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William Barnes

Iwerne Courtney (Shroton)

Five centuries before the birth of Christianity, the folk living here in the early days of the Iron Age occupied the huge earthen ramparts they had built for themselves on Hambledon Hill, which rises above the village of Iwerne Courtney, also known as Shroton.
Following the conquest by Roman Armies under General Vespasian the people left their hill town and made their homes in the valley and lowlands. We know the Romans were here from remains of a Roman residence discovered at nearby Preston in 1880 by General Pitt-Rivers.

The dual place names relate to the ownership of the manor before the Tudor period. Iw(erne) or Yw(erne) is from the Celtic for yew tree and the chalky soil here would certainly favour that tree. But what of (Iw)erne? Possibly it is a reference to a heronry, as one was mentioned in a Charter of King Edwy in 986 as a “cranemere” or heron pool and there is a Heron Grove on Preston Hill. In 1244 the affix Curtney appears and relates to the Earls of Devon who owned the manor from the early 13th century; their family name was Coutney.

Seward, a Saxon thane, owned the manor at the time of the Norman invasion but we learn from the Domesday Book that twenty years on in 1086 the manor was the property of Baldwin of Exeter, the Sheriff of Devon. Locally the parish is often referred to as Shroton, a derivation of scir-refa and tun, which translated from the Old English, means the sheriff’s estate.

The village is found in an expansive valley off the main Blandford to Shaftesbury road. It hasn’t changed very much down the centuries; its thatched cottages and interesting church remain but the fairs and sales allowed under a Charter granted 750 years ago died out in the early years of the 20th century. Shroton Fair was held on the Fair Field every 25th and 26th of September for the sale of horses, cattle and all manner of produce. William Barnes wrote in 1888: “Some high holidays of Dorset people have been those of their great fairs such as…Shroton, to which were formerly brought stores of all kinds of wares for the life-gear and house-gear of Dorset homes and to which the house-wives were wont to lay in the year’s stock. I have heard that a ball-room was put up at Shroton Fair where, I was told, young ladies were brought out in a County Ball.” There were stalls and booths, games and sporting events including boxing with bouts between local champions.

Gallows corner on the road from Iwerne Courtney to Farringdon probably got its name from a gibbet erected to display some sad soul from Monmouth’s rebellion, or to frighten deer poachers; something that was rife here during the 18th and 19th century.

Soon after it was rebuilt in the early years of the 17th century the church was to play a cameo role in the Civil War. Parliamentarian dragoons rounded up some 400 protesting Clubmen off Hambledon Hill and locked them in the church overnight. Such was the reputation of Cromwell that they feared they would never see their families again. The following morning they were doubtless much relieved to be released and sent home. (For the full story see our article: “Poor Silly Creatures.”)

All that remains of an earlier church is the 14th century battlemented tower. In 1610 Sir Thomas Freke, owner of several manors in Dorset, rebuilt the church in the Gothic style. There is a monument in memory of Sir Thomas in the mortuary chapel on the south side, enclosed west and south by a carved wooden screen that has been described as the most beautiful in Dorset. In 1871 the south aisle was extended and the roof replaced. The inside of the chancel was much altered in 1872 when new windows and a terracotta reredos were added; the outside of the chancel is as it was built in 1610.

An Inventory of Church Goods made in 1588 includes some grand priestly vestments: “one greene velvet with birds, one blue sylke with pecocks, one changeable green and yellow.”

A Muster Roll of 1542 lists the names of able bodied men possessed of arms and may be of help to family historians. The following names were included: Goodbynes, Burden, Baker, Copp, Gellet, Tyllet, Hancke, Here, Simons, Trevell, Sanysberry, Candeljou, Mychel, Swetnam, Hogger, Smythe, Mullens, Porter, Pyres, Danys, Best, Somers, Pyllwyn, Lamere, and Talbot.

The summer of 1756 saw a military camp established at Iwerne Courtney and for a short while it was home to six battalions of infantry and two troops of light horse, with twelve pieces of artillery. General Wolfe wrote: “the men were encamped upon a pleasant spot open to the wind which scoured the camp and purified it.”  This was three years before the General fell during the battle of Quebec in 1759.

About a quarter of a mile to the east of the St. Mary’s church and set in 100 acres surrounded by woodlands is Ranston House, seat of the Baker Baronetcy from its creation in 1805. On the death of her father, Sir Randolf Baker, Mrs Selina Gibson Fleming inherited the estate in 1959; she passed away in 2010. With her husband, Major William Gibson Fleming, she made significant changes to the estate and the Grade I listed house, which was built in 1755, is considered one of the finest in Dorset.

Sturminster Newton in the 19th Century

A few weeks before his death in 1908 at the age of 97 years, Robert Young, a tailor of Sturminster Newton, decided to write down his memories of life in the town and we are fortunate that his manuscript has survived. Robert tells of trade with Newfoundland, of weavers and button makers, witchcraft and superstitions, education, law and order and, furthermore, mention of William Barnes’ father.

Robert Young was born on the 30th of September 1810 and baptised in St. Mary’s church at Sturminster Newton on the 2nd of November 1810. He was the son of a Marnhull man, James Young, and a Sturminster woman, Mary Collins, who were married in 1799. We know Robert had three brothers and a sister all baptised at Sturminster Newton.  Robert married Charlotte Foot at Okeford Fitzpaine on the 28th of May 1834, where the couple lived with their four children at the time of the 1841 census.  By 1851 we know from the census the couple were living at Bridge Street, Sturminster Newton and Robert Young was a Master Tailor. We think Charlotte died in 1858 and Robert married again sometime between 1871 and 1881; his second wife was ten years his junior and named Caroline.  In 1861 Robert Young was described in the census as a “tailor and woollen draper employing two men.”

Robert’s earliest memory was of a public dinner held in Gough’s Field to celebrate the peace of 1815. It was followed by sports and later marksmen shot at an effigy of Napoleon which was then burned on a bonfire.

Robert went to a school run by Sarah Adams in a cottage next door to the old Methodist chapel. Her husband Abel was a preacher whose activities were not appreciated by all members of the local clergy. On one occasion Abel was summoned by the Vicar of Marnhull for preaching in an unlicensed cottage. Abel attended court wearing his best Sunday coat and told the chairman of the bench that his authority for preaching was the Bible. The Vicar of Sturminster supported him and the case was dismissed. When permission was withheld for Methodist boys to enter the school the same Vicar of Sturminster declared that it was a free school for the children of the poor, Methodist or not. This, we think, would have been a reference to the National school built in 1817. We notice that in 1891 Robert and his wife Caroline had a widower, James Adams, living with them.

According to Robert many of the young men of the town worked for two local merchants, ship owners engaged in the Poole Newfoundland trade. There were wool dyers in the town, probably engaged with the production of broad cloth of which Hutchins comments: “Mr Thomas Colbourne, banker and merchant, financed spinners and weavers who made a cloth known as swan skin used by the Newfoundlanders. The cloth was stretched on racks in the open fields. Buttons, the ring button and the sugar loaf, were also made by numbers of women and children in Sturminster.” A Mr. Mitchel had a soap and tallow candle factory and each year made large Christmas candles for his customers.
Near the old Market House stood two rows of butchers’ stalls and Robert tells us that many of the butchers also attended Poole market, starting off on Wednesday evening and arriving in Poole in the early hours of Thursday. Having sold their meat to the ship captains they set off for home at 10 o’clock at night trusting their horses to carry them safely home, while they slept. Butter was also sent to Poole as well as young calves to be shipped on to Portsmouth. Others were driven for six days on the road to London.

We learn a lot from Robert about wages and the cost of commodities. Labourers toiled from six in the morning ‘till six at night for 6/- (six shillings) a week; a married man got an extra 1/-. Butter was 7/6 for a dozen pounds. Tea was 6/- a pound but roasted and pounded beans were used as a drink. Bread was mixed wheat and barley.

Goods were transported in broad-wheeled wagons drawn by a team of horses  often bearing a frame of bells;  the carter sat on a smaller horse with a brass-mounted whip. Other goods were moved on pack-horses over roads which were rough and uneven.

Fights were frequent, particularly on market and fair days. Robert recalls one occasion when a “corpulent young farmer fought with a tall wiry butcher. Both had stripped to the waist in Gough’s Close. The young farmer died and the butcher was sentenced to a year’s hard labour for manslaughter.” At that time the Sturminster Magistrates Court was at the back of the Swan Stable yard in a long room over the stabling.

While they awaited trial, the town constables had to take the prisoners to a public house and keep guard over them or take them home with them to their own homes, much to the discomfort of their families. Robert comments “it is not pleasant work to sit with a handcuffed man at night, or to turn your children out of their beds to make room for a burglar…” Robert continues: “I know of a case where a small tradesman had a prisoner in his charge for eight days and nights; an extra man was employed to guard him at night so that the tradesman had a little rest.”

In his manuscript Robert includes a description of a public flogging:  “it was a degrading spectacle to witness the poor man stripped to the waist, his hands fashioned to a frame fixed on a wagon, his naked back streaming with blood, whilst amongst the crowd of witnesses were women fainting and screaming.”

Witchcraft was still a potent force in the minds of many people who were known to have sent or even walked to Shepton Mallet (in Somerset) to consult a cunning man in whom they had faith, when they believed they had been “overlooked;”  so strong was the belief in some people it would unbalance their minds. Robert comments: “Thanks to more enlightened education, to many valuable lectures, to the railways, to a better knowledge of the world…the nightmare of witchcraft has died out.”

Robert paints a sorry picture of the Sturminster Workhouse near the churchyard, “the business of the parish was conducted in a large kitchen” he tells us. It seems the Overseers were kept very busy providing relieve to the poor.

About St. Mary’s Church we learn that in the early part of the 19th century it had two galleries that were removed during Robert’s lifetime. The violins and bass viol and the bass singers sat in front, behind them the tenors and, in a corner at the back, the two women trebles. An old singer used to give out the psalm to be sung and in a “loud flourish pitch the key of the time.”  The boys used to sit each side of the middle aisle on small stools which, when not in use, were hooked up outside the pews. “In winter we found it very cold, especially for the feet, since there was neither matting nor warming flues”.
Among the mixed congregation that sat in the lower gallery of the church was an individual “remarkable for his venerable appearance in his old fashioned brown coat that had done good service for many years”. He was talking about an old labourer who lived in a humble cottage, the father of our Dorset poet – William Barnes.

This first hand memory of fighting, public punishment, long hours of work for little pay, charity and poor relief all formed part of life here as everywhere in the countryside. Particular to Sturminster Newton was its cider mill, where pigs gathered to eat the refuse and the ditch running behind the Rows into which all kind of slops were thrown. When the refuse from the old tan pits was emptied it was sold off in large cakes for a penny to be burnt on the fire.

We can take from Robert Young’s manuscript that at the end of his life he was encouraged by the rising standard of living and the growing humanity.  In particular he comments on the greater kindness shown to horses and the benefits of transport of animals by rail. In the place of five or six dens of ruin “we have a savings bank, two highly respectable commercial banks, and two good schools. In place of three deliveries of letters a week, we now have three daily.”

Seemingly out of place, Robert Young’s manuscript sits at the Dorset History Centre in a box containing personal and business papers relating to the Mansel-Pleydell family of Whatcombe House in the parish of Winterborne Whitchurch.  John Clavell Mansel-Pleydell Esq.  B.A., J.P., and D.L., F.G.S., F.L.S., (1817-1902) of Whatcombe,  was President of the Dorset Natural History and Antiquarian Field Club. The manuscript is in a bundle of documents concerning the Revd. James Mitchel, who married Margaretta Morton-Pleydell. Possibly our Master Tailor was a friend of Mitchel or perhaps he was the family tailor.

William Holloway – the forgotten poet

Ask any Dorset native to name their two most pre-eminent literary figures and most likely they would reply: “Thomas Hardy and William Barnes.” Less well known however is another William who seems to have slipped into the position of becoming the County’s forgotten third poet: William Holloway.

Holloway was born at Whatcombe, a manor in the parish of Winterborne Whitchurch about four miles from Blandford, presumably early in 1761 as there is a record of his baptism at Whitchurch on June 23rd of that year. William was the last child of Lawrence and Frances Kains Holloway, whose other children were another son, Thomas and a daughter, Elizabeth. His great-uncle, also called William, was serving as Whitchurch’s Churchwarden at the time of the poet’s birth.

Few details of William Holloway’s earliest years were recorded, other than that he was orphaned in early childhood, his father dying before William was two years old. Following the death of his mother not many years after, William was adopted by his grandmother. His years at school however, were happy ones, during which time he acquired some grounding in Greek and French, and came to admire and inwardly digest the works of Milton, Gray, Shakespeare and James Thompson.

While still a young man, William Holloway left his grandmother’s home and care to settle in Weymouth. He took up an apprenticeship with a local printer, eventually being put in charge of the printing shop attached to Weymouth’s Circulating and Musical Library owned by the obese larger-than-life public figure of John Love. It is thought that from an early age William had already begun to write verse, though his first published work, a eulogy on the local Halsewell shipwreck disaster, did not appear until 1788, when he would have been about 37. A small book of verse under the title of The Cottager appeared the following year, these early works being published by his employer John Love.

On November 1st in the year before his poem about the Halsewell was published, Holloway married a spinster of Melcombe Regis, Christian Jackson, at St. Mary’s Church in that parish. They had four children, all girls: Elizabeth, Lucy, Mary and Hannah, of which only Elizabeth appears never to have married. By this time Holloway had matured into a tall, dark quite handsome man. A contemporary print shows him as having a long swarthy face, dark eyes and a pronounced aquiline nose.

In 1798 George III and his entourage paid their first visit to Weymouth, an occasion which spurred Holloway and several local amateur poets to contribute odes on the event to the Salisbury-based Western Country Magazine. During 1790 and 1791 Holloway contributed five of the descriptive verses for twelve Weymouth views, originally published by Love in collaboration with the engraver James Fittler but subsequently collected together and re-issued as a single volume.

By 1792 The Halsewell and The Cottager had been sufficiently well received by the public to cover Holloway’s expenses, such that Love could proceed with publishing The Fate of Glencoe, a historical ballad. In his preface to this work Holloway exemplified much of the half-veiled modesty that characterised this unprepossessing bard throughout his life. He made it plain that the work was penned amid “the hurry of business” and “interruptions of active life.” Though essentially a studious and serious thinker, Holloway also relished the dramatic arts and theatrical life, once composing a short epilogue for a play staged at Weymouth’s Theatre Royal as well as the lyrics for a song to open a new theatre at Dartmouth.

But in October 1793 Love suddenly died, pitching his respectable partner Holloway into one of those dramatic life-course shifts that so many people experience. Under probate Love’s business stock went up for sale and in his will Holloway inherited his printing equipment and materials for a fee of ten guineas a year, in effect inheriting his employer’s works and library. But for various reasons Holloway was not able to avail himself of this opportunity for proprietorship. Instead he then entered upon a phase of his life which he was later to recall as a time “when fortune frowned.”

In an attempt to break free of what he felt had become a professional blind alley Holloway threw up his Weymouth associations and moved with his wife and daughters to Leadenhall Street in London. In June 1798 he landed a job as a clerk at the office of the East India Company in the same street. His position was well-paid and to all accounts not burdensome, since the clerks had privileges such as free breakfasts and postage as well as enough spare time to read papers. But it is likely that Holloway owed his position to Weymouth’s Steward family, who had close associations with the EIC, and Holloway did dedicate two poems to Francis Steward, a former mayor of the town.

Over the 33 years Holloway was in the service of the EIC the greater part and culmination of his poetry was written. Thematically he was soon reverting to nostalgic elegies on his native county such as The Rustic Farewell: a Fragment in the Dorset Dialect; The Peasants Fate (reprinted four times) and Scenes of Youth. Years later he entered into partnership with another poet, John Branch, to produce a small four-volume work on natural history.

Holloway honourably retired from the EIC at the age of 60 in 1821, though it was another ten years before the company would grant him a pension. The poet did not, as might have been expected, retire to Dorset, but to Hackney, then just a village about three miles from Leadenhall Street. Personally and domestically he was cared for by his eldest daughter Elizabeth, his wife Christian having died some years before. Holloway’s other three daughters all married London men and settled in the capital. Rock Place, his home on Tottenham Road in the Hackney hamlet of Kingsland was even then becoming enclosed by the town-house developments that would eventually absorb the village into the greater metropolis. But when he moved in, Holloway could still look back towards the fringes of London across fields of waving corn.

In 1852 Holloway had to undergo the intense emotional pain of watching his beloved Elizabeth descending into an early grave, even as he himself had begun inevitable decline. After his own end came on July 21st 1854, Holloway was buried in Stoke Newington Cemetery beneath a memorial stone mistakenly inscribed with his age as 96 instead of 93, though today almost illegible from erosion. In his will Holloway left £100 to be shared out between his surviving daughters and grandchildren. Although his obituary in The Times acknowledged his work at East India House, it did not commend, or even name a single one of his volumes of verse.

And perhaps it is this, added to the fact of his early departure from his home county that explains why William Holloway was fated to become a forgotten poet. It has been Holloway the print-shop manager and mercantile clerk the press and public had remembered – not Holloway the author of a considerable literary output. But through his poems he has kept alive such poignant vignettes of rural life in Regency and Victorian Dorset: its hay-making, dairying, crafts, maypole dancing, village weddings; the schoolboys fishing a stream or truanting to watch the village blacksmith.

Besides the aforementioned, Holloway’s other anthologies are Poems on Various Occasions (1798); The Baron of Lauderbrook (1800); The Chimney Sweepers Complaint (1806); The Minor Minstrel (1808) and the Country Pastor (1812).

The Redundant Church at Whitcombe

The word of God is not preached here anymore. Whitcombe Church is redundant: stripped of its furniture including the pews, although it retains the pulpit from which William Barnes preached his first and his last sermons, it is unlikely ever again to hear voices raised in songs of praise.

Humbled by the nearby magnificent 17th century barn and a farmhouse largely rebuilt in the early 19th century, the Grade I listed church sits in a quiet hollow and has settled on its ancient foundations. Memorials surround it to persons from past congregations who regularly came here to worship. A church has stood on this site since King Athelstan (circa 934) made Whitcombe part of the endowment of Milton Abbey. Seen from the busy road the visitor, after climbing over the stile, will be pleased to find this Norman church open.

Whitcombe is a parish of about 750 acres of largely agricultural land to the south-east of Dorchester and stretching for just two and a half miles along the Dorchester to Wareham road. It is the advance of mechanisation in farming that has been responsible for the declining population. In 1851 there were 61 inhabitants and by the end of the 19th century that number had declined by a third. It is easy to see why the church is redundant: the first census of the 21st century revealed just 10 people living in the parish.

Its fate could also have something to do with the shaky foundations, a problem commented upon in a description of the church written by Mr C.E. Ponting F.S.A., in 1892. He tells us “The building has suffered much from insufficient foundations, there can be no doubt that the rebuilding of parts of the walls were necessitated by this” and he noted that even some of the rebuilt parts were surrendering to the same cause.

Built in squared Portland rubble with dressing of Portland ashlar and some Ham Hill stone, the church consists of a nave and chancel, a west tower and south porch. The nave is 12th century and there are traces of pre Conquest masonry at the west-end. The chancel and south porch were added in the late 15th century and a start was made at the same time on the west tower with the upper stage completed later, about 1596. The roof is modern and covered with tiles and stone slates.

The church retains fragments of two pre Conquest cross-shafts and on the north wall of the nave is a wall painting of St. Christopher carrying Christ, thought to be 15th century and the other is early 14th century arcading. The early 13th century font is of Purbeck marble. Two bells both by John Wallis remain in the church but are no longer hung, both are dated 1610 one inscribed HOPE WELL IW and the other LOVE GOD IW,

The churchyard is partly surrounded by an 18th century brick boundary wall inside of which are 32 monuments the oldest to Melchisadeck Gillet and dated 1680 and there are 18th century memorials to several members of the Spratt family. The most recent burial was in July 1983 and after the church had been declared redundant when 91 year-old Elsie Barnes was laid to rest with her husband James who had died in December 1957.

The church at Whitcombe retired since 1971 is nowadays in the care of The Churches Conservation Trust.

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.

Sir Frederick Treves


With heavy hearts a small band of elderly men stood around a small grave in Dorchester cemetery on a bleak afternoon of wintry drizzle. It was January 1924 and the mourners were paying their last respects to a figure of great philanthropy and achievement, born 70 years before in Dorchester. They watched as a small box of ashes was lowered into the deceased chalky native soil. The man they were saying farewell to was Sir Frederick Treves, one of the most remarkable of men from an age of giants and one of the greatest luminaries in the progress of medicine and surgery.

Treves was born in Dorset’s county town in February 1853; the son of a cabinet maker and furniture dealer who had a business on the premises now occupied by No 8, Cornhill. A housemaid fondly recalled that in his earliest days at school Treves’ shyness led him to hide behind the coats in the cloakroom after lessons. In 1860 however, he began attending a school run by the poet and Rector of Winterbourne Came, William Barnes, in South Street.

His famous pupil remembered Barnes as: “…an old clergyman of great courtliness, ever gentle and benevolent, who bore with supreme simplicity the burden of a learning, which was almost superhuman.” Thomas Hardy, who’s family lived only a few miles from William Treves’ furniture shop, early became an inevitable acquaintance; it was a friendship which would last for the rest of young Frederick’s life.

Upon the death of his father William, Treves’ mother Jane sold the shop and moved with her children to London. After attending the Merchant Tailors School and University College, Treves with his two elder brothers embarked upon a medical career. In 1871 he became a student at the London Hospital, where his hard work and dedication saw him rise to become Licentiate of the Society of the Royal College of Surgeons.

In 1877 Treves married Elizabeth Mason, a brewers daughter. That year he joined a GP practice in Cheshire, but soon after fell out with the senior partners over their objections to his suitability to attend the confinement of an upper class socialite. For Treves, the social caste of the baby to be delivered matter not at all, but the principle did. He threw up his practice and returned to London in 1879, living first in Sydenham.

From this time he held a succession of posts over the next 20 years. He became an authority on anatomy and surgery, specialising in the abdomen. On one occasion he wrote to The Lancet urging the importance to public health of the registry of disease by hospitals. He was an effective lecturer, able to communicate well with both academics and undergraduates, and encouraged his students to take notes in the wards as well as in lectures. He also founded the Students Union at the hospital.

One of the several curious and unusual cases of his career during these years came when he was summoned to the home of the American millionaire J.P. Morgan. A new-born baby in the Morgan family was evidently dying from an undetermined cause, which baffled all the specialists present. After examining the baby Treves had to admit that he too was baffled by the condition until a second examination revealed the head of a needle which had penetrated the heart. After seeking permission to perform a dangerous operation Treves opened the child’s chest and removed the needle. As he later stated: “..there was only one thing to do: make a grab for it. If I got it there was some hope. If I missed…. but I got that needle!.”

In 1884, Treves encountered Joseph Merrick, a man born with a hideous deformity of the face caused by an abnormal accumulation of spongy tissue, which also included a curious of the nose, so earning him the name of Elephant Man. At that time a travelling showman, an indignity that incensed Treves and led him to rescue the accursed man from his showman master, was exhibiting Merrick for profit as a side-show freak.

He was examined, but Treves was only able to offer minimal treatment. The physician had to rely entirely upon his kindness and humanity in offering Merrick a better life, which he did by taking him to the Dury Lane Theatre and to visit Princess Alexandra.
Treves later wrote, “…I suppose Merrick was imbecile from birth. The fact that his face was incapable of expression, that his speech was a mere spluttering, and his attitude that of one who’s mind was void of all emotions and concerns gave grounds for this belief. It was not until I came to know that Merrick was highly intelligent, that he possessed an acute sensibility and a romantic imagination that I realised the overwhelming tragedy of his life.”

On another occasion he attended Sir Henry Irvine after the great actor had accidentally swallowed the nozzle of a throat spray. Treves examined Irvine and then had x-rays taken, but on his second visit the doctor discovered that his patient had coughed up the nozzle and needed no surgery to remove it.

Treves left the hospital in 1897 to concentrate on private practise and to develop a career as a writer. Upon the outbreak of the Boer War he was appointed consulting surgeon to a South African field hospital. Here Treves found himself defending the Royal Army Medical Corps against criticism that it was dealing inadequately with sickness. This in turn drew criticism upon himself, though he was active in pressing for improvements. One case in particular during this conflict that would leave a lasting impression in Treves’ mind, and one of many demonstrations of the depth of his human understanding, was his deathbed comforting of Frederick Roberts, son of Lord Roberts of Pretoria, who had been mortally wounded during the battle of Colenso.

In the winter after the soldier’s death Treves upon visiting the grave, found that the heat had drawn Robert’s stark corpse from the ground. The doctor – entirely alone – re-interred the body himself. In 1900, before the end of the war Treves’ services in South Africa were recognised in Dorchester when he was made a Freeman of the Borough. In 1903 he opened an operating theatre in the County Hospital.

But the act of duty he is best remembered by came in 1901, when he was appointed to operate on the as yet uncrowned Edward VII for peritonitis. Treves recalled how, to allay public suspicions that anything was wrong with the King on the eve of his coronation, he was allotted a code number, alias and casual disguise, even disembarking from the train at the previous station and walking the rest of the way to the royal residence.

After the operation Treves joined the King on the royal yacht. In gratitude for literally saving his life Edward made the surgeon a Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the Victorian Order and gave him a grace and favour house, Thatched House Lodge in Richmond Park. It was here that he was once visited by his great friend and fellow countyman, the Cassells publisher Newman Flower, about a matter of publication. Flower lovingly recalled in his ‘Just as it Happened’ how he found every chair but one in the living room piled high with papers which, upon enquiring, discovered were the pages of an Italian dictionary the doctor was compiling, but which was never published.

In 1904 Treves retired from surgery to concentrate on travel and writing books, medical papers and letters to The Times. That year he also undertook a visit to Japan, where he was presented to the Emperor, an event, which inspired one of his greatest works ‘The Other Side of the Lantern.’ On a later occasion he also met the President of the USA. In the summer of the following year (1905) he made a phenomenal blanket cycle tour of every settlement in Dorset, which became the raw material for his ‘Highways & Byways of Dorset’ (1906.) The retired doctor wrote vividly of his impressions of what he saw in the countries he visited, and in one of his letters to the Times expressed his reservations about the nature of the restoration work being carried out on Puddletown Church.

He held the first presidency of the Society of Dorset Men in London, standing down three years later to make way for Thomas Hardy, though he continued to contribute several articles to its Yearbook thereafter, including ‘William Barnes the Dorset Poet’ and ‘Dorset Seventy Years Ago.’

Treves was a humanitarian, a man intolerant of humbug or deception. He was never slow to temper at any injustice yet had great reserves of kindness and compassion. He did not mince his words over matters, which animated or angered him, such as the standard of medical care in hospitals. During his hospital years in London he could still find time to put in an hour or so of writing each morning before his daily work on the wards began. He was a genius of surgery, yet found time to pursue a wide range of other interests. He was keen on sailing and gained a qualification certificate as a Master Mariner. He is said to have sailed the Channel to France and back every Boxing Day. His coterie of friends included many famous men of books and letters such as Edmund Gosse, Thomas Hardy, William Watkins and William Barnes.

After the First World War failing health led Treves to spend most of his time on the Continent, first at Monte Carlo, then Vevey near Lausanne. Here he was visited by Newman Flower, who encouraged him to write ‘The Elephant Man & Other Reminiscences,’ the book which more than any other documented the extraordinary casebook of his career and his distinguished clientele. Other works were ‘The Lake of Geneva’ and ‘Tale of a Field Hospital.’ On a visit to England in November 1923 he joined Newman Flower for a dinner in London in the company of Edmund Gosse. It was the last time the trio of friends would ever meet up together. In the first week of December that year Treves went up the hill above Montreux to watch a football match. Possibly aggravated by the weather, the great surgeon was taken ill with peritonitis upon his return and after several days in a state of delirium he died in the hotel at Vevey.

William Watkins, who had founded The Society of Dorset Men in London, arranged the funeral in association with Thomas Hardy. But the ceremony had to be postponed twice because of bad weather on the Continent and a delay caused by having to produce the death certificate. After the funeral Newman Flower returned to have tea with the Hardy’s.

Later Lady Treves approached Flower with the suggestion that he should write the official biography of her husband, but the widow later had second thoughts about allowing Treves’ court connection to be publicised and withdrew the request. Since then no biography of Sir Frederick Treves has ever been written.

Henry Moule

With their accustomed inertia officials of the Duchy of Cornwall were unmoved by the letter of desperation they had just received, highlighting squalid living conditions in Fordington near Dorchester. The correspondent described how, in places, the floors of cottages lay beneath the level of the pond, how waste was being cast into drains or into the open street, and the fact that the population density in places was higher than that in Manchester.

The letter however, was not from a desperate councillor or villager, but from Fordington’s vicar, the Revd. Henry Moule, though his plea for action was never heeded. The Duchy had imposed a ban on development, so allowing the community to degenerate into a rural slum. But although he failed on this occasion many more examples of the energy and vision of this remarkable cleric have stood the test of time. But it was one innovation in particular, arising partially by accident in 1859, which made Moule’s name more widely known.

In the summer of that year something inspired Moule to fill his cesspool and instruct his family to use buckets instead. At first he buried the sewage in trenches but then noticed that after about a month no trace of the excrement remained. So he built a shed, sifted the dry earth beneath it and mixed the bucket waste with the dry earth. After ten minutes nothing offensive remained, and furthermore Moule found that the earth could be recycled about five times.

Equally interested in the composted waste’s effect on plant nutrition Moule, in collaboration with a farmer, fertilised one-half of a field with his closet earth while the other half was fertilised with conventional super-phosphate. Swedes planted in the manure grew a third larger than those grown in the phosphate. It was later said that Moule’s invention could be more effective in disease prevention than vaccination.

Such dynamism and passionate evangelical conviction on Henry Moule’s part was legendary. Born in Melksham, Wiltshire, on January 27th 1801, the sixth son of a solicitor, Henry attended Marlborough Grammar School then entered St. Johns College, Cambridge in 1817 to read classics, physics, astronomy and mathematics. After graduating with a BA in 1821 he accepted a position as a peripatetic tutor to the children of Admiral Sir William Hotham. In 1824 he was ordained a deacon, becoming a priest the following year. Appointed vicar of his native Melksham for some years he then took up the living at Gillingham in Dorset, where he was obliged to tighten up a lapse in discipline and standards found to be prevalent and in the conducting of services.

Just before his entry into St. Johns in 1817 Moule had been warned not to enter Trinity Church because of the tainted reputation of its fanatical minister. Theologically Moule was a follower of Charles Simeon, the Cambridge evangelical bulwark against liberal theology in the Church, and wrote several letters to The Times on theology. But Moule was also a great patriot and conservative in politics. In 1824, the year of his deaconcy, he married Mary Evans, a woman related to a London publisher.

Moule moved to Fordington in 1829 to take up his ministry there, though at first he was met by considerable hostility. His deliverance of feisty sermons denouncing local morality and the grievous structural and spiritual state of the church brought him into conflict with locals, who even jeered at his children in the street. Furthermore, Moule’s acceptance into the community was not helped by his demolition of the church’s musicians gallery on deciding to dispense with the orchestra, and by persuading the Morton-Pitt family to end the Dorchester Races on ethical grounds in the early 1830’s.

But on an initial stipend of £225 per annum the new minister made the vicarage a success and in 1840 he purchased adjoining land to create a garden. The year before he had sponsored winter relief work on a major archaeological excavation of over 50 complete skeletons from a Roman cemetery underlying Fordington High Street, even forensically examining some of the bones himself. For some years too, he served as Chaplain to Dorset Barracks, a position that inspired him to write his Barrack Sermons. From the royalties he received from the publication of this book Moule built the church at West Fordington.

In the autumn of 1862 Henry Moule was faced with perhaps the greatest of his pastorship when he undertook the religious counselling of Edwin Preedy, a 21-year-old man being held in Dorchester jail awaiting trial and execution for murder. During the final weeks of the prisoner’s life Moule struggled to force Preedy into an eleventh hour repentance in the face of the condemned man’s fits of despair and physical violence. Moule’s death-cell consultations with Preedy are recounted in his rare 94-page booklet Hope Against Hope*

Henry Moule finally won some approval from his parishioners when he brought their lamentable living standards to the notice of the Duchy of Cornwall. Though he was not successful, in 1861 he produced National Health & Wealth, a twenty-page pamphlet in response to the disease, nuisance, waste and expense caused by cesspools and water drainage. Following his development of the earth closet Moule took out a patent for it in partnership with James Bannehr, thus forming the Moule Patent Earth Closet Company, which made and sold earth closets in oak and mahogany.

In The Field of the 21st November 1868 it was said “…in towns and villages not exceeding 2000 or 3000, we believe the earth closet will be found not only more effective but far more economical than water drainage.” The August 1st 1868 edition of The Lancet reported that 148 dry earth closets were in use at the Volunteer encampment at Wimbledon by 2000 men without any odour being produced. At his death, Moule was still trying to persuade the government that the earth closet was the sanitation of the future. He wrote pamphlets including The Advantage of the Dry Earth System; The Science of Manure as the Food of Plants; Manure for the Million: a Letter to the Cottage Gardeners of England, and a paper on town refuse in 1872. In this paper Moule argued on the three principles of (1) “There can never be a National Sanitation Reform without active intervention by central government” (2) That active intervention can never take place under the water sewerage system without a large increase of local taxation (3) Let the dry-earth system be enforced, and with a vast improvement in health and comfort, local taxation may be entirely relieved.

One of Henry Moule’s proudest friends and admirers was Thomas Hardy, who recognised his worth and even considered himself one of the minister’s parishioners even though he (Hardy) had reverted to agnosticism. Moule was no less active in the affairs of Dorchester and was fervently involved with William Barnes and Canon Charles Bingham in founding the Dorset Museum in 1845, the forerunner of today’s County Museum in the High Street. Moule also founded, in 1850, the Institute of Adult Education and was involved in the foundation of the Dorchester Mutual Improvement Society.

The Revd. Henry Moule BA died in 1880, but five of Henry and Mary’s six children became eminent figures in their own right. Handley Carr Moule became Bishop of Durham and wrote a treatise on Simeon. George Moule became Bishop of mid-China and Arthur E Moule also served as a missionary in that country. Charles became President of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Henry J. Moule became an archaeologist and Dorset Museum’s first curator. But a sixth son, Horace, slit his throat in a fit of depression in Cambridge in 1871. Though gifted musically and academically, his life was blighted by depressive and alcoholic tendencies. But the most tragic aspect of Horace Moule’s wasted life and death was that he, like his father, was a friend and mentor to Hardy, his demise having a significant impact on Dorset literature, for through Hardy it inspired the author’s intemperate and failing hero Jude in Jude the Obscure. A grandson of one of these siblings occupied a chair as Professor of Divinity at Cambridge.

*available for examination only by special request at the County Museum (handling fee £10). We will be publishing an article about Edwin Preedy’s short life soon – it will be posted in Real Lives.