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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 Newman-Ferme who were born in 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 (d.1664) appears to have acquired Sparkford Manor, while his son Richard Newman (d.1695), who became a wealthy London lawyer, procured the estates of Evercreech Park in 1657, Fifehead Manor around 1660, and both North Cadbury and South Cadbury in 1685. Fifehead Manor and Evercreech Park were passed down through the line of Richard's eldest son (Richard of Evercreech), 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 Richard's youngest son, Francis Holles Newman, Sparkford and the Cadbury estate being taken over around 1795 by the Bennett family who had purchased the inheritance of Richard's g-g-grandson Francis Newman who left his wife and absconded to America where he established a new and vibrant Newman descendency. This Francis was reputed to have been committed for crimes to the High Court, but the records reveal that it was his uncle Frank Newman, whose egregious behaviour scandalised the neighbourhood in the 1770s, and who was convicted by Court of King's Bench of perverting the course of justice in abuse of his office of Justice of the Peace.
Several family histories record that a "Colonel Richard Newman" fought for the King in the English Civil Wars of the 17th century, but research efforts have revealed no evidence of this. Indeed, the story appears to be largely fictitious but with some elements of truth. Certainly Richard Newman (d.1664) was rewarded by King Charles II with an augmentation to his arms, but the grant was made four years after the Restoration and the services that earned the reward were not specified. However there seems clear evidence that a Richard Newman of Fifehead was one of the leaders of the Dorsetshire Clubmen who served to protect local inhabitants from the ravages of the warring parties, but it is not known for certain which Richard this was.
Few members of the family appear to have pursued political influence or had it thrust upon them. Exceptions were:
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.
Walter's 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.
In the19th century, 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 extant Newmans descending from them. Among the few living relatives carrying the Newman name that I know are my sister (who now lives in Greece) and my children, the family of John Newman in the UK and the descendants of Arthur Newman living in Australia. Several branches of the family emigrated - some to America, some to Canada, 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.
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 who lived at the old Paynter family home 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. Finally, I'm endebted to Harold Biggs (whose wife descends from the Fifehead Newmans through Francis Newman and his US descendants) who has provided me with huge amounts of research that has helped dispel some of the myths from the family's history.
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 email@example.com .