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William Fowler, antiquarian & sketcher of mosaics

A famous son of Winterton who made a few bob drawing pictures of the local Roman ruins.

Published : 12 March 2018

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A famous son of Winterton who made a few bob drawing pictures of the local Roman ruins.

A village and parish in the wapentake of Manley and Division of Lindsay; 8 miles WSW of Barton; and contains 151 houses, and 1015 inhabitants. It is a place of great antiquity, and was occupied by the Romans. It is situated on the west side of the Roman road from Lincoln to the Humber.

Too many words, skip to the end.


William Fowler

William Fowler

After the Norman conquest, Winterton was amongst the thirty-three lordships which were given by the Conqueror to Norman de Arcy, one of his followers, in the possession of whose descendants, afterwards called Darcy, it remained for several centuries.

The church, dedicated to All Saints, is a spacious edifice, with a tower. The living is a vicarage, value £8; and the Rev. William Harrison, A.M. is the present incumbent. Here are likewise a Methodist meetinghouse, and an Independent chapel.




In 1747, three curious tessellated pavements were discovered, by ploughing in the fields on the south of this parish, one of which was thirty feet in length, and nineteen feet in breadth. In the centre was a figure of Orpheus, playing on his harp, surrounded by beasts, and at the corners were wine vessels for libations: this pavement is supposed to have been the floor of a dining-room. In the centre of another, which was forty-four feet by fifteen, was the figure of Ceres, holding in her hands ears of corn; and, on the third, was a representation of a stag, in the act of bounding.

Drawings were taken from these antiques, and engravings executed from them by order of the Society of Antiquaries. A great quantity of roman bricks and tiles, and a large brasen eagle were also dug up at the same place, where the pavements were found. A fair, for cattle and goods is held annually on the 6th of July, and a market weekly, on Wednesdays.

Mr. William Fowler, of this place, published, a few years ago. a splendid collection of Prints, the materials for which, as well as the labour of engraving and colouring, he, after great research, himself completed. The Prints exhibit facsimiles of the most curious ancient stained glass windows, and Mosaic pavements: these have been copied with great accuracy: and at the same time that they serve to gratify the admirers of antiquity, will secure these treasures against the destroying hand of time. The stained glass thus preserved will also continue to be serviceable to the artists of the present day; of whom it is only doing justice to say, that the notion, long held, of glass-staining having become obsolete in England, is now wholly exploded, and the art re-established; proof of which numerous instances might be adduced, in various parts of the kingdom.

William Fowler's Orpheus mosaic print

William Fowler's Orpheus mosaic print

Everything above this line was straight out of William White & Co.'s 1826 Directory.

(Including the strange spellings and odd punctuation.)

Born in Winterton in 1761, William Fowler followed his father into the building trade and in time became an architect and builder at Winterton in his own right. In his spare time he made sketches and drawings of the Roman mosaics discovered at Roxby and at Winterton. It was while he was sketching the Orpheus mosiac, on the hillside near Winterton, that he chanced upon a previously undiscovered mosaic of Fortuna, which he of course sketched too. Folks that he showed these sketches to, told him that they were very good, and that he ought to be an artist, and so in 1796 he took his drawings and sketches to London where his brother-in-law Bob was an engraver, ostensibly to get them engraved, so he could print them and sell them, or maybe just give them away to folks that liked them. But while he was in London, he got so well into engraving, he ended up doing the job himself and over the next thirty years he produced three volumes, containing 25 pavements, 39 stained glass windows and more. He got quite famous doing it as well. He also found time to tart up a few churches and houses in and around Lincolnshire, and just on the off chance his building work dried up and no one bought his pictures, he resurrected the art of stained glass windows too. He was eventually buried in Winterton churchyard in 1832, but then only because he had died.

William Fowler's mosaic print of Fortuna

William Fowler's mosaic print of Fortuna



The genuine article, raved up in 1959 and put on display at Scunthorpe museum.

The genuine article, raved up in 1959 and put on display at Scunthorpe museum.

TL;DR - Conclusion.



H
e did OK for a lad from Winterton, he hobnobbed with the celebrities of his day, and even got introduced to the Royal family at Winsor at least once. One of his pictures of a roman pavement or a stained glass window, will set you back at least £500 or so in today's money.

The Lincolnshire Archives has a collection of his letters and his will, and they will gladly take your money should you require a copy of these for any reason.

The mosaic of Fortuna was dug up in 1959 and is now on display in Scunthorpe Museum along with other artifacts that have been found in the locality. These can be gazed at for free 7 days a week, Monday to Saturday: 10am to 4pm and Sunday: 1pm to 4pm. For more information see the Museum Website.







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