THE FIRST 50 YEARS 1880s – 1930s


20 inch cast iron plaque displayed on the exterior of the shop
Courtesy of Alan Richardson

This article provides an insight into JW & E Sowmans’ business from the late 1880’s, when it was essentially an ironmongers, to the late 1930’s, when it had extended into a comprehensive emporium, having added a radio shop, a garage, an agricultural machinery workshop and several other related businesses. A glimpse of the Olney Sowmans’ family life is also provided through the provision of many family photographs.

The material and photographs were supplied principally by Pam and David Sowman of Ilkley, Yorkshire. David is a grandson of Alfred William Rudkin Sowman. In 1904 Alfred joined his brothers, John William and Edwin, in the shop they had founded in Olney in 1888. Other material and photographs were kindly provided by Carol Boyd (nee Fairey), a grand-daughter of the founder Edwin Sowman. Considerable material, including photographs and postcards, has been generously provided by local historians Elizabeth Knight and Alan Richardson, and the Emberton Historical Society.


Sowmans decorations and illuminations for the Coronation of Edward VII in 1901

A companion article (Part 2 of 2) entitled ‘J W & E Sowman of Olney – The Final Years, Post WW2 to the 1960’s’ has been compiled from an interview with Jean Orchard who worked in the office at Sowmans during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Click here for the companion article.

 Visit the next page – Establishing the Business

Copyright © 2007 Olney & District Historical Society

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