DIGNITARIES from across Evesham gathered at the former LMS Station on Wednesday (January 27) for the unveiling of a blue plaque in honour of Sir Henry Fowler.
Observer editor Rob George was among those in attendance and found out more about the work of one of Evesham’s famous sons.
Henry Fowler was born in July 1870 at his father’s shop in Port Street, Evesham.
From an early age he learnt how to read working drawings and handle the tools that his father, also called Henry, used in his cabinet making business.
At the age of nine, Henry gained a place at what is now Prince Henry’s High School and proved to be bright student.
He was encouraged to study mathematics and science by the headmaster, Rev Seely Poole MA, a Cambridge graduate.
After studying at the Mason Science College in Birmingham (now Birmingham University) from the age of 15, Henry qualified in engineering and joined the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company.
Under the supervision of distinguished locomotive designer John Aspinall, Henry worked his way up to become Chief Mechanical Engineer (CME) of the Midland Railway in 1910.
At the outbreak of the First World War, the Government needed to increase the manufacture of ammunition to defeat the German forces and tasked Henry with the role.
He was appointed to the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough in 1915 and was so successful in his work he was awarded a knighthood following the end of the conflict.
After the war he returned to the Midland Railway in Derby and befriended King George V.
In 1927 he was elected to the Presidency of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and during his career he also held the presidency of a number of other well-known institutions.
Under the Railway Act of 1921, the numerous railway companies were merged into four large companies.
Sir Henry was appointed Deputy CME to the LMS Railway under his old chief George Hughes, shortly afterwards he assumed the CME role when George retired.
Over the next five years, he was responsible for the design and construction of many classes of locomotives, the most famous being the Royal Scot and Patriot classes.
During his time he became a member of many international engineering organisations and wrote papers on engineering and science.
Sir Henry always made time for people and their welfare both in Spondon where he lived and his home town of Evesham.
He regularly visited his family in the Vale and took a lifetime interest in his former school where a prize for mathematics is still awarded in his name.
After his early death at the age of 68 in 1938, tributes were paid by international engineering bodies, the engineering institutes of Britain, universities , academics and other CMEs.
Many of the tributes to Sir Henry are in the book by Vale of Evesham Historical Society chairman John Kyte ‘Sir Henry Fowler K.B.E’.
A permanent exhibition of his work and life can be seen at the Almonry.
A number of dignitaries including members of the Civic Society, Historical Society and Simon De Montfort Society attended the ceremony at Gage-Tupper and Associates Limited alongside councillors and other invited guests.
Unveiling the plaque, Evesham Mayor Coun Fred Kaler said more should be made of one of Evesham’s famous sons and the contribution he made to the development of railways in this country.
“I’m delighted to be able to reveal this permanent honour to Sir Henry Fowler,” he said.
“My sincerest thanks to both the Vale of Evesham Civic and Historical Societies for the kind donation of the plaque which has made today possible.”