seriously ill, but searchable death records do not start until 1855.

Stow’s first wife, Marion, died of typhoid on July 30th 1831, nine years after their marriage and four days after the death of their nine month old daughter. At their mother’s death, Stow was left with four children to bring up on his own: William then aged eight, Sarah aged six, John Freebairn aged four and David George aged three 70

‘The tempers and dispositions of my children are varied’, writes Stow with a wry smile, ‘and the nature of the provocations, or mutual misconceptions, requires the utmost delicacy on my part, more, indeed than in my own strength I am capable of performing; but I do my best and God has been pleased to bless my endeavours. My children do not always steal, or lie, or quarrel, or fight, or deceive, or exhibit the strong propensity of selfishness’.71

And Fraser observes: ‘Happy in the tenderly reciprocated affections of his children, he clung to them with increasing tenacity as the years advanced. To him home was ever a sanctuary, in which he found refuge from the disappointments and cares of life’. 72

The ‘cares of life’ were many since although Stow married again, Elizabeth McArthur from Rothesay, in the Barony Parish Church, Glasgow on 9th March, 1841, even this peaceful period was short-lived. Elizabeth died in 1847.

Stow’s character

And what of Stow himself? All the portraits, even that in his old age, illustrate a confident, personable and imposing man with a broad brow and regular features. His success both in business and in education suggests that he was intelligent, strong-minded and resourceful, able both to take the initiative and to cope with the routine grind of seeing projects through to fulfilment. He could be litigious, contesting his own non-election as a councillor 73the election of a Glasgow Provost,74

and, ironically, the ownership of goods by a bankrupt.75

Indeed, his apparent reluctance to speak about his relatives may suggest an embarrassment at being the grandson of a bankrupt, while his lack of a university career may account for his self-importance at times. Fraser describes him as ‘ardent in his temperament, generous, sensitive’. 76

Dr Thomas Morrison, Rector of the Free Church Training College in 1893, who knew Stow from 1852 to 1864, recalled his enthusiasm, earnestness and devotion to work. Morrison described him as ‘gifted with fine sensibility, and a most chivalrous sense of honour, simple as a little child, free from all affectation and generous to a fault’.77

As a writer, Stow could master his arguments logically, although he was much given to the use of repetition for emphasis and self-advancement. The frustration and, sometimes, intolerance, expressed in his writings perhaps reflects his determination and a degree of inflexibility. But he had a lively streak of humour and was able to recount stories of his own experiences with children with flair and amusement.

Despite his love of his educational work, Stow must have been a lonely man. During his life-time he suffered the deaths of seventeen near relatives including two wives, two sons and a daughter, a grandson, a brother and four sisters, a brother-in-law, two aunts and the eponymous uncle, and a nephew and niece. 78

Stow’s double spate of writing falls first between the two marriages, and then after the deaths of his second wife, and his sons – perhaps the loneliest periods of his life. He was also a sick man. After the death of his wife ‘the affliction pressed on him with such weight as to unfit him for a year for his ordinary Sabbath-School and other labours’.79

In his old age, Fraser records that he was ‘shut out from an active share in the work of the Normal College and spent his time chiefly at Bridge of Allan’, 80where ‘he was sustained and cheered by the sympathy, affection and tender solitude of his only daughter and his only surviving son’. 81

He died on November 6th, 1864 82

at the age of 71. The death certificate records that he was living in ‘Bombay House’ and that he possibly (‘uncertain’ is recorded) died of softening of the brain and paralysis of the right side.

George Insh Pratt writing in ‘The Life and Work of David Stow’ – the Commemoration lecture to the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow, December 22nd 1937 – noted caustically: ‘The tomb of David Stow (is) crumbling to ruin in the most desolate and deserted corner of the most desolate and deserted burial ground in Glasgow’. He adds, prophetically, in view of the present position. ‘It will not be long, we feel, till the reproach of this crumbling tomb is taken away’.83

In 1938, Robert Houseman, 84

Stow’s most recent biographer, photographed the Stow family vault in the Old Gorbals Cemetery, Glasgow. This cemetery, situated on Commercial Road, between Old Rutherglen Road and Caledonian Road, still exists although the surrounding area has been extensively redeveloped since Houseman’s time. It is now laid out as a park, and most of the individual headstones are lost or removed. It is a fitting icon of the neglect which the name of David Stow has suffered over the succeeding centuries.


  1. The plaque is well placed for, contrary to supposition, Stow was born at 125 Causeyside. The family did not move to Stow Place until about 1827 by which time Stow was living in Glasgow: Paisley Post Office Directories.
  2. Both the English School (so called because the medium of teaching was English rather than Gaelic) the Grammar School, were situated very close to the High Church, now referred to as Paisley Abbey. In Stow’s time The English School was on Oakshaw Street while the Grammar School, the third to be built, was on Church Hill. (National Library of Scotland Renfrew Sheet XII.2 (Abbey, Middlechurch, High Church and Low Church) Survey date: 1858 Publication date: 1864. Stow would have attended its replacement on Church Hill.
  3. Amount of the Estate situated in Scotland England and Ireland given up in the Inventory recorded in the Commissary Books of Lanarkshire upon this 4th Day of August 1865: £24,022.15.1
  4. Stock in the Port Eglinton Spinning Company to the last docqueted (sic) and signed balance of the Company’s Books and affairs taken on the 30th June 1864 in terms of the Contract of Co-partnership of the Company: £21,676.5.8
  5. Cf. Stow, David. (1860) Granny and Leezy: a Scottish dialogue. 6th ed. Longman, Green, Longman and Roberts.
  6. John, David, William and Matthew: Roll of the Freemen of the Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed 1800-1899, Berwick-upon-Tweed archives, index.
  7. Roll of the Freemen of the Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, op cit, p. 30.
  8. Fraser. (1868), op cit, p. 5.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Scott, John. (1888) op cit. ‘On December 23rd 1718 a disastrous fire occurred at Melkington, which would have been much more serious if there at not been appliances at hand to extinguish it’.
  11. The Castles at Twizeldale, Norham and Ford are all still in existence, while Tillmouth is now a Country House Hotel.
  12. Francis Temple (1770-1863), for example, became a Rear Admiral as did David Stow (1754-1825), Stow’s uncle; the Temple family eventually produced two Archbishops of Canterbury. The first, Frederick Temple, erstwhile principal of Kneller College was Stow’s fourth cousin. David Stow (1728) was a lieutenant in the 24th Regiment of Foot; Nicolas Stow (1756) was a Salt Officer for the Excise in Edinburgh, etc.
  13. Scott, John (1888) op cit, p. 367.
  14. The ‘Old Bridge’ or ‘Berwick Bridge’ was built in 1611. Originally it linked the Norhamshire district of the County Palatinate of Durham to the county burgh of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Of Berwick’s famous bridges, the railway bridge or the ‘Royal Border Bridge’, was built in 1850; and the third, ‘The Royal Tweed’, in 1925.
  15. Although most biographers consider that Stow was born into a wealthy, substantial family, cf., Sir Joshua Fitch (1898), in fact he was born above a warehouse, the grandson of a bankrupt.
  16. Folio 108: W.H. Lyttleton to Messrs. Fenwick & Blake Stow. Will take up the case of his ships the Charming Jennet and Mary John, and the forced sale of their cargoes of wheat at Lisbon in 1764. Hay has given him copies of the relevant papers. Date and place: 1768 Jan 17 Lisbon. The National Archives SP 89/92/20 (part of document SP 89/92)
  17. Curiously, Stow’s grand-daughter, Agnes Graham Stow, was declared bankrupt ion 1901 making Stow the grandson and the grandfather of bankrupts: ‘Closed record in multipoinding and exoneration (1901) Stow and others, Trustees of the late David Stow against Agnes Graham Stow or Silvester and others.’
  18. ‘From very early times there had been a right of sanctuary within the Abbey of Holyrood, extending to all the precincts of the Palace and the full extent of the Royal park; more recently this right was enjoyed only by insolvent debtors. A group of plain old houses, called St Ann’s Yards, which stood on ground now within the enclosure was their principal retreat.’ From Crawford, Thomas, ed. (1997) The Correspondence of James Boswell and William Johnson Temple 1756-1795. Vol. 1. Yale: Yale University Press.
  19. Inadvertently, the Temple’s debts contributed to James Boswell’s, financial difficulties.
  20. Precisely 2.5 miles across the border.
  21. Many of these have been traced: by the end of the nineteenth century formal records of births, marriages and deaths, many available online, contribute to a very comprehensive family tree.
  22. Public Record Office of England and Wales: David Stow’s (1754-1826) will.
  23. William Stow’s will.
  24. The reason for choosing Paisley is currently unknown. However, the monumental inscriptions of Paisley High Kirkyard’ record the death and plot of a Thomas Grieve and children, 19th February, 1813. (Mitchell, J. F. and S. (eds.). Renfrewshire Monumental Inscriptions pre-1855, Vol. 2), and the upper flats at the back of William’s tenement were built by a Henry Grieve. (William Stow’s will). Since the Grieves were a distinguished dynasty in Berwick-upon-Tweed, William may simply have moved to Paisley to be near an old family friend.
  25. Agnes Smith, 1753-1836, daughter of William Smith and Elizabeth Main, b. 1733. General Register of Scotland (GROS) baptismal, marriage and death certificates certificates.
  26. GROS op cit.
  27. GROS op cit, David Stow’s (1854-1826) will.
  28. Decennial Indexes to the Services of Heirs in Scotland. Vol.4. 1830-59, p. 175. However, they are not particularised in the inventory of his will. Either they were sold or they have been included in the ‘Additional Inventory’ of 1866 which added £24,022 to the original inventory.
  29. The Paisley Directory for 1812-13 when William Bell was the teacher. The Penny Cyclopaedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, Vol. XVII. London: Charles Knight and Co. 1840, p. 148, notes there was also a Burgh School.
  30. Stow. (1836) The Training System, op cit, 3rd ed., p. 14.
  31. Fraser. (1868) op cit., p. 7.
  32. Ibid, p. 8; and p. 227. Stow comments on his own aloofness in a letter to Thomas Chalmers. ‘I am aware that my general manners to my Pastors may have appeared distant’: Letter dated 1st December, 1823.
  33. Even by Stow’s time here had been two previous schools. The original was built in 1576 probably on the site of the Chapel of Saint Nicholas in School Wynd. This school was rebuilt on the same site in 1753. In 1802, the school a larger school was built in Church Hill. Paisley Grammar School website 10 July, 2015, National Library of Scotland Renfrew Sheet XII.2, op cit.
  34. Children’s Employment Commission. (1843) Second Report of the Commissioners. Trades and manufactures. para. 183. He employed a five-year-old ‘Draw-boy’ even at this age.
  35. William Stow, his father, at 165 and John, his brother, at 125 Causeyside Street: The Paisley Directory containing a list of the merchants, manufacturers, Trades in the town and suburbs, corrected till 1812.
  36. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p.12.
  37. In the case of Dick V. Stow and Pollock (1809) in which William Stow sued Dick for payment of £39, Stow was unable to pay Dick £7, as suggested by the magistrate to simplify matters because ‘he had not the wherewithal’. David Dick v. William Stow for behoof of Stow and Pollock (1815) National Archives of Scotland CS271/50912 and CS271/50945
  38. John Wilson was Stow’s eldest sister’s husband. He was born in 1770 and is described as a silk merchant, as was his father, Lorrain(e) Wilson. He and Ann married on 17th August 1807 in the Low Church, Paisley, when he was 37 and she was 23. Their first child, also Lorraine Wilson, was born in 1810 and seven children followed. John and Anne lived in at 2 South Wellington Place in the Gorbals and David, who also lived in the Gorbals when he first went to Glasgow, might well have been their lodger.
  39. John Hervey’s daughter, Barbara, married another silk merchant in Glasgow also, confusingly, named John Wilson, whose business eventually moved to Cumberland Street, along the road from ‘The Port Eglinton Spinning Company’ see below.
  40. Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow 1751-1846, Vol. 2 Edinburgh 1935 p. 304.
  41. Ibid p. 229; see also the letter from Thomas Chalmers to David Stow on the death of his wife, dated August 6th 1831, quoted Fraser, p. 238.
  42. Stow’s grandson, David Frederick Stow, also married a ‘Freebairn – Adelaide Millicent Blanche Freebairn – perhaps another example of keeping things in the family?
  43. GROS. Extract of entries in an Old Parochial Register. See Appendix 2/4: Timeline of General Register of Scotland Searches.
  44. Fraser (1868) op cit, p. 230.
  45. Ibid, p. 231.
  46. Entry in the record of Matriculated Students, 13762, Gulielmus Stow.
  47. Scottish Census 1841.
  48. Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900.
  49. Letter from David Stow to Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, dated December 26th, 1843. Now among the Shuttleworth manuscripts. Quoted Houseman, op. cit. p. 298.
  50. Letter from David Stow to Sir James Kay-Shuttleworth, dated December 26th, 1843.
  51. Ibid.
  52. England and Wales Death Index 1837-1983, p196; and Fraser, op cit, p.267
  53. Scott. (1888) op cit, enclosed family tree.
  54. They also inherited property from Stow’s second wife. Unfortunately Marion died at the age of 28 and David at the age of 30 which does suggest that there was a congenital weakness in at least two of Stow’s children and two of his grandchildren.
  55. GROS, op cit, See Appendix 2/4: Timeline of General Register of Scotland Searches.
  56. Fraser (1868) op cit. p. 244.
  57. Asylum Report 1867, Twenty Second Report of the Commissioners in Lunacy to the Lord Chancellor.
  58. It is difficult to account for Sarah’s financial difficulties since she inherited the life-rent on Ashfield House, which was later sold for £19,000.
  59. Casenotes, Glasgow Royal Lunatic Asylum, Gartnavel.
  60. ‘Scotland’s People’ Statutory Registers: Deaths 1855-1956.
  61. Fraser (1868) op. cit. p. 270.
  62. Ibid, p. 272.
  63. Ibid. p. 270.
  64. Ibid. p. 270.
  65. Glasgow University Matriculated Students 1841, p. 438.
  66. Old Parochial Register, Proclamation of Banns and Marriages: William, also officiated at the wedding of his cousin, John Wilson.
  67. Thomson, John G. Centenary Address delivered before the Congress of the Educational Institute of Scotland, Edinburgh: 1893 p. 21.
  68. Port Eglinton (and Eglinton Street) were then as spelled here.
  69. There were four gravestones in the Gorbals’ Cemetery, now unfortunately lost, but recorded by the photographer Thomas Annan, and included in Houseman’s thesis. The central stone names Agnes and David Stow and an unknown third person who was aged 10 years. The stone on the left refers to Stow’s second wife, Elizabeth McArthur. The stone on the right records Marion Stow, his first wife, and John Freebairn Stow, his second son. The stone to the right of this was undecipherable even in Houseman’s time but surely must be Sarah Stow. William Stow, as we have seen, is buried in Avebury. David George is probably buried in Southend.
  70. Fraser. (1868) op cit p. 239, ‘May my four children that are left be dear in Thy sight’.
  71. Stow. (1854) The Training System op cit, 10th ed. p. 44.
  72. Fraser (1868) op cit, p. 245.
  73. Adam Menteith and Others, Appellants v. Robert McGavin and Others, Respondents. in ‘The Scottish Jurist (1838) Reports of cases decided in the supreme courts in Scotland and in the House of Lords on appeal from Scotland, Vol. XI’. Edinburgh: Anderson, p. 419.
  74. John Fleming, Esq. Town Councillor and claiming to be Provost of the City of Glasgow, Appellent, v. Henry Dunlop, Esq. Town Councillor and claiming to be Provost of the City of Glasgow, Respondent. in ‘The Scottish Jurist (1839) Reports of cases decided in the supreme courts in Scotland and in the House of Lords on appeal from Scotland, Vol. XII’. Edinburgh: Anderson, p. 79. Henry Dunlop was Vice-President of GES and benefactor of both GISS and GES. He was Lord Provost of Glasgow 1837-1840.
  75. Inglis v. Port-Eglington Spinning Company 27th Jan. 1842 4 D. 478. V. in Burton, John Hill. The Law of Bankruptcy, Insolvency, and Mercantile Sequestration, in Scotland Edinburgh: William Tait, 1845, pps. 191, 2.
  76. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. vi.
  77. Thomson, op cit, p. 20.
  78. Marion Freebairn and Elizabeth McArthur, his wives; William and John Freebairn, his sons; Charles George, his grandson; John, Elizabeth, Mary, Margaret and Marjorie, his brothers and sisters; John Wilson his brother-in-law; Mary and Marjorie his aunts and David his uncle; and Elfrida Susan and George Herbert his nephew and niece. There may have been more, for example Sarah Wilson who is mentioned in a letter from Stow to Thomas Chalmers as being seriously ill, but searchable death records do not start until 1855.
  79. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p. 237.
  80. This is in accord with the Minutes of the Free Church Normal Seminary (1845-1865) which record that although Stow was still a member of the Committee he did not attend during the last two years of his life.
  81. Fraser. (1868) op cit, p.276. It is natural to assume that the daughter was Sarah Rebecca but, given the context, might have been David George’s wife, Stow’s daughter-in-law.
  82. Glasgow Daily Herald, November 8th, 1864.
  83. Pratt, George Insh. (1938) ‘The Life and Work of David Stow’, address delivered 22nd December 1937 to the Royal Philosophical Society of Glasgow, Edinburgh 1938. p.15.
  84. Houseman, Robert: ‘The Life and Work of David Stow’. Unpublished M.Ed. Thesis, The John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, 1938.