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Thomas Sandall 1839 - 1922

If some of our gardening predecessors had a raffish streak - trading in race-horses, organising illegal bull-runs, gambling their way into bankruptcy and committing bigamy - it would be hard to find a more upstanding and philanthropic pillar of the community than Thomas Sandall, manager of the Stamford branch of the Northamptonshire Banking Company, Borough Treasurer and local historian.

We are lucky enough to have had access to Tom Sandall's handwritten memoir and journal, kept in Stamford Town Hall's Phillips Collection, and you can find the whole transcribed document at the foot of this biography. 


Born in Stamford in 1839, the second son of Robert and Sophia Sandall, Tom grows up above the 63 High Street premises of the Northamptonshire Banking Company, which his father had helped found in 1836. Tom's schooldays begin at the Broad Street Academy of another Waterfurlong Gardener, Samuel Weddell. Tom then moves on to Stamford Grammar School (and is to remain an ardent Old Stamfordian his whole life), before a final year at Wick Hall boarding school in Hackney.


Tom is good at maths and at the age of fifteen decides to follow his father's footsteps into banking. His first clerkship is with the Bucks & Oxon Union Bank, rotating between their Aylesbury, Oxford and Thame branches. In 1858 he moves to London, joining the London & Westminster Bank and lodging with a cousin in Stoke Newington. Initially Tom aspires to the position of secretary of the London & Westminster, but in 1860 his mother is diagnosed with cancer and he decides to move to Northampton where his parents are now living, working for his father at the Northamptonshire Banking Company as a ledger clerk.   

Sadly, Tom's mother dies two months after his return, but his grief is eased by a blossoming romance with Constance Emma Ecklemans Boémé, the sister of a Northampton banking friend, Alick Boémé. In 1862 Tom and Alick holiday in Scotland and whilst in Edinburgh Tom buys Connie an engagement ring. Tom is determined to save up for a house, so the courtship is a long one, but on 3 September 1868 he and Connie are finally married in All Saints, Northampton 'on a sweltering hot day'. Tom and Connie honeymoon in the Lake District, returning three weeks later to their new home at 13 Langham Place, Northampton, with the bells of St Sepulchre ringing in their honour. 

On Christmas Day the following year the Sandall's first child is born - Thomas Edward, known in the family as Eddy. 1872 brings both the arrival of second son Robert Alexander (Robby) and a worrying downturn in Robert Sandall senior's health. Tom's father has already suffered one stroke and this second 'episode of paralysis' forces his early retirement. The Northamptonshire Banking Company's Stamford branch manager returns to headquarters to take over the general manager's reins, and Tom is offered the Stamford role. 'I gladly accepted, as besides the improved position and salary I had the pleasure of returning to the house where I was born and had spent the happy days of childhood.' Invalided Robert Sandall moves into 13 Langham Place with his third wife, Sarah Mower née Fisher, whom Tom describes as 'a most devoted wife under very trying circumstances, for which I have always felt deeply grateful to her.'

The young family quickly settles into Stamford life, with son Arthur arriving in 1873, only daughter Charlotte Sophia (Sophie) in 1878 and youngest son Herbert Cecil (Cecil) in 1880. Cecil is so named because he is baptised on Lord Exeter's birthday 'a fact which was pleasing as his Lordship always had the church bells of Stamford ringing on that day.' Later in 1880 new bank premises are built two doors down at 65 High Street and the family moves into the manager's accommodation just before Christmas, together with their nursemaid, housemaid and general servant. 'The old shop and warehouses of Mr Dent, grocer and tallow chandler, were entirely pulled down and the present Bank erected by Messrs Roberts Bros from plans by Mr Wm Talbot Browne of Wellingborough, architect, at a cost of about £4000 without considering the site, for which an Annuity was agreed to be paid to Mr & Mrs Dent.'

It's a privileged middle class life, with long holidays spent in Wales, the Isle of Wight, Scotland and Switzerland. When little Arthur comes down with whooping cough Connie and the children stay in Hunstanton for the spring, with Tom joining them every weekend. The polluted Stamford air remains a worry, so Tom rents a large garden in Waterfurlong, away from the dust and smell of the iron and terracotta works. Nearly a century later his daughter Sophie reminisces: 'My four brothers and I, often together with the family of the late Mr James Richardson or of the late Mr James Atter, Town Clerk, spent half our childhood ‘messing about’ in the old garden after easily scaling the old stone wall if by chance we forgot the key: playing old-fashioned croquet on the lawn or performing feats on the swing; or watching from an apple tree, which overlooked the next garden, the tennis played by the family and friends of the late Mr E Joyce of the “Stamford Mercury.” The summer-house, with its outside staircase contained all equipment for picnic teas besides a 24-bottle crate of lemonade. Some boys once broke in and drank the lot! In a thunderstorm, the two-storied summer-house was deemed unsafe, and we all withdrew to a small seed-house.'

In 1882 Tom enters Stamford civic life when he is appointed Borough Treasurer, a role he is to occupy for many decades, and in which he again follows his father. Two years later he is elected to the committee of the Stamford Institution, of which his father and Godfather, John Flowers Bentley, had been founding members, and in 1887 he is appointed auditor of the Stamford Gas Company. Tom approaches all three roles with gusto, helping to double the Institution's membership by establishing a games room and purchasing a billiard table. 

The new bank premises at 65 High Street

Robert Sandall helped found the bank in 1836, originally as the Northamptonshire Central Banking Company. Branches were opened or acquired in Northampton, Stamford, Daventry, Wellingborough and Kettering and the bank was re-named in 1838. It was later bought out by the Capital and Counties Bank and eventually

subsumed into Lloyds, which

still occupies the same Stamford premises. 

Wick Hall School, Hackney
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'The front is built of Portland stone on the ground-floor, with Bath above. The accommodation includes a large banking-room with high panelled wainscoting, desks, counter, mantel, &c, in walnut, mahogany, and oak, from the

architect's special designs. In front are the manager's and strong-

rooms in direct communication, and a residence for the manager, with dining-room, kitchen, and other necessary offices on the ground-floor; drawing-room in the front on the first floor, and several bed-rooms, bath-rooms, &c, on this and the second floors.'

'The Building News' 20 May 1881 


Meanwhile, the family is fast growing up. Tom's sons attend his old school, Stamford Grammar, and much to his pride and delight, both Eddy and Cecil are accepted into Cambridge University, Eddy to study medicine, Cecil divinity. Son Arthur heads off to Northampton to join the family bank whilst Robby is intent on foreign adventure, and after some months in Germany and Switzerland accepts a posting to Brazil with a merchant bank. Sophie shares Robby's aptitude for foreign languages and is an accomplished musician. She spends much of her late teens and twenties on the Continent and then takes up a part-time post with the Stamford Technical Institution teaching French and German. 


In 1889 Tom is involved in handling the merger of the Northamptonshire Banking Company with the Capital & Counties Bank and, on a lighter note, helps found the 'Old Stamfordians Club'. In 1895 recently-qualified doctor Eddy announces his engagement to Adelina (Addie) Washbourn, the sister of one of his medical colleagues, and the wedding takes place in Gloucester on 29th August, with Sophie acting as bridesmaid and Arthur playing the organ. The bride wears white satin with a Brussels lace veil and a fawn crepe outfit trimmed with forget-me-nots for going away on honeymoon to Ilfracombe. It is a proud moment for Tom and Connie, who are generous in their presents to the newlyweds; Tom gives them a cheque, a horse-drawn 'Ralli' cart and table silver and Connie gives them a piano and a silver dessert service.



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St John's College, Cambridge, 1880
Late Victorian 'Ralli' cart

IThe following year Tom and Connie become grandparents when Eddy and Addie's first son is born, christened Thomas Bernard Washbourn Sandall, and known as Tommy after his paternal grandfather. Tommy's younger brother, Ford (Robert Edward Wychenford Sandall) arrives a year later, followed by three sisters - Irene, Violette and Cecilia.

We learn from Thomas's journal that Stamford celebrates Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee with a tea party in the park for 1,200 children, that son Robby marries in Sao Paolo and

that the Old Stamfordians dismiss anxious parents' concerns about their alma mater still having an open sewer!

A new century dawns and the highlight of 1901 is Cecil coxing the first Lady Margaret boat for St John's College in the May Races. Tom writes "I was no little proud to walk about with him at Ditton Corner with flowers round his hat, a sign of the previous day’s victory."


Sadly, these happy days are not to last, for in the summer of 1904 after holidaying with the family at the Buxton Hydropathic Spa Hotel, Connie begins to suffer severe attacks of breathlessness and is diagnosed with heart failure. She dies at home that November and Tom is heartbroken:'I cannot adequately express the loss dear Connie’s death has been to me, I have always depended so much upon her and consulted her in every family and domestic event that I can hardly realise that I must in future act alone. May God keep me and may my family all give me that support and care which my dear wife always so unselfishly gave during our 37 years of happy union.' 

Buxton 1904. Connie is third from the left, Tom by her side.

Tom instals a beautiful memorial window to Connie in Stamford's St John's church, where they both worshipped and where he remains a churchwarden.


Tom is worn down by grief in the aftermath of Connie's death. The bank's directors encourage him to retire and grant him a generous pension. This means moving out of the Bank House and Tom purchases Rusholme Lodge, the white house on the St Paul's Street and Brazenose Lane crossroads (now owned by the Stamford Endowed Schools). Fortunately for his comfort, unmarried daughter Sophie moves with Tom and takes on the mantle of housekeeper. She is a keen member of the local Operatic Society and an enthusiastic sportswoman, captaining the Stamford Ladies' Hockey Team and enjoying golf and tennis.

Tom retains an active involvement in Stamford politics, starts exploring local history and spends much time 'excursioning' and holidaying, usually with an extended family group. There are many gatherings at Sutton-on-Sea, Eddy having a medical practice at nearby Alford. Tom and Sophie remain very close to Connie's widowed stepmother, Margaret Boémé, who has returned to her native Edinburgh and whom Tom confusingly refers to as 'Grandma Boémé', even though she is five years younger than him and was 31 years younger than her husband! 

Increasing amounts of Tom's time are spent fund-raising for the Stamford Institution, the local schools, and rectors' widows who find themselves reduced to genteel poverty. He is an active correspondent in the letters columns of the three local newspapers and the Times of London, writing about everything from the proposed Licensing Bill (which he opposes as he holds shares in Phipps Brewery of Northampton!)to old-age pensions.


In 1908 Tom becomes involved in the project he is later to say remains dearest to his heart - working with the Mayor, Thomas Duncomb, to raise

subscriptions for 600 trees to line the approach roads to the town: 'I have obtained a little book with vellum leaves and have inscribed a statement of the facts with a list of the donors of trees and have put it with the Histories of Stamford in the Phillips’ Collection of books at the Town Hall so that it will tell its tale 100 or 150 years hence when looked at.' And there it remains in its pale green cover with gold lettering.


St John's Church © Lee Morley via Flickr
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Tom received many retirement presents from appreciative customers and friends, including an engraved solid silver tray and tea-service, supplied by Simms's goldsmith of 7 High Street, Stamford.


The following year he celebrates his 70th birthday, which his family commemorates by commissioning the Leicester artist Harry Morley to paint Tom's portrait. The whereabouts of the portrait are unknown, but we do have a delightful photograph from around this time of Tom Sandall relaxing in his garden.

In 1912 Tom helps sponsor the young Malcolm Sargent, whose father Henry (Harry) is the organist at St John's. We learn more about the Sandalls' friendship with Sargent from Charles Reid's biography of the conductor and composer: “[Tom Sandall's] daughter, Charlotte Sophia ('Sophie'), now in her thirties, had lived in Germany and studied the language. She came back with heightened musical tastes. A girl of independent and, for her day, original tastes, she resolved to take up the organ and went to Henry Sargent for lessons at St John's. In return she gave lessons in German to Malcolm who, newly

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captured and convulsed by 'Der Erlkönig', was intent on understanding the original texts of this and other great Lieder. According to season or weather, he took his German lessons in the garden or sitting room at Rusholme Lodge, the Sandall's home... Occasionally Tom Sandall would stop by and listen benignly, stroking his beard. This Sargent boy, with his bright, dark eyes, his lively, courteous talk and his dancing intelligence, was a rare one and likely to go far. What was this he had heard about his wanting to be articled to Dr Keeton at Peterborough Cathedral? Professional articles cost money and Henry Sargent, a likeable man, hadn't much of it. Mr Sandall decided to see what could be done.” (1)

Two years later Malcolm Sargent is not only studying with Haydn Keeton, but also graduates from Durham University, becoming one of the youngest ever Bachelors of Music. His violet silk bachelor's hood is bought by the St John's choir members and Tom hands it to Malcolm in the vestry one Sunday morning. Malcolm goes on to achieve international fame and is perhaps best remembered as the long-standing conductor of The Last Night of the Proms.


Returning to 1912, the year's highlight is a pageant to commemorate Queen Elizabeth's 1565 visit to Stamford. Tom Sandall writes the script for the event, which raises significant funds for Stamford Infirmary. He plays the role of a Corporation elder and is 'knighted' by the Honorable Mrs Pelham, who plays the Queen; Sophie plays Mistress Dawson, wife of the Mayor.

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Above: l -r Frank Riley, Henry Hackett, unknown, Matthew Lightfoot (macebearer and another Waterfurlong gardener), Joseph Corby (Mayor), Rev E Louis Clapton, Dr Mason, Tom Sandall, Richard March.

Right: Tom and Sophie Sandall.


The following summer Tom and Sophie enjoy a bird's eye view of King Edward and Queen Alexandra's visit to Northampton from Robert Sandall's old bedroom window in the Bank House on the Parade. They stay with Arthur in Bostock Avenue, which Tom describes as 'specially illuminated by the combined efforts and plan of the residents and thousands of coloured lamps were fixed on the trees and hundreds of Chinese lanterns were strung across the Avenue from tree to tree and a band engaged to play during the evening which made it into Fairyland.'

But the shadow of war is looming and in August 1914 Eddy Sandall is enlisted for active service as Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 5th Lincolns, whilst Tom's grandsons Ford and Tommy enter the army and marines respectively. With Robby in Brazil and newly-married Cecil taking up a curacy in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), the family is scattered and strain only increases when news arrives that Robby's fifteen year old daughter Mary has died of diphtheria. Throughout the war Tom draws strength from his strong Christian faith and remains optimistic and stoical, relishing whatever opportunities for family gatherings arise: 'At the end of July and August Bank Holiday week Grandma Boémé, Sophy and I went again to Sutton on Sea and put up as of old at the “Jolly Bacchus” Hotel with Addie and the young ones and spent a quiet but happy fortnight there despite rather wet weather, though we got several drives and Sophy tennis, there being on this occasion some players staying at the Bacchus. We also managed to get some “Bridge” in the evenings with a Mr & Mrs Holding of Northampton. My grandson Tommy was at home too, having sick leave from his ship. He however was well enough to use and enjoy his motor cycle.'


Eddy Sandall heading up his regiment. Many of his men were killed or wounded in the Hohenzollern Redoubt.

During the war years Tom's interest in local history deepens and he spends much of his time writing articles on subjects such as bull-running, the town waits and the robes of Stamford's medieval aldermen. He reorganises the Institution's museum and assists the Rutland Archaeological Society with research. Tom suffers increasing problems with 'gouty eczema' and resigns (amid a political furore) from the position of Borough Treasurer, but offers to act as locum Borough Auditor, kindly investing the honorarium for Walter Goodley who is serving in the RAF.

Mobility problems also cause Tom to take the difficult decision of giving up his Waterfurlong garden:'George Stapleton(2) asked me if I ever thought of giving up the garden to give him the refusal, On consideration of the matter as I now seldom got as far I agreed to give the garden up to him, though it was parting with a spot which was associated with many happy memories.'

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Example of a 'crossed letter' from son Robby in Brazil, written both ways across the page to save paper. Several of Robby's wartime letters were lost when the ships carrying them were torpedoed in the Atlantic. 

Miraculously, Eddy, Tommy, Ford, (and later in the conflict) Cecil all survive the war, sustaining only minor injuries. Tom is particularly proud of Eddy who is invited to Buckingham Palace to be made a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George by the King. 


In April 1919 the family is reunited to celebrate Tom's 80th birthday: 'On this occasion which was really kept on the following day, the 30th April, I had a happy family gathering. Eddie & Addie, Arthur, Cecil & May & Sophy being all present and we did not forget Robby & Helena. We had a festive dinner in the evening and I indulged in a few reminiscences of the happy times when their Mother was with me and I was thankful today no one of our family had given cause for concern as was the case in many families where one if not more had caused trouble. As a little thanks offering for this and other comforts I took the opportunity of handing round to Sophy and the boys cheques of £50 each, having previously sent another to Robby which he would receive about the same date. I was very glad indeed that they were all

able to come and expressed the hope that come what may I trusted they would always hang together as a family, which I was satisfied would add to the comfort of each and every one as the years went by.

The wise sayings of the Lord Treasurer Burghley which I read were received with pleasure and approval, especially with reference to his own conduct towards his family and also their own future dealings with the world around them.'




Despite advancing age and failing eyesight, Tom's mind remains as active as ever. He is instrumental in restoring St Paul's Church as a School Chapel in honour of Old Stamfordians killed or wounded in the war and publishes a brief history of Stamford Grammar School, as well as guides to St John's and All Saints' Churches. 


1920 is enlivened by a long visit from Robby's eldest boy, Roberto, and at Christmas 1920 Tom sends his friend Henry Butterfield what he calls a 'word picture' of himself: 'It is 7 o’clock and I am sitting in my arm chair in my dining room, near a brightly burning fire, with my little round table in front of me, laid ready for dinner. Sophie is sitting at the dinner table with a dish of stewed rabbit and onion sauce with fried ham (giving an appetising emanation) ready to carve, my cider poured out and all ready. Though the foot is on a comfortable red plush covered leg rest I am free of any pain, can sleep well and eat and drink with a good appetite. I have no cares for all my family are fairly provided for and have hitherto given no cause for trouble. I am enjoying a pension which enables me to end my days without worry.'

The early 1920s see the weddings of grandsons Tommy and Ford and in January 1921 Tom becomes a great-grandfather with the arrival of Ford and Annie Sandall's son, Dennis Edward.

In 1922 Tom embarks on his last major project - a plan to commission and fix brass plaques to Stamford's historic sites. He works closely with the Stamford Tradesmen's Association and is gratified when Old Stamfordian Alfred Littledike, who emigrated to Australia many decades earlier, donates £100 for a plaque to commemorate Stamford's lost Eleanor Cross. 


St Paul's Chapel, Stamford School
Wedding of Tommy Sandall to Noreen Nethercoate 1920

On 21 September 1922 Tom dies at home at the ripe old age of 83. He is buried next to Connie in Stamford Cemetery and is much mourned, as the Stamford & Rutland News describes in its reportage of his funeral at St John's:

'Stamford has lost one its most honoured, useful and venerable townsmen by the lamented death of Mr Thomas Sandall, (whose) demise removes a familiar figure from the town and a gentleman who will be missed greatly, not only in Stamford itself, but in wider circles. He had been in failing health for some months, but was able to get about almost to the end. Recently he underwent an operation to his eyes in Leicester, in the hope that his failing sight would be improved and this was successful. His versatile mind was wonderfully active even in his last days, and his interest in the affairs and welfare of the borough he loved so well and had served so faithfully never flagged.


If ever a man served his day and generation it was Thomas Sandall of Stamford and his place will be difficult to fill. His memory will long be cherished and his labours in the interests of Stamford and district and all that he did to perpetuate their historical associations will be remembered with gratitude for very many years to come.'


What becomes of the Sandall family after Tom's death?

Eddie and Addie have moved to Oxford, where Eddy publishes a history of the 5th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment assisted by their middle daughter, Violette. Violette sadly dies of tuberculosis in 1925 at the age of 24 and Eddy, his health weakened by the war, also contracts the disease and dies in May 1930 at the age of 60. Addie moves to Newhaven in Sussex but dies two years after Eddy.


Eddy and Addie’s two surviving daughters remain single; Irene works as a school matron in Hertfordshire, whilst Cecilia joins the WRENS in WWII. Both eventually retire to the south coast.

Eddy and Addie’s eldest son, Tommy, continues in the marines, where he attains the rank of captain and is awarded the King George VI Coronation medal. He and his wife Noreen eventually settle in her home town of Bournemouth and have a daughter, Valerie.


Tommy’s younger brother, Ford, and his family emigrate to Kenya where Ford works as a customs officer. Daughter June Viola arrives in 1924.


Robby Sandall, his wife Helena, and their surviving children, remain in Santos, Brazil, where Robby dies in 1952 at the age of 80. A street - Rua Roberto Sandall - is named in his honour. 


Arthur Sandall works as a bank cashier at Lloyd’s until retirement and continues living alone in his modest Northampton home until his death in August 1947. He leaves nearly £22,000 in his will – a great deal of money at the time.

After working as an army chaplain during the war, Cecil takes up a curacy at St Katharine’s in Bristol, where he and his wife May live for many years. Cecil later becomes rector of Great Hormead in Buntingford, Hertfordshire, where he dies in 1944 at the age of 63.


Their daughter Constance (known as ‘Bo’ - her middle name being Boémé after her paternal grandmother) trains as a nurse, whilst son Roger becomes a police officer. Both children emigrate to Rhodesia, Roger during his twenties, Bo in middle age.

At some point after her father's death, Sophie Sandall moves to 14 Rutland Terrace, Stamford. She is recorded as living there in the 1939 war-time census with a paid companion - Selina Wetherill. Sophie is an active member of the Red Cross and in 1926 organises the Guard of Honour when Princess Mary opens the new wing of the Stamford Infirmary. She remains a keen golfer and travels widely and in style, visiting family members in South Africa on several occasions. Her travelling companion is often her friend Emily English, of the Clock House, Scotgate, daughter of Stamford solicitor Richard Mills English.


Sophie Sandall long outlives all her brothers, dying in Stamford in July 1967 at the age of 89. Shortly before her death she bequeathes her father's memoir to Stamford Town Hall's Phillips Collection, complete with photographs and numerous newspaper cuttings.

We have transcribed and indexed Tom Sandall's whole journal and you can access it below. We recommend reading the transcriber's notes first. The journal contains hundreds of references and if you are interested in a particular person, family, place or event, you will find the separate index helpful. 


With grateful thanks to Stamford Town Hall for access to The Phillips Collection.

(1) 'Malcolm Sargent, a Biography' © Charles Reid, Hamish Hamilton, 1968.

(2) Valentine George Stapleton (1969 - 1929), solicitor and coroner, of 57-58 High Street, Saint Martin's, Stamford.

For more information about Stamford's brass monument plaques see Worth their weight in bronze, Stamford Civic Society

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2019





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