Harry Vowles: 'Blind Harry'

Harry Vowles: 'Blind Harry'
From the private collection of Chris Vowles

This postcard shows my grandfather ‘Blind Harry’.  He was born Henry Richard Vowles, on the 1st January 1861 in Lambeth, London.  Harry went blind at about three weeks old and was put into a Blind Home to live.  He was taught to play a number of musical instruments, but his main asset was his fine tenor voice.

A popular local entertainer
Harry Vowles moved to Brighton in 1882.  To earn his living he sang in the big houses around Brighton, and entertained in local hotels like The Ship Hotel.  He was a regular performer in the Music Halls and had a pitch on the Brighton/Hove border, where the Angel of Peace statue now stands.  He married Alice Vaughan in 1885 at St Nicholas’ Church and they went on to have nine children and lived in Upper Russell Street.  During WW1 he spent a lot of time entertaining the troops stationed in the Brighton area. He died in 1919 when the Spanish influenza virus swept the country.

Looking for descendents
There are a number of his descendents still living in the Brighton area, who unfortunately I am not in contact with.  I would love to hear from them!   I am just about to begin a book about Harry Vowles’ life and would appreciate any information about him.  I can be contacted via my email which is: chris.vowles@talktalk.net

Comments about this page

  • I belive the Blind Busker pub in Church Road, Hove is named after Harry Vowles. Can anyone confirm this please?

    By James Wright (07/08/2007)
  • Hi James, yes you are right.

    By Chris Vowles (04/11/2007)
  • What about the two old boys who used to busk at the sea end of East Street? Harp and violin, later just harp, after that, nothing. They really were an institution. I doubt they were ever moved on by the police as they were always unobtrusive and tuneful. My guess is they were WWI veterans fallen on hard times, probably former Music Hall or orchestral musicians. I used to listen to them as I enjoyed my ice-cream cone from Gizzi’s round the corner, my other hand holding mother’s hand.

    By George Walker (01/06/2008)
  • I have just been reading about Harry Vowles, I noticed that the two buskers who played the harp and violin were mentioned. The one who played the violin lived next door to us in George Street Gardens his name was Marcantonio the other I believe was Alexander. Mr Marcantonio. He was a lovely man, living next door we would see him most days coming home with his violin.

    By Ann Roberts (13/06/2008)
  • Yes I too remember the two musicians referred to by Mr George Walker – they also had a site on the southern side of North Street between Bond Street and East Street. One of them I believe was named Marc Antonio. I went to school with one of the relatives in the 1960s.

    By Geoff Chaplin (11/02/2009)
  • What a fascinating story. I am a Vowles (from Wales), and haven’t, as yet, researched my family history, but this inspires me.

    By Jan Vowles (29/03/2011)
  • Does anyone remember the blind man stall in the open market? He used to sell toys as a child. I often wondered how he knew where his stock was and when he had customers. In truth, I was quite scared by him – not sure why

    By marina (13/04/2011)
  • I remember the blind man at the original open market, I also remembered the two worthy old buskers. As a matter of interest there is a large oil painting of them that is on view on the 1st floor of the Brighton Town Hall. I always pointed that one out in particular to all the groups of people that would visit me when I had my parlour there, as they were a couple of interesting old Brighton characters that make up part of the town’s history.

    By Geoff Wells (20/05/2012)
  • Yes, I remember the two buskers – they played outside the shop I worked in in North Street. I particulary loved when they played ‘Santa Lucia’. I also remember the blind man’s stall, he knew by touch exactly what he had, and if anyone moved anything even a fraction he immediately knew.

    By Jackie Soutar (nee Gladwell) (20/07/2013)
  • The harpist’s name was Frederick Alexander, one of his descendants still has his harp. I remember seeing him and the violinist outside Hanningtons almost every time I passed there.

    By Marion Goodwin (21/07/2013)
  • Some wires crossing here? Open market?

    By Mick Peirson (22/07/2013)

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