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Updated:  02 May 2012 

Joshua Brooking Rowe was born at Plymouth in 1837 to Joshua Brooking Rowe and his second wife, Harriet.

His father was a printer and publisher in Whimple Street, who published "The Plymouth Literary Magazine".  He was nephew of the Reverend Samuel Rowe, vicar at Crediton and the author of "A Perambulation of Dartmoor".

After receiving a good classical education at a private school in Portland Villas run by a Mr Weymouth, Joshua was articled to Messrs Gibson and Moore, a local firm of solicitors.

In 1864 he became a conveyancing barrister in London for a short while before returning to Plymouth.

He at first practised on his own before forming partnerships with Mr Francis Bulteel and later Mr William Luscomb Munday.

At the time of his birth, Whimple Street was the centre of the book trade in the Town, so it was not surprising that he amassed a good library and took to the written word.  His first published work was "The Mammals, Birds, Reptiles, and Amphibians of Devon", which was a reprint of a paper he read before the Devonshire Association, of which he was a founder member.

In addition to being the joint editor of "Devon Notes and Queries", he wrote several books about the Plymouth area, namely "The Ecclesiastical History of Plymouth" (published in four parts between 1873 and 1876); "The Cistercian Houses of Devon" (1878); and "The History of Plympton Erle" (1906).  He also revised his uncle's "Perambulation of Dartmoor" in 1896.  He contributed some 50 papers to the Transactions of the Devonshire Association.

He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Fellow of the Linnean Society, a member of the Archaeological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and of the Somerset Archaeological Society, the Exeter Diocesan Architectural Society and an honorary member of the Royal Institution of Cornwall.  He was a founder member of the Devon & Cornwall Record Society.

Mr Joshua Brooking Rowe died in 1908 at his home, Castle Barbican, in Plympton Saint Maurice.  He was buried in the churchyard, where he had been a churchwarden for 26 years.

He bequeathed his large collection of books and manuscripts, which included an unpublished history of the parish of Plympton Saint Mary, to Exeter City Library.


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  Brian Moseley, Plymouth, UK

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