Men of influence and power
who were born in Swanage or made Swanage their home
Swanage was the birthplace of two eminent Victorians, a Liberal politician
and an author/historian – all with their roots in the local stone trade.
JOHN MOWLEM 1788 – 1868
John Mowlem could be described as Swanage’s own ‘Dick Whittington’. He left Swanage to set as a stone merchant at Pimlico Wharf (1822) and made his fortune in Victorian London. Mowlem and his wife had no children – he took his wife’s nephew, George Burt, into his business in 1835.Burt became a partner in 1844 together with his brother-in-law Joseph Freeman. The firm John Mowlem & Co would go on to be an internationally known company
GEORGE BURT 1816 – 1894
On his return to Swanage after a successful London career Burt became a great benefactor to the town leaving several Swanage landmark buildings – Durlston Castle, Purbeck House and The Great Globe.
SIR STEPHEN COLLINS M.P. 1847 – 1925
A former quarry boy, like Mowlem before him, he left Swanage and travelled to London to make his fortune. He became M.P. for Lambeth Kennington on January 12th1908 until December 14th 1918. He was a staunch Liberal, a devoted Congregationalist and a keen temperance reformer.
WILLIAM MASTERS HARDY 1836 – 1921
William Masters Hardy was born in Swanage. By profession he was a builder – he re-erected many of the old London landmarks Burt had brought back to the town. He was also a local historian and author.
REV ANDREW BELL
Was appointed Rector of Swanage in 1801. Education was one of his passions and he introduced the Madras System of education to the town. Appalled at local poverty he determined to introduce some sort of industry to the town – the Swanage straw plait industry was the result. Only here until 1809 he did much good in the town, Bell Street in Herston being named in his honour.
WILLIAM BIRD BRODIE M.P. 1780 – 1863
Brodie was M.P. for Salisbury in Wiltshire from 1833 until 1844. He was also a banker and newspaper proprietor. In the mid 1840’s he and his brother were made bankrupt. The Swanage Rates Book of 1851 lists the name Brodie indicating that he moved to Swanage in that year, and the 1851 census shows the family living at Brewery House, and after the 1854 fire there the family moved to Marine Villas. He died in 1863 and together with his wife son and daughter are buried in Northbrook Cemetery.
SIR JOHN CHARLES ROBINSON CB FSA 1824 – 1913
Robinson was art advisor to the Kensington Museum (later the V&A) and he became Queen Victoria’s surveyor of pictures from 1882 to 1901. Robinson acquired Newton Manor and transformed the house. At first Robinson and Burt were on friendly, but gradually as Robinson acquired more property they became bitter rivals.