Victorian Weymouth and Portland Roads and the Great Eastern.

I have spent more than a few years studying and researching about the lives of the military men who were based at the Nothe in Weymouth during the Victorian era and onwards, and in the course of my sifting through the old newspapers and articles for news items about them I have uncovered many fascinating snippets of Weymouth and Portland life that I hadn’t known about.

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One advantage of being based high up on the Nothe, the resident soldiers and their families had a bird’s eye view as to what was going on all around them.

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They had the perfect vantage point to watch the comings and goings of the abundant variety of shipping in the Roads, the numerous naval vessels big and small, that came and went, some by sail, some by steam, fleets of merchants ships that moored up sheltering from fearsome storms in the channel, the  local fishing and pilot boats ferrying to and fro, plying their trade.

Walk to the opposite side of the plateau and they could watch as a steady stream of merchant vessels sailed in and out of the bustling Weymouth harbour, discharging or collecting their goods, the trains that slowly clanked and creaked alongside the metal rails set in the quayside towards the ferry terminal, carrying passengers by the hundreds heading for the Channel Island Steamers.

 

Their lofty vantage point on the Nothe gave them a grandstand view of Weymouth and Portland’s maritime  life which was hectic and varied.

In those long ago heady days of Weymouth and Portland’s history, they were a destination for many a famous vessel.

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Such was the case towards the end of May 1870, when the magnificent vessel, the infamous Great Eastern had steamed her way into the Portland Roads,  she was coaling up ready for her Atlantic voyage…but all was not what it seemed.

Her imposing start in life, eleven odd years earlier had promised so much for this grand dame of the seas.

She was the ostentatious creation of the famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel, a man with a great technical and highly creative mind, and who had already visited Weymouth to oversee the construction of the original Weymouth train station which was of his design.

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Brunel was a man of vision, he had envisaged a ship, but not just any old ship, he had the grand dreams of one large enough to carry many thousands of passengers and cargo at a time to such far-flung countries as the Far East and Australia.

Despite the many doubters that a floating and seaworthy vessel of this size could even be constructed, Isambard set to, determined to prove them all wrong.

The Great Eastern was destined to become a steam paddle ship, way ahead of her time.

Built in the mid 1850’s, she was nearly 700 foot long, and weighing 22,500 tons, a gigantean compared to any other ships built during that era.

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In fact it would be another 40 odd years before anyone else managed to build something even comparable in size to her.

However, she had been dogged by problems right from the start of her life, and she was no stranger to Weymouth.

Eleven years earlier, and her much awaited maiden voyage had been a complete disaster.

Leaving her berth at the Isle of Dogs in the Thames on the 7th September 1859, she was heading for Weymouth, and Portland Roads, where she was going to moor up.

Here the idea was that the grand lady would be opened to visitors, giving the general public the chance to admire the great visions and arts of the Victorian entrepreneur and many skilled tradesmen who had toiled on her, then she would set off for her maiden voyage to America.

Not far into that first but fateful journey, just off the coast of Hastings, a huge explosion completely blew off the forward funnel, which totally wrecked the Grand Saloon below.

Luckily none of the passengers were injured, but some of the ships crew hadn’t been quite so lucky. Two died on board of their fearful injuries soon after the explosion, but three of the men managed to survive until the ship had reached Weymouth, but sadly they too died shortly afterwards in the local hospital.

The bodies of all five crewmen were buried in Weymouth.

The designer and creator of the unlucky vessel, Isambard Brunel himself passed away not long after his ships first disastrous journey.

The majestic lady’s unfortunate excursion to Weymouth in 1859 did have its advantages though for the town.

Ever up for a spot of recycling, the surviving part of the damaged funnel was used by the Weymouth Water Company who at the time was constructing the new water reservoir at Sutton Poyntz, (the Great Eastern is seen here in an illustration while undergoing the repair work in Portland Roads.).

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The recycled funnel stayed in it’s working life at the Waterworks for the next 143 years, until it was removed during major improvements in 2004 and what was left was donated to the Great Britain museum.

The disaster of the Great Eastern also meant she had inadvertently become a much welcome, and frequently visited tourist attraction for the town.

Special train excursions were laid on from all over the country, they were bringing  people in to Weymouth by the thousands to tour the news worthy and incapacitated ship while she was undergoing repairs.

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Never slow in coming forwards, local hawkers of all manner surrounded the stricken ship in their droves in various crafts of all shapes and sizes, pushing their wares on to the ladies and gentlemen as they tried with immense difficulties, to scramble aboard the great lady.

Even those paying customers who managed to get on board the great vessel were accused of trying to procure their own illicit souvenirs from the stricken ship, splinters of wood, broken glass, in fact anything that they could discreetly carry off.

Once repaired she was on her way to America and her new life as a sea going passenger ship, seen here leaving Portland Roads.

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Things didn’t quite turn out as her designer and owners had envisioned though. The Great Eastern was persistently dogged with numerous problems over the following years, never living up to her owners high expectations.

Consequently she had ended up back in port here, 11 odd years later, fueling up ready, not to convey excited passengers in majestic style to their new lives far overseas as her creator had dreamed of, but as a plain old workhorse, to lay down cables across the sea bed.

Come 1873, and whilst on another visit to Portland Roads she was witness to a tragedy when a group of young local lads were drowned nearby, they had been on  a day out and trying to visit her.

https://susanhogben.wordpress.com/2013/09/25/weymouth-1873-rub-a-dub-dub-3-men-not-in-a-tub/

The Great Eastern ended her working days being broken up as scrap in the late 1890’s, one of her top masts even ended up as Liverpool football grounds flagpole.

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Writing a blog, short stories or your own family history, bring them to life with historical graphics.

Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Beauty is within the eye of the beholder….so it was then, so it is now, and for ever more shall be .

I was debating what to do my next blog on when I became sidetracked by a lively discussion going on in a Facebook group that i belong to.

The first discussion, that was becoming a little heated concerned three new sculptures by artist Andy Kirby that had recently been unveiled in Weymouth.

Some loved them, some hated them…I personally think they are great fun.

The only downside I think is that they are based in and around the New Look site, Mercy Road, (well…I suppose that New Look  and the new Sainsburys’ did commission them,) but this means that they are  not available to the majority of people to view unless they specifically head for the out of town Park and Ride.

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The sculptures had a lot of thought put into them, and they reflect (quite literally in one particular piece) snippets of Weymouth’s past history, some well known such as the torpedo works at Wyke, George III, the Jurassic Coast. They were designed by the artist using what is carefully referred to as ‘the power of public art,’ with the local community having a great deal of input into the project, the artist having collected local folk tales and snippets of family history from those involved in the project.

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 A timeline of his work for these installations can be found here.

http://searoadpublicarttrail.blogspot.co.uk/

I love this funky bus stop right outside Sainsbury’s.

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The second discussion covered the new buildings going up along the inner harbour side, where the old fire station had once stood.

Many thought that the plans were sympathetic with what had once stood there, (this side of the harbour being the original old Weymouth town as opposed to Melcombe Regis on the other side of the waters,) it an eclectic mix of many historic buildings some dating back to the tudor period, (but which were tragically demolished in the 20th c the name of progress.)

Others decried these pseudo styled dwellings, and say that the council should have been brave, bitten the bullet  and gone for something more modern and brought the resort bang up to date.

Who’s right?

Who’s to even say who’s right?

But what has all this got to do with Victorian Weymouth and Portland?

Well…I guess that right down through time there has always been conflict and disagreements on what is considered art, good taste, fashionable style, in both pieces of artwork, building designs and town planning. 

No matter which era you pick in Weymouth’s history, you bet your bottom dollar that someone came up with a grand scheme to improve the area, and before you could say ‘Jack Robinson,’ someone else shot it down in flames.

Design and aesthetics is a very subjective matter…no one is right, and no one is wrong. Thankfully, in our country, we all have the right to our own opinions, and a right to voice those opinions..well, so did our ancestors of the Victorian era.

One example of this was the construction of Weymouth’s present day jewel in the crown, the Greenhill gardens in the late 1870’s.

greenhill gardens old

‘1873 26 Apr

THE GREENHILL IMPROVEMENTS-

Visitors to our town who knew the Greenhill a year ago would now be at a loss to recognize the old spot, so thoroughly has it been altered. Instead of its being as heretofore a place of humps and hollows and desolation, it is now, through the great generosity of Sir Frederick Johnstone, one of the prettiest places in the town, and is really a people’s park in miniature. The ground has been very admirably laid out under the direction of Mr. G.R. Crickmay, and now there are grassy slopes, artistic mounds, and pleasant walks. The gardens have been planted with trees, shrubs, and plants of various kinds, and when these have had a few years growth the appearance of the place will be considerably improved. At the extreme end of the gardens is a well-formed piece of ground to be used for croquet playing. This site is surrounded by a rustic wooden fence, which gives it a very pretty appearance. Another important advantage is that owing to the construction of the gardens the Esplanade has been lengthened to the extent of several hundred yards. The gardens may now be considered nearly completed, only some fine gravel being required to finish off the walks. When the gardens are thrown open to the public, we are sure they will be greatly appreciated by the town, and the Greenhill will be a pleasure resort both to residents and visitors.’

Not everyone was happy about it’s construction, certain locals believed that ground to be Melcombe Common, and rebelled against anything being placed there that impeded the publics right of way, even going as far as to getting a mob of 150 odd people who broke down the fences of the gardens.

Come 1886 and the case of trespass ended up in court, going rather badly for those who had , perhaps, misguidedly it seems, stood up for rights of the common man.

Despite their rocky start, these gardens are now a well established and truly cherished part and parcel of Weymouth.

Rather ironically, there is also a fierce battle going on at present because the local council want to sell of this precious and much loved open space which had been gifted to the residents of the town to private developers to manage. Many fear that this would ultimately end up with this prime sea frontage piece of land being used for luxury development.

Even the trusty old Kings Statue hasn’t been without its detractors over the years.

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Who nowadays could even begin to imagine Weymouth without that imposing and regal landmark?

First unveiled to the public on the 25th October 1810 in honour of the King George III who had literally put Weymouth on the social map when he made it famous as a watering place.

A certain amount of skullduggery, lots of shenanigans and political manoeuvring had taken place over this mammoth piece of sculpture during the period of its conception (1802,) and its rather large foundation stone  finally being put in place,(1809.)

Ever since that unveiling date of 1810 it has attracted numerous controversial suggestions as to it’s construction, position on the esplanade, coat of colours….. not everybody appreciated it, some wanted it removed altogether, claiming it was an ugly blot on the fine esplanade, later came claims that it impeded the free movement of traffic!

The area in front of the statue had eventually become THE meeting place for any social, political or town ceremonies.

Horse and carriages waited patiently for their customers here, later the motor charabancs congregated, offering pleasure trips to the holiday makers.

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In later years it was reduced to little more than a mere traffic island in a very busy road, a place where buses arrived and departed at regular intervals, with the destination Kings Statue emblazened on their front.

Nowadays, thankfully it still sits resplendent in its bright colours and gildings amongst the busy traffic…but at least those who had cared enough about it had stood fast and not let the detractors who wanted to modernise the town confine it to some out of the way spot or even worse, the spoil heap.

The most iconic symbol of Weymouth I suppose has to be its beautiful and elegant Georgian seafront, there is nothing like it anywhere else…it just oozes charm and history, elegance and style.

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 Yet, come the end of the Victorian era, and some councillors were calling for it all to be pulled down and replaced with something more modern, something that would speak to the modern day tourists.

To them the Georgian facades were old fashioned and outdated.

What if they had got their way?

What would Weymouth have looked like today?

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.

I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from 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.

 

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Misdemeanours and misfits in the Victorian courts; 1863.

I just love to browse the old newspapers and see what our ancestors were up to.

The papers columns are filled with intriguing snippets of their daily lives, the usual hatch, match and dispatches, arrivals and departures, accidents and fights, and the misfortunes of those whose day to day activities managed to fall foul of the law and end up before the local courts.

From the Dorset County Chronicle of the 5th February of 1863 comes a veritable hotch potch of such events.

On a Friday at the start of the month, the County Petty Sessions were held under the hawk-like eyes of Captain Manning who was the chairman and his co-horts, Mr S Meade, Robert Hassall  Swaffield and Richard Ffolliot Eliot Esquire.
These men were the pillars of local society, the movers, the shakers and decision makers of the Victorian era.

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First to appear before the court that day was Robert Pearce of Portland, he had been summoned by fellow Portlander, John Pearce for an assault that had taken place on the 13th January. As Captain Manning went on to rail against ‘the disgraceful practice of persons throwing rubbish into the streets of Portland,’ we can only surmise that someone had remonstrated with the guilty party and received a thump for doing so.

Now anyone who knows the area well, also knows that certain names are synonymous with Portland, and Pearce is certainly one of them, makes for very interesting research in an era when the same family christian names were handed down father to son, mother to daughter, generation after generation, let alone all having the same surnames!
In the year 1863 there were more than a fair few Robert Pearce’s living and working on the island to choose from as I have already covered in a previous blog.
https://susanhogben.wordpress.com/2013/09/23/1865-portland-keeping-it-in-the-family/
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It could have been the Robert who had been born way back in 1795…you may think that at the ripe old age of 68 he was too old to be getting involved with a dispute, but as he was still slogging away in the quarries, he may well have been heading towards his twilight years but this was no doddery old chap, you had to be extremely fit for this work.

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Then again, it could have been the Robert born later, in 1814. He was only 47, and also a stone worker, as were the rest of his family.
Now, interestingly enough, this Robert appeared in the Dorchester Prison Admission and Discharge Registers for 1878…by then he was aged 64. Robert found himself hauled before the magistrates for ‘neglecting to maintain himself and family,’

The Prisoners Description Book book also gives us a glimpse of the man himself. He was 5ft 6 1/4″ tall, not surprisingly his brown hair was turning grey, his eyes were grey and his complexion described as sallow. Robert was the father to a brood of 10 children.
Life had obviously overwhelmed him!
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Moving along to our next possible culprit , a 44-year-old quarryman who inhabited a cottage in the village of Weston along with his wife Susan, guess it’s no surprise to find that his name was Robert Pearce!
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Or maybe it was the Robert Pearce who had been born in 1823, making this possible suspect age 40.he was the unmarried son of widow Jane, working…yes, you’ve guessed it, in the quarries.
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Carrying on, it could have been the Robert from Chiswell, husband of Mary, he was 36…I won’t even bother saying where he worked!
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Being born in 1826, makes our next suspect 35. this Robert was the husband of Kezia, to make a change he was employed as a carpenter.
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I don’t think it could have been the Robert born in 1836, he had chosen a rather different route to that of his fellow island men, he had become a soldier in the 2nd Life Guards…but then again, maybe he had come home on leave…and was causing a bit of mischief.
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Another member of the Robert Pearce appreciation society was the 25-year-old baker, was he littering the streets with his old dough?
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Carpentry was also the career for 22-year-old Robert from Weston, son of John and Elizabeth.
…….
Bring in suspect no. 10. this was a lad of 20, who also worked as a carpenter and lived with his extended family at Cove Cottage. He had a brother called John who was 3 years his junior.
….
Another one born that same year was the son of Richard and Elizabeth, he too had a brother named John, but there was a 15 years difference in their ages. True to form, this Robert followed in fathers footsteps working the white stone.

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A year later (1844) in Chiswell, and railway worker Edward Pearce christened his son Robert, this teenager (19) was working the railways like his Dad.
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A second Robert Pearce had been christened in 1844, he was the 19-year-old son of Robert and Ann, next door neighbour to the 20-year-old Robert, and like most in that row of houses, he too followed his fellows into the dusty bowels of the quarries.

Seventeen-year-old Robert, son of quarryman Abel and his wife Susanna didn’t disappoint…quarryman!
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Well…that just about exhausts the list of possible suspects with the first name of Robert and the second of Pearce…

I won’t even begin on who the likely John Pearce’s were…..suffice to say that they, (and the Roberts,) were in all likelihood related in one way or another.
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The next lot of Portlanders to stand before the fearsome wagging finger of the chairman were four young lads.
Frederick Skinner, 18-year-old Richard Keeping, 17-year-old George Verion, a labourer on the breakwater and William Worden jnr. aged 18 a railway labourer, not a true Portlander because his family were incomers, they had followed the work when the new railway opened up in the area.

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These lads were there because Portland inhabitant Henry Stone, ( again another much used Portland name and far too many possibilities to say which one) was getting fed up with these lads ‘congregating and playing before his house.’
The lads, or young men really, were playing ‘cat’ a past time which entailed much lobbing of stones and had resulted in many of Henry’s windows being damaged.
All were fined 1s or one weeks imprisonment.
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It seems that Portland was certainly a hot bed of mischievousness and misfits, because the next lot hauled in front of the panel were also Portlanders.
Elizabeth Symes was charging Peter Paul, John White Comben and Josiah Beere with damaging a horse trough on the 5th January.
Now this lot weren’t exactly youngsters, or even the sort to be larking around to the point of damaging property, from that we can only assume that they for some reason were frequent visitors to and offenders of some sort misdemeanour at the trough and the bane of Elizabeths life.
Firstly there was a Peter Paul who was 62-years of age and a respectable shop owner, but he also worked as a carter along with his 16-year-old son Peter. Maybe one of them wasn’t too hot with handling the reins and found their cart falling foul of the ladies trough.
John White Comben..hhmmm…despite having a middle name which normally makes researching them easier….there’s more than one possible culprit, with Comben being another of those, how shall I put it…large, prolific, widely spread and fast-breeding families.Most of the possibles were quarry workers.
As for Josiah Beere, well, he was an easy one.
The Beere family were also incomers to the island, and hadn’t yet had chance to get swallowed up into the all consuming Portland Pearce, Comben, Stone family fold.
Josiah was a 26-year-old married man from Devon who lived with his wife Ann down in the Straits, he was a carpenter.
Whatever heinous crime it was that these men had allegedly committed with the said trough, it was enough to get them fines of 1s each, and charged with £3 10s for damages, or choose to enjoy one months detention at her Majesty’s pleasure.
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A bit of excessive Boxing day revelry had been the undoing of the next chap.
Back in Weymouth, Richard Smith had been out celebrating the festive season…but having overdone it somewhat he found himself incarcerated in the local jail.
Richard had been drinking heavily in the Fisherman’s Arms in Wyke Regis when he became more than a bit feisty and challenged the landlord to a fight. With that, local bobby, Sergeant Pitfield was summonsed to the scene who tried to apprehend the belligerent beer guzzler. Richard, not making the best of decisions at this stage became very abusive, foul language echoed around the pubs walls and out into the street, then he thought it would be a good idea to try to tackle to burly sergeant too.
For his chaotic Christmas capers Richard was fined 5s. and costs.
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Next under the courts hammer was beer-house keeper Edward Edwards of Wyke Regis.He was charged with permitting card playing with his house on the 17th January.
Forty-two-year-old Edward lived in South Street, Wyke, along with his wife Sarah and their young family.

His learned trade was that of a mason, but needed a way to supplement his family income so he had set himself up as a beer-house keeper. In those days it was fairly easy to do as the Government had relaxed the licensing laws…you had to pay a small fee and then you were entitled to brew beer at home, and throw open your doors to the public.
According to Edward, his defence was that he had only been trading for a few months and din’t know that it was in fact illegal to be gambling in a beer house. According to him, on his perambulations around the booze-brewing homes in the area he had seen card playing regularly.
That was to be no defence for the Wykeite though, he was fined 5s.
Obviously not daunted by the slap on the wrist, Edward went on to become an official landlord, taking over and running the Albert Inn in Wyke.

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Here he dwelled with his extensive family for many years, who all at one time or another worked in the busy and popular public house.
Having lost his wife Sarah, Edward spent the last few years of his long life living with his daughter Annie Lovell and her husband in Wyke, where he suddenly dropped down dead while out in the garden.

Consequently, for the last time, in the Spring of 1899, Edward found himself back in the rooms of the Albert Inn, only this time his cold, stiff body was laid out on the table while the inquest was held into his sudden death.
(During the Victorian era, with no actual mortuaries to hold the last remains of victims of crime of suspicious deaths, they were normally removed to the nearest public building…mainly pubs!)
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We’re back over to Portland again for the next lot of wrong-doers.

William Hardy Samways, a Portland beer-house keeper, had been swindling his customers in order to make a few bob extra, he was fined for selling his eartheware jugs of beer short of their allotted measures…he rather wisely pleaded guilty.
This case was rather odd to say the least really, seeing as William was a Weymouth lad born and bred, and worked as a solicitors clerk for most of life while living in Weymouth from his birth to his last breath….hhmmm!
Call me suspicious, but I wonder if he had been paid a goodly sum to take the rap for someone else?
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A Portland grocer was next on the list, Richard Moore, his crime was to have ‘an unjust weighing machine in his possession.’
Presumably they meant unjust from his poor customers point of view?
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A good proportion of Portland’s inhabitants must have been in the court that session.
Another beer-house keeper from the island was reprimanded for allowing gambling on his premises. Thirty-seven-year-old John Cox and his wife Mary had opened up their house in Wakeham to the imbibing public’s inhabitants, rather fetchingly named the Delhi Arms, not because of any links with foreign travel as you might think, but because the narrow lane leading from the Straits where they lived was so named.
John stood in the dock and claimed that the cards must have been snuck in without him knowing, not that the panel believed him one iota, his notoriety had gone before him…he was well renown for keeping a disorderly house.

Fined 10s.
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Two young school girls were next in line, Sarah Lucas and Mary Crispin Stone, (you wouldn’t believe how many of those there were on Portland!). Sarah had been accused of hitting young Mary, it was put down to a mere ‘school girls’ quarrel.’
But sense had prevailed in the court, the two youngsters had been taken out of the courtroom to sort the silly spat out without legal intervention.

JUVENILE MAG 1889girls walking
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The last man to quake under the courts gaze that day was not even local…but he had been partaking in a spot of local female company, and had left her with more than just happy memories.
Francis Barber, a carpenter who had been staying in the Portland locality and had been working on the major constructions going on in the area at the time. He was originally from Red Hill Surrey, but had moved temporarily to where work was aplenty.

While he was down here, Francis wooed a young local lass, softly whispering sweet promises in her maidenly ears,

QUIVER 1888 MAN WOMAN BEACH

promises he had no intention of keeping. Once the work was gone…so was he!
On the 15th June 1862, Ann Eliza Whittle, a Portland lass had given birth to his illegitimate son, now she wanted Francis to man up and support his child.
The court awarded her 1s a week.
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it’s surprising who pops up in these columns of weekly news and gossip, if you get the chance, have a read through some of them…but be prepared for finding something you’d rather not have!

 

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Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not bring them to life with historical graphics.

I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from 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.

https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Park Street, Weymouth; 1901

Often I see pictures, or catch snippets of a conversation that lead me to a subject that I want to write about in my blog.

Todays offering is about the old Park Street, Weymouth after seeing a fantastic photo of the  street taken back in the early 20th c on a Facebook website that I often frequent, You’re Over 30 and Come from Weymouth. (A great source of information, photos and illustrations, both historical and present day…used with the owners permission of course!)Image

This picture was taken looking down towards the large stone edifice and tower on the right hand corner, what was once Christ Church. This great stone building had been erected in 1847  as a chapel-of-ease to St Mary’s in town. It was closed in 1939 because the Rector of the time, Rev E L Langston had been left struggling to run both churches and he could no longer go on doing so. Also, with war looming, the good Rev stated that as the huge church had so many windows it would have been impossible to black them all out…so there it stood, empty, its fate to be decided if it survived the war.

As it so happens it became a very valuable place of sanctuary in the wartime, within its walls were the men and women who looked after Weymouth’s residents, it became a Nookery Cook, a place where those people in need could get a decent hot meal for a reasonable price.(They obviously had no problems in blacking the windows out!) By 1941 all the church contents, pews, woodwork etc had been given to the newly built St Aldham’s church at Radipole.

Right at the end of the street stood Weymouth’s original railway station opened in 1857, designed by T H Bertram, one of Brunel’s assistants.

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Many of those large old  buildings now gone, the church demolished, the old Brunel style railway station redesigned and rebuilt for the 20th c commuter, but a lot of the original Victorian terraced shops and houses remain, you can still spot the odd attractive bow windows and old shop fronts, you just have to look behind the modern day facades.

I shall take you for a nostalgic stroll down what was once a very well-heeled and extremely  busy street, bustling with numerous shops, businesses and public houses, the main fairway for most of the thousands of Victorian train travellers into and out of the town.

train station

The year is 1901, betwixt Victoria’s rule, (she died in the January,) and that of her son Edward, who succeeded her.

It is hard to match exactly the house numbers with those of todays because so much has changed, some buildings demolished, new ones added, but where I can do so with certainty I will attempt to.

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no 1 Park Street was the home of 36-year-old Elizabeth Alice Butler, a  shop keeper. She ran the local greengrocers store, and took care of her family, sons Alfred Vernon and John Albert and daughters Evelyn Gladys and Florence, or Flossie as she was better known. To help her run the business and take care of the children was Florence Bartlett, one of her extended family, as Elizabeth had been a Bartlett before her wedding to husband Alfred.

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Those living at no 2 were the members of the Dovey family.

The building had originally belonged to London born Joseph Dovey, a confectioner and baker, and his wife Mary Ann, they ran their business from the premises. Joseph had died in 1900. Taking over his fathers role in the family business, under the watchful eyes of his mother, by the 1901 census was son 24-year-old Frank. Frank was living (or lodging as the poll book says) in the lower half of the house, occupying the rooms on the first and second floor. He was also an active member of many of the clubs and societies in the town. One of his passions was appearing in amateur dramatics and musicals, he was a member of the Weymouth White Star Minstrels, in 1899 they were appearing at St Mary’s School hall, where Frank played the character Bones. He was not beyond a spot of theatrical cross dressing either…having played widow Mrs Grey in the sketch ‘The Hypochondriac Secretary.”

Another of his past times was bicycling, and as a young lad he had joined the Weymouth Bicycle Club, which oddly enough I had only written about in my last post. ( https://susanhogben.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/victorian-weymouth-bicycle-club/) Joseph is even mentioned briefly as one of the young men who gave a demonstration of trick cycling.

Funny how things link up unintentionally sometimes.

Also living and working at the bakery premises were the rest of the Dovey clan, Frances and Laura Eunace, and two single men who were employed by the family, Charles James Hazell and Ernest Stickland.

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Moving onto no.3, here we find the home of the Atkins family, but with another link to the Bartletts. Head of the family 47-year-old Samuel has Bartlett as his middle name. Samuel was also a baker by trade. Living with him were his wife Louisa, and his four children, 16-year-old William Arthur, 14-year-old Jessie, Lillie aged 9 and Florrie aged 8. The family had lodgers living in the house with them, a necessity to eke the money out.

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The house of 4 Park Street contained the Emes family, James and his wife Ellen. James was a Devon lad who had moved down this way to work, his occupation was a clothier. With them were their 4 children, Elsie Gertrude, Hilda May, Mabel Evelyn and Leonard.

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5 Park Street was the domaine of the Mayne family, 48-year-old Henry and his wife Sarah Ann. The Maynes owned and ran a grocery business alongside that of a milkman.

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There is an incredible photo on one of the Ancestry trees of Henry , and what looks like the very well-fed family cat, stood outside his grocery shop in Park Street taken a little later, by then they had moved into the premises of no 4. Thank you to Julie for letting me post it on here.

Two of their adult children were at the address in 1901, Matilda and Ernest.

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At the time of the 1901  census, the house of  no.6 was stood empty, but a Frederick William Gould was on the electoral lists as owner, he was dairyman.

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We arrive at the home of the Bartlett’s, who live at no.7. This is the house of Thomas George Bartlett who is aged 37 and runs his own business from the house. Thomas is a successful plumber and glazier. Living with him are his wife, Elizabeth (also 37,) and five of their children. Edith, Albert, Ernest, Cecil and Harold.

Thomas was another Weymouth resident that liked to take part in some of the social activities around town. He too was a member of the Weymouth Bicycle Club, along with his neighbour Joseph Dovey. Thomas is one of  the cyclists in the photo of the cycling post mentioned above, stood proudly by their machines in front of the Kings statue. According to the report in the papers of the time (June 1884,) these men had cycled all the way from Deptford, London to Weymouth, no mean feat on those dangerous, dodgy old boneshakers!

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A retired hairdresser lived at no 8, he was only aged 48, either he had already made his money, or had health problems.

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This was James Harrington Williams, who lived there with his wife Agnes, she brought in an income to the household as a dressmaker, and their daughter 24-year-old Alice, who was a teacher of music.

James died only 3 years later, aged 50.

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Living at the property of no 9 was James’s elder brother, Charles Richard Williams. Charles was a baker by trade, he lived with his wife Ellen and grown up son Charles Richard jnr, who was a minister and schoolmaster. Like his brother James, Richard wasn’t destined to make old bones, he died in 1906, aged just 56.

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Seventy-two-year old widow, Elizabeth Ann Gale lived at no 10. She had been married to George Gale until his death. Now living with her was her unmarried daughter Ellen, aged 36. Also living in the household was Eliza Atkins, another widowed lady of a ripe old age.

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Next on the street is one of the pubs, this was nos. 11&12 Park Street and the Prince of Wales public house. This watering hole stood on the corner of Park Street and Bath Street.

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Mine host at the time of 1901 was Charles Joseph Stone aged 38. Charles was a carpenter and builder by trade, but the family had taken over the pub some years earlier. His wife Charlotte helped behind the bar, as well as taking care of their family, Not long after the census details were taken, later that year Charles decided that the licensed victualler trade wasn’t for them any more and the Prince of Wales pub was transferred to Frederick Meech.

Sadly, Charles lost his wife Charlotte, and by the time of the next census he has moved from Park Street and is living with his widowed mother and children, working in his own building business.

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Cross over Bath Street, and right on the opposite corner is The Duke of Albany  public house, at no 13 & 14 Park Street.

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In 1901 this was being run by Surrey born Thomas and his wife, local born girl Mary Ann Masters, (Watts.) They were in the first flush of their marriage, in their 30’s and had a young family, Alfred and Reginald. Also living and working with the family in the business was 25-year-old Bessie Watts, she was the younger sister of Mary Ann. But like many publicans, they moved on after a while, the next census sees the family living and running a pub in Bridport.

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Next door to the pub was another business, this time that of a hairdressers. At no. 15 was the salon of Thomas Reed, a London lad. He had originally worked and trained with London hairdresser Louis Jacob, but then moved down South in about the early 1890’s to start his own business. Here he had met and married his wife, Ellen, and they were quite happy raising their brood in the busy seaside town. However, the hair dressing business couldn’t have been that brisk for the Reed family, because by the time of the next census,(1911) they  had changed their business premises to a newsagents.

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16 Park Street was a house of mulitiple occupency.

There was 39-year-old Harry Howard Bishop and his wife Louisa (nee Mayne) with two children, Charles and Rose. Harry was a now working as a verger at the local church, but in his former life he had been a ships steward on board the HM Duke of Wellington. The couple had married in 1887 at their local church just down on the corner, Christ Church, and presumably this is where Harry was now verger. Not long after this census the Bishop family moved to a dwelling in Bath Street.

Also living on the premises was 69-year-old Margaret Stroud, a widow originally from Ireland, who lived with her married daughter, Margaret Leahy and grand daughter, 8-year-old Rose.

In 1891 Margaret senior had been running the Railway Tavern public house, along with her 3 daughters, Jane, Eliza and Margaret. She was no stranger to the life of a publican, before she became a proper licensed victualler, she ran a beer house in Wesley Street. Beer houses popped up everywhere when the Government in their infinite wisdom had decided to loosen the licensing laws. They were working on the slightly dodgy assumption that if beer was cheaper and more available, then the working man was less likely to get drunk on hard spirits…consequently any Tom Dick or Harry, (or Margaret,) could apply for a license to brew beer and open a beer house on their own premises for a couple of quid! It was one way that a widow could earn an income from home while looking after her family, and as Margaret had lost her husband, an ex-soldier, early, it had been vital to keep the wolf from the door.

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Two spinsters lived at no. 18. The Oliver sisters, Mary Ann (aged 44,) and her younger sibling, Frances (at a mere 41.) They were general shop keepers who ran a business from their home address. By the time of the next census, Frances was still living at no 18, but the head of the household was another single lady, 53-year-old Elizabeth White, both were listed as dressmakers.

What of Mary Ann? Well,…she upped and got married!

At the ripe old age of 52, Mary Ann found herself a husband, Edwin Richard Charles,a local boot manufacturer and dealer with a nice house on Dorchester Road.

You go Mary Ann….

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Next door to them (19) were the England family, William Robert and Ellen who had moved up from Devon. William was a confectioner running his own business, their 10-year-old son Frank had been born in Weymouth.

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By the time of the next census the family were still living and working at no.19 as confectioners, Frank was following in his Dads footsteps.

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The Riggs lived at no. 20. Husband and wife, John and Sarah, and their adult children, Lilian, Masie, Herbert and Arthur, they ran the local greengrocers shop. John is still living at no 20 and running the family shop by the time of the 1911 census, but his wife Sarah has since died, helping Dad out in the store is 31-year-old Minnie.

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Next door to the Rigg family were the Martins, (no.21.) They had not long since moved here from Edward Street. Dad, 39-year-old William Samuel, was a tailor who ran his business from home, Mum (also 39,) was Elizabeth, living with them was their sizeable brood, Henry, Lilian, Adelaide, Alfred, Reginald, Hilda and the baby of the family 4-year-old Myrtle. As befitted their lifestyle as a business class family, they had a personal servant living in the household, this was Young Nellie Thresher. The family are still at no.21 ten years later…all 7 of them!

The eldest son, Henry, now aged 27, had followed in his Dads footsteps and was a tailor working in the family firm. Adelaide was working as a shop assistant in the confectioners shop. Alfred was a cobbler, Reginald a clerk in the motor works.

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Moving swiftly along to the home of no.22, where 47-year-old Simon John Rabjohns Lock was the master of the household. Simon was a monumental stonemason running his own business, as had his father been before him. Along side him was his wife, Ann, and three of their children, 19-year-old Helen, 17-year-old Frederick, an apprentice mason to his father, and Ethel who was aged 14.

But this wasn’t just a private house, this was also a licensed premises, known as the Dolphin Inn, they had already been living here at least 10 years.

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Simon outlived his wife, she died in 1906. By the year of 1911 Simon was still living at the Dolphin Inn, along with two of his unmarried daughters.

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Over the road from the pub was the butchers shop at no. 23. This was owned and run by the Bazell family, 44-year-old local man, Henry and his wife Elizabeth Annie (nee Woodland.) This couple also had  another sizeable brood, they had 7 children living with them in 1901, Charles Henry, Florence Annie, Beatrice Eleanor, Thomas Woodland, Reginald John, George, and bringing up the rear, Walter Lindley, and another on the way, soon to be born Arthur William..

They had moved to their present location(no 23) from no.18 Park Street.

By 1911 they had upped sticks again, this time they had moved lock stock and sausage barrel to Crescent Street, along with 5 of their 8 children who were still living at home. Their twenty-one-year old son Thomas was now working as a coppersmith at the newly constructed torpedo works, which had somehow enabled a couple of his work colleagues to weedle their way into the already crowded house to live.

Things never change do they?

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Of course, next to the butchers what else could there be but a bakers.

At no.24 was James and Eliza Thompson, (Atkins.) They were only a young couple, but already James was running his own bakery business. When not helping in the shop alongside her husband, Eliza was kept busy looking after their firstborn toddler son, Leslie.

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A stables sat between the bakers and the next dwelling.

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Not quite a candle stick maker but close…jewellers and watch repairers occupied the premises on no. 25. Here lived a fine fellow with a fine name, Cockney lad, William Augustus Weygang.

William had moved down from London to work as an apprentice at the business of German watch maker Herman Jatnez, who ran his business at 77, St Thomas Street. William lived above the business with the family, Herman and his wife, Johanne, had taken him under their wings. As Williams parents had both been German, presumably there had been some sort of family connection there.

While here William had met and fallen in love with a  young  lass, Louisa Maria Shoobert, another Londoner, and even though the couple had their banns called in  their local Christ Church in Weymouth,  when they got married  it was in East Brixton, London in 1892.

By 1901 the couple had set up their jewellers business in Park Street, and had two children living with them, 7-year-old Meta, and George Edward aged 4.

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They appear in the records for Park Street, Weymouth right up until 1907, and then the family seem to split apart when rather oddly only William and his young son George  leave these shores on board the vessel Geelong, heading for a life in Sydney Australia!

George obviously went on to live his life there, we can follow him in the electoral rolls, but William Augustus died in 1916 in Melbourne.

His  17-year-old daughter Meta and wife Louisa are both back in London working by the 1911 census, for some reason they did not follow father and son to the other side of the world.

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A bit like the marriage of William and Louisa, the house next door to them stood empty, so we’ll move on to no 27.

Here lived a widow, 60-year-old Jane Orchard, a Yorkshire lass, along with her 15-year-old servant Mabel. Jane had been a resident in Park Street for many years, and been married to George, a gardener until his death in 1883. Now Jane had to earn her own living, which she did as a dressmaker until her own death in 1914 aged 75.

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No 28 was the home of the Stoodleys.  Husband and wife, Robert Morgan and Ellen weren’t exactly in the first flush of youth, but the couple managed the business, a bootmakers alongside that of a provisions dealer. They too had lived in Park Street for some time. Robert died in 1911.

Though the couple never had any children of their own, they did have a house full of relatives. Living with them was their nephew, 26-year-old James Hampton, his wife Edith along with their 5 month old daughter, as was the practise of the day, also named Edith. James worked as a cycle agent.

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Also living there was Morton Britton, another Londoner…he was 53, single and a glass dealer.

The third family living at no 28 were the Coakers, London born Edward and Eva who was Welsh.

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Weymouth certainly was a mixing pot, even in those days.

Widower, 36-year-old Francis Curtis, was head of the household of no. 29. By 1901 Francis had set himself up in business as a  fish dealer in Park Street.

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Living on the premises with him were the Clark family from Somerset. Dad, Samuel Robert Clark, a carpenter, Mum, Annie, and their three children, Richard Alfred,  Ellen Mercy and Alfred Thomas, who by then were adults really, not children. The two lads had followed in their fathers footsteps and were joiners in their fathers business.

By the 1911 census, the Clark family had moved to Abbotsbury Road, that was  the ENTIRE family…none of the children had left home or married. Samuel was running a building firm, and his sons had changed careers, they were now trained as electricians.

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Step next door (30) into the home of the disappearing Rimmerpate (?) family, with Dad, 55-year-old Frank at the helm, born Bridlington, yorkshire, and he’s an army pensioner. this is born out by the fact that his eldest daughter Elizabeth was born in the Chelsea Barracks. He had two other children, 14-year-old Weymouth born James and Florence who was 10 and born in Sutton Poyntz. Could be that frank had been with the Coastal Garrison artillery, and moved down to Weymouth as a posting until his time with the army ran out.

In the 1891 census, the enumerator has pencilled in beneath this address ‘The Friendship Inn,’

This family are somewhat of a mystery though….

Apart from the fact that the census enumerator’s writing is atrocious, I simply cannot find any trace whatsoever of this family anywhere else, no births, marriages, census etc…..maybe my reading of the name Rimmerpate is incorrect.

If you should happen to be reading this blog, and the family jumps out you as one of yours, please, please, please let me know…they have cost me an afternoon of head-scratching and a sleepless night.

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At least the Frederick next door was easier to read and trace!

31 Park Street was the domain of the Jolliffe family. Thirty two-year-old Frederick William and his wife Annie Louise,(nee Ozzard,) aged 25, were the sole occupants of the house, he was working as a store keeper for the Corporation. They had only been married for a year, and Annie’s Dad, Daniel,  had given her away, wonder if he brought them good luck?…he was a chimney sweep.

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But maybe not…by the time of the next census they had seemingly gone down in the world as they had moved to the notorious Burdon Buildings, Bond street.

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Walter and Elizabeth Banks Jerrard lived in no. 32.

This was another well established Weymouth business. Seventy-year-old Walter was  a hair cutter and had been one for …well, you could say a fair few years. The couple had lived and worked from these premises in 1901, 1891, 1881, even 1871, and then back again to 1861. Before then (1951) Walter had been coiffing ladies and mens hair in his Dads, Matthew, hair salon in Bond Street.

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He’d probably been working with hair ever since he had been knee high to the salon chair.

The couple had finally retired by the time of the next census because Walter and Elizabeth had moved up to London of all places, both in their late 70’s by now.

I think they certainly deserved a bit of R&R.

Walter died on the 11th July, 1915 aged 84, and left a tidy sum to his two sons, Albert and Alfred.

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His  neighbour John Charles Chaddock could only watch and dream that his business would be as successful, long lasting and profitable as that of his elderly friend. He had a few years to go, but wasn’t doing too bad.

John and his wife Emily ran a groceries and provisions shop at the premises of no. 33. Living and working with them was their 20-year-old daughter Kate. They too had been in the street for at least 20 years.

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The family were still there in the 1911 census, but daughter Kate had now trained as a piano forte teacher.

By the time of Johns passing, he died September 28th 1922, the couple were still residents of the street.

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Alfred John Bunn and wife Elizabeth Jane (nee Marsh,) lived at no. 34. not surprisingly, Alfred, with a surname like that, became  a baker by trade, and of course the name Bunn’s became synonymous with bakery in Weymouth.

Ten years earlier, in their 40’s the couple had started out their business at no 2 Park Street, as bakers and grocers. Previous to that they had lived at Chapelhay where Alfred was the manager of the bottled mineral works. Well, he’d obviously decided that he wanted more out of life, and to run his own business instead of dancing to the tune of others.

Consequently Alfred and Elizabeth had simply upped sticks and moved to the other side of the harbour and into prosperous Park Street, where they opened their very own shop. Despite having worked at times as a porter and business manager, Alfred was already a qualified baker, as that had been his original trade.

Rather oddly, by the time of the 1911 census, the couple had moved again, this time to 15 West Parade, but 62-year-old Alfred is now running his own gardening business!

Obviously a man of many talents.

Their premises in Park Street were now the home of their son William Winzer Bunn.

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A provisions dealer lived and traded from  no. 35.

Fifty five-year-old Edward Bowring and his wife Ellen ran the store. Edward obviously didn’t like his first given Christian name, Ishmael, because once he was old enough, he simply dropped it and referred to himself as plain old Edward. His wife wasn’t much better, she was christened Mary Ellen, and throughout the censuses she seemed to flit between both…those pesky ancestors certainly didn’t like to make life easy when trying to trace them.

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John Richard and Edith Fuszard of no. 36, were ex-publicans.

They used to run the Sailors Return in St Nicholas Street along with their widowed daughter Jane Dimond Whicker. Jane had married William George Whicker in 1882, but was already a widow by 1890. She moved in with her parents along with two grandchildren…but not apparently Janes despite the fact that they are down as Whickers, because in the 1911 census she lists ‘NIL’ children in that column. maybe it was the enumeratots assumption that the children had been hers?

Jane tried wedded bliss again in 1907, this time marrying Frederick Tuncliffe, but even he disappears for the 1911 census.

We’re nearly at the end of our tour of the old street, only a few more houses and businesses to go.

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John and Jane Lake, a couple from down Devon way were in no.37, he was a saddler by trade, running his business from home.

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No. 38 was a tailors shop and the home of the Tye family, with 39-year-old London born James and Kent gal, Jessie, aged 38, at the helm.

Living with Mum and Dad were their 4 children, Bessie Elder Lennet, Violet Rose Minnie, Gladys Dorothy Jessie and toddler George James.

The family had decamped from their previous premises in Prospect Terrace over to the more prosperous and busier Park Street area .

By the 1911 census though, things had gone badly wrong for the family. James is still living in Park Street, along with four of his children, Bessie, Gladys, Violet and Edward, and according to him, he is still married. Where is his wife?

Mum Jessie is living alone on Chickerell Road, and working as a cook, her entry on the  census form declares her woes…’living apart from husband.’

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The Harding family were in at no.39.

Arthur and Ellen were both in their 50’s, Dad was a watch maker originally from Surrey. They had moved to Weymouth in the late 1870’s, first to Hartford Terrace, then not long after to Park Street, where we find them in the 1901 census. Their daughter, twenty nine-year-old Margaret was employed as a mothers help, Fanny (28) was a shop assistant in the tobacconists, their teenage son, Archibald held a responsible position as a solicitors clerk, even their youngest, 14-year-old Claud was put out to work.

Come 1911 and the family have lost mum, Ellen, she passed away in 1908 at the age of 62. They are still living and trading in 39 Park Street, Dad along with his two unmarried daughters, Margaret and Fanny who helped in the shop.

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In the shop at no.40 was a furniture dealer, George Merret who was well in his 60’s, and his wife, Mary Ann.

George had started out his young life as a lowly hand loom weaver living with his parents Henry and Hannah back in his home county of Gloucestershire. But times were changing fast, and these centuries old cottage industries dying out fast with the industrial revolution, things were going to have to change.

This  had promoted a move to Weymouth by 1859 along with his wife, Sarah Sophia,  and family, when they found themselves living in King Street, and George working as a labourer in the coal trade (1861.)George and his family move around constantly, one job here, another there, anything to keep his head above water. Then in 1882 George lost his wife Sarah, and he was left alone to bring up the kids.

On the 6th June 1884, George tied the knot again, this time to a Dorset lass, or rather, Dorset widow, Mary Ann Smith. By now he’s working as an auctioneer foreman and coming up in the world, they can even lay claim to possessing a live-in servant.

By the start of the Edwardian era (1901) George and Mary Ann were the proud owners of their own furniture business in Park Street, life was sweet, it had been a hard old rocky route, but they had finally made it.

What god gives, he takes away…and so was the case with George, on the 29th February 1904, aged 69 years, George was laid to rest in the Melcombe Regis churchyard.

He had cut his last upholstery cloth.

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That only leaves one residential and business building left…that of 41 Park Street.

Here lived 50-year-old George William Munden an incomer from the Channel Islands and his wife Annie Jane (Paul,) a local girl. They too were in the business of cutting cloth, not of furnishings but smartly dressed men. William was a master tailor.

The couple and their family had moved into the premises in Park street sometime between 1881 and 1891, and from there they traded successfully for many a year until 1921 when they moved to Wesley Street.

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However, that isn’t quite the end of the street, as we had started at one end with the tall spires of Christ Church, so too at the other end stood another monument to religion.

Sitting tall and proud on the corner of Park Street and Gloucester Street was the great stone edifice of the Gloucester Street Congregational Chapel, and alongside it with its entrance in Park Street was the Chapel House.

Gloucester Congregational chapel

Here dwelled the appointed caretakers of the building, Thomas and Frances Rousell with their four children, and a penchant for the letter A…Amos, a stepson, Annie and Arthur and 1-year-old daughter, Alma.

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I hope you enjoyed your little walk through time and place…next time you walk down that street, look closely at the buildings as you pass by, you may well spot tell tale signs that the Victorians had been here, who knows, maybe even a few of your relatives lived, worked and shopped in this once busy street.

 

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