Unveiling of Park Walk War Memorial

Shaftesbury’s Park Walk War Memorial Unveiled One Hundred Years Ago

On Sunday afternoon 23 October 1921, as reported by the Western Gazette, “there took place one of the most impressive and soul-stirring ceremonies in the history of the borough. It was Shaftesbury’s day with the dead. Here upon the wind-swept walk, in the chilly, moist atmosphere of an October day, hundreds of townspeople honoured the memory of the 60 men who gave up their lives in the service of their King and Country.”

The following article is based on the account published in the Western Gazette of 28 October, 1921.

SHAFTESBURY’S WAR HEROES.

BEAUTIFUL EYAM CROSS UNVEILED BY EARL OF SHAFTESBURY.

STIRRING CEREMONY IN “THE PARK.”

Almost directly in front of the Westminster Memorial Hospital, there now stands this visible expression of the gratitude of a thankful people. It is a distinctive tribute, beautiful in its substantial symmetrical proportions, and in perfect harmony with the traditions of the town, itself one of the oldest in England.

Park Walk War Memorial Inspired by the Saxon Cross in Eyam, Derbyshire

The Eyam Cross in Derbyshire is the oldest of the Saxon crosses in this country, and there are few modern imitations. The only replica in the West of England is that erected at Blundell’s School, Tiverton, (by the same company of stonemasons, H. Hems of Exeter, in November 1920.) Hence Shaftesbury has a memorial of distinction.

With the exception of the four panels, which are of Hopton Wood (Derbyshire) stone, the memorial is constructed of the noted Chilmark stone, drawn from the district. The locality of the memorial gives it an added boldness and dignity, overlooking, as it does, miles and miles of country. In this unique spot stands this high tribute to the heroism and devotion to sixty gallant Shastonians, whose example will be as a beacon fire upon the hilltop, pointing the way to true greatness and noble service in the cause of humanity.

The inscription reads: ‘Lest we forget. In proud and grateful memory of the men of Shaftesbury who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918’. The names of the 60 fallen are inscribed on the side panels. They are as follows:-

Walter Harry Alner. Sidney William Alner. Frederick Thomas Atkinson. William Bastable. Harry Bastable. Charles Belbin. William Belbin. Charles Blake. Charles Brickell. Frederick Brickell. James Burbidge. Harry Butt. Frederick Butt. Reginald Butt. William Thomas Cole. Charles Crew. Charles Davis. Harry Davis. Montague Durston. George Henry Dyke. Ernest Foot. Reginald Foot. Harry Gray. Sidney Gray. Edwin Greenway. Leslie Gutsell. Decimus Hardiman. Henry Meatyard Hatcher. John Highman. Walter William Hodder. Percy Hussey. Bertram Keast. Charles King. Edwin Large. Rex Lawson. Gilbert Maidment. Arthur Mayo. Frederick Miller. Frederick Morgan. Edwin George Mullins. George Newton. Sidney Parsons. Charles Parsons. Alfred Parsons. Joseph Powell. Harry Robins. Bertram Robins. Alfred Stainer. John Stainer. Frederick Taylor. Walter Thorne. Arthur Toogood. Harold Lawrence Tuffin. Hubert Frank Weldon. Reginald S White. Frank White. Leslie Reginald Wightman. Thomas Wright. Herbert Wright. Philip Sidney Young.

THE UNVEILING

A long procession left the Town Hall square shortly after 2.15pm, for a service at Holy Trinity Church. At the head walked Inspector Swain and members of the local constabulary, followed by the Comrades’ band, under bandmaster T. Wareham. The Territorials and several hundred ex-servicemen from Shaftesbury & Gillingham, under the command of Lord Stalbridge and ex Corporal-Major, T. Imber, preceded the civic body, which was led by the Mayor, wearing his robes and chain of office.

At Holy Trinity, the service was conducted by the Vicar and commenced with the hymn ‘O, God, our help’ and was followed by a pause for silent remembrance.

After the service, the procession was reformed and to the triumphant music of ‘Onward Christian soldiers’, proceeded to the memorial, which was surrounded by a huge crowd, with every point of vantage being occupied. In reserved positions, close to the memorial, were the relatives of the fallen, most of whom carried floral tributes.

After the hymn ‘Rock of ages’, the Earl of Shaftesbury addressed the crowd and then pulled the cord, releasing the flags, and revealing the beauty of the memorial. The Mayor then solemnly read the names of the fallen, and concluded, ‘May God grant that they rest in peace’. The Rector dedicated the memorial, and Lord Stalbridge laid on it the Comrades’ wreath, in national colours, bearing the inscription, ‘As a token of respect to our fallen comrades, from the ex-servicemen of Shaftesbury’. Many other wreaths were laid until the base was completely covered.

Lord Shaftesbury, although suffering from a sprained ankle, stood throughout the ceremony. Addressing the Mayor, members of the Corporation and the good people of Shaftesbury, he offered his hearty thanks for the share he was privileged to have in the impressive and stirring proceedings. Now they had unveiled the memorial to public gaze, what a host of feelings it evoked. Feelings of wonder and amazement for that supreme act of sacrifice. Then there was the thought of all the pain that that sacrifice entailed. Finally, the sense of thanksgiving and praise for the stupendous victory won. Surely they in Shaftesbury had done well in selecting this form of memorial to those of Shaftesbury who gave their lives for King and Country.

“Greater love hath no man than this,

That a man lay down his life for his friend.”

Then, after Lord Shaftesbury’s address, another hymn, prayers and a blessing, the National Anthem was sung, and a memorable and deeply stirring service ended with the sounding of the Last Post, by three members of the Cadet Corps.

The stories of most, if not all of the individuals whose names appear on local War Memorials have been researched by volunteers of the Shaftesbury Remembers Project and may be accessed by clicking here

Thanks to Peter Stanier for additional research into the construction of local War Memorials.

Christina Richard, author of Mr & Mrs Lockwood Kipling

Tisbury Author Launches New Book on the Parents of Rudyard Kipling

Christina Richard signed copies of her latest book “Mr & Mrs Lockwood Kipling: from the Punjab to Tisbury” (Hobnob Press) in the Hinton Hall on Saturday 16 October. John Lockwood Kipling (1837-1911), a Yorkshire-born artist, teacher, and illustrator, met Alice MacDonald (1837-1910), a poet, while working in the Potteries. Their son was named after a favourite Staffordshire location, Rudyard Lake, and born in 1865 shortly after they had moved to India. John became Principal of the Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Mumbai and was engaged by the British Government to make an artistic record of cultural aspects of the country. Many of his drawings are archived in the Victoria & Albert Museum. In 1875 he took up the posts of Principal of the Mayo School of Arts and Curator of the Central Museum in Lahore.

John Lockwood Kipling and Rudyard Kipling, c.1890
John Lockwood Kipling and Rudyard Kipling, c.1890

In 1893 the Kiplings returned to England, and retirement in Tisbury with its convenient railway station. The father provided many of the illustrations for the son’s popular literary output, including the Jungle Books. He was also responsible for the Indian-themed decoration of the Durbar Room, an extension to Osborne House, the royal residence on the Isle of Wight.

Akela the Lone Wolf, frontispiece of the Two Jungle Books, 1895
Akela the Lone Wolf, frontispiece of the Two Jungle Books, 1895

The Kiplings moved in fairly exalted social and artistic circles. Through her four sisters Alice was aunt to future Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and sister-in-law to artists Edward Poynter and Edward Burne-Jones. She and her husband died within a couple of months of each other and are buried side by side in the churchyard of St John the Baptist, Tisbury. The proximity of their graves to her home is what first piqued the interest of Tina Richard and led to this fine book.

Kipling Graves in the churchyard of St John the Baptist Tisbury
Kipling Graves in the churchyard of St John the Baptist Tisbury

Tisbury sits squarely in the Cranborne Chase AONB which is currently offering a part-time opportunity for an Oral History Coordinator. Details below

Enmore Green 2

Enmore Green War Memorial Unveiled One Hundred Years Ago

At 4p.m. on Sunday 09 October 1921 a Memorial to the men of Enmore Green and Sherborne Causeway who gave their lives in the 1914-18 Great War was unveiled by Lady Stalbridge. Virtually every parish in Great Britain had sent men to the war who had not returned, and who would be buried in or near the battlefields where they served. It was government policy that bodies should not be repatriated, with the notable and symbolic exception of the Unknown Warrior, who was interred in Westminster Abbey on 11 November 1920. The overseas cemeteries of the Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves Commiss- ion were set out with a beautiful and standardised rigour, and are lovingly maintained to the present day. There was no prescribed uniformity for local parish War Memorials back home, so there is an endearing variety of designs for the monuments, which for many Britons would have been the only accessible place of Remembrance for their relatives.

Enmore Green 1
Enmore Green War Memorial

The monument at Enmore Green is in the practical form of a lamp post, with a plaque bearing the names at the base. All of these names will have been researched and recorded by the volunteers of Shaftesbury Remembers.

Enmore-Green-War-Memorial-03
Plaques at the base of the Enmore Green War Memorial

The names may be more easily read on this image of the outside of the original programme of the Dedication Ceremony, kindly provided by Nigel Garrett and photographed by Ann Symons at Gold Hill Museum.

Enmore Green 3
Enmore Green War Memorial Dedication Programme

Storming of the US Capitol 06 January 2021 (photo by Tyler Merbler)

American History Expert Talks on the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election

There is probably no better qualified British commentator on modern American history and politics than Professor Tony Badger. Until his retirement in 2014 he was Paul Mellon Professor of American History and Master of Clare College at the University of Cambridge. Since 2014 he has been Professor of American History at Northumbria University in Newcastle upon Tyne. He is the immediate Past President of the national Historical Association, in which honorary role he toured the length and breadth of the country addressing branch meetings of H.A. members. (The nearest H.A. branches are in Bath and Bournemouth). As a small, independent society, The S&DHS is privileged to welcome Tony to his first live speaking engagement since the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

The title of Tony’s talk is “The 2020 American Presidential Election in Historical Perspective.” This takes place in Shaftesbury Town Hall at 7.30p.m. on Tuesday 05 October, 2021, and is free to S&DHS members but also open to non-members on payment of £5 at the door. Seats may be reserved in advance by contacting us. This was originally scheduled for October 2020, a month before the Election, but subsequent events such as the Storming of the Capitol in January and the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August, may make the subject even more relevant.

“The lecture (Tony says) seeks to explain how an outsider like Trump could get elected in 2016 and how, in spite of a chaotic administration and a devastating virus, he could be highly competitive in 2020. What does it say about the polarisation of American society that so many Republicans continue to believe that the 2020 election was stolen? Why did Trump refuse to accept defeat? What was his role in inciting the Capitol riot?”

Professor Tony Badger
Professor Tony Badger

Professor Badger is the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecturer for 2021. Noel Teulon Porter was one of the driving forces behind the foundation of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society in 1946. The full lecture programme for 2021-22 can be found by clicking here

Vickers Victoria cargo and troop carrier

First Mass Evacuation of Civilians by Air – from Kabul in 1928

Perhaps History does repeat itself. In July 1928 King Amanullah of Afghanistan returned from a lengthy tour of Europe. His enthusiasm for Western manners did not endear him to his subjects, and the Royal Family was forced to flee an armed uprising to neighbouring British India. The British Minister at the newly-built British Legation, Colonel Sir Francis Humphrys, was able to call in 70 Squadron, then based in Iraq (and now at RAF Brize Norton.) The Squadron’s workhorse was the Vickers Victoria, designed to carry 24 troops and their equipment at about 100mph. In 84 missions between 23 December 1928 and 25 February 1929, the RAF pilots, in open cockpits and relying on rudimentary instrumentation, flew 586 shivering passengers of 11 nationalities across the wintry mountains of the Hindu Kush to Peshawar, in what is now Pakistan.

Sherard Cowper-Coles was British Ambassador in Kabul from 2007 to 2009. In ‘Cables from Kabul’ (published 2011) he describes commemorating the 80th anniversary of the first Kabul Airlift, and writes that ‘an added twist to the story was the fact that Aircraftsman T.E. Shaw (aka T.E. Lawrence) was sitting at RAF Miramshah, spending his spare time preparing a new translation of Homer’s ‘Odyssey’. But the word got out among the Waziri tribesmen that “Al Urens” (as the Arabs called Lawrence) was among them, plotting.’ Very swiftly Shaw/Lawrence was transferred from British India back to England, where he continued his service in the ranks until 1935. Two months after leaving the RAF, in May 1935 he was catapulted over the handlebars of his powerful Brough motorcycle and fatally injured near his cottage Clouds Hill, in Dorset.

T.E. Lawrence and Brough Superior motorcycle
T.E. Lawrence and Brough Superior motorcycle

In January 2009 Cowper-Coles met briefly with Vice-President-elect Joe Biden, emphasising his belief in ‘the need for the military effort to be complemented by a political approach, involving both the internal and the regional parties to the conflict. …. Senator Biden’s scepticism about the feasibility – and afford- ability – of a serious counter-insurgency strategy in a country of the size and poverty of Afghanistan was clear. …. (Cowper-Coles argued that since 2001) There had been huge improvements in health, in education, in infrastructure and, amazingly, in prosperity. All these could be endangered if we pulled our ground-holding forces back unilaterally.’ (pp200-201) Prophetic words written ten years ago.

The subject of the Teulon Porter Memorial Lecture by Professor Anthony Badger at 7.30pm in Shaftesbury Town Hall on Tuesday 05 October 2021 will be ‘The 2020 American Presidential Election in Historical Perspective.’ Free to members of The S&DHS; otherwise £5 on the night.

Jane Shepherd Landscape I

Follow the Blackmore Vale Art Trail to Gold Hill Museum

Local artist Jane Shepherd exhibits a series of paintings exploring colour and texture in mixed media, that create imagined landscapes inspired by photographs and memories. These are on show in the Anna McDowell Garden Room from 28 August to 05 September. Please click on the image (above) to see the whole painting.

Jane writes: “I am an artist from Melbury Abbas who uses found materials and acrylic paint to create mixed media paintings of landscapes both real and imagined. I have made art all my life and love the creative process. I find that starting with an assortment of papers and materials like thin coloured foils and my paints with no pre concept of how the piece will develop, exciting and immersive. Each picture grows from layers of randomly torn paper stuck onto the colour washed background. Paint is added to enhance areas creating the landscape.”

Landscape II Jane Shepherd
Landscape by Jane Shepherd

Entrance to Gold Hill Museum and Jane’s exhibition is free. A free catalogue of all the artists taking part in the BV Art Trail is available at the Museum and other venues. Other temporary exhibitions still on at Gold Hill Museum include The Making of the Hovis Ad, Childhood and Doll’s Houses, and items relating to John Rutter, the Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury.

St James 1914-18 War Memorial

Shaftesbury Remembers the Bastable Brothers

On 16 August 1914 Private William Richard Bastable (service no. 7643) disembarked with the 1st Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment at Le Havre. Nine days later he and his comrades, professional soldiers in the British Expeditionary Force, were facing the overwhelming strength of the German army at Mons. Kaiser Wilhelm II is alleged to have dismissed the BEF as General French’s “contemptible little army” (though there is no documentary evidence to bear this out). In sixteen sweltering days the “Old Contemptibles” marched 220 miles in an orderly retreat, impressing the enemy with their discipline and withering rifle fire. Almost on the outskirts of Paris, the Allies turned the tide at the Battle of the Marne, and a war of movement became one of attrition, as both sides dug in.

BEF 'Old Contemptibles' in Mons, 22 August 1914
BEF ‘Old Contemptibles’ in Mons, 22 August 1914. (No steel helmets at this stage of World War I)

William Richard Bastable was born in Shaftesbury in 1888, the son of George William Edward Bastable, an agricultural labourer, and Fanny Ann Bastable (nee Davis). There were four other children: George (born 1883), Henry John known as Harry (1884), James (1891) and Ruth (1895). William’s father and siblings, plus their father, were listed in the 1871 Census as paupers living in Shaftesbury Workhouse. We are indebted to volunteers Ann Symons and Chris Stupples for researching the story of the Bastables and many others, and entering the information into the Shaftesbury Remembers database. Chris has now passed the personal landmark of 1200 entries. Shaftesbury Remembers continues to expand its coverage and usefulness to researchers worldwide, as noted in the 2020-21 Trustees’ Report and at the 2021 AGM of The Shaftesbury & District Historical Society on 24 August.

Wiliam’s father died aged 47 in 1898 and was buried at St James Church. His widow worked as a laundress and a charwoman to support the children at 84 St James Street, where she is recorded as living with a boarder, George Hull, in the 1911 Census. William joined the Dorsetshire Regiment in 1905 (service no. 4993) and is listed in barracks at Wanowrie Lines, Pune, India in 1911. By 1914 he had returned to England and married Alice Eliza Conway from Melbury Abbas. As he seems to have had two service nos. and some of his military records were destroyed by World War II bombing, we can only speculate that he left the regular Army and then re-enlisted at the beginning of World War I.

St James from the Tyler Collection
St James from the Tyler Collection

Harry Bastable joined the Royal Navy as an Ordinary Seaman on 28 May 1901. He was discharged with good conduct reports on 16 August 1905. No Census entry for 1911 has been found, but it is known that on 28 March 1914 he sailed for Canada aboard the S.S. ‘Tunisian’ and found work in Nova Scotia as a warehouseman. On 17 December 1914 in Winnipeg, he enlisted as a private in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment) and sailed for France on 16 March 1915. The two brothers were destined to serve simultaneously in the same area of the Western Front, the Ypres Salient.

Hill 60 Ypres alongside Ypres-Commines Railway
Hill 60 Ypres alongside Ypres-Commines Railway

Hill 60 was a man-made mound of earth, thrown up by the construction of the adjacent railway cutting in the 1850s. In the flatlands of Flanders it was something of a vantage point and possession was keenly contested. It was captured by the Germans in December 1914 and the Dorsets helped to retake it in late April 1915. As one of the few survivors from the original BEF, William Bastable now had the misfortune to be exposed to one of the earliest uses of chemical warfare. Clouds of yellow and white chlorine gas drifted across No Man’s Land from nozzles in the German front line. The instinct to hunker down in the trenches was invariably fatal as the gas was heavier than air and the rudimentary protection little more than bits of flannel or gauze. The Official History states on 05 May that ’90 men died in the trenches or before they could be got to a dressing station; of the 207 brought to the nearest dressing station, 46 died almost immediately and 12 after long suffering.’ William died at No.2 Casualty Clearing Station, probably unaware that his wife had given birth to a daughter, Winifred Violet Alberta, on 29 April 1915. He is buried at Bailleul Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.

‘The attack on Hill 60, to which the the gas was a preliminary, was driven off – not least, perhaps, because the wind changed and some of it drifted back upon those who sent it – but a few days later the Germans tried again. This time they were more successful …. Hill 60 was lost, and with it 627 men of the battalion in one abominable week.’ (Hugh Popham, ‘The Dorset Regiment’, p74). It was also an abominable week for Fanny Ann Bastable. On 08 May 1915 Harry Bastable was killed in action at Bellewaarde Lake near Ypres. His body was never recovered and he is one of 54,395 Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave whose names are incised on the Menin Gate at Ypres.

Menin Gate, Ypres
Menin Gate, Ypres

Both William and Harry Bastable are remembered on the Park Walk and St James War Memorials, the Roll of Honour in St James Church, and the Holy Trinity Memorial, now in St Peter’s Church, Shaftesbury.

John Rutter Human Rights Campaigner

Human Rights Campaigner John Rutter Welcomes The End of Slavery

Slavery was officially abolished in the British Empire on 01 August 1834. To mark this milestone, John Rutter addressed a public meeting in Shaftesbury Town Hall at 11.00a.m. On Saturday 07 August 2021 at 12.00 noon the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset unveiled a Blue Plaque outside the premises of HSBC to commemorate the life and achievements of this remarkable Shastonian.

Abolition was not all that it seemed. Nominally freed slaves were compulsorily indentured to their former owners in an apprenticeship system scheduled to cease on 01 August 1840. This was deeply unpopular with the ‘apprentices’, and John Rutter’s biographer notes that ‘he is recorded as a speaker in Mere in March 1838 when he explained the “oppressive and deceptive operation of the Apprenticeship System” in the West Indies.’ (John Stuttard, ‘The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury’, p.112) Reparations were paid, but to the slave owners, totalling £20 million at 1830’s values. William Beckford of Fonthill Abbey fame, with whom Rutter had collaborated in 1822 to publish the superb ‘Delineations of Fonthill & Its Abbey’, received £12,803-2s-10d in compensation for 660 slave workers on four sugar plantations in Jamaica. In all, about 40,000 claims were paid, some to owners of as few as one slave.

A temporary exhibition of artefacts connected with John Rutter can now be viewed at Gold Hill Museum. The cream top hat brought back from Paris in August 1849 after an International Peace Congress has been very kindly loaned by Simon Rutter.

John Rutter's Parisian Top Hat
John Rutter’s Parisian Top Hat

John Rutter Plaque (2)

John Rutter Blue Plaque to Be Unveiled on 07 August

Angus Campbell, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, will unveil a Blue Plaque commemorating the life of John Rutter (1796 -1851) at noon on Saturday 07 August 2021. The Plaque will be mounted on the front wall of No. 2 The Commons, Shaftesbury, where from 1817 John Rutter ran a printing and publishing business, and subscription library. The premises are currently owned by Ship and Sherry Limited and leased to HSBC Bank.

Site of John Rutter's Shop, The Commons, Shaftesbury (IK)
Site of John Rutter’s Shop, The Commons, Shaftesbury (IK)

Rutter was a nineteenth century human rights campaigner, when slavery was yet to be abolished and only a small minority of men had the right to vote. He passionately denounced the inhumanity of slavery, and opposed corruption and intimidation in local municipal and parliamentary elections. This led to friction with the agents of Lord Grosvenor, the wealthy landowner who had bought most of the property in Shaftesbury. In the wake of the troubled 1830 elections dozens of Shastonians including Rutter were sent for trial at Dorchester Assizes, charged with riotous assembly and criminal damage. In the first two trials, 21 defendants were found guilty of assault and 14 sentenced to between one and four months’ imprisonment. Eight were acquitted. By the time of the third trial the judge had grown impatient with the multiple prosecutions and urged the defendants to plead guilty, agree to be bound over to keep the peace for twelve months and accept a nominal fine of one shilling. All complied, except John Rutter, who knew that he was guilty of nothing. His religious beliefs repudiated all forms of violence, and during the disturbances he urged demonstrators to go home. This adherence to principle irritated the judge and led to Rutter’s being nicknamed “The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury.” (The title of the 2018 book by Sir John Stuttard, who has masterminded the Blue Plaque project.) Eventually the baseless charges were dropped.

S&DHS President holding John Rutter Blue Plaque
S&DHS President Sir John Stuttard holding John Rutter Blue Plaque

By the mid-1830s Rutter had achieved a working relationship with Grosvenor, who cancelled eviction orders against tenants who had voted ‘unwisely’ and stopped imposing parliamentary candidates on the town. After the Municipal Corporations Act of 1835 abolished local cliques, Rutter was elected to the Town Council and championed improvements in education, water supply, sanitation, and gas street and domestic lighting. In the 1840s he lobbied Parliament to extend the London and South Western Railway from Salisbury to Exeter via Tisbury, Semley and Gillingham. The grateful inhabitants of Gillingham presented him with an engraved silver salver in August 1848, though the line was not completed until after his death. The salver will form part of a temporary exhibition at Gold Hill Museum together with other artefacts, including a magnificent top hat bought in 1849 when Rutter attended the Third International Peace Congress in Paris. We are grateful to the Rutter family for the loan of the hat, and to Shaftesbury Town Council for financial support in meeting the cost of the project.

John Rutter's Hat Box
John Rutter’s Hat Box

In 1837 John Rutter qualified after five years’ legal training and began to practise as a solicitor. His brushes with the law may well have motivated him to acquire a more thorough knowledge of a profession which was in any case barred to him as a Quaker until 1828. He was also better able to defend the rights of the poor, whether as a Poor Law Guardian or in the Small Debts Court. Several generations later, the Rutter name is preserved in two local law firms, and on a street sign. This is the first Blue Plaque in Shaftesbury honouring a named individual for their positive contribution to the development of the town and the welfare of its inhabitants.

Rutter Close sign
Rutter Close sign

Tyler View of The Commons, Shaftesbury

The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury and Riots in The Commons

The Commons in question being almost a public square where Shaftesbury High Street meets Bell Street. On opposite sides of the road, two key locations in a drama from the fractious summer of 1830: on the right the Grosvenor Arms, then a coaching inn and headquarters of the ruling Grosvenor interest; and facing it, the printer’s shop of John Rutter, later the Post Office (as in the early 1900’s Tyler photograph, with postal staff outside the door), and currently the HSBC Bank. In June 1830 the death of King George IV triggered a General Election. The unreformed borough of Shaftesbury was entitled to return two MPs. Since there was no Secret Ballot, the entirely male electorate had to declare their voting preferences in public to the Returning Officer. Polling took place in the new Town Hall (below), the gift of Earl Grosvenor in 1827.


Since the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, low wages, poverty, repression and a lack of job security, had led to a growing resentment by the labouring classes towards the rich farm owners and land-owning class, who seemed not to care a jot for them or their welfare. The gulf between rich and poor seemed to have become greater than ever. Now, as the election approached, there was an underlying groundswell of anger amongst the people of Shaftesbury and surrounding area which, in July, 1830, came to the surface in the shape of violence.

John Rutter Turbulent Quaker
John Rutter, The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury

John Rutter, printer of Shaftesbury, was a principled man who defended the oppressed and the disadvantaged. In 1819, he had published a document entitled ‘A brief sketch of the state of the poor in Shaftesbury’, which was a shocking and revealing account of the appalling conditions in which some of Shaftesbury’s residents lived. He also fought against the corrupt and nepotistic practices of Shaftesbury Borough Council. In 1830, much of Shaftesbury was owned by Lord Grosvenor. He was a powerful and influential figure, but he left the management of his estates to his representatives, or agents. His tenants knew that any demonstration of dissent against Lord Grosvenor’s interests, would likely lead to the local agents having them evicted from their homes. At that time, as well as ill feeling towards the Mayor of Shaftesbury and his attorney, Philip Chitty, there was a particular resentment towards Lord Grosvenor’s London agent, a man named John Jones. The Grosvenor candidates for the two Shaftesbury seats, Edward Penrhyn and William Dugdale, might have expected to be returned unopposed. However, John Rutter and his colleagues proposed their own candidate, Francis Knowles, who was a reformer, known to support causes such as the abolition of slavery, religious tolerance and legal reform.

Grosvenor Arms (IK)
Grosvenor Arms (IK)

Towards the end of July 1830, speeches were being given in Shaftesbury’s Commons, with Lord Grosvenor’s candidates and supporters speaking from the balcony of the Grosvenor Arms Hotel. On Monday the 26th, July, rival groups gathered, and it was clear that most of the crowd was against the electoral system and Lord Grosvenor’s agent, John Jones. Boos and hisses and calls for Jones to go home, led to scuffles, with sticks being used as weapons. Another cause for concern and target for the crowd, was a man named William Swyer, who was not only Mayor of Shaftesbury, but also one of Lord Grosvenor’s local agents, and the Returning Officer for the election. Many suspected that the result would be rigged.


The population of Shaftesbury was 2,742 at the time, but only 315 men were eligible to vote. Polling took place over four days from the 3rd, August and, by the third day, Francis Knowles was trailing in 3rd place. A huge crowd, said by some to be over 10,000 people, gathered in Shaftesbury’s Commons and surrounding streets, and there was much unrest amongst them. In order to try and placate them, Knowles addressed the crowd, expressing confidence in the final triumph in the cause of liberty. After this, most of the crowd dispersed.

Site of John Rutter's Shop, The Commons, Shaftesbury (IK)
Site of John Rutter’s Shop, The Commons, Shaftesbury (IK)


However, about 200-300 people, mostly consisting of women and younger men, went to John Rutter’s premises on the Commons. John Rutter addressed them outside and asked them all to retire peaceably to their homes, which most of them did. There was a significant amount of intoxication and, despite John Rutter’s plea, many of the young men carried on drinking until about 10 pm, when some of them started throwing stones at the windows of Grosvenor supporters. A carriage was destroyed and then, at about 11pm, the Grosvenor’s gates were rushed by more than 50 men, who got in and broke windows and kicked in doors. The innkeeper of the Grosvenor Arms, Mr Edwards, reported that over 100 panes of glass were broken. He said that the Grosvenor was under attack until two or three in the morning. One witness, Robert Burridge, stated that in passing by the Grosvenor Arms after midnight, ‘he was called a spy, knocked down twice, and had his collar broken’.

Grosvenor Arms Blue Plaque (IK)
Grosvenor Arms Blue Plaque (IK)


Next morning, the Commons was a scene of devastation; but all was quiet. The army had been summoned, but 44 men of the 2nd Dragoons arrived too late from Blandford the day after the disturbances. Two of them escorted John Jones from the town. Following the trouble, Mayor Swyer had five men arrested, charged with ‘Feloniously rioting’ and sent to Dorchester gaol. They were Charles Willmot aged 25, Stephen Dean aged 22, Charles Hoskins aged 23, all labourers of Shaftesbury; Charles Jenkins aged 23, a sawyer, and Nehemiah Davidge aged 20, a blacksmith of Donhead St. Mary. The result of the election was 169 votes for Penhryn, 145 for Dugdale & 121 for Knowles. It did not go unnoticed that Mayor Swyer, in his role as agent for Grosvenor and Returning Officer, rejected 25 votes for Knowles which, had they been allowed, would have given him a total of 146 and, possibly, one of the two seats. John Rutter claimed that, ‘Had justice been done us, Mr Knowles would have been returned as the successful candidate’. Knowles claimed that he had lost ‘through a mass of corrupt influence’. On the 1st September, the five were released from gaol and made a triumphal return to Shaftesbury. As they passed through Blandford, bells were rung and in Iwerne Minster they were accompanied by a band. They stopped at the Half Moon and were then hauled in their carriage to the Commons, where they were met by a huge crowd of enthusiastic, flag-waving supporters. John Rutter regarded their release as a ‘Triumph over injustice, oppression and partiality’.


However, just the next day, there was more trouble to come ….

(This article was first read by the author, Dave Hardiman, on the Alfred Daily Podcast.)

Footnote: On the 2nd September 1830 a victory parade was to escort the successful Grosvenor candidates to a celebratory dinner at the Grosvenor Arms. Despite the drafting in of nearly 100 special constables, such serious disorder broke out that the Town Clerk was obliged to read the Riot Act from the balcony of the Grosvenor Arms. Yet more windows were broken. In October 1830 dozens of Shaftesbury residents, including John Rutter, received summonses to answer charges at the next Quarter Sessions in Dorchester. The story concludes ….