Henry Bowman Painting

In the summer of 1882, this Field Artillery Battery joined an expeditionary force sent to Egypt with the then Major W.S. Hebbert RA as Battery Commander. The campaign culminated in a British victory at the Battle of Tel-el-Kabir. Both Henry Bowman, BSM and Major Hebbert were mentioned in Despatches and decorated for the battery's part in this battle.

In Henry's case, the recommendation for a 'Mention' would have come from his commanding officer, Major Hebbert, and so they may be presumed to have known each other well.  In about 1888, Henry, now Lieut. Bowman, might have drawn the presence of his friend, John Dickens's son at the Sheffield Barracks, to the attention of its commandant, Colonel Hebbert, causing Mrs Hebbert to choose Charles as the subject for a painting. Who knows?

What is fairly certain, and this quite possibly arose in connection with the painting of Charles' portrait and its subsequent gift to John Dickens, is that John Dickens visited Sheffield in 1888/9 and, we believe, was introduced to the ROBINSON family. They were living at that time in Fox Road, only a short distance away from Barrack House, in Langsett Road, where Col Hebbert and his wife resided.

ANNIE Robinson, a daughter of John Scholey Robinson the head of the family, was to become John Dickens's second wife and step-mother to Charles seven years later. Intriguingly, John named his next child AGNES GERTRUDE ROBINSON Dickens when she was born on 12 January 1890, at Chatham, where John Dickens was to spend his last year as a Master Gunner and non-commissioned officer.


In late November 1890, John Dickens received a document signed by Queen Victoria herself which addressed him as John Dickens, Gentleman. He must have been delighted by this (and if his late father Robert could have foreseen it, he would probably have been amazed). It appointed him, on 6 December 1890, to Quartermaster and Honorary Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery, a commissioned rank. It also coincided with the start-date for a posting to the Londonderry Artillery in Ireland.

John's duties in future would be administrative with no very close contact with the guns, though again, the location was close to the sea. His rate of remuneration as a Quartermaster was 9s 6d per day. In February 1891 Agnes Gertrude Robinson Dickens was baptised at Londonderry Cathedral.

On 24 July 1893, John and Elizabeth had what was to be their last child, EILEEN WINIFRED SCHOLEY Dickens. She was born at home at 29 Abercorn Road, Derry and John's rank or profession was stated to be Pay Master. Again, there was an intriguing tribute paid to John Scholey Robinson in the choice of Eileen's last Christian name.

Elizabeth Dickens was now 41 years old and her family was complete. Eight children, ranging in age from Mary, 14 years, to the recently born Eileen, were still living at home.Elizabeth was probably already suffering from cancer and was to die two years later on 23 September 1895 at the age of 43. The cause of death as stated on the death certificate was 'Cancer, general, several years.' She died at home at Ebrington Terrace, Londonderry and her husband John Dickens was present at the death.

For the next year, John's domestic life was in some turmoil. On February 19, 1896, his second son, Herbert Eugene Dickens, a bachelor aged 21, died at home in Ebrington Terrace. He had 'no occupation', was unmarried and the certified cause of death was 'Pulmonary Phthisis, one year, exhaustion, certified', that is, tuberculosis. His father, John Dickens was stated to be present at the death. Nothing certain is known about Herbert's earlier years but from a later newspaper comment, it can be inferred that he, like John's other sons, had left home early and joined the army (and was then prematurely invalided out).

At the time of Elizabeth's death, there were five children under ten years old to be looked after. Most of the immediate burden fell on the eldest daughter Mary, who was sixteen and would later train as a nurse. Charles Henry, the eldest son, 23, bombadier, returned from service in India in March 1896.

 He was then posted to Limerick; and may have been able to lend occasional help to Mary and his father. His attention to filial duty may have been diverted to some degree by the presence of Miss May Agnes Thomsett at Limerick; they were to marry at the Liverpool register office in August 1897 en route from Limerick to Charles's new posting at Portsmouth.

All was to change in August 1896 when John married ANNIE JOHNSON ROBINSON and brought his new wife back to live in the house at Ebrington Terrace, Londonderry. They may have known each other since John's visits to Sheffield in 1888/89, but we know absolutely nothing about the timing or logistics of their courtship.

The marriage was solemnised at the Church of Stoney Middleton in Derbyshire, about ten miles from Sheffield on 29 July 1896. John Dickens, widower, was stated to be 48 (he was in fact 50 - old habits die hard!) and Annie Robinson, spinster, was 32. Her father was stated to be John Scholey Robinson, Manager, and John's father was entered as Robert Dickens, Ironmonger. John Scholey Robinson was a witness as was his daughter, Agnes Robinson and his eldest son William Hiram Robinson.

The marriage was to last until John's death in 1927; they had no children.

According an informant, no longer with us, Annie Dickens exercised a firm domestic discipline over her stepchildren and grandchildren, but in some of the family groups which survive, she looks quite affable.

Be that as it may, her arrival at Ebrington Terrace led to a rapid exodus from home of John Dickens's elder sons. FRANK joined the army in April 1897 and ARTHUR followed him later that year. Both joined Garrison units of the Royal Artillery.

John moved to his last posting in the army in the summer of 1897. He was posted as Quartermaster, Hon. Lieutenant to the Forfar and Kincardine Artillery stationed at Montrose in Scotland. This was the archetypal Garrison posting; remote, cold, windswept and close to the North Sea. Ernest made his escape to join the Field Artillery at Woolwich in August 1899.


John retired from what had become the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) on 16 March, 1901. He was granted the substantive rank of Quartermaster, Hon Captain RGA. After a very brief sojourn at The Cottage, Stoney Middleton, and before the 1901 Census was taken at the end of that month, he and his family had relocated to Hill House, Ashover, Derbyshire, a small village about twelve miles south of Sheffield.

At Hill House on Census night were present: John Dickens 53, Retired Captain Royal Artillery. Annie Dickens, wife, 37. Leonard Ralph Dickens, son, 14. Elizabeth Pope Dickens, l3. Agnes Gertrude Robinson Dickens, 11. Eileen Winifred Scholey Dickens, 7.

His eldest daughter, Mary Melita Dickens, 21, was not there; she was recorded as a visitor at Fox Road, Sheffield, at the house of Annie's father, John Scholey Robinson and his family.

The remaining Robinsons recorded on the 1901 census return for 144 Fox Road, Sheffield, were: John Scholey Robinson, 67, Manager Edge Tool Works. Martha Robinson, wife, 66. Agnes Robinson, daughter, single, 32, Board School Teacher. Hilton, son, single, 29, Lawyer's clerk.

In the same 1901 Census of England, John's son, Arthur Hamilton Dickens, 19, was located at the Royal Artillery Barracks, Woolwich; he was an acting bombardier in A Division RA Dis.Staff. His elder brother Charles Henry was in South Africa, at the Boer War, as was his younger brother Frank. However, also in Woolwich on Census night was Charles' wife May Agnes (Thomsett) Dickens, 23, and their small son Arthur C. Dickens, 2 years.

The remaining son of John Dickens, Ernest George, 16, was at Aldershot, a trumpeter in 92nd Battery RFA.

On 18 May 1902, Henry Bowman retired from the RGA as a Major and moved back to Lincolnshire. By 1904, Capt. John Dickens and his family had left Derbyshire and also moved to Lincolnshire living at The Cottage, Halton Holgate, near Spilsby. Major Henry Bowman was living nearby at Halton Road, Spilsby. By 1906, John Dickens had moved to Clough House, Thorpe, near Wainfleet and finally, in about 1908, moved to the house he and his family were to live in for many years. This was The Priory, at Ingoldmells, situated within a short distance from the sea. Henry Bowman finally settled at Gun House, High Street, Wainfleet.

 The Priory...










































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