George Edward Stowe was born in 1891 in Leamington, where his father was a builder and joiner. He too became a carpenter and joiner and at the end of the Great War, Cecil Smith of 58 Bath Street lent George £50 to start his own building business. By the 1930s, George Stowe’s business was considered one of the biggest and best in the district, with joinery and cabinet workshops, employing specialists in shopfitting, stonemasons and all other trades. There was an office at 111 Regent Street and an extensive building yard in Satchwell Street.
In those early days, scaffolding consisted simply of timber poles with the bases of the verticals held in barrels of sand, and the horizontals tied to them with chains. Ladders were also made of wood, and those of George Stowe were painted a very distinctive shade of red. George became well known not just for the quality of his firm’s work, but also for saying: “I don’t want to see any ladders on the Parade but mine!”
The head carpenter’s log book, in the Jo Clark collection, reveals the extent of the business, with work contracts in Leamington, Alcester and Stratford as well as all the surrounding villages. Although Stowe and Company were not responsible for any major buildings in Leamington itself, they were for many years the firm to go to for first class refurbishments of any kind. In 1940, amongst the head carpenter’s list of jobs including cupboards, door frames, staircases, shop fittings and so on, were bunks for Arnold Lodge, blackouts for Beauchamp Avenue, gates for Regent Garage and camp gates for Budbrooke I T C. A photograph from the collection shows some of the Stowe and Company workforce at the completion of the Lockheed Brake Co building in 1942. A handwritten note on the back states that the building began in a bare field in 1929, and was finished only during WW2.
An example of Stowe and Company’s workmanship and attention to detail was revealed some years ago in the redecoration of the Pump Room, where the lining paper to the ceiling of the main room was found to have been hung with torn edges, so that the join between the sheets would be less visible, – although the joins themselves were so high above the floor they could not be seen anyway!
When Mr Stowe died in 1952, his business partner Eric Haiser carried on until he too died, and the business eventually closed in 1971. A sale catalogue for the 4th March 1971 describes the buildings, contents and builders’ yard at 33-41 Satchwell Street, – now occupied by the Royal Priors shops.
The photograph above shows some of the senior workforce, Messrs Noon, Wass, Peeters, Archer and Berry, standing, and Messrs Heath, Lamsdale, Hinks and Rickards, seated.
Kit Smith 2012
Photographs courtesy of Jo Clark