1896; Tragedy at Upwey mill, Weymouth.

One of the prettiest little villages on the outskirts of Weymouth is Upwey.

As you drive into the meandering village, the houses and buildings nestle themselves down into a  wooded valley, and in the middle of this is where the tall building of the Upwey mill sits, fed by the river Wey which springs out of the ground a little further up the valley at the famous Upwey Wishing Well.

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The stone mill was originally constructed in 1802, replacing an earlier building that was listed in the  records. It is also claimed that this mill is the one that famous local author, Thomas Hardy wrote about in his novel The Trumpet Major.

The little valley personifies peace and tranquility, not much to break the silence apart from nature, the babbling river and the birds singing in the woods above.

But in 1896 that peace was shattered with heart rending howls of despair.

The mill was a busy place then. Owned by local man Alfred Loveless, and in his employ was 40 year old Robert Scutt, a  miller who had been born in Sutton Poyntz, a village on the other side of Weymouth. Robert and his wife Hannah moved to Upwey when Robert obtained a job working for Alfred, they lived with their family in one of the cottages in Elwell Street.

One Wednesday in August Robert’s son, 13 year-old George was out playing happily with his best friend Harry Symonds near the mill.

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The two lads, becoming bored with playing outside, entered the mill, and went to explore. Now, they had already been shooed out of the mill a couple of weeks previous by the owner, this was no place for children! But, boys, being, well… I guess, boys, the sense of adventure overruled the fear of being caught and punished.

The two lads climbed the rickety wooden stairs up to the third floor, noise and dust echoed around the room, they could hear the  huge water wheel turning the giant cogs and machinery, water splashing and churning below. Curiosity getting the better of little George he stood on tiptoe and peered over the boards to the rapidly revolving wheel below. Pulling himself up on the boards to get a better view, he teetered for a moment on the edge, then loosing his balance, his body pitched head first down towards the wheel pit. His friend Harry just stood in shocked silence at first…then in fear for his friends life he ran down the stairs as fast as he could to get help.

George’s father, Robert was stood down below in the yard at the time, when the wheel suddenly ceased to work…all very odd. He hastily raced into the mill, and headed for the stairs, worried which piece of the machinery had failed to stop the wheel working like that.

Here he met a hysterical Harry, who managed to tell him of the horrific disaster had happened to his son. Robert raced up those stairs and peered frantically over the boards, what met his eyes was a parents worst nightmare, below was the mangled remains of his son jammed in the giant wheel.

Shouting in desperation to the other men out in the yard to ‘stop the water…stop the water’!

But it was to no avail, the shocking damage had been done!

One of his fellow workmates appeared by his side, and the two men clambered down to retrieve what remained of George’s broken body.

By the time that the local doctor arrived on the scene,  Dr Pridham, there was obviously nothing he could do to help.

He describes how George’s body was laid on the mill floor, his intestines spread out across the area. He only had one arm still attached to his torso, the other dismembered limbs lay scattered around.

How does a human being cope with something like that, let alone a parent?

At the inquest held at The Mill house, a verdict of “Death my misadventure ” was given.

Robert and Hannah buried the remains of their son George in the little church yard in Upwey on the 23rd August.

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Their lives would never be the same again…how could they?

It must have had a traumatic impact on the mill owners life too, by the time of the next census he has changed businesses altogether, he working in the lime and stone industry, no mention of mills at all.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
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https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/upwey.html (Upwey Local History)

http://www.thedorsetpage.com/locations/Place/U050.htm (The Dorset Page)

http://www.opcdorset.org/Broadwey-Upwey.Files/Broadwey-Upwey.htm (Dorset OPC. Broadway and Upwey)

1864; Sutton Poyntz and wedding celebrations.

The surrounding areas to Weymouth were and still are prime farm land, and as such they had been worked throughout the centuries.

In the Victorian era, and of course before even then, rural life was very much divided into 2 groups. You had those who had the lot… land, money and prestige…and then those who had very little! The harshness of the life of a simple farm labourer and his family often depended on how well his boss and often landlord, treated them.

Such was the case for the village of Sutton Poyntz.

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John Allen Pope, along with his wife Mary were the proud owners of Sutton Farm, (part of the vast Weld estate) working a total of 1950 acres of land in and a round Sutton Poyntz, which pretty much covered the whole area. The wealthy couple  had a large family, 7 sons and 4 daughters.

On the 9th June 1864 the bells of the village church in Preston rang out their joyful peals.

Their notes of merry ringing carried down through the valley, they marked the marriage of two of John and Mary’s daughters.

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Charlotte, aged 22 was being wed to 25-year-old Thomas Hill, a gentleman, whose parents worked Came farm, and 27-year-old Harriet was marrying another Winterbourne Came resident and gentleman farmer , 37-year-old William Frank Ellis. Rather oddly, the banns for Harriet and Williams marriage had been called over a year earlier in the parish of Winterbourne Came.

This was to be  a day of joy and fun for the farm labourers too, they were not to be left out of  the families plans for the happy celebrations. Nearly 90 workers and their families were invited to the farm to raise a glass to the happy couples. At five o’clock they all sat down to a real feast, and afterwards one and all were treated to what was euphemistically referred to as ‘strong beer’ , and for those that smoked a pipe, it was tobacco all round. Of course, no country wedding, rich or poor,  would have been without it’s stirring music and dancing. The youngsters, and probably more of the mature revellers enjoyed the lively musical entertainment, many going on to have “tripped the light fantastic toe.” 

The family and the labourers celebrated side by side, the two newly married daughters mingling with one and all at their wedding feast day, it appears that a great deal respect was mutual on both sides of the divide.

Festivities went on until darkness fell, when one by one the families staggered their way home to their cottages, filled with good food, ale and great cheer.

Both women, along with their husbands were destined to leave for pastures new, a life in South Africa.

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If the name Pope rings a bell, that’s for a very good reason.

Two of John and Mary’s sons brought into an established  Dorchester brewery, which at the time was named  Eldridge, Mason & Co, soon to be renamed Eldridge Pope. A decade or so later, the brothers purchased the site neat to the station at Dorchester, which became the large brewery that was familiar to one and all. The overpowering aroma of the hops in the air would be unmistakable as you climbed down from the train.

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 © Copyright Dr Neil Clifton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Alas, that giant of a local brewery now gone, the

buildings redeveloped into luxury apartments, a cinema, shops and restaurants.

Such is life!

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
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http://suttonpoyntz.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=285&Itemid=715

http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/sutton-poyntz.html

Aside

The railway finally rolled into the seaside resort of Weymouth in the year 1857.

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Anyone who’s travelled the Weymouth line knows of the long Bincombe cutting and tunnel that burrows under the Bincombe chalk downs.

As a child it was always with a sense of excitement that we would approach this tunnel…as the line began to dip down into the deep cutting, so you knew you were nearer to the moment when daylight would be suddenly snuffed out, ears popped, nothing but blackness and the reflections in the windows of your fellow travellers, you would watch with baited breath for the light to start to creep back when you were coming near the end. (We had very simple pleasures in those days !)

For one young man in the Victorian period the Bincombe tunnel had another sinister meaning altogether.

Sidney Watts was a 24-year old man who’d been born in Frome, Somerset. At a fairly young age he saw an exciting future in working for the developing railways and began to work for the Great Western Company. At first he moved to Yeovil where he worked the station there as a porter.

train 2

Sidney soon earned promotion within the company. From the start of May that 1883 he was now in the responsible job as a signal box man, in charge of the tall, bulky levers that would operate the signals and lines that ran in and out of Weymouth.

On Wednesday the 8th August, Sidney walked from his home in the village of Upwey to work. He was due to start a 12 hour overnight shift in the box. All was quiet that night, and at 7 o’clock the following morning his fellow workmate, Francis Chalker climbed up into the box and greeted Sidney. The men exchanged a few pleasantries, then leaving Francis in charge, Sidney climbed wearily down the wooden steps and started to make his way along the trackside towards the tunnel, he was looking forwards to getting home, having something to eat…and bed! As he was half way towards the tunnel the 7.20 train from Weymouth passed the tired man as he trudged his way home.

That was the last Francis ever saw of Sidney!

The next morning, James Guppy was on his way to work as a packers man on the Weymouth line. As was his usual routine he made his way through the Bincombe tunnel to join his gang of workmen. Part the way through the darkness, just as the pitch black was receding near the end, he came across some items laying on the trackways. As he neared them he realised that it was  basket, a little further on was an overcoat, then a pair of slippers. Fearing the worst, James looked up, and in the distance, towards the light, he could make out the shape of a body lying besides the track.

Running back towards the signal box, he told Francis of the gruesome remains he’d discovered in the tunnel, a telegraph was sent at once to the station master in Upwey, and the police were called for.

When they finally retrieved the mutilated body, it was discovered to be that of the young signal box man, Sidney Watts.

As he had been making his way home through the tunnel early that morning, the 7.37 Great Western goods train had also been passing through, and for whatever reason, Sidney had not been paying attention as closely as he should to his safety while besides the line, the train had hit him hard, and as the reporter states his body was ‘terribly mangled.’

The following week an inquest was held at the Royal Standard Inn on the Dorchester to Weymouth road, where the coroner, Mr G Symonds, after hearing from the witnesses  declared that it was a clear case of ‘accidental death.’

Sidney’s remains were buried at Upwey church on the 11th August 1883.

1883; Weymouth and the Great Western railway. A signal-mans tale.

1864; Weymouth as a nudist resort…

It’s quite weird really, you always have this perception of Victorians as being prudes and covered from head to toe, less some signs of sinful bare flesh should reveal itself.

It wasn’t quite like that though…well at least for for the gentlemen!

In 1864 a letter was sent to the Times, part of which was printed in the local papers.

F.S. (who ever they were) wrote of their absolute disgust at the sights they witnessed while staying in Weymouth.

They comment upon the fact that at high tide the sea reaches right up to the promenade wall (not any more!) slap bang in front of the guest houses and the esplanade. What made it so intolerable was that men without a ‘rag of covering’ were permitted to wander around at any time of the day. It was no better than if they were permitted to wander the streets of the town stark naked!

Even when it was low tide, the men in all their natural glory had to wade for yards before they could enter their bathing machine.

I think what incensed the writer most was that despite this display of masculine nudity (or maybe because of it) the Esplanade appeared to be a favoured promenade for people of both sexes…and cuttingly remarks that ‘nor do the windows of the adjoining houses appear to me to be entirely deserted.’

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As the author of the letter was writing this very missive, they bemoaned the fact that another train was pulling in filled with ‘country people of all ages and sexes’ Asking that surely it wasn’t right that they should witness such debauched scenes.

What was interesting was that the year after this article appeared in the Times and the local papers, the very same very matter was brought before the members of the town council.

Mr Bartlett, who was the keeper of the bathing machines requested an amendment to the bylaws concerning the matter of men and nudity. They were politely requested to dress modestly after eight 0’clock in the morning. He said that despite there  already being a poster of the by laws in every bathing machine, and him having an ample supply of bathing drawers for the men to don before leaving the shelter of those machines, most men simply refused to wear a stitch when taking the waters, despite the fact that they could be prosecuted for not doing so.

This delicate matter seemed to bring a great deal of hilarity to the council committee, no end of quips shouted forth during the debate.

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Things didn’t seem to have changed much over the following years as further letters were written to the press on the matter in 1870, one from ‘an outraged spinster’ which was followed by a rather humorous and cutting reply in the form of a poem penned by ‘a blue eyed bachelor.’

I wonder what they would have made of today’s females in their bits of fabric just about held together with string.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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Weymouth 1873; Rub a dub dub, 3 men (not) in a tub….

Well, o.k. maybe the title is a bit lighthearted for such a tragedy, but when I read that it allegedly concerned 3 butchers assistants that the misfortune had befallen, a visual image immediately flashed in my mind of the popular nursery rhyme. Just put that down to my extremely warped sense of humour which seems to bubble to the surface when ever black moments arise, (Sorry Mum that I got a fit of the giggles at your funeral..but you’ll know precisely why, and would have joined in I’m certain!)

I digress, back to the tale;

One bright and sunny May morning in 1873 a group of 4 young lads decided that the day was too nice to waste, they wanted a bit of excitement.

At that time the Great Eastern was moored in Portland Roads, she was here fueling up for her trip to America laying cables across the ocean floor. (Might write a bit more of her connection with Weymouth another time) To those that don’t know, she was a total legend in her own right. Launched in 1858 she was way before her time, towering over other ships,  nothing even came close to her size wise until 40 odd years later in 1899. She was designed by the famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, he had envisioned this levanthian of a liner which could transport 4,000 passengers at a time on transalantic trips, but  right from her maiden voyage she had led a fated life.

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The 4 lads had heard that they had been letting people on board to view this iconic ship, they didn’t want to miss that opportunity.

Just turned 11 0’clock on that fateful Sunday morning, John Beaumont, a butchers assistant, made his way with 2 of his friends, 19-year-old Mark Stickland and 22-year-old Charles Rogers to Mr Baunton’s slaughter house, where they collected 23-year-old Charles Wilmott.

The 4 lads made their way down to the quayside, calling in at the home of Edward Tizard, a widow  who lived on down on Hope Quay with his 3 young daughters, he was a local pilot, but he also hired out boats. Edward was out that day, had he been present when the young lads came a knocking, and being a knowlegable sailor, he might well have thought twice about the 4 lads, unexperienced oarsmen,  taking out his boat. Who ever answered the door to the lads had no such qualms though, and with the grand sum of 6d for the hire of the boat being exchanged, the lads were ready and eager to set off on their adventures.

With 2 of the lads at the oars they set course for the Great Eastern, but were disappointed when they were refused permission to board her. Undaunted, they rowed to wards the Achilles, which was also moored in the Roads, where they were allowed aboard for a short time.

With a real thirst on them now, once they had disembarked from the Achilles, the lads set course for Portland. On reaching the shore, the first place they headed for was the Castle Inn, where they order  2 quart jugs  of beer. Having enjoyed their thirst quenching tipple, they rose and started to make their way back down to their boat, only they set eyes on 18-year-old Joseph James Torpey, a local lad, and a crew member of the Achilles. (probably why they gone on board her in the first place)

Joseph asked if they would mind rowing him back to his boat, the lads readily agreed. He also told them that they had more chance of getting on board of the Great Eastern if they tried a bit later in the afternoon, so the group of 5 young lads thought that they should kill a bit more time before setting off. With that, they headed for the nearest pub, the Portland Roads Inn. They settled down a enjoy their  glass of beer and a natter , feeling peckish the lads ordered a snack, six penny worth of biscuits (guess that’d be their equivalent to today’s pint o’beer and a packet of crisps please!)

Having chewed the cud for a while, the lads set off in their boat to try their luck again at the Great Eastern. the two Charles’s were at the oars this time.

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Half way across the Roads, disaster struck, one of the tholes  (the part that the oar rotates on) broke,  after picking himself up off the floor of the boat, Charles Rogers stood up with the intention of replacing the broken part…only he made a grave error of judgement!

Whereas the boys had been evenly spaced around the craft before, Rogers stepped to one side, making it perilously low in the water, and with that the boat tipped over!

Having been thrown into the water, the lads were reaching out to try and grasp the side of the, by now righted boat, only trouble was, they were all in their sheer panic hauling on the same side.

John and Joseph, both able to swim, moved away from the boat to give the others a better chance of being able to haul themselves back in, only it didn’t quite work like that. With their combined weights still on one side, the craft flipped right over. By now, John was unconscious in the water, but young James turned round to see the stricken faces of his 3 friends disappear under the water, never to emerge again.

Both  John and James were rescued from the water, and rather ironically taken aboard the Great Eastern where they were cared for.

Over the following days the bodies of the 3 lads were eventually recovered, and another 3 families had to watch their child being lowered into the cold ground.

Charles Wilmott was buried on Portland  the 24th May.

Mark Strickland was also buried on Portland, 9th June.

The final lad to be found was Charles Rogers, whose body was interred on the 17th june at Melcombe Regis.

As a little end note, the media of the time was no different to today’s…they loved sensational stories, and the young often came in for some undeserved flack. Many of the national reports on the incident claimed that the lads were inebriated, larking about in the boat, whereas the facts that came out from the inquest showed this was far from the truth.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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1870; Pilfering pilots in Portland Roads

Being on the coast, and having both Weymouth Harbour and Portland Roads on our doorstep, a lot of the local men had always earned their living from the sea, and fiercely guarded their rights to do so.

Not least the men who worked the local waters as pilots.

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These were were the men who from being little nippers sailed the area, often local fishermen, they knew the waters intimately, what sandbars to avoid, rocks to navigate, the tides and tricky currents, their expertise was vital in bringing larger ships safely close to shore or into local ports.

In the February of 1870 a court case was heard at the Guildhall in Weymouth.

The case was against John George Austin and William Austin who were inhabitants of Cowes on the Isle of Wight and skippered their cutter named The Fox.

The man who brought the prosecution against these two ‘touting’ outsiders was a local Portland seadog named Thomas Way, a 50-year-old widower  from Chiswell, who was the sole provider for his children, and was skipper of the  pilot cutter, Turk.

The case attracted a great deal of national attention, a Mr Sandilands, solicitor from Trinty House appeared in court to prosecute the two men. Also gathered in the courtroom were pilots from all around the country, including the Isle of Wight, eager to watch how things developed.

The facts of the case were laid out before the judges.

On the 3rd December 1869 amongst the multitude of shipping to-ing and fro-ing  in Weymouth bay and the two bustling harbours were a pair of pilot cutters. One being the Turk, with Portland skipper Thomas Way on board, the other, The Fox, with John George Austin in charge. Both boats were allegedly flying the pilot’s flag, which was a white stripe over a red background. This quickly identified to boats approaching the area which cutters contained the licensed pilots…it was a legal requirement  that they had to be licensed by the ports to be able to operate.

The Isle of Wight boat was cruising near the Portland breakwater, the Portland boat was further out about 4 miles away in distance.

Onto that busy scene came  an American ship-o-war, a steam corvette, the Plymouth. She’d crossed the seas for a specific reason, she was here to escort the H.M.S Monarch back to America with the remains of Mr George Peasbody, a well renow, and well respected American born business man, who had moved the England, and in his time had donated nearly £2,000,000 (in Victorian values) towards the building of houses for the poor of London and in America.

Espying the standard pilots flag flying on The Fox, the corvette changed direction and approached the cutter, when she reached her, the ‘so-called pilot’ climbed on board. From there the pilot would have taken charge of the boat and steered her towards her destination, which was ultimately Spithead. Unfortunately, that ‘pilot’ had no local knowledge of the area, consequently the corvette ended up being run ashore near the Isle of Wight coast!

As his cutter was further away at the time, all Thomas Way could do was stamp his feet with impotent rage on board his boat as he watched the cheeky interlopers steal his trade.

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When the case finally came to court,  local solicitor, Mr Tizard was defending the men He could do nothing but agree that, yes, The Fox had previously lost it’s license to operate as a pilot boat,  and that the man put on board “was not licensed.” What he did try, rather flimsily,  to defend the men with was that the flag flying hadn’t been a pilot’s flag….well, o.k., he agreed that maybe it might have looked  similar, but a very narrow strip had been added to the flag (some mutterings claimed just before it appeared in the courtroom!) making it(very slightly) different!

The Bench didn’t take long to come to their decision. The Isle of Wight men had tried their luck…coming in to our waters and stealing the very trade from the locals, but of course the old seadogs weren.t going to stand for it.

For their cheek, the men were fined a total of £30.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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1865; Portland…keeping it in the family.

I know that Portland is not technically an island, (the Chesil causeway connects it to Weymouth), but it’s treated as such in many respects, not least that the folks on the island (I.m sure that being a proud race, they won’t mind me saying) have a long history of being fairly insular!

Imagend

When a new Directory of Dorset was issued in 1865, it showed some figures to hold up that statement.

Apparently there were a total of 196  people or companies listed in the directory for the island,( not being on the overlarge size!) and of those 21 (nearly a ninth in total !) bore the name Pearce. Four of those with the same christian name John.

Comben was another frequent Portland name, being a mere fifteen of those…which included 4 Williams.

Next came Stone….they could boast 10 with that surname…3 Benjamins and 3 Williams!

Eight people had the surname White…another 4 Williams!

Some of the less common surnames were Flew (7), Scriven’s (5) and Benjamin(3)

One wonders how when the islanders were talking to one another about someone else did they know which person it was they were discussing?

It is said that when the Portland Artillery Corps was set up with a total of 60 men volunteering, of those 15 answered to the name Pearce!

That must have made for a great deal of confusion on the parade ground when the sergeant in charge barked an order for Pearce!.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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1899, Weymouth; The mysterious disappearance of the train driver.

At one time in Weymouth there existed a railway line that ran from Weymouth station, across an iron girder bridge over the large stretch of water known as the Backwater and on to Portland. (Virtually where the new road bridge now sits.)

In the year 1899 came a report in the newspapers of the  rather mysterious dissapearance of a train driver…now this at first doesn’t seem too startling, but if I explain that the chap was supposed to be driving the train at the time… well, you get my drift.

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On the 18th December 1899, 33-year old Percy  Frank Nutman was the driver in charge of the Great Western train on it’s way from Weymouth to Portland. It seems that as the train was setting out on its journey, and was slowly crossing the bridge over the Backwater, he just vanished!…

Luckily, also on board was 18-year-old Frank William Willis, he had only recently started working with the Great Western, he in fact, had only a couple of weeks prior, started work as a fire-man (to those not of the ‘steam age’, it’s the man who shovels the coal into the boiler).

As correct railway procedure was to blow the whistle when coming up to the Littlefied crossing once over the lake, when Frank Willias didn’t hear the familiar sound, he realised something was up..turning round , he found he was alone…completely alone…the driver, Percy Nutman had simply vanished!

The young lad, keeping a cool head managed to bring the train to a halt at the Rodwell station, the next on the line.

By now, everone was assuming that Nutman had dropped or fallen into the Backwater. All that was found was his hat which was laying on the ballast track over the railway bridge. A thorough search was made for the missing man along the length of the track, through the surrounding countryside, in case he’d stumbled off somewhere injured. They even went as far as to drag the  lake time and time again over the next month searching for his body. Not a sign to be seen of his carcass.

His wife  offered a £5 reward for the return of his body.

Once all avenues had been explored, it was assumed that he had died, and at some stage that his rotting remains would float to the surface somewhere in the Backwater or harbour.

Mrs Nutman donned her widow’s weeds, relatives gathered to commiserate her loss. She was even in the process of suing the Great Western Railway under the Employer’s Liability Act for the loss of her husbands body.

The widow and her 3 children had been left destitute, what was worse, she was expecting a 4th child before long. They were now all on parish relief, trying to keep house and home together.

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It the February of the following year, Percy’s wife, Mary,  had received a letter from an acquaintance who said that they had spotted him in Shepton Mallet. Suspicions aroused, and not totally convinced of his manner of death, the detective department of the GWR, namely Chief Inspector Benton, dug a little deeper…and they finally got their man

Naughty Mr Nutman though was very much alive, hale and hearty!

He had deliberately faked his death to escape his married life at home in Weymouth, he was finally found with living with his sister-in-law (who he had made pregnant while still with his wife!) in Leatherhead, Surrey.

Percy Frank Nutman, aged 33, was brought before the Dorchester Quater session and indicted for “unlawfully and willfully leaving an engine, belonging to the GWR co., whereby the lives and limbs of the persons then passing along the Weymouth and Portland Railway might have been endangered.”

Whe he arrived back by train to  Weymouth for his court case he was met by a ‘lively reception’ a crowd of 300 odd men, women and children were there to greet him, though it probably wasn’t the sort of greeting that one would wish for. The crowd being so hostile towards Nutman, he was soon hustled off to the lock-up.

Appearing in court on the 4th July 1900, for jumping ship (or rather ‘train’) Percy Frank Nutman received a sentance of 6 months hard labour.

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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1859; The history of Weymouth’s swannery.

Growing up in Weymouth as a child, feeding the swans in the Backwater was a regular occurance.

Off we’d toddle, me and with my Mum, a bag of stale bread firmly clasped in my grubby little mitts. The walk down the Backwater road seemed to go on for ever, my short, stubby legs would start to tire…and I’m sure that I would have whinged and wined about “how much further.”

But when we reached the swannery where they would gather, I would forget all that…those majestic white birds would gracefully sail across the water with a haughty look in their eyes as they searched for any signs of a treat to come.

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Not until I became an adult did I realise quite what a history those swans had with Weymouth.

During the Victorian period, some of the swans that belonged to the Earl of Ilchester (which the estate still owns at the famous Abbotsbury Swannery) kept migrating to the backwater in Weymouth. The Earl became upset because Victorian man was very partial to a bit of wild fowl shooting, and the swans were seen as fair game. In 1859 It was decided that the Earl would make a present of any swans that landed on the Radipole lake and made their homes here, that way, they would come under the protection of the Corporation, and that they should do all in their power to protect them. (A fair few people were taken to court thereafter for peppering them with lead shot!)

By 1882 the flock had grown to 150 odd birds, so sucessful were they living and breeding in the vast reed beds of the Radipole lake. They led a life of luxury compared to most birds those days. Every morning at 9 0’clock sharp Mr Brewer, also known as Snatchy,  a Corporation ‘servant’,  would come to the same place near the old Melcombe Regis railway station with a pail of dried peas to feed the birds, and was back again in the evening for their tea. after their supper time feast, the birds would retire onto the reed island in the middle of the lake.Image

By the end of the century their numbers had increased to 200 odd. Weymouth would sell pairs of swans to other towns, partly to help keep the numbers down, but also to gain a bit of imcome from them, feeding them was becoming an expense that the council wasn’t overly keen on!

Snatchy Brewer died in 1899, after tending his flock for 22 years, but his job as keeper of the birds was taken over by his son Sam. They were fed and cared for for the following years until the Second World War, when a decision was taken to stop feeding the swans (due to food shortages) and let them fend for themselves.

These days it’s frowned upon to feed the birds with bread, but a new Bird Reserve on Radipole Lake with it’s little thatched hut sells the right food for the birds to devour, and kids still enjoy going along with their brown bag to feed the swans.

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1866; Portland quarry men and boys…theyz toils ‘n toils.

Portland is world famous for it’s quarries.

This Isle is littered with immense craters in the ground, and large roughly hewn blocks of stone tumble in seemingly haphazard piles across the almost lunar landscape.

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There’s absolutely no doubt that those men and boys who slogged away day in day out in the quarries at Portland earnt their meagre wages.

However, the year 1866 saw an extraordinary feat, it involved the removal of an exceptionally enormous slab of stone…by manual labour alone.

One Wednesday morning in June, at the Kingsbarrow quarry which stood just beyond the Traveller’s Rest public house, a special ceremony was about to take place.

A group of privileged spectators had been invited along to observe this herculean feat.

Amongst the select audience was the local clergyman, Rev David Hogarth and his good lady wife, Charlotte, John Ball a Captain in the Royal Navy based at Portland, John James Patten, local mason and Master builder, Mr J Bishop, Mr Hindmarsh, Mr W Comben and various other members of the local elite.

What they were about to witness was the removal of an immense capstone from the  quarry.

The block having already been prepared in the usual way, with great wedges piercing the vein below, the heavy bars were brought in and put into place.

With that, a crew waiting patiently to one side, consisting of just 4 men and 2 boys, set about moving this immense slab of Portland stone.

This leviathan piece of limestone measured 29 foot in length, 18 foot wide, 9 foot deep. The stone alone weighed over 390 tons, but if you took the “cap” (rubbish) that sat on top of it into consideration, this small group of men and boys were attempting to move a total of over 400 tons!

Slowly, and with their every muscle and sinew of their being flexed and rippling, and sweat dripping from their faces, the crew started to work their magic on this slab of stone. Bit by bit…inch by inch, this great chunk of Portland slowly edged away from its bed…until the enormous block reached its tipping point.

While the transfixed audience watched on with baited breath, seemingly in slow motion at first, it started to slide, then with an ominous deep rumble, it was wrenched from the depths of the earth, and with a swift downward movement, the 400 ton block and its accompanying rubble hurtled down into the bowels of the quarry below.

Billowing clouds of choking white dust rose high in the air covering the onlookers in its fine particles, causing them to reach for their handkerchiefs in an attempt to cover their faces and mouths.

This achievement did not pass unnoticed, the  names of those involved in this incredible feat were noted in the local paper, (those of a local nature will not be at all surprised…all are good old Portland names.)

Many came from the same extended family, it wasn’t unusual for grandfathers, fathers and sons, uncles, cousins and nephews to be working the same quarry. With the Portland penchant for keeping it in the family, (breeding and work!) it’s often hard to disentangle them all.

The young hard working crew consisted of 17-year old Hiriam Otter, (son of Abraham Otter, a stone merchant), 23-year-old  John Otter, Henry Otter (take your pick on this one…there were a few by that name who worked in the quarries!) and John Joliffe, ( a fair few of those too.)

The two young lads working alongside the men were Robert Otter and William Hodder.

Special mention was made in the article of Robert’s father, 33-year-old William Henry Otter, seemingly a man of immense strength, but for some reason one who was not used in this task.

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Portland quarrymen were a breed in their own right!

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Check out what’s happening in the Portland quarries of today…

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A Pinterest board of old Portland photos;https://www.pinterest.com/susanhogben/old-views-portland/
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