John Griffith Bowen


Framfield Road, Buxted (1921 postmark)

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Photographer and Baptist pastor, Hadlow Down. Bowen published a range of sepia-tinted and black and white real photographic cards of Buxted, Hadlow Down and Mayfield. His cards are very difficult to find today and seem to have been produced over a period of no more than two or three years, possibly only in very short runs. The card shown above is a black and white view of Framfield Road in Buxted and is labelled: "- Bowen 162 -" in the bottom right corner. It was posted in 1921. Another black and white real photographic depicts the Red Triangle Club (community centre) at Hadlow Down on June 8, 1921 when it was opened by Princess Marie Louise. The card is labelled "- Bowen 178". Another special event card, "- Bowen 156 -", shows Buxted War Memorial after its unveiling, supposedly in the late winter of early 1921. A sepia tinted view of Mayfield High Street ("- Bowen 112 -") posted in September 1920 is the earliest card in the range reported to date. The presumption must be that Bowen started numbering his cards at 100 and issued a total of at least 78 different cards, but the extreme rarity of the individual cards suggests that he printed up relatively few copies of each, possibly in batches of no more than 50 at a time.

Bowen never disclosed his address or initials on his cards, but crucial clues to his identity are provided by advertisements he placed in the Sussex Agricultural Express in 1919 announcing that "J. G. Bowen is now at liberty to undertake home portraiture and general photography. Postcard - 'Haverford', Buxted". Kelly's 1918 Sussex Directory discloses that Haverford was the Hadlow Down home of the Rev. John Griffith Bowen, who was the local Baptist Minister. Bowen had earlier commuted to Hadlow Down from Uckfield, but residents after much fund-raising built him a house in the village.

Bowen had been born in 1874 in Haverfordwest, had attended school there, and then joined his father David Bowen in working as a local photographer. In 1902 he married Lilian Mary Wassall. The 1911 census records that he was still employed as a photographer in Haverfordwest and that he and his wife had two sons, Eddie and Ernie Bowen. Precisely when he moved to Sussex is uncertain. During the Great War he managed to combine his pastoral duties at Hadlow Down with working in an aircraft factory where through accident one of his fingers was crushed.

Bowen's ministry at Hadlow Down lasted only for a few years. By 1922 according to Kelly's Directory he had been replaced by the Rev. Halford.

Anna James reports that after leaving Sussex Bowen continued to work as a Baptist minister, serving at various times in Birmingham and Gosport, before ending his career in the 1950s in Southampton.

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