Introduction

George Burt
George Burt (2 October 1816 – 18 April 1894) was a public-works contractor and businessman from Swanage, England, who managed the construction company Mowlem, founded by his uncle John Mowlem. George's father was Robert (1788–1847), a stone merchant, whose stone and coal business was located in Swanage High Street. His mother was Letitia born Manwell (1786–1861), sister-in-law to John Mowlem who was working for Henry Westmacott, a well known sculptor-mason in London, at the time of George's birth. George had five siblings, Elizabeth Letitia (1818–1889), Robert Henry (1821–1876), Charles (1823-?), Francis Alfred (1825-?) and Susannah Ann, ’Susy’ (1829–1871).

George grew up in Swanage, on the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset. In 1835 at the age of 19 George Burt, moved to London to join Mowlem's business, becoming a partner in 1844 and managing the business after Mowlem's semi-retirement the following year. He married Elizabeth Hudson in 1841, and the couple had five children. Elizabeth Sophia (1843–1880), John Mowlem (1845–1894), Annie (1846–1918), Emma Rust (1849–1910) and George.

Upon taking over the Mowlem's company, Burt substantially expanded the firm's operations. In May 1851 the firm was 'very successful' in bidding for the London vestries' contracts — some for only hundreds of pounds— that provided nearly all the firm's work into the 1870s, earning it the nickname of London John. Work for ten major local authorities in the 1860s grossed an average of over £50,000 per annum. Surviving the lean years during the financial crisis of 1866-7, his company became a major public-works contractor and won the contract for Queen Victoria Street in the City of London (1869), followed by Billingsgate Market (1874-7), and the City of London School in 1880 on the new Victoria Embankment, amongst others.

Burt, like his uncle, maintained an interest in Swanage, establishing gas and waterworks, developing the Durlston estate, and lived in a large house called "Purbeck House", now a hotel, on the main street. He and his wife bought the house for £550 and lived in it for 17 years. The porch is made of white Cornish granite, the mosaic floor is copied from the pavement in Queen Victoria Street, London and some of the tiles are from the Palace of Westminster.

The Swanage suburb of Durlston was conceived of and developed by Burt. However it was never completed, part of the land originally intended for the development is now Durlston Country Park. Although, Durlston Castle with the associated Stone Globe was completed. He provided public access to the Tilly Whim caves but the access route had to be modified due to Sir J. C. Robinson's ban on public access over his land, much to Burt's consternation and annoyance.

Many architecturally interesting buildings and monuments were scavenged as a result of the company's construction work on prestigious projects in London, and re-erected by Burt in Swanage and Durlston. The 1670 the porch for the Mercers' Hall now adorns Swanage town hall, a clock tower commemorating the Duke of Wellington which once stood at the Southwark end of London Bridge is now a feature of Swanage seafront and many of Swanage's cast iron bollards were originally made for London boroughs, and still carry their names.

George Burt was buried at Kensal Green Cemetery. Control of the company passed to his descendants Sir John Mowlem Burt (1845–1918) and Sir George Mowlem Burt (1884–1964) 11.