Henry Pownall


In several places on this website there are references to a book called, 'Some Particulars Relating to the History of Epsom' *, written by 'an inhabitant', one Henry Pownall, in about 1825. The name was very familiar to me. I come from Hounslow in Middlesex (as it still is postally, even though the actual county was abolished in 1965). Hounslow has a Pownall Road and a Pownall Gardens and I seem to recall seeing the name of Henry Pownall in the newspapers many times. Was there a connection ?

The short answer is yes. So who was this man?

Portrait of Henry Pownall 1859
Portrait of Henry Pownall 1859.
Image courtesy of Hounslow Local Library Collection

Epsom Henry was in fact John George Henry Pownall, born on 2 September 1792 at 'Vale Place', Hammersmith Road, North Fulham, West London. Not only was he successful and very well-known in his own right, but he also spawned a formidable dynasty. He was probably in Epsom for only a very few years in the 1820s, but his story deserves telling simply in recognition of his 1825 book, which is still being used today. Apparently he was also involved in having pavements laid in Epsom, to prevent people's feet being covered in mud.

Henry Pownall's former home, Woodcote End is now the Chalk Lane Hotel
Henry Pownall's former home, Woodcote End is now the Chalk Lane Hotel photographed in 1968 by L.R. James
Image courtesy of Surrey Libraries and is held in the
Epsom & Ewell Local And Family History Centre Collection

In 1821 and 1824 he can be placed at Woodcote End by virtue of christening records for two of his children, although he almost certainly had London premises too, an intervening child having been born in Bloomsbury. In the St Martin's christening records his occupation was given as 'esquire'. In 1830 or thereabouts he moved to Isleworth, Middlesex, to live with a relative who had just purchased a house called 'Spring Grove' which, until his death in 1820, had been the home of Sir Joseph Banks, the naturalist and botanist who accompanied Captain Cook on his first voyage in 1768-71.

The original Spring Grove House.
The original Spring Grove House.
Image: Wikipedia

When the relative died in 1834 Henry inherited the house and grounds and was living there in the 1841 census. He sold it in 1850 and it was subsequently extended and re-developed by Andrew Pears, the soap magnate. The house has been pulled down, rebuilt, extended and renovated a number of times since the mid-18th century, but still stands today, is Grade II listed and is currently used by West Thames College.

Henry was a magistrate, landed proprietor and philanthropist. He was also strongly anti-Roman Catholic and financially supported Wilberforce in the campaign against slavery. By 1851 he was Chairman of the Middlesex Quarter Sessions and a portrait of him, painted by Eden Upton Eddis, hangs today in the lawyers' suite of the Supreme Court building in the Middlesex Guildhall.

In the 1873 return of Owners of Land, Henry was listed as having 310 acres in Middlesex, with an annual rental income of £951 (about £80,000 today), and 11 acres in Southampton.

Photograph of Henry Pownall in later life.
Photograph of Henry Pownall in later life.
Image courtesy of Hounslow Local Library Collection

Henry had married Amelia Sophia Waterhouse in Bloomsbury on 13 June 1816. She died in 1860 and was buried in Heston (adjacent to Hounslow and Isleworth). In 1861 Henry was living at 63 Russell Square, London and died there on 8 April 1880. He was buried in Heston with his wife.

Mrs Amelia Pownall
Mrs Amelia Pownall.
Image courtesy of Mrs C B Griffin © 2012

His obituary in 'The Times' of 9 April 1880 said,
'Yesterday Mr Henry Pownall, for a quarter of a century Chairman of the Middlesex Bench of Magistrates, closed a long and honourable life. He was born on 2nd September 1792, so he was in his 88th year. He was early connected with the religious and philanthropic movements of the first half of the present century as a member of the committees of the Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, the Mendicity Society and the Anti-Slavery Society; and it may be mentioned particularly that he was the mover of the resolution passed at a public meeting at Freemasons Hall in July 1829, under the presidency of William Wilberforce, demanding that a day should be fixed after which all children born of slaves in the British Dominions should be free. He was also an early active assistant of the late Peter Herve in establishing the National Benevolent Institution; and in conjunction with the late Sir Thomas Baring and Sir Robert Harry Inglis, he originated the society for the erection of Exeter Hall. He gave an energetic and liberal support towards the erections of churches and schools throughout South West Middlesex, especially at Hounslow, Twickenham and Turnham Green. In politics he was a staunch supporter of conservative principles. In 1834 he stood in the Conservative interest for Finsbury, and was returned second on the poll, which was headed by the late Thomas S Duncombe. In 1837 he stood for Middlesex in conjunction with Capt Wood. On this occasion the late Joseph Hume was thrown out and Mr Pownall was also unsuccessful. He did not again come forward for parliament but he rendered long and valuable services as a county magistrate, which were recognised by his brother justices placing his full length portrait in the Sessions House. He made the arrangements by which the attempt to rescue the Fenian prisoners, Burke and Casey, from the House of Detention, were defeated. For this he received the thanks of both the Home Office and of the Court of Quarter Sessions; and this court again marked their regard for him on his retirement from the chairmanship in 1870, after re-election for 26 years, by the presentation of a service of plate. At the time of his death he was the senior treasurer of the Corporation of the Sons of the Clergy, having been for upwards of 40 years one of the governors - an office to which he was appointed mainly through the influence of Bishop Blomfield, and which he was enabled to render most efficient service in augmenting the annual income available for the relief of distressed clergy. He retained to the last his generous interest in the work in which he had borne so energetic a part.'
Exeter Hall in the Strand
Exeter Hall in the Strand, London.
Image: Wikipedia

There was a shorter, but similar, obituary in the 'Illustrated London News' of 17th April 1880, which added that Henry was the son of John Pownall and Lucy Ann Durkin, grandson of Thomas Pownall and Mary Catteral, and great grandson of Thomas Pownall of Wrexham, born in the reign of Charles II.

As well as the activities mentioned above 'he took an active part in the management of the Middlesex County lunatic asylum at Hanwell and was an active promoter of improvements in the metropolitan prisons. He was mainly instrumental in inducing the bench to set aside the Westminster House of Correction for female delinquents, whereby the county effected a saving of £12,000 per annum. So far back as 1846 he presented a report from a committee appointed by the county magistrates to enquire into the state of juvenile crime, which led to an act of parliament being obtained in 1854 for the erection of the Middlesex industrial schools at Feltham ... Mr Pownall has also taken an active part in the formation of the Royal Horticultural Society, South Kensington, and is one of the council conducting its proceedings.'

Additionally, in 1828 he had founded a national newspaper called 'The Record'.

The children of Henry and Amelia Pownall were:-
John Fish - born Bloomsbury 13 May 1817
Henry William - born Epsom 24 June 1821
George Purves - born Bloomsbury 27 December 1822
Ann Fish - born Epsom 1824
Amelia Jane - born Bloomsbury 28 April 1827
Frederick Hyde - born 22 August 1831
Before continuing with the Pownall dynasty (and I will be brief with them here), I should mention the relative who bequeathed Spring Grove House to Henry and who was probably the source of much of his wealth. You will have noticed that two of Henry's children were John Fish and Ann Fish (Henry's brother, Thomas, also named one of his children Ann Fish). The relative was called Mrs Ann Fish, sometimes spelt 'Fysh', and she was apparently a cousin of Henry's wife. An investigation of Mrs Fish revealed that up to the time of her death in 1834 she was also the owner of 63, Russell Square, and, judging by her will, a very wealthy woman indeed. Her husband was John Fish, an owner of many properties in London and Middlesex (Harlington, Harmondsworth, West Drayton, for example), who died in 1815. He in turn had inherited substantial holdings from a man called Edmund Hill, who was a millionaire owner of gunpowder mills in Hounslow and Chilworth, Surrey.

In 1810 John Fish inherited Kempton Manor, Sunbury from Edmund Hill and lived there until his death in 1815. The value of his estate, both in terms of cash and property, was staggering. In addition to goods and property there was a legacy of £50,000 in cash (around £3.5 million today). Mrs Fish sold the Manor and today Kempton Park Racecourse stands on the site.

Mrs Ann Fish wrote one of the several codicils to her will in Epsom and, in a further codicil, left a small legacy to the Reverend and Mrs Darby. Darby was a curate in Epsom.

John Fish Pownall
John held an MA from Cambridge and was a barrister in Lincolns Inn from 1843. He was also a magistrate and became Deputy Lieutenant of Middlesex in 1863. He died on 7 February 1898 at 63 Russell Square.

Henry William Pownall
Henry William was a banker and lived in Isleworth. He died in 1908. His son, Bernard Henry (1857-1918) was a Roman Catholic priest.

George Purves Pownall
George was educated at Rugby School, obtained a BA at Cambridge and became an Anglican clergyman. He was at one time the Dean of Perth, Western Australia, and on his return in 1864 he was briefly a curate at Isleworth. He died in 1900. His son, Basil, was also a clergyman.

Ann Fish Pownall
Ann married Francis Glossop. He was the son of a previous vicar of Isleworth, but was himself a barrister and magistrate.

Ann Fish Pownall
Ann Fish Pownall.
Image courtesy of Mrs C B Griffin © 2012

Amelia Jane Pownall
Amelia married the Reverend Thomas Morris who was for many years Vicar of Carleton, Skipton-in-Craven, Yorkshire.

Frederick Hyde Pownall
Frederick was the County Surveyor for Middlesex and an architect. He designed the original Middlesex Guildhall and many churches, including St Dunstan's at Cheam.

This is not supposed to be a comprehensive history of the Pownall family, but I want to explain how I travelled from the Henry Pownall who wrote the book about Epsom to the reason I came to know the same name.

The later Henry Pownall, the one I was thinking of from newspapers, was Henry Charles Pownall (1927-2003), a QC and judge in the London criminal courts (particularly Knightsbridge Crown Court) and he presided over many well-known cases, including the Brinks Mat money laundering trial. He was educated at Rugby School, read law at Cambridge and became a barrister in 1954. His father was John Cecil Glossop Pownall (1891-1967), MA Cambridge and barrister of Lincoln's Inn. His father was Henry Harrison Pownall (1853-1913), barrister and Justice of the Peace in London and Sussex. Henry Harrison Pownall was the son of John Fish Pownall, who was the eldest son of Epsom Henry.

Linda Jackson © September 2011



* a transcribed version in .pdf format cane be found here 'Some Particulars Relating to the History of Epsom' thanks to the hard work of Peter Reed, Anne Cheshire, Rosemary Chapman, Meg Bower and Louise Aitken



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