Dr Gwyn Rowley obituary

Dr Gwyn Rowley took up a post in the Department of Geography at Sheffield in 1964 and retired 36 years later as a Reader in Geography.  

Geography building

Born in Cardiff on 24 May 1938, Dr Gwyn Rowley was Welsh through and through. He was one of the last to be called up at the age of 18 to do military service before compulsory conscription ended and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. Following this, he attended the University of Wales, Aberystwyth where he gained a bachelor's degree in Geography in 1961 followed by a PhD in 1967. 

Dr Gwyn Rowley took up a post in the Department of Geography at Sheffield in 1964 and retired 36 years later as a Reader in Geography. For much of his career, his major interests lay in urban geography with a particular concern with retailing. He was interested in the progressive shift taking place during his lifetime from city-centre retailing locations to out-of-town centres, and the implications this had for urban structures as a whole. He was also concerned with the impacts on communities and, for example, undertook research with colleagues in the Department of Landscape on children's reactions to urban changes. Gwyn was innovative in his research, realising that detailed fire insurance plans could provide longitudinal information on changes in urban land use over extended periods of time; his use of such sources is still commonly referred to.

Dr Rowley was an enthusiastic teacher. He was keen to teach summer schools in the USA and to establish strong research contacts there. Thus, he held formal visiting posts at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and at Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts. He was appointed a Peabody Fellow at Harvard in 1989.  From 1985 to 1997 he served on the committee of the British Fulbright Scholars Association. Within the University of Sheffield, Gwyn's contributions to field teaching were notable, and he also served for many years on the committee of what was then the Association of University Teachers (the AUT) where he was particularly concerned with supporting individuals.

In the second part of his career, Gwyn developed an interest in the geography of the Middle East. His focus included urban and retail studies but also encompassed concerns with competition for water rights (particularly between the Israeli authorities and Palestine), and the logistics of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.  For many years he acted as a consultant to the Ministry of the Hajj in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.  But he was always careful to keep on good terms with Palestinian, Israeli and other researchers in the increasingly volatile Middle East region.