Biographical notes on
Major Arthur Bowker, one of the Founding Lay Guardians,
kindly provided by The Retreat Association


Arthur Frank Bowker was born on the North Side of Clapham Common a few yards (about 20) from the place where he died.

After Winchester and University College School he served his apprenticeship as an engineer at Battersea, working in the same shop as John Burns. He was always deeply interested in geography and had, while still at school, won a gold medal from the Royal Geographical Society for map-making. He qualified both as a Mechanical and as a Civil Engineer specialising in Water Engineering; but in his earlier days he did a good deal of work on railways and in the nineties joined the Canadian Geological expedition to the Yukon and shared in the successful discovery of gold in the Klondike.

He was a Fellow of the Geological Society, of the Royal Geological Society, of the Zoological Society as well as of the Royal Meteorological Society and the British Rainfall Association. His travels took him twice across Africa on foot, and he contributed to the records of the Royal Geographical Society accounts of these journeys and of some of Asia as well. He habitually kept meteorological records and his longest in England were in West Kent at Seal, at West Malling, at Wrotham, and at Kingsdown near Sevenoaks. Meteorology was his longest living scientific interest, and lasted for years after he resigned professional work, in fact as long as he could stand and read a gauge of any sort.

For the last fifty years of his life his main interest was in religion of the C of E most extreme Catholic type; first in the Church of England Men’s Society, and then in the Society of Retreat Conductors which he founded with his own money as a community of priests to conduct spiritual retreats for men.

Bowker was unmarried and, having lost considerable sums of family money in Chancery, had an abiding suspicion of lawyers in general which he combined with a great liking of some lawyers in particular.

He was an enthusiastic Territorial officer, and at one period, by a wangle, served as a regimental officer at Woolwich, doing full-time duty, while still acting as full-time waterworks engineer for one of the Kent Waterworks.

This overwork undermined his remarkable strength and stamina. He was 83 when he died.


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