July 1862; Brutal murder in Sutton Poyntz, Weymouth.

Tonight being All Hallows Eve, and with the goblins, witches and ghouls flitting the streets, terrorising one and all in the dark night air, I thought tonight might be one for a brutal murder story.

It all came about on a summers day in July of 1862.

Down in the village of Sutton (Sutton Poyntz) lived a what had once been normal working family in one of the old row of cottages.

Head of the family was  Richard Cox, a man in his late 60’s, who was old before his time, crippled and no longer able to work regularly, frequently having to rely on the parish for relief…a pauper. Living with him in the house was his wife Mary, and 3 of his sons, John , Isaac and Jacob.

Isaac and Jacob had moved out of the village, they had travelled further afield in an attempt to find employment, but also things weren’t quite right in the household. Left at home  with his elderly parents was 38-year-old John.

Three weeks prior to this horrific incident John had started to suffer from some sort of mental illness, ‘brain fever’ as the doctors referred to it, he was being looked after by Mr Adam Stapleton Puckett, a local medical officer. John was confined to his room, where he would pace round and round endlessly, ranting and raving.


Things had got so dire in the house, and John’s behaviour was becoming more and more erratic, that a decision was made by the doctor that it would be better if John was removed to the Union. He had attacked his brothers, nearly killing one of them in the process. His parents out of fear for their own safety had removed anything from their home that could be used as a weapon by their rapidly unravelling son, guns, knives, saws.Image

His poor distraught mother was beside herself, she didn’t know where to turn, what to do next, who to ask for help.

Word had got around that John was now becoming a great danger to those around him, and that his family were in fear of their very lives, they needed help.

Mr Puckett was on his way to the family’s house, accompanied by Mr Zachariah White, the relieving officer, when they met John’s father, Richard. “Be you going in to take him away now?” he asked. Mr Puckett confirmed that this was the plan, that it was best for one and all. Concerned because of his son’s set of mind at that time he said “You had better not go in there or there will  be mischief,” replied Richard. Mr Puckett though tried to reassure the old man that he could handle John, he would calm him down and make him see sense. Richard though kept warning the doctor that John was in no mood to face confrontation.

Not heeding the old mans warning, Dr Puckett entered the cottage alone. Mr White had asked Richard to go and ask for the use of a horse and cart to transport John to the Union house, but seeing as the old man had a job to shuffle along a few feet let alone go down the road, he decided that it would be quicker of he went himself, and off he set towards the Ship Inn.

Richard went and sat on the doorstep of his house. Inside, peering anxiously through the bedroom doorway, he could see his son arguing with the good doctor. He was not just arguing, he looked positively possessed, like a wild man, greatly agitated, shouting, on his writhing body he wore no more than a shirt . By now Richard was anxious that things were not going well, he slowly raised his creaking body from the step and stumbled off down the road to find help, but there was no one around to help bar a group of frightened women who were huddled together torn between  human curiosity to gawp and fear of violence.

In that time things had deteriorated badly…John had ripped the bedhead from its position, and lunged towards the doctor, who realising that he was in imminent danger raced for the door as fast as he could. Once outside Dr Puckett held fast to the door handle as the enraged John shook it, beat it, and tried to make his escape, he wanted blood. John then turned his anger towards the window, smashing the glass, but couldn’t get out that way, it had bars in front of it.

Seeing his chance, Dr Puckett let go of the handle, turned, and fled down the path, but John was quick!..he was out of the door in a flash, right behind the fleeing doctor. Raising his hand above his head, he smashed the large piece of wooden frame down on his victims skull, knocking him straight  to the ground.

When Richard returned back to the house a few minutes later, he looked over the fence and saw the prone body of Dr Puckett laid on the grass in front of the house, but he was still breathing thank goodness.

John  was stood, extremely agitated, breathing swiftly, sweat poring down his angry, contorted face, he was just a few yards away from the victim, when his father asked him what he had done, he yelled at him to go away “if I did not go, he would serve me the same..'” with that, he picked a large stone up and threw it at his father.

John rushed into the nearby fuel house, desperately searching for something…but he couldn’t find it, what he did find though, would serve his purpose just as well.

Coming back out into the daylight, the light reflected of the sharp teeth of the lethal wood saw that John now held aloft in his hands.

Swiftly crossing over to the unconscious body of the fallen doctor laying on the grass, to his fathers horror, he made three quick deep slashes with the deadly saw, and the doctors head silently rolled away from his body…with that John picked the bloodied skull up in his red stained hands   and threw it out into the road. In his subsequent statement John claimed that when he had cut the doctors head off “the old bastard gurgled,” and when he had tossed it into the road “his old head sounded liked a damned old pumpkin.“. Not content with that he then proceeded to dismember the mans corpse, throwing each grisly piece out into the road.

Witnessing this ugly and brutal attack were some of the village women. Jane Galpin, who lived two doors up, had been passing by when she witnessed the doctors frantic struggle to hold the door shut and could hear the hysterical ravings of John behind the door. When the window smashed, and John had raced out of the open door after the doctor, Jane fled for the safety of a neighbours house, where the women locked the door behind them, screaming for help, trembling with fear…who was this mad man going to murder next? Peering out of the window, unable to look away,  the women witnessed his horrific dismembering of the body.

Another witness to the bloody aftermath was John Ford, who worked as an engine man in the Weymouth waterworks at the bottom of Sutton Poyntz. Zachariah White had run to get a body of men to help restrain the raving fellow, and had headed for the works where he knew there would be men working. John Ford accompanied the group back up through the village to the scene of blood and dismembered body parts. Here they gathered in the severed limbs, putting them together inside the garden fence. Their next job was to find John.

He had vanished!

John had made his way, blood soaked and half naked, towards Osmington. On his journey through the country lanes he came across and startled Joseph Dowden who was out working in his garden. John told him quite calmly what he had done, asking Joseph for his help, and protection from anyone who might try to harm him. Thinking on his feet, Joseph took the by now, much calmer John into the stables of the Plough Inn at Osmington, owned by Mr Notley, where he managed to hold him until help came in the form of the local police.

The inquest on the dreadful death of Dr Puckett was held at  the Ship Inn, Preston.

John Cox was convicted of “Wilful murder,” mindful of the fragility of his tortured mind he ended up in the recently opened Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum.





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1862; Portland prison, The Pleasantness of Penal Servitude.

These facts are taken from an article penned by an unnamed author in the Cheltenham Chronicle of 23rd December 1862 and yes, that is genuinely what he titles his article…. The Pleasantness of Penal Servitude!

They relate to the prison that was built on Portland to contain the convict labour force for building the Portland breakwater and the Verne citadel.

These men had been shipped here by the government as free labour. Their lives were harsh and often dangerous, working in the quarries alongside the Portland quarry men. Many paid the ultimate price for their dastardly deeds, but many were here for crimes that had been committed through the sheer necessity to survive.

The prison received its first inmates in 1848.

What follows is information taken from the news article… I suspect that maybe some of it is to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Firstly, from the reporters habit of embellishing somewhat on certain facts and figures in the desire to give their Victorian readers the sensational articles they so often enjoyed, and secondly, the prison authorities  tours of the prison and its ‘modern’ facilities to the reporters that frequented these places may have been somewhat staged for the duration of the guided tour!

The majority of the prisoners were here for hard labour, and down in the dusty, dangerous quarries, it certainly was that…for some!

They worked in gangs, mainly by themselves, sometimes with the Portland quarry men. It was said that you knew when you were about to come upon a prison gang, all around the rim of the deep pits of the quarries stood the warders. Men armed, ready for any signs of trouble or disobedience.

The writer of the piece was certainly not impressed with what he witnessed on his tour!

The prisoners stand out, they have closely shaven heads, and very distinctive dress.

Their uniforms picked out the sense of the man. Some worked in chains, their past history deeming them a risk of flight or violence.Those who were  dressed in grey and yellow, these were the ruffians who had tried to run away in the past. Those in grey and black were the ones the warders had to watch closely, they were deemed violent, particularly towards those who guarded them so closely. Not without good cause, as a few warders had become the victims of their anger and violence, some attacked, and a few murdered in a most foul manner. These chained men he complains “clank about with a defiant swagger as if their chains were honourable distinctions of their strength and courage,”


The author of the piece almost romantically describes the confined men as “their hard, firm, ruddy, healthy look, like pugilists in condition for a fight.”

His next sentence is not quite so flattering, he compares the way that they work. The convicts have a “slow, laze way of working”, which contrasts with “the busy energy and speed of the free workmen.” What he conveniently forgets to mention is that the free mens wages depended on how much stone they mined during their long shifts! The author complains how when it starts to rain, the prisoners are marched to the shelter of tin sheds that had been erected for their convenience, while the free man carried on, no matter the inclement weather, he had to endure what Heaven sent down if he wanted to earn a crust for himself and his family.


He also compares the two classes when it comes to meal times.

The free men stop at 12 o’clock, having already done twice as much work as any two convicts together, their chairs a slab of dusty white stone, their simple lunch of bread and cheese, or maybe a bit of dried fish, washed down with a tin pot of coffee.

The convict however, has it easy. He stops at 11.30.a.m. when they are marched back to their cells. here he can wash up, and comb his hair (though what hair exactly he’s supposed to be combing I’m not sure, as they were all shaved!) at 12 o’clock steaming hot dinners are dished out to the gangs, an example of which follows “One pint of soup properly seasoned, thickened with barley, rice, carrots, and onions, and equal in nutrient to any ever placed on a gentleman’s table; 5 1/2 oz of cooked meat, free from bone; 1 lb of potatoes, and 10 oz of rich suet pudding.” The men then retire to the comfort of their cells for an hour to enjoy their feast.

But a few cause trouble, complaining about the quantities they had been given, the rules of the prison dictate that a warder had to march the prisoner to the kitchens to have his meal weighed to prove that they were allocated their correct portion.

The men were also divided into stages…depending on how much of their sentence they had served, and how they had behaved. Those in the 3rd and 4th stage were granted extra comforts and priviledges. They could dine in a communal room with fellow convicts. On Sundays those in the third stage received extra rations, 2 oz of cheese, 3 oz of bread, and a pint of beer. Those lucky few who had reached the dizzying heights of the 4th stage could look forwards to treacle pudding as a welcome treat after their meals on a Thursday, and on Sundays their beef was baked instead of boiled!

The writers biggest gripe is that these men in the final stages of their time were eating far better than the hard working quarrymen. “we gradually raise the scale of luxuries till they dine at last on soup, baked beef, bread and cheese and beer, and pudding.”

No wonder, claims he, that men are no longer afraid of penal servitude when they are treated to such luxuries.

Then the irate author goes on the describe other parts of the convicts days.

Men could put their names down to go and see the govenor. Mainly concerning permission to write a letter. They were only supposed to write and receive one letter every three months, but the rules were not enforced. Some asked to change duties from toiling in the quarries, asking to be transferred to the prison garden, or working on the railways that served the works at the breakwater. He bemoans that fact that the prison looks to all intense purposes as if they were pandering to every whim that the prisoners demanded.


At 1 o’clock, the men are gathered in the courtyard, where the reports of discipline are read out. The governor then makes his way to visit those who were confined to the “separate cells”, the disorderly and the violent, or those who show an unwillingness to work. They were reduced to 1lb of bread and water, literally on ‘bread and water’ for the day. Lying, as the writer bitterly complains “on their backs all day.”

Then its back to work in the quarries for the majority, it grates on him when he talks about watching them at work. “Hard labour” being a farcical term for what these men were doing, talking , laughing, discussing ways of smuggling ‘little luxuries’ in via the free men. Whiling away their time in an almost leisurely manner until it was the end of their working day.

I get the sense that the more he saw, the more angry he was becoming, what he described as the failure of the penal system.

Back in the prison, the men would attend evening service in the chapel, then return for their suppers in their cells. Lights out at 8 o’clock, excepting for those men who were in the last part of their sentences, again they had extra privileges, they could read until 9.

Mornings started early for them, 5 o’clock in the summer time, 5.30 in the dark winter hours.

Their days began with cleaning and sweeping out their cells, their morning ablutions, after which they received their breakfasts. On Sundays and 3 of the week days it consisted of 1pint tea and 12 oz of bread, On the others it was 1pt cocoa and 12 oz of bread.

It was off to repent their sins again in the chapel before presenting themselves for work at 7 o’clock sharp in the courtyard.

To top it all, each prisoner received a half a days free schooling each week. On that day he was allowed to take a bath and have his hair cut.

On Sundays the had complete freedom  to walk about the yard, or sit and read in their cells.

The author was obviously not at all impressed with what he had witnessed in Portland prison, bemoaning the fact that while the free men working in the quarries had to strive hard for very little in return, these so called convicts undergoing “hard labour” were living the life of riley!


In all probability, what was supposed to happen in prisons, food quantities, free time, education maybe wasn’t as quite cut and dried as he had described it, and the unfairness of those who had committed crimes living a life better than those who strived to maintain theirs wasn’t that simple.

Who knows, maybe he was right…but I sure know which side of that heavy wall I would have wanted to be.


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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1824; Weymouth, the Great Storm

This being the morning before zero hour…I thought that this might well be a good time to write about the Great Storm of 1824 that hit the country. Those living on the South coast were worst hit.

This is a tale of a storm that was so severe and so destructive that it has gone down in Weymouth’s legend. My father used to recount the tale, it had been handed down through the family, as I’m sure it had been through many others. You mention the year 1824 to any old Weymouthian, and they’ll shake their head as they recall tales told of the devastation to the town and nearby.

Well, here we are again, and if the amount of media hype around he forthcoming ‘Storm’ is anything to go by, this could be another biggun that’ll go down in the history books! But the again it might just be a bit blowly…none of the weather forecasters are willing to become another Michael Fish of the infamous ‘no hurricane’ of 1897, when everybody woke next morning to scenes of devastation.

1824, 22nd November; The weather had been fairly boisterous along the south coast, but that wasn’t unusual for this time of year, those that live along the coast were used to raging seas and shipwrecks, but what was to visit them that night and the next day was something out of Dante’s Hell!

People had gone to bed that night, listening to the wind howling like a banshee outside, most thinking how lucky they were to be tucked up safe indoors, and said a prayer for those out at sea.

Things were about to get worse…a lot, lot worse!

During that fateful night those ‘winds’ had turned into a full on hurricane by 4 o’clock in the morning, the already raging seas boiled, accompanied by a huge tidal surge.


In Weymouth, the normally tranquil bay was a mass of crashing waves, foam, shingle and sand, the force of which ripped out completely the renown esplanade that Royal footsteps had once paraded along. The famous white stones and chains that marked the promenade along the shore were dragged from their very spots by the scoring waters…(a few of the originals remain outside the old Pier bandstand.)

The grand houses along the seafront were deluged with seawater, the lower floors awash with the debris from the pounding and relentless waves, vicious spray pelting their grand Georgian windows with pebbles and sand.

This is where the famous Narrows once were…where the sea sat right opposite the Backwater, only a thin spit of land stood between the pair…on that dreadful day day, the two finally met! Two people lost their lives while trying to cross the surging waters

Down by the harbour, even worse devastation!

The pier was virtually demolished, ships that had once floated against  the harbour walls now sailed up through the flooded streets. Many more were smashed to pieces in what should have been the haven of the harbour, some were just washed out into the bay and sunk without trace. All the houses and buildings around the harbour were inundated with the surging seas, flooding cellars and lower rooms. Peoples precious belongings washed too and fro as they frantically tried to save what they could from the cold brine.

On the other side of town, Lodmoor, fared no better. The main road into Weymouth from that direction was also protected by a raised pebble beach, that was all that stood between the  relentless crashing waves and Lodmoor behind. Once the waters began to rise, the fractious seas topped the bank, and the flat lands of Lodmoor became part of the bay, waves rolling in across the grass where once brave Yeomen had raced their horses.

The Cove at Portland was to see one of its worst ever disasters. The mountainous seas out in West Bay crashed relentlessly onto the pebbled shore, reaching ever highrer and higher…until one mountainous wave rose up like a mighty warrior and with one vengeful swoop crashed down onto the houses below.  ‘The lower part of the parish of Chisel on Portland was in a moment deluged by a most tremedous wave that swallowed up the greater part of it, and upwards of 30 souls were in an instant doomed to death.’ When they set to recovering those bodies from the rubble , those that hadn’t been washed out into the sea, amongst the debris and pebbles they found a husband and his wife with the battrered remains of their seven children. 30 odd houses had been destroyed and many more so severely damaged as to make them almost uninhabitable.

After the devastating event a meeting was held, all the local Portland fishermen had lost their boats and nets, everything, absolutely everything that they owned washed away into the depths of Davy Jones’s locker! Most had no homes left, no clothes, food…they were in a dire strait.

The crossing at Ferry bridge had been smashed to smithereens…now there was no way for help to come from Weymouth. In the storm, the people from the house next to the crossing managed to escape with their lives, bar one. He had risked his life trying to rescue a soldiers horse from the stables by the crossing, he succeeded, the horse survived…but he drowned.

The most destruction befell the small village of Fleet that huddled behind the Chesil bank. The raging seas washed right over the top of the huge pebble bank and rushed towards the village like a steam train. An eye witness account of that describes what they saw;_

“Twern’t a sea – not a bit of it –
twer the great sea hisself rose up level like
and come on right over the ridge and all,
like nothing in this world”

The little village church was almost completely destroyed, the houses flattened by the power of the surging water, the only saving grace was the villagers had fled to the high ground of Chickerell when they saw what disaster about to befall them.

Further along the coast, at Abbotsbury, the famous Swannery was deluged with water, many of the resident birds perishing in the onslaught of the fierce storm.

Inland, a huge barley rick had been lifted into the sky like a balloon in a breeze, only to land a 1/4 mile away..in one piece!

Numerous ships were to come to grief along the South coast in that wild melee, for the few days after the storms, body after body was washed up all along Chesil beach, nearly 100 in total, they were all gathered up and given a christian burial at the nearest graveyards to their discovery. Most unidentified.


Stories of bravery were told of desperate attempts by those on shore to rescue the poor souls on board stricken ships that floundered near the coast, men time and time again in their small boats, battling against the rolling waves that towered over them, no thought to their own lives.


One can only imagine the terror that must have struck the hearts of those on board these floundering ships as they saw the destructive, towering waves as they pounded onto Chesil, they knew they were doomed, all they could do was pray, and hope that their God would be kind and make it quick.

A passenger aboard the fated vessel, the Colville, could only think of one thing during his last moments on earth. He didn’t want his battered body washed up and buried without anyone knowing who he was. He tore off part of his shirt, wrote his name and address on the already soaking fabric, and tied it tightly around his neck, safe in the knowledge that his wife back in London would know his sad fate. He was ready to met his maker!

So, here we sit today…waiting to see what nature will throw at us tonight and tomorrow.

May God save us all.


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.


http://www.portlandbill.co.uk/floods.htm (includes great shots of storms at Portland)

http://www.dorsetlife.co.uk/2013/01/the-great-gale-of-1824/ (story of the storm and shipwrecks on that day including a drawing of Chesil cove in the midst of the destruction)

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/chesil.htm (site of Chesil including photos taken during storms)

http://www.southampton.ac.uk/~imw/Fleet-Lagoon.htm (includes descriptions, narrations and modern day photos of the aftermath at Fleet, scroll down the page)

1892; Wyke Working Men’s Club.

A lot of us probably remember going to a working Mens Club of an evening, either with family or friends, or if you weren’t a member, then signing in as a guest to attend  a party or wedding reception. In my case it was the under 18’s disco’s at the Weymouth workies.

The Weymouth one is a typical grand Victorian building , the generous gift of Sir Henry Edwards to working men of Weymouth.

weymouth working mens

 © Copyright Chris Talbot and licensed for reuse under thisCreative Commons Licence

I had never really thought about the name before..it was just a place to go, but these places had a long social history too.

Working men’s clubs were a Victorian institution, they were often generous gifts from philanthropic wealthy residents or regular visitors to the local area..

They did what they said on the tin….designed to  be a place of recreation for the working man, but also a place for education for them and their families. They were run on the line of private clubs, but non-members could enter as guests. They were very often the centre of town or village life, dances, recitals, music even good old bingo. Sometimes if one of the  member was good on the old ivories there would be a sing song in the evening, with the musician paid in a couple of pints placed strategically on the top of the piano for his refreshment.

man looking in door quiver 1896

Many towns, villages and hamlets opened one, sometimes in a village hall, but frequently in a purpose built place.

There Victorian man could find the latest newspapers, periodicals or books to read, a place to sit and relax in the evening after his hard days slog, have a quiet drink with pals. Often they ran educational classes, woodwork, drawing, even classes for the wives, cooking, flower arranging.

The following is taken from the local paper of 1892, and covers the report of the Wyke Working mans club.

The Wyke club had been opened by Reverend Robert Lynes in 1887. There is mention of the Working Mens  Conservative Club before that, so either the word Conservative was dropped from the title, or it was a separate entity.

The Honourable secretary was Mr Thomas Winzar. 42 year-old Thomas was a very busy man, he was not only the village  blacksmith, but he and his wife Frances Lucy and their family, lived in and ran the pub the Fishermans Arms in Wyke.

The caretake of the building, and also manager of the attached coffee shop was 41 year-old James Burbridge. He lived with his wife Mary and daughter Elizabeth on the premises, which sat somewhere between Rose cottage and Markham house (according to the 1891 census route).

This report was from their regular annual meeting in 1892, its mentioned they had been open for 5 years, and going strong.

The Reverent T M Bell was the club chairman that year.

Rev Bell pushed back his chair, and slowly rose, clearing his throat carefully, he proceeded to read out the years accounts to his fellow committee members;

Subscriptions; Hon members; £29.6s

Subscriptions; ordinary members; £12.15s 6d.

Billiard room; £3. 1s 6d.

Miscellanious; £6. 11s 10d.


£53.00 0s 6d. inclusive of balance due to the Treasury last year. £9 3s 6d.

Daily and weekly papers; £7 11s 4d.

Caretakers salary; £10.

Coal and wood; £10 19s.

Oil; £6 11s &c.

Showing a small adverse balance, £1 5s 8d.


A few years after this Wyke expanded quite rapidly when the Whithead torpedo works was built there, (which is where my Dad worked during the war) bringing extra housing and workers, this meant that the social club became very popular, and the number of members jumped.

The men could enjoy a game of billiards, bagtelle, they even had their own skittle alley.

Sadly now, many of the old style clubs are closing, as the senior generation that grew up with them are passing on to the great club in the sky, there are less and less new members.


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.


http://www.weymouthinoldpostcards.co.uk/wyke%20square%20circa%201900.htm (views of old Wyke Regis)




https://www.facebook.com/WeymouthWorkingMensClub  (Weymouth working mens club Facebook page)

1868; Weymouth, The errant bridegroom.

One Sunday early in September  a bride sat nervously waiting at St Mary’s church for her husband to be to appear.

Now this wasn’t a young couple by any stretch of the imagination!

The bride to be was Elizabeth Meaden, she was 37 years of age, a Weymouth lass, her father, Richard was a Shoe and boot maker in the town.The missing groom was William Cady, he was a few years younger than Elizabeth, I suppose you could say she was a cougar of her time!

William was a waterman, like his father David, he was still living at home with Mum and Dad in the 1861 census…David, Susan and son William lived at no 3 South Parade, the little road that runs from the harbourside towards the Alexander gardens.


William was obviously very nervous about his up and coming nuptials!…so much so that he decided to go for a drink beforehand to calm his nerves a bit. Trouble  was, he didn’t leave it at a bit!….in fact, by the time he staggered down the church isle he was rather worse for wear.

Seeing the state of play, the curate who was going to perform the ceremony that afternoon, the Reverend Arthur Davidson thought he better rattle through the ceremony quickly, and get it over and done with before the groom passed out, or worse, disgraced himself in the church.

There wasn’t going to be any hurrying this along though….what followed could have given any Morecombe and Wise sketch a run for its money.

What follows is the ‘script’….

 He got on very well with the service as far as the momentous “I will,” but there his comprehension seems to have failed. He was desired to repeat after the clergyman, who recited; “I William, &c., take thee &c,” “All right sir, “ said the aspiring Benedict “Repeat after me,” was reiterated. “All right, sir,” “I William,” was again attempted. “Right sir, that’s me.” This went on for some time, when the clerk handed him the book. He managed to spell “of” but gave it up as  a  bad job, observing that “he was no scholar” The minister was at last obliged to desist, saying he could not go on with such a mockery any longer. The bridegroom cheerfully assented with “You’re right sir, it is a regular mucker.”

Still not married…the husband and wife yet to be left the church, Elizabeth by now wondering if maybe this had been a good idea after all.

But things must have been smoothed over because they were back to try again a couple of days later. This time William had been warned to stay away from any ‘refresments!’


On the 7th September 1868, William Cady and Elizabeth Meaden were finally wed at St Mary’s.

Life couldn’t have been too bad for the couple, the 1881 census sees them living in Rolls Court off Govenors Lane, Williams still working as a waterman, and Elizabeth is working as a tailoress.

The couple spent their entire life living in the same house until the day they died.

Elizabeth was buried on the 20th March 1893, William followed soon after, he went to his grave on the 8th June that same year.


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.


Related articles

1872; Chesil Royal Adelaide shipwreck; part 2. Armageddon.


This is the second part of the tale of the sinking of the Royal Adelaide on Chesil beach that happened on the 25th November 1872.

Well, in fact, it’s actually about what happened after…the dreadful scenes that hit the national papers and shook a lot of people.

Despite there being many shipwrecks around the coast over that couple of days due to the fierce gales, only the Adelaide made the national headlines, but for all the wrong reasons.

The loss of the ship was bad enough, so too was  the terrible loss of lives of those who tried to get ashore but sadly failed, however, what sparked the reporters and readers imagination was the unfolding scene of the next morning on Chesil, it was one  of complete devastation and debauchery.

Scattered all along the pebbled banks of the beach was debris from the wreck, parts of the smashed boat, boxes and crates, cargo, clothing, mens women s and children’s, all their personal items, food. There was even the battered body of a thoroughbred horse that had been on board for the long voyage out to Australia, once it had been some passengers pride and joy..not any more.

The entire contents of a humans life was laid before the hundreds of onlookers and scavengers that flocked to the beach in the wake of the wreck.

The wreckers were in there.

Gathering up what ever they could, cargo, goods, personal items, furniture, wood, money….you name it, they grabbed it.

Soldiers and coastguard men had been drafted in to protect the wreck and its contents, but they were overwhelmed by the mass of the human tide that swept down the beach in search of booty. All they could do was to retreat to the road to search people as they came off the Chesil bank, looking for stolen goods.

These in effect now belonged to The Receiver of wrecks, but the way things were going, he wasn’t going to receive a great deal by the time the scavengers had finished picking over the beach.

Extra soldiers and coast guards were drafted in, trying to hastily gather up as much as they could, a race against the human carrion, whatever items could be salvaged were loaded onto carts and and removed to the Customs house in Weymouth.

coastguards boys own paper 1890s

A pig from on board the boat had somehow miraculously survived the storm and managed to swim to shore in the early hours of the morning. Safely on shore, his new found freedom didn’t last long. Spotting the valuable animal, he was quickly captured and thrown over a mans shoulder, who then staggered up the steep slopes of the pebbled beach with his weighty booty. Once on firm ground the satisfied man started to march homewards, pleased with his piece of precious pork.

Only trouble was, the soldiers also spotted him and the squealing pig, he found himself being marched off in a different direction… towards the police station.

Another  local from Wyke was stopped and searched, he was found to have bundles of wet money concealed about his person.

A  Wyke business man and his daughter were arrested for theft. They had come across large bundles of linen handkerchiefs blowing down along the beach. The father had wrapped as many around his body as he could to conceal, the daughter had tucked bundles of them in and around her voluminous clothing.

They nearly escaped with their ill gotten gains only she dropped one of the bundles as they passed an obsevant coastguards.

At Dorchester court, the pair faced the wrath of the local judge.

Charles Edwards, 47, shop owner, baker and grocer of  Wyke,  and his daughter 26-year-old daughter, Mary Jane Edwards, were fined, Dad £20 and the daughter £5.

A decision was taken by the ships owner, they announced that they wouldn’t prosecute, if the stolen goods were returned…it was luck of the draw. Many had tried to get away with their goods, and many did.

Some were even trying to bury their bounty right there on the beach…men were spotted trying to dig large holes in the pebbles to cover large barrels of spirits, something to be retrieved at a later date when the coast was clear..

Something else more sinister was scattered along the beach too that morning.

More bodies…but these were the unconscious bodies of those who had helped themselves to the strong spirits that had been washed ashore in the wooden kegs. Men, women and children lay prone all along  the pebbles, for all intense purposes, dead to the world. Medical help had to be sought as they tried to move the lifeless bodies, many were wet, cold, some were literally near death. The ‘living corpses’ were loaded onto wagons and taken to places of safety, where they were laid out. Many had to be stripped of their sodden clothing and were covered in hot blankets and hot bricks in an effort to revive them.

Some never woke again.

Over the next couple of days inquests were held around the area for those whose life was lost for the love of a free drink.

Weymouth courts; Death by drink, George Neale, 15, West Parade;

boy collapsed street quiver 1865

On Tuesday young George had walked onto Chesil beach with Richard Rolls to see the scene of devastation for themselves. They came across a wooden cask of rum with the head off. George picked up a nearby tin, one that would hold a quart of liqueur, he scooped the rich spirits out of the barrel and downed it in one.

Seeing danger ahead, Richard took the tin away from him, but a group of men drinking nearby passed him a biscuit tin.

Within minutes, young George had downed nearly 3 quarts of strong liqueur.

Not surprisingly he became unconscious.

Richard with the help of a couple of the  realtively sober men and a policeman carried George to Mr Manley’s in Weymouth town where he worked. Mary Jane Andrews had tried desperately to bring him round. George’s father had called doctor Simpson on the Tuesday evening. Later he told him he thought George was getting better, the doctor  prescribed a stimullent emetic, then left for Portland.

He returned at midnight to find boy dead.

Congestion of the brain from alcohol poisoning. “Death from excessive drinking.” (Buried 2nd December Melcombe Regis graveyard)

Inquest at the Royal Victoria Inn, Ferry Bridge, Wyke Regis, 42 year-old Samuel Biles, labourer; Sergeant Gale was on duty on the beach , he had come across 3 men lying apparently dead on beach. The bodies of the  unconscious men were moved to the ‘safety’ of the Fishermans Arms. Having been called in to check the men over, Dr Rhodes arrived to see the victim and another man lying  face down on straw.

Samuel Biles had no pulse. “Death from exessive drinking and exposure to the cold.” (Buried Wyke Regis churchyard November 30th 1872)

Inquest at Cove Inn Chesil, Thomas Strange and George Gilbert; P.C James Bugg found their bodies on the beach on the Wednesday, “Died from exposure to cold, and from having taken an excessive quantity of raw spirits.”

Thomas Strange was a 46 year-old cabinet maker who lived in Walpole street, Weymouth with his wife Sarah and children. (Buried 2nd December 1872, at Melcombe Regis graveyard)

George Gilbert unknown, must have come from further afield, though his death is registered in Weymouth, no record of his burial locally.

Two more men were fined being “dead” drunk on the beach at Weymouth. Chaddock and Mayo,  2 men.doctors bill, fined 5s each and costs.

Thomas A Chaddock, 45 year old quarryman lived at Chisel Portland with wife Jane. He was so cold that they had to strip him and cover him with hot bricks.

John Mayo, 21, stone mason, lived at the Freemasons Arms, Upwey with his parents. both these men were in the employ of  Mr Richard Reynolds, stonemason of Weymouth.

There was one redeeming light in admist all this debauchery.

Thirty one year old Albert Drayton was a coastguard for the Wyke area. On that fateful evening he strived along with many others to rescue as many of the ship wreck survivors as he could.

Having worked tirelessly all through the stormy night in the wet and cold, Albert caught a severe chill.

He lingered for a few days, but during  his delirious periods he kept repeating  “There’s another saved, thank God!”. (Albert sadly lost his fight for life and was buried on the 20th December 1872,  at Wyke Regis graveyard.) He left behind his widow, Jane and baby daughter Mary.

policeman in dock with boy quiver 1891

The tale of the terrible wreck of the Adelaide remains forever in the memory of Dorset folk, but not always for the right reasons.



http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1540307/Police-to-clamp-down-on-beach-scavengers.html (modern day scavangers further along Chesil beach )

1872; Chesil shipwreck; death, drowning and detention, human nature at its very best and worst!

Lyme Bay and Chesil beach have always been notorious amongst sailors of old (and new!) many a ship and its crew and passengers have seen the sight of thunderous waves breaking on the steep pebble bank as maybe their last, or maybe their salvation.


Since time immemorial the subject of ship wrecks have meant many things to the people who live near by…courage, in trying to rescue to poor souls from a watery grave.

An income, gathering up any booty washed ashore from the stricken ship and it’s passengers (great examples of this still exist such as the wreck of the MSC Napoli beached off Lyme Bay 2007).

Finally, opportunity, frequently barrels or bottles spirits would be washed ashore, and men, women and children have been known to take advantage of these, often not even bothering to move from their landing place on the shore, if it was too big or too heavy to move and hide away in safety, they would imbibe somewhat to excess there and then!

Such was the sad case in 1872, much reported in the national news because of the shocking scenes that were witnessed after.

One Saturday morning late in november a ship had set sail from London, bound for Sidney Australia, on board her were a crew of 30 and 60 odd passengers.

She was the Royal Adelaide, an iron ship of 1,385 tons, fairly modern for her time, many a sailing ship in this period was still totally of wooden construction, but the Adelaide was an iron vessel, with stout iron masts and strong wire rigging.

Gales had been battering the South coast for some time, and had not improved by the time of the disaster, the night of the 25th November.

Under the command of William Hunter as ships master, she was coming up through the channel, somehow the wrong calculations were made as she sailed, and as visibility was poor, it wasn’t until the last moment that the master realised that he wasn’t where he thought he should have been, heading for the relative safety of Portland Roads.

Coastguards keeping close watch from the shore could see the ship just off Chesil through the thick fog, but she seemed to turn and veer out to sea again.

All was well, so they thought, but the master had left these alterations too late. The fierce winds and tides swept the hapless ship back towards the fearsome Chesil bank and danger.

While trying to set her back on a safe course, they had raised the sails, but the powerful gusts had simply ripped straight through the heavy canvas of the jib and main topmast staysails like mere tissue paper.

Battling against the worsening elements, they slowly heaved the tattered sails down again, fastening them to the masts, but they fast were loosing control of the vessel.

By now, the master and his crew realised that they were in imminent danger of coming to grief on the infamous bank, where over the centuries, so many ships and and people had been claimed by Davy Jones.

Hunter had his crew standing by ready, the second mate and the ships carpenter were stood on the rolling deck with axes in hand should the order be given to chop the masts down.


Rockets were fired to alert those on shore of their plight, but huge crowds were already gathering on the beach, like crows around carrion, well aware of the ships impending fate.

They had seen it all too often before, some with great sadness in their hearts for those poor souls on board, some with a greedy eye to ill gotten gains to be had.

The waves surged and crashed around the stricken vessel as she lurched her way towards the boiling shore, the second mate stood fast at the rails, short lead line in hand, calling out the depths as she rolled ever closer, 15ft, 13ft, 10ft…..then she grounded, swung broadside, and was firmly wedged on the shingle…but not quite close enough!

One of the ships crew jumped overboard and attempted to make his way through the pounding surf for the shore with a line. He never made it…the back tow of the waves smashed him against the side of the vessel, and beaten senseless, down he went.

From on shore the first to attempt a rescue were the Portland fishermen, without a thought to their own safety, they had plunged into the surging waves and managed to get a line across to the ship, not far behind were the coastguard men ready and waiting, they fired their rockets towards the now dangerously rolling ship.

Unfortunately the panicking crew on board had concentrated on the first line to reach them, that of the fishermen, they were busy rigging it to the masts to attach the basket.

The line wasn’t up to the job, it snapped.

It took them some time to get the second line up and running, passengers by now were on deck and crying for their salvation. Women and children hugged each other, hanging onto what they could to save themselves from being washed overboard as the waves broke over the slowly fracturing ship.

Two more of the crew attempted to go over the side of the vessel to reach the safety of the shore, they were both seen hanging onto the side when a sudden large wave broke and within seconds the ship rolled back towards the open sea. Watching from shore the people could only gaze on in despair, the men desperately trying to hang on, once again, waves forced the ship to roll back  towards shore, both men could hold no longer, their arms exhausted, first one, then the other dropped like stones, their bodies crushed like eggshells under the hull of the violently rolling vessel.

At last the crew on board managed to get the second line fixed, and the basket working.

Now they could start to get the frantic passengers ashore.

At first all went well, five women and several of the men were transferred safely across the boiling seas…but then, for what ever reason, absolute fear, panic, the master could not get people to climb into the basket and head for safety.

One desperate father on board was begging someone, anyone, to take his two small children, he had them gripped tightly in his arms.

One of the frantic women waiting on board snapped “No, indeed, I will save no one’s child”.

But no one was moving!

Sensing time was short, and seeing  no other way, Hunter, the master,  grabbed one of the children, climbed into the basket and rode safely to shore, handing the small child over to the care of those on the beach. He attempted to get back to rescue the others, but was stopped by the coastguards.

He could only watch with a heavy heart from shore, it was now a case of every man woman and child for themselves.


Once the master had crossed, people began to realise the dire urgency, the ship was starting to break up in the fierce seas. Falling spars had already knocked two men in the maelstrom, water was surging through the sides of the boat.

If they didn’t get off now, they wouldn’t get off at all.

One by one, terrified crew and passengers were hauled over the swirling abyss between ship and shore.

The second young child of the distraught father was handed to a male passenger to carry with him as he crossed, but half way over, a breaking wave swept the innocent little body straight from his arms…another one to Davy Jones.

Then, through the uproar of the surging sea and the howling winds came a resounding crack, described by many as the noise of a volley of musketry being fired.

The hull of the vessel, no longer able to cope with the rolling and twisting of the vicious seas, snapped like a twig underfoot.Image

There were still three people left aboard, if they wanted to survive, they needed to get off the boat.

Reluctant to get into the swinging basket, 33 year-old Mrs Irons had hung back, but realising that it was the only way to be saved, she frantically clambered in and prayed for her salvation to the Lord.

He didn’t hear.

By the time Mrs Irons and the basket had been dragged onto shore, she had been swamped by the waves and had breathed her last. (Buried Portland, St John 28th Nov)

Once again the life saving basket was hauled back to the stricken vessel.

This time a German passenger clambered in, but he was a big built chap, very tall and heavy set…too heavy for the equipment…the line broke, and down it and he went.

Now only a solitary soul remained on the doomed vessel.

A seventy-two year old lady who had been bed bound ever since leaving the port of London. Despite the desperate attempts of passengers and crew to get her ashore, she was adamant that she was staying put in her bed.

The Good Lord would decide her fate…and he did.

But that wasn’t to be the end of the tragedy…oh no.

The vessel had been carrying casks of rum and brandy, there was money and fun to be had here.

Despite soldiers of the 77th regiment and coastguards being placed on the beach to protect the valuable and not so valuable goods as they came ashore what followed was human nature at its worst.

Local people, even reputable traders from near and far came and gathered as many of  the items as they were washed ashore as they could carry. The tide of marauding humanity too overwhelming for the men posted to guard the goods be able to do anything about, all they could do was stand and watch as men, women and children, wreckers… took part in whole sale plundering.

letter Civic Society. 1

A few were later arrested and taken before the local courts to be made examples of by the Receiver of Wrecks.

Thirty-four year old Henry Cosser had spirited away one of the head boards from a ships bed. He was a respectable business man who owned a draper and grocers shop in Fortunes Well on Portland.

He was fined 40s and costs.

Twenty-five year old Jonathan Lane, a a farm labourer from Reform on Portland, had made off with his ill gotten gains, a spade. According to him, he wanted it as a  memento.

He was fined £5 and costs.

Even worse, those large kegs of spirits that ended up strewn along the beach…were opened there and then. Drunken bodies lay all around, too intoxicated to crawl from the sea spray wet pebbles.

More loss of life from exposure and alcohol poisoning. (That’ll be a tale for another day)

Over the next few days as the bodies were washed ashore, a series of burials took place on Portland St Johns for those whose remains  were found.

Some remained unidentified.

Found mariner; name unknown, buried November 27th.

Found mariner;  name unknown, buried November 28th.

Catherine Irons; age 33, passenger, buried November 28th.

William Edwards; passenger, buried November 29th.

Sonia Fowler; passenger, age 72, buried November 29th.

Matthew Clayton; age 37, buried December 2nd.

Buried in Wyke Regis church yard;

Rhoda Bunyan; passenger, age 6 years, buried on the November 29th. (a little note at the bottom of the parish records X Drowning in landing from the wreck of the Royal Adelaide)


Read on for part 2.

1872;Chesil Royal Adelaide shipwreck; part 2. Armageddon!


http://www.burtonbradstock.org.uk/History/Wrecks%20off%20Burton%20Bradstock/Historical%20list%20of%20wrecks.htm (excellent site covering shipwrecks on Chesil, and an illustration of the Adelaide herself in her dying moments)

http://www.jurassiccoastline.com/jurassic_Info1b.asp?ID=132&AreaID=132 (details and images of the shipwreck today in its watery grave)

1877; Weymouths shipping trade

Weymouth has had a long history of trading with the Channel islands, and even further afield.

As a small child I can recall walking along the raised platform on the harbourside with my Mum firmly holding my hand, huge creature like cranes towered above me, they’d lumber along the  rails set in the concrete from ship to ship…to a small child a wholly fascinating place. We’d sit and watch as box after box of goods were unloaded from within the ships hold. Tons of tomatoes, potatoes, flowers, wood…you name, it was all brought into the busy working port.


Nowadays the only trade we do between us and the Channel islands is of the human kind, and the few remaining fishing boats that still ply their trade from the harbour.

Back in the Victorian era Weymouth was very much a bustling harbour.

In 1877 came the newspaper report of the new harbour staging that had been erected to help speed up the loading and unloading of the vessels as they came in and out, this was of wooden construction, held by creosoted piles driven deep into the waters below..

The improvements to the quayside had been done by the contractor, a Mr J. Innes. He had done such a good job that it had been finished before time, (don’t hear of that very often these days!) .

Upon this new staging sat a piece of machinery that  speaks of the Victorian era, the new technology that was emerging at the time, a wonder that would make the dock side men’s lives easier… Weymouth had installed a steam crane.

Such was the novelty of these big improvements to the quayside that their first day of use was one of great celebration.

There to watch the much improved system that day were Mr Wimble, who was the secretary to the Weymouth and Channel Island’s Steam-packet company, from the Great Western Railway Company was the District Superintendent Mr Humphrey. Vigilant as ever were the men of Her Majesty s Customs, Mr Hamilton Price and Mr Godfrey, (smuggling was rife between the Channel Islands and Weymouth ! )

Crowds had gathered along the harbour wall to watch this big day for the town, Weymouth was up and coming, they had the railway that now ran right along the quayside up to the ferry terminal, (opened 1865), trade was good, work for plenty.

That Wednesday evening, as they waited for the first ship to arrive, the quayside was a bustling scene, A double line of trucks awaited on the rails as far back as the Pultney buildings, men anxiously hopped from foot to foot peering out to sea, eager to get started with their work. At last, slowly sailing into sight came the Rosebud, she had been delayed by fog in the Channel, but here she was, crews on board and shore side busied themselves with tying her lines to make her fast. Work could begin!

Once the gear was ready, the steam crane burst into life, placed on board the ship itself was a donkey engine, and using a gaff the men began their toil. Load after heavy load was swiftly raised from the boat, the Rosebud that day was carrying 106 tons of New Jersey potatoes. With the new heavy machinery they could empty or load the boats at a rate of 40 or 50 tons an hour!…before, with pure man power they had only managed 14 tons an hour. Was there going to be no stopping this port now? People talked, Weymouth was destined for greatness, we could become the major trading harbour along the coast.

But as history often tells a different tale, the great shipping trade declined over the century and a half , I remember very little of it apart from those early walks amongst the lumbering iron levanthians as they worked.


Weymouth still has her gleaming Channel Island passenger vessels…but the rest of the harbour is now mainly given over to a new sort of trade, the yachts and boats of the sailors  who ferry in and out of the port in the search for relaxation and a certain lifestyle.



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.


1888; Weymouth Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock.

The striking Jubilee Clock is an iconic image of Weymouth, it adorns thousands of postcards and holiday brochures and what local hasn’t stood under there some time in their life to meet someone?


The year 1887 was  a milestone in the reign of Queen Victoria. It marked the 50th year of her ruling over the kingdom.

This was the year of her Golden Jubilee, celebrated across the land in great style.

Victoria went on to rule the country for a total of 63 years and 7 months, and in doing so became the longest serving British monarch, (our own present day Queen Elizabeth II will have to reign over us until the 9th September 2015 to beat Victoria’s record.) During the lengthy Victorian era England underwent huge changes in society, the industrial revolution, wealth and innovation fueled new commerce, and her empire expanded to cover the globe. Weymouth, not to be outdone in the party stakes held their grand celebrations on the Tuesday, 21st June, a Jubilee committee had been set up to raise funds for, and organize events in the town.

So well had the fund raising gone by the committee, that even after all the festive feasting and grand illuminations on the big day, a sum of approximately £100 was left in the kitty. The committee decided to approach the council with the suggestion of a clock tower on the Esplanade as a lasting reminder of the magnificent royal occasion. The council quickly agreed to the idea, no doubt the fact that they only had to fund the cost of a base for clock tower helped them to make their minds up to go ahead with the scheme!

The clock part itself, with its four illuminated faces, was donated by Sir Henry Edwards, who was the local Liberal MP for Weymouth and Melcombe Regis (1867-1885) at the time. (His statue is the one that stands at the end of Alexandra gardens, having been placed there in 1885 as a lasting memorial of his generosity towards the inhabitants of Weymouth.) The headmaster of the local School of Art, Mr. Baker had been instrumental in designing the clock tower. Even the local Gas Company had been gently coerced into donating the supply of gas to light the grand clock ‘in perpetuity, free of charge.’

The following year, in 1888, with the plans finally approved, worked started on the construction of the clock tower, and later that year, on the 31st October, town Mayor, John Groves led the celebrations at the grand unveiling of the permanent monument to their ruling monarch, Queen Victoria.


If you compare the photos of the clock above, you’ll notice two striking differences between the Victorian version and the modern one.

The first is that it originally stood on a plinth that jutted out into the beach, whereas today’s clock stands next to the road. The clock hasn’t moved…the Esplanade and road has!

In the early 1920’s as part of a scheme to help solve the major unemployment of many of the men who had returned from the war a ‘public works scheme’ was set up by the Liberal Government. Weymouth council used this scheme as an opportunity to widen the Esplanade, they could receive up to 60% of the men’s labour costs, and felt it was too good an opportunity to miss to make major improvements to the town, and in the process supplying work for some of the 500 local men unemployed at the time, (I dread to think how many locals are unemployed these days!)


The second difference you’ll notice is the colours. The original clock was very drab compared to todays. Along with the new wider esplanade of the 1920’s came paint…the tower was given its magnificent cloak of Weymouth colours.

In 2011 it received a major sprucing up ready for the influx of the Olympics in 2012, and now stands proudly, glistening in the sunlight with its new gildings.

The Queen Victoria Jubilee Clock is probably one of Weymouth’s most famous and easily recognized landmarks, many a local would wait under the tower to meet a friend or lover, as they almost certainly had done right down through the last century. Every New Years Eve it attracts hundreds of merry revelers around its tower to welcome in another new year.


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.


Related articles

1869; Battery, assault and burial on Weymouth beach!

In 1869 a little incident occurred on the sands, shouldn’t have been a problem really, but it was one that ended up in the national papers much to the local council’s horror!

William Wynn, a well-educated gent from London had been staying in Weymouth with his family for a holiday. They had been down on the beach, minding their own business. It was low tide, the bathing machines were down by the shore, there was lots of room on the sands. William had been playing trap and ball with his young son, when the proprietor of the bathing machines, aptly named Solomon Sly marched up to confront him.

weymouth beach 1892

In no uncertain terms a very irate Sly told Mr. Wynn to leave the beach immediately. Of course, William Wynn wasn’t having that. He declared that the beach was public property, and that Sly had absolutely no authority whatsoever ordering him and his family off. Sly, who had been described as ‘in a very excited mood’, told Mr. Wynn in no uncertain terms that he paid £40 a year, the beach was his!

A feeble half-hearted tussle then followed. Sly pushed Mr. Wynn who fell onto the sand, enraged, he then jumped up and retaliated by hitting Sly over the head with the child’s bat.

The case came to court, but it wasn’t really over the assault. Mr. Wynn, rather cleverly, allegedly had brought the case before the magistrates on the grounds that he wanted it made clear to visitors whether the beach was public property or not. Because, if it wasn’t, then future visitors to Weymouth had a right to know that they had no legal access to the beach. Seeing as those dealing with the case, magistrates and solicitors, were also on the town council, they had to tread very carefully how they responded, especially as the case had aroused a great deal of public interest, and the gallery was full of spectators including reporters. The Mayor at the time, Mr. Tizard, graciously thanked Mr. Wynn for bringing the case on behalf of the public. He assured him that the public had every right for access to the beach.

The council was at that time heavily promoting Weymouth as the perfect family holiday destination, with its superb soft sandy beaches and safe sea bathing.

children buckets beach

They had come to realize that they could no longer rest on their laurels gathered when King George used to visit the seaside resort at the start of the century, and it had become the place to be seen by those in high society. Weymouth was going to have to start attracting persons from certain other classes, which was where the money was to be made. With other sea side resorts now starting to become popular along the South coast, and increased flow of persons from far afield brought in by the developing railways, holiday resorts were having to promote themselves to win their custom.

The visions of future visitors being assaulted, or even worse, banned altogether from the beach was not exactly the family friendly and welcoming image that the council wanted for Weymouth!

That very same year, another unexpected visitor arrived on the sandy beach.

Opposite the Royal library the large, bloated body of a strange animal had been washed in on the tide. Badly decomposed, with its feet missing, the skull and legs stripped of its skin, but from what was left, namely the fur, and its teeth, it had been deduced that it was the remains of a large black bear. Not wishing to offend the sensibilities, (or presumably the nostrils) of the tourists, a large, deep pit was hastily dug in the sands where the body lay, and its remains buried.

I wonder if any of those bones are still down there somewhere?

Anyone digging for lugworms?


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.


Related articles