Much of the material in the archives here at Downside Abbey belonged to members of the monastic community and gives us an insight into the life of Catholic monks over the last two hundred years. 

However, some collections contain items which belonged to relatives of the monks and are of a completely different nature and allow us to look at other aspects of society. The autograph books of Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon VC are two such items. 

Admiral Salmon’s grandson was Dom Martin Salmon (1920-1996) and the material forms part of his archives. Two books contain signatures of various notable people from the late 19th and early twentieth centuries. Indeed, most of the first book is a who’s who of British naval figures from the period. This is not surprising given Admiral Salmon’s standing in the navy as Queen Victoria’s naval aide and the first naval recipient of the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny. 

Some of the names featured include Admiral John Arbuthnott Fisher who is seen as an innovator and reformer of the late 19th century Royal Navy, Admiral Sir John Michael de Robeck who commanded naval forces at Gallipoli, Admiral Sir William Reginald Hall who intercepted Roger Casement as he went to Ireland for the Easter Rising and Admiral Cecil Spencer Hickley who was Captain of Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert and also played cricket for Somerset.

As well as key figures in the Royal Navy there are also royal dignitaries from various countries including King George V when he was Prince of Wales, Queen Mary, Constantine Duke of Sparta and later King of Greece, Prince Henry of Prussia, King Chulalonkorn of Siam and Maha Vajiravudh, also King of Siam. 

This is only the first book, the second has yet to be researched so watch this space for further developments! 

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