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Sir Robert Newman MP – Lord Mamhead.

Sir Robert Newman   – Lord Mamhead.   (1871- 1945)


 Robert Hunt Stapyton Dudly Lydston Newman, became the D.C.C.A.’s third President in 1920.

At the time he was the Conservative M.P. for Exeter, and it was quite usual for many of the city’s societies to invite a local dignitary to head their organisation in order to give it added kudos. After all, the Association’s first President in 1901 had been the then Exeter M.P., Sir Edgar Vincent, whose connection only ceased when he lost his seat in the 1905 election. The self-interest was mutual, as it suited the sitting member to be so involved in city life as it brought him into contact with the electorate, limited though it was at that time. 

When the Association’s second President, Edward J. Winter-Wood, died unexpectedly in 1920, Sir Robert Newman was approached and readily agreed. There is no record of any chess activity on his part, but he must have been interested in the game as he remained in post for at least 15 years, possibly longer. Henry Lewis Bowles, who had lived and played chess in Exeter in the early 1870s recalled the names of several players he had met, and one of them was a Newman. This could not have been Robert, of course, but could have been his father, indicating an interest within the family. 

Mamhead House - an early print.

 He had been born in London in 1871, the son of Sir Lydston Newman (1823 – 92), but the family home was the Mamhead estate, situated between Dawlish and the Haldon Hills, overlooking the Exe estuary and Exmouth beyond.  In fact, Sir Lydston only succeeded to the title after his older brother, another Sir Robert, was killed at the Battle of Inkerman in the Crimean War. It was one of the finest country seats in the county, the estate having been purchased in 1823 by Robert W. Newman, who had made his fortune as a Dartmouth merchant, and who himself became MP for Exeter.

He had a new house built on the Mamhead estate, designed by Anthony Salvin (1799-1881) and built in Bath stone. It was Salvin’s first major commission, and Newman’s faith in him was rewarded as Salvin went on to win a reputation as a leading expert on late mediaeval houses, applying the principles to the fashion for Victorian Gothic architecture.

Sir Robert succeeded to his father’s Baronetcy in 1892, and was elected to Parliament in 1918, in which capacity he served the city until 1929. Although a Conservative, he moved increasingly to the left on the political spectrum in the wake of the General Strike and the Depression that followed, until in 1929 he stood as an independent against the official Conservative candidate. Such was his popularity in the city that he was re-elected and stayed in the Commons until 1931, when he was “kicked upstairs” to the House of Lords, taking the title Lord Mamhead. 

He was, by all accounts, a small, thin man, quiet and reserved, but also described by a friend as a man of strong character, independent views, sincere convictions and a delightful modesty. He was a devout Anglo-Catholic, and one of his housemaids recalled that each and every morning, after eating a boiled egg for breakfast and smoking his only cigarette of the day, he would walk to the local church to take Communion.

The Mamhead Cup, Devon's division 2 trophy.

The Mamhead Cup: Silver hallmarked 1909 and donated to DCCA by Lord Mamhead in 1935, intended for the 2nd Division championship and still used for that today.  The difference between the dates of its hallmark and  donation  suggests it might originally have been used for something else.  Its value in 1994 for insurance purposes was over £1,000.

 The first winners were:-

1935 Exmouth.  1936 Exmouth.  1937 Plymouth.  1938 Exmouth. 1939 Exeter.   No contest. 1946 Exeter. 1947 Exeter.  1948 Exeter. 1949 Plymouth. 1950 Exmouth

Lord Mamhead died in 1945 at the age of 74.  In 1954 the estate was auctioned off, and Mamhead House became a Christian centre. In 1963 all the house’s furniture and fittings were sold off, and it became a boys’ school. It is now owned by the Rockeagle property company, and several small businesses have their headquarters there.

Mamhead House in 2012


In 2012, the house and accompanying 165 acres of gardens, park and farmland, were put up for sale with an asking price of £8,000,000.

At the moment, it is not clear whether the donation of the cup marked the end of Mamhead’s presidency – a sort of parting gift -  or whether he stayed in office until the time of his death. If the latter, he would have been Devon’s President for a quarter of a century, and even if there is no evidence of his playing strength or activity, his longevity in office at a time of consolidation for the Association makes him eligible for inclusion in this list of Pioneers. 


Stacey, C:                   Men of the West                                  Stacey                         1926

Who’s Who In Devonshire          Wilson & Philips                                                 1934

Fincham-Powell K & Williams J:  Memories of Mamhead & Ashcombe    1999

Annetts, I. S:                Devon Trophy Book                                                             1997

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