Vernon Cowper was a actor and principal baritone, born into a prosperous middle class family on 10th December 1871 at Streatham.
His father, Edward Alfred Cowper was an eminent civil engineer, with inventions such as the detonating fog alarm and a type of blast furnace that bear his name today.
A creative gene must have run in the family as the 1881 census shows two of his sisters listed as artists and Vernon’s talent for singing must have been enough to get him a place at the Royal Academy of Music where we see him performing in a concert in 1890 at Alexandra House.
Beginning his professional career in 1891 he advertises himself for parts as “Juvenile’s, Heavies or Baritones”. From 1893 Vernon has already established a “pleasing stage presence” and is beginning to get good notices for the part he plays. During the mid-1890’s he is mainly performing in touring operetta or musical comedy companies and his fist recorded pantomime is “Sinbad” at Chester in 1894 with the singing part of Davy Jones.
It is from around 1895 though that Vernon’s career really takes off, in almost constant employment, he spends these years criss-crossing the country earning plaudits for his “fine voice and commendable acting” and working with the stars of Music Hall, like Dan Leno in his “Orlando Dando” and Arthur Roberts in the highly successful HMS Irresponsible.
In terms of critical success, the show “The American Heiress” earns him the most attention. Beginning in 1899 this production, in which he plays two roles, Lord Stoneyhurst and Louis Meynard , is in almost constant tour for over 12 months with particular praise given at Dundee where it is reported that “Vernon Cowper is gifted with a magnificent stage presence and he sings and acts well”. The audiences loved it especially Vernon’s patriotic ballad “The Dawn of Peace” which sent the normally refined Victorian theatre goers into a jingoistic orgy of singing.
In 1904 he married Martha Asher and they had no children.
Further successes followed with the operetta The Red Spider and musical comedy The Southern Belle. In 1905 Vernon finds himself at the London Coliseum, where no doubt under the direction of the puritanical Oswald Stoll, has some parts in biblical drama’s there. A period followed performing with his own sketches “Missus Double” and “When the Clock went wrong” before teaming up with his long term collaborator Ronald Grahame and touring with his wife, Martha in “Queen of the Wicked”.
Vernon Cowper, passed away on 23rd July 1922 aged 50. He had been suffering from throat cancer and was laid to rest at the Variety Artiste plot in Streatham Park Cemetery.
His wife Martha died, two years later and was laid to rest in a common grave at Lambeth Cemetery.