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Grantham Civic Society Column: Inman family has a place in our history

John Inman Senior.
John Inman Senior.

Rev James Williams Inman was born in Portsea in Hampshire in 1810.

He was the headmaster of Grantham Grammar School from 1838 to 1858.

He was the eldest son of Rev James Inman, who was Astronomer on HMS Investigator under Captain Matthew Flinders charting Australian waters in 1803-4.

His father was also Professor of Nautical Mathematics at the Royal Naval College, where in 1821 he published Navigation and Nautical Astronomy for Seamen. These nautical tables were the standard work and remained in use until well into the twentieth century.

James’s mother was Mary Williams, daughter of the vicar of Oakham, and a descendant of the mother of Sir Isaac Newton through marriage.

James was educated at St Paul’s Portsmouth and Sherborne, before studying at Cambridge University, where he gained a BA and MA before becoming a fellow from 1836-1840.

He was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in 1831, then ordained as a deacon in Peterborough in 1835 and as a priest at Ely in 1836. He became curate of Broughton, Leicestershire, in 1835, before being appointed Headmaster of the Grammar School in 1837.

The Inmans had 11 children, including a son called Newton. James’s brother William’s son Henry also boarded with them, to be educated at the school.

‘Jockey Inman,’ as the boys called him, worked hard to raise the standards of the school, but was only partially successful. Towards the end of Inman’s tenure of office, a boy named Payne amused himself one Sunday morning by pouring water on the heads of the people who were going home from church. Inman spent most of the afternoon caning him, and that night the boy ran away. His father sued Inman for assault and received damages and naturally the reputation of the School suffered.

In 1858, he wrote a book called Orioma, the Reclaimer, a drama set in three parts, which was published in Grantham by S Ridge, Simpkin and Marshall. He left the school in 1858, and became the Headmaster of Pynsent’s School, Chudleigh, Devon from 1858-77. Rev and Mrs Inman left six of their sons behind, boarding in Grantham to continue their education.

In 1867, he edited and revised his father’s nautical tables, which long remained the standard work on the subject. He retired to Southsea and Deal and died on 25 January 1895, at Higham, Kent.

Through Mrs Inman’s family connection with Sir Isaac Newton, the latter’s prism came into the possession of the Inman family and was presented to the British Museum by the grandson of James Inman Senior.


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