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The branch of the Newman family that this tree relates to, derives from the borders of Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire in Southwest England. The tree as I have it, goes back to Salisbury and Fifehead at the beginning of the 15th Century. There is nothing very remarkable about the family other than the fact that it is mine. Several people over several generations (not only Newmans) carried out most of the research work that I have presented in these pages. My contribution has mainly been as a compiler of information obtained through other people's efforts.
The Newman lineage of the tree now extends through 20 generations, starting with Robert Newman of St. Thomas's, Salisbury, who died in 1402 and currently ending with Daniel and Lachlan, the Newman-Ferme twins who arrived in this world on 9th April 2007. If we assume that Robert Newman was born around 1350, then we can calculate that the family's average generation period is 32.5 years (a little longer than one might have expected).
Through the early years that we have records, it seems that the Newman family followed the custom of the gentry in those days by making the priesthood a popular choice of career especially for younger sons in the days when primogeniture was the custom. Newmans were vicars in several of the small towns and villages in the Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire border areas from as early as 1405 when John Newman (brother of Robert Newman of St. Thomas's, Salisbury), is recorded as having been Rector of Fifehead, to as late as the 1950s when Rowie Newman (whom I remember well) was vicar of Hawkridge and Withypool.
From 1610 to 1799 several generations in at least two branches of the family lived in grand style. Richard Newman appears to have acquired Sparkford Manor along with the estates of North Cadbury and South Cadbury in 1610 (at the extraordinarily young age of 26), and Evercreech Park in 1653. His son Colonel Richard Newman went on to purchase Fifehead Manor in 1660. Fifehead Manor and Evercreech Park were passed down through the line of Col. Richard Newman's eldest son (Richard), Fifehead being sold in 1747 on the death of Sir Samwell Newman and Evercreech in 1773. Sparkford and the Cadbury estates were passed down through the line of Col. Richard Newman's youngest son, Francis Holles Newman, Sparkford and the Cadbury estate being sold in or around 1793 or perhaps 1795, supposedly being sold to pay the debts of Francis Newman, who was reputed to have "committed for crime to the High Court" before making a new life for himself in America where he established a new and vibrant Newman descendency. Recent research (as of 2012) suggests that it was probably his uncle Frank Newman, whose egregious behaviour scandalised the neighbourhood in the 1770s, who was committed for crimes, and that he may have been equally responsible for the debts that forced the sale of the estates.
Apart from Colonel Richard Newman who fought for the King in the Civil Wars of the 17th century, few other members of the family appear to have pursued political influence or had it thrust upon them. Two exceptions were Col Richard Newman's grandson, Sir Richard Newman, who became MP for Milborn Port in 1700 and the aforementioned Francis Holles Newman, who was appointed Sheriff of Somerset in 1745.
With no estates or fortune to support him, Francis Holles Newman's great-great-grandson Edwin Newman (my great-great-grandfather) took the family into business and the professions by establishing a firm of solicitors in Yeovil, (Somerset) in the mid 1800s. He chose as his partner my other great great-grandfather Francis Paynter whose grandson James took over the firm after Edwin's death. I suspect that some of Edwin's many sons may also have worked for the firm; certainly my grandfather Walter Ernest Newman did so, as described elsewhere in these pages in an interesting story which takes us far from Somerset to the wilds of Northumberland!
Edwin's sixth son, Walter, was the first of the family to join the army, and from all accounts enjoyed a successful career in which he rose to the rank of Major General and travelled to many parts of the world. His "portable" mahogany dining table which travelled with him is still in the family. In later life it seems he gambled away what money he had, playing whist at his club. His son Edwin Montague Browne Newman followed his father into the army but with less good fortune, losing his life at the age of 24 when he was killed in battle in the Sudan in 1885. My father, Harold Ernest Montague Newman, was the only other member of the family to follow a military career, which introduced him to India in the 1920s and 30s, and to Burma and later Germany during World War 2.
100 years ago there was a propensity for large families. My great-grandfather, Walter Newman (the soldier) and my great-grandmother Henrietta Newman were two of 12 children born to Edwin (the solicitor). Yet there do not seem to be multitudes of Newmans descending from them, and the only living relatives carrying the Newman name that I know are my sister (who now lives in Greece) and my children, and John Newman (and his family) in the UK. Several branches of the family emigrated - some to America, some to Canada and some to Australia and some to New Zealand. Indeed, my own branch moved to Australia in 1970, where my three offspring now live.
As explained on a separate "dedication" page, I have dedicated this web-site to my father Harold Ernest Montague Newman, who at present has no other headstone to be remembered by.
Note: For those who are interested in an alternative history of the Newman family, there is a web page titled the Newmans of Wessex. Unfortunately this version includes several errors that will be listed on a separate page.
The work on the early part of the family tree is credited to Rev Grosvenor Bartelot F.S.A. who wrote a book called "The History of Fifehead Magdalen Church and Manor". From about 1700, the tree is supposedly derived from the records of the Somerset Historical and Archeological Society Proceedings for 1890. From around 1850, the compilation is credited (at least in part) to Rev R.A. Newman (Rowie) during the 1950s. My father did some work on it, I think mainly by consolidating the information passed on to him. I in turn did the same when I transcribed the "tree" onto a large sheet of tracing paper which I was able to copy and send to some family members. This web-site is an extension of that work and includes contributions from many sources, particularly in relation to non-Newman branches of my family history.
I hope I have given adequate credit for contributions and I offer my sincere apologies if I have failed to do so; anyway, I should especially like to thank my cousins Ian Caldwell, Marion Paynter and Oliver Suffield for the very valuable assistance they have given me; and my very special thanks go also to Ray Farnsworth now living at Freelands in Alnwick.
I am also very grateful to several American descendants of Francis Newman who I had hitherto understood to have died in the USA without issue. These include Jerry Gandolfo, Cliff Ranson (now deceased) and David Chuddleigh all of whom have given me valuable assistance. I have also been assisted by my cousin John Newman (now sadly deceased) and three of his cousins living in New Zealand. I have also become a member of the Newman Name Society who have given me permission to reproduce part of their April 1998 issue of The Newman Chronicle relating to the Fifehead Newmans.
It is hoped that the web site will attract feedback from family members and others who knew or knew of members of the family. If anyone finds the site of interest or can help me add to it or correct it, please contact me (Chris Newman) at firstname.lastname@example.org .