SKELTON STORY OF FORBIDDEN
Rev Crawford Townsend Bowen
1834 - 1908
|The following information has been kindly
provided by Dr Tony Nicholson, Lecturer in History at the University of
On moving into an old house in the High St, Brotton, N Yorks he found
in the attic a cache of old letters that reveal
this and many other fascinating stories.
In 1860 a new young Curate, the Rev Crawford Townsend Bowen,
aged 25, was appointed to the Skelton Parish.
He took holy orders in 1859 and was ordained a priest at York the next
He was from an aristocratic Norfolk family, and in these times people
thought much of their ancestral position.
His branch of the family had not inherited the land that in those times
brought in the wealth, but he enjoyed the patronage of those who had.
He had received a privileged education in the Arts, being, among other
things, the composer of Bowen's Te Deum and a lecturer in the Astronomy
of the day.
It is thought that he could well have been the artist who created the
above watercolour of Skelton Cross Green, which
was painted about this time.
The senior clergyman at Skelton was the Rev John Gardner, who resided
in the brand new Parsonage, which had been completed
the previous year.
Hannah Bowen. [nee Tate]
1841 - 1911.
|[When Skelton's population increased in the following years
due to the opening of the ironstone mines, it was the Rev
Gardner who was the moving force and financial contributor to the
building of the new Church in the High St.]
Crawford took lodgings further up North Terrace at the house
to the right of the Royal George, shown in the painting above with the
inn sign and carriage entrance.
This was a small sandstone cottage occupied by John Tate, a labourer
and carrier with his wife Mary and family.
What the sleeping arrangements were is left to the imagination.
The Tates had a 17 year old daughter, named Hannah, and for Crawford she proved "irresistible".
Despite the social requirements of the time, the opposition of his
family and the withdrawal of their patronage,
Crawford and Hannah were married at Skelton Church in 1860.
The Reverend Bowen no doubt exhorted the Skelton populace to uphold the
Laws of Moses and the Victorian values of the time,
but there is a suggestion that he could have gone to the altar at the
point of Mr Tate's shotgun for their
first child was born somewhat soon in Skelton in 1861. They went on to
have five children in all.
Crawford was curate at Skelton for two years and later held the same
position first at Guisborough, N Yorks and then
Gainford, near Darlington, Co Durham until 1870. In this year he
obtained the "living" at Bolam, Co Durham, where he was chiefly
responsible for the Church restoration and the foundation of the
He died in 1908 and must have had a strong attachment to the village of
Skelton, or perhaps came back here for family
reasons, for he is buried in Skelton Old Churchyard.
Hannah died in 1911 and she too lies there.
|The old letters found by Dr Tony Nicholson were left by
Crawford and Hannah's daughter-in-law, Annie Johnson.
She had married the Bowen's son Augustus, whose devious and unreliable
character was recognised even by his own mother.
He ended up committing suicide in Bolton, Lancs and poor Annie,
deserted and alone, renting the attic in Brotton, where her letters and
family photographs were found long after her own death.