Flowerdew, Herbert (1866 to 1917)

Lived at 33 Palace Square in 1891

Herbert Flowerdew was a Crime Fiction Writer (Bn 1866 Nottingham D 29 May 1917, aged 50).  Between 1897 and 1914, he published fourteen novels, including the popular ‘The Villa Mystery’ in 1912.  His books are of the ‘old-fashioned’ style, but still receive good reviews today, as containing good twists and turns and clever final endings.  His stories were also serialised in the Northern Daily Telegraph newspaper, such as ‘Erminie’ (1909), ‘Joanna’ (1914) and were accompanied by some wonderful pencil drawing illustrations.  Even after his death, his stories, such as ‘Discs of Death’ were still being serialised (1929).

Herbert married Florence (Bn 1863 D1918) in 1890 in Chelsea, and they were boarders at 33 Palace Square in 1891.  His father, Walter Charles (Bn c1830 D1903), had been a Commercial Traveller Glass Bottler Manufacturer.

Herbert’s occupation was Post Office Clerk on the 1891 Census.  By 1901 and on the 1911 Census he is a Novelist/Author

He began his literary career with novels sometimes peppered with a police intrigue, as in ’The Realist’(1899), reissued a decade later under the title ’The Room of Mirrors’.  Most of Flowerdew’s novels, take the side of women, and denounce the pressure of social conventions on the couple, such as ‘The Woman’s View’ (1903), a melodrama that aims to denounce marriage laws and causes of injustice against wives.

During the 1910’s, his stories were more resolutely in the detective novel, notably with ‘The Third Wife’ (1911) and especially ‘The Villa Mystery’ (1912), the plot of which revolves around the alleged suicide of the wealthy Nehemiah Grayle.

Herbert Flowerdew’s novels didn’t make him a wealthy author, as he found it difficult to sell his work after WW1 broke out.  He suffered depression and a nervous breakdown, which it is believed, may have driven him to take his own life on 29 May, shortly before his 51st birthday in 1917.

Thanet Advertiser – Saturday, 2 June 1917



We much regret to record the death which occurred on Tuesday, of Mr Herbert Flowerdew, of 7 Clarendon Gardens, Ramsgate.  His illness had only lasted a fortnight, but a fragile constitution was unable bear the strain.

Mr Flowerdew was born at York in 1866 and received his education at Nottingham high School.  He was a prolific writer, is range passing from the short story to the serial and full volume novel.  ‘In an Ancient Mirror’, was published and there quickly followed ‘A Celibate’s Wife, ‘The Realist’, ‘Retaliation’, The Woman’s View’, ‘The Third Kiss’, ‘Maynard’s Wives, ‘The Ways of Men’, ‘The Second Elopement’, ‘The Third Wife’, ‘The Villa Mystery’, ‘Mrs Gray’s Past’, ‘Love and a Title’, ‘The Seventh Postcard’ and other novels.

After leaving London, Mr Flowerdew settled with his wife and son at Broadstairs and later took up his residence at Ramsgate.  He enjoyed the friendship of a large circle and much sympathy will be felt for Mrs Flowerdew and the members of the family in their loss.  The funeral is to take place at the Ramsgate Cemetery today (Saturday) at 3 o’clock.

A Tribute

Herbert Flowerdew founded his reputation as a novelist upon his extraordinary ability to create a tangled plot, pleasantly interwoven with romance and retaining interest by means of successive incident.  The power of the deep thinker was evident in most of his works, notably in ‘A Celibate’s Wife’ published in 1898 and ‘The Realist’ published in 1899.  He possessed a remarkable aptitude for keeping clear of the tracker of the writer of the detective story with an obvious sequel.  Pleasantly descriptive, without being laborious, his pen fashioned numberless dainty little stories that found their way into popular magazines, though recent years the demand for this form of literature had fallen tremendously.  His popularity as a writer depended to a large extent upon the brisk introductions he gave to his works, thus obtaining the attention of the reader at the outset.  Much of his best work had been written in Ramsgate, where he found ready inspiration in the watches of the night.

He possessed a many-sided character and many activities beyond the scope of his desk.  One of his favourite hobbies was to invent mechanical toys, queer little pieces of wood and tin joined for experimental purposes to see if the principle was right.  Then a model was made upon a more elaborate scale and the wholesale manufacturer stepped in to place the invention on the market.

He took a deep interest in social problems and held advanced views upon such questions as individualism.  He frequently spoke at the meetings of the Thanet Parliamentary Debating Society and was a regular attendant at the meetings of the Congregational Men’s Association.

A freelance with his pen, he was also a freelance in the realms of theology, an aspect of his character that was reflected in the memorable series of articles he wrote about two years ago for these columns under the title ‘The Wanderer at Church’.

Gentle in manner, kindly in disposition, a stalwart champion of the rights of man, genial as a host, a bright conversationalist and pleasant raconteur, he will linger in the memory with an unending regret for his untimely going.

Their son Herbert Charles (Bn 21 June 1891 Norwood D1943) became a Journalist for the Provincial Newspaper, and later a Printer Publisher.  He joined the Royal Navy shortly after the death of his father in 1917 and received his training at the Crystal Palace, Devonport and Liverpool.  For the duration of the war he was a Gunner on board the liner, Cedric.  He was demobbed in 1919.  He died in 1943, aged 52.  He had been an invalid for more than a year following damage to his home during an air-raid in 1941.

Photographic evidence discovered a few years ago, reveals that when Sir Ernest Shackleton set off for Antarctica (1914) on his ship, Endurance, that amongst his books of dictionaries, encyclopaedias, works by Shelley, George Bernard Shaw and other celebrated authors, was a copy of ‘The Woman’s View’ (1903) by Herbert Flowerdew.