Should railway bridge be named in memory of St Neots benefactor?

THE Rowley name will continue to play a prominent role in St Neots life despite the death of its multi-millionaire benefactor.

Peter Rowley, who was the town’s Lord of the Manor, died last month. He was 78.

An author and a playwright, he lived in New York but remained passionate about his Huntingdonshire roots.

In 2006, he donated £1million to St Neots which paved the way for the cinema complex, currently under construction. Once complete, it will be known as the Rowley Arts Centre and will feature an area for live performances.

And the proposed footbridge between the railway station and Loves Farm, land sold by Mr Rowley to developers, could also bear his name.

St Neots Mayor, Cllr Barry Chapman, who worked with him on the cinema project since 2007, said: “Peter was someone who had a very keen interest in St Neots, which he regarded as his home town. He had a genuine interest in what was going on, even though he had lived in New York since he was 11 or 12. I think he cherished the connection. He had an interest in seeing the town flourish.”

Cllr Chapman said Mr Rowley, whose play God Save England was performed at the Priory Centre, had been determined to make the cinema happen after seeing overwhelming support for it.

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“Peter had all sorts of ideas coming forward for the launch. He was going to order Hollywood-style floodlights for the opening,” he said. “He was instrumental in the idea of having live performance in there.”

Cllr Chapman said news of Mr Rowley’s death had come as a shock. “He had been suffering from a very bad hip problem for some time and had an operation just before Christmas. When I last spoke to him he said he was doing quite well. It’s a sad loss.”

Mr Rowley was also a former president of the St Neots Players and a regular visitor to the St Neots Museum. Players chairman Richard Fitt said: “I was sorry to hear he had died so suddenly. It’s such a shame he died before the cinema was born.”