Guest Article from Clayesmore School

April 13, 2006
Map of Fontmell Magna district

Map of Fontmell Magna district

Until now all our articles have been about Fontmell Magna or Fontmell people. However, the village is closely associated with several other local villages and with the market towns of Shaftesbury and Blandford Forum. We thought it would be appropriate, therefore, to invite occasional guest articles from outside the village. In the first of these we are delighted to publish an intriguing account of sporting activities from Clayesmore School in Iwerne Minster.

IWERNE MINSTER AND THE WORLD OF PROFESSIONAL SPORT
It is an oft-quoted concept that, in the early part of the

Clayesmore School

Clayesmore School

twentieth century, you just had to whistle down a Nottinghamshire mine and a fast bowler would appear. Whilst mining villages in the Durham and Yorkshire coalfields also produced numerous footballers of exceptional quality and South Wales was noted for its quantity of top-class rugby players, the same cannot be said of most sleepy rural villages in the Blackmore Vale. Nonetheless, for a village of some 200 souls in the Domesday Book of 1086 that has only grown minimally in terms of population since then, Iwerne Minster has its own tenuous links with the world of professional sport.

Iwerne Minster football team

Iwerne Minster football team

Throughout the twentieth century the village has been able to boast long-standing cricket and football teams. This old sepia photograph shows the football side posing in front of Iwerne Minster House, the home of their patron, Lord Wolverton, whilst pictures taken through the 1920s often include the local landowner’s fourth daughter Viola, their team mascot. Sporadic cricket scorebooks through the years record the adventures of numerous would-be stars whose working lives restricted them to the occasional summertime Sunday match on the old village pitch beyond the shadow of St Mary’s church spire. Rare success has come the way of these sides, the football team winning the local MacCready Cup in 1951 and again in 2001. The 1951 team included ‘Geordie Ross’, a Dorset player, the enigmatically named ‘Jock’, previously on the books of a club in the flourishing Scottish Junior scene and ‘Mac’ MacKendry or MacKenzie, as well as Tom Brooks, still a popular figure in the village.
On one occasion, AFC Bournemouth brought a side down to Iwerne Minster to play in a pre-season friendly. It is likely that this would have been a Saturday afternoon in August in the late 1920s. At this time, the team played on a pitch to the east of the A350, accessible by climbing a style which still (almost) exists, practically opposite the gatehouse at the northern entrance to Clayesmore School. The one player villagers recall was certainly on the field that day was Jack Hayward, the popular Bournemouth right-back. He appeared in a total of 247 League matches for Bournemouth, scoring 26 goals before joining Crystal Palace; he died in 1974.
Another celebrated footballer with some Iwerne Minster connection was the Northern Ireland international centre-back Chris Nicholl whoplayed 51 times for his adopted country, as well as in the impressively high total of 648 League games (scoring 28 goals) for Halifax Town, Luton Town, Aston Villa, Southampton and Grimsby Town. As a young man, Chris used to visit his great-aunts Bertha and Katie who lived on Church Hill, Iwerne Minster, in the house built for his great-grandfather.
Any visitor to St Mary’s church in Iwerne Minster cannot help but admire

St Mary's Church, Iwerne Minster

St Mary's Church, Iwerne Minster

the decorated memorials on the south wall of the church to James Ismay and his brother-in-law Norman Charles Henry MacDonald-Moreton, a veteran of campaigns in India and at Ypres who was killed in action at Cappy in France in October 1915. Related through marriage, the two are also linked through Henry Haughton Reynolds, Lord Moreton, (1857-1920), a Justice of the Peace and Member of Parliament for West Gloucestershire between 1880 and 1885, who was one of two wealthy patrons associated with the birth in the autumn of 1883 of Bristol Rovers Football Club.

Iwerne Minster House

Iwerne Minster House

It is a little-known fact that the former South Africa cricket captain Clive Rice is the great-great-great-great-grandson of Thomas Bowyer Bower, the local landowner and long-time resident of Iwerne Minster House. Records indicate that the Bowers held this land from at least 1645 and their symbol, the Talbot, is still represented in the name of the village pub. Thomas Bowyer Bower was born in 1771, was a Justice of the Peace and High Sheriff in 1796, and continued to live until 1840 in the fine Georgian house on the site of where Clayesmore School now stands.
Thomas’s grandson Henry Syndercombe Bower married Sarah

The Salkeld Memorial

The Salkeld Memorial

Matilda, a daughter of Robert Salkeld, the long-term Rector of Fontmell Magna and therefore a sister to Philip Salkeld, the celebrated recipient of the Victoria Cross. [See also the Salkeld article on this website] In turn, their grandson Philip Salkeld Syndercombe Bower (1898-1978), was a middle order batsman at Oxford University and later became a farmer in the Transvaal. He was the maternal grandfather of Clive Rice, born in Johannesburg in July 1949, an attacking right-handed batsman and right-arm fast bowler who played in 283 first-class games for Nottinghamshire between 1975 and 1987. He was captain for the last eight of those years and his highest score in county cricket was 246 for Nottinghamshire against Sussex at Hove in 1976. During his country’s extended period of political exile from international sport, Rice was a prominent figure in South African cricket, captaining the side in 1983-84.
Whilst professional sport is a subject barely synonymous with the rural tranquillity offered by the thatched cottages of the Blackmore Vale, it is certainly true that sporting connections abound. History throws up all manner of unusual connections and the rich backdrop that sporting history can offer the researcher can lead to some wonderfully quaint juxtapositions. The wealthy world of modern professional sport does relate in some small way to the sleepy lanes of Iwerne Minster.

Author: Stephen Byrne