WM minister, born at Horton near Bradford. Despite being an upholder of Methodist discipline, he became a leading opponent of Jabez Bunting in the Conference and Benjamin Gregory's Side Lights was based on the record he kept of the Conference debates between 1827 and 1849. He was appointed Secretary of the Conference in 1848, but his health failed shortly afterwards and he died in John Wesley's house, City Road (the first minister to do so since Wesley himself) on 17 March 1851.
His wife Eliza was the grand-daughter of Robert Dall. Their older son Robert was of a reserved nature. He qualified as a doctor and practised in Leeds; but later, after experiencing a conversion, offered for the ministry. In the wake of the effects of Wesleyan Reform on WM he was not accepted, but served for the rest of his life under the Canadian Conference.
The younger son was H.H. Fowler, a prominent political figure.
'The appearance of snappiness, but mere mannerism. - A large fund of Wesleyan information, taking notes of everything he hears in Conference, as to the business, doctrines, and usages of the body. - Expresses himself with promptitude and precision. - An excellent preacher - pointed - convincing - and instructive. - Rather abrupt; - but good tact.'
Wesleyan Takings (1840) p.359
'Joseph Fowler was a man of exceptional powers; a refined and polished scholar; a great interpreter of Scripture; a most able and interesting preacher, possessing a personality of great dignity, though of a somewhat stern and puritanical type. He was soon acknowledged as head and shoulders above the vast majority of those who had been called to the new ministry, and he became one of the few leaders who carried on the revival started by John Wesley into a fixed and permanent power in the land. He was sent to fill the largest chapels, and to fortify the strongholds of the new faith; and his iintense seriousness and grave dignity leavened the almost riotous unconventionality of this outspoken, experimental faith.'
Edith H. Fowler, The Life of Henry Hartley Fowler(1892) p.2
'…he retained through all the changes of his life the strongly marked characteristics of the genuine Yorkshireman. He was shrewd, frank, self-reliant and outspoken, warm-hearted, practical, appreciative and wide-awake. In manner he was sometimes bluff, and on occasion brusque, but in catholic appreciativeness, in helpful sympathy and in high-toned honour, and in all the fealties of friendship, he was as good as gold and as true as steel… His tall figure was perectly erect. He seemed rather spare, but vigorous and wiry. His square, forensic brow, with massive eyebrows, somewhat overshadowed his keen and searching eyes. He impressed me as grave, strict, earnest to the very verge of sternness and austerity. This [first] impression deepened as I saw him on "Committee days".'
Benhamin Gregory, Side Lights on the Conflicts of Methodism (1898), pp.6, 13