The Friends of St. Peter's Berkhamsted

Friends of St Peter's, Great Berkhamsted

Edward Mawley VMH (1842 – 1916)


Edward Mawley was not a native of Berkhamsted but lived here for the last 31 years of his life, where he pursued his interest in horticulture, especially his love of roses and dahlias and his deep interest in meteorology all of which brought him national recognition. At the same time he took an active interest, together with his wife, in the affairs of the local community. He was born in Blackheath of a well-to-do family. He trained as an architect at the South Kensngton School of Art where he gained a medal. He practised for several years.

Soon after 1870, he gave up his practice on the grounds of ill-health, and devoted himself instead to horticulture and meteorology. From 1874-75 Edward and a friend made a round trip to Australia on board SS Sobraon. He made careful thermo-metrical observations and on his return applied to join the Royal Meteorological Society.

In June 1885 he married Bertha Turney Briggs in St Michael’s Church, St. Pancras and shortly afterwards they moved to Berkhamsted. Bertha shared her husband’s love of roses and horticulture. They moved to Sunnyside House in Gravel Path and renamed it Rosebank.

Edward set up an observatory which was described as the ‘most complete private meteorological station in the country’ He regularly contributed reports to various magazines. For the Hertfordshire Constitutional Magazine he gave monthly reports including soil temperatures, humidity, wind speeds, hours of sunshine and amount of rain. Of July 1888 he wrote “One of the coldest, wettest and most dreary Julys ever known. …In the last 32 years we have had at Berkhamsted only three Julys as wet as this one.”

Not only was Edward active in the Royal Meteorological Society but he was also very active in the National Rose Society being Secretary for many years and later President and also President of the National Dahlia Society. With Gertrude Jekyll he published Roses for English Gardens. His contribution to horticulture was acknowledged when he was awarded the Victoria Medal of Honour (VMH) by the Royal Horticultural Society.

mawley2He encouraged the formation of ‘Form Gardens’ at Berkhamsted Girls’ School and judged the gardens in an annual competition. In the wider community he campaigned to raise money to purchase an ambulance for the people of Berkhamsted and Northchurch to get to West Herts Infirmary. It was to the people of Sunnyside that Edward and his wife contributed most, being active in the establishment of the Mission Church in George Street, then the Tin Tabernacle in Ivy House Lane and finally in the building of the permanent church, consecrated in 1909 where he was Churchwarden for a number of years.

Edward Mawley died on 15th September 1916 at the age of 74 after a short illness. A Special Vestry meeting paid tribute to his work for the Church and people of Sunnyside: “By his gentle Christian character he had endeared himself to all.” The National Rose Society presented a stained glass window to the church. A plaque nearby states ‘This window was given by friends of the National Rose Society in memory of Edward Mawley VMH who was Hon. Secretary to the Society from 1878-1914, and President from 1915-1916.

Jenny Sherwood

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