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Obituary - Peter Fowler MBE, aged 78

Obituary - Peter Fowler MBE, aged 78

Obituary - Peter Fowler MBE, aged 78

It’s with great sadness that we report the passing of Peter Fowler, MBE, on Saturday 4 March, 2023.

Peter was undoubtedly one of New Covent Garden Market’s most influential people of the last 50 years and had acted as Honorary President of the Covent Garden Tenants Association (CGTA) since his retirement in 2012. Known in the Market as the ‘Godfather of Fruit’, Peter was the former owner of wholesale business C&C Fruit, and received an MBE in the 2013 New Year’s Honours list for a lifetime of service to the industry and New Covent Garden Market.

Above: Peter with his wife Chrissie and son Damian.

CGTA Chairman Gary Marshall said Peter was ‘simply a true legend’ who will be sadly missed by all. “We all have our own memories of the great man,” said Gary. “He was an honest adviser, a true friend and supporter. I send my love to all Peter’s family at this extremely difficult time and may he rest in peace. He will be sadly missed but, I’m sure, never forgotten.”

A stalwart of the fresh produce industry, Peter enjoyed a successful half century in the trade, with 26 years as the head of the C&C group. Starting his career in the old Covent Garden Market, Peter joined the Henry Solomons business, boiling beetroot in the 1960s. From there, he moved to Covent Garden Supply, a pioneer in catering distribution. His final move before the relocation to Nine Elms in 1974 - was to EC Dean, before the firm changed its name to Lyons & Dean.

In 1986, Peter saw an opportunity: market character Lenny Cooper was retiring from his firm C&C and sold Peter the business. Speaking of the deal many years later, Peter said: “Lenny took a blank sheet of paper and wrote: ‘If at any time, you fail to pay me my money by mid-morning every Saturday, the company reverts to my name’. I must have been mad, but I signed it.” Peter’s acumen came to the fore and the deal saw C&C go from strength to strength. It became known as an exotic fruit specialist, as Peter moved the business away from its focus on traditional fruit, set up at New Spitalfields in 1991 and added Borough Market, where his son Lawrence and daughter Kelly run Elsey & Bent.

Above: Peter receiving his OBE from Her Majesty The Queen in 2013.

“I am very sad at the news of Peter’s passing,” said Jo Breare, General Manager of Covent Garden Market Authority. “Peter was a legendary figure and a true gentleman who did so much for our market, making a lasting impression on everyone he met. I always valued Peter’s honest opinion and know he was very respected within the New Covent Garden Market community as well as in the wider industry, as his MBE proved. Gilgrove Ltd, run by Peter’s son Damian, will continue the strong family connections to our market.”

Our thoughts and condolences are with Peter’s family at this sad time.

Above: Peter, left, on Buyers' Walk with Peter May of County Supplies, also now sadly deceased. 

The New Covent Garden Market community has been paying tribute to Peter. Here are a selection of the comments:

“This is extremely sad news, he was the Godfather to us all.”
Jason Tanner, Managing Director, The Menu Partners

“A master salesman, a master businessman, a master good bloke, MBE, say no more.”
Bruce White, Bruce White Ltd

“A true gentleman, fond memories. Rest well, Sir.”
Miles Browne, IA Harris

“Peter helped me immensely when I needed it – a great man, one of the best.”
Danny Murphy, Yes Chef

“RIP Peter, thanks for the help and guidance you gave me. A Market legend to us all.”
Paul Murphy, Yes Chef

“Peter will be missed by all, a great gentleman, a true friend, legend to us all.“
Rick Harris, IA Harris

“A gentleman who was admired throughout this industry and beyond. This is a very sad day for all of us that had the pleasure to know him.”
Eddie Barrett, HG Walker

“I had the pleasure of working for Peter for over 25 years and was full of admiration for his hard work for his own company and the Market. A true gentleman and a superb boss.”

“My mentor, my tutor, my word Dad. RIP guv.”

“So very sorry to hear this news. Peter was always a wise leader and advisor. He was always a pleasure to be with.”
Nicholas Saphir

“He was such a great man who I had the utmost respect for.”
Chris Sparshott

“Peter was a true gentleman and a great ambassador for our Market.”
Jason Linke

“A gentleman with unquestionable morals and life advice that he gave to many in the Market.”

Garin Auld
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