The son of an artist whose drawings and paintings will go on display this weekend is hoping a century-old wedding photo may unearth more details about his family's past.

The ‘Conversations of the Common’ exhibition will showcase the work of John E. Rowbottom and will take place at the parish room in St Paul’s Church, Chipperfield Common, on Saturday and Sunday.

John, who was only 34 when he died in 1958, was married in the church and his parents had a summer house in Scatterdells Lane in the village. They also had links with three of Watford’s best-known pubs.

Watford Observer: The family wedding photo showing bridesmaids Marjorie Allen, centre, and Ethel Allen, right.The family wedding photo showing bridesmaids Marjorie Allen, centre, and Ethel Allen, right. (Image: Paul Rowbottom)

John’s mother, Ethel Allen, and her sister Marjorie were bridesmaids in the wedding photo that dates from the early 1900s.

Ethel and Marjorie’s parents, Frederick and Rose Allen, were licensees of the Red Lion, in Vicarage Road, The Oddfellows Arms and the Estcourt Arms.

As a child Ethel was responsible for delivering the previous evening’s takings to the Benskins brewery office – now Watford Museum – on her way to Watford Grammar school every morning.

Ethel’s grandson, Paul Rowbottom, originally thought his great-grandparents lived in the Red Lion until he found the full plate print which showed their address as The Oddfellows Arms, Fearnley Street.

Paul knows there were Allens living in Aynho Street, behind the Red Lion, in the 20th Century and contacted the Watford Observer because he is interested to know if any members of the family recognise any relatives in the wedding photo, or who might be related to Marjorie’s adopted child. This was given up after being born out of wedlock.

Watford Observer:

Ethel married builder, craftsman and plumber John Rowbottom and they had one child, John Edward Rowbottom.

Born in 1924, he attended Watford Art School but was persuaded to an apprenticeship at Rembrandt House, Sun Engravers, aged 15.

Two years later, he signed up as a gunner in the Merchant Navy protecting convoys in and around the Mediterranean, sustaining a serious injury while in Malta.

After the war, John completed his apprenticeship as a colour retoucher at Sun Engravers. He then worked at the Amalgamated Press in Blackfriars until his death in 1958, age 34.

Paul explained: “His parents had a summer house in Scatterdells Lane, Chipperfield, and I understand that he may have courted my mother at the ‘Cart & Horses’ when she was visiting her brother; then living in Scatterdells Lane. Legend has it that some of my father's paintings may have been exchanged for victuals in the same pub.

“My parents married at St Paul’s Church, Chipperfield, and commuted to London from Scatterdells Lane at the beginning of their life together until settling in North London.

“He exhibited with the London art societies regularly, however it is unlikely that his work has been seen in a public venue since 1958.

“My motivation for staging an exhibition featuring his work is that I found a number of unframed paintings and drawings that I wanted to be seen together with the works we grew up with in the family home.

“The exhibition is essentially a celebration and tribute to his talent as an artist, and the opportunity to show his work at St Paul’s Church, Parish room, is a fitting venue considering his youthful life and association with Chipperfield.

“Additionally, with both parents now deceased it seemed a positive thing, having discovered new information about his side of the Allen and Rowbottom families in and around Watford.”

‘Conversations on the Common’ is open at St Paul’s parish room from 10am to 5pm, Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.

Anyone with information about the Allen or Rowbottom families can contact Paul at