Grandson of the Rev. Joseph Rowley who was chaplain at Lancaster Castle from 1803 to 1858. Third son of Alexander Butler Rowley, a Manchester solicitor. He was educated at Rossall, which he entered in 1852 and left in 1854, being a member of the cricket eleven in 1853 and 1854. His brother Edmund Butler Rowley played for Lancashire 1865-80 and was captain 1866-79. There were five other brothers all stated to be proficient at cricket.
Alexander's first important match was for Manchester against Sheffield on the old Botanical Gardens Ground, Manchester, at the age of sixteen, when he bowled 32 four-ball overs, ten of which were maidens, taking no wickets and conceding 63 runs.
It was three years later that he appeard in his next important match, in September 1857, again playing for Manchester against the strongest side in England, Surrey. Manchester called up professional reinforcements and young Alexander found himself playing in the same team as John Wisden and John Lillywhite against W.Mortlock, W.Caffyn, J.Southerton, Julius Caesar and G.Griffith. He had benefited from further coaching by Tom Hunt, the club's professional, and scored 21 runs and took two wickets - W.Mortlock and Julius Caesar. To everyone's amazement Manchester won by three runs, Surrey's only defeat of the season.
His ability continued to grow, and in 1859 this was recognised by his being selected for the Gentlemen for the first time. In 1862 he was briefly based in the South and played one match for the Surrey Club, under the name of "A.Rawlinson." A few days later he represented the Gentlemen of the South against the Gentlemen of the North at Trent Bridge, under the name of "W.Miller," in spite of objections from the Northern team. Perhaps it was just as well that the game was drawn.
Alexander and Edmund Rowley were leading lights in the formation of a Lancashire County Cricket Club and both attended the meeting at the Queen's Hotel, Manchester on 12th January 1864, when the formation of the Club was agreed. In July 1865 he played in the Lancashire Club's initial first-class match against Middlesex at Old Trafford and was probably captain. He did not travel to London for the return fixture, but his brother Edmund did, and was also probably captain.
5ft.11 inches tall and weighing around 11 stone, he was a right-handed batsman, hitting with great freedom. He bowled left-handed, round-arm, "rather slow and twisting." It was said that he represented the hat, rather than the cap, days of cricket. "His hat, However, is described to one as a sort of compromise hat, low in the crown." He was one of the joint Secretaries of the County Club when it was formed and from 1874 to 1879 was President of the Club. He was vice-president of the Ashton-under-Lyne Club and , in 1870 on its formation, one of the vice-presidents of the United North of England Eleven. He played three matches for Cheshire 1863-69, making two fifties in his 149 runs and taking 14 wickets.
He was a mill-owner who was also a member of the firm of Rowley and Sons, solicitors, of Manchester. A Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Lancashire, he was Hon.Colonel of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
The 1881 Census finds him living at Hanworth House, Shanklin, Isle of Wight, aged 41, Deputy Lieutenant for Lancaster, cotton clothing proprietor and solicitor, with his wife Hannah, aged 41, four daughters, Helen Elizabeth aged 15, Alice Blanche aged 13, Edith Campbell aged 11, and Constance Mabel aged 9, and one son Alexander Butler aged 7. There is a governess, a butler, and six other domestic servants.
In 1886 he stood as Liberal candidate in the Parliamentary election for Ashton-unde-Lyne unsuccessfully. A keen yachtsman he was the owner of the yacht "Mabel" and of the yawl "Latona."
In 1901 he married the mother of A.C.MacLaren (Lancashire 1890-1914 and England), James Alexander MacLaren (Lancashire 1891-94) and Geoffrey Maclaren (Lancashire 1902).
He moved to Dover, Kent, where he died leaving an estate valued at £139-16-7d.
(Article: Copyright © 2004 Don Ambrose)