John Lowman 1818-1910

I thought I’d write about one of the interesting members of my ancestors, my 3rd great grandfather John Lowman who was born in Stepney, London, in 1818. The vast majority of my family were working class or farmers/labourers, so there isn’t much other than what’s in the census and marriage/birth/death records.

John’s grandfather Josiah made the move from rural Devon where all previous generations of Lowman came from stemming back to at least the 15th century. His father Thomas was a butcher but I can’t find anything much about him. He settled in East London, and the following family generations stayed around London, Essex and Kent.

John is interesting for two reasons, firstly he was a victim of crime – his duck got stolen – and secondly he was a missionary on a floating church.

The court proceedings of the duck crime was recorded in the Old Bailey records in 1848. An Elizabeth Rogers was found non guilty of stealing and killing the duck. John wasn’t around to testify, but his wife Elizabeth did. I know it’s the right John and Elizabeth as it matches where they lived in the Census in 1851 (Barking Road – which is only one short road away from from Wall End Road).

Starting off as a fisherman according to marriage and birth records of his children, he changed career later on to be a missionary. According to the Census in 1861, John is absent but his wife is listed as “husband on board floating ship” for occupation. In the 1881 census John is listed as a Thames Church Missionary:

There were a few ‘floating churches’ around at the time including the Episcopal Floating Church, Sailor’s Home and the Thames Church Mission. I can’t find any links between John and these but an article on the Thames Church Mission mentions 6 lay-missionaries and the name matches up, so likely this was the right boat.

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