Oxford History: Mayors & Lord Mayors


William Richard Gowers (1910–1985)

Mayor of Oxford 1954/5

William Richard Gowers was born in Kensington on 21 March 1910.

His father Ernest Arthur Gowers (later Sir Ernest) was born in Marylebone in 1880, the son of the neurologist Sir William Richard Gowers.

His mother Constance Macgregor Greer was born at Balleymoney in Antrim in c.1881.

William's parents were married in Ballymoney in the second quarter of 1905 and had three other children in Kensington: Margaret Mary Gowers (1907), John Manwaring Gowers (1906, died soon after birth), and Eileen A. Gowers (1913).

The 1911 census shows William (1) living at 1 Campden Hill Square, West Kensington (a large thirteen-roomed house) with his father Ernest (30), who was described as a Junior Clerk and the Private Secretary to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the India Office, his mother Constance (29), and his sister Margaret (3). His wife's aunt Miss Marion Fletcher Green (59) was paying a visit, and they had three servants (a nurse, parlourmaid, and cook).

After studying at Clare College, Cambridge, Gowers became a solicitor.

On 9 August 1934 at St Peter & St Paul Church in Wincanton, Somerset, William Richard Gowers married Stella Elizabeth Mary Pelly. She was the only daughter of the Revd Douglas Pelly of Balsam House, Wincanton, who performed the ceremony. A full description of the wedding appeared in The Times on 10 August 1934. They had two children:

  • A son (birth registration not found)
  • Ann E. M. Gowers (born in Islington near the end of 1938).

On 21 March 1940 Gowers joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve as a temporary Lieutenant.

By 1945 William Richard Gowers was a senior partner at Herbert & Gowers & Co., solicitors, at 6 King Edward Street.

In 1946 he was elected to Oxford City Council, and was made an Alderman in 1952.

William Richard Gowers was elected Mayor of Oxford (for 1954/5), and to mark the 600th anniversary of St Scholastica’s Day which fell during his mayoralty he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree by the University (and in return the Vice-Chancellor A. H. Smith received the freedom of the city).

Gowers retired from the Council in 1956. He joined the Board of Governors of the United Oxford Hospitals, which later became the Area Health Authority, and in 1973 he became Chairman of that Authority. He was awarded the CBE in 1976.

By 1985 he and his wife Stella had moved to Winterwell, Aston Tirrold.

† William Richard Gowers died at Winterwell, Aston Tirrold at the age of 74 on 21 January 1985.

His effects came to £350,269.

Herbert & Gowers solicitors moved to Botley in 1999 and is now part of HMG Law.

His widow Stella Elizabeth Mary Gowers died in 2006.

See also:

  • Oxford Mail, 32 December 1976, p. 3 (awarded CBE)
  • Oxford Mail, 22 January 1985, p. 7 and Oxford Times, 25 January 1985, p. 2 (obituary)

©Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 1 December, 2018

Oxford Mayors home Small Shark Oxford History home