Walter Showell Junior

Walter Showell was the second son of Walter Showell, the Oldbury brewer.

He was born in 1861 in Flash Road, Oldbury. His oldest sister was Hannah Pitt Downing and hence he was brother-in-law to William Edmund Downing. In our archive he is usually referred to as Uncle Walle, by his nieces and nephew, the Downings.

Walter Showell Junior, c. 1912. Photo by J. Moffat, Edinburgh

Walter Showell Junior, c. 1911. Photo by J. Moffat, Edinburgh

He married his first cousin Eliza Shakespeare on 28 Aug 1884. Walter’s mother Sarah Cheshire Hartill was sister to Annie Hartill, Eliza’s mother. The Shakespeares, reputedly descended from the Bard’s uncle, were a family of lawyers.

For a period of time the couple lived in Park House, Hagley and were close neighbours to the Downing family at Elm Lodge. Another given address is also close-by at Heathlands, Kinver.

Although Walter was groomed to take over his father’s brewing business with his brother Charles Hands Showell, this seems to have been a difficult path. Through a series of injudicious expansions in the 1890’s Showell’s Brewery was in serious trouble by the time his father died in 1901.

Eventually the pub estate was sold off and the whole enterprise wound down with a series of sales. Walter clearly saw himself as an entrepreneur and showed a keen interest in the burgeoning Birmingham motor industry.

In the 1891 census he already describes himself as a ‘retired brewer’ at the age of a mere 29. He was an associate of Charles Garrard and became, amongst other posts, a director of Gerrard Manufacturing Co., building early powered bicycles and Motor cars by 1901.

Walter and Eliza only had one child, a daughter called Gladys. In 1907 she married Claude Mitchell. He was a younger son of the Smethwick brewer, Henry Mitchell. The Mitchells were altogether more successful in riding the forces driving the brewing and pub trade, especially after the merger of the Mitchell business with that of William Butler in 1898 to form Mitchells and Butler.

A series of premature and tragic deaths though coloured the latter part of Walter’s life. Firstly his older brother Charles died in 1915. Then his son-in-law Claude died, aged 38, in 1916, leaving three young grandchildren. This was followed by his wife, Eliza who died in 1917 and his daughter in 1923, whilst in Switzerland.

He himself died in 1933, aged 72. Latterly he appears to have lived in London.

Sources and Notes

  • Correspondence with Tim Griffiths author of: Monkeying with the Brass Pot: Birmingham’s Early Motor Industry (Canonvela, 2012). Photo provided by me to him in 2012.
  • Correspondence with Damien Kimberley, Coventry Transport Museum, 2013
  • Both Walter Showell (Junior) and Walter Showell (Senior) were directors of the Coventry Cross Cycle Co Ltd. Walter Showell (Senior) was also director of Warman and Hazlewood.
  • Henry Maynard Mitchell (RAF), Battle of Britain Pilot was Walter’s only grandson.
  • Walter Showell, Chairman of the Committee of Studley Court Hospital Stourbridge, in 1919 signs Molly Evans’ Hagley nursing service certificate.
Last updated on 23 October 2021 by JJ Morgan