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Mr John "Tom" Simson was a retired Lloyds underwriter, and moved to Canal Walk in the 1970s. He was a keen artist, and as well as the painting he placed on the wall of his garage in Canal Walk, he most notably painted the three pictures purchased by the Town and Manor in 1984, and hung on the wall of the Corn Exchange:

1. "St Lawrence offering the poor and needy to the Church instead of gold"

2. "John of Gaunt presenting his charter to the Town and Manor of Hungerford"

3. "John Rennie being welcomed by the Constable of Hungerford at the opening of the Kennet and Avon Canal from Kintbury to Hungerford"

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The following article is adapted from text kindly provided by Dr James "Jimmy" Whittaker, Dec 2017:

If you walked across the canal bridge in the early 1980s and looked west towards No 1 Canal Walk, you would have seen a painting on the side of a garage which had been painted there by John “Tom” Simson. The painting depicted Tutti Day celebrations taking place in the Market Place just in front of the town hall.

His paintings in the Town Hall have been well documented on the Hungerford Virtual Museum website but what about the man himself.

Once again, the grave of this fellow was found in St. Saviour’s Churchyard in Hungerford, bearing the following inscription:

John Adhemar Simson 1908-1986

Beneath is an inscription to his wife:

Ursula Wyndham Simson 1910-1973

A middle name of Adhemar gets one thinking straight away about its origins.

JDS was born on 10 Feb 1908 in Eltham, South London, the son of Percival Simson and Isabell Maud Jackson. It was once a fashion for children to bear the mother’s maiden name as a middle name but this was not the case. Incidentally, his mother was born in St. Cloud France.

The census of 1911 reveals that JAS had two sisters – Rosamund Mary (b.1910) and Annette Helen (b.1880).

What is interesting is his father’s middle name of “Arbuthnot” and the fact that his father employed a nurse and two foreign servants to look after the family. The inference is that his father was quite well-to-do to be able to employ three people. Percival was an insurance broker as was his grandfather, Hermann Simson, also quite a wealthy man since he too employed three servants.

The name of Arbuthnot comes from Percival’s mother’s name, Alice Arbuthnot Thurn. JAS did not inherit this middle name either.

The next stage in this investigation was to examine names associated with his grandfather, Herman Simson. Herman was born in 1843 in Streatham, South London and was the son of John Simson and Jenny Anna.

Now this is where things become interesting. Lo and behold, Jenny Anna was born in Antwerp, Belgium and her surname was Azemar which in my opinion, may have been interpreted as Adhemar, taking into consideration pronunciation and translation.

Interesting also is that JAS’ great grandfather, John Frederick Simson, was born in Riga, Latvia in 1798 but classified as a British subject and was a consul for Baden and general merchant living in London. He also must have been quite wealthy since he supported a wife, 8 sons and 3 servants.

War Service:

JAS was part of the RNVR and served from 27 Oct 1939 throughout WW2. His service was “mentioned in dispatches”, which meant that he was a member of the army forces whose name appeared in an official report written by a superior praising gallant or meritious action in the face of the enemy.

In my opinion, this is easily believable when we learn that JAS was working on mine sweepers during active service. He served on the following vessels:
- HMT Lord Grey M/S, 3 Sep 1940.
- HMS Lord Melchett (FY 672). MS Trawler,15 Jan 1941 to 4 Apr 1941.
- HMS MMS 22 (J 522). Motor Mine sweeper, 25 Jun 1944 to late 1945.

Decorations:

- 3 Sep 1940: JAS was awarded a Distinguished Service Cross, a third level military decoration awarded to officers.

- John “Tom” Simson was awarded his DSC for bravery, skill and enterprise in minesweeping operations off the coasts of Holland, Belgium and France.

- On 13 Sep 1945 he was awarded a bar to his DSC in further recognition of acts of gallantry.

Up until around 1966, JAS was living and working in the City of London as an underwriter for Lloyds, when he moved with his wife to Marlborough.

JAS married Ursula Wyndham Hughes in 1937 in Marlborough which would explain his connection with that town. It seems that John and his wife carried on the family tradition by naming their son John Wyndham Simson, Wyndham being the Christian name of her grandfather Wyndham Hope Hughes.

So, going back to John Simson’s baptised middle name, it seems that history continued to repeat itself. Both of their children were born in Marlborough during the war: John Wyndham Simson, b.1942, and Ester Mary Simson, b.1945.

Several questions still remain. Why was JAS called “Tom”, what was the origin of his artistic talents and what were the circumstances leading to his “Hungerford” artworks? Indeed, as a Marlborough resident, did he also honour that town with his work? Did he sell anything commercially or was this just a pastime. So many intriguing questions still to be answered!

See also:

- Hungerford Characters