Charles Rowbotham was born in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, England in December 1858. In his early years he worked at the Marshal boot and shoe factory with his brother William.
William left for Australia in 1876 and on his arrival in Toowoomba set up a shoe factory in an old shed on the property where the ambulance station now stands. He wrote to Charles to urge him to come to Australia to help him with the business. Charles and his new wife travelled to Australia in 1884 on a ‘honeymoon’ trip.
Soon after his arrival, Charles, with his brother William, purchased land in Herries Street for a factory. Their boot manufacturing business flourished and two retail business were opened, one in Pittsworth and the other in Clifton. These stores were both successful.
In about 1886, Charles purchased two properties in South Street on either side of High Street. He built a house on the property west of High Street. In the early 1900’s the brothers dissolved their partnership after a dispute and Charles eventually offered the original site to the Ambulance Committee, of which he was a member, for purchase.
After disposing of the wholesale business, Charles established a retail business in Ruthven Street, thought to have been where Macdonald & Rosbrook stands today. He then finally moved to a building at the corner of Ruthven and Bell Streets which he first had demolished and rebuilt.
Charles was elected Alderman of South Ward in 1897 and Mayor in 1902 and 1903. He successfully campaigned to have the sanitary depot removed to a more suitable location.
He is also known for having improved Toowoomba’s roads, most notably he had Kitchener Street extended from James Street to Perth Street for the convenience of the residents of the south-east part of town.
The Rowbotham family then took a 12 month holiday in England.
Charles sold his property in South Street at this time and gave the property on the eastern side of High Street to the Education Department to build a school. This site now accommodates Rangeville State School.
Upon his return from England, Charles purchased the Nundora Estate from the Reverend Canon Pugh, Rector of St. Luke’s Anglican Church, and had it surveyed into allotments, which sold rapidly.
He also purchased the remainder of the Grange Estate, extending from Grange Street back to the properties fronting Margaret Street, and built a residence on the corner of Grange and Clifford Streets.
After some time, Charles sold all his Toowoomba property and moved to Sydney. He passed away there at the age of 92, leaving a large sum of ₤23 000 to Dr Barnados Homes in England.
LH/files – LH/Mayors, Toowoomba
Gant, W.C. – “History of William John and Charley Rowbotham”