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TOPIC: A Melsetter Man

A Melsetter Man 4 years 11 months ago #41332

  • Rory
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Edmund Allott was your archetypal colonial. Born in Victorian England, the son of a Curate, he came to Africa, once to fight and the second time to stay.

Edmund Henry Allott

Lieutenant, Lincolnshire Regiment, Anglo Boer War
Captain, 19th Divisional Supply Column, Royal Army Service Corps, WW1

- Queens South Africa Medal to Lt. E.H. Allott, Lincs. Regt. with clasps Cape Colony & South Africa 1902
- 1914/15 Star to Lt. E.H. Allott, A.S.C.
- British War Medal to Capt. E.H. Allott
- Victory Medal to Capt. E.H. Allott
- 1911 Coronation Medal self engraved to the National reserve.

Edmund Allott had a long and interesting life which took him from the relative comfort and safety of rural Herefordshire to the vast plains of Africa where he eventually made his home.

Born on 15 October 1881 in Walton, Warwickshire the son of Henry Hepworth Allott, a Curate with the Church of England and his wife Alicia Georgina (born Hanmer), Edmund was the 2nd eldest of five children. The 1891 England census provides us with our first glimpse into the Allott family’s domestic arrangements. Living at the Rectory in Stifford, Essex was 48 year old father Henry along with his 38 year old wife and children Percy Brian (10), Edmund (9), Evelin Violet (7), Irene (6) and Cyril Robert (3). Mrs Allott must have been a busy woman and most likely needed the help of servants Edith Manning, Minnie Jennings and Rose Hunwick to keep her growing brood in check and her household on an even keel.

At the time of the 1901 England census the family was still in Stifford where Allott senior continued to be the Vicar. Edmund was no longer a boy at the age of 19 and was joined in the house by younger brother Cyril (13) along with servants Emma French and Ethel Thompson pointing, as it invariably would, to the continued financial success of the family and a decent Living for the Curate. Young Edmund, his schooling a thing of the past, was now employed as a Land Agent’s Assistant.

Of course by this time Great Britain had been at war with the two Boer Republics in far away South Africa for almost two years and, stirred no doubt by stories of daring do Edmund would have been keen to join the action. His time was to come soon after when, on 25 June 1901 Edmund Henry Allott, Gent. was appointed as a Second Lieutenant with the 3rd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment.

Newly commissioned he set sail for South Africa and the war. Allott wasn’t destined to see much action, volunteers from the 3rd battalion (the former North Lincolnshire Militia) arrived almost as the Boer war was ending and Allott was confined to the Beaufort West area of the Cape Colony during his stint in the country. For his efforts he was awarded the Queens Medal with clasps Cape Colony and South Africa 1902.

Having returned to England aboard the “Cestrian” on 12 September 1902 after the cessation of hostilities Allott continued on in the Volunteer force being Gazetted a full Lieutenant with effect from August 1902. Now a man of leisure he commenced studying and undertook a voyage to the United States from London aboard the S.S. “Minneapolis” on 7 May 1904. The ships manifest confirmed that he had paid for the ticket himself and that he had 50 Dollars in his possession. Landing at New York he gave as his final destination Kamloop in British Columbia (Canada) where he was going to stay with a John Hopkins for a while.

Returning to England he devoted his energies to farming for his own account and the next event of any import in his life was on 25 January 1907 when he resigned his commission and was made an Honorary Lieutenant.

The year 1911 brought with it the new census enumeration and, unusually for the period, there was little change in the household make-up of the Allott family. Rev. Allott now all of 68 was still holding forth from the pulpit in the small stone church of St. Mary’s and was together in the Rectory with almost all his children including a now 29 year old Edmund.

On 30 June of that year an item appeared in the local Essex County Chronicle which showed that Allott hadn’t severed ties with the military completely. It read as follows,

“Territorial Association - At the annual meeting of the Grays Territorial Committee on Tuesday, Major Whitmore was elected Chairman and Mr. E.H. Allott was appointed secretary. By means of a canvas it was agreed to take steps to strengthen the Veteran Reserve Force, only 31 out of 400 having so far registered their names.”

This same publication reported on Friday 17 November 1917 under the banner “Medals for Essex Men” that “His Majesty the King, before his departure for India, has been pleased to award, as personal gifts from himself, a number of Coronation medals for services rendered in connection with the National Reserve. Six medals have been allotted to the county of Essex and awarded as follow:-

‘Lieut. E.H. Allott, hon. Sec. of the Grays local Recruiting Committee, and present as an officer at the Coronation with the Essex detachment.’”
Life in 1911 wasn’t all plain sailing though – an article appeared in that excellent publication, the Essex County Chronicle on 12 December which read as follows,

“Obstructing the way – Harry Livings, Carter, Bear-on-tree Heath, was summonsed for obstructing the passage of the highway – Mr E.H. Allott of Stifford said he was driving his motor car home when he met two straw carts – one drew aside when he sounded his horn, but the second came straight on. He stopped and sounded both horns but the cart came straight for him and broke the off mud-guard. The damage was £3. Defendant said he pulled into the near side as close as he could – Supt. Hailstone said there were 14 convictions against defendant for highway offences. Defendant was fined 10 shillings plus costs.”

As if to rudely disturb the everyday timber of country life the Great War rudely erupted onto the international stage in August 1914. Wasting no time Allott put his hand up for the war effort and was appointed into the 19th Divisional Supply Company of the Army Service Corps. But before he was to see any military action he was to see action of a different kind. The Essex Country Chronicle again comes to the fore, reporting on Friday, 2 October 1914:

“Marriage of Lieut. Allott and Miss O.M. Brooks

Owing to the war, and the absence of the bride’s father, the marriage took place quietly at Stifford Parish Church on Sunday of Lieut. E.H. Allott, of the Mechanical Transport Column, Army Service Corps, son of the late Rev. H.H. Allott, formerly Rector of Stifford, with Miss Olive Millicent Brooks, daughter of Mr Herbert E. Brooks J.P., C.A., and Mrs Brooks of Stifford Lodge, Grays. The ceremony was performed by the Rector. The Rev. the Hon. Nigel Campbell, in the presence of a large congregation, the service being fully choral. The bride was charmingly attired in a dress of ivory satin, with veil of Brussels lace orange blossoms, and she carried as a bouquet a sheaf of Madonna lilies. Miss Gladys Brooks, sister of the bride, was bridesmaid, and Mr T. Gibbs, of the Artists’ Corps, best man. A guard of honour was formed by the National Reserve and Palmer’s Cadet Corps.”

Now married to a country belle he was posted to France on 14 July 1915 where, after landing at Le Havre he was deployed to a variety of front line positions, never far from where the action was. After being promoted to Captain and repatriated to England he applied for the issue of his medals on 8 September 1921, his address being provided as Holly Lodge, Queniborough near Leicester. The WWI trio he earned to go with his Queens Medal and Coronation medal were despatched to him at this address.

With peace now reigning Allott tried to settle down to his pre-war pursuit as a Farmer. A notice in the Government Gazette of 11 March 1924 provides us with proof positive that the venture wasn’t a long lasting one. It read as follows,

“Notice is hereby given, that the Partnership heretofore subsisting between the undersigned, William Markham, Thomas William Ward Markham, Frank Albert Markham and Edmund Henry Allott, carrying on business as Poultry Farmers at Queniborough in the county of Leicester under the firm of Markham Sons & Allott, the Queniborough Poultry Farm, has been dissolved by mutual consent as from the 10th day of November, 1923, so far as regards the said Edmund Henry Allott.”

So there it was - Allott for reasons unknown to us had been cut loose from the partnership and the business. With no prospects immediately ahead he pottered about in England trying to make a life for himself and his family before, inevitably, his attention turned towards Africa, where he had spent a year during the Boer War.

On 21 February 1929 he departed from London aboard the "Dunluce Castle" bound for Cape Town and a new life. Now 47 he couldn’t afford the luxury of a new venture failing and this must have been foremost in his mind as he headed inland to what was then known as Southern Rhodesia, to a place high in the mountains called Melsetter. For the section relating to his life in this isolated spot I am indebted to a book, The Story of Melsetter, written by Shirley Sinclair which is littered with anecdotes and information about the Allott family:-

“Captain E.H. Allott and his wife and daughters came from England to farm in Melsetter on the advice of his cousin Bill Hanmer. From Umtali they travelled out on a privately owned lorry, open to the skies and with hardly any seating accommodation, and what there was was certainly not comfortable. They left Umtali at 6 o’ clock in the morning and arrived at 8 o’ clock at night. The driver constantly stopping to have a shot at a buck, and if successful, threw the dead beast into the back of the already crowded lorry.

The Allott’s lived for 6 months at Fairview in an enormous rondavel which served as bedroom, living room and kitchen, and when the Hanmer’s went away the Allott’s were entrusted with the care of the farm and the job of making a new road to Heathfield. One night they were awakened by a herdboy saying that the cattle were bellowing and something was wrong. Ted (as Edmund Allott was known) attached his night-shooting lamp to his head with its elastic band and took his gun and he and his wife Olive crept up to the cattle kraal, climbed onto the roof of the shed and lay flat, listening for the cause of the disturbance. Ted switched on the lamp and they saw two pairs of eyes reflected in the light. As he prepared to aim the elastic band snapped, his night light fell and they were plunged into darkness. They waited until light to get down and head back convinced that the eyes had belonged to lions.

After leaving Fairview the Allott’s camped on Welgelegen a farm they were tempted to buy settling in the end for Belmont and Belmont Valley where they went in for horses and cattle. When the time came to sell some of the horses they couldn’t bear to part with them thus ending up with 22!”

In 1932 Allott bought the Melsetter Hotel, hoping to provide more attractive accommodation for tourists, boost the district, and provide an outlet for the fresh produce from his farm Belmont. The hotel soon became the focal point of the area and was host to many Cabinet Ministers and other visiting dignitaries.

In 1934 the family returned to the United Kingdom for a visit aboard the S.S. “Malda", sailing from Beira in Mocambique on 27 July they were to visit Mrs. Allott’s mother at Whitegates, Stock in Essex. On their return to Rhodesia Allott turned his hand to growing coffee achieving 100% success with seedbeds of Caffea Arabica planting over 1000 trees. In 1935 Ted Allott decided to run the hotel himself, despite having had no experience “he won a good reputation”, installing electricity and erecting 10 prefab bedrooms to which a swimming pool was added in 1938. These were the halcyon days of colonial living at its finest with country club style dances and parties the order of the day. Things were certainly decidedly more leisurely than they are today. Dances, concerts and plays were held frequently at the hotel and drew the locals in like a moth to a candle.

The outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 was to have an impact even on the idyllic and tranquil backwaters of Africa. Travelling was restricted and rationing introduced. Petrol was needed for the war effort and, strangely, one of the measures taken to help the cause was the banning of the eating of eggs after 6 p.m. Ted Allott and his wife were left to try and carry on with the hotel as best they could with a drastically depleted staff and very little business. They both volunteered for service but were turned down, the hotel was deemed to be an essential business and had to be carried on. Local Air Force chaps were the only visitors and they were put up for free.

Emerging relatively unscathed from the war Allott continued on with the hotel until he reached the age where he couldn’t carry on. He passed away at the age of 83 at his farm, Belmont Valley in Melsetter on 12 November 1964 and was survived by his wife and daughters Rosemary Joan Owen and Olivia Josephine Webb.


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