COWES, ISLE OF WIGHT
(Weston House, Weston Road, Cowes ?)
Maurice Dear was born in 1807, the third of six sons and two daughters of a prosperous farmer in Laverstock, Hampshire. An obituary confirms that, as he grew up, he was a strong adherent of the Church of England, like his father.
Maurice appears to have been an astute business man. The firm of Dear and Morgan, wholesale and provisions merchants,
at 90-91 High Street, Cowes was the largest of its kind on the Isle of Wight and had its own wharf on the Medina where barges from the mainland were unloaded. However, Maurice appears to have devoted his time to public service. He was a firm supporter of William Gladstone’s Liberal party and a newspaper report of a public meeting describes him as “that out and out Radical Reformer in Church and State”. He was heavily involved in local government, being one of the first Town Commissioners and, later, Chairman of the Local Board. He was a founder member of the Burial Board in 1855 and was still acting as Chairman six months before his death in 1887.
He was also a strong supporter of the Ancient Order of Foresters, the Juvenile Foresters and a founder of the Compassionate Fund charity, as well as a guardian of the parish of Northwood. However, his primary concern seems to have been the Congregation Church. It seems that he was admitted to the Sun Hill Congregational Church in Cowes at
the age of 21 and he was a devoted adherent and benefactor for the rest of his long life.He also helped to found the Congregational Church at Porchfield where an obituary reports that he “was virtually the pastor of the village church” for fifty years.
Maurice married Ann Hollis, an Isle of Wight girl, in Wickham, a parish in Hampshire in 1832. They had no children of their own although they appear to have acted as surrogate parents to at least one nephew, Samuel Fowler, who was apprenticed by Maurice to a Mr Groves, a draper in Newport. Samuel went on to found Fowler’s Store, a well known drapery and furnishings house at Union Street, Ryde.
On Maurice’s 77th birthday his portrait was presented to him “by his friends and fellow townsmen as a slight recognition of his services to the town of West Cowes”.
Maurice died in 1887, just three days short of his eightieth birthday. In an obituary headed “An Exemplary Life” the correspondent described “the whole town in mourning”. Despite “a snowstorm driven by a fierce northeaster” Northwood cemetery was filled with a “dense crowd” which included “a number of children from the Isle of Wight Workhouse
who, by the death of Mr Maurice Dear, had lost one of their best and truest friends”. He was buried next to Ann, his wife, who had died of typhoid in 1860.