Thomas Sowler

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Thomas Sowler (1818-1891), Manchester newspaper proprietor Thomas sowler.jpg
Thomas Sowler (1818-1891), Manchester newspaper proprietor

Sir Thomas Sowler JP (7 July 1818 – 4 April 1891) was an English newspaper proprietor in Manchester. [1]

Manchester City and metropolitan borough in England

Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England, with a population of 545,500 as of 2017. It lies within the United Kingdom's second-most populous built-up area, with a population of 3.2 million. It is fringed by the Cheshire Plain to the south, the Pennines to the north and east, and an arc of towns with which it forms a continuous conurbation. The local authority is Manchester City Council.


Early life

Thomas Sowler was born in Manchester to Thomas and Helen Sowler, one of three sons and three daughters. He bore the same name as his father, who in common with his grandfather, had been a printer. The family claimed descent from a Baron Sowler of Normandy and carried on their business initially at Hunt's Bank and later in St Ann's Square, both in Manchester. [2]

Normandy Administrative region of France

Normandy is one of the 18 regions of France, roughly referring to the historical Duchy of Normandy.

Thomas Sowler senior established the Manchester Courier newspaper in 1825 and upon his death the business was passed to Thomas junior, who had been educated at Manchester Grammar School, and another son, John. [lower-alpha 1]

The Manchester Courier was a daily newspaper founded in Manchester, England, by Thomas Sowler; the first edition was published on 1 January 1825. Alaric Alexander Watts was the paper's first editor, but remained in that position for only a year.

Manchester Grammar School independent day school for boys in the United Kingdom

Manchester Grammar School (MGS) in Manchester, England, is the largest independent day school for boys in the United Kingdom. Founded in 1515 as a free grammar school next to Manchester Parish Church, in 1931 it moved to its present site at Fallowfield. In accordance with its founder's wishes, MGS has remained a predominantly academic school and belongs to the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference.


The brothers sold the book-selling part of their father's business and in 1864 converted the newspaper from a weekly to a daily publication, eventually expanding it from the then common four-page format to one that had twelve or more pages. John died in 1871, leaving Thomas as the sole proprietor of the Conservative Party-supporting organ. In 1874, Sowler established the Manchester Evening Mail and in 1889 he was appointed as the first president of the restructured National Association of Journalists. [2] [4]

The Chartered Institute of Journalists is a professional association for journalists and is the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world. It was founded as the National Association of Journalists at a meeting at the Grand Hotel in Birmingham in October 1884, to promote and advance the common interests of the profession of journalism. It changed its name to the Institute of Journalists in 1888, and received a Royal Charter from Queen Victoria in 1890. It petitioned for, and was granted, an additional Royal Charter in 1990, to become the Chartered Institute of Journalists, usually abbreviated as CIoJ.

Sowler was a director of the Manchester Royal Exchange and on the board of several other businesses, as well as being involved with other institutions [2] such as the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society [5] and the Manchester Natural History Society. He was also a co-founder of the Manchester Free Library and the first secretary of the Manchester branch of the Church Defence Association. [4]

The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, popularly known as the Lit & Phil, is a learned society in Manchester, England.

The Manchester Free Library opened on 5 September 1852 in Manchester, England. It was the first to be set up under the provisions of the Public Libraries Act 1850, which allowed local authorities to impose a local tax of one penny to pay for the service. The terms of the act required that a poll of ratepayers had to be held before the local authority was allowed to spend money on public libraries, and at least two-thirds had to vote in favour. In Manchester's case only 40 of the more than 4000 eligible voters opposed.

Away from business, Sowler was involved with the military from the time of the "Defence not Defiance" movement in the 1860s. He joined the 19th Lancashire Volunteer Artillery as a gunner and rose through the ranks to become Lieutenant-Colonel in command of the regiment. In 1874, he resigned from that position and soon after was appointed as successor to the recently dead John Isaac Mawson, who had been Honorary Colonel of the regiment. [2] [6]


In the 1886 general election, Sowler stood as a Conservative Party candidate in the Manchester South constituency, where he lost by around 350 votes to Sir Henry Roscoe. He was a Justice of the Peace and chairman of both the Manchester Conservative Association and the Conservative Club around the time of his being appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 1890 New Year Honours. [2]

Death and family

Sowler lived at Oak Bank, Victoria Park, Manchester from 1877. [7] He died there on 4 April 1891 and was buried at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Bowdon. [8] [9] He had married on 25 July 1866 and had several children. His wife, Emily, was the daughter of James Yates, a bleacher. [2] [4]

Sowler's sons, notably Thomas and Harry, continued to run his newspapers as a limited company and expanded the stable to include titles such as the Manchester Examiner . [10]

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  1. The third son, Robert, was closely involved with the Manchester Courier for many years, including in the role of editor, but his main career was as a Queen's Counsel. [3]


  1. "The Late Sir Thomas Sowler" . Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser. 11 April 1891. p. 9. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Manchester Faces & Places". 1 (5). 10 February 1890.
  3. "Mr R. S. Sowler, QC". The Solicitors' Journal and Reporter. 15: 478. 29 April 1871.
  4. 1 2 3 Smith, Jeremiah Finch, ed. (1874). The Admission Register of the Manchester School: With Some Notices of the More Distinguished Scholars. Chetham Society. p. 221.
  5. "The Lit & Phil Card Index". Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. Retrieved 27 February 2018.
  6. "Memorial Notices: Sir Thomas Sowler". The Manchester Guardian. 6 April 1891. p. 8.
  7. Spiers, Maurice (1976). Victoria Park, Manchester: A Nineteenth-century Suburb in Its Social and Administrative Context. Manchester University Press. pp. 7–8. ISBN   978-0-71901-333-1.
  8. "Deaths". Memoirs and Proceedings of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. 35: 182. 1892.
  9. "The Late Sir Thomas Sowler". The Manchester Guardian. 9 April 1891. p. 5.
  10. Nicholson, John (1980). "Popular Imperialism and the Provincial Press: Manchester Evening and Weekly Papers, 1895–1902". Victorian Periodicals Review. 13 (3): 85–96. JSTOR   20081933.