New Years Eve in Weymouth Victorian Style.

Weymouth is a fun place to be on New Years Eve, it’s reknown as the party town of the South West, everyone, but everyone who’s out is adorned in fancy dress.

I recall one New Years Eve when a police car roared up through town with the theme tune from a Mr Whippy’s ice cream vendor blaring out. Something you don’t witness (or hear) that often.

During the Victorian era though, things were slightly more staid and religious based, Weymouth residents attended what was termed a Watchnight Service to see out the old year, and welcome in the new.

Taken from the Western Gazette of 1883;

NEW YEAR’S EVE.-Sunday evening being New Year Eve the usual Watchnight service was held in the Weslyian Chapel. A special service was held at St John’s church at eleven o’clock,in order that the last hour of the old year might be spent in religious observances. Similar services were also held at St Mary’s Church and at Gloucester Street Chapel.

St Johns

In 1891 New Year’s Day was celebrated in style by the area’s elderly citizens, courtesy of the well know local philanthropist Sir Henry Edwards, whose statue now stands at the end of Alexander gardens as a reminder to the locals of his past connection.


Held in the grand Jubilee Hall, 450 aged people of the town, those being over the age of ‘three score years and upwards’, were treated to a slap up feast of roast meats and plum pudding, all gratefully washed down with flagons of beer, aerated water and cups of coffee.

During the feast they were waited on hand and foot by a number of local gentlemen and businessmen, who saw to the carving of the meats, while a flock of young ladies in caps and aprons ran to and fro with plates and dishes as they appeared from the kitchen.


After they had partaken of their meal, sweet oranges and prized tobacco were handed out to every man and woman present.

At the end of the festivities a  letter from Sir Henry Edwards was read out to the now well fed and much contented gathering.

“53 Berkeley Square,W

Dear Old Friends,

As your festive gathering will take place on the first day of the New Year I feel I cannot begin my letter better than by wishing you all ‘a very happy new year’ which I do most heartily. Last year I had the pleasure to send back a canister of Indian tea, such as I had seen growing and enjoyed myself when I was in India, and it gratified me to know that the gift was much appreciated by you, and I have felt that I should like to once more to afford you an equal gratification. I have therefore sent you another supply, which I believe you will find equally good, and I hope it will enable you to enjoy some happy hours at your own firesides. I hope your gathering will be a happy one. I know you will be surrounded with many kind friends who feel it a pleasure to help to render your gathering will be a happy one. I desire to thank them all most heartily, from the mayor, who so kindly presides over you, and to each and everyone now helping in your festivities. I trust the new year will be one richly laden with blessings for you all.

Your sincerely, Henry Edwards.


Every person who attended that meal returned back home laden with a canister containing 1 1/2 lb tea, a bushel of coal and  a warm blanket.

A few years later, as one century ended and the new one was heralded in, so the Mayor decreed that the town’s people should do something to mark this significant event.

Weymouth 28th December 1900...’THE FIRST DAY OF THE CENTURY.-It is understood that the Mayor is taking steps to arrange a half day on January 1st 1901, to mark the commencement of a new century. It is hoped that the bankers, traders, and shop-keepers will fall in with this idea, and thus support His Worship’s happy suggestion.’

I wonder how many local businessmen took heed of his ‘suggestion’?

A very Happy and Healthy New Year to one and 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  travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Istock portfolio for Victorian illustrations.


Many local ones being added all the time


Victorian Christmas….

Back from the christmas market;


The provision made by the butchers at this market for the wants of the festive season, was liberal in the extreme. The various substantialities that minister to creature comfort were supplied in great profusion and made a most tempting appearance. The Messrs. Baunton’sshow was remarkably good, and included a magnificent Hereford ox, and heifer, grazed by Mr Henry Coate of Sherbourne. the ox won prizes at Sturminster, Sherbourne and Yeovil, and the heifer obtained a prize at Sherbourne, Mr Dominy’s shop was well supplied, and included some excellent beef grazed by Mr Feaver of West Camel. The display of Mr Bolt was also good, especially the oxen and heifers grazed by W Peters, Esq., and some choice wethers from the flock of the Earl of Ilchester. Mr Saunders had some fine Devons from the stock of Mr H Parson, of Hazelbury, and Mr Stickland some first-rate beef grazed by Mr T Hussey, of Ilchester. Messrs. Bond, Laver and Roberts, also had choice displays of meat; and the stalls of the county butchers, in the market, were well supplied.

(Todays chefs would be chomping at the bit, the knowledge of their meats journey from field to table…)


Visting the the last resting place of loved ones……


FOUND DEAD;- On Monday night, Jane Bishop, 73, residing in John Street, was found dead on her bed by her grandson, a lad of 16. He had left her up by the fire, but on awakening a few hours after found her dead on the bed. It appears deceased had been for some time an out-patient of the hospital, where she had been treated for dyspepsia by \Dr Carter. An inquest was not considered necessary, there being no doubt death had resulted from apoplexy.



CHURCH DECORATION;-In accordance with the time-honoured custom the different churches were tastefully decorated on Christmas Day. Some of the devices and texts in evergreens, berries, and illuminated characters, were exceedingly pretty, and showed much taste on the part of those whose who had contributed towards this very appropriate work.


Having fun in the snow with Pater and favourite Uncle…….


We have experienced during the past week a nightly succession of severe frosts. On Tuesday, we had slight showers of snow and sleet; but on Thursday morning we had a very heavy snow-storm and early in the morning the fields and neighbouring hills presented a most wintry appearance.



WEYMOUTH UNION;- The inmates of this establishment were on Christmas Day regaled with beef and plum pudding ad lib. About one hundred and eighty men, women, children shared in the treat, to which was added a sufficient libation of beer, and a “burnt offering” of tobacco for the men.


Not everyone was lucky enough to have family to around them at that special time…..



THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS; It has been practically decided that the shops of the town will be closed on the Wednesday and Thursday following Christmas day.

Though some still had to work….keeping others safe….Image

On that special night…who can his footsteps as he lands on the roof….


Excited children unwrapping presents….


Even the less fortunate exchanged such gifts as they could find…


Merry Christmas and a Happy 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 local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.

1857; Victorian Day-trippers excitement… journey to Weymouth

Today, we all seem to take many things, including technology, for granted, as ever more sophisticated gadgets and inventions are unrolled into our society.

We seem to have lost the beautiful wonder and awe of the Victorian era, when every new invention or places of travel created great excitement amongst the people, such sights were gazed at in amazement, people flocked to view a new piece of mechanical machinery working or marvelled at pictures of foreign lands.

Such was one event in 1857.

The train line down to Weymouth was finally opened in January of 1857, and it was to become popular with day-trippers and tourists alike. These are the days when most travel was still by foot, horse or stagecoach……

As a child, I can remember the excitement of purchasing a ‘platform ticket’ from the machine in the station, to wave off a friend on her journey…or the excitement or going on one myself, nose pressed firmly against the window as the ever changing scenery whizzed by.

The following excerpt from the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette on 1857 explores the new wonders of steam travel and arriving at a sea side destination that many had never even heard of, let alone visited before, most travelling that day had probably had never even ventured far from their place of birth, but here they were being given the chance to go forth…


Friday was a day that will long dwell, associated with pleasing recollections, in the minds of the inhabitants of Devizes. At an early hour the streets were enlivened by a stream of people-men, women, and children-in holiday costumes, and with happy faces, moving in the direction of the railway station.


There a lengthy train was speedily filled by upwards of a thousand excurtionists. It was composed of 23 carriages-its centre occupied the station, and its extended extremities stretched far up and down the line on both sides of the building. All was excitement. Novelty-that great ingredient in the cup of pleasure-held out many attractions. To most of the party, the line itself was new; an excursion train was new; Weymouth, the place of their destination, was almost unknown.-Many had never yet travelled on a railway, and a vast number had never set eyes upon the seas which surround their island. Crowds assembled to witness the departure of their fellow-townsmen. The platform of the station, the yards adjoining it, the heights above, and even the hedges for a mile down the line, were swarmed by people, like clustering bees. At a quarter to eight, after a whistle, a tug, and a strain of the engine, the monster train was with difficulty got into motion,and, admist the cheers of the travellers and the counter-cheers of the spectators, rolled heavily from the station, but soon was merrily gliding down the declivity of the inclined plane beyond.

A more lovely, bright, and sunny day could not possibly have been selected; it was not, moreover, too hot. Rain had fallen during the night-the air was consequently cooled-the dust laid-and the verdure refreshed. The spirits of the party were, if possible, still further elevated by the beautiful prospects along the railroad. A slight veil of clouds hung suspended in the distance between the beholders and the hills towards Bratton, and, whilst it scarcely diminished the beautiful features of the scenery, increased the interest, by leaving a few shades of the picture to be filled up by the imagination, as the eye revelled over the hills in the background, enlivened by the appearance here and there of human dwellings. Every shade of green gave a variety to the fields which bordered the line of railway. The mowers paused in their work as the gigantic trail of carriages approached. Two standing with their manly forms erect, with their brawny outstretched arms resting on their scythes, whose butts touched the ground, and whose blades were turned at right angles away from the holders, formed a copy for a sculptor who wanted a model for the personification of Time.

The labourers in the hayfields or on the stacks suspended awhile their avocations.


The shepherd paused with the stake in hand which he was about to fasten in the earth to secure his hurdled fold. The peasant riding afield on the leader of a string of horses, checked his steeds to gaze upon the strange apparition.

So, advancing, and, Falstaff-like, being the cause of admiration in others, the excursionists proceeded on their route. Melksham is quickly left behind.Its smooth, unruffled stream shone bright as glass, with its broad lily leaves expanded in places over its surface, and with its dark willows fringing its banks. A pause takes place at Trowbridge, where smoky chimneys with their long shafts, and the manufacturing aspect of the town, formed a contrast with the rural scenes just passed. Its cloths of various colours were exposed to the sun on the banks near the station, purposely, it was facetiously suggested, in charity to remind travellers by the railway, and by excursion trains in particular, of death and dying; and thence, to further the interests of the company, by silently admonishing them of the expediency of insuring their lives for the remainder of the journey.

Onward sped the train; towns were passed in rapid succession-Frome, Yeovil, Dorchester. Villages and scattered hamlets with their slate walls, and thatched roofs, their comfortable farm-houses, their fruitful orchards, their herds of red cattle, and luxuriant crops, and their downs covered with sheep, were presented to the eye in quick review.


At length the excursionists were safely landed at Weymouth, and descended from their carriages, while the accompanying band of the Wilts Militia played on the platform of the station.

It would have required the eyes of Argus to have enables any one person to describe the various movements of the happy party during the day. After awhile it was scarcely possible to look up at a window without encountering a friendly smile, a nod of recognition, from some familiar Wiltshire faces.


It seemed as if the Market-place of Devizes were converted into the esplanade, while Long-street and the Brittox had changed places with the streets of St Thomas and St Mary, and St Edmund.

The chief point of attraction, however, appeared to be a visit to Portland by the steamers which were passing to and fro all day long. The steep sides of the northern eminance-on which the Government are erecting a fort to protect the proposed new naval station, and which is to rival Gibraltar in strength, and is to be inaccessable-were covered with persons gazing on the blue bay on either side on the island, the town and harbour of Weymouth, the stupendous breakwater, and the hills beyond, on which George III and his steed figured on the chalky down formed a prominent object.

The Breakwater itself was crowded with wonder-stricken visitors. So many passed over it, backwards and forwards, on that day, that it is scarcely necessary to describe it.


To a stranger it was a novel sight in the application of railways, to see three lines of rails abreast, running, for the conveyance of material, directly out into the sea for a mile and 70 yards, on 915 piles, each one hundred feet long, 30 feet apart each way, and standing 60 feet below the water, and forming, five abreast a width of 120 feet. When it is considered that this width and depth, with the addition of another intended mile in length, has been or is to be entirely filled up by masses of stone, centred by a wall of solid masonry, rising up far above the level of the water, the mind is lost in astonishment at the greatness of the undertaking. Nine years have already been consumed in its construction. When completed, guns are to be mounted along it, and a fort at the extremity and another on the opposite eastern shore, will be able to command with their cannons the remaining two miles designed to be left open as the entrance to the harbour. The largest ships of war will be able to take in coal close to the Breakwater without the intervention of boats. When the harbour inside is completed by the protection from the sea, and from the attacks of enemies, it will be the largest, the best, and the most secure in the British dominions.

Visitors to the sea for the first time on Friday last had no opportunity of seeing “the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep, when the stormy wind ariseth, and lifteth up the waves thereof, so that they are carried up to the heaven and down again to the deep.” But such as have heard that mighty sea sea roaring, and seen the overwhelming dash of its billows, may be apt to feel a pride to almost deify man, when they behold science stretching as it were a chain over the ocean, running her engines over its surface, sending her workmen in diving dresses below its waters to rivet its fetters,


and saying“hitherto shalt thou come, but no further, and here shalt they proud waves be stayed.” But an antidote is at hand for such pride. The visitor has only to return homeward over the Chesil Bank,


and see a barrier formed-not by the direct omnipitent power of God, but by th eordinary opertaions of nature-out of the smallest pebbles rolled together, and presenting an obstacle to the sea tenfold more durable than the neighbouring work of man.

Let him, moreover, on reaching his home, read an acoount of the stupendous operations of his fellow-worm the minute coral insect. Of how this little creature raises land out of the level of the sea;forms islands;stretches reefs a hundred feet deep and for thousands of miles in length; and cements such harbours as man would shrink from undertaking the execution of.

Having thoroughly enjoyed the pleasures of the day, the excursionists assembled in the station at a quarter past seven, the time appointed for their return to Devizes. As they marched along the esplanade at this hour, scarcely out of Italy could be witnessed more lovely blue waters, or shores bathed in a richer golden hues of the evening sun. The novelty of the day was now well neigh over, and the travellers were almost too fatigued to notice the few changes in the  scenery since the morning, as the evening shades deepened as they journeyed homewards;

how the cattle were no longer indolently grouped together, but were feeding, scattered over the pastures; how the fields were deserted by the husbandmen; and how the villages were now filled with their wearied occupants, who cheered the passing train; or how “all the village train from labour free” sent forth groups to lounge in the adjoining fields and lanes , or to bathe in the neighbouring brook,-Drawn by three engines, at length the excursion train arrived safely at the Devizes station, where it was received by vociferous cheers of welcome from friends who assembled in crowds to witness the return of the ravellers.

Thus ended a day of great enjoyment to the inhabitants of this borough; and much cause is there for gratitude to the Giver of all Good, that the whole party retuned in health and safety;-not the slightest accident having occurred to throw a damp over the pleasure of the excursion, in the participation of which pleasure all classes of society in the town had sympathised one with another in brotherly union and universal good will.



Check out what the 20th century visitors came to see in summertime Weymouth.

Victorian Lodmoor.

Being down on the South coast, our weather tends to be fairly mild compared to the rest of the country, I’ve lost count of the amount of times that my hubby had phoned me from work in Dorchester, over the Ridgeway, and would gloat that it was snowing there, of course, in Weymouth, it would be raining!

But this years headlines forewarning of a hard winter to come, following on from last years got me thinking when was the last time that the water froze over down here.

I can remember one occasion as a child when the Backwater had frozen right over, and Mum and Dad took me down to skate there, it was packed…my brother even tried to ride his bike on it!….rather stupidly as it happens, as he ended up with one very large bump on his head!

Lodmoor is an area of flat marshy ground on the outskirts of Weymouth.


It sits right behind the shingle beach at Preston, which in the Victorian era, before the big raised sea wall was built, (pictured below) was all that kept the sea from flooding the ground behind.



Before, and during the Victorian era, this area was popular for ice skating when the weather was cold enough to freeze over the water that sat there, which seemed to happen fairly frequently during that era. It was the first place people flocked to when the temperature dropped for any length of time. Torch light parades led by bands would lead the way during the evenings, and a ring of blazing torches set around the frozen water gave it a magical appeal.

Articles from the newspaper of the Victorian sets the scene of a cold winter.

“1861 12th Jan


Lodmoor, with it’s vast expanse of ice, had furnished during the last few days the means of many enjoying the invigorating pastime of skating. On Tuesday evening it presented quite a novel appearance, a large number of gentlemen being furnished with torches and other artificial appliances to “throw a light on the subject,” The Rifle Corps, with it’s two bands, attended, and threw a halo of gladness over the scene. A large number of ladies and gentlemen who did not actively participate in the bracing exercises of skating or sliding were well repaid for their walk out by viewing the fairy-like entertainments.”

Again in 1864, the weather was sever enough to freeze the area sufficient for skaters to venture forth.

couple ice skating q 1887

“1864 9th Jan


Lodmoor, on Monday, gave a faint representation of the state of the Thames during the severe winter of 1813-14, it’s surface being covered with indefatigable skaters and by those who practiced the less aristocratic pastime of sliding. All were anxious to make the most of the weather, it’s continuance being uncertain. On the following days  it was well patronized, and free scope given to that species of Freemasonry always noticeable when a meeting of individuals takes place on the ice.”

Once more, In 1867 the temperature reached an all time low, but the locals still managed to get out to enjoy such past times as it would allow;

“1867 17 Jan



Some years have elapsed since Weymouth has experienced such sever weather as that which has prevailed for the last few days. The thermometer on Sunday and Monday was down to 22 below freezing point, and the continuance of snow on the ground (an unusual thing for Weymouth) attests the inordinate coldness of the temperature. The harbour was also frozen on Monday, which is another indication of the degree of cold. A magnificent sheet of ice was spread over occurred, none, however, attended with serious consequences. Lodmoor, presenting an area that must have rejoiced the hearts of skaters, hundreds of whom took advantage of the occasion. The streets and pavements have been dangerously slippery, and many falls have occurred.”

Some were rather too eager to get on the ice maybe?….

“1871 9th Dec

SKATING MISHAP-During the past week several persons have been skating at Lodmoor, but owing to deficiency of water the sports has not been so good as usual. Tuesday was the first day when the ice was strong enough to bear, but then there was risk attatched to getting on it. Several immersions took place, one “gay young fellow” getting into a dreadful mess, being covered almost from head to foot in black mud. He was in such an awkward position that he was unable to get out until assistance arrived.”

Nowadays, skating wouldn’t be allowed on the area as it has become a valuable Bird Sanctuary, and i’m not too sure that feathered birds would appreciate fellow waders of the two flat footed variety.



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 local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


1899; Ding dong dell…Mary’s in the well

The length of Weymouth’s ancient quayside is lined with an eclectic jumble of historic buildings, each one has a thousand stories to tell, they have witnessed fights, lovers, joy, tears, death and birth….the ghostly whispers of so many events lie within their walls, and under their eaves.


This time, our story starts not in Weymouth, Dorset, but over the border in Somerset.

Mary Ann Williams was not long widowed, about 18 months prior to the incident. After her husband had died, being in no position to be able to support herself, she went back to living with her parents for a while.


After she had been there for some time Mary Ann decided it might be best to move down to Weymouth, she couldn’t keep relying on her elderly parents for support. In Weymouth she  had an Aunt, Mrs Jeffery  that ran an Inn, maybe she would take her in and give her work.

At the end of January Mary Ann set off on foot on her epic journey.

By day she tramped the roads and lanes heading towards Weymouth, by night she stopped in the nearest town and slept in the local workhouses.

By the Friday, the 3rd February, Mary Ann had finally reached Dorchester, she was nearly there thank goodness, here again she stopped at the workhouse overnight.

The next morning, the Saturday, she was up bright and early, this was going to be a new start for her, gathering up her few measly possessions, and rolling them into a bundle, Mary Ann set off on the road to Weymouth where her Aunt lived, the weather wasn’t kind to her, the rain lashed down, soaking her sparse clothes, the wind was ice cold and cut through her like a knife through butter.

At last, puffing and panting, Mary Ann reached the top of the Ridgeway, and despite the inclement weather, there before her very eyes was surely the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. The stormy clouds had momentarily parted over the sea and the suns golden rays picked out the waves like a thousand dancing lights on its surface. The Isle of Portland stood out proud on the horizon.

This was a good omen as far as Mary Ann was concerned… a fresh start for her.

With a renewed spring in her step Mary Ann strode down the hill and into the town.

Sadly, it didn’t get off to a good start for her though, when she discovered that her Aunt had in fact passed away, so here she was, in a strange town, with no abode, no job and very little money to spare.

Heading first for the police station, which was based in the old Guildhall in those days, she enquired about a ticket for the Workhouse that night, but was told by the sergeant behind the desk that she couldn’t collect one until 6 o’clock that evening.


With that, Mary Ann decided to head for the nearest pub, which was just around the back of the Guildhall, the Porter’s Arms on the Quayside. She got chatting to the publican’s wife, Mrs Galloway, who feeling sorry for this cold, drowned specimen, lugging all her worldly possessions with her rolled up in an old  blanket, offered to dry her clothes for her, an offer which Mary Ann gladly took up. When she was dry, fed and feeling much better, Mary Ann found herself in the bar enjoying a drink, and started chatting to a local man, William House, a 27-year-old labourer, he brought Mary Ann a drink.

Once they got chatting, and she told him her tale of woe, and how she was going to the workhouse to sleep that night, William said that he could find her a bed at his sister’s house.

Now, I’m not sure if Mary Ann was totally naive, or maybe she didn’t have warning bells ringing in her ears, or maybe she did, and did what it took, but at half past nine that evening, she left the pub alone with William, supposedly on the way to the house of his sister.


They crossed the town bridge, walked along by the harbour side and towards Boot Hill. Here William wanted to cross some dark fields, but Mary Ann, maybe wising up at last, or having second thoughts, was having none of it. She started to get worried, she wanted to go back, with that, William crossly  said he would take her to the Workhouse then, and the couple turned around and headed back down towards the harbour again… away from the direction of the Workhouse unbeknown to Mary Ann. Once they reached the bottom of the hill, he tried to take her into one of the little courts off of the old High Street, but here he was disturbed by a nosy householder with candle in hand, Charles Pavey, who wanted to know what they were doing there. William’s excuse was that they were being followed by two men, and he was hiding from them.

Thwarted once more, William was getting angry, by the time they had walked across to the harbour again, he grabbed hold of Mary Ann and dragged her onto a large hulk that was moored there, pushing her down a big dark hole, where she landed with a thump on something soft…grain!

Slamming the hatches tight shut behind him, she was left with the words ringing in her ears, that it was a “good enough place for her.”…

For nine days Mary Ann was trapped in this hell hole..

At first, she tried yelling and banging, but no one heard her cries for help, outside a fierce storm was raging, which lasted for days, muffling any sounds from inside the hulk. She tried to stand on the ever shifting grain to force open the hatches with a shovel she had found, but every time Mary Ann climbed the mountain of grain, her weight made her sink back down, the treacherous cargo constantly threatening to swallow her up. In the end, she didn’t know when it was day or night so dark inside the hold was it. With no food and no water, she soon grew weak. She tried to eat the dry grain, and even licked the spade to cool her tongue.

The ship belonged to Mr Thomas John Templeman, a wealthy Weymouth businessman, who was a corn merchant and owned a large  warehouses on the quayside.


It wasn’t until nine days later that workmen returned to the vessel.

When they opened the hatches, there, curled up on the grain, was the body of Mary Ann, she was still alive… only just!

Her malnourished body was carried to the Workhouse, where she was cared for, and when she had recovered slightly she was able to tell the policeman what had happened to her, and who the guilty party had been.

With that information William House, after being taken to the Workhouse first to be identified by Mary Ann,  was arrested.

In court things didn’t look good for William, his neighbour, Mary Denman of 5 Seymour Street, described how she had watched him sneaking in the window a half past one in the morning, whereas William had said he’d been home by half nine.

The jury found William House guilty of “Intent to cause grievous bodily harm.”

He recieved a sentance of  18 months hard labour.


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 local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


Related articles

1899; Thwarted love…never cross a woman!

In the April of 1899 a case came before the Under-Sheriff’s Court at Dorchester.

It concerned a breach of promise, that was back in the day when people declared themselves engaged…it really meant something! Not like the business of today where it seems to be a question of how many engagement rings they can accumulate.

This was between Frank William Dodd and Eva Rosina Case.

The case had already been before the High Court, where it was decided that Frank did had a case to answer, this court was to decide how much damages he should pay the fair lady for his breech of promise and her broken heart!

The young(ish) lady in question was Eva Rosina Case, she had been born in Weymouth, 1870 to John and Susan,  middle class Weymouth folk. Daddy owned his own business, a furniture retailer, and house agent. The family lived at Belle Vue, a very nice district indeed. Twenty eight year old Eva was a highly educated young woman, she helped in her father’s business, looking after the books. Her solicitor in court described her as “eminently fitted to be the wife of Mr Frank Dodd, or any gentlemen whatever his position.”

Eva in other words was a good catch for a gentleman!

The young, or maybe not quite so young man, was 34-year old Frank William Dodd.

Frank worked at the Whiteheads Torpedo Works, in fact he not only worked there, he was the work’s manager. A position of great trust and with a good outlook. He had previously worked for the company at Fiume in Austria, where they had been based before opening the works in Weymouth, he was well educated, spoke numerous languages.

Frank had first gone into Eva’s fathers shop to buy furniture in the June of 1895…Eva had caught his eye. Over the next few days Frank returned time and time to the shop on the pretext of buying more items, his house was fast filling up!…what he really wanted though was Eva.

Now Eva liked the chap, but it didn’t do to be too forward, she was a respectable and sensible lady, Eva made him wait a while before she would finally agree to “walk out with him”.


At first they would take pleasant, romantic strolls in the summers evening light, nothing too serious.

But, things changed, on the 22nd September, Frank got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage…he was desperate to claim Eva as his own true love.

She wasn’t quite so sure though, as much as she liked the chap, he was perfectly respectable, had good prospects, was a gentleman, he would be prefect marriage material for her…just not yet, it was far too soon.

In October, Franks sister came over to visit him, the two girls met and got on well, this bode well for Frank.

He asked Eva again to marry him, he had already got permission from her Mother, this time Eva agreed quite willingly, yes…this was the man for her. In 1895 the couple were engaged.

Things weren’t all sweetness and light though as far as Eva was concerned, by April of next year, all her friends were enquiring of her where her engagement ring was. Eva was beginning to wonder that too, so she wrote to Frank asking him why he hadn’t brought her one…being put on the spot, Frank had no choice but to go and purchase his fiance (not a word you hear often these days) the ring. They went together and purchased the ring from an old well established Weymouth jewellers in town, a shop that I can vividly recall from my childhood, as the shop front was a shiny jet black, and the windows were filled with gleaming silver objects, the top shelf lined with huge shining trophies.


At the end of 1896 Frank was promoted to works manager, this gave him a good salary £364 a year, not only that, but also a house. Things were looking good for the couple. They saw each other often. his parents came over and met Eva and her family, they were very happy with his choice, he had chosen well, a girl that befitted his station in life.

A little later things started to go wrong. Frank discovered that Eva had distant relatives who lived at Wyke, members of the Hannay family, nothing wrong with them, they were perfectly respectable people. Their son it seems worked at the Torpedo works, but for some reason Frank took umbrage at this. He felt that it might affect his chances of promotion.

At this point, Frank fell out with Eva, claiming that she had not disclosed her relationship to this family…and why should she? She hardly knew them.

Things soured further between the couple, with contact only being made by now via the post and letters.


Was Frank maybe looking for an easy way out of this relationship?

In the March of 1898 Eva received a letter from Frank

“Dear Eva,-Your letter of Monday last to which you ask me to reply is not very clear. It seems to impute to me a meaning which I have never expressed. Having had your repeated assurance you had no relations up here (Wyke) I consider I was fully entitled to complain when I ascertained the real state of the case. It would be under certain circumstances a serious hinderance to ne professionally, particularly if I remain here.”

Goodness only knows what Franks problem was…was it people who live at Wyke, or this chap in particular?

Eva’s solicitor suspected that now Frank had, in his eyes, gone up in the world, he no longer saw Eva as quite such a good catch…the bounder was getting above himself!

Letters went back and forth between the couple…he seemed to be trying his best to upset Eva. Was he trying to get her to call off the engagement?

Now, things were getting serious, and a desperate Frank wrote again

” I see no hope of any real reconsiliation between us, and therefore I consider that I am fully entitled to be released from my engagement to you, as there are several matters already discussed, and some in which I was considerable misled. (Back to the old Wyke rellies again!) I am sorry I have to insist upon my rights in this way, but I am certain that it will be best in the long run.”

There, we have it…Frank does want to end his relationship with Eva, he was looking for a cowards way out, trying to make her finish the relationship.

Eva was having none of it!

“Dear Frank,-I received your letter, and in reply think it quite time that I insisted upon my rights. I do not feel disposed to release you from your long engagement, as your plea of my deception is wholly imaginative.”

Frank totally ignored this letter…maybe he was panicking, realising that being taken to court for a breech of promise wouldn’t look too good on his C.V.

Eva wrote a second, sterner letter, this time spelling it out in no uncertain terms what would happen if Frank continued on this course of action;

” Dear Frank,-As you have totally ignored me for the last two months, and not yet acknowledged my letter, I have to ask you whether you propose to carry out your promise to marry me or not. If I do not receive any answer I shall conclude that you do not, and shall place the matter in my solicitor’s hands.”

He had to reply now;

“I would never have entered into any engagement had I known the facts, and I asked you to release me when I knew them. Even could I believe that there had been no willing deception, the  bare withholding of facts which you must have known, and which were of the first importance to me, would be quite unjustifiable, and  such a line of conduct would not be countenanced in an ordinary business transaction.”

The pomposity and cold heartedness just oozes out of this fellow…

He ended the letter with a chilling phrase;

“I will not prolong the correspondence, and shall consider myself absolutely free.”

Poor Eva, I think at this point she realised that it was no longer any point trying to keep hold of this man,

“You have caused me so much pain and suffering, and I shall never be happy until everything is made clear. You must remember that you were the informant of the ‘all important fact’ which you are ever ready to bring forward. As regards your asking for release, I cannot remember your doing so; but now I see, had I not been blind, what your variations of conduct during the latter part of last year menat. If you mean what you say in the letter it is plain that you misled me…The attitude I take up is that of any honourable woman, that of defending myself against that which unjust and causes injury.”

With that terse response ringing warning bells well and clearly in Franks ears, Eva handed the matter over to her solicitor, and a course of correspondence started between the two men.

Frank’s first reply to the solicitors opening letter rather gets the measure of the man!

“Re my former engagement to Miss Case, I have no intention of marrying Miss Case, and have told her so most implicitly on many occasions during the past 12 months. The engagement was commenced at the express desire written or otherwise, of Miss Case herself, and was the direct result of serious misrepresentation on her part.”

Frank was certainly no gentleman………..

“I cannot conceive how she can have been put to any expense in the matter, and it will be my unpleasant duty to resist any claim arising out of it under that or any other head.”

This obviously gave the errant fiance a great deal to chew over….he tried another tack…writing again to Eva

“If you would come out and see me we might put matters between us on a happier basis.”

Good old Eva wasn’t having him calling the shots, if he wanted to meet with her, he was going to have to come and meet her, not summons her like a lapdog to his abode!


The two did meet, but the report gives no inkling of their conversation apart from the reply that Frank wrote to Eva after the reconciliation meeting.

“I am prepared to leave Weymouth at once or marry you at any time in January next which you may name. Let me implore you not to ask me to marry you unless you think we can be happy together.”

Later he wrote

“Dear Eva,- I am very happy that we succeeded in putting things on a more satisfactory basis, and feel sure that they will continue so. I should never have pushed matters so far had I not been misinformed by outsiders,(touch of the old Jeremy Kyle here!) and so been inclined to take this serious view of matters, which have now vanished.”

So, all seemed fine on the romance front, but was it? Eva realised she was getting on somewhat, she desperately wanted to be settled, in a little home of her own, and starting a family, she loved children.


They were supposed to be getting married in the January, and by the end of November, Eva is writing again to Frank to ask when the wedding was going to be. Her friends and family were asking if they had set the date…and it seems that Franks hadn’t tied himself down yet to one.

The Frank went away at Christmas, without leaving a forwarding address for Eva to contact him…was he getting cold feet a second time?

Even when he returned to work after Christmas, he still did not go to see Eva…she ended up having to write to him again, but his reply was that he was far too busy, and not at all well.

He then dropped the bombshell, he didn’t want to marry her.

There we have it in a nutshell…Frank had changed his mind, he couldn’t go through with the marriage, no matter the consequences, whether he’d be taken to court, and his good name besmirched.

His offhand, cold and callous disregard for Eva’s feeling had cost him the grand total of £350…no mean total in that day and age.

Not that it was of much consolation to poor old Eva, all she had wanted was to marry and settle down.


Eva never married..she died in Weymouth a spinster in 1951.


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