Fowler’s Rose

The ‘Tudor Rose’ wood carving (together with provenance presumably provided by C. B. Fowler on the plaque below) is encased in a very heavy box made of oak and glass. This was generously given to the author a few years ago by his friend, Gordon Poppy, who acquired it sometime following the closure and demolition of the York Hotel (1929-1969), previously the Hotel Vancouver Annex (1911-1929). Author’s photo.

This carving of a Tudor Rose was taken from the tomb of the Duke of York, Tewkesbury Abbey, England, in the year of 1881 when repairs were being made to the tomb. The same year it was given to Major C. B. Fowler, FRIBA., now of this city, but at that time an architect of renown in Cardiff, Wales, by William Clark of Llandaff, Wales, one of the best known wood carvers in England and Wales in that period. The carving is now the valued property of The York Hotel, Ltd.

Text on plaque beneath carving.

Provenance Questions

The provenance offered for the wood carving shown above is provided by the accompanying plaque beneath it. I am assuming that the text for the plaque came, largely, from then-Vancouver architect and giver of the Rose to the York Hotel, Major C. B. Fowler.

Tudor Rose?

The carving appears to me to my Canadian eyes to resemble a Tudor Rose (see link for criteria), although there is no crown denoting the rose as being of the House of Tudor.

William Clark, Welshman?

There was a Welshman by the name of William Clark who lived in Llandaff in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and who, by the time of the 1911 census identified his occupation as a Sculptor Builder.

Duke of York’s Tomb at Tewkesbury Abbey?

It appears very doubtful that the rose came from the tomb of a Duke of York, although it’s possible that it came from Tewkesbury Abbey. I say this because I cannot find any online evidence that any of the (several) Dukes of York were buried in Tewkesbury Abbey. There is evidence that Tewkesbury Abbey underwent renovations in 1881, however. So it’s possible that the carving came from the Abbey at that time.

Major Charles Busteed Fowler

VPL 21042: Portrait of Major Charles Busteed Fowler. 1920. Dominion Photo.
Drawing of Grandview Drill Hall (not built). Province, 7 Aug 1915.

C. B. Fowler (1849-1941), FRIBA (Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects) was born in Cork, Ireland. He trained at the School of Art in Cork. Much of his early architectural career was spent in Wales. He was apparently having a hard time finding commissions by about 1900 and left Wales (and his first wife, Mary Elizabeth Martin) in 1904 to move to London to search (not very successfully) for work.

In 1904 and again in 1907, Fowler was charged in Wales on a warrant for neglecting to monetarily support his wife (who was living – apart from Fowler – in Wales) (Cardiff Evening Express 4 Nov 1904; Cardiff Weekly Mail, 7 Dec 1907).

It isn’t entirely clear if Fowler ever completely disentangled himself from his money and spousal issues, but in 1908 he sailed for New York on the Adriatic. Fowler spent five years in America, getting the occasional commission. Finally, in 1913, he filed a petition to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. His petition was denied for “lack of prosecution.”* Fowler married his second wife, Lillian S. sometime around 1909 (she was mentioned in his 1910 US Census record). It isn’t clear whether she came to the U.S. with Charles; according to the Census, she was born in Wales. She was 25 — half his age.

The Fowlers came to Vancouver in 1913. Here, he entered into partnership with R.T. Perry, a local architect who had articled with Fowler in Wales.

Fowler designed the Oddfellow’s Hall at 1433 West 8th Avenue (it is still there) (Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada). He and Perry also submitted a drawing for the Harding Memorial competition in 1924, but his submission wasn’t chosen (local sculptor, Charles Marega, won the competition) (Province, 9 Dec 1924). Fowler and Perry also submitted drawings for the Grandview Drill Hall in 1914. But, although this submission was accepted, the Federal Government ultimately decided not to build the Hall and the land was turned over to the City of Vancouver which developed it into (extant) Grandview Park on Commercial Drive.

It isn’t clear in what year Fowler made his gift of the Tudor Rose to the York Hotel. There is no record of that in local press accounts that I could find. However, it would have been sometime between 1929 (when the former Hotel Vancouver Annex became the “York Hotel”) and 1941 (the year of Fowler’s death). Probably shortly after the Annex became the York, so that would be in the early 1930s. It is pretty clear that the rationale for the gift of the Tudor Rose to the Hotel was the Duke of York connection, which in the light of what I was able to find, today, seens pretty doubtful.

Major Fowler lived to be 91 and he was a press darling, especially in his later years. He had the vanity that sometimes accompanies very old age. But there is no question that the man was fit. A few days before his 80th birthday, he hiked the Grouse Grind (although it wasn’t then called that). And he was known for competing in Vancouver Sun walking marathons. In his 80s, he came in fifth in one of those races.

Lillian married William H. Martin in 1960; she died in 1964.

The Rose

It seems to me as though C. B. Fowler had a somewhat muddled understanding of some of the history of the carving which he gave to the York Hotel. It is possible that the rose was removed from Tewkesbury Abbey in 1881 and acquired by William Clark either in Wales or in Tewkesbury. Clark may well have passed the carving onto Fowler in Wales, when Fowler was working there in the mid-1880s or later. The only aspect of Fowler’s story that certainly seems to be wrong is that the rose came from the tomb of a Duke of York at the Abbey.

Note

*Robert, of WestEndVancouver.wordpress.com, looked into Fowler’s money and spousal troubles and his life in America.

Robert has said that “want of prosecution generally means a failure to take legal steps within a certain period of time…The term may have different meanings based on the specific geographic jurisdiction, area of law, or the context in which it is being used.”

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