Moondial & The LOWE Family of Belton, Lincolnshire

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Moondial & The LOWE Family of Belton, Lincolnshire

“A little icy gust blew about her. Minty stood and gazed: she was stepping on the edge of a mystery. Minty has heard stories of strange happenings in the big house across the road from her Aunt’s cottage. And when she walks through the gates, the lodge-keeper knows it is Minty who holds the key to the mysteries. She has only to discover the secret power of the moondial, and she will be ready to carry out the dangerous mission which awaits her…”

Moondial by Helen Cresswell

Moondial by Helen Cresswell was published in 1987 and quickly became a six-part BBC children’s television series which aired in Feb-Mar 1988 and again in 1990. I somehow managed to miss the TV show both times due to a combination of my after-school paper-round and watching Home and Away instead, but have since come to love the book and TV series as an adult. The story takes place in Belton House in the village of Belton, Lincolnshire, and focuses on the “moondial” (a sundial) within the Dutch Garden at Belton House. The moondial allows the main character, Minty, to travel back in time to the 1860s where she meets kitchen-boy Tom, whose real name was Edward “Teddy” Larkin. Just as in the book, all the kitchen boys really were called “Tom” in the real-life Belton House. Minty also travels further back in time to the 1770s where she meets a little girl named Sarah.

During the story, Minty wanders around the nearby churchyard of St Peter & St Paul, coming across a “tiny thumbnail headstone” with “E. L. 1871” engraved upon it, later revealed to be the final resting place of Tom, E.L. standing for his given name of Edward Larkin. This little gravestone always catches my eye whenever I rewatch the TV series, which is at least once a year. Who was the real E.L.? This was quite easy to uncover, and rather than a child’s grave as depicted in the story, it is the footstone of Elizabeth LOWE with her headstone and full inscription set behind it.

Elizabeth LOWE was buried close to her husband, William LOWE, and during a nighttime scene, both headstones can be spotted as a cat winds its way through the churchyard. There is also a scene where Elizabeth’s full grave can be spotted as the character World walks past.

Elizabeth’s headstone reads: In Beloved Memory of Elizabeth, widow of William Lowe, who died June 26th 1871, aged 86 years. We know not what we should pray for as we ought: But the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us.” (a quote from Romans 8:26-27). Elizabeth’s husband had died twenty years previous in 1851 and his headstone reads: In Honour of William Lowe who for a period of 24 years filled the situation of Surveyor to Earl Brownlow. He departed this life Sept 29th 1851 aged 70 years.

Original photographs thanks to Find a Grave members Graham Jones and Alison.

As I continued to look into the lives of William and Elizabeth, I discovered a few pleasing coincidences linking to Cresswell’s book which she may or may not have known at the time of writing. William had been employed as Clerk of Works for 1st Earl Brownlow, owner of the Belton House estate, and a few years after his death, his widow Elizabeth moved into a cottage in Belton called “Dial Cottage“, named after the sundial set in its side. Dial Cottage was not featured in the book or television series, but the property used as Minty’s Aunt Mary’s cottage in the TV show (No.1 Belton) was built especially for the Belton estate Clerk of Works in 1896, linking neatly back to Elizabeth. “Full circle” as Minty states at the very end of the book.

“The first mystery was the last. She wheeled about, sensing that the answer was a fingertip away. Her eye fell again on that tiny, thumbnail headstone, with its stark inscription: E. L. 1871. Only a child, she thought, could be marked by such a stone, an unloved child, with so bleak a memorial. Then, as she gazed, there came a picture of Tom, dancing in the long grass, yelling, ‘And pigs can fly and the moon’s made of green cheese and I’ll be six foot high yet or my name ain’t Teddy Larkin!’ He seemed so real, so near, that she could have put out a hand and touched him. ‘Of course! Teddy. Edward – Edward Larkin!’ And mingled with the realization another memory, of that day when he had suddenly appeared here, on this very corner and shivered and said, ‘As if someone was walking on my grave!’ Then the memory of Tom and Sarah, hand in hand, running off through the mists into moontime, to meet Dorrie. Full circle.”

Moondial by Helen Cresswell


William LOWE was born in 1781 (bap.20th May 1782) in Newport, Isle of Wight. He was one of at least two children of James LOWE (mother unknown). William’s wife Elizabeth FURMBRIDGE was born in 1785 in “Busselton” (possibly Bursledon), Hampshire and baptised in Newport, Isle of Wight on 29th May. She was the first of five known children of William FURMIDGE and his wife Esther ANGEL. Angel was subsequently used as a middle name for several generations after.

William and Elizabeth married on 27th Nov 1808 at St. Margaret’s Church in Westminster, London. William (age 26) was living in Westminster and Elizabeth (age 23) in St Mary, Rotherhithe, Surrey. Their first known child was born in Westminster in 1811 after which the family moved to St. Helier, Jersey where three more children were born (sadly losing one in 1817 aged 1). The family moved to London in c.1824 where another son was born and then to Manthorpe (next to Belton), Lincolnshire in 1827 where William had been employed as Clerk of Works (as a surveyor) to John CUST, 1st Earl Brownlow of Belton House (1779-1853). Their seventh and final child was born in Manthorpe in 1829 when Elizabeth was 44 and William 47.

  1. Emma Angel Lowe (b.1811 in Westminster, London –  d.1889 in Belton, Lincolnshire aged 78) ~ unmarried (0 children) ~ “Independent from Interest
  2. William Angel Lowe (b.1813 in St. Helier, Jersey – d.?) ~ 1st m.1836 to Mary Turner (2 children, both died), 2nd m.1847 to Jane Hawkins Ballard (0 children) ~ Carpenter & Joiner
  3. Louisa Angel Lowe (b.1815 in St. Helier, Jersey – d.1817 age 1)
  4. Caroline Matilda Lowe (b.1820 in St. Helier, Jersey – d.1889 in Belton, Lincolnshire age 68) ~ unmarried (0 children) ~ Shopkeeper (Grocer?)
  5. George Angel Lowe (b.1823 in St. Helier, Jersey – d.1904 in Grantham, Lincolnshire age 81) ~ m.1861 to Betsy Harding (8 children) ~ Clerk of Works (builder) to 2nd Earl Brownlow
  6. Robert Henry Lowe (b.1825 in Pimlico, London – d.1901 in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire age 76) ~ m.1856 to Sarah Hassam (2 children) ~ Druggist & Chemist
  7. Laura Anne Lowe (b.1829 in Manthorpe, Lincolnshire ~ d.1860 in Manthorpe, Lincolnshire age 31) ~ unmarried (0 children)

William and Elizabeth’s eldest son William Angel LOWE was the first to marry on 31st Jul 1836 to Mary TURNER in Islington, London. Their banns had been read six months earlier and in between this time, their first child was born (William Angel jnr) who tragically died at age 2 in Jun 1838. A second son was born two years later (George Angel LOWE) which was swiftly followed by the death of Mary in May 1840 aged 28. Up until this time the family had been living at Royal Street, Lambeth. Baby George was sent up north to Manthorpe, Lincolnshire to be looked after by his grandparents but he too died in Apr 1841 aged 1, just a few weeks before the census was taken. William, Elizabeth and family lived at “Waterloo Cottages” on one side of a pair of estate cottages located near Belton House, and the TAPSCAT family were their next-door neighbour for several years. The 1841 census return recorded William’s occupation as “Clerk of Works at Earl Brownlow” and present with Elizabeth were their four youngest children (aged 12 to 19) and one 15-year-old servant (the excellently named Tryphina Gelsthorp). Their son William Angel LOWE remarried on 23rd Dec 1847 at St. Margaret’s, Westminster, London to Jane Hawkins BALLARD. He gave his occupation as “joiner” and his father’s as “builder“, and had continued to live in Lambeth despite not being located in the 1841 census. The couple disappears from records after this, never to be seen again.

William and Elizabeth remained at Waterloo Cottages with the same neighbours when the 1851 census was taken, along with three of their children (Caroline age 30, George age 28 and Laura age 22). William was 69 and working as a “surveyor“, Elizabeth was 66 and the family employed a 13-year-old house servant named Mary Briggs. William died just a few months later on 29th Sep aged 70 and was buried at St Peter & St Paul, Belton. Their son Robert Henry LOWE had moved to Wolverhampton, Staffordshire and was working as an assistant druggist and married Sarah HASSAMM (or Hassemm) on 28th Dec 1856. The couple moved to 187 Bilston Road, Wolverhampton where Robert opened a chemist’s shop selling various powders, ointments and pills prepaired by himself. By the 1870s his sister Caroline was supplying “Lowes Pills” (wholesale and retail) from Belton. There was a pill for every eventuality, from Gout to Cholera, worms and nerves.

Elizabeth’s daughter Laura Ann LOWE sadly died at Waterloo Cottages on 24th Apr 1860 aged 31. Her death notice stated she was “deeply mourned” and was buried three days later at St Peter & St Paul, Belton. When the census was taken in 1861 Elizabeth’s son George Angel LOWE was listed as the head of the household in “Manthorpe Village“, and as their neighbours were still the TAPSCAT family it is safe to assume they were living in Waterloo Cottages. George was 38, unmarried (but engaged) and had taken over from his father as “clerk of the works to Earl Brownlow“, the Earl now being John William Spencer Egerton-Cust, 2nd Earl Brownlow (1842-1867). Elizabeth’s unmarried daughter Caroline (age 40) was also present and the family of three employed a 14-year-old house servant named Ann Durance. George married two months later on 4th Jun to Betsy HARDING. It is at this point that Elizabeth and Caroline most likely moved out of Waterloo Cottages to leave George and his new wife space to start a family as when the census was taken in 1871 they were living at Dial Cottage in Belton along with Elizabeth’s eldest daughter Emma (age 55) who has not been tracked down in any earlier censuses. Emma’s occupation was recorded as “Independent” and Caroline’s as “Groceres” [sic], with later directories listing her as a shopkeeper. Elizabeth died two months later on 26th Jun aged 86 and she was buried in St Peter & St Paul, Belton near her husband. Emma and Caroline continued to live in Dial Cottage until they died in 1889 (Caroline on 23rd Mar age 68 followed by Emma on 12th Oct age 78). They share a headstone in St Peter & St Paul behind their parents.

Original photograph thanks to Find a Grave member Graham Jones.

William and Elizabeth’s son George retired as Clerk of Works towards the end of the 1890s and he, his wife and two of their grown children moved from Waterloo Cottages to 4 Barrowby Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire. The role of Clerk of Works (for Adelbert Brownlow-Cust, 3rd Earl Brownlow, 1844-1921) was handed over to Francis Henry CRADDOCK who moved into no.1 Belton in a cottage built specifically for the Clerk of Works in 1896 (and used in the TV adaption of Moondial as Minty’s Aunt Mary’s house as mentioned previously). William and Elizabeth’s son Robert Henry LOWE died on 31st Aug 1901 at home at 330 Bilston Road, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire aged 76. The last remaining of William and Elizabeth’s children, George Angel LOWE, died in late 1904 at home at 4 Barrowby Road, Grantham aged 81.


Dial Cottage is a Grade II listed Jacobean revival estate cottage built in 1849 by Anthony Salvin and features a lozenge panel containing a sundial on the side wall, inspiring its name.

The cottage was not recorded by name in the 1851 census, so it has not been possible to discover who the first occupants were using online records. The 1891 census also does not record it by name after Emma and Caroline Lowe had died, but by 1901 Mrs Mary Ann GOODSON (age 74) and her sister Mrs Emma BISHOP (age 61) were in residence. In 1921 Joseph HOLLAND (age 49) and his wife Rebecca (age 46) had moved in (Joseph was a labourer on the Belton estate). The cottage was recorded as “Sundial Cottage” in the 1939 Register, with occupants George FRISBY, his wife Mabel, a redacted entry most likely a child, and two soldiers of the Royal Artillery, Army Gunner 107 Light Battery (Edmund TASKER and George I SMART).

Original photographs thanks to Right Move.

This map from 1888/1889 shows Dial Cottage circles at the top and the plot where the Clerk of Works cottage (now no.1 Belton) would later be built (next to the Post Office and Smithy). Waterloo Cottages are at the bottom left of the map and the “Moondial” is circled within Belton House gardens in the centre.

William & Elizabeth’s Grandchildren

None of William and Elizabeth’s three surviving daughters (Emma, Caroline and Laura) married or had children but all three sons did. Their first son William Angel LOWE (b.1813, carpenter and joiner) had two children with his first wife Mary TURNER who both tragically died in infancy, and there were no births registered from his second marriage to Jane Hawkins BALLARD. His whereabouts are unknown after 1847 with no matching census or death information. 

  1. William Angel Lowe (b.1836 in Lambeth, Surrey – d.1838 in Lambeth age 2)
  2. George Angel Lowe (b.1840 in Lambeth, Surrey – d.1841 in Manthorpe, Lincolnshire age 1)

William and Elizabeth’s second son George Angel LOWE (b.1823, Clerk of Works) and his wife Betsy HARDING had eight children born at Waterloo Cottage, Manthorpe near Belton. Sometimes they gave their birthplace as Manthorpe and sometimes as Belton. They lost one child in infancy and their surviving children had an interesting selection of occupations.

  1. William Harding Lowe (b.1862 in Manthorpe – d.after 1921 in Canada) ~ m.1892 to Clara Evelyn Bobby (2 children), emigrated to Canada 1903 ~ Machine Engineer
  2. Laura Angel Lowe (b.1864 in Manthorpe – d.1941 in Grantham, Lincolnshire age 77) ~ unmarried (o children) ~ Local Teacher then Lady Superintendent for the Ladies Residential Chambers Company in London
  3. John Edward Lowe (b.1866 in Manthorpe – d.1930 in Grantham, Lincolnshire age 63) ~ unmarried (o children) ~ Joiner, Builder & Picture Frame Maker
  4. Cpt. Percy George Lowe (b.1867 in Manthorpe – d.1944 in Waterloo (near Crosby), Lancashire age 76) ~ m.1904 to Isa Alice Preen (3 children) ~ Nautical Surveyor (Merchant Board of Trade) Deputy Principal Officer
  5. Cpt. Robert Henry Lowe (b.1869 in Manthorpe – d.1941 in Grantham, Lincolnshire age 72) ~ unmarried (o children) ~ Master Mariner
  6. Bessie Gertrude Lowe (b.1871 in Manthorpe – d.1951 in Knowle near Bristol, Somerset age 79) ~ unmarried (o children) ~ Housekeeper for her family
  7. Marian Lucy Lowe (b.1872 in Manthorpe – d.1873 in Manthorpe age 1)
  8. Dorothy Mary Lowe (b.1879 in Manthorpe – d.1948 in Knowle (near Bristol), Somerset age 69) ~ m.1902 to Evylon Richard Irwin, Post Office Overseer, Sub Postmaster (1 child) ~ Post Office Sorting Clerk and Telegraphist

1. William Harding LOWE (b.1862) trained as a machine engineer. He married Clara Evelyn BOBBY on 7th Dec 1892 in Grantham and their first child was born two years later on 24th Feb 1895 (Herbert Angel LOWE). William enlisted in the Royal Engineers on 9th Oct 1895 and the family were living in York, Yorkshire when their second child was born on 3rd Oct 1897 (Charles John LOWE). William discharged himself from the army at his own request on payment of £18 on 8th Oct 1898 (nearly £2k today) and the family moved to Toxteth, Lancashire before emigrating to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 1903. On the 4th Dec 1914, his son Herbert Angel LOWE enlisted in the Army Service Corps (Mechanical Transport) embarking in France on 1st Mar 1916 as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was there until 26th Jan 1918, before returning to England where he married Eleanor Alice Angel HACKER very shortly after. Herbert transferred to the Flying Corp (later RAF) on 3rd Jun 1918 and became a Second Lieutenant. Then on 1st Nov he was taken ill and admitted to the War Hospital at Thorpe St Andrew near Norwich, Norfolk where he died of pneumonia three days later on 4th Nov aged 23 (his widow remarried in 1921). The fate of William, his wife Clara and their son Charles are unknown, possibly living out their lives in Canada.

Original photograph thanks to Find a Grave member Nigel Battley.

2. Laura Angel LOWE (b.1864) worked firstly as a local teacher in Grantham, then as a lady superintendent for the Ladies Residential Chambers Company in London at both York Street and Chenies Street Chambers. The woman in the chamber next to Laura in 1911 was Edith Sophia HOOPER, a member of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Society. Edith refused to fill in her census form stating “I refuse to fill in this schedule, as a double protest against the present government denial of the vote to duly qualified women, and its refusal, through the home secretary, of an enquiry into the treatment of the women on deputation by the police in November 1910.” The census return was completed in red pen by the enumerator himself as best he could, and there are similar additions throughout the returns from Chenies Street Chambers. After retiring, Laura moved back to her family home at 4 Barrowby Road, Grantham with her unmarried siblings John, Robert and Bessie. She died there on 7th Nov 1941 aged 77.

3. John Edward LOWE (b.1866) trained as a general joiner, specialising in cabinet repairs and picture framing. He briefly left the family in his 20s to work in Lincoln but had returned to 4 Barrowby Road, Grantham by 1901 where he continued to trade from home with his own account. John did not marry or have and known children and died on 26th Feb 1930 aged 63.

4. Capt. Percy George LOWE (b.1867) apprenticed with the Merchant Service aboard “The Spirit of the Dawn“. He became a 3rd Class Shipwright (Nautical) Surveyor in Apr 1904 before rising to Deputy Principal Officer for the Merchant Board of Trade. Percy married Ida Alice PREEN on 30th Apr 1904 in Hampstead, London before moving to Glamorgan, Wales where they had three children. The family had moved to Waterloo near Crosby, Lancashire by 1921 where they remained. Percy died in the Park House Nursing Home on 13th Dec 1944 aged 76 and his wife died ten years later.

5. Capt. Robert Henry LOWE (b.1867) became an apprentice with the Merchant Service at age 16, with Thomas Dunlop and Co. of Glasgow on 11th Apr 1885. He gained his certificate of 2nd Mate on 12th Sep 1889. The 1891 census recorded him as “2nd Mate Wareham Service“, age 21 and living at home at Waterloo Cottages. Robert gained his certificate of 1st Mate two years later on 1st Aug 1893 and became a Master of a Foreign-Going Ship on 11th Jun 1896 when he was 27. He does not show up in the 1901 or 1911 censuses, but by 1921 was visiting his family back home at 4 Barrowby Road, Grantham. Robert has just turned 52, was unmarried and working as a “Master Mariner for F. Leyland & Co., Steamship Owners“. By 1939 he had retired and settled back at 4 Barrowby Road where he died two years later on 22nd Sep 1841 aged 72.

6. Bessie Gertrude LOWE (b.1871) did not marry or have children and remained living at home as the family’s housekeeper as far as census returns detail. She moved from 4 Barrowby Road, Grantham in 1949 after the deaths of her brothers and moved to Keynsham, Somerset to be near her sister Dorothy (who was living 15 miles away) where she died on 24th Jun 1951 aged 79, and was the last surviving of her siblings.

7. Marian Lucy LOWE (b.1872) died aged 1.

8. Dorothy Mary LOWE (1879) began working for the Post Office in Grantham, Lincolnshire when she was 18 on 24th Mar 1897. By the following year, she had become a sorting clerk and telegraphist in Market Harborough, Leicestershire but was forced to leave on 26th Mar 1902 after suffering from a prolonged illness. She married fellow postal clerk Evylon Richard IRWIN towards the end of the year in Grantham and the couple moved to Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire where they had their first and only child on 28th Apr 1908 (Dorothy Mary IRWIN). Evylon became a sub-postmaster and the family had moved to the Post Office on High Street, Kingswood, Somerset by 1921 and then 4 Belluton Road, Knowle (near Bristol) in c.1927. Evylon sadly died suddenly on 2nd Sep 1931 aged 64, just three weeks before their daughter was due to get married. Dorothy was recorded visiting her siblings at 4 Barrowby Road, Grantham, Lincolnshire when the 1939 Register was taken and died at her home of 4 Belluton Road, Knowle aged 69 on 1st Nov 1948.

William and Elizabeth’s third son Robert Henry LOWE (b.1825, druggist and chemist) and his wife Sarah HASSEM had six children born in quick succession in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire but tragically lost four in infancy. Sarah was partly deaf and their daughter Dora was also born with hearing difficulties. 

  1. Sarah Elizabeth Lowe (b.1858 in Wolverhampton – d. 1860 in Wolverhampton age 2)
  2. Robert Henry Angel Lowe (b.1859 in Wolverhampton – d. 1860 in Wolverhampton age 8 months)
  3. Dora Emma Lowe (b.1860 in Wolverhampton – d. 1929 in Wolverhampton age 69) ~ unmarried (o children)
  4. Florence Minnie Lowe (b.1861 in Wolverhampton – d. 1864 in Wolverhampton age 3)
  5. Ella Angel Lowe (b.1863 in Wolverhampton – d. 1864 in Wolverhampton age 0)
  6. Osmond Henry Lowe (b.1865 in Wolverhampton – d. 1905 in Wolverhampton age 39) ~ m.1886 to Jane Ann Hartshorn (6 children) ~ Chemist & Druggist

3. Dora Emma LOWE (b.1860) studied at the Wolverhampton School of Art and later worked as an artist (possibly sculptor), although nothing has been discovered of the work she created. She was employed as an artist in 1891, then moved away from home in her 30s, boarding in Sedgley, Staffordshire by 1901 where she was working as an artist with her “own account at home”. Dora had returned to Wolverhampton by 1911 and boarded with the HINDE family for many years. She died at Mowbray House, Oaks Crescent, Wolverhampton on 12th Nov 1929 aged 69 having never married or had any children.

6. Osmond Henry LOWE (b,1865) followed in his father’s footsteps and became a druggist and chemist. He married Jane Ann HARTSHORN on 25th Mar 1886 in Bolton, Lancashire and the couple had two children in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire before moving briefly to Brighton, Sussex where their third child was born in 1891. The family were back in Wolverhampton by 1895 where their last three children were born. In 1901 the family were living at 330 Bilston Road, Wolverhampton with Osmond’s recently widowed father Robert, whom he was assisting with his business. Osmond’s eldest daughter, 17-year-old Dora Ella Angel LOWE became pregnant in 1904 and married the father (John William VOYCE) just a few weeks before giving birth. Osmond died not long afterwards on 15th May 1905 aged just 39 and his daughter Dora with her young family emigrated to Canada the following year. Jane continued to run the business of “Lowes Pills” from her home at 52 Vicarage Road, Wolverhampton and when she died in 1927 aged 58 Lowes Pills also came to an end after trading for over 70 years.

There are no longer any members of the LOWE family remaining in or near Belton, all having died or moved away many decades ago. I wonder if any of their descendants know that Elizabeth’s grave became part of the story of Moondial and has caused so much intrigue among fans over the years?


I use many different resources during my research, a majority of which I do online. For this project, I used:

Newspaper articles reproduced with the permission of the British Newspaper Archive and The British Library BoardMaps reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland.

If you have any questions regarding my research or would like anything added or amended, please contact me

I’m available to hire to trace family trees and delve into the history of your house.

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