Joseph Fowles
1810-1878


Joseph Fowles died in 1878, after 40 years in Australia. At the time of his voyage on the "Fortune", he was about 28 years of age. (Captain Lister himself only turned 35 at the end of the voyage, and Fowles views a fellow passenger as "very old", being 60-ish.)

The following are various unattributed notes found by JCC in Mitchell Library files, Jan. 2003. Undoubtedly, further research on the man would turn up more. See entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. An illustration of a George Street (Sydney) building which was owned by Mary Reibey and comprised four shops and dwellings, based on an illustration in Joseph Fowles' book entitled "Sydney in 1848", is to be found on the Australian $20 note.

JCC Jan. 2003





Joseph Fowles (1810-1878), artist, arrived in Sydney from London on 30 August 1838, accompanied by his wife, as a cabin passenger aboard the "Fortune". He became famous for his drawings and paintings of ships and shipping, Sydney buildings (see the 40 illustrations of the series Sydney in 1848) and horses. He was a teacher of art at various institutions, including the King's School, Parramatta.

He died, after a third paralytic stroke, on 25 June 1878, and left a widow and two married sons, the elder of whom was also an artist, and who inherited his father's practice.

The artist had a number of handicaps, some physical, some the obvious ills of an overworked mind. He found much comfort in spiritualist seances in Parramatta. He often quarrelled with his friends over his interest in this subject.

In 1845, the family moved from Parramatta to Sydney, where a studio was opened at 5 Harrington Street. Mrs Fowles refused to allow him to carry on his seances at this address, so he used to travel back to Parramatta for the purpose.

On occasion, this obsession caused fits. On 25 June 1878, he took the train from Sydney to Fairfield, where at a friend's house, a seance was held after dinner. Fowles had a fit in the darkened room. His friend galloped to Parramatta for the doctor, but when he returned, found Fowles entangled around the leg of the table in a pool of perspiration. [This does not accord with the obituary but "de mortuis nil nisi bonum". JC]

During his life, Fowles assisted the growing cultural movements in the Colony. He was a likeable man, according to his many pupils. Few understood his reason for the "religion".




The following four articles appear on the Mitchell Library's microfilm, together with JF's diary. There is no indication of their provenance.



We learn with regret that Mr. Joseph Fowles, the late City Surveyor, died yesterday morning, having sunk under the effects of a protracted illness. Mr. Fowles had numerous and sincere friends in this city, of which he has been a resident for over ten years. Mr. Fowles was suffering from the earlier stages of the malady which ultimately carried him off when the decision to remove him from his position as City Surveyor was arrived at, and there is no doubt that the anxiety and mental suffering this occasioned him had a most injurious effect. The necessity of making some effort to provide for those dependent on his exertions caused him to leave his sick-chamber imprudently soon after the alleviation of his more acute symptoms, and his constitution proved incapable of sustaining the strain. Mr. Fowles was secretary of the Queensland Turf Club, and took a lively interest in sporting matters, although, we believe, he never speculated. His funeral will take place to-day, at half-past 2 o'clock and will be conducted under the direction of the Masonic body, of which he was a member. The chaplain of the order comes from Ipswich on purpose to officiate on the occasion.




The funeral of Mr. Joseph Fowles, late City Surveyor, which took place yesterday, was attended by a large concourse of the personal friends and acquaintances of the deceased gentleman. Mr. Fowles was a Past Master of the North Australian Masonic Lodge, and the members of the order assembled in great force to pay a tribute of respect to their departed brother. The body was removed during the day from the late residence of the deceased to the Masonic Hall, from whence, after the performance of the ceremonies usual on these occasions, the funeral moved about half-past 3 o'clock in the afternoon. The procession was headed by about 100 brethren of the order, in Masonic clothing, the hearse following, and the rear being brought up by a large number of the general public, on foot and in vehicle. Amongst those present were several aldermen, ex-aldermen, Corporation officers and workmen who for many years were under the supervision of the deceased. The procession moved from the hall up Ann-street to George-street, and out to the old Church of England Cemetery. The interment took Place with Masonic ceremonies, the Chaplain of the order, the Rev. Mr. Williams, D.G.C., E.C., assisted by the Revs. T. Jones and Creyke, officiating.




The Late Mr Fowles

On the 25th of June last [1878], a quiet worker for the good of Sydney went to his rest. Those who make a great dsiplay in life are not always the most valuable men. They may add point and attraction to hard work, but the hard work has to be done by some one, and is of the utmost value, which honour is due to those who do it. A quiet indefatigable worker, especially in art, is a man who may never come prominently to the fore, and not infrequently may bitterly exclaim with Virgil, "Hos ego versiculo feci; tulit alter honores." Such a man, without the bitterness, was the late Mr. Joseph Fowles. Many years ago he arrived in New South wales, and commenced his career as a teacher of drawing. In 1848 he published a work containing sketches of the principal buildings and views in and about Sydney. That series is now of extreme value - of far more probably than the painstaking artist imagined it would be. The progress of Australia, and the extraordinary addition to its importance as a British colony dating from the discovery of gold, have altogether altered the aspect of its principal cities. The Sydney of 1848 is barely recognizable in the Sydney of 30 years after, and it is necessary in order to form a fair estimate of its growth to refer to these old records. Hence, historically, the value of Mr Fowles's best known and most ambitious work. Generally he confined himself to the hard work of teaching drawing, and as a master there were few to excel him, while his gentle manners endeared him to his pupils. For many years prior to his death he was employed under our various educational schemes; first as a teacher under the National system, and, after the passing of Sir Henry Parkes's Act, under the Council of Education. He taught drawing also in the Sydney Grammar School, and at one time published a series of elementary lessons on the use of the crayon and pencil, which are now of great practical value. His death is regretted by his many old pupils, and by all those who had, like them, the pleasure of his friendship.





Death of Mr Fowles. - One by one, death is snapping asunder the links of that chain which connects the past with the present. Another old and esteemed resident of Sydney joined the majority early on Tuesday morning - we allude to Mr. Joseph Fowles, the well-known artist and drawing-master to the Council of Education, who expired at the residence of Mr. Matthews, the head teacher of the William-street School. Mr. Fowles had had two paralytic strokes previous to that; but when he went to Mr. Matthews' house, he appeared to be in his customary health, and very much enjoyed the evening with some friends. Some time after he retired, sounds were heard proceeding from his room, and Mr Matthews proceeded there, but the unfortunate gentleman was then past all human aid. Mr Fowles leaves a wife and young family besides several grown-up sons and daughters. Amongst the old residents of Sydney, Mr. Fowles was very favourably known as well for his artistic talent as for his genial kindly nature. In one sense he may be said to be the father of drawing in the city, for he was for many years drawing master to the old National Board of Education, and afterwards occupied the same position when the present Council of Education was instituted. He also taught the same art at King's School, Parramatta, and at the Sydney Grammar School, in addition to a number of other private establishments. As a painter of animals Mr. Fowles specially excelled, and many of the results of his brush are now greatly prized by their owners. The deceased gentleman has left a son who is a competent professor of his father's art. Some time ago, the late Mr. Fowles published a book illustrative of Sydney in its earlier and latter days. It is an interesting volume, and was not long since republished.