Bowdler's House in Shrewsbury

thomas bowdler houseOn a recent trip to Shrewsbury, we took a short cut and I was pleasantly surprised to see this. It is a dental practice in “Bowdler’s House”, described as “Founded by Thomas Bowdler 1724”.

This got me all excited.

Thomas Bowdler went through all the works of Shakespeare and took out all the “naughty” bits. Thus, he produced a “family” version of Shakespeare. This led to the word “bowdlerised” which is when a literary work has been “sanitised”.

My wonderful English teacher, the late Charles Phelps, always used to wax lyrical about Thomas Bowdler and what he did. This, as you can imagine, caused much hilarity amongst us pubescent boys. I hasten to add that Mr Phelps was in on, and indeed fanning the flames of, the joke.

So it was an enormous pleasure to see this house bearing the name “Thomas Bowdler”.

However, since the bowlerisation Thomas Bowdler wasn’t born until 1754, my excitement was misplaced. It’s a different Thomas Bowdler, but a distinguished Thomas Bowdler nonetheless, who established a school here.

One wistfully imagines that the school’s pupils at some time read copies of “The Family Shakespeare” and perhaps even sniggered about the bits that had been taken out.


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