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Fontmell Magna

Lieutenant Philip Salkeld V.C.

Standing in the churchyard of St. Andrew’s Parish Church at Fontmell Magna is the memorial erected for Lieutenant Philip Salkeld V.C., who died on 10th of October 1857 at Delhi. Philip Salkeld was born and brought up in Fontmell Magna where his father the Revd. Robert Salkeld was Rector.

Philip Salkeld’s military career started when he entered Addiscombe College in 1846. While he was there he was selected, by competition, for an engineer appointment, attaining the top position in mathematics and modern languages. He achieved the rank of 2nd Lieutenant on the 9th of June 1848. The next two years he spent studying the theoretical and practical side of fortification and engineering at the Royal Engineer establishment at Chatham.

His service records show he was ordered to travel overland to India and he arrived in Calcutta in June of 1850, where he joined the Corp of Sappers and Miners, Bengal Establishment. He quickly acquired an excellent knowledge of Hindustani. In June 1853 he was sent to Meerut as the extra engineer. Later that year he was appointed officer in charge of the Grand Truck Road, a position he held until December 1856. His promotion to the rank of Lieutenant came on 1st of August 1854.

During his service in India Philip was mindful of events at home and he was able to save enough money to send home £100 a year to be used towards the cost of education for his younger brother Charles, in preparation for him to follow Philip to Addiscombe College. On the 10th May 1857 at the outbreak of the Meerut mutiny Philip Salkeld was still stationed in Delhi; he escaped from the city and the massacre but his possessions were lost, including his money which was in a Delhi bank.

He joined Major General Sir Harry Barnard’s column and was recognised as a brave officer. A decision was taken on the night of 13th September 1857 to launch an assault on the Cashmere and Water Bastions at dawn the following day. Colonel G Campbell was commanding the 3rd column consisting of the 32nd Regiment of Foot; 2nd Bengal Fusiliers and 1st Punjab Regiment. They were to attack the Kashmir Gate after it had been blown open.

Three Engineer Officers were attached to the column: Lieutenants Home, Salkeld and Tandy. According to the account of the attack, the column fell in and marched to their respective places. The plan was for the 1st column to storm the breach near the Cashmere bastions, while the 2nd column was to storm the Water bastion. As the exploration party for the 3rd column advanced to the gateway in broad daylight they came under musket fire from above the gateway and from both flanks as they laid and adjusted the powder bags. Lieutenant Salkeld had been shot and had fallen into a ditch. Sergeant Carmichael tried to fire the charge, but was shot dead. Sergeant Burgess successfully fired the charge but was shot dead. In the confusion Sergeant Smith, thinking that Burgess had failed to fire the charge, ran forward and seeing the charge was alight he threw himself into the ditch.

In his account Sergeant John Smith says the Sappers going to the gate were led by Lieutenant Home and Bugler Robert Hawthorne; following a few paces behind, led by Lieutenant Salkeld, came the party carrying the powder; Sergeant Smith bringing up the rear to see none of them remained behind. Four of the Indians in the party refused to go on and Sergeant Smith threatened to shoot them. Lieutenant Salkeld came to see what was happening and said to leave them as they had enough powder. Sergeant Smith says he went on but only Lieutenant Salkeld and Burgess were there. Lieutenant Carmichael was dead, Sergeant Smith at great risk retrieved Carmichael’s bag of powder, set the fuse and reported “all ready” to Lieutenant Salkeld who, stooping down to light the fuse, put one of his feet out and was shot through the thigh; he told Sergeant Smith to fire the charge, but it seems Burgess had already done it.

Sergeant Smith says in his account that: “…as soon as the dust had cleared away we saw Lieutenant Salkeld and Burgess covered with dust their laying in the middle of the ditch having saved them from falling debris…I went to Lieutenant Salkeld and called the bugler to help me remove him under the bridge as the fire had covered upon us, and Lieutenant Salkeld’s arms were broken…LieutenantSalkeld would not let us remove him so I put a bag of powder under his head for a pillow, and bound up his arms and thigh and I left the bugler to look after him and went to Burgess…I got some brandy from Lieutenant Home and gave to both...” Sergeant Smith then went to the rear and obtained two stretchers and with the help of Bugler Hawthorne got Lieutenant Salkeld onto one of the stretchers and had him removed to the hospital.

The gallantry displayed that day by Lieutenant Duncan Charles Home; Lieutenant Philip Salkeld (both of the Bengal Engineers); Sergeant John Smith of the Bengal Sappers and Miners and Bugler Robert Hawthorne of the 52nd Regiment, earned them all the Victoria Cross.

Lieutenant Salkeld was mortally wounded. He survived until 10th of October 1857, when he died of his injuries. One report says that one arm had been amputated. The award of the Victoria Cross was given by Major General Sir Archdale Wilson, who had his Aide-de-Camp, Lieutenant Turnbull, pin the ribbon of the VC upon Philip Salkeld in the hope that it might invigorate his spirits but he said only “…it will be gratifying to send it home…” Philip Salkeld was buried in the cemetery at Delhi and his death was recorded on the War Memorial there.

Philp Salkeld’s brothers, Richard Henry and Charles Edward, both served in the Indian Army.

Fontmell Magna – Salkeld Family

Elizabeth Henrietta (nee Wilson) Salkeld 1802-1879, with two of her grand children.

Elizabeth Henrietta (nee Wilson) Salkeld 1802-1879, with two of her grand children.

Fontmell Magna – Salkeld Family

Photo of Elizabeth Henrietta (nee Wilson) Salkeld 1802-1879 the wife of the Revd. Robert Salkeld.

Photo of Elizabeth Henrietta (nee Wilson) Salkeld 1802-1879 the wife of the Revd. Robert Salkeld.

Fontmell Magna – Salkeld Family

Photo of the Revd. Robert Salkeld (1795-1866) and rector from 1819.

Photo of the Revd. Robert Salkeld (1795-1866) and rector from 1819.

Emily and Bessie Beck of Fontmell Magna

Emily and Bessie Beck outside of their village store at Fontmell Magna (See our story The Passing of a Village Store.

Emily and Bessie Beck outside of their village store at Fontmell Magna (See our story The Passing of a Village Store.

The Passing of a Village Store

Today we lament the closing of our village shops, forgetting it is we who are ultimately responsible by choosing the supermarket. The demise of the village store is not a new phenomenon; it has been happening over many years. This is the story of a little Provisions Store in the village of Fontmell Magna and the people who ran it until it closed about sixty years ago.

It was not unusual for small village shops to be a part or corner of a cottage. What is unusual about this shop is it had no shop-window in which to display its wares, just a glass-fronted entrance door above which was a shabby little sign reading “E. BECK, PROVISON STORES.” The thatched cottage, judging by the solid grey-stone and faded bricks, some of them built into a herringbone pattern, dates from the late seventeenth to early eighteenth century.
We know from the 1841 census the cottage was occupied by George and Sarah Hart and their one-year-old daughter Anna. George Hart was a cordwainer (a shoemaker) who would walk 40 miles each way to Bath to collect leather for his business. The following decade was eventful for the family: George opened a bakery on the premises and during this time three sons and two more daughters were born.

In those days Fontmell Magna was a busy place familiar with toil and enterprise for it had a vibrant local economy. People were employed on the estate and in the woods, as well as in the brewery, malthouse and foundry.

Few cottages could boast any baking facilities. Cooking was usually done in a large iron pot suspended from the ceiling by a chain over an open fire on the hearth. Everything went into the pot: swedes and turnips from the fields joined garden vegetables and bacon from the family pig. Occasionally a rabbit or a hare might add to the feast and some might even have known the taste of venison. Poaching was not unknown in these parts.

The Harts were an enterprising family. The 1861 census confirms George Hart continued to repair footwear and make boots, helped by his 16-year-old daughter, Kezia, who is described in the census as a shoe binder, while his older daughter, Anna, made straw bonnets. Sons George and Samuel, respectively 18 and 14, were employed as agricultural labourers.  The youngest children – Mary, Stephen and Frederick were still at school.

The 1871 census reveals that sixty-year-old George is concentrating on his shoemaking business and is leaving the running of the bakery to his sons Samuel and Stephen, who are assisted by their sister Mary. During the next decade there are further changes at the bakery, which expanded and was selling provisions. Ten years on, George is back assisting his son Stephen with the bakery as well as working a five acre farm. George’s wife Sarah passed away in 1883 aged 71.

It was not unusual for people to bring to the bakery their cakes, tarts, pies and their meagre joints to be baked in George Hart’s oven. Over the following few years it is likely the young daughters of Tom and Jane Beck would have been sent to the store on errands for their mother and for two of them the bakery-come-village shop was to play an important part in their lives.

At the age of 80, George was still making boots and farming his five-acres. Stephen Hart is 39 years of age and, still a single man, he had sole responsibility for the bakery and provisions store. George Hart passed away in 1898 at the age of 87. About this time another bakery opened in the village.

With the advent of the 20th century, Stephen is running the bakery and shop alone; his brother Frederick, a tailor and a widower, is living with him. Stephen is an officer of the village Methodist Chapel.
The Beck family were also members of the Chapel. Tom Beck and his brothers John and Joe and his nephew Charlie from Iwerne Minster would lead the carol singers as they went round the village. Tom also played the cornet and was the unofficial village barber, charging a penny a trim; in the winter one of his daughters would hold a candle for him. Tom was employed as an estate woodman.

In 1901 Tom and Jane’s daughter Emily, who was born in 1877, was working away from home at Bournemouth, where she was a domestic servant in the household of an Auctioneer and Estate Agent. Her sister Bessie, who was born in 1882, is still living at home with her parents in their little cottage beside the millpond.

When Emily returned to the village she became Stephen Hart’s housekeeper and moved into his cottage and soon became involved with the running of the provision store and sometime after 1911 she became Stephen Hart’s business partner.

 When Stephen passed away in 1927 Emily decided to close the bakery side of the business and concentrate on the shop. Her younger sister Bessie had been helping to run the shop and looking after their aging parents. Tom Beck passed away early in 1928 aged 81 years. Bessie and their mother, Jane, moved in with Emily but about eighteen months later their mother passed away, aged 82 years.
The enterprising sisters started a guest house in addition to the shop and they continued throughout World War II and the fifties. Early in the sixties the sisters bade farewell to their last guests, served their last customers in the shop, and retired.

Village shops used to sell everything from bread, cheese and bacon to cards, buttons and bows, often all over one counter. Shopkeepers usually provided the comfort of a chair for customers while they prepared their purchases and passed on the latest news and gossip circulating in the village. In places like Fontmell Magna these scenes are distant memories.

Emily and Bessie Beck gave a lifetime of service to the village of Fontmell Magna and they were both in their eighties when they retired from their business. Emily was a Sunday school teacher at the chapel and Bessie kept it looking spotless and was part-time organist there for 50-years.

Emily was known as Miss Emmie – she died in 1969 aged 92; and Bessie died in 1977 having reached the age of 95 years.

We have placed a photograph of Emily and Bessie Beck in the photo section.

Lane, Moore & Bravel Pt.2

Thomas Bravel (1616-1655) had also studied at Oxford. He too had become rector of Compton Abbas, but later became more famously known as the leader of the “Clubmen,” the men who fought Oliver Cromwell’s forces on Hambledon Hill. The Clubmen were countrymen from various parts of the country; men who resented the “un-natural” English Civil War and who were becoming increasingly exasperated as they witnessed the opposing armies trample their crops and loot both their livestock and their stores. It is said they wore a white cockade by way of uniform and their banners proclaimed: “If you offer to plunder or take our cattle be assured we will bid you battle.”

This motley force, armed in the main with clubs (hence the name “Clubmen”) and with other agricultural implements such as scythes, were particularly well represented in Dorset, and having been earlier harried by Cromwell’s roundheads, some two or four thousand of them became entrenched on Hambledon Hill on the 2nd of August 1645. It was here they made their last stand, led by the rector of Compton Abbas, the Reverend Thomas Bravel.

Against them was Cromwell’s army of some 1000 men, fresh from the siege of Sherborne Castle. On Hambledon Hill, Cromwell attacked from the rear and the Clubmen were routed, despite reports that Thomas Bravel threatened to “pistol whoever gave back.” Of course, they were no match for Cromwell’s more professional and disciplined soldiers, and the Clubmen were trounced, many taken prisoner, including four rectors and curates. The leaders, including, presumably, Thomas Bravel, were locked-up overnight in the church of St. Mary’s at nearby Shroton (Iwerne Courtney.) Cromwell, described them as “poor silly creatures,” and after allowing them to be first lectured he ordered their release next morning with no further punishment.

Although there appears to be little surviving written record of the “battle” itself, Thomas Bravel gives an impression of a somewhat fiery character, and the transcribed Minutes of the Dorset Standing Committee 1646-1650 are possibly testament to this. In 1646, the Committee at first effectively sacked Thomas Bravel as rector of Compton Abbas for his association with the Clubmen, and or “words by him spoken in abuse of the favour of this Committee towards him.” He was told he could not “officiate in any Cure within the Countie until further order.” But then he appears to have been demoted rather than sacked and although ordered to leave Compton Abbas with his wife and family, was given the living of Poorstock instead. A Mr Ed. Wootton, a “godly and orthodox divyne clerk,” was awarded the parish of Compton Abbas in his place, but it appears the parishioners refused to pay their tithes and taxes to this particular gentleman, and Thomas was reinstated at Compton Abbas after only six months absence.

When I first read the story of Thomas Bravel I at first imagined him as an older man, perhaps white haired, in black cassock, swarthy and forthright in both body and deed – very much like the Father Collins character played by Trevor Howard in the film “Ryan’s Daughter.” But of course, Thomas was only in his very late twenties at the time of Hambledon Hill, and he died a relatively young man in 1655, aged only 39. In his will he appoints his wife (given name unknown) and his brother-in-law (presumably his wife’s brother, rather than a sister’s husband) as executors. The brother-in-law is named as William PYM, tailor of St. Martin in the Fields, London. We believe this to be the same William Pym, tailor in the Strand to Samuel Pepys and mentioned in his famous diaries.

The Oxford alumni records Thomas Bravel originating in Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire. At that time Chipping Campden and the surrounding area was an extremely wealthy and influential part of England, the prosperous wool trade producing many wealthy merchants, many of whom later found political influence in London.

Thomas’ father was also Thomas Bravel (1568-1639.) This Thomas had been born in nearby Saintbury, a pretty little village overlooking the Vale of Evesham. Two more Bravel generations are to be found there, Thomas snr’s father John (1550-1601) and his grandfather Thomas, who died in 1582. Both the later gentlemen are described as “Husbandmen of Saintbury” in their respective wills. Thomas the elder was my 11xG grandfather.

The search for the Bravel surname and its origins then leads to Charlton Kings, near Cheltenham. Here, the name and its variants certainly existed, and although the link to Saintbury is really conjecture rather than fact, tantalisingly, several other Bravel – connected names such as BALLARD and HORSEMAN appear in Charlton Kings and both Saintbury and Chipping Camden. For example, the elder Thomas Bravel of Saintbury had married a girl of surname Ballard. In any event, within the records for Charlton Kings there are numerous mentions of the name Bravel/Brevell/Bravell as far back as the fourteenth century. Contained in a document of unknown origin, a Walter Brevell was assessed at 2s 8d in 1327. A second Walter held a messuage and half-virgate called ‘Brevells’ c1380, and after him a third Walter c1410, and fourth c1450. Another document describes how the Brevells have left their name in the surviving timber-framed and plastered house called ‘Brevell’s Haye.’

Returning back to what I feel is the “safer ground” of Chipping Camden, I discovered from wills and other documents that Thomas Bravel (the rector) had at least four siblings. These include an older brother Richard (1608-1655;) he, unlike his more adventurous brother, appeared content to stay at home in the Market Square of Chipping Camden, taking over from his father – his house and his money. Among three sisters, Anne (1612-1656) married a Thomas BONNER in about 1605, and this branch of the family appeared to do very well for itself indeed.

Older brother Richard had six known children, and the eldest, another Anne, died unmarried. Consequently her 1657 PCC will is extremely informative, as it mentions a great many people both by name and relationship. It is, I think, one of the saddest wills I have come across while researching my family history, because at the age of only 23 Anne knew she was about to die.

From the various and numerous wills generated by this Chipping Camden family, and from other sources such as parish records and the IGI, I have been able to draw-up a pretty convincing Bravel family tree. Names connected to the family include Horseman, READ, LILY and HARRISON, and these names (including Bravel) crop up in a story of mystery and intrigue that surrounds the village of Chipping Camden to this very day. “The Camden Wonder” is an enigma that has remained unexplained for nearly 350 years. Set in one of the most turbulent periods of English history, in the mid-seventeenth century, the story revolves around a prominent local man, William Harrison, who had been out collecting rent money for his employer, but had inexplicably failed to return home.

A John PERRY is sent out to search for Harrison, but Perry does not find him. John Perry then gives a strange account of his actions, and largely on the strength of this – and the fact that Harrison does not return – John is accused of his murder. He implicated his own mother, Joan, and both were hanged on Broadwey Hill near Chipping Camden. Less than two years later, Harrison returned to Chipping Camden, with a seemingly unlikely story, claiming to have been abducted by pirates and sold into slavery in Turkey. Although there has been no shortage of theories about this strange tale, the case has never been satisfactorily resolved, and the more one reads about it the greater becomes the enigma! Conspiracy theories involving those in the highest office of the land have even been proposed. The time of Harrison’s disappearance in 1660 is set against the backdrop of the English Civil War and the Restoration, and so it is indeed fertile ground for speculation. The tale of the Campden Wonder is a mystery, and with the unlikely prospect of additional evidence emerging at this late stage, it is almost certain to remain just that.

Throughout my personal journey I have learned a great deal of history, some social history and some geography as well. I have visited places in England where I had no reason to go before, and I have met interesting and almost-always friendly people along the way. Most remarkably of all, my unknown ancestors have “come to life” in a way I find hard to believe, as I discover more and more about them.

Nowadays we are told we are but merely part of each of our forebears, passed down to us through their DNA. I am not religious, but I find it incredible, if not a little humbling, to recognise that I exist – as must we all – not merely by a fluke of luck, but by a million and one little turns of fate.

Whatever! It has been an astonishing journey, as I hope you will agree.

Lane, Moore and Bravel

A closer look at some family connections

It is I believe a common conception that those who research their family history are hopeful they might stumble upon at least one famous, and preferably wealthy, ancestor. This never once crossed my mind; I just needed to know who my ancestors were and where they came from. In the event it was enormously gratifying to discover that those of my direct male line were almost certainly farmers as far back as the early sixteenth-century, and that much later on there was a smattering of both wood-working and sea-faring blood in there too. All this makes perfect sense to me. And I now know exactly who I am, and to some extent, why I am the person I am. It is a great feeling, and I am sure many others researching their family history will concur.

During the process I have made some surprising discoveries, a few involving blood ancestors, and also some other more tenuous ancestral connections to well-known historical figures, places and events – even to writers of literature and to poets, no less. History, particularly as taught in my school-days, had singularly failed to inspire me; but now, with the search for my previously unknown family history, it has suddenly come alive.

I learned that my paternal 3xG. grandfather was another John Lane (1769-1840) a yeoman farmer of Lower Bridmore Farm, Berwick St. John in Wiltshire. Berwick St. John is a quiet, sleepy little village close to the Dorset border, a west-country picture-postcard village as one might easily imagine it – of quaint thatched cottages set against tall and colourful summer hollyhocks, or in winter, of wispy blue smoke curling up from stone chimneys into the cold still air of a frosty day. And whereas many a researcher might need to be content with a few documents such as parish records, BMD certificates and the odd will if they are lucky – I managed to hit an absolute goldmine.

John’s landlord was Thomas GROVE of Ferne. His daughter, Charlotte (1783-1860,) through her mother’s PILFORD family, was first cousin to none other than the poet Percy Bysshe Shelly. Rather late in life Charlotte married the village rector Richard DOWNES and between the years 1811-1860 she kept a diary, of which most years survive. Searching through the original diaries, now held at the Wiltshire Record Office, I found members of my Lane family mentioned in perhaps four hundred separate daily entries. As the squire’s unmarried daughter and later the rector’s wife, Charlotte had a tendency to treat parishioners as her very own, taking a great deal of interest in their everyday lives, whatever their social standing, and writing about them in her journal. So now, almost two hundred years later, I am able to draw a sketch, if not paint a picture, of John and Mansel Lane and their eight children – how they lived and farmed, who they loved and how they died; their frequent illnesses, their primitive education and the books they read. Recorded too were the tenant’s dinners – with the predictable effects of too much punch – dancing on the village green at Whitsuntide, parties, visits to Salisbury, or even to London, and trips to Shaston Fair.

I am greatly indebted to the present occupier at Bridmore for showing me around the farmhouse, which has remained tenanted and therefore virtually unchanged since those early times. There still are the eighteenth century white-painted panelled doors with original handles, the stairs leading up to the servants’ quarters in the attic and perhaps most poignantly for me, the window seats set into the thick stone walls. Here, if only in my imagination, once sat the three little Lane girls, Mansel, Betsey and Mary Ann, laughing and giggling as they sewed or read, or taking it in turns to play their piano; or where perhaps later, as young ladies, they huddled together and whispered in hushed tones the latest secrets of their respective “lovers.”

Mansel Moore Lane (1806-1861,) the first-born of these three girls, married James BRINE of Tolpuddle in 1838. A farmer of several hundred acres, James was thought unlikely to be of the same family as his more famous namesake, James Brine, the Tolpuddle Martyr. But further research revealed they were in fact first cousins. James Lane, my twice great grandfather and younger brother to Mansel, was working as a miller at Tolpuddle in 1851.

James Brine and Mansel had one child, Betsey Lane Brine, and sadly she died in 1854 aged just 14. All three are buried together at Tolpuddle with others of the Brine family on the south side of the churchyard. The badly-eroded limestone gravestones are covered with lichen, and already the inscriptions are mostly unreadable, as the stone begins to crumble and itself disappears into the past.

John Lane had married Mansel MOORE (1781-1857) at Fontmell Magna in 1805, Mansel being the only child of farmer Stafford MOORE (1781-1817) and Leah WAREHAM (1751-1795.) The Moores were part of an old-established family that had lived in and around Dorset’s Blackmoor Vale for many generations. Several Moore family wills testify to the established pattern – they were millers and yeoman farmers, and from settings similar to those as described in Thomas Hardy’s books – places and villages that include Kings Mill, Marnhull, Stalbridge, Todber, Stour Provost or Sturminster Newton. It is strange to think my ancestors might once have lived and worked in the very same dwellings, farms and mills, or perhaps frequented the inns and taverns that inspired Hardy enough to describe them in his now classic and timeless stories.

In 1640, Robert Moore (1605-1697,) my 8 x G.grandfather, was churchwarden at Marnhull, as presumably befitted his status in the community, as was later William, his eldest son. My 6xG.granfather Robert Moore (1680-1745) of the following generation, married Margaret BRAVEL at Stourpaine in 1711. At first the name Bravel meant very little to me, except that it cropped-up with increasing regularity in my research, both as a surname and as a given name, also that it was annoyingly ambiguous in its varied spelling – or more probably, mis-spelling. Nevertheless, Bravel, Bravell, Bravil, Braville or another variation, appears a most unusual name, and therefore worthy of further investigation.

Robert and Margaret had eleven known children, including an obligatory Stafford, a Mansell, a Palmer, a Bravel and a Richard Bravel. The first four of the eleven were baptised at Compton Abbas, at the church now left ruined in East Compton – to be found today down a little narrow winding lane, where there is also a farm and very little else. The remaining seven were baptised at Stour Provost, indicating perhaps a move by the family in about 1720, or possibly that the earlier children were baptised in the mother’s old parish, as was sometimes the customs in those days. Margaret, herself, was the eldest of two known surviving daughters of Richard Bravel (1650-1694,) a rector of Compton Abbas. Richard had studied at Oxford, the alumni records him as once Chaplain to the garrison of Tangiers, and later as a vicar of Welton, in Yorkshire. An interesting fellow perhaps, but as it transpired, nowhere near as interesting as his father Thomas.

To be contined…

Newman Flower – Publisher

Newman Flower  (see article in the Biographies Category).

Newman Flower (see article in the Biographies Category).

Newman Flower – Publisher of Distinction

Within the great cradle-roll of Dorset’s famous sons the name of Newman Flower is one not likely to be immediately recognisable as are, say Thomas Hardy and William Barnes. Yet in his chosen career he achieved outstanding success, and without him and the other practitioners of his profession the works of the great literary giants like Hardy may never have reached the printed page.

Newman Flower was born in the village of Fontmell Magna in July 1879, the eldest son of the village brewer. Being the elder son it was his father’s wish that he should succeed him in the business, but young Newman was a cerebral lad with far loftier leanings towards the literary world. These aims were further fostered at public school, especially when the boy was required by his father to help him out with the gruelling brewery work during his holidays. Then came the fateful day when he would at last confront his father and tell him that he did not wish to make his living as a brewer, but as a writer and publisher. So when his schooldays were over Flower took the “long white road” out of Fontmell shook the Dorset chalk from his feet and went to London.

As a consequence of following up a job lead he had spotted advertised on a board in an alley one hot summer day, Flower landed his first position as an editorial junior on a military paper called ‘The Regiment.’ Over the time he worked on this paper he acquired a yearning to break into Fleet Street to edit a magazine. To supplement his income in the meantime, he wrote articles for various publications as a freelance, though at first most of these were rejected by the editors he sent them to. However a feature he wrote about train drivers, as well as a few other articles were eventually accepted.

Then came his first big break when W.T. Madge, the proprietor of ‘The People,’ had Flower recommended to him as being the ideal man to write a weekly military column for his daily paper. Ideal, because during his years on ‘The Regiment’ Flower had acquired a considerable wealth of military knowledge. Having passed the test of a specimen article, the ambitious young sub-editor then left ‘The Regiment’ to join the staff of ‘The People’ for the next sixteen years under the alias of “Tommy Atkins.” Flower had realised his ambition: he had arrived in Fleet Street.

But then a more draconian initiation into journalism awaited him; Flower received an invitation from a Harmsworth press editor called Charles Sisley to join the company, which would eventually become Northcliffe Press. Sisley needed a new sub-editor for one of his magazines. Newman then agreed to join Harmsworth’s on the condition that his salary should be supplemented at reduced rates for what he wrote. But Flower had entered a hard school, and Sisley was a hard and humourless taskmaster. He invariably had some criticism about Flower’s weekly paste-ups for the magazine he was working on. Then in 1905, three years after Flower joined Harmsworth’s Sisley had a major disagreement with Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe) and resigned. The “apprentice” was then left to run the magazine as best he could.

Largely out of desperation about the uncertainty of his position, the acting editor wrote to his friend Max Pemberton, asking if he could arrange for him to meet Sir Arthur Spurgeon, then General Manager of the Cassell publishing company. Its founder John Cassell, a Manchester temperance preacher, had built up the business from printing the labels for the tea he was buying up and re-selling in shilling packets as a weapon to fight alcoholism, among the northern industrial masses. But at the time of Newman Flower’s application Cassells was in the red and making heavy losses through incompetent management at board level. After telling Spurgeon that he had decided to accept an offer he had made to join Cassells, Flower learnt that the publishing house had made a £16,000 loss the previous year and the following year’s figures would be worse still.

Yet gradually the paper on which young Newman was employed began to see a revival in its sales. Encouraged by this turn-around Spurgeon invited Flower to design a new fiction magazine. During a holiday in Normandy the latter sketched out the format for the periodical the two men would name ‘The Storyteller.’ This magazine had to be brought out on a shoestring budget of just £1,600, yet it took newsagents by storm. When Flower resigned its editorship 21 years later he found that his creation had netted for Cassells £262,000. Flower had succeeded where the “greybeards” of the board had failed; he had put Cassells back in the black.

Flower then gave up the editorship of all his magazines and bought Cassells from Lords Camrose and Kemsley so that he could devote himself to his growing interest in developing Cassells as a book-house. It was then 1928 and he was 49. He had been publishing magazines for a quarter of a century, and would be publishing books for a quarter of a century more. Through ‘The Storyteller’ he had already published part works of Rudyard Kipling (whom he had met on a train;) G.K. Chesterton, Somerset Maughan and Phillip Oppenheim. But the 25 years or so he would be publishing authors inevitably brought him into intimate contact with many great literary figures.

Under Flower’s management Cassells published Churchill’s ‘Second World War.’ He saw into print Earl Jellicoe’s ‘The Grand Fleet,’ Frederick Treves’ ‘The Elephant Man,’ and H.H. Asquith’s ‘Fifty Years of Parliament.’ He further published or befriended among others R.C. Hutchinson, Lords Curzon and Birkenhead, H.G. Wells, Stefan Zweig, Sir Evelyn Wood, and edited the journals of Arnold Bennett.

But Flower was no mean writer himself, and through Cassells he published several books including some about the two great loves of his life: classical music and gardening. These were ‘G.F. Handel’ (1923;) and ‘Through My Garden Gate’ (1945.) From 1914 to 1920 he was honorary editor of ‘The Dorset Yearbook;’ in 1938 he was knighted.

During the Second World War, La Belle Sauvage, the ancient building off Ludgate Hill which Cassells, occupied was struck and burnt down by a German bomb. In 1947, the horror over, Flower decided to retire from active directorship of the company to make a new home with his wife and son Desmond at Tarrant Keyneston near Wimborne. Here he wrote what is probably his best-known book ‘Just as it Happened’ (1950) which virtually serves as his autobiography-cum-memoirs.

In his business dealings the reputation of Newman Flower is of one considered to be a stern critic but enthusiastic promoter. He was shrewd yet kindly, always willing to give new writers constructive advice. Flower also was actively involved in animal welfare and indeed made several bequests to animal organisations in his will. His propensity for readily seeking out, and befriending authors, even those who did not publish with him, is legendary. One memorable instance of this came during the First World War when he called on Thomas Hardy at Maxgate, the house the author had designed and built for himself, to commission from him a poem for ‘The Dorset Yearbook’ which, as has already been mentioned he was then editing. Hardy gave him the poem “…and something that was far richer: his friendship to the end of his days” as Flower later wrote. Some years later – towards the end of Hardy’s life – Flower, his wife and son, took Hardy and his wife Florence on a memorable picnic by car one blazing summer day, during which they covered many miles of rural Dorset.

The Cassell chief’s general good fortune was well demonstrated on another occasion, this time in 1912 when beneficent fate intervened with an illness and operation. By the time he had recovered, the Titantic – on which he was to have booked a passage – lay broken in two on the bed of the Atlantic. Flower’s operation paradoxically had, of course, saved his life.

After fifty years in publishing (40 with Cassells) and 17 years of fruitful retirement Newman Flower died at his home in Tarrant Keyneston on the 12th of March 1964, aged 85. Such was his fame by that time that on April 1st a memorial service was held for him at St. Pauls, in the presence of noted authors, editors and publishers, as well as of course the then Chairman, Directors and staff of Cassells. The author Ernest Raymond, who’s first book ‘Tell England’ had been published by the company after 11 rejections from other publishers, and whose later works were accepted by Flower personally, gave the address at the service. The music of Handel, which Flower had loved so much, was played on the organ.