Described in his obituary as "an ardent friend to the masses", Thomas Shave Gowing had a lifelong interest in public education.
His middle name Shave was in acknowledgement of an ancestor who had been the printer of the Ipswich Journal.
age of fifteen, he began working for The East India Company at India House in London. There, he became acquainted with his contemporary John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), whose family background was Utilitarian and heavily influenced by his father's friend, Jeremy Bentham.
By 1838, after several years living in Bonn and travelling extensively through Germany and Switzerland, Gowing had returned to Ipswich to take up a property which had been left to him by his uncle. There he built Mount Cottage.
From this time, Gowing devoted himself to the work of improving and supporting the Ipswich Mechanics' Institute, established in 1824, eventually becoming Chairman of the Committee of Management, a position he held for almost 30 years. Gowing's first lecture, held at the Mechanics' Institute, was a work on Prussian Normal schools, delivered on a visit to Ipswich while he was still residing in Germany. At this time, the question of Normal Schools was the subject of much debate in England. This lecture was subsequently published as "Normal schools and the principles of Government interference with education." (London, 1838.)
A member of the Ipswich Town Council from 1857 to 1866, Gowing's interests outside his devotion to the Mechanics' Institute, included local politics and landscape gardening. According to his obituary, he was "almost entirely" responsible for the design of the Upper Arboretum in what is now Christchurch Park in Ipswich. The Upper Arboretum was opened to the public in December 1853.
Thomas Shave Gowing died on 9th January 1874 at Mount Cottage from a brain haemorrhage.
(Ref. Ipswich Journal and Suffolk, Norfolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire Advertiser: October 22 1853 ; April 29 1854 ; May 16 1863 ; January 13 1874.) A.B.