John Edward Arthur Willis Fleming, D.L. J.P. 1871 - 1949
This death was announced at his home Ruinards, Ardgay, Ross-shire, Scotland on Friday 29th October aged 77 years after a heart attack. He was for many years a prominent island resident and owner of a large estate in the island, which included areas of Binstead, Havenstreet and Wootton. His death severs another link with the landed gentry that use to exist here; when he ceased to reside on the island he continued to visit his estates annually until two years ago when he moved to Scotland. For health reasons he had intended to spend this winter on the island at Bourne Cottage, Fishbourne, sadly it was not to be.
Wills Fleming’s father died when he was a child and he succeeded to the family estates when he became of age . On the island the Fleming estates had remained more or less constant since they came into the procession of the family through Sir Thomas Fleming who later became the Lord Chief Justice in the reign of Elizabeth [1533-1603] and was involved in the trial of Guy Fawkes. The estate included the ruins of Quarr Abbey, which had been bought on the dissolution of the monasteries by George Mills a Southampton merchant, in order to acquire the stone; his son later sold the estate to the Fleming’s. Sir Thomas son, Phillip was the M.P for Newport from 1623-28.
The direct line of the Fleming's became extinct in 1737 and the estate passed by marriage into the family of the then well known antiquary [antiques] Dr. Brown Willis and his successors assumed the name of Fleming. In addition to the land they owned on the island the family had extensive estates around Southampton.
On the island the Fleming estates comprised about 3000 acres and extended from Binstead to near Upton, over Arreton Down to Heasley. Then across the north of Arreton to Down End and on to the east side of Wootton Creek. In all the estate contained about 20 farms and several smallholdings and with a few exceptions the whole of the land within the area described belong to the Fleming family. Two exceptions were Binstead House, which for some time was the family seat, and was then sold to the Col. R. Stephenson Clarke and Quarr Abbey estate, which was owned by the Cochrane family. When the monks rebuilt Quarr Abbey, the farm and ruins were sold back to them. The chief family seat was North Stoneham Park, near Southampton but Willis Fleming never lived there and the property demolished prior to his death.
In 1911 Willis Fleming built Puck House near Cothey Butts, [and the house is still in existence]. A large timber built property using oak from trees cut on the estate, the large roof took 20 wagon loads of straw to thatch. The grounds were laid out especially for their children, and included areas called “Puck’s Peep, Puck’s Garden and Puck’s Parlour” Unfortunately the house was partly destroyed by fire in the early days of World War One, it has been rebuilt, it ceased to be the family home. The family moved to Binstead House around 1926 living there until the property was sold in 1933 and then they moved to Southampton.
Willis Fleming was a lover of horses and field sports; in 1919 he became the Master of the Isle of Wight Foxhounds and moved the hounds to Cothey Butt where they remained until the property was sold in 1933. It was during this period that Col. House of Gosport became joint master of the hounds, eventually marrying Willis Fleming’s daughter.
When he first came to the island Willis Fleming owned a four-horse coach, which he drove himself, with his groom Harry Pearce as guard, he was also interested in horse breeding. He was an excellent shot and an invitations to his pre-Christmas five day shooting parties were much sought after, when as many as twenty guns could be there with a similar number of beaters. He also ensured that during the First World War, his estates were not depleted of timber.
He was a person of conservative tastes and sought to keep many of the old “Squire” customs alive. He would attend the annual estate audit, which was generally held at the Fleming Arms, Binstead or the Hare and Hounds. Accompanied by his estate agents he would spend the day receiving rents from his tenants and inquiring how they were and the how farms were progressing. Afterwards they would all have a substantial lunch provided by him at which many toasts were made including the “Squire and his agents”.
Willis Fleming liking for the past was illustrated by his refusal to us the motorcar until a few years ago, he also attended regularly Binstead Parish Church with his wife, children and members of his staff. They would walk the two-mile walk from Puck House through Quarr Copse.
During the First World War he lost his second son Richard age 20, who was killed by a stray shell whilst on active service in Egypt [see article below]. Willis Fleming had a monument erected built like a chantry chapel to his son’s memory and the fallen of Binstead and Havenstreet On the anniversary of his son’s death the Rector of Binstead would conduct a service and the Fleming family would attend together with relatives of the fallen. This shrine can still be seen on a hillock at the entrance to Havenstreet, but the custom ceased when the family left the island. Puck House became the residence of his daughter, Mrs Simmons who with her husband and family, later emigrated to Australia.
Note:- Prior to her marriage, Mrs Willis Fleming was the daughter of Admiral Augustus Phillimore.
A handsome war shrine has been erected at the top of Coppid Hall by Mr & Mrs Willis Fleming in memory of their son killed in Egypt, and also of those belonging to Havenstreet and Binstead who have fallen in the war. The building, which is of stone from the Fleming quarries, consists of three compartments. The centre is an alter and crucifix on either side of which have temporarily *fixed names of those who have made the supreme sacrifice. The compartments on either side are intended for prayer, and are enclosed with oak doors, while the centre gate consists of handsome iron scroll work. The Bishop of Southampton in the presence of Mr & Mrs Fleming and others dedicated the shrine on Sunday afternoon 30th June.
A plaque has been fitted to the above shrine baring the words:-
To the glory of god and to the dearly loved memory of their son Richard Thomas Cyril, 2nd Lt. 14 Battery R.H.A. Born 3rd Aug 1896, killed in action at the Battle of Romani, Egypt, 14th 1916. and to the memory of those from the parish of Havenstreet and Binstead who also laid down their lives in the Great War 1914-18, this shrine is dedicated by John and Violet Willis Fleming of Binstead House.
Isle of Wight County Press, 6th November 1949.
Isle of Wight County Press, 6th July 1918
See also article under Havenstreet