J. Lawrence Sowerby was a member of the British South Africa Police (the police force of the British South Africa Company, active in present Zimbabwe from 1890). He was in command of a detachment at Fort Chiquaqua, some 30 km east-south-east of Fort Salisbury (now Harare), where he beseiged the Mashona chief Goromonzi. As the siege was mainly quiet, he was able to spend considerable time collecting birds with his Lee Metford rifle. The skins, which he prepared himself to a very high standard, were sent to the British Museum (Natural History) and were described by Sowerby in a paper entitled "On a collection of birds from Fort Chiquaqua, Mashonaland, with notes by R. Bowdler Sharpe, LL.D." in The Ibis (1898). The collection consisted of 48 species, including a species of Barbet which Sharpe considered new to science and named Smilhorhis sowerbyi after the collector (later recognised as a subspecies of Whyte's Barbet, Stactolaema Whytii Sowerbyi).