Skip to main content

Outspoken Editor James Bartlett

 

Blandford Express was the town’s newspaper between 1859 and 1894. Appearing every Saturday, its four pages cost just one penny. Owner and editor was the controversial and combative James Bartlett. Known as ‘Printer’s Corner’, his offices could be found at the junction of White Cliff Mill Street and Salisbury Street. So strident was his support of the Conservative political cause that he received physical threats. In June 1885, fishmonger George Vince was charged before Blandford Magistrates with threatening the newspaper editor. The fishmonger was found guilty and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. George's son, also called George, was later to be the first person known to lose his life in Antarctica.

Also that year, and according to a Durweston resident, Bartlett engaged in a vitriolic campaign against North Dorset Liberal MP, Edwin Portman. He claimed that Portman had become bankrupt to avoid paying his debts. He had also seduced the daughter of the Governor of Gibraltar and had been cast away on a remote island because of his bad behaviour aboard ship. The Durweston resident suggested that Bartlett was unable to substantiate these claims.

Then, Bartlett upset a Spetisbury publican by describing his hostelry, the Drax Arms as a ‘den’. Publican Edwin Melmoth responded angrily in a letter published in another newspaper. He protested that he kept respectable company and he refused to admit into his public house 'rogues and villains, those who forged doctors’ notes and others who stole potatoes!’

In June 1887, Bartlett was himself in court after he had suggested that schoolmistress Elizabeth Cumming had damaged her school house property after leaving to take up a fresh teaching post in London. Bartlett lost the case and had to pay forty pounds in damages together with costs – a not insignificant sum at the time. The competing Blandford Weekly News, which supported the Liberal political cause, relished reporting the case in some detail.

He then upset a Winterborne Stickland family for the reporting of the death of a young boy.  An entrepreneur by nature, Bartlett was a tea trader and also sold at Printer’s Corner sacramental wine and Beckett’s Syrup of Orange & Quinine. He published Bartlett’s own Annual Almanac. His front page was full of advertisements for items such as Holloway’s Ointment, a professed cure for many ailments, Borwick’s Baking Powder for puddings and pies, and Peruvian bird dropping fertiliser.

James Henry Bartlett had been baptised in Durweston in March 1828 and was the eldest son of agricultural worker Henry Bartlett and his wife Jane. After working on a farm, he moved to Blandford and married Rebecca Cook who came from Bryanston. He was an active churchman and Sunday school supporter and despite his importance in the town he was perhaps too divisive a character to ever become the Mayor of Blandford. However, his son Tom Bartlett did become town crier and bill poster for which he was paid an annual salary of one pound and one shilling £1.05).


(Illustration: Printer's Corner, Blandford & The Blandford Express Masthead)



Comments

Popular posts from this blog

True Lovers Knot - a Tragic Tale

True Lovers Knot public house describes itself as a traditional  inn set in a picturesque Dorset valley in Tarrant Keynston. Yet, this historical hostelry is said to have gained its name from a particularly tragic tale and still to be haunted by a distressed former publican. This publican’s son met and fell in love with the daughter of the local squire. Because the young lad was not from the gentry they decided to keep their relationship secret from her father. Unfortunately, a stable hand saw the two young lovers together and told her father. Set firmly against this friendship the squire made plans to send his daughter away from the district. Not able to face up to life without her boyfriend, the young girl decided to commit suicide and hanged herself from a tree in the village. So upset was the publican’s son of hearing of his girlfriend’s death he too hanged himself from the same tree. The Tarrant Keynston publican had, himself lost his wife at child birth and now losing his son b

Chimney Sweep Tragedy

Crown Hotel, Blandford is reckoned to be one of Dorset’s oldest hostelries. Yet its most tragic day, during a long history, must surely be when a young chimney sweep lost his life. The chimney sweep, who was just a child, suffocated and was burnt to death in a Crown Hotel chimney which had been alight a little while before. ‘His cries were dreadful and no-one could give assistance. Part of the chimney was taken down before he was got out.’ (Salisbury & Winchester Gazette 27th March 1780) The lad had gone up one chimney and attempting to go down another had become stuck. At the time children were used to climb up chimneys to clean out soot deposits. With hands and knees, they would shimmy up narrow dark flue spaces packed thick with soot and debris. After the 1731 Great Fire of Blandford it was realised that it was important to sweep chimneys regularly while many rebuilt houses had narrower ones. Smaller chimneys and complicated flues were a potential death trap for children. The sw

Tarrant Rushton's Nuclear Secret

Tarrant Rushton was a large RAF base used for glider operations during World War II. It was then taken over by Flight Refuelling for the conversion of aircraft for the development of aircraft in-flight refuelling. However, between 1958 & 1965, the Tarrant Rushton airfield had a much more secretive and less publicised role. This was in support of the nation’s nuclear bomber deterrent, as Tarrant Rushton airfield became a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) dispersal unit.   During 1958, contractors Costain reinforced the main runway and carried out other work to ensure the giant bomber aircraft could be accommodated. At times just a few miles from Blandford, there would have been up to four RAF Vickers Valiant bombers at Tarrant Rushton ready to become airborne in minutes charged with nuclear weapons. The bombers were from 148 Squadron at RAF Marham in Norfolk. As there was no suitable accommodation at the airfield, an old US Air Force Hospital building at Martin was used. At the time, the