William Sowman was a Solicitors Managing Clerk in Colchester. He married Susannah Catherine Rudkin in 1859 and as was usual in that time, they had a large family. Their seven children were John William, Arthur William Rudkin, Frederick Smith (died in infancy), Edwin, Margaret Rudkin (died in infancy) Catherine Rudkin and Dora Ellen Susannah. The three surving sons went on to found and manage the well known Olney shop, JW & E Sowman.

Click here for the family tree of the ‘Olney Sowmans’



William and Susannah Sowman of Colchester photographed possibly around 1890

The hand written note shown below indicates that William assisted his sons John William and Edwin to set up the business in Olney by purchasing in 1889 the stock, goodwill and possibly the buildings, from Thomas Cooper for the considerable sum of £800.

businessstartupwSusannah Catherine Rudkin, born in 1835, was the daughter of John Rudkin, a bookseller of Colchester. As mentioned above, in 1859 she married William Sowman of Colchester. In his will, John Rudkin provided for his daughter Susannah, and in turn, for her husband William and any children. This provision is assumed to be the reason why so many subsequent generations of Sowman children were given ‘Rudkin’ as their middle name. Incidentally, William Sowman’s sister Emma married William Rudkin, John Rudkin’s son.

William and Susannah spent their last days in Olney having seen their sons’ business prosper. Their graves can be seen in Olney Churchyard. William died in 1912 and Susannah in 1919. The statements and bills presented below are associated with their deaths and funerals.


Solicitor’s statement for preparing William Sowman’s will
– November 1911


The following items are tradesmen’s statements, probably associated with the funeral in Olney of Susannah Sowman.


Purchase of hat and gloves – 18th August 1919
(presumably for Susannah’s funeral)



Purchase of memorial notices – 17th August 1919
(again, presumably for Susannah’s funeral)


Purchase from Eaton’s of flour, fats, cheese, bacon, etc
around the time of Susannah’s funeral


Funeral expenses for Susannah Sowman

Visit the next page – Founders of Sowmans

Copyright © 2007 Olney & District Historical Society

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