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.


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