The exhibition at Portsmouth City Museum in 2004
What did the exhibition include?
The exhibition told the story of Thomas’s life and work and included:
- copies of his plans for the Vicarage in Prees, Shropshire;
Special exhibits included:
- a virtual tour of Owen’s Southsea*;
*A CD of the virtual tour of Owen’s Southsea is available. Please see The Saleroom section of this website.
Many visitors to the exhibition admired the beautiful textile work made by 'Southsea in Stitches' depicting Owen's Southsea during the 1860s. At the end of the exhibition the Thomas Ellis Owen Festival Committee donated this to the City Museum where it is still on display.
Textile depicting Owen's Southsea in the 1860s.
Visitors to the exhibition looking at the maps of Portsmouth displayed on Steve Coulson’s ‘steam engine’ automaton.
This miniature Victorian Architect's office was made by Liz Wright, a teacher from Southsea. She included reduced copies of original photos and portraits of Owen family members, drawings of Owen properties, old fashioned architects' drawing implements and many other fascinating artefacts.
This scale model of Portland Terrace was made by Roland Rendle, a professional
What did the exhibition leave out?
The City Keys
The identical initials of Jacob Owen and his brother, John, may account for some of the errors that have occurred in published accounts of their lives. For example, it was widely believed that Jacob was the master blacksmith who produced Portsmouth's 'City Keys', despite all the evidence suggesting he was an engineer. There was evidence that John was a master blacksmith though and when the Thomas Ellis Owen research group compared the signature on the keys with those of John and Jacob it was found to be more similar to that of John.
Martletwy in Wales
Here are Thomas’s designs for the school and schoolhouse at Martletwy in Wales. He even designed some of the furniture for the school. The school closed during the 1950s but the building is still there today and reveals that the original designs were modified to enlarge the windows so, when built, it looked different from how Thomas planned it.
Jacob Owen's grant of arms
This is the coat of arms that was granted to Thomas's father, Jacob Owen, in 1841.
The mystery of Thomas’s remains
Newspaper reports of Thomas Owen’s funeral told us he had been buried in St James’s Churchyard in Milton with his father-in-law, James White Higgins. Three years later his wife, Catherine, was also buried there. In recent years, however, only a few graves remain and none of them are related to the Owen family. Members of the Thomas Ellis Owen Research Group struggled to read the old church minutes in Portsmouth Records Office, badgered the vicar to look for missing records and asked the diocesan offices in Portsmouth and Winchester for information, to no avail.
Flats had been built next to the church in 1977 and, having reached an impasse with the earlier records, the researchers—in a moment of enlightenment—wondered whether the graveyard may have been intact until then. A call to the Portsmouth planning department and a letter to a local solicitor proved they were at last on the homeward track, although the graveyard had been dismantled long before 1977.
Many of the tombstones had become derelict and dangerous, so in 1955 the majority were removed and the graves grassed over. Although Thomas’s grave was unmarked by then, those of his wife and father-in-law were on a plan of the churchyard which seems to suggest that all three are probably still there – under the lawn.
The lawn at St James's church in Milton, Portsmouth.