John Mowlem (1788-1868)

John Mowlem was born at Swanage, Dorset where he was baptised on November 9, 1788 the son of John & Hannah Mowlam, and worked in the stone quarries of the Isle of Purbeck with his father and three brothers.

In 1807 he moved to London to join the Government Mason’s Department and in 1816 he was promoted to general foreman. His work included Nelson’s Tomb in the crypt of St Paul’s Somerset House and the King’s Mews, Charing Cross. He lived at several addresses in London, all close to canals, the industrial highways of the time.

In 1822 he established himself in business as a mason first near Pimlico Basin and shortly afterwards and Paddington Wharf (now known as Little Venice) which became the head office during his lifetime. Pimlico Basin was demolished to make way for Victoria Station which Mowlem extensively enlarged in 1907.

Later he enlisted two partners, George Burt and Joseph Freeman to form Mowlem, Burt and Freeman.

In 1840 Messrs Mowlem, Burt and Freeman secured their first major contract to repave Blackfriars Bridge with a Telford pavement of granite setts – the first of its kind. The contract contained a heavy penalty for late completion with no stage payments. After this success the firm later went on to repave London Bridge and the Strand.

Anticipating a steady demand for stone material in Victorian London, Mowlem bought a granite quarry in Guernsey and a fleet of ships specifically to service the expansion of the construction industry.

In 1861 the first tramways appeared in the outskirts of London and in 1878 Mowlem built the Northumberland Avenue tramway, so beginning Mowlem’s long association with public transport which has lasted to the present day. Mowlem was later heavily involved in replacing these early horse drawn trams with electrified tramways. John Mowlem himself sadly did not live to see these developments as he died aged 80 in 1868.

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2 Comments

  1. February 25, 2008 at 4:30 am

    […] John Mowlem, the founder of that firm, rose from very humble quarry beginnings, but traced his descent from one Durandus de Moulham, who so far back as the time of William the Conqueror held the manor of Moulham at Godlingstone, between Studland and Swanage. The manorial service by which Durandus held that property was the finding of a carpenter to work about the great tower of Corfe Castle, whenever it required repair and the king put in his claim. In the time of Henry the Fifth, the De Moulhams and their manor parted company, for their direct line or elder branch ended in an heiress, who married one Robert Rempston, and took the property out of the family. In the course of centuries the aristocratic De Moulhams became plain plebeian Mowlems, without a rood of land to justify that territorial ” De,” which they therefore very properly dropped and discontinued the use of. But time works many practical ironies, and not only brought about the extinction of the Rempstons, but the upheaval again of the Mowlems, in the person of this strenuous contractor, who, with prosperity and opportunity serving, succeeded in bringing back a portion of the lands his family had lost over four hundred years earlier. He, however, died in 1868, aged 79, childless, and so the Mowlem reappearance was brief. […]

  2. john shearer said,

    June 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    from sweden I wish to hear from my best friend john leyboune mowlems
    and wish to contact him
    john shearer contract clifford chance london wall


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