Born on Ashton Moss, Ashton-under-Lyne, Lancashire and the son of a market gardener, Sowerbutts wanted to become a journalist on leaving school, however his father died when he was 16 and he started work on the family's smallholding. The family first opened a stall on Oldham's Victoria Market and later on Ashton's outdoor market.
Sowerbutts toured the area giving lectures to local gardening and allotment societies. He went on to appear in the first edition of 'How does your garden grow?', soon to be renamed Gardeners' Question Time', which was an offshoot of the World War II Dig for Victory campaign. The first programme was broadcast from the 'Singing Room' at the Broadoak Hotel in Ashton-under-Lyne on 9 April 1947. On the first panel along with Bill were: Fred Loads, Tom Clark and Dr EW Sansome. Sowerbutts and Loads later went on to become household names, every Sunday at 2.00 pm on the BBC Home Service. By the April 1950, Professor Alan Gemmell joined. The banter between the trio attracted a large following, with the listenership building up to 2 million.
Tameside Council have put up a "Blue Plaque" in his honour on the Broadoak Hotel - however because of his gardening prowess it is green!
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