Biography of Matthew Thomas Stevens (newspaper proprietor)
Many sources of information about Victorian Malvern can be found in Malvern library. Amongst those we have dipped into are Kelly's Trade Directories, Norman May's Guide to Malvern, and archived copies of the Malvern Advertiser and Malvern Gazette newspapers which can be viewed on microfilm.
Another publication, which we have only recently started to explore, is MT Steven's Annual Directory and Gazeteer of Malvern, which was published from about 1900 to 1933.
So who was MT Stevens, we wondered? It turns out that he was Matthew Thomas Stevens (1866 - 1944) the printer who founded the Malvern Gazette newpaper in 1898.
An article in the Malvern Gazette relates (ref 1):
The above report says MT Stevens founded the Gazette when he was 20, but in fact he was then 30 years old.
MT Stevens became a Freemason in 1905, and is listed on the website of Royds Lodge thus:
Two of Malvern's water doctors had also promoted newspapers; Ralph Grindrod Barnes is said to have started the 'Illustrated Malvern Advertiser, Visitors' List and General Weekly Newspaper' in 1855; it was published by H W Lamb, bookseller and stationer at the Royal Library (now the premises of Barclays Bank). Archives exist for the years 1855 - 1907.
James Manby Gully invested in the rival 'Malvern News' launched in 1860, published by W and J Berrows. Archives exist from 1903 - 1938.
The Malvern Gazette was the last to be launched, by MT Stevens in 1898.
MT Stevens was a printer. In addition to the Malvern Gazette, he published 'Stevens' Directory and Gazeteer' of Malvern annually between about 1900 and 1938, when he sold the business.
'Stevens' includes a residential directory, a street directory listing houses by order in road, and a telephone directory.
According to his obituary MT Stevens was the son of a Ceylon tea planter, but we think Matthew Thomas Stevens was born in London in 1866, the son of Alfred William Stevens (1834 - 1869) and Catherine or Catrina Alice Creaser. His father was an accountant and his paternal grandfather a green grocer.
He was baptized at All Saints, Worcester in 1867. We have found no family connection with Worcester, so wonder if his father had business in the city.
In 1869, MT Stevens father died in London, and his mother married second, at Manchester in 1874, Canadian agent, John Learmouth, by whom she had a daughter; she died in 1878.
In 1871 MT Stevens was recorded as a nurse child, aged 5, living in the home of William and Sarah Sayers at Powick - we don't know where his mother was.
The 1881 census recorded MT Stevens, aged 14, as a page, one of four servants, in the household of widow, Lydia Wodehouse, at Ham Hall House, Powick.
MT Stevens' obituary relates that he got a job as a reporter with the Malvern News and then, about 1887, helped by friends, bought a bankrupt printing business.
The 1891 census recorded MT Stevens as a printer visiting the home of boot manufacturer Thomas Hewins in Great Colmore Street, Birmingham. With him was Amy Bridgewater, daughter of bootmaker Henry Bridgewater of North Malvern who had died in 1886; in 1881 Henry had been employing 3 men.
Matthew Thomas Stevens and Amy Mary Jane Bridgewater married at Holy Trinity, North Malvern, in 1893 They lived at Westeria in Zetland Road, not far from Amy's mother who in 1911 was living at the Old Post Office, North Malvern.
Matthew's wife Amy died in 1923, and he married second at Great Malvern Priory in 1929, Stella Eugenie Wade, whose mother latterly lived in Georgetown, British Guiana.
Newspaper proprietor Matthew Thomas Stevens latterly of 6 Promenade Flats, Queens Drive, Great Malvern died on 21st February 1944 aged 77 years, and is buried in Great Malvern cemetery.
If we have it right, Matthew had an elder brother Alfred Henry Charles Stevens who joined the Royal Navy in 1875 aged 18 years. He served on many ships and shore establishments, and latterly worked on railway boats connecting Portsmouth with the Isle of Wight. He married and had four children.
Malvern Gazette, Saturday 26th February 1944
Death of Mr M T Stevens
Founder of the 'Malvern Gazette'
It is with regret that we record the death on Monday of Mr Matthew Thomas Stevens, of 6 Queen's Drive Malvern.
He had been in failing health for some time.
Born in London 77 years ago, the son of a Ceylon tea-planter. Mr Steven's boyhood days were spent at Powick in the family of Mr and Mrs Sayers, father and step-mother of the late Chairman of the Malvern Urban Council, Mr W Sayers.
He became a reporter on the old 'Malvern News' and was later transferred to the 'Worcester Daily Times'.
At the age of 20, with the help of friends, he acquired a small bankrupt printing business in Malvern, which at that time carried on at what was known as Haynes' Music Salon. Later he transferred the business to Church Street, where he launched the Gazette in 1898, and saw its influence grow rapidly.
In 1938 the Gazette was acquired by Messrs George and William Berrows Ltd, who later disposed of the general printing side of the business to Ebeneezer Baylis and Son Ltd of Worcester. Mr Stevens continued up to his death to take a keen but unofficial interest in the progress of the concern, which still bears his name. He would visit the office almost daily, and was always ready with advice for those who had succeeded him in control.
For 25 years Mr Stevens was lessee, and later managing director, of the old Assembly Rooms Company, and he brought to Malvern many great personalities of the concert platform, also leading touring companies, and famous lecturers, including Mr Winston Churchill, Capt Scott, Sir Ernest Shackleton, and many others.
He founded the Malvern Shakespeare Festival, which under the direction of Mr (later Sir) Frank Benson was for 25 years the leading theatrical event in the county. With the coming of pictures, Mr Stevens advocated the erection of the Picture House.
Always interested in the Malvern hospital, he did much for its welfare through the 'Gazette'. A Shilling Fund realised 1,000 guineas, and the egg weeks used to bring in an average of 10,000 weekly.
He never sought Council honours, although approached several times to do so, preferring as a newspaper man to remain independent.
Mr Stevens was one of the founders of Manor Park; in fact it was owing to his suggestion that the late Sir H Foley Grey placed the Sling Meadow at the disposal of the committee. Mr Stevens was Chairman of the Management Committee.
He was a well known Freemason, and was for the last two years during the last war, Worshipful Master of Royds Lodge, and about ten years ago he was appointed Provincial Grand Senior Warden of the Province of Worcestershire. He was a sidesman at the Priory Church.
Through the medium of the 'Gazette', and his own personal efforts, Mr Stevens did much for Malvern, and by his death the town has lost one who had been a very real public servant. To the many societies that exist for helping others he was always a sympathetic friend doing all he could by his influence to forward the cause for which these societies stood. MT as he was usually known, had many friends in all ranks of life, and his death has caused widespread sorrow.
He was twice married. His first wife was Miss Amy Bridgewater, of North Malvern, and his second, whom he married in 1929, Miss Stella Wade, contributor to the 'Gazette' of Suede's Note Book.
There was a large attendance at the funeral service at the Priory Church on Thursday which preceded the interment at Malvern cemetery.
Members of Royds Lodge of Freemasons formed a guard of honour at the entrance to the church.
The Vicar of Malvern (the Rev HHM Bartleet) officiated, assisted by the Rev F A Evelyn and the Rev F R D Kennedy. The lesson was read by the Rev HJ Feiensener (Vicar of Christ Church and a member of Royds Lodge).
The choir was in attendance and Psalm 23, 'The Lord is my shepherd', was chanted. The hymns were 'O God our help in ages past', and 'Abide with me'. As the cortege left the church the 'Nunc Dimittis' was chanted.
Dr LA Hamand was the organist and before the service played 'Jesu, joy of man's desiring' and at the end 'O rest in the Lord' (Mendelssohn).
There then followed a long list of people who attended the funeral skip
Mrs Stevens was accompanied by Capt Roy Limbert.
Members of the Royds Lodge of Freemasons who attended were,
Messrs DV Hall, WM; EL Stockall IPM; AEBaylis PAGDC Eng PPGW; LB Morgan PPG Std Br; H Hillyard PPG Std Br; CHL Thompson PPAGDC; EDWootten PP Asst G Sec; RF Brer PPGP; SG Campion PPAGDC; AF Evans Prov AGP; AL Macvitie; H Hayes; CR Davis; AL Sutcliffe MD PPG Reg OM 4004; H Phillips; TH Jones; J Bulman; CT Scourfield; ED Bowman; WC Walters; JH Sutcliffe; F Rimmer; LHC Batt.
Mr WC Smith PPG Supt Wks (Hereford) was also present. *Others who attended were Mr WH Grundy (Chairman of Malvern Urban Council). Police Supt W Adams, Councillor T Cook, Mrs Ivor Griffiths (also representing Mr Ivor Griffiths) and Miss Griffiths, Mrs Bartleet, Dr and Mrs G Mackie, Mr and Mrs A Weston Priestley, Mr WH Marshall, Mr WA Churchill, Mr GH Solomon, Mr and Mrs R Bartleet, Mrs Summers (also representing Mr G Summers). Mr A Allsebrook, Mr and Mrs Severnn Storr, Miss Day (representing WRVS), Mayor WJC Kendall (also representing Manor Park Club and Malvern Open Lawn Tennis Tournament Committee).
Mr JW Collins and Mr AG Noond (also representing the directors and staff of George Williams and Berrows ltd, publishers of the Malvern Gazette). Mr HAE Pearce (representing Mr Russell Baylis, MT Stevens Ltd). The staff of MT Stevens Ltd were represented by Mr EW Hammond, Mr TH Pullen, Mr AE Langfield, Mr FP Hickling, Mrs Williams and Mrs KM Collins.
Mrs AG Noond, Mrs Stowell, Miss Ackerman, Miss Grundy, Miss J Todd, Mrs Hill-Harriss, Mrs AW Davis (also representing Mr Davis), Mr AJ Weller, Mr and Mrs F Lucas, Mrs A Bott, Mrs WH Lewis (also representing Mr Lewis), Miss M Doughty, Miss Leather, Miss L Darby, and Miss Darby, Mr JE Trapnell, Miss A Jones, Miss S Davison, Mr SR Cossey, Mr and Mrs AG Potter (London), Mr SW Ridont (WH Smith and Sons), Mrs Howard, Mr HT Trigg, Mr JH Russell, Mrs E Kain, Miss Kent (representing Mrs Sayers). Miss S Richards (representing Mrs Lee), Miss Draper, Mrs FKR Davis, Mr A Harrison (representing Malvern Hospital Committee), Mr H Bridgewater, Mr and Mrs Steynor, Miss Cooper, Mr RA Ker (representing Malvern College and St Werstan Lodge), Mr JH Tooley, Mr FH Fincher (also representing Messrs Tipping and Morris), Mrs King (also representing Miss Joyce King).
Mrs WG Lee, Mrs H Gwynn, Mr S Lambert, Miss Jones, Mr G Downes, Miss Lambert, Mrs J Taylor, Mr and Mrs SJ Allen (representing George Smith and Co), Mrs EA Wilson, Mrs V Goode, Mr J Nott, Mr AC Nott, Mr Edgar Scott (Lloyds Bank), Mrs AL Doran (also representing Mrs Doorbar), Mr and Mrs WH Stapleton, MR C Williams, Mr and Mrs WT Best, Mrs Brentnall, Mr TE Stokes, Miss Owen, Mr AH Weller.
Malvern Chamber of Commerce was represented by Mr ED Bowman.
Apologies were received from Mrs Cyril Hewens, Leeds (Niece), Miss Severn Burrow, Councillor and Mrs E Layton, Mr WG lee, Mrs Palmer, Mr and Mrs WH Jones and family, Mr and Mrs Hardie, and also the following members of Royds Lodge of Freemasons: Wor Bros FW Ford, HL Morris, HE Doughty and Bro AH Barclay.
(note: Mrs Cyril Hewens was Joyce Bridgewater, the niece of MT Stevens' wife Amy).
A wreath from the widow bore the inscription, Fragrant memories – with all my love Stella. Other wreaths were received from Dorrie; Mr and Mrs Walter Phillips, Georgetown British Guiana; Stella's mother Georgetown; Roy Limbert; Earl and Countess Beauchamp; Mr and Mrs Dyson Perrins; directors and staff of MT Stevens Ltd; directors and staff of 'The Malvern Gazette' and associated newspapers; Manor Park Club; Malvern Sports Committee; Mr and Mrs Ivor Griffiths; Mr and Mrs Macvitie; Vera Rowe; etc.
The passing of Mr MT Stevens will cause deep regret among his wide circle of friends, especially to those who can recall the main incidents of his earlier life and work in Malvern. For nearly fifty years he had been one of the most active and prominent of its citizens, exercising a potent influence on its public and social life, and by his personal charm and lovable qualities winning an outstanding popularity. In many respects he was a typical Englishman of the best type – broadminded, frank, reliable, genial and generous, helpful in emergencies, a good neighbour, and a faithful friend. In business life he was enterprising, energetic, and highly principled. The well merited success of 'The Malvern Gazette' which he inaugurated in 1898, testified to his business acumen, and his high ideals of what a journal should be.
But business cares did not absorb all Mr Stevens energies. He was interested in all forward movements of the town, and by his voice and pen gave enthusiastic support to everything that promoted the well-being and prosperity of Malvern. For instance, it may be recalled that through the medium of 'The Gazette', a shilling fund raised 1,000 guineas to help the finances of the Malvern hospital in which for many years he took a keen interest. He was a staunch Churchman, and regularly attended the Priory Church, but he was tolerant and appreciative of all denominations, and sympathetic towards all religious and philanthropic causes.
Mr Stevens encouraged all healthy sport and games. At one time he was an ardent croquet player, and occasionally demonstrated his skill in the Manor Park tournaments. He was always a willing helper in social entertainments, and probably some will recall him as an ideal Santa Claus – a role in which he was specially happy – entering into this and other Christmas gaieties with the frolicsome spirit of a boy.
He did not often speak on public platforms, but as a frequent after dinner speaker he was unrivalled in Malvern. When 'Stevens was up' his eager listeners greatly enjoyed his sallies, and realised the diversity of his gifts – his fluent, clear diction, his practical ideas, and persuasive eloquence, and his keen sense of humour, for he always had a fund of amusing stories with which to enliven and drive home his points. These characteristics were enhanced by his rich musical voice. Americans who heard and conversed with him were particularly impressed and fascinated by it. One of them, an eminent professor of music, declared that if Mr Stevens would visit America - say on a lecturing tour – his lovely speaking voice would ensure him enthusiastic audiences, especially of women!
Malvern people will not soon forget his gracious personality. They will remember with gratitude his unselfish services to the town, and his many private personal kindnesses, some of which will keep his memory green for many years to come.
If you can add to this story do please get in touch.
Last updated 19th November 2016