THE POWELL FAMILY
By the early 1890’s, the Johnson family were out of Framland House and out of Melton Mowbray. Annie Johnson, by now leading the life of a reasonably young and clearly wealthy widow annuitant, seemed to have had her future secured with an impressive pension. Preferring life in the capital city she was soon to be ensconced in the sumptuous comfort and prestige of one of the best of London’s leafy suburbs, where she would complete the raising of her children and ensuring that her only son Henry did not forgo his architectural studies. She would also outlive her ancestors by reaching the grand age of 90 years before her eventual passing in Hampstead in December, 1923. But what of the old family home with its 11 bedrooms, stables and large garden standing in the grounds of the railway station at Melton Mowbray? It might have been a snip at around £500 when she left and in fact was valued at some £800 when it failed to meet its reserve in 1911. In truth, although never seriously regarded as a noted hunting-box in the town, the house was occupied occasionally by winter visitors who welcomed the availability of the attached stables and its proximity with the ambience of the town centre and its attractions. At around the same time as the widow Mrs Johnson moved away from the town with her family, a new doctor who had recently arrived in Melton had quietly eased in to cramped premises in the High Street, ostensibly to ‘practice his profession for a couple of days a week and to maybe do a little hunting on the side;’ at the age of just 24 years, he arrived as a newly-qualified member of the Royal College Of Surgeons. Dr Lionel Powell, of Welsh origin but born in the Channel Island of Jersey would be around as an important resident for a few years to come.
With no direct family connections remaining in the town today, the Powells – they like it pronounced ‘Poel’ as in ‘Noel’ – originated way back in the 5th or 6th century in the Radnor/Hereford area of the Welsh Borders. The name of Powell is said to derive from the name Hoel or Howell but for brevity we need not look further back than the arrival of Philip Lewis Powell (1805-1856) to bring us into the 19th century as one of seven children of a father of the same name, born in 1775 and his mother, Elizabeth (Turner), daughter of a wealthy banker who on the occasion of her own father’s death is said to have managed to stave off bankruptcy within her own family. Moving about the country frequently the family was to spend many years in Norfolk, but Philip was to eventually return ‘home’ to end his days back in Milford Haven. Five of the children were males of whom three entered the service of the East India Company, with the younger Philip himself serving as a naval officer and reaching the high rank of Commander. In 1840 as a young 35 year old, he retired altogether from military life claiming ill-health and it was around this period that he was to marry Eliza Sophia Galliers – also of Welsh origin – and the couple would re-locate to the small island of Jersey in the English Channel.
Lionel Lewis Powell.
The 1851 census for the States of Jersey, just off the coast of France records that in that year, at Magnolia Cottage in the parish of St Lawrence, a 44 years old Philip Lewis Powell, ‘retired commander,’ was resident with his wife, Eliza L Powell, 32 yrs. It includes one son, 3 yrs old Lionel L. Powell, born within the Island and a housemaid cum general nurse, Mary Ann, making up a cosy quartet. Not a lot is known of the attraction for them of the small Island of Jersey or of the goings-on of their social life there, but the early and not unexpected death of Philip in 1856 destined that the stay would not be permanent. In his biography, ‘Anthony Powell – a Life,‘ (Duckworth Overlook 2004), author Michael Barber suggests an air of mystery when writing of this first-born and only child, Philip;
‘… For instance his obituary in the Melton Mowbray Mercury states that following the death of his father he spent several years in Italy with his mother. Yet the same year his father died, 1856, he was enrolled as a day boy at Berkhampstead Grammar School. Why Berkhampstead? Possibly because of John Dupré, a Jersey man who was headmaster of the school from 1790 to 1805, during which time it became customary for the Jersey gentry to send their sons there.”
There is indeed a dearth of information as to those school and early learning years but it seems that as a grieving widow Eliza Powell was a transient soul and soon after the precipitous death of her husband she had placed the small island behind her and taken young Lionel off to Edinburgh where he attended briefly at the Edinburgh Academy until 1862. The census of 1861 actually shows Lionel, now 13 years old, with his mother, resident at No. 31 Dorset Place, Marylebone and there later followed a period in Italy where Eliza’s sister was living with her English Officer husband, then serving with the Bourbon Army. Probably as a result of his travels about Europe, Philip Powell was considered to have acquired a good knowledge of languages and it was also suggested that he sustained an overriding ambition to lead a military life, but it was a desire more than likely to have been squashed or suppressed by a most unenthusiastic mother. Or as Michael Barber proposes,
‘…perhaps there wasn’t the money to purchase a suitable commission in a decent regiment and either way, Lionel had to settle for thirty years of part time soldiering with the local [Melton Mowbray] Volunteers, whose honorary Colonel he eventually became.’
We know not what influences might have led the young and obviously bright Lionel Powell to chose the profession of medicine as a future career over the choice of a military life, but on the 16th May 1871 having successfully negotiated his degree in medicine at Edinburgh, he was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons as LRCP and LM: two days later he became a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. We also have few clues as to his decision to carry on his life’s chosen work in the small market town of Melton Mowbray – famous mainly for its fox-hunting, pork-pies and stilton cheese – but far away in the wilds of the English East Midlands and some 100 miles or more from the country’s capital city. But arrive he did and within a very short passage of time and at the age of just 23 years, he was to be found as a lodger at the Wilton Terrace home of auctioneer Joseph Miles and his wife Harriet. From here he would soon join up with two well established and respected local surgeons, the Messrs. Roberts and Whitchurch. He would soon after this, set up business on his own account as ‘Powell and McCraith, Surgeons’ with his good friend and medical partner, Jeremiah McCraith, which business and offices would be established at rented premises in the ground floor of No. 1 Burton Street, better known as Framland House, by now vacated by the Johnson family.
She was only the Brewer’s Daughter.
Life in Melton Mowbray seems to have proved to be just what the young Doctor Powell might have envisioned when he initially planned a future in the vibrant market town, as Michael Barber writes:
‘It was a happy choice. When not hunting himself, which he did three days a week in the season, he was profiting by its consequences. The rest of his spare time was devoted to the Leicestershire Volunteers. Although not without charm, Lionel Powell was evidently someone who had to be taken on his own terms, which included the taste for practical joking. His party piece when out for a stroll with a companion was to trip them up with his walking stick and catch them before they hit the ground, a feat that must have required split-second timing and a degree of forbearance on the part of his victim.’
On the 25th August 1873, Lionel Lewis Powell was Gazetted as an Ensign of the 3rd Leicestershire or Melton Mowbray Company of Rifle Volunteers, being vice to William Adcock, Esq., now Lieutenant.’ Thus he had embarked on what was to be a long period of military service along with his civic responsibilities as a doctor and later on, as politician, coroner, magistrate et al. This military and close social relationship with the extremely successful local brewer and maltster, Lieutenant Adcock – soon to be Captain – was destined to find him becoming his son-in-law when, on the 2nd June 1878 at the church of the All Souls in Langham Square, Marylebone, Lionel Powell at the age of 29 took 18years old Jessie Katherine Adcock to be his wife. Because of her young age, a special licence was acquired which was apparently readily arranged by the bride’s father. Of this marriage, Michael Barber observes that financially, it made sense …
‘ … on the death of her father in 1890 Jessie inherited £16,000, worth over a million in todays money, some of which may have been used to buy The Elms, the large and gloomy house Anthony Powell remembered as a small boy. But in other respects there was a price to pay. Because of her father’s humble origins Jessie was not received everywhere in the country. Furthermore her character was remarkably different from her husbands. He was a hearty extrovert, happiest in the saddle or, latterly, at the wheel of Melton Mowbray’s first car. She, by contrast, was lazy and imperious, reclining on the sofa all day with a risqué novel, but quick to impose her will on anyone within range. She was also a bit of a sorceress, skilled, like Mrs Erdleigh at reading the cards, and reputed to discomfort her enemies by means of spells.’
The Adcock Family.
Significantly successful in his many and various businesses, Jessie’s father was also to share his time with a devoted attention to local civic and political affairs, along with his elevated position in Queen Victoria’s Volunteers. His family had been established in the town at least back in the 18th century when a William Adcock was born on December 26, 1774. He was to marry Catherine Abbot who bore him three children between 1799 and 1802 and notwithstanding her sudden and early death, he next married Elizabeth Pickard with whom he had a further nine children over the following nineteen years between 1804 and 1823. His last born son, namesake William, was born in June 1821 whist the family was living in the nearby village of Whissendine which lies just over the county border in the ‘smallest’ English county of Rutland. In 1857 at the perhaps mature age of 36 years, William married Elizabeth Clark of Spalding in Lincolnshire. It was said about town that at the age of 36 he seems to have been too busy for matrimony, as from quite a young age he would pass all his waking hours setting himself up as a maltster in the general business of brewing and later, he would include the wholesale trading of cheeses as a sideline. Steadily and successfully he built up a small retail ’empire’ of beers, wines and spirits outlets to sell his produce and trading his cheese in the public market place. His original business was located in the north side of Melton in Bentley Street and known as the ‘Egerton Brewery’. In a short space of time, many people in the trade both locally and across the East Midland counties, became customers to whom he supplied his wares and increasingly he came to own outright, many of the existing licensed premises and even the small beer houses around, with the result that a lucrative monopoly became his own. It was these substantial profits which he would re-invest in purchasing whatever public-houses and food businesses might happen to arrive on the market and which were subsequently to number many. William was also well known and highly respected as a dealer in cheese and was an ever present buyer and seller at the local markets held in the open air in the Market Place, near to which he maintained a small office and store in the inn which is known today as ‘The Grapes‘ and then by its popular name, ‘the corner cupboard’.
Along with this very hectic working life as brewer, accomplished rifleman, civil servant et al, he was considered a most important and respected senior officer of his beloved Melton Volunteers regiment, attaining the rank of Captain shortly before his retirement but William Adcock was to die on Sunday, December 21st, 1890 just one year short of his 70th birthday. Interestingly, I have discovered that another novel string to his busy bow, was his keen involvement in the very new art of photography, still a very novel art-form of the time at which he seems to have excelled. Archived documents and year books of the Royal Photographic Society, now held at Leicestershire Records Office, carry confirmation of his many entries, some of which being landscapes and still-life entries of creditable quality, are displayed as being prize-winning efforts submitted prior to the end of the 19th century. I do I feel justified here in sharing part of a lengthy address to Captain Adcock which was published in the town newspaper of this popular personality.
(From the Melton Times, Friday December 26th, 1890)
DEATH OF CAPTAIN ADCOCK
It is employing no mere figure of speech when we say that the news of the death of Captain Adcock, which became known on Sunday morning, has cast a gloom over the town, and will, we feel sure, bring sorrow to many a home other than those more intimately connected with the deceased. Captain Adcock was so well known in consequence of his connection with artistic, scientific and literary societies, and the prominent part he took in every local philanthropic movement, that his death must be regarded as an event of more than ordinary importance, removing as it does, from our midst, a personage who has, for some years, exercised a potent influence in the town and neighbourhood.
The deceased gentleman was a native of Melton, having been born in the year 1821. He was in his early youth a stationer, having been apprenticed to the late Mr. John Towne, with whom he formed a friendship which was destined to be life-long in its duration. He afterwards engaged in various mercantile pursuits, and was the founder of the now well known Egerton Brewery, so successfully carried on under the name of Adcock, Pacey and Co.. He rapidly rose, by his talents and energy, to a foremost position in the town, which he retained to to the time of his death.
In politics, Captain Adcock was what may be termed a liberal conservative, and took an active part in the organisation of the party. He joined one of a company of eleven gentlemen who waited as a deputation upon the present Duke of Rutland, then Lord John Manners, to request him to allow himself to be put to nomination to fill the post of member for North Leicestershire, an incident to which he often referred. The last occasion on which the deceased took an active part in Parliamentary contests, was the occasion of the first return of the late General Burnaby, when, in conjunction with Mr James Morley, he was indefatigable in successfully canvassing the electors of the neighbourhood.
Captain Adcock took a warm interest in the welfare of the local corps of , and was one of the first members to be enrolled on the formation of a company at melton. The idea of a volunteer corps at Melton was originated, we believe, in the dining room of Mr Wing, one evening, early join the year 1859, and a memorial was addressed to the Lord Lieutenant of the County, the late Duke of Rutland with the result that the corps was successfully formed. The Melton, or “C” Company was, as its distinctive letter implies, the third to be organised in the Country, that of Belvoir, “B” company, being, by a fluke, enrolled before it, and thus taking, in point of seniority, precedence over the Melton Corps. The utility and importance of the volunteer movement were not then recognised by Government so fully as now, and many of the early experiences of those who joined at the time of which we are speaking, would be regarded by the volunteers of these days as decidedly novel. At that time, the government did not provide rifles, and muskets were obliged to be purchased by members themselves. The first drills of the Melton Corps were held on a piece of waste ground at the back of the premises of Messrs. Sharman and Ladbury, now the site of the implement factory, and the first drill sergeant was pensioner named Huddlestone, representatives of whose family still reside in the town. The drills took place at six o’clock in the morning, and those who were unprovided with a rifle were compelled to be content with a substitute in the form of a broom-stick or something similar. But what they lacked in the materials of war these early volunteers made up in enthusiasm, and the Corps rapidly grew in number and importance.’
The existence of the amalgamated skills of the Messrs. Adcock and Pacey business partnership is yet another significant passage of local history and the survival of their brewery venture remains well remembered today. To bring the story of the Company and the destiny of the partners together, I can say that in the summer of 1873, after two decades of trading alone, William Adcock announced to the world that he was to forge a partnership with Mr James Pacey, a respected farmer of nearby Garthorpe, from which came the business known as Adcock, Pacey and Co. Pacey was already a wealthy man and an established agriculturist employing several workers. He apparently had little or no prior interest or involvement in the brewing trade, but as a grazier he had acquired over his lifetime the ownership or tenancy of several acres in the area. In the ensuing years, several more farms were purchased by the partners and with little involvement with the Brewery, I can only surmise that Mr Pacey’s priorities lay in the production of the raw materials required for the brewing – especially the harvesting of barley – at source. Minor competition in the local busy brewery industry did come from George and Henry Langton at Thorpe End who had taken over a small brewery founded by George Adcock in 1865 and as Langton and Sons, Brewers of the celebrated ‘A.K Ale’, they took over the business of Adcock and Pacey on the occasion of the former’s death and the latter’s retirement in 1890, but they too were to go out of business in 1910 when the bulk of their houses and breweries went to auction. None of the companies involved remain extant.
At the time of William Adcock’s passing, James Pacey was to sell up his share of the business and purchase the substantial house and grounds known as The Limes at No.1, Sherrard Street where he was to retire with his family who were resident until the 1930s. This was a time when many of the large houses around the town became very expensive to maintain and as the country in general went into a severe period of financial restraint and worried over the increasing possibility of another World War. Several such dwellings became abandoned and deserted due to a reluctance to purchase and were left to the vagaries of the weather and the general passage of time, they faced the certainty of inevitable future demolition.
The land on which The Limes once stood was sold off after demolition in about 1932 and the wonderful old house was soon to be replaced by a contemporary faux ‘Art Deco’ style branch of Woolworths national retail stores, in modern times to be transferred to its present occupants, the Yorkshire Trading Company. Its once large and decorative gardens which could be spied through the railings of an iron gate by passers-by from the main street of the town, took up land at its rear to as far as Sage Cross Street to the east which was soon to sold and filled up with commercial buildings and the smaller houses which once lined King Street.
As the only child born to William and Elizabeth, Jessie Kate Adcock was destined to become heiress to a substantial fortune, although she is said to have taken only a small part in the running of the family business and on her father’s death in 1890 it seems that she and Lionel with his medical practice, had little interest in the running of the brewery. They had two children, Philip and Katherine.
Just a short distance to the east along Sherrard street and on the opposite side of the busy road, another large house once stood in magnificent glory as a reminder of Georgian and Victorian times. Originally, known simply as ‘The House’, it stood for over two centuries and it is difficult today for residents and visitors to Melton Mowbray, to realise that such a wonderful three-storey stately house with its beautifully manicured gardens actually existed there. For most people today it, or its memory, is known as The Elms and once stood in the very centre of Melton Mowbray at the point where today stands the semi-derelict, flat roofed and already decaying 1950s telephone exchange. The once grand gardens of large lawns and flower beds, together with an ice house and magnificently outfitted stables, now comprise the modern streets and dwellings of the Elms and Oaks Roads which contain many of the modern homes of townsfolk. In its heyday the gardens spread, manicured and painstakingly tended, to be bound only by Mill street and Brook street to the south. As a dwelling, The House was a very favourite hunting box in the winter months, as well as a residence to a series of top social people including Lord Markham and the Manners family of Belvoir. Around 1900, The House was purchased by Jessie Powell, more than likely with the proceeds of her father’s will, it becoming the home of the Powell family for the next three decades. It was in this grand old house that their only son, Philip Lionel William Powell was born, who was to later marry and produce a son of his own who would one day become an internationally renowned author.
|The Elms, Melton Mowbray – circa 1925
Anthony Dymoke Powell – 1905-2000
Here I refer to the birth at The Elms, on the 21st December 1905, of Anthony Dymoke Powell, C.H. C.B.E, the only child of Philip Lionel Powell and Maud Mary Wells-Dymoke. Maud was the daughter and heir of Edmund Lionel Wells-Dymoke, formerly of Grebby Hall, Lincolnshire and she would eventually move away from the town with her itinerant army family into a military world within which Anthony would travel to many countries. Spending his early days with his mother in Melton, he was, at the age of 10, to be educated first at Eton and then at Balliol, Oxford, following which in rejecting his parent’s hopes of a military career, he was to take up the pen as his tool of work and be destined to become a novelist of some repute. He Married Lady Violet Packenham, sister of Lord Longford in 1934 and in 1925, following early moderate literary successes, he embarked upon the protracted production of his iconic 12 volume novel, A Dance to the Music of Time, an analysis of which and the biography of its author, is recorded by the aforementioned Anthony Barber in his ‘Anthony Powell, A Life’. ( published 2004 by Duckworth Overlook).
Another famous son of the Town!