Wednesday, 17 May 2017


Early Days.

With its many interesting associations with the Melton Hunt,‘The Elms’ - formerly known as ‘The House’ and which once stood on the South side of Sherrard street - was really more of mansion proportions and for many years was one the most important buildings in the market town.  From its very earliest times it became the property of an outsider, being occupied by two Lambton brothers, William Henry and Ralph John, whose father, John Lambton, had been an early disciple of Hugo Meynell and with him, one of the original motivators of the nascent hunting phenomenon which was rapidly developing in this area. The Lambton Estates in Durham, Northumberland with their rich coalfields had made this family extremely wealthy and these two sons had inherited well from their father’s efforts.  As a keen sportsman, the large house was a magnet for the wealthy and high-society figures of the sporting world.  Its rear entrance of grand stone pillars faced north onto Sherrard street as if turning its back on the passing traffic of the day, but the attractive front aspect which faced into the sun of the south, overlooked a great blend of immaculate lawns, high flowing water fountains, carefully tended and colourful flower gardens, all of which extended to where Mill Street lies today. 

The House.

Norman House

It was in 1793 that timber merchant Richard Norman, who was then also the estate agent to the fourth Duke of Belvoir, acquired ownership of ‘The House’ and within this period of their tenure they renamed it as ‘Norman House’.  After the death of his first wife, Richard Norman married a second time into a much higher echelon of society than his own when through his close business connections with the Duke, he was to marry his eldest daughter, Lady Elizabeth Isabella Manners. The word was apparently quickly and widely spread that her mother, the Duchess, was not at all enamoured of this “mixed’ union of her daughter and a ‘working man’.  Desirous of keeping tags on the couple, Lady Elizabeth is said to have purchased a house in Sherrard Street known as ‘The Poplars’ - which still stands today, fronted by a butcher’s shop - from where she is said to have paid close and personal attention to her offspring.  Today, the story is still told locally of the quite regular visits of the Dowager-Duchess to her daughter’s house, just 20 metres distant across the main road, when she would take a hansom cab to turn right from her drive into Sherrard Street, then to travel some 20 metres along the road to where the Corn Cross once stood in the centre of the highway.  On  Circumnavigating the Cross she would retrace her route to park at the rear entrance of her daughters residence where her liveried entourage would ensure that she was safely embussed and properly ensconced with Elizabeth for her maternal visit.  Richard Norman died in 1847 and Elizabeth lived on for a further six years.

The Elms

After the passing of the Norman family,‘The House’ was sold on to Mr C H Frewen of Cold Overton Hall, Nr to Langham and at this time the Reverend C A Holmes maintained a large boarding school on the premises for at least six years after which time it was let to various visiting members of the hunt who arrived each year for the winter season of hunting the fox.  It next became the official residence of Mr Thomas Frewen and family, who was at that time patron of the Melton Living.  Once more, early in the 1870’s the property was sold on a more permanent basis to Lieutenant Colonel William Thomas Markham who settled in seriously and over time renovated and upgraded the ageing building in order to suit his very large family.  Known for his great love of horses and hunting, he erected brand new stables for his large string of top-grade hunters, which were professed to be better fitted out than the average hotel of the time.  In 1877, their second daughter, Miss Cecile, married Mr Cecil Samuda in a very grand high-society ceremony at Melton Church on the 12th December.  The event attracted many hundreds of people including members of the local Hunts who all attended in scarlet.  As part of the nuptials a meet of the Belvoir hunt took place in the paddock adjoining the house at which the Duke of Rutland was present.  The Colonel’s eldest daughter married the Earl of Annesley from this house and before long, in the 1890’s, his two remaining daughters were married to Mr Archibald Smith and the late Hon. Gerald Walsh respectively. It was during the time that the Markhams were resident, that the name of the house was changed once again; this time to become known as ‘The Elms’.   The beneficent and widely respected and loved Mrs Markham died at ‘The Elms’ on July 20th 1880 after a brief illness, her loss being keenly felt in the town and especially by the local poor people to whom she had directed many years of genuine altruistic attention and assistance at times of need.  A permanent memorial consisting of three stained-glass windows was placed to her memory in the chancel of St Mary’s church at a cost of £210 - a grand amount - which was all raised by public subscription. After her death ‘The Elms’ stood virtually unused for long periods of time apart from being rented out in the season as a hunting lodge to various wealthy members of the hunting fraternity.  

And Finally, the Powells’.

Following the deaths of both Colonel Markham and his eldest son and heir, the house was sold once more to local surgeon Colonel Lionel L Powell who had previously spent his bachelor days in and practised medicine at, Framland House in Burton End.  This move followed his marriage to Jessie Kate, the only daughter of local brewer, William Adcock, then resident at North Lodge in Bentley Street.  Their only child, Philip Lionel William Powell, born at ‘The Elms’ in 1882, went on to serve a commendable military career, even though ill-health would truncate his promising promotion path early.  Spending more time in London, he married in 1904, Maud Mary Wells-Dymoke of Grebby Hall, Lincolnshire, daughter and eventual heir of Edward Lionel Wells-Dymoke.  Their only son, Anthony Powell was born in 1905 and spent only his first five or six years in Melton Mowbray at The Elms before the family moved permanently to Wandsworth in London.  Later in his life Anthony was to achieve literary fame as a celebrated novelist of world-wide repute in the 1950s, with the great success of his collection, Dance to the Music of Time.  
Philip Powell
Returning to the death of Colonel Lionel Powell in 1912 at the age of 64, it should be told that he was regarded as one of the most popular personalities about Town in his day, due mainly to his regular occupation as a popular and loved doctor/ surgeon which skills he shared with a dedicated and loyal service to the town and his County of Leicestershire as Colonel of the local Militia.  He was also able to fit in much civil and community work related to the Courts and the local Boards. He died at ‘The Elms’ on June 29th, 1912, a moment which was properly and popularly honoured by a full dress military funeral procession which was witnessed by  most of the residents of his adopted town: His wife Jessie Kate remained resident at the old house until her own death there at the age of 70 in 1929.

Depression and Demolition 

The 1930’s, not only in Britain, but across Europe as a whole, came to be remembered as a significant period of increasing and debilitating depression, with the loss of productivity and industry creating almost a decade of austerity from which Melton Mowbray was not to be fully spared.  A steady dwindling of wealthy visitors in the hunting seasons and a related lack of well paid work locally, served to seriously affect the day-to-day life of the town.  People today lament the passing demolition and general destruction or neglect of many of remaining historic buildings in the town, a trend which they feel is unnecessary and ever the fault of the local Councils, but it is a fact that this situation was occurring almost a century ago, when, like today, the Council are deemed responsible but pretty well hands-tied as to what they could do usefully to save the situation.  In fact, as history shows us, it would again take another World War and two or more decades to return to some form of normality.

Following the passing of the Powell family in 1930, their lovely old house  was to stand sadly alone, unoccupied, seemingly unwanted and abandoned to the vagaries of the weather and passing vandalism.  With potential owners shy to buy or even to lease such properties in the prevailing depression.  Following this trend, the same dispiriting circumstances were to be true of other large houses in the town such as ‘North Lodge’ at the top of Bentley street, once owned by Mr Adcock of the nearby brewery or another of the prime residences of the day, the long-established hunting lodge known as ‘The Limes’ in Sherrard Street, which was owned by Mr Adcock’s former business partner James Pacey.  The increasingly punishing cost of general upkeep and the impracticality of perhaps, potential buyers ‘waiting for better times’, foresaw the inevitable demolition of ‘The Elms’ in 1936.  The site would stand abandoned and unkempt for at least two decades throughout the years of the second World War, until in 1953 when the General Post Office were somehow granted permission for the erection of a new telephone exchange (a hideous 1960’s blimp which today is rapidly approaching its own demise) which at least attempted to cover the eyesore, but added little to the character or ambience of the ancient town.  The building was later fronted by four equally ugly modern shops which were to face Sherrard Street.

Sunday, 26 February 2017




By the early 1890's, the Johnson family were out of Framland House and out of Melton Mowbray. Annie Johnson, by now leading the life of a reasonably young and clearly wealthy widow annuitant, seemed to have had her future secured with an impressive pension.  Preferring life in the capital city she was soon to be ensconced in the sumptuous comfort and prestige of one of the best of London's leafy suburbs, where she would complete the raising of her children and ensuring that her only son Henry did not forgo his architectural studies.  She would also outlive her ancestors by reaching the grand age of 90 years before her eventual passing in Hampstead in December, 1923. But what of the old family home with its 11 bedrooms, stables and large garden standing in the grounds of the railway station at Melton Mowbray? It might have been a snip at around £500 when she left and in fact was valued at some £800 when it failed to meet its reserve in 1911. In truth, although never seriously regarded as a noted hunting-box in the town, the house was occupied occasionally by winter visitors who welcomed the availability of the attached stables and its proximity with the ambience of the town centre and its attractions.  At around the same time as the widow Mrs Johnson moved away from the town with her family, a new doctor who had recently arrived in Melton had quietly eased in to cramped premises in the High Street, ostensibly to ‘practice his profession for a couple of days a week and to maybe do a little hunting on the side;’ at the age of just 24 years, he arrived as a newly-qualified member of the Royal College Of Surgeons. Dr Lionel Powell, of Welsh origin but born in the Channel Island of Jersey would be around as an important resident for a few years to come. 

With no direct family connections remaining in the town today, the Powells - they like it pronounced 'Poel' as in 'Noel' - originated way back in the 5th or 6th century in the Radnor/Hereford area of the Welsh Borders.  The name of Powell is said to derive from the name Hoel or Howell but for brevity we need not look further back than the arrival of Philip Lewis Powell (1805-1856) to bring us into the 19th century as one of seven children of a father of the same name, born in 1775 and his mother, Elizabeth (Turner), daughter of a wealthy banker who on the occasion of her own father's death is said to have managed to stave off bankruptcy within her own family. Moving about the country frequently the family was to spend many years in Norfolk, but Philip was to eventually return 'home' to end his days back in Milford Haven.  Five of the children were males of whom three entered the service of the East India Company, with the younger Philip himself serving as a naval officer and reaching the high rank of Commander.  In 1840 as a young 35 year old, he retired altogether from military life claiming ill-health and it was around this period that he was to marry Eliza Sophia Galliers - also of Welsh origin - and the couple would re-locate to the small island of Jersey in the English Channel.

Lionel Lewis Powell.

    The 1851 census for the States of Jersey, just off the coast of France records that in that year, at Magnolia Cottage in the parish of St Lawrence,  a 44 years old Philip Lewis Powell, 'retired commander,' was resident with his wife, Eliza L Powell, 32 yrs. It includes one son, 3 yrs old Lionel L. Powell, born within the Island and a housemaid cum general nurse, Mary Ann,  making up a cosy quartet.  Not a lot is known of the attraction for them of the small Island of Jersey or of the goings-on of their social life there, but the early and not unexpected death of Philip in 1856 destined that the stay would not be permanent.  In his biography, 'Anthony Powell - a Life,' (Duckworth Overlook 2004), author Michael Barber suggests an air of mystery when writing of this first-born and only child, Philip;
'... For instance his obituary in the Melton Mowbray Mercury states that following the death of his father he spent several years in Italy with his mother. Yet the same year his father died, 1856, he was enrolled as a day boy at Berkhampstead Grammar School.  Why Berkhampstead? Possibly because of John Dupré, a Jersey man who was headmaster of the school from 1790 to 1805, during which time it became customary for the Jersey gentry to send their sons there." 
    There is indeed a dearth of information as to those school and early learning years but it seems that as a grieving widow Eliza Powell was a transient soul and soon after the precipitous death of her husband she had placed the small island behind her and taken young Lionel off to Edinburgh where he attended briefly at the Edinburgh Academy until 1862. The census of 1861 actually shows Lionel, now 13 years old, with his mother, resident at No. 31 Dorset Place, Marylebone and there later followed a period in Italy where Eliza's sister was living with her English Officer husband, then serving with the Bourbon Army. Probably as a result of his travels about Europe, Philip Powell was considered to have acquired a good knowledge of  languages and it was also suggested that he sustained an overriding ambition to lead a military life, but it was a desire more than likely to have been squashed or suppressed by a most unenthusiastic mother. Or as Michael Barber proposes,
'...perhaps there wasn't the money to purchase a suitable commission in a decent regiment and either way, Lionel had to settle for thirty years of part time soldiering with the local [Melton Mowbray] Volunteers, whose honorary Colonel he eventually became.'
    We know not what influences might have led the young and obviously bright Lionel Powell to chose the profession of medicine as a future career over the choice of a military life, but on the 16th May 1871 having successfully negotiated his degree in medicine at Edinburgh, he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons as LRCP and LM: two days later he became a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. We also have few clues as to his decision to carry on his life's chosen work in the small market town of Melton Mowbray - famous mainly for its fox-hunting, pork-pies and stilton cheese - but far away in the wilds of the English East Midlands and some 100 miles or more from the country's capital city.  But arrive he did and within a very short passage of time and at the age of just 23 years, he was to be found as a lodger at the Wilton Terrace home of auctioneer Joseph Miles and his wife Harriet.  From here he would soon join up with two well established and respected local surgeons, the Messrs. Roberts and Whitchurch.  He would soon after this, set up business on his own account as 'Powell and McCraith, Surgeons' with his good friend and medical partner, Jeremiah McCraith, which business and offices would be established at rented premises in the ground floor of No. 1 Burton Street, better known as Framland House, by now vacated by the Johnson family. 

She was only the Brewer's Daughter. 

    Life in Melton Mowbray seems to have proved to be just what the young Doctor Powell might have envisioned when he initially planned a future in the vibrant market town, as Michael Barber writes:
'It was a happy choice. When not hunting himself, which he did three days a week in the season, he was profiting by its consequences. The rest of his spare time was devoted to the Leicestershire Volunteers. Although not without charm, Lionel Powell was evidently someone who had to be taken on his own terms, which included the taste for practical joking. His party piece when out for a stroll with a companion was to trip them up with his walking stick and catch them before they hit the ground, a feat that must have required split-second timing and a degree of forbearance on the part of his victim.'
    On the 25th August 1873, Lionel Lewis Powell was Gazetted as an Ensign of the 3rd Leicestershire or Melton Mowbray Company of Rifle Volunteers, being vice to William Adcock, Esq., now Lieutenant.' Thus he had embarked on what was to be a long period of military service along with his civic responsibilities as a doctor and later on, as politician, coroner, magistrate et al.  This military and close social relationship with the extremely successful local brewer and maltster, Lieutenant Adcock - soon to be Captain - was destined to find him becoming his son-in-law when, on the 2nd June 1878 at the church of the All Souls in Langham Square, Marylebone, Lionel Powell at the age of 29 took 18years old Jessie Katherine Adcock to be his wife.  Because of her young age, a special licence was acquired which was apparently readily arranged by the bride's father. Of this marriage, Michael Barber observes that financially, it made sense ...
' ... on the death of her father in 1890 Jessie inherited £16,000, worth over a million in todays money, some of which may have been used to buy The Elms, the large and gloomy house Anthony Powell remembered as a small boy.  But in other respects there was a price to pay.  Because of her father's humble origins Jessie was not received everywhere in the country.  Furthermore her character was remarkably different from her husbands. He was a hearty extrovert, happiest in the saddle or, latterly, at the wheel of Melton Mowbray's first car. She, by contrast, was lazy and imperious, reclining on the sofa all day with a risqué novel, but quick to impose her will on anyone within range.  She was also a bit of a sorceress, skilled, like Mrs Erdleigh at reading the cards, and reputed to discomfort her enemies by means of spells.'

The Adcock Family.

     Significantly successful in his many and various businesses, Jessie's father was also to share his time with a devoted attention to local civic and political affairs, along with his elevated position in Queen Victoria's Volunteers. His family had been established in the town at least back in the 18th century when a William Adcock was born on December 26, 1774.  He was to marry Catherine Abbot who bore him three children between 1799 and 1802 and notwithstanding her sudden and early death, he next married Elizabeth Pickard with whom he had a further nine children over the following nineteen years between 1804 and 1823.  His last born son, namesake William, was born in June 1821 whist the family was living in the nearby village of Whissendine which lies just over the county border in the 'smallest' English county of Rutland.  In 1857 at the perhaps mature age of 36 years, William married Elizabeth Clark of Spalding in Lincolnshire.  It was said about town that at the age of 36 he seems to have been too busy for matrimony, as from quite a young age he would pass all his waking hours setting himself up as a maltster in the general business of brewing and later, he would include the wholesale trading of cheeses as a sideline.  Steadily and successfully he built up a small retail 'empire' of beers, wines and spirits outlets to sell his produce and trading his cheese in the public market place.  His original business was located in the north side of Melton in Bentley Street and known as the 'Egerton Brewery'.  In a short space of time, many people in the trade both locally and across the East Midland counties, became customers to whom he supplied his wares and increasingly he came to own outright, many of the existing licensed premises and even the small beer houses around, with the result that a lucrative monopoly became his own.  It was these substantial profits which he would re-invest in purchasing whatever public-houses and food businesses might happen to arrive on the market and which were subsequently to number many.  William was also well known and highly respected as a dealer in cheese and was an ever present buyer and seller at the local markets held in the open air in the Market Place, near to which he maintained a small office and store in the inn which is known today as 'The Grapes' and then by its popular name, 'the corner cupboard'.
  Along with this very hectic working life as brewer, accomplished rifleman, civil servant et al, he was considered a most important and respected senior officer of his beloved Melton Volunteers regiment, attaining the rank of Captain shortly before his retirement but William Adcock was to die on Sunday, December 21st, 1890 just one year short of his 70th birthday.  Interestingly, I have discovered that another novel string to his busy bow, was his keen involvement in the very new art of photography, still a very novel art-form of the time at which he seems to have excelled.  Archived documents and year books of the Royal Photographic Society, now held at Leicestershire Records Office, carry confirmation of his many entries, some of which being landscapes and still-life entries of creditable quality, are displayed as being prize-winning efforts submitted prior to the end of the 19th century.  I do I feel justified here in sharing part of a lengthy address to Captain Adcock which was published in the town newspaper of this popular personality.

(From the Melton Times, Friday December 26th, 1890)


   It is employing no mere figure of speech when we say that the news of the death of Captain Adcock, which became known on Sunday morning, has cast a gloom over the town, and will, we feel sure, bring sorrow to many a home other than those more intimately connected with the deceased.  Captain Adcock was so well known in consequence of his connection with artistic, scientific and literary societies, and the prominent part he took in every local philanthropic movement, that his death must be regarded as an event of more than ordinary importance, removing as it does, from our midst, a personage who has, for some years, exercised a potent influence in the town and neighbourhood.
    The deceased gentleman was a native of Melton, having been born in the year 1821.  He was in his early youth a stationer, having been apprenticed to the late Mr. John Towne, with whom he formed a friendship which was destined to be life-long in its duration.  He afterwards engaged in various mercantile pursuits, and was the founder of the now well known Egerton Brewery, so successfully carried on under the name of Adcock, Pacey and Co..  He rapidly rose, by his talents and energy, to a foremost position in the town, which he retained to to the time of his death.
    In politics, Captain Adcock was what may be termed a liberal conservative, and took an active part in the organisation of the party.  He joined one of a company of eleven gentlemen who waited as a deputation upon the present Duke of Rutland, then Lord John Manners, to request him to allow himself to be put to nomination to fill the post of member for North Leicestershire, an incident to which he often referred.  The last occasion on which the deceased took an active part in Parliamentary contests, was the occasion of the first return of the late General Burnaby, when, in conjunction with Mr James Morley, he was indefatigable in successfully canvassing the electors of the neighbourhood.
    Captain Adcock took a warm interest in the welfare of the local corps of , and was one of the first members to be enrolled on the formation of a company at melton.  The idea of a volunteer corps at Melton was originated, we believe, in the dining room of Mr Wing, one evening, early join the year 1859, and a memorial was addressed to the Lord Lieutenant of the County, the late Duke of Rutland with the result that the corps was successfully formed.  The Melton, or “C” Company was, as its distinctive letter implies, the third to be organised in the Country, that of Belvoir, “B” company, being, by a fluke, enrolled before it, and thus taking, in point of seniority, precedence over the Melton Corps.  The utility and importance of the volunteer movement were not then recognised by Government so fully as now, and many of the early experiences of those who joined at the time of which we are speaking, would be regarded by the volunteers of these days as decidedly novel.  At that time, the government did not provide rifles, and muskets were obliged to be purchased by members themselves.  The first drills of the Melton Corps were held on a piece of waste ground at the back of the premises of Messrs. Sharman and Ladbury, now the site of the implement factory, and the first drill sergeant was pensioner named Huddlestone, representatives of whose family still reside in the town.  The drills took place at six o’clock in the morning, and those who were unprovided  with a rifle were compelled to be content with a substitute  in the form of a broom-stick or something similar.  But what they lacked in the materials of war these early volunteers made up in enthusiasm, and the Corps rapidly grew in number and importance.' 


The Brewers

   The existence of the amalgamated skills of the Messrs. Adcock and Pacey business partnership is yet another significant passage of local history and the survival of their brewery venture remains well remembered today.  To bring the story of the Company and the destiny of the partners together, I can say that in the summer of 1873, after two decades of trading alone, William Adcock announced to the world that he was to forge a partnership with Mr James Pacey, a respected farmer of nearby Garthorpe, from which came the business known as Adcock, Pacey and Co. .  The former was already a wealthy man and an established agriculturist employing several workers.  He apparently had little or no prior interest or involvement in the brewing trade, but as a  grazier he had acquired over his lifetime the ownership or tenancy of several acres in the area.     In the ensuing years, several more farms were purchased by the partners and with little involvement with the Brewery, I can only surmise that Mr Pacey's priorities lay in the production of the raw materials required for the brewing - especially the harvesting of barley - at source.  Minor competition in the local busy brewery industry did come from George and Henry Langton at Thorpe End who had taken over a small brewery founded by George Adcock in 1865 and as Langton and Sons,  Brewers of the celebrated 'A.K Ale', they took over the business of Adcock and Pacey on the occasion of the former's death and the latter's retirement in 1890, but they too were to go out of business in 1910 when the bulk of their houses and breweries went to auction.  None of the companies involved remain extant.
   At the time of William Adcock's passing, James Pacey was to sell up his share of the business and purchase the substantial house and grounds known as The Limes at No.1, Sherrard Street where he was to retire with his family who were resident until the 1930s.  This was a time when many of the large houses around the town became very expensive to maintain and as the country in general went into a severe period of financial restraint and worried over the increasing possibility of another World War.  Several such dwellings became abandoned and deserted due to a reluctance to purchase and were left to the vagaries of the weather and the general passage of time, they faced the  certainty of inevitable future demolition.

The land on which The Limes once stood was sold off after demolition in about 1932 and the wonderful old house was soon to be replaced by a contemporary faux 'Art Deco' style branch of Woolworths national retail stores, in modern times to be transferred to its present occupants, the Yorkshire Trading Company.    Its once large and decorative gardens which could be spied through the railings of an iron gate by passers-by from the main street of the town, took up land at its rear to as far as Sage Cross Street to the east which was soon to sold and filled up with commercial buildings and the smaller houses which once lined King Street.

The Elms

  As the only child born to William and Elizabeth, Jessie Kate Adcock was destined to become heiress to a substantial fortune, although she is said to have taken only a small part in the running of the family business and on her father's death in 1890 it seems that she and Lionel with his medical practice, had little interest in the running of the brewery. They had two children, Philip and Katherine.
  Just a short distance to the east along Sherrard street and on the opposite side of the busy road, another large house once stood in magnificent glory as a reminder of Georgian and Victorian times.  Originally, known simply as 'The House', it stood for over two centuries and it is difficult today for residents and visitors to Melton Mowbray, to realise that such a wonderful three-storey stately house with its beautifully manicured gardens actually existed there.  For most people today it, or its memory, is known as The Elms and once stood in the very centre of Melton Mowbray at the point where today stands the semi-derelict, flat roofed and already decaying 1950s telephone exchange.  The once grand gardens of large lawns and flower beds, together with an ice house and magnificently outfitted stables, now comprise the modern streets and dwellings of the Elms and Oaks Roads which contain many of the modern homes of townsfolk. In its heyday the gardens spread, manicured and painstakingly tended, to be bound only by Mill street and Brook street to the south.  As a dwelling, The House was a very favourite hunting box in the winter months, as well as a residence to a series of top social people including Lord Markham and the Manners family of Belvoir.  Around 1900, The House was purchased by Jessie Powell, more than likely with the proceeds of her father's will, it becoming the home of the Powell family for the next three decades. It was in this grand old house that their only son, Philip Lionel William Powell was born, who was to later marry and produce a son of his own who would one day become an internationally renowned author.

The Elms, Melton Mowbray - circa 1925

Anthony Dymoke Powell - 1905-2000

Anthony Powell
  Here I refer to the birth at The Elms, on the 21st December 1905,  of Anthony Dymoke Powell, C.H. C.B.E, the only child of Philip Lionel Powell and Maud Mary Wells-Dymoke.  Maud was the daughter and heir of Edmund Lionel Wells-Dymoke, formerly of Grebby Hall, Lincolnshire and she would eventually move away from the town with her itinerant army family into a military world within which Anthony would travel to many countries.  Spending his early days with his mother in Melton, he was, at the age of 10, to be educated first at Eton and then at Balliol, Oxford, following which in rejecting his parent's hopes of a military career, he was to take up the pen as his tool of work and be destined to become a novelist of some repute.  He Married Lady Violet Packenham, sister of Lord Longford in 1934 and in 1925, following early moderate literary successes, he embarked upon the protracted production of his iconic 12 volume novel,  A Dance to the Music of Time, an analysis of which and the biography of its author, is recorded by the aforementioned Anthony Barber in his 'Anthony Powell, A Life'. ( published 2004 by Duckworth Overlook).

Another famous son of the Town!

Thursday, 23 February 2017


Deuteronomy 5:21 tells us: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife …”   The following report appeared in a Boston, England, newspaper in 1887


At Melton Mowbray Petty Sessions on Tuesday, before Mr A. Duncan, (chairman), Major Orme, and Mr R Dalgliesh.

Richard D—-,  bricklayer, Asfordby was charged with assaulting Naomi M—-, married woman, of the same place on the 29th January.  Complainant stated that on the day named, she went into defendants house which joined hers, to pay her rent.  While there defendant gave her a box of figs, and as she was leaving he put his arms around her and kissed her.  She went home and told her husband.  In cross-examination by defendant, complainant says she ate some of the figs when she got home, and so did her husband.  She knew that sounds could be distinctly heard through the wall, and she remembered on one occasion rapping at the wall to call her husband.  She knew that sounds could be distinctly heard through the wall and she remembered  on one occasion rapping at the wall to call her husband home when he was sitting with the defendant.  George M----, husband of complainant, said he went to see the defendant on the following Sunday evening about the matter.  Defendant said he did not mean any harm, it was only excessive. (laughter.)  In cross-examination, witness said he only had one of the figs.  When complainant went to pay the rent it was about half -past eight.  Defendant said that might be, as he had two clocks neither of which would go.  Witness, continuing, said it was not true that his wife had knocked at the wall for him.  On the night he called on defendant he was sober.  Some time ago he had presented defendant with three sticks of celery and defendant had returned the compliment with a large Spanish onion. (Laughter.)  Witness had offered to make it up with defendant for a sum of money, but defendant had refused.  The bench imposed a fine of 10/- and 11/- costs.

(Reproduced from the Boston Guardian of February 19th, 1887)



As a little bonus for the next few weeks, you are invited into the home of a very rare Bermuda Cahow which has presented a chick into the world this last 12 hrs.

Saturday, 22 October 2016


Who's been eating all the Melton Mowbray Pork Pies?

I recently found this clip in the family notices column of the Nottingham Review of 22nd August, 1828.


‘At Hinckley, on Tuesday week, Mrs. Hopewell, wife of Mr. J. Hopewell, and widow of the late Simon Richards, aged 54.   She was one of the favoured progeny of nature, and would have made an excellent companion for the celebrated Daniel Lambert, weighing, as she did, some time back, 24 stones!   The width of her coffin, across the breast, was three feet.’

Leicester's favourite son for many decades - but now probably superseded by Gary Lineker - was Daniel Lambert who was born in Leicester on the 13 March 1770 into a family of gamekeepers, huntsmen and field sportsmen. By the time of his death 39 years later he weighed a massive 53 stones and his waist measured in at over nine feet. As a noted fan of field sports and an avid follower of the hunt, he is said to have been a regular visitor to Melton Mowbray.  BBC Leicester further tells us: 

' ... throughout his boyhood, Daniel was active, healthy, athletic - and slim. In fact, he was an excellent swimmer from the age of eight and taught many other children to swim in the River Soar. His family background also meant he was a keen rider, spending much of his time galloping around the rural landscape surrounding Leicester. The history books tell of a time when, whilst out riding one day, he came across a wild bear which he punched to the ground, causing her to roar out in pain and flee. In 1791, at the age of 21, Daniel took over from his father as the Keeper of Leicester's House of Correction on Highcross Street and before long he'd earned himself a reputation as a benevolent jailer who took great care of his inmates' welfare, introducing a raft of improvements to the city prison which won him the respect of those behind bars as well as prison reformers of the time. Although this was the making of his career, it may have been the undoing of his health.

A Growing Lad.

    In spite of not being a drinker or a big eater, within 11 years of taking up the job, he tipped the scales at a whopping 32 stone, with his office job blamed for his huge weight gain. Philip French commented that it is believed he may also have had a medical condition that caused his weight. By the time he hit his late thirties he had swelled to nearly 53 stone, could no longer climb the stairs and special arrangements had to be made when he travelled. Just to finally set it in your mind, reporter Julie Mayer estimates that one Daniel Lambert equals seven of her! In 1806 the Stamford Mercury reported that Daniel was having a carriage made specifically to transport him to London where he intended to exhibit himself as a natural curiosity. He ended his days living in his London apartments where people would pay a shilling just to come and see him.
    When he finally died at the age of 39, the measurement around his calf was three foot one inch and his waist was a massive nine foot and four inches. He died at an inn in Stamford and his body had to taken out of the building by removing a wall. His coffin was built on wheels and it took more than 20 men to lower it into his grave. During his life he had become quite a personality, and was used in a cartoon as an emblem for a hearty Britain against the threat of Napoleon. Historians from Leicester have even reported that a waxwork of Daniel was doing the rounds in American museums not long after his death - such was his popularity!
    It seems that the interest around Daniel is still strong, with a number of people visiting the Newarke Houses just to learn more about the larger than life character. The museum has on display many of his possessions including a selection of made-to-measure clothes and a large chair.'

Daniel Lambert   
(13 March 1770 – 21 June 1809)

 (Occasional visitor to Melton Mowbray - when he could find someone to take him!)

Monday, 10 October 2016


The Strange Story of 'Sally' Jesson (1777-1852)

The small village of Scalford in Leicestershire lies some four miles north of Melton Mowbray, a distance I might perhaps walk on a good day, but to continue on to nearby Goadby Marwood, a further two miles and with the thought of requiring to return on foot would test most people today.  Not so in the middle of the 19th century when wheeled transport went by way of unpaved tracks and the ubiquitous footpaths which criss-crossed the rural scene through woods and fields and from place to place, served as the most direct routes for the many pedestrians.

So spare a thought for the poor rural postman of the time who did not have the convenience of an urban route in a town, with houses and businesses standing side by side, but who was required to deliver his packets far and wide in all weathers - and not with the little red vans which we see today. Their website, 'Heritage Royal Mail', marking 500 years of serving the country, informs us that:

'In 1516, Henry VIII knighted Brian Tuke, the first Master of the Posts. This act was the catalyst for the creation of the Royal Mail we know today. Tuke had the influence and authority to establish key post towns across the country and build out a formal postal network. From these origins, the postal service has survived 21 monarchs and two World Wars, and employed hundreds of thousands of people. Perhaps its most famous innovation is the Penny Black stamp, introduced in May 1840. As the world’s first postage stamp, the Penny Black paved the way for the prepaid, one-price-goes-anywhere postage system we use today.
Victorian Pillar Box
In 1852, significant changes were to be made in the national postal service and from that date, rather than travelling to the local post office to deliver a letter or parcel for onward transmission, a contraption known as a 'pillar box' - made of cast-iron and fixed into the ground - was made available for the reception of mail for delivery; they initially appeared in a livery of light green paint. People who needed to travel long distances to a post office in order to send a letter, would now be able to walk perhaps just a few yards and pop it into the box - if it carried the required pre-paid stamp. These permanent containers place at the side of the road were emptied by the postal workers and the contents delivered on such a frequent basis, that a letter posted first thing in the morning could be read and a reply written, then posted by the recipient to be received within the same day.

A Postman of circa 1860
With this brief background of the postman's lot in the market town of Melton Mowbray in the early Victorian era, I would like to tell of an unconventional character who is now apparently absent from the knowledge or memory of local people. An amazing story unfolded for me in local newspapers of the day and I would like to recall and share the story of the odd life and times of long-time Scalford resident, Sarah Jessop which was revealed at the time of her death on the 17th October, 1852.  There are two short newspaper reports, each a little different, which attracted my attention and which can best provide a contemporary account of the amazing life of this 'eccentric' character.

Nottinghamshire Guardian

    'On Saturday last the quiet little village of Scalford was the scene of some excitement caused by an auction sale of the goods and wearing apparel of a noted character named Sarah Jessop, who during a long life had plodded between that village and Melton, as the ‘Scalford Mail,’ wending her weary way in all weathers until old age and infirmities induced fears that she would die on the road.  But the appointment of a Post Office messenger had of late superseded the old lady's self imposed duties, and she had ceased to be seen in Melton, whence, for more than half a century she had fetched letters for Scalford, and her good friends at Goadby Hall [at Goadby Marwood].  The articles sold consisted chiefly of wearing apparel, amongst which were 60 gowns and aprons, 6 bonnets, 30 caps, 6 shawls, 50 handkerchiefs and several cloaks, shoes and slippers.  The sale attracted about 200 persons to see the last of poor old Sally, and pay a kindly tribute of respect to her memory, for with all her oddities she was truly trusty and punctual post-woman, and died at the hale old age of 75.  The auctioneer, Mr. W. Clarke, with his usual jocularity succeeded in realising nearly £20 - a sum far beyond what was expected, for the friends of the deceased refused to furnish her funeral lest the cost of it should exceed the worth of her effects, and therefore placed the matter in the hands of parish officers.'

(Reproduced from the Nottinghamshire Guardian, Thursday, 28th October 1852)


The Leicestershire Mercury

'SCALFORD. - Death of an Eccentric Character.  

    There are few persons who have resided at or within ten miles of Melton Mowbray, during the last half century, but knew the eccentric Sarah Jessop, or, as she was more commonly called “Old Sally,” or the “Scalford and Goadby Walking Post.” She followed up that occupation, indeed daily for nearly 50 years, until recent alterations in the Post-office affairs at Melton when a postman was appointed.  Such was her punctuality, that let come what weather it might, she was true to her time from Scalford at the Melton Post-office, and also to the time of her departure.  For many years no carrier plied between those towns, and Sally has carried immense loads of goods on her head etc. and was regarded as one of the most wonderful women known.  Since she has given up the “Post,” she has lived comparatively retired, at her native village, Scalford, in her own house.  Her mother carried on a similar profession to her death, and various rumours were afloat of her having been a “witch.”  Many anecdotes of her are still prevalent in this neighbourhood among those who lived in her day.  The death of Sarah Jessop took place at Scalford, on Sunday, the 17th inst., after a few days illness at the age of 75 years.  The eccentricity of her character, the willingness of her disposition, her punctuality to all orders entrusted to her care caused her to be universally respected; and her remains were followed to the grave by a very numerous assembly of all classes.  It is estimated that during her public life she had walked more that 110,000 miles.  The disposal of her goods and chattels took place on Saturday last by auction, when upwards of 250 persons were present.  Among the articles sold were 60 gowns and aprons, 6 bonnets, 30 caps, 6 shawls, 50 handkerchiefs and several cloaks, shoes, slippers etc., which realised upwards of £20, a sum far exceeding the expectations of her relatives, who refused to furnish the funeral, lest they should not cover the expense, but left the parish authorities to manage it for them.  She had been a saving woman all her life. and we hear that on removing her things, a few pounds in gold etc. were found.'
Reproduced from The Leicestershire Mercury, Saturday 30th October, 1852

Sadly, to date, I have been unable to discover much of the background of Sally and her family, but I would like to think that the people of Scalford would perhaps one day, be able to provide some form of tribute to one of their 'forgotten' parishioners - perhaps the naming of the next new street in the village to her honour - as a reminder of such an eccentric personality and a gesture of respect to her memory. If any reader does have knowledge of her existence, I would love to hear from them.

Visit Royal Mail Heritage site

Tuesday, 27 September 2016



As a filler, from my regular perusals of the old newspapers, can I offer you this short tit-bit, clipped from the Lincolnshire Chronicle of 1823 relating to a moment of 'high apoplexy' on the part of its exasperated Editor: who wrote ...

    'We cannot but be disgusted by the blasphemy and impiety to which some of our Whig-Radical contemporaries have recourse, in order to endeavour to weaken in men's minds the love of the church through the medium of exciting a contempt for its ministers.  What can be more deserving of open and avowed indignation than the conduct of the editor of the Mercury in inserting into that journal the following vulgar and disgraceful paragraph:-
"John Rolf, bellows-blower at the Bath Abbey Church, completed his 45th year of office on the 25th inst.  His salary is two guineas per annum: the bellows-blower in the pulpit below has two thousand per annum." 
There is in political writing a certain allowed limit (too often, alas! overstepped) to the shafts of satire and it is with much regret that we see, by the present ministerial question for the abolition of church-rates, the affairs of eternity mingle with temporal matters: but can the editor of the Mercury, as a politician, excuse so vile an attack upon a minister of God - can he, as a gentleman, palliate so ridiculous and aimless an insult upon a man?  As for the value of his insinuation, which would denote a vast quantity of of emoluments, it is too insignificant to attach to it aught but a conviction of the paucity and weakness of the arguments against a church establishment, when recourse is had to such a lame quiddit.'  [a quibbling subtlety]


Or the following year, 1824, from the Leicester Chronicle of the 3rd July on a sad day for poor Mrs West:

Doesn't sound to healthy and robust to me!

Sunday, 11 October 2015


FRAMLAND HOUSE - The Johnsons.

Circa 1966

    Recently re-visiting my rapidly increasing and creaking collection of photographs, I came across the above family image which brought back memories for me from some 50 years ago.  My attention was arrested though, not by the people in the foreground (my wife with her father), but by the presence behind them of the rather grand looking, Georgian styled Framland House, as this old building was always known but is sadly now, just that memory.  This once grand, three-storey residence stood elegantly for over a century with its ornate front door abutting Burton End at the foot of the 'new' railway bridge as it begins its rise on the main road to Oakham; immediately opposite and across the road, stands the old building now known as Cardigan House. The now vanished 'footprint' of Framland today relates pretty well with the entrance to the town Railway Station and the new Borough Council offices.

    Seen on the Ordnance Survey map of 1895, the substantial dwelling is shown to be in three separate sections, all adjoined to a sizeable garden contiguous with a small public path which still leads pedestrians and small vehicles to the joys of the Play Close further on.  I have memories of the decaying and abandoned home, which in its final years provided a haven for young children who seemed to have been free to wander about its spooky innards in a search for the reported 'ghost' which was alleged to haunt the crumbling rooms, peeling wallpaper, cracked paint, broken windows and all. Deterioration rapidly set in as the rain and weather permeated the structure via a roof now robbed of its leaden waterproofing and rotting windows.  The abandoned gardens would later provide valuable space for a few rented allotment plots, eagerly utilised by an older generation of gardeners from which, no doubt, bountiful harvests were produced over the years.

Ordnance Survey map circa 1895
    Thus far, I have failed to discover the date of original construction, the origins of its name, or that of the builder, but whilst waiting for someone to perhaps put me wise, I am plumping for a date of around the beginning of the 1870s. Though the characteristics of the house - especially the line of the roof and the style and size of the windows - might suggest a Georgian connection, I cannot accept that it was built as early as the 1820s. From what I have discovered, I currently hazard a guess that the first owner was most likely local resident, Robert Winter Johnson (1833-1884), builder and architect of some repute in his day who was later to be employed as Surveyor for the Local Board, later to become known as Melton Mowbray Borough Council.

Framland House on the left. Circa 1965.

    An attractive building aesthetically and perhaps, pleasing to the eye, it also possessed the somewhat severe lines of an public institution or civic establishment, it might well have stood much longer into the 21st Century in different circumstances but fate was to decree that Framland House would just about reach its hundredth anniversary before the wrecker's ball arrived to create extra width and public safety at an awkward part of the main approach to the busy railway station. I personally remember well a time in the 1970s when slates continued to fall from the roof and bad weather frequently caused chunks of rusting cast-iron guttering to crash down to the pavement to the obvious great danger of passers-by. Of course all this insecurity created problems of illegal trespassing and wanton damage which a boarded-up building always attracts. With the apparent difficulty of tracing a legal owner or someone responsible for its proper maintenance, the old unwanted building faced the eventual ignominy of a compulsory purchase order which accelerated its inevitable demolition.  In 1976, another historic part of the old town vanished from the scene, together with its many secrets and some interesting moments witnessed.  In the course of my research back over those 100 years I have discovered some most interesting facts about some of the people who once lived in the old house.

Framland House in Burton End showing St Marys Church.

    On the 15th July 1911, Framland House went up for auction but failed to reach its reserve price of £800 and it is reported that local property agent Shafto H. Sykes later acquired the property by private treaty and placed it on the rental market via Shouler and Son, local Auctioneers and Estate Agents. A notice in the Grantham Journal was to offer readers:
"A substantially constructed family residence, with yard, stabling and garden - comprising 2,800 square yards - in Burton Street near the Melton railway station. Contains 3 reception rooms, 11 bedrooms and a kitchen."

Monday, 3 August 2015


With thanks to Wikipedia

In a local newspaper recently, I came across an intriguing historic report of 'special' court proceedings which had taken place at at my local Magistrate's Court during the time of the 2nd World War.  At the sitting, the evidence played out related to a seemingly trivial confrontation between a frustrated 'traveller' and a group of soldiers billeted in the town. Consequent research of the legislation allegedly breached on that occasion, opened up for me an extremely interesting period of political dissent at the time of the very birth of the Labour Party of Britain as we know it today.  My intrinsic interest at the outset is the Melton Mowbray connection and the part that a few young soldiers played locally at the time of a great world awakening, but in passing, I would like to touch upon the interrelationship of the statute allegedly breached, with the ideals of a nascent political party proposing to represent the working classes and its acceptance by a then mainly Conservative population.

From time immemorial, matters of creating disaffection - or unrest - within the military community and indeed, amongst serving police officers, had been dealt with under the 'Disaffection to Mutiny Act of 1797' and in the early 1920s, National government began to talk of re-writing the script to at least soften the intended severity of the consequences of the act of mutiny, then a capital crime punishable by death. The legislator's were to become a little compromised however, when in 1924 the seditious and 'mutinous' intervention of the 'Campbell Case', was to create great unease amongst political thinkers, not to mention the still powerful military machine of Britain.  In its opening paragraph, Wikipedia explains the provocations of Campbell and its ramifications:

'The Campbell Case of 1924 involved charges against a British Communist newspaper editor for alleged "incitement to mutiny" caused by his publication of a provocative open letter to members of the military. The later decision of the government of Ramsay MacDonald to suspend prosecution of the case ostensibly due to pressure from backbenchers in his Labour Party proved instrumental in bringing down the short-lived first Labour government.... (read full article)

The New Act. 

In the statute books of England, there remains today the infrequently used piece of legislation which first saw daylight in the austere times of the 1930s. Known as the 'Incitement to Disaffection Act of 1934 (Chapter 56 24 and 25 Geo 5), it is described as:

'An Act to make better provision for the prevention and punishment of endeavours to seduce members of His Majesty’s forces from their duty of allegiance.'   [16th November 1934] and Sec. 1. of the Act provides a 'Penalty on persons endeavouring to seduce members of His Majesty’s forces from their duty or allegiance.' The Act further explains:

'If any person maliciously and advisedly endeavours to seduce any member of His Majesty’s forces from his duty or allegiance to His Majesty, he shall be guilty of an offence under this Act.'

A very small Act in the name of King George V, it seems to have eased its passage through the Houses with few problems but a contentious reference to the potential power of the police to search the premises of likely suspects, did create discontent within the nascent Labour Party at whose conference of 1935, promises were made to remove the Act from the statute books as early as possible in the event of them coming to power. Parliamentary jousts in the Times newspaper of the day, record the disdain with which the Act was held, but as that newspaper records on the 17th April 1934, the voting was not even close:

    ' ...  The critics of the Labour and Liberal opposition fastened on to this part of the Bill and denounced it as an undue invasion of private right.  MR LAWSON had only contempt for persons who gave soldiers and sailors advice that would get them into trouble, but he declared that the Bill would empower a certain type of magistrate to treat the possession of literature, for example, on the Marxian doctrine and the Russian Five-Year Plan as coming within the scope of its provisions.  Mr. DINGLE FOOT described the Bill as worse than the law of 1797 [mutiny]

    The second reading was carried by 277 votes to 63.
As stated, assent was finally passed on the 16th November that year.


In  the early weeks of 1941 in the small market town of Melton Mowbray, the early unnerving effects of yet another world conflict had largely settled down, though preparedness remained the watchword as billeted soldiers from divers British regiments - not to forget the presence of allied American and Canadian troops - awaited whatever call to arms might be forthcoming.  But not everyone was serving good King George in his fight against a dominant enemy across the water and as folk-lore tells us today, there were several of those who knew the ropes as to how to circumvent the earning of the King's shilling.  The Grantham Journal of 31st January, 1941, published the following report:


For Trying To Cause Disaffection

Defamatory statements about the British Army and the Government were alleged to have have been made by Herbert Baxter, aged 39, described as a van dweller and horse dealer, of no fixed abode, who was sentenced to three months hard labour at a special court at Melton, yesterday week, when he appeared on a charge of endeavouring to cause disaffection among persons in His Majesty's Service in respect of three soldiers - Gunners G.A. Sullivan, D.L. Noakes and E.T.R. Smart. 
Gunner Sullivan stated that on January 15th, defendant came to the place where soldiers were quartered, and asked if they had a dog belonging to him. He told him they had not got one there, and defendant replied that the police informed him that he would be able to find it there. An argument followed, and accused became abusive and used bad language. In the course of subsequent conversation, defendant made slurring statements resecting the Army, and said that he would not go into the army and the Army would not get him.


After referring to the fact that they (the soldiers), only got a shilling a day, defendant, witness continued, stated that he had 28 horses 11 dogs and plenty of cash. Defendant added that he did not care if "Jerry" did invade this country as he could not be worse off. Accused also made disparaging remarks about their rifles and ammunition, and went on to refer to a searchlight camp, which, he said, had been bombed, killing a number of people. Witness said they knew nothing about this. Defendant then said, "God save the King, but who is going to save me?" Witness was so disgusted he walked away.
Cross examined by Mr. J. Hincks, Leicester, for defendant, witness said later a sergeant came along, and ordered accused to go, as he was causing disaffection among the men.
Mr. Hincks: He did not cause you to be dissatisfied did he? - I'll say he did. How would you like someone to say that you are getting a shilling a day, and he has 28 horses, 11 dogs and £40 in his pocket?
What this man has said to you has not made any difference to you in your loyalty to the Service? - It made me disgusted. Why should he, a man of everyday type, have more than me? Why should he say such things? Why shouldn't he be in the army?
He is 39.
Gunner Noakes gave corroborative evidence, and stated that defendant said to them, "What about you fellows earning a bob a day in a place like this when there are others at such places as Birmingham, Coventry and Sheffield earning £8 and £10 a week! What worse off would you be if Jerry got here? No good at all. What would the Government do for those who were injured? - Nothing." Witness said that he got so disgusted that he walked away.
Mr. Hincks: You took it all as ridiculous? - No, I would not say that. It certainly caused me to feel disgusted and dissatisfied. Defendant said something to the effect that he would not defend his own country, and that he would not work for a shilling a day.


Gunner Smart said that the defendant absolutely demanded the dog when he came to their quarters, saying the police had told him to fetch it. Defendant then went on to make serious allegations about the Army and the British Government, and added that if Hitler invaded the country they would not be any worse off.
Mr Hincks: You did not take any notice of what he said? - I came away disgusted. It upset my feelings to think that a man like that should speak so of his country.
As a soldier you are just a good today as you were before he spoke to you? - Yes sir.
Didn't he say, "I am a loyal subject, and when my time comes for joining up I will go? - No, I did not hear that.
Detective Officer Jones gave evidence of arrest, and remarked that when the defendant was brought to the Melton police station he made a statement in which he said, "I would not have known what the soldiers got if they hadn't told me."
Defendant on oath, stated that P.C. Haines told him to go to the soldiers where he could get his dog. He saw Sullivan, who denied that there was a greyhound bitch there. A few minutes later a sergeant came up and said, "there's no bitch here, you go and get a policeman." The sergeant never ordered him away. He stood talking to the soldiers for about half an hour.
"I have no political views." observed defendant. "I am a British subject and when my time comes for me to join up I will go. I had no intention in my own mind of causing disaffection amongst the soldiers."
Mr. Hincks submitted that there was no case to answer. If anything was said it had made not the slightest difference to the soldiers and his client at no time had any intention of creating disaffection.
It was stated by the police that defendant had 24 previous convictions against him since 1920.
The chairman, Mr. R.W. Brownlow, congratulated the soldiers on the way they had given their evidence.
- 0 -

Well, I was not quite one year old at the time that 'van dweller', Walter Baxter was sent away to spend his 40th birthday doing hard labour at Leicester prison, but from my lofty perch here and some 74 years further on, I hope that the sentence was not too onerous for him.  I have reason to believe that he died in 1967.

Sunday, 12 July 2015


Golden Days.

As is well known to almost everybody who knows me, I once spent six years of my now extended life in the small islands of Bermuda; six of my most impressionable years and very consequential ones in that I was married on 'the rock' and created there my two much loved children.  It is also well known that although we left the island for good in 1969, I, like Sir George Somers - the founder of Bermuda - left a fair piece of my heart behind to maintain tabs with its progress.  In October of this year, Lynn and I will return to celebrate our golden wedding anniversary, a chance for us to have perhaps a last look around at the island I once fell in love with.

But this post is not produced as a personal updating, more a moment to draw attention to the forthcoming publication of what promises to be a beautiful new book of sketches which relate to the early days of Bermuda's colonisation which has been put together by Dr Edward Harris and his team at the National Museum of Bermuda. Knowing Edward as I do, I can easily imagine his sheer excitement on first seeing the amazing collection of previously unseen sketches of his native island, some having been painted as long ago as 1834 and his immediate realisation of the massive significance of their existence and public exposure. This 'Savage' portfolio only very recently came into the public gaze from within the possessions of present descendants of the Savage family in England, who have kindly donated the collection to the Museum for the people of Bermuda to enjoy and to be enlightened of an earlier era.

I produce a description of the book's cover below, the front of which has a most evocative depiction of a tranquil Market Square at St Georges - in those early days still the capital of Bermuda - which iconic venue, graphically, is amazingly little changed and might well have been painted today.  The blurb at the right I have reproduced below.

Front cover and spine of the book.

DSavages Bermuda

The forgotten landscape of Bermuda in the
1830s is recovered in this remarkable collection
of paintings by the prolific and talented
Royal Artillery surgeon Dr. Johnson Savage.
These images—some of the earliest masterful
watercolours of the Island—were produced
before the perfection of photography and
ahead of later waves of overseas artists who
discovered Bermuda’s painterly paradise.
The paintings were the start of an extraordinary
relationship between Bermuda and several
generations of the Savage family. The volume
includes exquisite images from Savage’s later
posting in Corfu; his work as a skilled medical
illustrator; paintings by his short-lived Royal
Navy Midshipman son Arthur; and an
account of the doctor’s grandson, Arthur
Johnson Savage, RE, who completed the great
Ordnance Survey of Bermuda in 1900.
A final chapter traces the history of Savage’s
family, including present descendants who
donated the important Bermuda collection of his
paintings to the National Museum of Bermuda.

The back cover shows pen portraits of the three major characters of the Savage family, together with a sketch depicting the despatching of a whale.

How and Why?

The story of the acquisition of these exciting and precious mementos of a Bermuda of almost two centuries past, began in 2013 at a conference of surveyors in Britain which touched upon the Hurd geographical survey and the great 'lost' chart of Bermuda. At the end of the conference, a Peter Savage would step forward to tell of his personal possession of an album of water colours of the islands which were the work of his great-great grandfather, Dr Johnson Savage. The significance of this cache of artistic treasures became apparent almost immediately with the result being the publication of 'Dr Savage's Bermuda.' in October 2015. From his weekly column, first published in the Royal Gazette of March 22nd 2014, let Museum Director, Dr Harris, explain:

Dr Savage's St George's walkabout.

One day in the three year period 1833-36, perhaps around the heady days of emancipation of the remaining slaves in Bermuda, the young Royal Artillery surgeon, Johnson Savage, set about on a walkabout in the parish of St George's, armed not with sword and musket, but with brush and paint, intent on capturing scenes, rather than enemy soldiers.
When he left Bermuda in 1836, perhaps in the early summer, as one of his illustrations is dated to May of that year, the artist doctor took with him some 40-odd watercolours and drawings of the Island, a cache of images of local life that would become lost to memory in the Island for over 170 years.
In later 2013, Dr Adrian Webb gave a lecture to a conference of surveys in Britain on his research and writings on Lieut. Thomas Hurd RN, the composer of the great Hurd survey and chart of Bermuda, another major work of art lost to Bermuda until Dr Webb brought it to local attention in 2009.
At the end of the talk, he was approached by one Peter Savage, who told hm that his family possessed an album of watercolours of Bermuda executed by his great great grandfather.
A further connection to Bermuda lies in the fact that one of Peter's grandfathers, Arthur Johnson Savage RE, was responsible for the Great Ordnance Survey of the Island that was published in 1901 and is still in print.
A meeting was arranged through Dr Webb and in late November 32013, Peter and Rosemary Savage graciously met him and Dr Edward Harris (of the National Museum of Bermuda) at their home in England, for a walkabout of the album of paintings by Johnson Savage, at the end of which Peter announced that he and his siblings, William and Jenifer, wished to donate the album to the National Museum and in effect the people of Bermuda.

Dr Harris, director of the National Museum left, with Major Peter Savage and his wife, Rosemary. 

The walkabout of the album followed a geographical roadmap, which started in the old capital of Bermuda at St George's and progressed westward via Ferry Reach to the Main and onwards, passing Somerset Bridge to the islands of Somerset and Ireland, the last being where the Royal Naval Dockyard and its major Hospital (naturally painted by the surgeon) were located.
The images capture Bermuda exquisitely, as the good doctor was a most accomplished artist and draughtsman.
The paintings will be published in a book in late 2015, partly in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the National, that will also contain biographical and other artistic information on the Johnson Savage family and its long connection with Bermuda, as a son also visited the Island as a Midshipman and kept a log book that has painted images in it.

I have assisted in a small way with the research of this publication and with the kind permission of the NMB and Dr Harris, I can reproduce a tiny sample of the fine artistic work of Dr Savage which is to be found within its pages.  I think these will provide a good idea of the quality of the many engaging illustrations which appear in the eagerly anticipated publication and will provide, especially for Bermudians who know their Island well, many hours of figuring out where these amazingly recorded locations lie in this 21st Century.

I look forward to attending at the official publication in October, invited as I am due to a small personal part played in researching the project over the previous months. I am sure that the end-product will prove to be a best seller - and not only in Bermuda - as a reminder of how we once lived in the days before photography was established as the standard method of recording important moments. Whether the book lies on a coffee table or in a reference library shelf, this wonderful gift of the Savage family will deserve its permanent place in the bibliography of Bermudian literature for the future education of all.

© John McQuaid - July 2015