Tim Penrose Biography


Tim Penrose has led the most interesting of lives. The son of a self-made greengrocer found himself finished with education at the age of 17 as the result of an over developed sense of humour and a challenge from a friend. The bet with his friend, led Penrose to write to a large group of funeral directors in the Midlands. Following and interview and a brief training period in Bristol he found himself managing a funeral home in Hereford.


At the age of 19, he conducted not only the most expensive funeral in the whole history of the 130 year old company, he also had the honour of conducting five military funerals for 22 SAS Regiment.


Penrose worked through many positions in the company and eventually found himself working alongside funeral entrepreneur Howard Hodgson, as an Acquisitions Executive and Personal Assistant to the Chairman.


In 1990, after over eight years in the funeral business, Penrose left to open a coffee house with a mission to bring great food and coffee to Birmingham.


Hudson’s Coffee House started with only £850 and became legendary not only in Birmingham, but also nationwide. Hudon’s exotic gourmet sandwiches and cafetiere coffee were served by liveried waiters using bone china. In 1993 it was awarded the Best Tea House in the United Kingdom by Egon Ronay and by 1998 Hudson’s fame had grown to the extent that they were on the front cover (and the only UK entry) in the book “The World’s Best Coffee Houses”. Tim and Ruth Penrose remained the sole shareholders.


Hudson’s celebrated 20 years of service in Birmingham in 2011. However by then, the Penroses had sold the business to relocate their young family to Devon.

Meanwhile, Ruth Penrose’s parents Ann and Roger Bowden had been running their hosta hobby as a small business in their retirement. Bowden Hostas had developed a pedigree that included numerous horticultural gold medals and even provision to the household of HRH The Prince of Wales. Come 2004 when it was time to retire from their retirement, the Roger and Ann sold out to Tim and Ruth who have since expanded Bowdens to incorporate an  award winning fern nursery and a bamboo specialist.


Bowdens now boasts 126 RHS Gold Medals, including 36 Chelsea Flower Show Gold Medals and have previously held a Royal Warrant to HRH The Prince Of Wales.


In November 2015 it was announced by the Royal Horticultural Society that the prestigious Monument Stand at The Chelsea Flower Show would be graced by Bowdens – the first change in almost 75 years. The stand would be ground breaking and would feature a 18m long Belmond British Pullman train carriage as a centrepiece to a plant collectors journey around the world.


The site took four years of negotiation to secure and will be the largest single display ever seen in the Floral Marquee at Chelsea Flower Show.


Really a frustrated actor, musician and journalist, Tim Penrose has written for the Birmingham Post under his nom de plume “Hal Crispin” and written and produced a Christmas musical as well as numerous children’s educational songs (mostly for his family). Penrose is an avid Gilbert and Sullivan fan and is also an admirer of Dirk Bogarde. During winter months Penrose is frequently found persuading fellow Devon rugby referees his methods are best. In 2014 he was honoured to be a touch judge at Twickenham for the charitable match between Trentham RUFC and the Commons and Lords RFC, the latter team comprising members of both houses of parliament.

Bowdens Gallery