John Mowlem
John Mowlem could be described as Swanage’s own ‘Dick Whittington’. He left Swanage in 1807 as a stone mason, by 1822 he had became a self employed stone merchant, at Pimlico Basin, London and later made his fortune in Victorian London. Mowlem and his wife had no children – he took his wife’s nephew, George Burt, into his business in 1835. Burt became a partner in 1844 together with his brother-in-law Joseph Freeman.

The company's fortunes improved after the financial crisis of 1866-7 that brought down many great speculative contractors left Mowlems unimpeded, so that they were able to enter the list of major public-works contractors, landing one of the biggest contracts then offered, for building Queen Victoria Street in the City (1869). Their new status was secured by rebuilding Billingsgate Market (1874-7). They played a leading role in London, notably the City of London School in 1880 (on the new Victoria Embankment), Smithfield fruit market in 1882, the Imperial Institute in 1887, as well as major sewerage and railway works. Collecting relics of old London, often from his firm's own demolitions, Burt re-erected many in Swanage, notably the porch for the post-fire Mercers' Hall, now adorning the town hall. The firm John Mowlem & Co would go on to be an internationally known company 10 .