Brighton and Beyond

A History of the Cowley Family

Reproduced by kind permission of The Royal Pavilion and Museums, Brighton & Hove

The Brighton Connection


As a child, and even in to my adult years, I was never aware of any family ‘chatter’ about Brighton.  I think that it was only after the death of my grandfather, Charles Leonard Cowley, that I became aware that he had been born in Brighton and, indeed, that he had a brother and a sister who were also born there.


When I started to look seriously at the family history and to try and verify and build on the work that my late uncle, Roy Cowley, had done, I quickly discovered that the male Cowley line was easily traceable back through some three generations, possibly four, in the Brighton area.


Finding the Links


Early in my family history ‘quest’ I found that Charles Leonard Cowley (my paternal grandfather) was one of three children from the third marriage of his father, Francis Cowley, and the second marriage of his mother, Charlotte Louisa Woolley.  Francis was first married to Mary Anne Tugwell with whom he had two children, he then married Mary Ann Hart with whom he had a further two children, and finally he married Charlotte.  Charlotte was first married to William Naylor with whom she had three children.  So my grandfather had one brother and one sister plus five step brothers and two step sisters.  What a complicated line!  From my research all were born in the Brighton area.


My great grandfather, Francis Cowley (b abt 1837) came from a family of eleven - the children of Francis Cowley (b abt 1806) and Emma Woolgar - again all born in and around Brighton.  Francis Cowley (the 1806 one!) took over and expanded the bakery business in Pool Valley, Brighton that had been established in the late 1700s by the Streeter family. You can read about that


Rottingdean and Ovingdean


As you explore this website you will discover that there are very strong family links, not only with Brighton itself, but also with the villages of Rottingdean and Ovingdean. Many members of the Cowley family were not only born there but some also worked as farmers in the Rottingdean and Ovingdean areas.  Several are buried in the churchyards of St Margaret's Church in Rottingdean and St Wulfran’s Church in Ovingdean.


A Dead End!


The Brighton connection is quite clear but sadly we come to a grinding halt in the mid to late-1700s!  There is some evidence to suggest that the parents of Francis Cowley (b abt 1806) were Thomas Cowley or Coley (b abt 1772) and Susannah Scrase (b abt 1761).  Unfortunately parish records for this period are of little use to us and by the time of the first census in 1841 many of the people born in the mid-1700s had either died or were just not documented.  


There are other avenues for research but these will take some time to find, understand and document.

  Page updated - 16 February 2015

© Peter Cowley 2015