Dr. Henry Salter

- A summary of his life

- Essex Chronical Obituary

- Dr Salter`s biography

- Margery Allingham`s semi-biographical novel

- Newspaper articles & journals

- The last words

Salter Dr John Henry Salter Dr Henry.jpg  Salter Dr John Henry as a Freemason

Although never a Goldhanger resident, Dr. Salter was the local General Practice doctor(GP) between 1864 and 1932 who lived and worked in Tolleshunt Darcy, so was the GP for Goldhanger and the surrounding area for 68 years. All his working life he maintained a detailed diary of his many exploits and interests which was published in 1933 in a heavily abridged form just after his death.

His 400 page published biography with extensive extracts from his diary contains many references to Goldhanger and the immediate area, and has a wealth of local historical information in it. He was involved in organising and funding the Spitzbergen expeditions from Goldhanger, his biography has a complete chapter within the Reminiscences section about his involvement but does not record that he ever went there himself. As the local Medical Officer of Health his diary also gives an insight into the health problems in village during his tenure and this was used extensively to create Public Health in the past.

Dr Salter is said to have entertained Prince Nicholas, later to be Tsar Nicholas II of Russia had lunch at The Chequers in the late 1800s. Dr Salter was known to be fluent in the Russian language, travelled often to Russia to judge dog shows as president of the Kennel Club, and met members of the Russian royal family on many occasions. It is thought the Prince joined Dr Salter for a duck shoot on Osea Island and Tollesbury Marshes at the request of Queen Victoria. A previous visitor`s book at The Chequers had the Prince`s signature in it.

He was born in 1841 in Devon and died in 1932 in Darcy at the age of 91 whilst still working as the local doctor. Both he and his wife clearly came from a wealthy families, he well educated and went to Kings College, London to read medicine. However he lost an eye in an accident at around the time he graduated which inhibited him from taking up an appointment as a surgeon at Kings College hospital, and this probably resulted in him taking up the practice at Tolleshunt Darcy. He wore a glass eye for the rest of his life.

All his life he was an extremely active person who developed many interests and wrote about them in his diaries. Although he married, he had no children and outlived his wife by many years. He employed many servants.

Dr Salter established a world-wide reputation covering many aspects of his life:

Medicine A surgeon, dentist, Fellow of the Obstetrical Society. He is said to have delivered 7000 babies into the world during his career. His name appears in many versions of the published ʼNavy Listʼ as Admiralty surgeon for the area of Tollesbury Tolleshunt DArcy, Salcot and Goldhanger.


Dr. Slater`s house in Darcy showing the original porch that he had built to provide shelter for his patients while waiting to consult him at home.

Horticulturist between 1888 and 1931 he won 1,400 prizes for his horticultural specimens. He was a Rose Judge for, and a Fellow of, the Royal Horticultural Society. For his blood-red Alstroemeria he was awarded their highest honour, the Award of Merit. He also helped to introduce the DArcy Spice Apples and is said to have brought the first Spice apple tree to the village from abroad, from which many grafts were taken to create the Darcy Spice.


postcard view of his garden and greenhouse in the 1930s

Wildfowler A first class shot despite losing his right eye after an accident in 1862 at Derby. He is said to have shot 62,504 beasts and birds, between 1865 and 1925. He leased Old Hall Marshes in Tollesbury as a private shoot. Some of his ʼtrophiesʼ were once to be seen at the Chelmsford Museum, in the Dr. Salter Room. His ʼGame Bookʼ of sporting records is held in the Essex Records Office, listing: number and type of game shot, date, location, by whom, individual bag, total bag, does used and memoranda.

Dog Breeder During his lifetime Dr. Salter bred over 2,600 dogs from 44 different breeds, the majority of which were sporting or gun dogs and he exported them all over the world. He was a well-known Judge at dog shows and in 1925 was appointed President of Crufts.

Salter & dogs.JPG

He travelled to Russia ten times as Vice President, President and Chairman of the Kennel Club, and came to know the Russian royal family well. This also gave him the opportunity to shoot big game there. Dr Salter appointed the Grand Duke Nicholas as a member of the Kennel Club, and this probably accounts for the story that Prince Nicholas II (later to be Czar) stayed or dined at The Chequers in Goldhanger, but this does not seem to be mentioned in the published diaries.

Magistrate On 3rd July 1888 he took the Oath as a J.P. at Shire Hall, Chelmsford. On 19th July 1888 he took his first sitting.

Special Constable He was chief superindendent of the Essex Special Constabulary. His special constable`s armband is held at the Essex Police Museum. He sponsored a competition and prize for special constables called ʼThe Salter Cupʼ for excellence in police duty and first aid which is competed for. He was involved in an incident with rowdy WW1 flying Officers in The Chequers at Goldhanger when he tried to quell their high spirits...

During World War 1 there was a ʼflight stationʼ, at the edge of the village on the Maldon Road and the pilots of the tiny bi-planes regularly frequented The Chequers. In March 1918, 20 aircraft of 74-Squadron landed at Goldhanger on route to the front at Ypres. The Flight commander was Captain Mick Mannock. Despite being blind in one eye he officially shot down 73 enemy planes, unofficially he shot down nearer 100.

Mannock wrote in his diary of the farewell drink at the Chequers before departing for Ypres. The landlord made the pilots extremely welcome, but not so welcoming was the village ʼarm of the lawʼ, who objected to the singing. Mannock offered him the choice o a drink or be thrown out. The ʼarm of the lawʼ, said to be none other than Dr Henry Salter captain of the local volunteer force, chose the drink and joined in the merriments. Mannock was later shot down and was awarded the VC posthumously.

Sportsman Prize Fighter who Fought as Jack O`Reilly on a bill in Ireland for Hogini`s Circus. Cricketer, Fisherman, Horse Owner and a fervent race goer. He was a life-long friend of Sir Claude Champion de Crespigny who lived at Gt. Totham and had very similar sporting and shooting interests.


Dr Salter at home with his trophies


Freemason On 26th August 1864 he was initiated into the world of Freemasonry at Howard Lodge, in Arundel Town Hall. He was a member of several lodges in the Maldon area, and was a founder member of Easterford Lodge in Kelvedon. Nationally he went on to become Deputy Provincial Grand Master D.P.G.M. and Grand Deacon of England, said to be the ʼhighest Degree possible in the Craft with the exception of Royaltyʼ. After his death all his Masonic Regalia and Masonic books were presented to the Easterford Lodge for safe keeping. There is a museum called ʼThe Salter Memorial Roomʼ attached to the Masonic Hall at Kelvedon, which amongst other items holds Dr. Salter`s amputation kit. In July each year the Lodge holds a Strawberry Meeting in memory of Dr. Salter when the tables are adorned with sweet peas.

Librarian He was an passionate collector of books and his library is said to have contained thousands of books. After his death his Masonic books were presented to the Easterford Lodge, and other important parts parts of his collection are held in the Plume library in Maldon. Books with his name in them continue to appear in book shops all over Essex and Ernest MansfielDs two books found at an auction in Colchester that have personal photos on the inside covers most probably originate from his collection.

Transportation In his early days as a GP he eagerly drove himself on his medical rounds with a horse and carriage, sometimes using four different horse in one day. Later in life he became very enthusiastic about early automobiles, and had a reputation for owning the latest models.

1902 Salter car2.JPG

Dr Salter`s 4 HP Benz automobile which he owned in 1902

this tinted version of an early photo of his actual car was recently sold at auction


Extracts from the obituary of Dr Salter published in the Essex Chronicle just after his death...

...He attended to, and increased, his practice to large dimensions and at the same time he became expert in horticulture, an authority on dogs and coursing, horses, a notable shot, and a hunter of bear and the elk in the wastes of Russia. He also devoted infinite pains and care to public duties. He qualified as a Justice of the Peace for Essex in 1888, and sitting regularly on the Witham Bench, became its chairman. He was also a Deputy Lieutenant for Essex and for 23 years from the formation of me County Council he sat as a representative of Tollesbury, being likewise on the Essex Standing Joint Committee, the Essex Education Committee, and so on, besides being chair- man of the Wild Birds Protection Committee and chairman of the local school managers and president of nearly every movement for good in his own neighbourhood. He wrote articles for the medical papers and at one time was a member of the Council of the British Medical Association, a referee to many insurance companies and an Admiralty surgeon.


With the late Mr A.C. Wilkin and the Hon. C.H. Strutt, he was one of the pioneers of the old-age pension movement, and in collaboration with the late Earl of Warwick, did much in the pioneer work for the treatment of consumption with the Essex Royal Association, formed as a memorial to the late King Edward VII.


In Masonry Dr Salter attained great prominence. He had reached the 32nd degree in the craft, the 33rd degree being reserved for crowned heads. Dr Salter was born in Masonry and belonged to the order when he came to Essex. His grand- father was a Deputy Grand Master when the Duke of Cumberland was Grand Master of England and another relative. Col. Sir John Salter, Lord Mayor of London, was Deputy-Grand Master of England for five years in the 18th century. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, the Masons of the Province presented him with a beautiful illuminated address in book form, signed by the Masters and Wardens of all the lodges, and the brethren of the Easterford Lodge, Kelvedon, of which he had been treasurer for 36 years, gave him a boat- shaped silver rose bowl with an affectionate address.

Latterly, Dr Salter`s chief pastime has been the cultivation of a garden which he made, and which was the pride and joy of his life. De- spite his years, he also added two more hobbies to his heavy list - he revived the painting of his youth, with special attention to flowers and dogs, and he started to get his memoirs together.

He visited Russia ten times for big game shooting and DArcy House contains specimens of bears, wolves, elk and lynx which fell to his gun. He went over as vice-president of the English Kennel Club, at the invitation of the Imperial Society of Russia, of which the Czar was head, to give technical advice on the breeding of pointers, setters and other sporting dogs, and was liberally feted. The Russian visits ended just before the Great War.

Salter, Dr - his bear in Chelmsford museum.JPG

Dr. Salter`s, Russian brown bear `Boris`

for many years a well loved feature in the Chelmsford Museum

He had champions in English pointers, English and Irish setters, black and brown retrievers, Sussex and cocker spaniels and greyhounds. Forty years ago he led the country in English field trials; he won the Field Trial Derby three times in succession with young dogs he had bred and twice won the All-age Stake. Actually for five years he had the monopoly of English field trial blood. His strain of pointers was taken to America and swept the deck there. For 31 years he was nominated for the Waterloo Cup; Honeymoon, which he bred, won the cup three times and Trougherd won the plate.

In flowers, Dr Salter specialised in roses and herbaceous plants; he judged big flower shows in London and village shows in Essex. He won the Award of Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society for his Mrs J H Salter alstroemeria, which grows in profusion in his garden. He had a most tempting offer for this, but he refused to part with it because it was ʼnamed after a good womanʼ, his wife who predeceased him many years ago.

Perhaps the most trying public duty ever placed upon him was that of chief of Special Constables along the Essex coast-line from Maldon to Mersea during the war. His primary duty, apart from maintaining the public peace, was to arrange for evacuation of the coast-line in the event of invasion. His problem would then be to get the women, children and old men out of Tollesbury without interfering with the troops who would have swept through the country to meet the invaders.

From General Thornton he received a promise that he could use the Tollesbury Light Railway - which Dr Salter ʼmore than any other manʼ had brought into being.

On the night the Zeppelin was brought down in flames at Little Wigborough, Dr Salter was in bed sleeping soundly after a long and tiresome day`s work. ʼLook, doctor, quick there`s a Zeppelin coming down,ʼ a voice shouted in the darkness. As Dr Salter looked out of his bedroom window and saw the tremendous glare, his night bell rang to announce that there had been a bad accident near the Zeppelin. He went off to find that the young man who had rushed to the nearest police to give warning of the Zeppelin had collided on his motor cycle with a motor car (no road vehicles were allowed to carry lights in those days). Dr Salter attended to the man, saw the Zeppelin`s crew under arrest and the military lorries take them to Colchester and he had a charming little snuff box made from a bit of the Zeppelin.

The Bishop of Chelmsford said of him in his funeral oration: ʼHe enriched all he touched. Health and healing, order and enrichment he produced in everything he undertook. Nothing but the best would satisfy him.ʼ


The following extracts are taken from the biography of Dr Salter written by J.O.Thompson and published in 1933, just after Dr Salter`s death. The biography consists largely of extracts from the doctor`s own diaries. Sadly, most the original diaries were destroyed in a fire at J.O.Thompson`s house in New London Load, Chelmsford after it was struck by an incendiary bomb in WW-2. Many of the medical entries were excluded from the published version by the author on the grounds of confidentiality.

Although the doctor lived and operated his practice in Tolleshunt Darcy, the diaries contain many references to Goldhanger, for example he referred to attending the ʼHand-in-Hand Club Festʼ at Goldhanger in 1864, which was probably his term for the Friendly Brothers. The completed biography is lengthy, but makes an extremely good read.

The diary entries give Dr Salter`s version of the events leading to the creation of the Spitzbergen Exploration Company, in which he, The Revd. Gardner, Ernest Mansfield and others from Goldhanger were involved. One chapter of the biography, under the heading of Reminiscences recalls his initial involvement with ʼGold in Spitzbergenʼ, which is included in the  Spitzbergen  section of this website.

Entries in the diary that relate to Goldhanger. . .

 5 July 1864  A practice down in Essex sounds exceedingly well.

29 Oct 1864 . Reached Tolleshunt Darcy, Received with great cheering at the entrance to the village.

24 Dec 1864 . Drove to Goldhanger to attend the Hand-in-Hand Club Fest. The fellows were very jovial and drank the health of their new doctor most enthusiastically.

16 Aug 1866 . A meeting of the local Cholera committee.

11 Jun 1868 . Darcy Fair. Infernal row all day and night.

18 July 1870 . Goldhanger Regatta. Rowed and came second.

 1 Mar 1871 . Busy vaccinating everyone in consequence of an epidemic of smallpox.

27 Jun 1872 . Went down to the great wedding at Goldhanger between Kate Creswell and Mr Baker Harrington of Colchester - a grand affair. I got there in time for the breakfast set out very tastefully in the barn. In the evening dancing to the dulcet tones of the Colchester Volunteer Band. Home at 4am.

2 Nov 1872 . Telegraph wire into DArcy complete.

1 Nov 1875 . Sent for in a hurry to Goldhanger. A boat capsized and one of its occupants was reported drowned, but by four hours diligent perseverance of artificial respiration and rubbing I got him round.

22 April 1884 . An earthquake at 9.20 a.m., knocking down a chimney of the house which nearly came through the roof, frightening everybody very much and ringing all the bells. The damage done all the way to Wigboro`, Peldon, Mersea,, Abberton, to Ipswich. It is I believe, very serious. Charles Harvey`s house, Alien`s of Wigboro`, and FairheaDs of Peldon, are simply wrecked, and there is not a chimney standing in all the locality. Great Wigboro` and Little Wigboro` churches will have to be rebuilt, it is thought. A spire of a chapel and heaps of chimneys came down at Colchester. The damage everywhere is tremendous.

23 July 1884 . Vaccinating like mad to stop small-pox.

15 Aug 1884 . Vaccinating from calf at Tollesbury all afternoon.

11 July 1888 . Flower Show at Goldhanger - several firsts

14 Jan 1890 . A new epidemic of influenza

14 Aug 1890 . Up to our necks in Diphtheria.

29 Mar 1895 . influenza everywhere, small-pox in Tollesbury.

23 Aug 1900 . Isolation tents up at Goldhanger for diphtheritic patents.

25 Sept 1901 . A Tollesbury man caught a shark in the Blackwater, it weighed a cwt and measured seven feet.

 4 Jan 1892 . All the world down with influenza.

8 July 1902 . I took the 9 o`clock train to London and with it my new alstroemeria (blood red), which I took up to the Westminster Royal Horticultural Society`s Committee with a view to getting a certificate if I could, and hence make it a new flower with a naming of my own. The Committee were unanimous in giving me the ʼ Award of Merit,ʼ the highest honour in horticulture. I had to name the plant, so I called it Mrs. Salter.

15 Feb 1902 . influenza Everywhere, and a case of small-pox.

21 May 1906 . Made a director of the Spitzbergen Exploration Co.

18 July 1906 . Dined at Goldhanger rectory and heard Revd. Gardner`s story about Spitzbergen, from which he had just returned. His account is wonderful and there seems to be great results looming over all participants, myself included.

11 Nov 1907 . The Kaiser is over from Germany.

25 Feb 1908 . The telephone is being put into the house.

20 Aug 1908 . A telegram that the Spitzbergen assay was 16grains per ton and therefore ʼuselessʼ.

 4 Jan 1911 . Placed on the county committee for fighting consumption.

13 July 1911 . Letter came capsizing my plans for going to Spitzbergen. I am out of it regarding polar bear and reindeer shooting. My 70th birthday tomorrow too!

31 July 1911 . Bombarded by newspaper men about Spitzbergen.

31 June 1912 . First meeting of Northern Exploration Company, Spitzbergen. There were some splendid exhibitions of marble of all colours. It seems to me that things will now go.

10 July 1913 . Saw an aeroplane over the village for the first time.

10 Sept 1914 . 250 men have gone to the war from Tollesbury and 50 from here.

 1915-1916 . Over this two year period Dr Salter makes 32 references to Zeppelins overhead or in the area.

25 Mar 1918 . Clinched a deal with the Northern Exploration Company, receiving ₤1000 for 2100 shares. I think I am wise.

15 Dec 1918 . Attended a women with her 10th child, all of whom I have brought into the world. Her mother was present as a nurse, who had 13 children, all of whom I brought into the world. Her daughter was also present with her 2 children, also attended by me. Total 25.

10 Nov 1918 . Spitzbergen resuscitation (after 24 years)!

6 Feb 1920 . Spitzbergen property seems to have done well after all - I am the poor chap left out in the cold!

10 Mar 1923 . To Marconi House to see the installation than Mansfield has ordered to be put into my house at a cost of ₤120. Marconi House is a wonderful place. I shall have the machine put in and they say it will be the most simple to learn, we shall see.

11 April 1926 . The great airship Norge passed over the village on the way to Norfolk, and them to Spitzbergen and the North pole. It left Rome yesterday.

 7 May 1926 . The ʼwirelessʼ is the only means of learning news!

7 Nov 1928 . Helping to operate in London (aged 87)

21 April 1930 . Resigned from County Council. Local government Act obliged me to do so. (aged 89)

 3 July 1930 . County Council elections going on due to my resignation. Douglas Smith beat Stanley Wilkin.

23 Nov 1930 . There are now 27 ships anchored in the river, showing how bad trade is.

 9 Feb 1931 . Far a field to see patients, the day cold and wet (aged 90)

15 May 1931 . There are now 39 ships anchored over our fishery.

23 July 1931 . 43 liners anchored in the Blackwater.

 8 Dec 1931 . Unanimously re-elected chairman of Witham Petty Sessions Bench. (aged 90)

14 April 1932 . Sleeping all day. The Bishop came.

16 April 1932 . Bad (the last entry in the diary)


Just after Dr. Salter`s death in 1933 authoress Margery Allingham and her husband Pip bought and moved into the doctor`s home, DArcy house. Margery had know Dr. Salter and the house from her. In 1937 Margery wrote one of her detective novels in the Campion series entitled: ʼDancers In Mourningʼ and it is well know that it is semi-autobiographical and that the hero of the book, the formidable Dr. Bouverie is based on none other than Dr. Salter. There are many similarities between the two doctors within the book...


Both doctor`s had enthusiasm for gardening and rose growing

Dr. Bouverie wore ʼa cluster of Little Dorrit rosebuds in his buttonholeʼ.

(Dr S always wore a flower in his buttonhole)

Dr. Bouverie`s voice had ʼmagisterial authorityʼ

Dr. Bouverie had a ʼVictorian porch, with wooden doors, stuck out into the roadʼ

Both doctors ʼwere up at all hours of the day and nightʼ

The house had a ʼfull-sized stuffed wolfʼ.

Both doctors had an interest in prize fighting.

The roses had...ʼwhite canvas hoods to protected them from the weatherʼ

(Dr S held a patent for a flower cover)

There are many other similarities within the book



Dr Salter's House in 2010.jpg    plaque.JPG

Dr. Salter`s house in Tolleshunt DArcy today, with a blue plaque



Many newspaper articles were written about the doctor both during his life and since his death. Here is a selection...



Salter, Dr Henry, in the Daily Expresss in 1932.jpg


Singapore Free Press short.jpg


Dr. Salter also wrote articles in medical journals during his career, here are three examples...

1868 - The Medical Times and Gazette 2.jpg

1870 - Salter and , sunstroke.jpg

1881 - Dr Salter.jpg



After his death his friend and author James Wentworth Day wrote:

I saw him lying in his coffin, with two huge gaunt, grey wolves sitting gazing glassily at the old hunter who had slain them more than thirty years before. So passed a man who epitomised all that is most admirable in the character of the English country gentleman.



Below is the last chapter of the published diary entitled...

R. I. P.

Dr. Salter`s remains were laid to rest on April 21st, 1932, in the churchyard of Tolleshunt DArcy Parish Church, by the side of his wife. Although the last rites were of a simple character, vast numbers of people were present to pay their last respects and reverence to ʼThe Doctor.ʼ Those present included representatives of all the various activities and interests of the Doctor`s ninety-one years of a full life, from the Lord-Lieutenant of the County, Brig.-Gen. R. B. Colvin, C.B., downwards.

The whole district was in mourning, and all those who could be, were present at the funeral. Among the wealth of last tributes paid to the Doctor was a bunch of flowers with the following note attached: ʼA few flowers from the garden which he made and loved, from the staff of DArcy House who loved him.ʼ

The Bishop of Chelmsford, in delivering his funeral oration, paid tributes to Dr. Salter`s professional and public life, and speaking of his remarkable character said:

ʼThere is one thing which it seems to me is typical of the whole life of the man. There was once: a meadow in this village, plain, bare, and uninteresting. Dr. Salter determined to make it a garden ; but if it was to be a garden, it must be no ordinary garden. You know that garden, his multitudes of friends would meet annually to admire its order, its beauty, its elegance, and, blazing in its midst was the alstroemeria which he had discovered and named after his wife. That I say was typical.

He used his life to beautify and adorn the lives of other people. He enriched all that he touched. Metaphorically speaking, he converted rough meadows into ordered gardens, and made all of them realise their very best. Health and healing, order and enrichment, he produced in everything he undertook. Nothing but the best would satisfy him.ʼ



examples of Dr Salter`s hybrid red Alstroemeria, still cultivated

and marketed today as plants using this name and as cut flowers


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