Rowland family and Champion Hall

Alexander Rowland [1783 - 1861], the father of Alexander William [1808 - ], was a well-known perfumer, the proprietor of Rowland’s Macassar Oil, from which the word ‘antimacassar’ is derived. Byron mentions it in ‘Don Juan’, and Dickens in the ‘Pickwick Papers’.

The elder Alexander father Alexander [1747/8 - 1823] had been the son of William, who had become a barber and it was common for well connected barbers to offer thier own prepariations. Within 2 decades the preparation "Rowland’s Macassar Oil" had become hugely popular and Alexader's son Alexander William joined the firm. Alexander Senior lived at Rosenthal in Rushey Green, Catford from c.1830 until his death in 1861.

Alexander William lived at The Grange in Honor Oak Road, then known simply as ‘Forest Hill’, in the period around 1841, and can probably be found there in the census of that year. He moved to Champion Hall in Sydenham Road (near Bell Green) shortly after it was rebuilt in 1862. In the intervening years he does not appear to have lived in the Lewisham area. Champion Hall became the home of the Sydenham Children’s Hospital in the 1880s and was gradually extended and surrounded with other buildings, but it survived as the core of the hospital until the whole complex was demolished a few years ago.

Lewisham Local History and Archives Centre has a print showing Champion Hall in more or less its original state, as it was when the hospital took it over, and several later photographs.

The Rowland family had a vault under St Mary’s, the Lewisham parish church, and an inscription on the south wall gives many details. It is transcribed on pp. 69 and 70 of ‘The Monumental Inscriptions of S. Mary, Lewisham’ by Herbert Charles Kirby and Leland Lewis Duncan (1889).

The will of Alexander William Rowland was reported in the ‘Illustrated London News’ of the 21st August 1869.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License