Edward Fordham Flower

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Edward Fordham Flower (1805–1883) was an English brewer and author who campaigned for a Shakespeare memorial theatre and against cruelty to animals.[1]

Edward Fordham Flower in old age with his wife Celina


Born at Marden Hill in Hertfordshire on 31 January 1805, he was the younger surviving son of Richard Flower and nephew of both Benjamin Flower[1] and John Clayton. His mother was Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Fordham and sister of Edward King Fordham.


When he was aged 12, his father took the whole family to live in the newly created community of Albion in Illinois.[1] The settlement included free Negroes, who a gang of kidnappers abducted to sell into slavery. Edward led a party who captured the gang at rifle point, freed their captives and saw the leaders tried and punished. Threatened with death by their supporters, while sitting at home a bullet shattered the mirror above his head.[2]

His father sent him back to England and in 1824 he settled at Stratford-upon-Avon, where he joined a business and in 1827 married.[1] In 1831 he set up on his account, building a brewery at Stratford with a canal frontage for delivery and distribution. The enterprise flourished, two of his sons were taken into partnership to form Flower and Sons Ltd, and in 1870 larger premises using latest technology were opened, the original brewery being used for offices with reduced production. The first tied public house had been linked to the firm in 1836 and their inn holdings increased gradually. Export trade, particularly India pale ale, was always a large sector of the business.[3]

As a major employer in the area, he was influential in local affairs, serving four times as mayor of Stratford and sitting as a justice of the peace for Warwickshire. He attempted to enter national politics, standing as Liberal candidate for Coventry in 1865 and for North Warwickshire in 1868, but was not successful.[1]

Perhaps his greatest legacy is his involvement in the celebrations to mark the tercentenary of Shakespeare's birth in 1864,[1][4] and the impetus they gave to create a permanent memorial in the town. Fund raising began to erect a theatre, which opened in 1879 as the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

In 1873 he retired and moved to London where, being a great lover of horses, he spent the rest of his life campaigning to reduce the suffering caused by inappropriate harness, in particular tight bearing reins (also criticised in the 1877 novel Black Beauty[5][6]) and gag bits.[1][7]

He died in London on 26 March 1883, followed by his widow on 2 March 1884.[1]


Works he authored were:

  • A Few Words about Bearing Reins, 1875.[1]
  • Bits and Bearing Reins, 1875, illustrated by John Paget.[1]
  • Horses and Harness, 1876.[1]
  • The Stones of London, or Macadam v. Vestries, 1880.[1]


In 1827 he married Celina, eldest daughter of John Greaves (1774-1849), later a banker living at Radford Semele,[1] and his wife Mary Whitehead (1779-1864). She was the sister of the slate entrepreneur John Whitehead Greaves. They were survived by three sons:

Charles,[1] who ran the brewery with the youngest brother Edgar but had no children.
Sir William, who pursued a scientific career, becoming Director of the Natural History Museum.[1]
Edgar (1833-1903),[1] who ran the brewery with Charles and passed it to his son Sir Archibald.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Boase, George Clement (1885–1900), "Flower, Edward Fordham", Dictionary of National Biography, 19, London: Smith, Elder & Co 
  2. ^ Chicago Tribune, 9 April 1883, p. 4, retrieved 4 November 2017 
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ The brewery’s founder, Edward Fordham Flower, was a major financial contributor to the Shakespeare Tercentenary Celebrations held in Stratford in 1864 [2]
  5. ^ [3]
  6. ^ [4]
  7. ^ [5]

Further reading[edit]

Jonathan Reinaez, A Social History of a Midland Brewery: Flower and Sons Brewery, 1870-1914 (Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Warwick, 1998)