GOWER, Tring, 19th century

January 2002

Angela Brown (ABrown4313 @t, of Malmesbury, Wiltshire, says On the 1901 Census for Surrey my Great Granddad is listed as being 25. His Name is Arthur Gower and his wife is Alice. He was born in Tring and his wife in Winchfield Hants. Also on the same Census is a Alfred Gower 56 : and his wife Sarah 50. Alfred was also born in Tring. Both Men are listed as being Market Gardners what I am trying to find out is could these be Father and Son. Your site says that Gowers are a common name in Tring

Gower is definitely a common name in Tring. There are currently 8 households listed in the phone directory as living in or immediately adjacent to Tring. There were 78 Gowers listed on the "Greater London East Counties" 1881 census CD who were either born or living in Tring in 1881, and there are 74 listed in the 1851 census according to the transcript for the Berkhamsted area - mostly in Tring or nearby Wigginton.

The 1881 census show that an Alfred Gower, with a son Arthur, were living at 24 Henry Street, Tring. (Ref: FHL Film 1341351 PRO Ref RG11 Piece 1448 Folio 54 Page 38)

Alfred GOWER



General Dealer






Buckland Common, Bucks

Alfred GOWER










Arthur GOWER





Charles GOWER





Wilfred GOWER





Henry Street is a narrow road of rather plain mid-Victorian terraced workmen's houses, typically a living room and kitchen down stairs and two bedrooms upstairs, with a dunny up the garden, but some (I don't know how many because you can't see the backs) also had a narrow rear wing with scullery downstairs and another small bedroom upstairs. Some 35 years ago we lived in Number 1, which was the basic 2 up, 2 down with an extra larger room (later a bedroom & bathroom) over what had originally been a wide archway to provide rear access for carts (later converted to a garage).  The numbers run up one side and back down the other and there is no reason to think that it has ever been renumbered. Number 25 is part of the general style but exceptionally is double fronted suggesting it was at least 4 down and 4 up.

Buckland Common is close to Tring, just over the Buckinghamshire border.

I suspect that the family, like many others in Tring, were non-conformists, probably Baptists, and I note that none of the above children were baptised at Tring parish church, which is indexed on the British Vital Records CD between 1875 and 1885. They may have used the Ebenezer Chapel in Chapel Street (which backs onto Henry Street) for which, unfortunately, no records appear to have survived.

The 1882 Kelly's Directory lists Alfred Gower as a marine store dealer at 25(? final digit on my photocopy unclear but definitely not 4) Henry Street, Tring. (I think in Hertfordshire context the term marine store dealer may be another was of describing what we would now describe as a junk shop.)

The 1851 census lists what appears to be an unusual household living at Brookend (now Brook Street) in Tring:

Samuel GOWER






Phyllis GOWER





Wendover, Bucks





Straw Plaiter






Straw Plaiter


William PRICE




Silk Thrower


Alfred GOWER


















This is a case which demonstrates why it essential to check the microfilm of the original census book as it is clear that a 32 year old Samuel Gower cannot be the father of 21 year old Ann Price. My guess is that the check marks in the census book (made when extracting the statistics) partially obscures the age - and a close examination would show that the correct figure is 52. This would seem likely as the IGI at familysearch lists a Samuel Gower marrying a Phillis Chapman in nearby Wendover, Bucks, on 17th August, 1818.

There are various possibilities by my suggested interpretation is that baby Emma is the daughter of unmarried Jane Gower, while Sarah Price is the daughter of William and Ann Price (nee Gower). Alfred Gower might be a son of Ann (born before she married William Price) or the son of a very young Jane. Obviously you will be interest in Alfred - and to get further you will have to buy his birth certificate.

Because of the apparent non-conformist background you will probably find a dearth of key records before civil registration was introduced in 1837. For this reason you should get the most relevant post July 1837 certificates and check the microfilms for 1841, 1861 and 1871 (unfortunately these are not indexed) to find out as much as possible about the family. In fact some of the many Gowers in the 1881 census may well be children of Samuel and Phyllis Gower who had left home before 1851.

Angela Brown (ABrown4313 @t reported I have received my Birth Certificate as suggested for Alfred Gower who was living with his grandfather on the 1851 Census that you kindly sent me. His father is listed as being George Gower and his mother as Zilpah Gower (Nee Dickens) residing in Tring. Please do you have any further info for a George Gower as cannot find any George's in the 1851 Census or a Zilpah come to that. there is  Zelphia but do not want to assume it could be her until more found out about George. There is a George Gower who died in Mar 1874 in Berkhampstead.

The first thing to realise is that Zilpah is an Old Testament name from the Book of Genesis. Zilpah bore children to Jacob. The Baptist movement was very strong in the area two hundred years ago (there are still three Baptist churches operating in Tring) and they often gave their children the more unusual Old Testament names - and unfortunately this almost certainly means that there will be no surviving baptismal records. The use of the name Zilpah virtually confirms that this is the case

The fact that Alfred was living with his grandparents at the time of the 1851 census may be significant and it would be interesting to know (from the birth certificate) whether three week old Emma Gower was the illegitimate daughter of 17 year old Jane Gower, or whether she was another child of George and Zilpah. If the later was the case the fact that Emma and Alfred were not with their mother might indicate a problem - such as that Zilpah had died in child birth (in which case there should be no problem in finding a death certificate.)

You don't mention the address or father's occupation, both of which should have been on Alfred's birth certificate, and which might give clues to what is going on. For instance if George worked on the canals he may well have spent the census night anywhere along what is now called the Grand Union Canal. The address would probably not be very precise, but if it was this might also give a clue or two in trying to find where he should have been in the 1851 census.

If Samuel and Phyllis were Alfred's grandparents we can be certain that George Gower married Zilpah Dickens after 1837 and presumably before 1847, when Alfred was born. As Zilpah Dickens is an unusual name it should be possible to get a copy of the marriage certificate - although you might need to look through several years of the GRO indexes. This would confirm George's father's name and give you Zilpah's father's name and occupation.

You note that a  Zelphia was married to a Charles Gower according to the 1851 transcription. It could be worth checking the microfilm of the original to see if it is a transcription error. Some enumerator's books are virtually impossible to read and to give an example I once misinterpreted an appallingly written "William" as "Miller". Perhaps a "George" on the census returns has been misread as "Charles."  However it is unlikely as James Gower (2 in 1851) was living with Charles and Zilpah Gower in the 1881 census. It is perhaps more likely that the error might be on your copy of Alfred's birth certificate - see A Comedy of Errors). If Alfred's birth certificate gives George the same or similar occupation as Charles it could be worth looking into. In fact if you search for the marriage of Zilpah Dickins you may find that she married a Charles Gower and not a George Gower.

In the circumstances it would be well worth checking the unindexed microfilms of the 1861 and 1871 censuses for Tring to see who was living with Charles and Zelphia/Zilpah in those years.

February 2002

Angela Brown (ABrown4313 @t  Hi Chris, After a short break I am back again and have an update for you on my progress.

Although on Alfred's birth Certificate, it states that the Father was George Gower, I have since received Zilpah's Marriage Certificate and this states that she married a Charles Gower, in 1846 in Tring, (Same year as Alfred's Birth,) So could his name be Charles George or George Charles ???

He may have had two given names - but that was not common among the lower classes at that period. If you got the certificate from the central GRO files it may be a copying error and it might be worth contacting HALS to see if their copy says the same thing. (See my earlier reference to A Comedy of Errors.) Alfred's father's name should also be on Alfred's marriage certificate so that is worth checking.

On all future census Charles and Zilpah are noted. So now have managed to get all the way back to Charles' Father Samuel who married Phyliss Chapman, in Wendover, but have now hit a brick wall as to who is Samuel's Father (Any Suggestions). Samuel was born in 1799 in Tring.

Because it is very likely that this Gower family were Baptists there may be no surviving religious documents which explicitly record who Samuel's father was. There may be other documents which provide clues but they may be less accessible (i.e. not microfilmed and only accessible in HALS). Because the Gower name is comparatively common in the area it may be difficult to be sure you have the right one. For instance there is a "Valuation of property in the parish of Tring made by commissioners under the Inclosure Act (1797)" which is reprinted on Sheila Richards "A History of Tring". This includes a house occupied by Ab: (Abel?) Gower, who might?? be Samuel's father or grandfather.

 Also have found that on a Steve Bidman has used all the info you gave in his family tree and has got all date's wrong. He has put in nearly word for word what you sent me but as we know at the time you were only giving me suggestions. This seems wrong to me, because it will put other peoples tree out.

I can only suggest that you read The Dangers of Internet Genealogy. There are of people who are more interested in collecting large numbers of names than in getting it right. A couple of years ago someone asked me a question on the earlier version of this forum and it turned out that someone had copied part of one of my own trees without the cautionary question marks I had used to indicate uncertainty. This had then been copied by others who had not checked sources - until one of them happened, by chance, to ask me ... I suspect that by now several people have posted the information somewhere on the web!


Leila Smith (dpandla @t commented:  What an amazing web site this is, I have just found it from a posting in the Bucks Rootweb site. There was a question on there about the Gower Family in Tring, and amazingly enough I realised that the family in question was that of my gt gt gt grandparents, Samuel and Phillis Gower. I have quite a few Hertfordshire interests, but they have rather been on a back burner for years.

Finding this site has reawakened my resolve to do some thing about restarting my Herts research. Apart from the Gowers, their daughter Ann, was my ancestor, and she and her husband went to the London area soon after the '51 census., but my other Herts interests are Priests, Grooms, and Flitts of Abbots Langley. I am determined to come to HRO this year and get going!.

Hi Leila - It is nice when people find that they have common ancestors through this site - and you and Angela should combine forces to tackle what may prove to be a difficult problem of Samuel's parents.

March 2002

Angela Brown (ABrown4313 @t writes:  Hi Chris nice to hear from you here is the following:

Alfred Gower married Sarah Gurney 1869 In the Ebenezer Chapel [Chapel Street] Tring
    Father Charles Gower    Witness Zilpah Gower & John Gower

Charles Gower Married Zilpah Dicken 1846
    Father Samuel Gower    Witness Ruth Gower & William Batchelor

I have all census now and all dates match

So this is the conclusion I have come up (Please don't prove me wrong)

Samuel Gower Married Phyllis Chapman 1818        Children:
        Charles born 1828 married Zilpah
        Anne born 1830 Married William Price
        Jane born 1834
        Ruth born ? married William Batchelor 1847
        Edward No info as yet
Have not found children 1818-1828 sure there must be some

Charles and Zilpah had 8 Children
        Alfred born 1846 Married Sarah Gurney
        James Born 1849
        John born 1852
        George born 1854
        Joseph born 1857
        Edward born 1859
        Herbert born 1866
All these children are listed on 1871 married with their own children but
need to prove it

Alfred & Sarah had 9 children
        Samuel 1871
        Alfred 1872 Married Jane Hill 1893
        Amos 1874
        Arthur 1876  Married Alice ?
        Charles 1878
        Wilfred 1880
        Leonard 1885
Have found these marriage but again want to check

If you remember the problem we had was that Alfred was living with Samuel and
Phyliss on the 1851 census. I sent for the birth Cert it said father George Gower Mother Zilpah

It is either that there was a George Gower who got Zilpah pregnant and died
or that the birth certificate should say Charles is the Father He is listed
as father on Alfreds Marriage Cert.

Once you have made head or tail of this will be interested in your thoughts.

Who got someone pregnant is totally irrelevant to what is written on a birth certificate which give either the name of husband and wife or the name of the unmarried mother.

As I see it, so far we have only two references to anyone called George Gower in North West Herts of a possibly relevant date. One is on the birth certificate of someone called Alfred Gower and the other is a death registration of a George Gower registered in the Berkhamsted area in 1874 whose age we do not know - and, for example, may have been an infant. If we ignore this death (at least until checked) we only have one piece of paper which refers to George Gower.

If we assume all the documents are correct we would appear to have a George Gower married to a Zilpah Dicken with a son Alfred and a Charles Gower married to a different Zilpah Dicken who also had a son Alfred born at about the same date. However we have no evidence for two Mrs Zilpah Gower nee Dicken or for two Alfred Gower. The dilemma only arises if we assume that one word on one copy of the birth certificate is correct. Earlier I said "If you got the certificate from the central GRO files it may be a copying error and it might be worth contacting HALS to see if their copy says the same thing. (See my earlier reference to A Comedy of Errors.)" Have you followed this up??? In fact there should be another copy which I believe will now be with the Registrar of Births Marriages and Deaths, The Bury, Queensway, Hemel Hempstead. If the "George" on the copy you have is incorrect the copy at Hemel Hempstead is more likely to be correct. After all "George" and "Charles" both start with a similar capital letter and are of similar length and the "George" on the GRO copy may have been manually transcribed 5 or 6 times there is plenty of scope for a transcription error.

Another possibility is that Zilpah called her husband Charles by the pet name "George" in the same way that my father in law, Walter, was called "John" by his wife and no-one else!

If checking the certificate held at Hemel Hempstead does not clarify the matter I suggest that you record Alfred's father as Charles but note the ambiguity and keep an eye open for an further relevant information.

April 2002

Angela Brown (ABrown4313 @t of Malmesbury, Wiltshire, has found the death of Samuel Gower Aged 64 in 1863 so This is my Samuel born 1799. On his death Cert it states that he was a postman and living in Frogmore street. Phillis died 1869 in Akeman street aged 74, So this is his wife born in 1795.

I spent time at Hals looking at the 1861 census bit could not find Phillis and Samuel but will look again as I could have missed them. The sad thing is that I think your are right that we will not find any records of his Birth. BUT do you think that the Postman Job could give us any leads.

I seem to remember reading an article about the Post Office records - and I think they have their own archives which would be worth following up.

QUESTION There are 4 Gowers in the 1851 census that COULD? be Samuel's brothers. would none of them have birth record if they were, and does this not mean my tree cannot go back any further.

It is often possible to go back, despite the lack of baptismal register entries, etc. However there is a significant degree of luck - both in terms of what was recorded and what has survived. You may be lucky or you might have top spend thousands of hours trawling through possibly relevant manuscripts without finding anything. For instance I mentioned (above) a reference to an Ab: Gower and HALS may well have many other such manuscripts. If all the relevant information relating to Gowers and their relatives is extracted it may be possible to say who, for example, succeeded who as tenants of a particular property. The problem is that information can turn up anywhere, and access may be difficult. Earlier this year a large trunk full of legal documents relating to the manor of Tring was discovered in an Aylesbury solicitor's office. It has not yet been decided where the collection will be housed and it could well take several years to calendar and index - and may contain some relevant information. Another collection of Tring documents, which is part of a collection of papers of a Tring solicitor, is housed in a university library in the USA! The location of other papers from this collection is unknown.

P.S. Have visited Hals and as you suggested Alfred's birth certificate was incorrect and should have read Charles so another comedy of errors.

A good example of the types of errors that can occur - and the importance of check all sources when there can be any doubt.

August 2002

Matt Wheeler of the Dacorum Heritage Trust writes: I've recently been going through some of the Brown & Merry [a long established Tring estate agent] material which is on loan to Tring Local History Soc. I've got some papers relating to a court case in 1879 when a couple of Tring men were tried for stealing lead from plumber, Edward KnightAlfred Gower, described as a "marine store dealer", was convicted for receiving stolen goods and was sentenced to two months with hard labour.

I thought your contact would be interested - I can do copies if she's interested.

John Gower and Son's waggon, photographed in 1910 at the junction of Brook Street and London Road. The Robin Hood can be seen on the left. The Business was founded in 1876 and in the early 1900s was trading from premises in Queen Street and Western Road, dealing in coal, coke, wood and furniture removals. Before the First World War Gowers had sixteen horses but several were taken for war work. Travelling to Manchester or Leeds to make deliveries by rail the horses would be put in a horse box on the train and the pantechnicon on rolling stock,

 From "Around Tring" - Tempus Publishing 2001

(The book contains a number of other early 20th century pictures relating to the Gower family - but how they relate to the families described above is not clear.)


March 2004

Mark Turney (markhturney @t of Newbiggin by the Sea, Cumbria, writes asking about Jane Gower the daughter of Samuel. He believes that she married a Moses Turney in Tring (and the 1881 census shows he was married to a Jane of the right age). However familysearch records him marrying a Sara Gower (a transcription error??) so the marriage certificate will need to be checked before I can take his question further. If anyone has seen the birth certificates of Samuel Gower's grandchildren Emma and Alfred this would be useful.

Matt Wheeler of the Dacorum Heritage Trust writes: I only have one ref to a Samuel Gower who is listed as a tenant on a sales particular for the sale of Tring Park Estate in October 1857. 

Brenda Collins (brendaannc @t writes showing how useful this site can be. Hi Chris, Thanks, I have long been a visitor to your fantastic site. But it is only recently, I have found the Gower connection. The messages,I found on your site, were of great assistance, and I have already been in touch, with the people concerned. Much to my advantage. 2 new distant cousins found.

Mark Turney (markhturney @t provided an update: I have now got a copy of the marriage certificate for my Great Grandfather, Moses Turney, and Jane Gower. It shows that they were married in Tring Parish Church on 13th. Sept, 1851. His father is shown as William Turney and her father as Samuel Gower.

With regards to the point about Moses marrying a Sara. I think this was possibly a transcription error. The way Jane has been written looks very much like Sara. By the way, you were right to question my statement that Moses was born in Tring. He was, in fact, born in Wigginton.


There are web pages for Tring and Wigginton

See also: GOWER, Tring, circa 1800

If you can add to the information given above tell me.