An ONS Foundry: Lott & Walne Limited

#52Ancestors Post One: Foundations.

This year I’m giving #52Ancestors a try, but I’m following it quite loosely so that my endeavours can cover my One-Name Study (where you’re reading this) as well as my One-Place Study and personal blog. Prompts are sent out weekly by Amy Johnson Crow if you’d like to join in.

The first prompt, #1 if you will, was ‘Foundations’. There are many ways to interpret this theme, but as I considered Foundations and Founders, I thought of one thing: Iron Founders. Specifically, I thought of Lott & Walne Limited in Dorchester. Post One of 2022 has therefore appeared here, on my Walne One-Name Study page, for obvious reasons.

If you are reading this and have rights to photos of the people or the business featured that you would like to share, I’d love to host them here.

Lott & Walne Limited

There is so much that could be investigated here. Architectural history. Industrial archaeology. Ghost signs. Listed buildings. Patents. The iron industry more generally. Agricultural technology and innovation. Ephemera and surviving products like drain covers and saw benches (some of which pop up now and again on eBay!). But today, I’m simply answering the question that first leaps out to a One-Namer. How does the ‘Walne’ (or Walnes) of Lott & Walne connect into the broader surname study, if at all? First, though, we need to know a little bit about the Walne we’re looking for.

Who was John James Walne?

John James Walne was, you guessed it, the first Walne at Lott & Walne. He was born in Lenham, Kent (a few miles east of Maidstone) in 1868, so he wasn’t Dorset born and bred. John grew up on a 160-acre farm where his father, another John, employed six men and a boy in 1881. He lost his mother when he was just ten years old. As John grew, he learnt how to tend the land and what equipment farmers needed, but it was a tough time for farming as the Great Depression of British Agriculture saw falling grain prices. With less land under the plough, fewer labourers were needed. Opportunities for a young man in farming were probably not as appealing as those in burgeoning industries in more urban areas. John left his father’s fields and moved west to Dorchester to pursue a future in iron.

The 1891 census finds John boarding with the Newport family in Ashley Road, Longfleet (just north of Poole). He was enumerated as ‘draughtsman mechanical’, so he was already engineering and drawing/designing. A newspaper article of 1921 states that he joined Foster, Lott & Co in 1894, later going into partnership and eventually forming a limited company.

While many online articles date Lott & Walne Limited to 1899 (probably because records at the MERL start from that date), the name appeared in local newspapers from a little earlier, from at least February 1895. Newspapers still refer to Foster, Lott & Co, the partnership’s predecessor, in December 1894.

A typical Lott & Walne newspaper advertisement from the late 19th Century, this one dated 17 March 1899 from the Western Chronicle, Page 6.
A typical Lott & Walne newspaper advertisement from the late 19th Century, this one dated 17 March 1899 from the Western Chronicle, Page 6.

The firm produced agricultural implements, water pumps and drain covers – many of which can still be found around the town today. Occasionally, implement plates and pieces of machinery turn up on auction sites. When learning how to advise businesses about patents, trademarks and the like, I distinctly remember typing ‘Walne’ into Espacenet and finding a patent application for ‘Improvements in or connected with Harrows’.

Local businesspeople were often key members of the community, and John was no exception. By the time of his death, he had spent more than 30 years, not just as a Managing Director, but as ‘a prominent part in the public life of the county town’ and Freemason (once Worshipful Master of Lodge 417). He served on the Borough Council, was Mayor in 1920, and then an Alderman. Interestingly, his obituary noted that he would be remembered for the ‘borough electricity undertaking’, which, by 1939, was recognised as ‘one of the town’s greatest assets’.

John died just days before the Second World War was declared in 1939. Frustratingly, this means that he also just missed the 1939 Register, although his son John Raymond (Ray) can be found recorded as ‘Agricultural Engineer Director’. John’s house name is given as Lenham in the Probate Calendar, a fond nod back to his childhood home, I imagine. John’s widow, Edith, was in the Register. While some records in her household remain closed, her daughter was recorded as a clerk in an agricultural engineering office. Lott & Walne appears to have been very much a family business.

A lengthy obituary appeared in the Western Gazette. ‘“He was not a man of startling brilliance,’ the Rector said, “but he was one of those steady, solid, reliable men in whom one could put complete trust and confidence, and what is most important, in these days when promises are so elastic, he absolutely stood by what he said. His word was his bond, and his life was built on those lines.”’

If the Dorset Walnes came from Kent, where did the Kent Walnes come from?

There are two distinct ‘clusters’ of Walnes in Britain since the 16th Century: those from around the Ribble Valley and those from around the Norfolk/Suffolk border. John James can be reasonably easily slotted into the latter group. [Note: online family trees get very confused by the numerous Johns, perhaps because Ancestry has transcribed a ‘60’ as ‘50’ thanks to a statistician’s mark on the schedule].

If I’m correct, John was the fourth John in four generations, reaching back to Starston in 1754. The earliest John was the grandson of a Thomas Walne, who I’ve often referred to as ‘Lightning Eyes’ thanks to a reference in a hand-written history. Lightning Eyes is my Most Recent Common Ancestor with John, who, by my estimation, was my Great Great Grandfather’s fourth cousin!

John’s grandfather had moved from Starston in Norfolk to Kent, farming at Lower Ham Farm. Later, his father took on the same land, meaning our John was the third of three John Walnes at the same farm.

Where can additional records about the company be found?

The University of Reading lists 106 documents for agricultural manufacturers, Lott and Walne Ltd at the Museum of English Rural Life (the celebrated MERL; find them on twitter @theMERL) Documents include sales ledgers, wages book and estimates book, with various records dated between 1899 and 1955.

The Foundry, Fordington High Street, Dorchester, Dorset appears on the Historic England website, featuring a photograph from 2003.

Listing on Grace’s Guide: https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Lott_and_Walne

The mystery of the missing Foundry bell, and some company history in the Dorset Echo.

A company advertisement archived in Wiltshire and digitised here: https://history.wiltshire.gov.uk/community/gettextimage.php?id=7327

British Listed Buildings record.

Notes

This information is not yet all updated in my ONS online tree.

References

Births Index (Civil Registration). England & Wales. Hollingbourn Registration District [Kent]. June Quarter, 1865. Walne, John James. Volume 2a, p. 603. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk.  

Deaths Index (Civil Registration). England & Wales. Hastings Registration District [Sussex]. December Quarter, 1878. Walne, Emily. Volume 2b, p. 20. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk.  

1871 Census. England. Lenham, Kent. 2 April 1871. Walne, John J. RG10/947. Folio 86. ED 7. p. 25. SN 148. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk.  

1881 Census. England. Lenham, Kent. 3 April 1881. Walne, John J. RG11/934. Folio 84. ED 7. p. 23. SN 143. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk.  

Western Gazette. (1921) Local & District News Dorchester. 28 January 1921. p. 3. Accessed online: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.  

1891 Census. England. Longfleet, Poole, Dorset. 5 April 1891. Walne, John J. RG12/1639. Folio 26. ED 8. p. 47. SN 297. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk.  

Western Chronicle. (1899) Lott & Walne. 17 March 1899. p. 6. Accessed online: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.  

Western Gazette. (1939) Former Mayor of Dorchester – funeral of Alderman J. J. Walne. 25 August 1939. p. 5. Accessed online: https://www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk.  

Testamentary records. England. 25 September 1939. Walne, John James. London Probate Registry. Calendar of the grants of probate. p. 307. Collection: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar, 1858-1966. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk 

1939 Register. England. Dorchester, Dorset. 29 September 1939. Walne, Edith E. ED: WKCH. RD: 264/1. SN 6. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk.  

1939 Register. England. Dorchester, Dorset. 29 September 1939. Walne, John R. ED: WKCC. RD: 264/1. SN 188. Accessed online: https://ancestry.co.uk.  

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