John Burman (1889-1955)

One of Solihull’s most notable historians, John Burman, was born in Eccles, Greater Manchester on 19th March 1889 and was the eldest of the four children of parents Edwin Guest Burman (1855-1920) and Gertrude Mary Wood (1866-1950). Edwin had been born in West Bromwich but moved to Lancashire c.1881.

John Burnam
John Burman

John became a banker and married Mary Wallace (1891-1977), daughter of the Rev. W. J. Wallace, Rector of Templecrone, co. Donegal, in Lancashire in 1920. Their two sons – John Insull Burman (1922-1981) and William Guest Burman (1926-2019) – were also born in Lancashire.

In 1927, having retired early from banking, John Burman moved with his family to Warwickshire, a county with which the Burman family had associations dating back more than 500 years.

The family initially lived in Stratford-upon-Avon before moving to Warwick, then Tanworth-in-Arden, Shirley and, finally, Solihull. By September 1939 they were living at “Greenfields,” no. 6, Hampton Lane, Solihull, where they remained until 1955.

Having retired early from banking, John Burman took on the task of local historian, which earned him the award of Fellowship of the Royal Historical Society. His books include:

  • The Story of Tanworth in Arden (1930)
  • Gleanings from Warwickshire History (1933)
  • Old Warwickshire families and houses (1934)
  • Solihull and its School (1939)
  • The Burman Chronicle: story of a Warwickshire family (1940)
  • In the Forest of Arden (1948)

John Burman was also active in the public life of the district. He was a former member of Solihull Urban Council and a justice of the peace. He had been chairman of the Tanworth Association for the Prosecution of Felons. He became a Governor of Solihull School in 1937 and was chairman from 1942-49.

When steps were taken shortly after the Second World War to preserve the old Manor House in Solihull High Street, he became the chairman of the committee to raise funds for the purpose. In the first World War he served as an infantry officer.

He was also president of the Solihull Conservative Divisional Association from 1950-54. He was the first chairman of Shirley branch of the British Legion, holding office from 1933-45, and later became president of the branch. He was also a life member of the national organisation of the British Legion. He was a founder-member of the Solihull Rotary Club and became the first honorary Literary Director of Solihull Society of Arts in 1944.

John Burman died, aged 65, at home in Hampton Lane on 16th February 1955, having been in ill-health for some time. He died just five days after his second grandson, Richard, was born in Petts Wood, Kent.

John’s funeral took place at St Alphege Church and was attended by about 80 family members and local dignitaries. His ashes were buried at St Mary’s Church, Tanworth-in-Arden. His wife died in 1977 and her remains were interred with those of her husband.

Fellow historian, Mr R. Charles Lines paid tribute to John Burman, describing him in an obituary in the Birmingham Daily Post, 16th February 1955 as fine historian as well as “a man of innate modesty… and many and varied interests.” He said:

All who knew him, his quiet humour and dignity, integrity, almost obstinate love of the past, and very real kindness, will mourn the passing of a true friend and great English gentleman.

The family home, “Greenfields,” was advertised for sale in June 1955 and John’s widow, Mary, moved to Whitstable, Kent. Her son, John Insull Burman, seems to have lived in Kent following his marriage in London in 1950. He died in Canterbury in 1981. His brother, William Guest Burman, died in Surrey in January 2019, aged 92.

If you have any further information, please let us know.

Heritage & Local Studies Librarian

© Solihull Council, 2021.
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