An article in Country Life dated October 17th 1968 on
the Bearwood Estate tells us that John Walter II established it in the 1820s, as
"By 1822 an agreeable classical villa had been built above the lake; the architect was J. W. Sanderson an obscure pupil of James Wyatt, practising at Reading. John Walter II was a generous landlord, known locally as the "people's friend" and at the gates of the park appeared the village of Sindlesham, a school, a clubhouse, a cricket-field, and finally, in 1846, a church. He died next year, and the property was inherited by his son."
John Walter II died on 28th July 1847, and on the 31st the 'Reading Mercury' published a long and flowery Obituary from John Walter's own newspaper as follows:
DEATH OF MR. WALTER.
(From the "Times")
The mournful aspect assumed by our journal this morning will widely communicate what has been for some time painfully expected – the death of John Walter, Esq., of Bearwood, in the county of Berks. Widely indeed will his death be known, when the notice of it has been read in that publication which he had made the chief record of passing events, as well as the most powerful organ of public opinion, not only in these islands, not only in the vast populations that own the same rule, or speak the same language as ourselves, but throughout the whole earth. The myriads who daily peruse these columns have before them the monument of his merits and powers.
It was a matter of life-long regret to Mr. Walter, that engaged, as he had been, in the most varied and responsible business from a very early age, and surprised, as it were, by a continual succession of arduous undertakings, he had never rendered a due portion of his time to the duties and enjoyments of domestic life. Most public men feel this; but Mr. Walter felt it enough to regard with great jealousy any addition to his political engagements. It was under this feeling, that, contrary to the advice of his friends, he resigned in 1837 his seat for the county of Berks, which he had taken in 1832. His indignation at the injustice and cruelty done to the poor by a notorious act, and at the triumphant tone of its advocates in Parliament, hurried him again into harassing, tedious, and expensive contests. It was his desire to re-enter the House of Commons with the préstige of a great popular constituency, and, armed with a public commission, to throw back in the face of the Minister the oft-repeated vaunt that the Poor Law was acceptable to the people of England. Time, however, reserved his triumph. The verdict of England reached Mr. Walter in the chamber of death. It was there that he heard the fate of the once potent Commission.
It would scarcely be possible to enumerate or describe the whole of what not merely this journal but all the journals of the civilized world, owe to Mr. Walter. He first imparted to the daily press its vast range and celerity of information, its authentic accuracy, its universal correspondence, its lucid arrangement and marvellous despatch – and, more than all, its dignity in the social scale, and its political position as what has been called the fourth estate of the realm. He was not only a great tribune, but the founder of a tribunitial rank and authority.
Amongst other acts of early exertions for the press may be mentioned his successful competition for priority of intelligence with the Government during the European war, which (to mention a single instance) enabled this journal to announce the capitulation of Flushing 48 hours before the news had arrived through any other channel; and the extinction of what before his time had been an invariable practice with the General Post-office, strange as it may now appear, - the systematic retardation of foreign intelligence, and the public sale of foreign news for the benefit of the Lombard-street officials.
It was his active and well-directed enterprise, his fertility of invention, and lavish generosity, that first drew a continual stream of intelligence from the furthest realms of the civilized world, instructed and enlightened in return by his political genius and sagacity, as well as frequently charmed and won over to his convictions by the eloquence which he retained, directed, and approved. Mr. Walter was the prime author and the chief upholder of that celebrity and influence which The Times journal possesses. Though always ready to show the kindest and most flattering confidence in those whom he had trained to the honourable service, he never withdrew, even after he ceased to be ostensible manager, the aid of those counsels which they could not too highly appreciate. He may rightly, therefore, be considered the sole architect of the mighty fabric which is without a rival in its dignity and proportions, and the foundations of which are so deeply laid in the affections and esteems of the public as to defy all ordinary and probable vicissitudes and attacks.
But one achievement alone is sufficient to place Mr. Walter high in that list which the world, as it grows older and wiser, will more and more appreciate –
"Inventes aut qui vitam excoluere per artes.
He first brought the steam-engine to the assistance of the public press. Familiar as the discovery is now, there was a time when it seemed fraught with difficulties as great as those which Fulton has overcome on one element and Stephenson on another. To tale off 3,000 impressions in an hour was once as ridiculous a conception as to paddle a ship fifteen miles against wind and tide, or to drag in that time a train of carriages weighing a hundred tons fifty miles. Mr. Walter, who, without being a visionary, may be said to have thought nothing impossible that was useful and good, was early resolved that there should be no impossibility in printing by steam.
As a step in the progress of civilization, the steam press can only be compared to the original discovery of printing itself. Steam gave wings to the press, enlarging its powers to the scale of the world. It has enabled the metropolitan press to issue an adequate supply for all England even before the inhabitants of the metropolis itself have assembled at the breakfast table. By this potent aid we printed and circulated fifty thousand copies of our paper, containing Sir Robert Peel’s celebrated speech announcing the repeal of the Corn Laws, in the course of the following morning.
His devotion to the cause which by day and night engrossed his interest and his powers, and never allowed him the needful repose, probably cost Mr. Walter not only his ease and comfort, but his health and his life. He early perceived the dangerous character of the symptoms, which made their appearance rather more than a twelvemonth since. He was aware that his only chance was repose of body and mind. But private affairs of a peculiarly harassing and distressing character debarred him from that needful repose, and even entailed a serious increase of anxious occupation. In the extreme discomfort of his complaint, and the physical disability for business it occasioned, and not less in his comparative freedom during so many months from acute pain and mental prostrations, he thankfully and warmly recognized a providential opportunity for amending, as far as might be, the omissions of a life, the object to which his last and longest and ripest energies had been devoted.
Early in the progress of the complaint, which was a cancer in the face, Mr. Walter, for the sake of medical attendance, took up his abode at his residency at Printing-house-square, where, after many months of suffering, he expired on Wednesday, at a quarter before 2 o’clock a.m. in the 71st year of his age.
The Walter family memorial at Bearwood churchyard. The cross is inscribed with the name of John Walter II, and the stone to the left commemorates his first wife Elizabeth Anne, while the stone to the right is for his second wife Mary, who out-lived him by many years.
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