Love is in the air…Victorian Valentines

Well, as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, I eagerly await to see what glittering jewels and delicious delights my beloved will present to me  early that morn…(don’t even go there!)Victorian Valentines card

It might surprise you to know that celebrating St Valentine’s Day is nothing new, it has been observed for centuries, apparently made popular by Geoffrey Chaucer during the High Middle Ages.

Even those well-pomandered Georgians were well and truly versed in the art of affairs of the heart. Presenting their paramours with tokens of their undying love, sweet little boxes of confectionary accompanied by beautifully handwritten cards.

But what of our Victorian ancestors?

First let’s start with those lithesome lothario’s of the seven seas.

Portland Roads had been used as a naval base ever since the time of Henry VIII, this sheltered  haven filled with many great sailing ships of the fleet,  and of course on board, their resident sailors, true Romeo’s every one ‘o them.

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Is it any wonder then that these  Jolly Jack Tars, with their gals in every port, would be busy scribing romantic messages to (all) those they loved, so much so that in 1871, the Western Gazette reported

“VALENTINE’S DAY-More than ten times as many missives passed through the post office on the 14th as on ordinary days, the sailors of Her Majesty’s Fleet sending three sacks of Cupid’s messages to the Castletown office.”

(pictured below courtesy Pam Oswald)

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Then what of those romantics who were to marry on this day of lovers?

Love of course being not just the prerogative of youth.

On Valentine’s Day 1872, 54-year-old widow, William Lovell Zelley waited patiently down the aisle of Weymouth’s Holy Trinity Church for his new wife-to-be.

Holy Trinity.

William, a mariner by trade,  had been a widow for a while, he led a very lonely life, boarding  in a single room down in Hope Street.

But faint heart never won fair lady, William found love a second time and grasped it with both hands. It arrived in the comely form of  Ann Purchase, spinster of the town.

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Sadly, despite being nearly 15 years younger than her husband, their life together came to an untimely end when Ann went to meet her maker in 1879 aged just 47.

Here’s hoping that they managed to enjoy their seven years of companionship and happiness.

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Another couple tied the knot on Valentine’s Day, many years later, in 1899.

Theirs was also to be a tale of happiness and joy mingled with sadness and grief.

Nellie  was the daughter of Samuel and Susan Stoodley, who in 1891 were running the Railway Arch public House in Town Lane.(modern day Chickerell Road)

Railway arch hotel

Nellie’s beau was Albert Ernest Yeatman, a coppersmith.

But life had already taught Albert that love could be a rocky road indeed.

In April of 1889, he had married 20-year-old Alice Emily Rabbets and the young couple set up their happy household on the North Quay, where they had two their children, Emily Maria (1890) and George Ernest (baptised on the 24th September 1893 at holy Trinity.)

Then heartache struck the family in 1896, when their youngest child, 3-year-old George passed away.

Still reeling from the loss of their precious son, Albert was dealt a second blow the following year.

In 1897, he was away serving with the Territorial army. Alice had been taken ill and needed an operation, from which she seemed to be recovering satisfactorily. Having gone to bed that fateful night in good spirits, young Alice was not to see the dawn.

Now alone with a small child, Albert had to take the heartbreaking decision to give his only remaining child, Emily, over to the care of her Grandmother, Emily Rabbetts, who ran a boarding house along Brunswick Terrace.

BRUNSWICK TERRACE 1910

By the time of the 1911 census, his daughter Emily had moved away to Wales along with the extended Rabbetts family.

However, in the meantime, Albert was to get a second chance at happiness, he met and fell in love with Nellie Stoodley.

Ten years after he had first tentatively walked down the aisle, Albert was treading those very same steps, were his feelings of joy mingled with sorrowful memories.

On the 14th February 1899 Albert and Nellie exchanged their vows at Holy Trinity.

Time for a fresh start.

Albert set up home with his new wife at no 9 Portland Buildings, (now 15-19 Custom House Quay.) He was running his own business and life was good again, though the sadness still lay deep in his heart, time was slowly softening the wounds.

Then along came the children, but with that joy came unbelievable grief.

Their first child, Susan Nellie Doris was born on the 9th Jan 1900, the little mite only survived a few months, Susan died that summer.

Two years later,  and little Violet Rose Iris arrived.

Oh how those grieving parents must have held their breath, and watched over their precious bundle, only too aware how suddenly and cruelly they could be snatched away.

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By the time Albert Samuel arrived on the 5th April 1904 their hopes were high, 2-year-old Violet was thriving, surely fate couldn’t be that cruel?

Of course it could!

Albert junior never even made his second birthday.

Perhaps the famous quote from Tennyson’s poem,”In Memorium” just about sums up love.

 

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But of course being Valentines Day we must end on a lighter note.

One young man made a daring robbery on a Weymouth’s jewellers, perhaps he couldn’t afford to buy his beloved the gift she so desired?

From the Western Gazette of February 1881.

Earlier on the Monday evening, a fashionable young man had entered the jewellery store of Mr Thristle in St Thomas Street.  He was there, so he declared, to buy himself some shirt studs. As old Mr Thristle rummaged around in the counters looking for the perfect items for this young gentleman, so the ‘gentleman’ was doing a spot of rummaging too.

While Mr Thristle had been otherwise engaged the young man was tinkering with the shop bell that hung above the door, somehow he managed to jam it so it wouldn’t ring out as a customer entered the store.

Having left the store with no studs, Mr Thristle was left to mourn the loss of a sale to that nice gentleman, but that was life as a merchant, you won some, you lost some.

Little did he know he was about to loose a great deal more!

A little while later the jeweller was busy out the back sorting out his stock, all the while keeping a keen ear open for the shop bell to ring, announcing his next customer.

Only problem was, the bell wasn’t going to ring or ‘announce’ his next customer, because his next customer didn’t want announcing.

The light-fingered ‘gentleman’ had been concealed patiently outside, biding his time. Once the coast was clear, he slipped undetected into the premises and helped himself to a hearty selection of sparkling jewels.

Hopefully your Valentine won’t need to raid the nearest jeweller to  fulfil your wishes,

He’ll deliver you a box of choccies and lots of kisses.

All because…..

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(other brands are available…)

“Last Valentine, the day when birds of kind

Their paramours with their chirping find,

I rose early,  just at the break of day,

Before the sun had chased the stars away:

A-field I went, amid the morning dew,

To milk my kine, for so should housewives do;

Thee first I spy’d, and the first swaine we see, 

In spite of fortune, shall our true-love be.”

Victorian Valentines cards                                                               Happy Valentine’s Day

 

 

 

 

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Victorian Castletown, Portland…matelots, mariners and mishaps.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, as much as I love the Isle of Portland, in all honesty I don’t know a great deal about it’s history, for that I defer to local historian and accomplished author, Stuart Morris.

What I do enjoy is reading through the old newspapers and uncovering  stories of the everyday person as they went about their daily lives, their jobs and homes, their loves and dreams, their  celebrations and their downfalls.

I was recently asked to do some research on the history of a public house in Castletown, so hubby and I went for a drive over to take a few snaps of the area.

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It’s been many years since I had walked down this road on my annual pilgrimage to the good old Portland Navy days, when thousands of people would stream along here heading for those imposing Naval dock gates. As a small child I can recall looking up into the windows of shops filled with uniforms covered in gold braid and button…it spoke to me of princes and heroes.

To those that don’t know the area, (and those who didn’t twig, like myself, until I started researching this) Castletown is so named because…well, because of a castle. Portland castle to be precise. A Henrician fort built during the reign of Henry VIII to protect his mighty naval fleet whilst in the confines of Portland Roads.

Portland Castle

Castletown started out as a small fishing village, its little sheltered beach tucked within the lee of the great cliffs behind saw the arrival and departure of many a local fisherman and indeed more than a few canny smugglers.

Others who would land here were the naval men or merchant seamen whose boats were moored out in the safety of the Roads.

In fact, one of the first public houses to be built  along this stretch facing the beach was rather aptly named The Jolly Sailor, which was opened in 1775.

Over the following years this small but bustling through fare, positively alive with visiting Jack Tars, became a one stop destination for those going or arriving. Shops and businesses began to appear along the road and piers, catering to their every need, and the things that the majority of shore bound sailors certainly needed was clothing, uniforms, shoes and boots, and alcohol …..lots and lots of it!

So much so that poor old Castletown became synonymous for drunkenness and bawdy behaviour.

Come the mid 19th c and the fortunes of Castletown  positively boomed.

Monumental works were ongoing on Portland for the construction of the mighty Verne Citadel, the accompanying breakwaters and Nothe fort over in Weymouth. Royal Engineers, civilians and convicts worked side by side moving innumerable tons of stone, this grand scheme was a great tribute to Victorian engineering. Much of this work took place in and through Castletown including the start of the long arms that wrapped protectively around Portland Roads.

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Of course, such wondrous sights were not to be missed, and Victorian sightseers flocked to the area literally in their thousands. Every day packed vessels drew alongside the piers and disgorged  hoards of inquisitive trippers ashore, they all needed refreshments and trinkets to buy, much like todays tourists.

According to The Post Office Directory of Dorsetshire by 1855 this small street in Castletown could boast 4 hostelries where the thirst of these intrepid trippers and visiting naval men could be quenched.

There was even an imposing newly built hotel, the majestic Royal Breakwater, which faced the beach.  A very grand building where those of a certain class who wished to avail themselves of its accommodation could sit in comfort and relax, watching the frantic activity ongoing along the shoreline.

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However, for this particular post I shall concentrate on Castletown at the turn of the century, when through the demise of the ageing Queen, the Victorian became the Edwardian era.

Castletown had seen many changes over the latter part of the Victorian era as a report in the Western Gazette of October 1898 shows:

‘IMPROVEMENTS AT CASTLETOWN; The new wharves at Castletown are nearing completion. The old stone boat pier is being rapidly demolished, operations having been commenced immediately the Weymouth steamer ceased running. The new pier certainly improves the appearance of Castletown. It possesses a symmetry of appearance which the old wharves sadly lacked. Steamers will now land passengers on the wharves, the wooden pile pier being done away with. The railway siding is being extended from the loading depot of Castle, and some new premises are being erected on the old west pier. most of the houses have been re built during the last year or two, and the appearance of this part of the island has been altered to such an extent that the place would not be recognised by anyone who has not visited this village during the last few years.’

It’s 1901 and as we approach the start of the main road of Castletown, we arrive at the shop at no.25. This is the business of 37-year-old Eli Gill and his wife, Laura. Eli runs his own busy boot and shoe repair business. His wife Laura is kept pretty active too, besides looking after their three lively young boys, Harold, Reginald and Leonard, she presides over her  bustling refreshment room, this she does with  help in the form of a live in servant, 17-year-old Emily Foot, a Lychet Minster girl who moved here as a mothers help.

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Eli’s father already owned and ran a boot and shoe shop here as early as the 1870’s, shown by this report in the Taunton Courier and Western Advisor of 1877.

‘STRANGE ROBBERY BY AN ARTILLERYMAN. Charles Higgins, an artilleryman, was brought up for stealing boots, on Wednesday week, at Portland. The man said he had no peace with his comrades, and it seems he resolved to try and get out of the regiment. He therefor went to the shop of Mr Gill at Castletown, stole a pair of boots from the shelf, and hid them near the dead house. He then told Mr Gill that an artilleryman named Higgins had stolen a pair of boots from his shop, and that if he went to Sergeant Dailey the man would be put in the guardroom.His own name he said was O’Donnell. Mr Gill enquired of his shopman who kept the Castletown shop, found that the boots were gone, and complained at the barracks. When the prisoner came in he was arrested as Higgins, there being no other Higgins in the battery, and, of course, the statement that his name was O’Donnell was false.’

Eli,  as a single young man, had seen an opportunity to start his own business in this up and coming area, he opened a refreshment room. When his wife Laura had taken over the running of the busy tea rooms, Eli reverted back to his former trade, that of a cobbler. ( Here he lived until his death in 1924 at the age of 60.)

Next door to the business of the Gills is oldest pub in the street, The Jolly Sailor, a thriving hostelry, (sadly no longer!) that more often than not lives up to its name.

At the turn of the century, Robert William Winter Male and his wife Sarah are mine hosts, both are from local families. In fact the the lively bar rooms and the comings and goings of the guests at the Jolly Sailor had pretty much been Robert’s life, for over 20 years it had originally been run by his Dad and Mum, Arthur and Sarah Ann.

Now Robert and Sarah run the pub, they have a young family of their own, baby girls, Olive, Irene and new born baby Joy. As up and coming people of means, they too employ a young girl in to help with their growing family and serve behind the bar, in 1901 it was 19-year-old Bessie, a Portland lassie.

(Mind you, with the frequency of their adverts over the years looking for a ‘respectable young girl’ one can only presume they didn’t last too long! Perhaps they all fell for the lure of a man in uniform, falling in love with visiting sailors, marrying and moving on.)

Also in the hostelry at the time of the 1901 census were three boarders, as you might expect, transient Jack Tars of course.

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1901 also sees the arrival of the Reserve Squadron, it heralds a hectic time for all those living and working in Castletown.

‘WESTERN GAZETTE JULY 1901; THE RESERVE SQUADRON, in point of numbers looked a very imposing sight when anchored in the harbour on Sunday, but among the fleet were a few old stagers, which would be better on a scrap heap, although some sailors have many good words for some of the vessels, which are regarded by the Navy League as”death traps.” Sunday was a busy day for the provisions contractors. Tons of bread, vegetables & c., were loaded off. Contrary to usual practise, none of the sailors or marines were landed for chapel on Sunday, and many were disappointed at being deprived of the church parade. Ranged out in lines,stretching from the new Breakwater to within rifle shot of Castletown the vessels presented an imposing sight, and the launches and sailing boats caused the scene to be a busy one. The high land to the rear of Castletown was well filled with sightseers.’

One house along from the Jolly Sailor is no.23 and here we find the Anthony family, Mum and Dad, John and Annie, and a trio of offspring, John,  Elizabeth. and Reginald, all born in Weymouth. The Anthony’s run a successful boat building firm. Their youngest son, Reginald Edward, born in 1889, is a boy of the sea, he works alongside his father in the family business.  

( By 1916, half way through WWI, Reginald had signed up for the navy. He served his country as he had spent his whole working life, out on the sea, part of that time was spent serving on Victory II, until he was demobbed in 1919.)

The chappie  living next door at no. 22, is 48-year-old Alfred Thomas Hounsell,  also a boat builder. Alfred and his second, (possibly 3rd!) wife, Lydia, are Kimberlins, (not Portland born and bred.)  Alfred hails from further along the Dorset coastline,  Bridport, whereas Lydia moved from across the water, a Channel Islands girl.

Alfred had lost his previous wife Julia (nee Comben) a few years earlier in 1897, but hope springs eternal and cupid gave him another shot at love.

(By the time of his death in 1909, the couple are living at Higher Lane on Portland, and ‘master carpenter’ Alfred leaves his widow a sizeable  legacy.)

The Hounsell’s neighbours, also incomers to the island, are Alfred Coombs and his wife, Beatrice, they run the bustling Portland Roads Inn with it’s beautiful and ornately decorated tiled entrance.

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Alfred’s family originates from Swyre, he is a carpenter, but knows the licensed trade well being the son of an inn keeper, his father runs the Bull at Swyre. It’s not hard to work out where his wife, 31-year-old Beatrice hails from, her thick brogue  sharp tongue and quick wit reveals her place of birth, Ireland. They too have a young son, 5-year-old Alfred Bertram, and an inn full of guests on the night of the census, mainly transient sailors and soldiers.

(By the time of the next census the family have moved to Weymouth and are running the Prince of Wales pub in the Park district.)

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Next comes the Royal Breakwater Hotel which takes pride of place in this road.

In 1901 it is being run by feisty widow, 58-year-old Jane George, who is from Child Okeford, Dorset. Jane had been running the hotel along with her husband, Edward, but 4 years earlier Edward passed away and it was left to Jane to carry on single handed. Before they  moved to Portland the couple  managed a successful building business in Milton Abbas for many years, but by 1895 the family  had arrived on the island and  taken over the lucrative Breakwater Hotel.

Working alongside their mother in the family run hotel are daughters Gertrude May aged 25, Mabel Louisa aged 18 and one of her married daughters, Helen Louise  who is living there with her husband, Frederick Albert Trace. Frederick works as a naval school master, maybe he is employed on the Boscowen naval training ship based in Portland Roads, preparing the next generation of sailors for a life at sea.

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(Later that year daughter Gertrude draws up at Wyke Regis parish church, resplendent in her wedding gown, walking down the aisle she smiles at her husband-to-be, Frederick Charles Russell, not surprisingly, he’s another Jack Tar, a gunner in the Royal Navy.)

Their hotel is bursting at the seams on census night, mainly occupied by transient men of the sea with a couple of visiting soldiers thrown in for good measure.

Hotels and Inns were also often venues for alternate occasions such as inquests and auctions, such was the case later in 1901 when the hotel was packed out with prospective buyers and inquisitive onlookers as a vessel, SS Dinnington, which was stranded in the Roads was auctioned off piece by piece, gigs, boilers, anchors and all.

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Living next door to this bustling hotel, at the house of no 15, is 26-year-old William Albert Fern, a Londoner, along with his wife Ethel.  William runs the stables and works as a groom for the hotel. The young couple have a baby, William Henry Edward, who was born in Child Okeford, the same place as his mother’s boss. Presumably the families knew each other hence their move to Portland so soon after his birth, and where they had baby William christened.

(Their first born son wasn’t to make old bones though, in 1906 aged just 6, his little body  was laid to rest in a Portland graveyard.)

The house of no16 is the home of 52-year-old Elizabeth Schollar. Having lost her husband Edward in 1899, now  widow, Elizabeth earns her meagre living as a laundress working from home.

Edward had played a part in  a tragic incident in November of 1891. Two local Castletown boatmen had been hired to take a party of eight sailors back to their vessel, HMS Howe out in the Roads, but the sea conditions were atrocious and the boat suddenly filled with water and capsized. Seven of the men were hauled from the cold waters, but it was too late for three of them, including one of the local men, 40-year-old Thomas Way. Edward later discovered one of the men’s missing bodies floating near another warship and gave his evidence at the inquest held in the Breakwater hotel.

No 18 is the abode of the Wills family. 38-year-old William, Portland born and bred, a man of the sea, he’s a captain kept busy working on the steam launches that regularly plough the local waters.

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His wife, Mary Ann is also a local girl. They have a veritable brood living with them, John, the eldest at 15, is working as an office boy, (but by the time of the next census, 1911, the call of the sea had been too strong,)  Next in the Wills line is William who is aged 10, he is listed as ‘visiting’ widow Elizabeth next door on the census form, maybe it was a bit more permanent than that? Perhaps space was tight for the growing family. Then came Robert, at 14 he was working as an errand boy, (like his brother he too, later in life, couldn’t resist Neptune’s lure.) Poor old Mary Kate was the only rose amongst a veritable bed of thorns, but at the age of 6 she could more than hold her own…she had to learn fast living with such a bevvy of brothers!

Below Mary Kate comes toddler George Richard, at 2 years of age he is into everything, running his poor Mum ragged.

(He also brought heartbreak to the family in later life. In the final year of WWI, the 20th January 1918, aged just 19, George was serving aboard the HMS Louvain when they were attacked and sunk by a German U boat, UC 22. in the Aegean Sea. His body was never recovered, like so many others of the time, his family were left to grieve with no graveside to visit. His name was later inscribed on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial. )

Bringing up the rear of the male-dominated Wills family is baby Richard Everett Hutchings, (the Hutchings in honour of his paternal grandmother.) This little mite only  just arrived in time for the census.

Also living in 4 rooms of the shared property at no 18, is Portlander, Walter Anthony aged 37. His occupation is listed as a boat proprietor. He had always toiled with the sea, having previously been a fisherman, but the like so many others in the area, the comings and goings of the navy within the Roads provided the means of a lucrative income. His wife Harriet had moved here after their marriage, her family fare from Lyme Regis. They have a son, 10 year old  Walter Samuel.

Another family squeezed into just 4 rooms at no 18, is Tamson Hounsell and her assorted brood. Matriarch  of the family, Tamson, aged 56, is already a widower, she supports herself and her brood by trading as a fish merchant. In happier times she had been married to Edmund Samuel Hounsell, who was a Trinity pilot, but sadly in 1879, aged just 36, Edmund died and left Tamson to raise their brood alone.

( Edmund’s wasn’t the only loss Tamson had to suffer, come the 1911 census, and the stark reality of her life was listed for all to see. She had given life to 8 children but not all survived, 3 having being put in the ground before her.)

But for now, she has some of her close family besides her. First listed on the census form is 23-year-old son Abraham who toils along side his Mum in the family fish business. A certain young Daisy resides within the  household, described as daughter to the head, but as Daisy is only 15, she was born long after the death of Tamson’s husband. More likely Daisy is a granddaughter, a child of another son, Samuel’s perhaps? Also ensconced safely within the family bosom is one of Tamson’s daughters, Georgina who  was married  to George Griffin, a sergeant in the 21st Kent Regiment that had once  been based at Portland’s mighty Verne Citadel. Staying at Granny’s house with Mum are 3 of Georgina’s children. 7-year-old George, 6-year-old Edward and toddler Samuel, all are testament of Georgina’s travels to far flung countries with her husbands regiment, the trio were born in India.

(Unlike her husband, Tamson reached the ripe old age of 73, she died in 1916.)

The final family having rooms within the same premises are the Kristensen family. Dad, is Norwegian born Karl John, he works as a boarding clerk. He met and married his wife Annie Attwooll whilst working in Weymouth in 1889. The couple have a baby son Albert Karl, now he’s true Portland born and bred. Visiting the family at the time of the census is Annie’s sister, Elizabeth Crowe

At one stage the Kristensen family used to lodge in the building that sits virtually opposite to no 18, that was until they got their own little dwelling.

Castle Town

This building is the Castle Hotel, which sits at the entrance to the pier, the business is now run by recently arrived Kimberlins, Alfred Thomas Pope, 32, his wife, Ethel Alice, aged 24, and living with them is their baby daughter Olive Christina who was born while her parents lived in in Portsmouth.

(Building pictured below in later years.)

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Working alongside the Popes is a young lad, with his strong Suffolk burr, William Sergeant keeps the punters happy, he’s the pot boy or barman. So busy is their hostelry that William’s not the only resident barman, so too is a Somerset lad, Ernest J Billett. Though Ernest had been born in Somerset, as had his siblings, his parents in fact originally came from Weymouth and Wyke Regis. Ernest’s Dad, James, worked for the railway, and is now the gate keeper for the local service, the family living in Railway Gates Cottage at Wyke Regis.

(By the time of the 1911 census,  31-year-old Ernest was still single, still working as  barman but had moved to join the staff of the Royal Naval Canteen on Portland.)

The new pier was the surprise landing place for a Royal visitor in 1902, which caught the residents of Castletown completely unawares. ‘When a hue-hulled barge steamed briskly towards the new stone pier at Castletown a few minutes after 12, the dock labourers and  a few children gathered at the landing.

But the barge contained Colonel Davidson and another of the equerries, and the little crowd soon melted away. The quest of a Royal carriage was not at first successful. A hotel along the water was appealed to, but could not supply the required vehicle. Finally, Mr Cresswell, of the Victoria Hotel produced a landau and two horses.

In charge of a driver, Longman, likewise local, the equipage drove to the stone pier. On this pier are piled blocks of undressed stone, and a dozen grimy workmen were busily loading a small steamer. It was by no means an impressive landing place. As the King’s barge swung round the pier, the workmen recognised his Majesty, and forsook their duties to cheer him ashore. He stepped briskly up the steps, then lifted his yachting cap as the little gathering saluted him.’

Royal visitors aside, we return to the everyday residents and move on to the house of No 14, this is the abode and business of old Moses Davey.

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At a mere 63 years of age, he is still busy suiting and booting those who visit his clothier and outfitters business, aided by his wife Mary Ann. The art of tailoring was in Moses’ blood, brought up within his family clothing business in Exeter, he knew of nothing else. By the time of the 1881 census Moses and Mary Ann had moved their extensive family to Portland where Moses worked as an outfitters assistant. By 1891 he was managing the shop and here the family still live and work come 1901. Their last born son, Frederick John, the only child still at home, is the only one of their veritable brood to be born on Portland, but he isn’t a man of the cloth so to speak, he prefers getting his hands dirty, tinkering with mechanics and engine oil, ending up with a career as an engine fitter for the Admiralty.

Yet another pub nestles within this row, the Albert Inn, run by 35-year-old Charles Stephen Monger and his trusty companion and wife, Louisa Ann, who is a Portlander from the Colston family. When Charles and Louisa  married in 1890, they moved in with her parents in Castletown, at that time Charles was working as a water clerk, (or boatman…depending on which document you read!) Louisa is kept pretty busy with her brood of four children, two girls, Violet 8 and Joy 6, and two lads, Charles 2 and baby Harold.

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The Monger’s have only recently taken over the running of the pub, and that was mainly due to the misfortunes of another less than happily married family, the Steers who had run the hostelry since 1895. Headlines in the May of 1900 Western Gazette bellow of ‘EXTRAORDINARY CHARGE OF DESERTION.’ whereby the plight of the Steer’s unfortunate circumstances were laid bare for all to read.

(Charles himself made the local papers when in 1906 he was out fishing for bass. Instead of hauling in fish he found himself with a prize winning catch, he hooked no less a specimen than a hulking great torpedo, one that had been missing for some while.

By the time of the 1911 census the Mongers were still residing in the Albert Inn and their family had doubled in size.) 

Charles’s  demise at the ripe old age of 71 in 1938 is recorded in a rather strange manner in the book of burials, it simply states ‘died in a motor boat in Portland harbour.’)

The aptly named hostelry, the Sailors Return snuggles up next to the trusty Albert.

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At the age of 69, widow Frances Mills is at the helm…or should that be bar counter? Portland born Frances, or Fanny to her family and friends, and her husband, Robert moved into these licensed premises in the 1880’s, and between working the bars, keeping many a matelot in much needed grog and providing a roof over their heads, the couple managed to produced 12 children.

Sadly, husband Robert died in 1899, leaving Frances to carry on alone.

Being such a close knit family, the grown children were quick to step in and help out. Living with Fanny in 1901 is her 35-year-old spinster daughter, Frances, her son Charles, along with his wife Sarah and 18-year-old grand daughter also named Sarah. Also living on the premises is another of Frances’ married daughters, Elizabeth, she  and her husband, Lewis and 11-year-old Lewis junior help out where they can. Like so many of the other busy hotels and Inns along this strip, their rooms are full on census night.

(In the 1911 census, at the good old age of 80, Frances revealed that she had born 12 children in total and survived 3 of them. Not long after, she took her leave of this mortal coil and was reunited with her lost loved ones.)

Another family are residing within the hotel in 1901, but rather than short stay residents, they are long term boarders renting three rooms out. Originally from Birmingham, the family have been here a while, and their youngest was born here three months prior. This is the Hiffe clan, Charles Leonard and his wife Ellen. Apart from the fact that he’s a naval man, these are are somewhat a mystery family. They have three children with them, Ellen B aged 10 who is supposed to be a niece, Charles Leonard aged 6 and last but not least, baby Alice, who at 3 months was supposedly born on Portland. The only other comprehensive sighting of any members of the family is in the 1911 census.

(Now these are one of those intriguing families that are the very devil to follow and unravel. In 1909 a certain Charles Leonard Hiffe marries in Portland to an Elsie May Mist,  can’t be Daddy Charles as he is still married to and living with Ellen in 1911, or maybe Elsie and Ellen are the same person and they’re finally putting their relationship on a legal footing? But then again it’s hardly likely to be Charles junior as he would only be 14 and appears in the 1911 census as single. All very odd!)

Anyway, we’ll leave the Hiffe’s to their mysteries and move on to the next family living in Castletown, the Love’s.

Dad and Mum, Samuel Cole Love and wife Ellen are both in their 50’s. Living with them are eight of their children and Ellen’s unmarried sister, Frances. Samuel Love is a Devon man, Dartmouth in fact, where he was brought up in a fairly wealthy family, his father Joseph, trading in ships. However, for now Samuel works on dry land, he’s gone down the numbers route, working as an accountant.

The next premises belong to the Post Office, first opened in 1868. At no 8 lives the Jarman family, Thomas and Elizabeth and their two sons Thomas and Alfred Richard. Thomas senior works as a Post Office clerk while Thomas junior, aged 15, is working as a pupil teacher in a local school.

Dad Thomas had moved to Portland by the age of 10, his father, Richard, was a naval man and had found himself in a steady position working on HMS Boscowen in Portland Roads, at which point he moved his family to Portland.

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(The Jarman’s were still there at no 8 in 1911. Thomas junior had left home but continued in a career as a teacher and Alfred had found himself a good job working as a clerk in the Admiralty dockyard.)

The main Post Office premises are at no 7, owned and run by Portlander 34-year-old Richard Thomas Cox along with his wife Ellen, also known as Nellie, they have three lively boys, Richard, George and Reginald. The couple took over the running of the Post Office from Richard’s parents, Richard and Emma. Before this they lived next door and Richard junior was working as a ships broker assistant because not only do they run the bustling Post Office but also they act as ship brokers and chandlers.

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This is a very busy little business;

 ‘WESTERN GAZETTE FEBRUARY 1899. THE CASTLETOWN POST OFFICE. Few realise the enormous amount of work thrown on the staff of the Castletown Post Office by the presence of the various fleets from time to time. At ordinary times the number of men in the training ships is about 1,000, but when the channel Fleet is here there are about 11,000, and of course, more if, as at present,  the Training Squadron should also be here. All these being from home there is much more correspondence than would be in a town of the same number of inhabitants, in addition to the official correspondence. All this entails very heavy work on the staff, and, unfortunately,  not being Post Office employees in the strictest sense of the word, they do not get a penny extra remuneration, whereas, if they they were established, they would get overtime. One would think if this was represented to the Post Master General some steps would be taken to remedy this obviously unfair state of affairs.’

Even a postman’s life could have its dangers, their problems lay not only with snapping dogs but in 1902 one of the postal clerks had a close brush with Neptune. ‘NINE MEN STRUGGLING FOR LIFE. NAVAL BOAT CAPSIZED. During a heavy gale this morning a boat belonging to HMS Sovereign conveying a postman and some messmen left Castletown, Portland for the ship. The boat which contained nine men altogether, was under sail. A suddden squall capsized her, and all the occupents were struggling for life. Steam launches from various vessels came to the rescue, and suceeded in picking up eight men. One able seaman, however, was drowned.’

Come 1909 and Richard Cox finds himself in trouble and on the wrong side of the law. One of his fleet of vessels was sailing off Beachy Head in dense fog when it accidentally collided with a coastal barge and sank it. The newly widowed (and newly married ) wife was suing him under the Workmen’s Compensation Act for the loss of her husband. The price put on his life? £163.00!

The Cox’s are still running their businesses at the  Post Office in 1911.

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Next in line in the terrace is no 6, the is the home of newly arrived Albert and Charity Lewis, Albert is foreman of the breakwater works. Previous to their move to Portland the family had been living and working in Wales, the sons worked down the pits, as coal miners, but Dad, despite the 1891 census listing him purely as a ‘miner’ was already someone in authority. This was a step up into the light for them. away from the constant dirt and the grime of the black stuff. Only three of their children are at home now, their 27-year-old daughter Lizzie, and two of their sons, Herbert and Percy.

No 5 is the abode of German born 45-year-old boatman, Henry Schutte and his wife Julia. They have 2 children living with them, with a big age gap between them, 17-year-old John is out working hard as a grocery assistant while his 2-year-old sister Anita gets to stay at home and play with Mummy. To help make ends meet they also have a young couple boarding with them, Harry and Marie Bartlett.

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(The Schutte’s were still living at no 5 in the 1911 census, but a couple of years later things don’t look quite so rosy for the family, the outbreak of WWI  and there is talk of German spies infiltrating the country. Anyone with a German name or nationality, no matter how many years they had lived and worked here, instantly became under suspicion, and were rounded up as aliens and interred, such was the case with Henry.    ‘1914 6 Aug WESTERN TIMES; SUSPECTED GERMAN SPY AT WEYMOUTH. Yesterday at Weymouth a German named Henry Christian William Schutte, who has been living at Emmadale Road, Westham, was brought up in custody before the borough magistrates and charged under the Official Secrets Act with communicating to another person a sketch, plans, notes and other documents and information calculated to be useful to the enemy. Mr. Pengelly prosecuted. Prisoner was arrested on the Great Western cargo stage.’

No further mention can be found of what became of Henry or his family, but by the time of his death, 8th August 1927, he appears to be living back in his place of birth, Hamburg, Germany.)

As we near the end of this road, we’re getting closer to the entry of the dockyard gates and here we come across the more officious buildings.

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This is where we find the people housed whose job it is to protect the comings and goings of the dockyard and Portland Roads. Two single men are listed in the Harbour Masters office, both are men of the Royal Navy, Henry Rabbits and George Lewis Baldwin.

The next building along is that of H M Customs, the dreaded Preventative officers, feared by those whose maybe don’t toe the line as much as they should. In charge of the men is 39-year-old William J Daniels, a Preventative officer for H M Government. William is from a line of Preventative officers, his father Daniel was a coastguard, protecting our seas and shores  from foe and smugglers is in his blood.

Also in the Customs building is 29-year-old Harry Valentine Bingham, a  man of Kent. Whilst working in the area he had fallen in love with local girl, Ada Maxted and the couple married at St Johns church, Portland on the 8th July 1896. Come the night of the 1901 census, midnight Sunday 31st March, Harry is at his post in the Customs house, while his wife Ada lives with her parents still in Belgrave Place on Portland. So near yet so far.

(The couple had moved to Ireland by the time of the 1911 census, Harry is working still as a Preventative Officer. Sadly it seems that even after 14 years of marriage they were destined not to have children.)

Edwin Anthony described as a ‘watcher’ is the third man listed as occupying the Customs Office. He is a Portlander aged 30, brought up in Castletown, his Dad George was a barge waterman. Edwin is also married but away from his wife Hannah Lavinia, the couple have a house in Mallams. They too were married  at their local church, St John’s,  on the 25 June 1893.

The final man in the Customs line-up is ‘boatman’ Charlie Gardner originally from Witham, Essex.

Castletown Portland.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our little stroll through place and time.

Sadly Castletown is no longer a bustling through fare, full of marauding matelots and mariners. The Royal Navy pulled out of Portland, the sheltered Roads that was once the home of the might of the British navy now harbours little more than yachts,  aquatic sportsmen and the occasional cruise liner that sails in to discharge its multinational passengers onto Portland shores.

One by one the little shops and refreshment rooms closed until it’s little more than a residential street.

Maybe though, there’ll be  a new chapter in it’s life.
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A very big thank you to Pam Oswald who so kindly let me use the pictures from her personal collection.

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If you enjoy a bit of good old tittle tattle about the lives of Weymouth and Portland residents past, why not search out a copy of Nothe Fort and Beyond.

Nothe fort and Beyond 261 KB

Available for sale in the Nothe Fort shop and Weymouth Museum or on Amazon

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nothe-Fort-Beyond-Weymouth-Portland/dp/1977592686/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512117985&sr=1-1&keywords=nothe+fort+and+beyond

The Great Escape from Portland Prison 1868;

Anyone living in the Weymouth  area  while Portland was still a main stream prison  will have memories of the horrendous traffic jams along the Chesil Beach Road, caused by the pursuit of escaped prisoners. All vehicles leaving the island would be stopped and searched, checking for the concealment of the said escapees.

As a young kid it caused no end of great excitement. My parents even tried using it as a subtle threat, (well, o.k., maybe not so subtle,) to  make me better behaved, whispering to me as we crept ever nearer to the stern looking officers to sit still and keep quiet, otherwise they might haul me off. Of course, that only added to the frisson of excitement.

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This grim looking prison was originally constructed in the late 1840’s to house the convicts brought to the island specifically to work on the new coastal defence scheme. These mammoth works included the building of the breakwaters, the Verne citadel and surrounding batteries. These prisoners were used as manpower in the quarries on Portland,  painstakingly hewing the white stone free for their construction.

This was ‘hard labour,’  at its truest meaning.

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Nowadays that Victorian prison building has become the YOI, (Young Offenders Institute,) but in its time it held many a hardened and persistent criminal, political activists such as the ‘dreaded’ Fenians, and the usual mottly crew, many of whom had turned to crime out of financial necessity.

Throughout the years of the prison’s history, there were many attempts at escapes, some succeeded, many didn’t.

Come 1899 and a story hit the national newspapers, capturing the imagination of their readers.

William Bartlett, one of those ‘persistant’ petty criminals was making his way out from the Bow Street police-court. Rather surprisingly, he had been taking the Police Commissioner to court for the return of a few disputed items,  William maintained they were his legally, but the courts felt they were more likely the ill gotten gains of a recent robbery.

Being considered a news worthy article the press showed an interest in the story, William was stopped outside by a reporter asking for his version of events.

William though had an even stranger tale to tell, he proceeded to enlighten the eager scribe about his past history, a ‘romantic’ tale about his daring escape from the dreaded Portland prison.  He boasted he that had been the ‘only man to escape’ those grey forbidding walls. (Not true in fact because quite a few had before him, some even tasted freedom for a few months before being recaptured.)

William also claimed that his daring escape made him the hero in Hawley Smart’s novel, ‘Broken Bonds’ published in 1874.

“The correct details of my escape have never been told.” William informed the reporter who was furiously writing down his every word.“I’ll tell you what actually happened.”

The wily old career criminal continued with his story.

“In 1868 I received a sentance of 10 years’ penal servitude. From Pentonville I was taken to Portland.

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It was awful!

The endless round of hard work in the quarries, the short commons, and the strict discipline, made life almost unbearable.

It is to be wondered at that I made up my mind to escape!

I had many a sleepless night while I was laying my plans. I knew that no one had ever succeeded in escaping from prison; I knew that the place was watched night and day by guards almost as numerous as the convicts, and I was  aware that even if I could get clear of the prison it would be almost impossible to get far away in a suit plastered with the broad arrow.”

But things were about to look up for this chap in his rough prison suit.

William continued, “One day I managed to pick up a small piece of hoop iron. That seemed like a godsend. Every time I had the chance I took that iron hooping with me, and worked like a nigger to make it into a saw. I did it in fear and trembling, for the slightest sound would have betrayed me.

A stroke of luck awaited me.

I found a convict who had got a bit of a file. He had no ambition, and said the file was no good to him. I gave him my dinner for it, and with the file I was able to complete the saw. Then I managed, by working stealthily every evening after I had been locked up for the night to saw through the wood flooring of my cell. Every night I had to replace the boards, so that the warders should not see what I had done.”

It wasn’t going to be plain sailing though, when constructed, the designers had considered the possibility of such dastardly deeds, they had added a means to prevent escape through the floor.

William admits “… an awful dissapointment awaited me. The space beneath my cell was lined with sheet iron; but, nothing daunted, I eventually got through that. Then I got into an air shaft, and, after three months’ hard work, saw my way clear to liberty.”

He bided his time, it had taken months to get this far, no point in rushing his plans and risking capture.

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“At last the opportunity came. It was a dark night and all was still. With my sheets I had made a rope, and, as luck would have it, I had picked up a piece of wood, called a ‘dog’ with iron hooks at each end. I put my stool underneath the quilt, to look as much like my body as possible, in case the warders should look in, and then went down the passage it had taken me three months’ hard labour to make. After lifting an iron grating I found myself in the open air, and managed to throw the hooks on my linen ladder over a wall. By this means I got onto the roof of the officers’ quaters. There was no one about, and the only sound I could hear was that made by me beating heart. From the roof I had to jump on the boundary wall, about 10ft or 12ft distant.

I dare say it was a bold leap, but you don’t stick at trifles when you are escaping from Portland.

I made the leap, and was sucessful in reaching the boundary wall. Then I got to the ground by means of my linen ladder. Unfortunately, the hooks were so secure that I had to leave the ladder where it was, and if it had not been for that I might have been in London in three or four days.”

Things weren’t going too well though for the fleeing William.

“As it was I had an awaful experience.

Whilst making a desperate tug at the ladder I heard footsteps approching, and I rushed into the gaden of the Grove public-house. I turned round and saw a guard looking at the ladder. A few minutes afterwards shots were fired and a bell rung.

My escape had been discovered.

Guards were running in all directions; but, unperceived, I got through the window of the Roman Catholic Chapel, and concealed myself beneath the Communion table, which proved to be something very much like a box.

I could hear the sound of hurrying footsteps all night, but no one came into the chapel until next morning, when service was held there.

It was not a pleasant position to be in, I can assure you.”

Trapped in the chapel and unable to move, William spent a very uncomfortable few hours.

“A sneeze or a cough would have betrayed me, but, fortunately, all went well. But I got very hungry. So, at the end of about 33 hours, I stole out, and broke into the Clifton Hotel. I there found some bread and meat, cheese and tobacco. What was of more consequence, I was able to steal a hat and some clothes. With the clothing and food-the sweetest food I ever tasted-I returned to my hiding place in the chapel.”

Once ensconced within the relative sanctuary of the chapels walls, he set to with the next part of his scheme.

“Out of a black coat I made a pair of trousers, and put on another of the stolen coats, which happened to be made of velvet. The food I divided into six portions, and for six days I was concealed beneath that Communion table. There were frequent services, and, what was still worse, the priest used to come in at night for private devotions.”

William realised he couldn’t stay hidden in the chapel for ever, he had merely swapped one form of imprisonment for another! He had to make his move.

“At last I had more than enough of it, and broke into the priests house with the object of obtaining some money. I could find none, however. There was some silver plate, but that was of no use to me. I obtained a white stole, however, and with that made me something resembling a white shirt.”

It was now or never, he had to make his way across the Chesil causeway, or he’d never leave this god forsaken island.

“Feeling now fairly confident as to my appearance, I walked down the road, and saw a milkman, who, I afterwards found, gave information about me.

I passed over the bridge all right, and went on to Weymouth, and from there to Dorchester.

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At a little place 19 miles from Portland I concealed myself in a field. Two men came in blackberrying, and I had to get out. They asked me where I was going. I said to Blandford.”

Not all was that it at first seemed, a trap had been set.

“They volunteered to show me the way, but we had not gone very far before we met two police-inspectors. They asked me to go into a public-house and give an account of myself.

They were particularly anxious to know if I had a mark on my right arm.

Seeing the game was almost up, I tried to dash through the public house, but it was no good, and I was collared.”

Having been recaptured and brought before the courts yet again, the errant prisoner awaited his fate.

“I was afterwards sentenced to eight years penal servitude for the burglary at the Clifton Hotel.”

When asked if he had received corporal punishment for his daring deeds he simple replied

“No, I did not have the cat.” adding cheerfully “You see, I was tried by a civil power.” and the little man chuckled.

Though William was thoroughly enjoying reliving his moment of fame, the reporter ended his piece with a poignant sentence. “Immediately afterwards he assumed a graver tone, and asked, in mournful accents, ‘But what can an old convict like me do for a living?”

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Excerpts taken from the Western Gazette 1st Sep 1899 and various other national papers of the time.

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Interested in old views of Weymouth?

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The Portland Shooting 1898.

Right throughout the whole of time certain laws of the human universe remained constant.

One of those being that no amount of wealth, social standing and prosperity could ever guarantee happiness.

So it was for one Weymouth hard working family.

William and Martha Lumley owned and ran an established, well respected Weymouth business. They were the proud owners of the Lumley confectioners and bakers at no 25 St Mary Street.

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The couple had moved down to Weymouth not long after their marriage and set up shop in the pretty, popular and  bustling seaside resort.

Over the intervening years, along came their  only 2 children, William Gifford Lumley (b.1872.) and Annie Louisa Lumley (b.1873.)

As they grew up in Weymouth their parents had tried to instil in them good Christian morals and the importance of a strong work ethic.

letter Civic Society.

When they got older, the children worked in the busy confectionary shop along side their parents, and their two Aunties, Annie and Polly Gifford who lived with the family.

William junior, not surprisingly, learnt the bakery and confectionary trade at his fathers side, after all, he would be heir to this successful business later in life.

However life didn’t always go quite to plan, and sometimes children didn’t always turn out how their parents had envisaged.

William junior not only worked hard, he liked to play hard too…mighty hard!

He was to be found frequently out cavorting in the local hostelries with his pals,

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but what started out as simple fun with friends in the pubs around town turned into a devilish raging demon that would not only mar his life, but that of those around him.

On the 5th January 1894, 22-year-old William stood nervously waiting at the alter of St Mary’s church, his proud parents sat in the packed congregation and watched as their son was soon to become  a man, a husband, a provider for his wife and family to be.

They must have given a sigh of relief  too, now he was to be settled, there would be no more drunken nights out, no more humiliation of his numerous misdemeanours around town, time at last for him to settle down.

Down the church aisle came a shy young girl, 21-year-old Elizabeth Catherine Hodder. Holding her arm firmly and feeling immense pride that his baby was about to be wed  was her father, Joseph Scriven Hodder, a Portland businessman, a farmer and contractor who lived in Reforne, Portland.

As she positioned herself nervously before the alter and quietly whispered her wedding vows to William, Elizabeth  didn’t quite realise what sort of life she was about to enter into.

Over the next couple of years life seemed to amble along for the young couple, William worked alongside his father in the family business, and they had two children, Hilda Mary born 9th March 1895 and Reginald Gifford born 21st April 1897. At this stage they were living at no 1 Rodwell Terrace in Weymouth.

All was not well in the Lumley household though…in fact it was far from well, for poor Elizabeth it was sheer hell!

Marriage had not dimmed Williams liking for drink one iota, in fact, by now, he was fast becoming an out and out alcoholic, not only that, he was the worst of drunks… a violent bully and extremely manipulative. Elizabeth was often on the receiving end of his frequent drunken rages. Behind closed doors she was threatened, beaten, abused and her life was nothing but utter misery.

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Then the family had moved over to Portland where William ran his own confectionary business.

At least now Elizabeth had family and friends around her, she might not have revealed to them of her life of abusive hell living with William,  but they would have suspected, small signs of his nasty character revealed as his drinking became steadily worse.

It all came to a drunken and disastrous head in the December of 1898.

No longer able to stand the physical and emotional abuse from William, on Thursday the 1st December, a desperate Elizabeth took  courage, gathered up the two young children and fled to the nearby home of her sister and  husband.

Running a popular butchers shop on the island, Elizabeth’s sister, Ann Helena and her husband William Albert Henry Scriven, had heard the rumours about William. They knew he drank, and drank to excess, by now things had got so dire that he was under the care of Dr Colmer.

What they hadn’t realised was how just violent he could get when in one of his drunken rages.

Without any hesitation they took the frightened Elizabeth and her bewildered children in, they would make sure  they were kept safe.

When William had staggered home that evening and realised that his family had fled he was seething, he would make them pay…Elizabeth and her meddling relations.

The gossip in the Scriven’s butchers shop next day, Friday, was rife.

William Lumley it seems had just upped and sold all his goods…could it be that he was going to do a runner?  Was it really going to be that easy?

Could Elizabeth and her children live life peacefully at last?

William Gifford Lumley was not going to disappear quietly, he was about to go on one huge bender, and while doing so, as his rage only increased, he began plotting his revenge.

For William Bridle of 4 Carters Cottages, Park Street, Weymouth, that Saturday morning of the 3rd December had started like any other. Bridle worked on and off as a licensed porter, he found work where ever he could.

That morning while touting for business, Bridle had bumped into William Lumley outside of the Clifton Hotel, which stood right opposite the train station in Weymouth. Arrangements were made between the two men for Bridle to accompany William to Bath…all expenses paid and a guinea on top. Bridle couldn’t believe his luck. this was going to be easy money, and a jolly to Bath thrown in for free.

Once the two men had arrived in Bath, Lumley set off on his non-stop round of drinking. Most of their evenings while there was spent living it up in the Lyric Music Hall, but any nearby pub or bar would do…..after all a drink was a drink!

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Sunday the 4th, found the two men in a cab heading towards Wellow, just outside Bath, where they spent the entire day supping in a public house.

On the Monday, Lumley hired a cab to drive them to the nearby Viaduct Hotel, again it was a day of non-stop drinking, and the pair retuned to Bath that evening when they headed for bright lights and music of the Lyric..

Tuesday the 6th took on more somewhat  sinister tones.

The two men headed for Bristol, at first it seemed quite innocuous, a pleasant visit to the Zoological Gardens.

Then Lumley headed for the city where he began to drink heavily and plot the downfall of those who had thwarted him.

His first port of call was to a pawnbrokers on Dighton Street, where shop assistant John Burns served him. Lumley told him he was off travelling the globe, he was going to Nepal and he needed a gun. Not suspecting anything amiss, (well, he had no reason to really,) John sold him a six chambered revolver for 15s.

Next stop was a hairdressers, that of Thomas Deacon, who knew him well. Here, Lumley, well in his cups by now started to rave about how his wife had left him, how he missed his son, he became more and more distressed and his voice more strident.

A rather alarmed Thomas was becoming extremely worried. He tried to calm Lumley down, told him to go back home but to no avail.  Lumley was only just getting into his stride, he excitedly declared “No, I shall shoot him.”

Now Thomas was really concerned, looking anxiously around at his much bemused customers who were following this unfolding drama with great relish. “Don’t talk nonsense.” he sternly told Lumley. At which point Lumley started to withdraw the revolver from his pocket, “I shall, I have the revolver with me.” Thomas told him in no uncertain terms to put it away, he didn’t want to see it.

Finally, he managed to get the drunk and angry Lumley out of his shop, wiping the sweat off his brown, he turned to his customers and declared that the man was just jesting.

Thomas Deacon didn’t inform the police!

Later that night, about 7.15p.m. Lumley and Bridle were both drinking at the Lyric Music Hall, when they were approached by a smartly dressed man, this was Charles Dunford, a Detective Inspector. He was there to serve a summons upon Lumley, Elizabeth and her family had invoked the  Married Women’s (Summary Jurisdiction) Act, but they had also invoked even greater anger in Lumley, but he hid it well.

Lumley of course, never willing to take any blame for his situation, firmly passed the buck of his misfortunes to others, “All this strife and unpleasantness is through my brother-in-laws and my wife’s friends coming to the house so much.” He declared calmly, “the best thing I can do now is go back home and see my wife.”

A sentiment that the policeman agreed with, little realising that behind the apparent calm exterior lay a seething anger and a deadly means of revenge. .

The two men returned to Weymouth later that night on the boat train.

The morning of Wednesday the 7th, the train drew into the station, and from there Bridle and Lumley went to Wyke to the house of Mr Edward Cripps, a naval pensioner, who lived on Portland Road.

In the afternoon Mr Cripps drove them in a covered wagon over to Portland.

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Lumley went to the Castle Hotel to begin his days drinking and Bridle travelled back to Weymouth to tell his wife he wouldn’t be sleeping at home that night.

He next saw Lumley again at Wyke later that day, where he was told that Lumley was going back to Portland and that Bridle was to stay at Cripp’s house in Wyke until he came back.

Another man who bumped into Lumley that day while he was in the Wyke Hotel, was Samuel Diment, a labourer. He had come across him outside pub about three in the afternoon. Having fuelled up with hard spirits and unleashing his wrath to anyone who would listen he had accosted Diment, then he pulled the loaded revolver from his coat pocket brandishing it in front of the bemused mans face, telling the rather shocked chap that he was going to Portland to shoot Mr Scriven and Mr Hodder and his two children.

Here was another person who did nothing…when questioned about his actions, or rather, lack of, at the trial, Diment simply replied  claiming that “the man as a stranger to him.”

In the evening, James Edward Burbridge a cab proprietor of Wyke was hired to take a very drunk and festering Lumley back over to Portland.

In the meantime, Elizabeths brother-in-law, William had made his way to the Prince Alfred pub, which was just a couple of hundred yards down the road from his house. He was looking forwards to a quiet drink and a chinwag with friends.

Only problem was, not long after his arrival, in staggered Lumley.

Laura Comben, daughter of the landlord of the Prince Alfred gave her evidence of the exchange between the two men at the trial.

According to her testimony Lumley had said ” Hello Will, I am not bad friends with you if I am am with the rest.” and then promptly offered to buy him a drink but William  refused and turned his back to him. Undeterred, Lumley carried on “I want to see my boy.” he demanded. “Is it likely?” asked William. Taking on a menacing tone the errant father asked “who is going to prevent me from seeing my boy?”

At this point William Scriven left the pub to return home, he sensed trouble ahead and wanted the women and children safely upstairs out of harms way.

Within a few minutes came a loud hammering on the door, by now William Scriven had armed himself with a stout walking stick, and his son Albert with heavy poker.

Lumley called out to William to open the door.

When door was opened Lumley rushed at William and fired. “Take that.” he screamed. Williams face was scorched and  blackened by the gun firing. The two men grappled for control of the revolver during which time three more shots were fired. A close fired fifth shot saw flames from the guns muzzle burn Williams arm.

The still waiting cab driver, James Burbridge, heard the 5 shots fired, and within minutes Lumley had jumped into his carriage yelling “Drive home as fast as you can.” Not sure what had happened or wanting to argue with someone who was possibly armed and dangerous, he did as he was told.

But at least he did have the gumption to visit the police station next morning to report the incident.

Arriving back at the home of Edward Cripps where the two men were staying, Lumley stumbled into the room of Bridle and announced that he had been to Portland “and had been having a lark.” According to Bridle’s statement he appeared  highly amused and kept laughing out loudly if not somewhat hysterically.

On awaking next morning Lumley told Cripps and his wife, “I have frightened him.” then he asked Cripps to to go and see his father, to see if he could get £250 so he could leave the country.

Cripps wife said “you have not killed anyone, or they would be after you before now.” With those reassuring words ringing in his ears, Lumley staggered off to the nearest hostelry.

Lumley wasn’t be a free man for much longer though, he arrested at the Wyke Hotel  by Police Sergeant Ricketts charged with shooting William Albert Henry Scriven.

While he was being held in a private room at the hotel awaiting transferral to the police station he spoke with P.C Elliott “Let me know the worst. Is Scriven dead?” Upon hearing that Scriven was very much alive and kicking he replied “I am very glad he is not dead. I popped a couple at him and three on myself. It is all through Scriven that I am in this trouble, but you have releived my mind of a good deal. I should not have cared if I had killed myself.” But still he held the belief that his troubles lay in the laps of others, not himself.“It’s all Scriven’s wife’s fault, she is the cause of all the bother. I fired two shots at Scriven and three at myself, but they missed.”

The days of non-stop drinking had left their effects, according to the attending police officer, when arrested,  the defendant appeared bordering on “delirium tremens.”

In 1899, on the 18th January, William Gifford Lumley stood trial at the Dorset Quarter Sessions.

harmsworth vol 2&3 1

His council claimed that William Lumley had only intended to frighten Scriven, not kill him, several witnesses were brought to attested to the fact that he was a crack shot, and had he wanted him dead, he would have no problem in doing so.

However, many stood in the witness box and lay before the courts damming evidence of Williams losing fight against the demon drink.

Randolph William Board, his brother-in-law, husband of his own sister, Annie, stated he not only drank to excess but he  was also extremely fond of bullying and frightening people, including his wife and his own mother. In the past he had pretended to commit suicide with a knife, but was careful enough not to seriously harm himself. On another occasion he had thrown himself over the bannisters, laying still on the floor pretending he was dead.

Lumley’s accomplice on the drunken fueled trip to Bristol, William Bridle, was hauled before the magistrates, and received a grilling as to the weekends events. He claimed he was hired to act as servant ( at this point there was a great deal of laughter in court, one suspects that maybe he was most likely nothing more than a drinking buddy,) and he was there to take care of Lumley.

Bridle stated that Lumley had been heavily drinking all the time he was in Bath, and at night time he was delirious. The judge told him rather scathingly that “you don’t seem to have done this man much good.”

Elizabeth took to the stand, and amongst other incriminating details she told of the occasion when her husband had come home drunk the previous August and threatened her with a revolver.  Telling him to not be silly, and put the gun away, Lumley had fired a shot narrowly missing her, going through the window instead.

In the November he had accused her of taking something of his, despite her frantic denials, he had calmly stood in front of her slowly sharpening a  knife declaring that was going to kill her and their servant.

Lumley’s Doctor, Dr Colmer told how he had treated him for alcoholism over the years, he was a habitual drunk.

Dr Good who worked at the County jail told how the day after he was arrested, he was “delirious tremens” very bad. Basically, Lumley was suffering from the DT’s. It had made him dangerous for warders to approach, he was overpowered eventually and placed in a cell.

His solicitor asked that he could be tried under the New Innebriate Act, but the judge made a ruling that it wasn’t possible, there was nothing set in place for those who needed help yet such as an Inebriates Home.

William Gifford Lumley was found guilty of serious assault, the charge of attempted murder had been dropped. He was given 5 years hard labour and found himself incarcerated in Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

prison london magazine

But sadly, that wasn’t to be the end of William and Elizabeths story.

For whatever reason, upon his release from prison in 1904, William had wheeled his way back into the family home with Elizabeth and children. Now they were living at no 30 Kings Road in Reading, far away from the safety of Elizabeths family and friends.

Had prison cured him of his wicked ways?

Had it as heck!

For the next couple of years Elizabeth endured a life of utter misery and terror.

When she finally saw the writing on the wall, and had realised that if she didn’t escape this man, she would be lying in a morgue slab somewhere, Elizabeth moved back to live at 5 St Georges Estate Portland.

Finally, in 1906, she cited William in a divorce, accusing him of cruelty towards her and of having numerous affairs.

A list of horrific attacks are listed within the divorce papers including one that took place when in a drunken rage he had locked her into her room, forced her down onto the bed, seized her by the neck, and was squeezing the very life out of her. Luckily for Elizabeth the door was kicked open by her relative, Thomas Hodder of Trinity Terrace, Weymouth, and Lumley was thrown out.

By the time of the 1911 census, William Gifford Lumley was back in Weymouth again living with Alfred George Parker and his family, at 26 Horsford Street, Weymouth

Elizabeth Catherine had moved out of harms way to Bath with her two teenage children, presumably, to avoid the shame of a divorce she lists herself on the 1911 census as widowed.

Later in 1911, on the  1st June William Lumley departs on the Royal Edward from Bristol to Quebec Canada. He was off to start a new life for himself.

One hopes that he had conquered his demons by now, and that his new life was a much happier and more peaceful one.

Our final view of William is in 1914, three years later, when the Great War blights the globe.

Aged 40, he signs up at the Vancouver enlistment office to the Canadian army on the  4th Dec 1914 for the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

The only two pages of his war records give us a tantalising glimpse at last of the man himself.

He’s 5ft 10″ tall, with a fair complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. Rather oddly, his second toe is completely missing on his left foot…maybe his shot hadn’t always been as accurate as he bragged?

William states he’s single, a widower. His next-of-kin is his son Reginald Gifford Lumley who is still living in the old family home, 1 Rodwell Terrace, Weymouth.

Maybe he had been able to build bridges with his children over the years.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************

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

************************************************************************************************************************************************

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.

letter Civic Society. 1

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/
…..
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.

man2 english illustrated magazine 3 london magazine
…..
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!
…..
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!
…..
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.
…..
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!
…..
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.
…..
Another member of the Robert Pearce appreciation society was the 25-year-old baker, was he littering the streets with his old dough?
…..
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.

rock strata portland
…..
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.
…..
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!
……
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.

book 6 1
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.

Snip20140709_9

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

The sea takes… and the sea gives back

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With the steady stream of violent storms that has hit the South coast over the past couple on months it has been fascinating to see how the immense power of the ebb and flow of the extreme tides and currents affect the shores.

The last storm to hit the South Coast, rather fetchingly named the St Valentine’s Day Storm, completely stripped the beach in the Cove of it’s pebbles…thousands of tons of those world famous objects washed out to sea,

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and with nothing but a bed of sand and blue clay left behind, littered here and there with a few rusted relics of past shipwrecks..

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But already the pebbles are slowly returning to their resting place on shore again, many locals will tell you that it’s happened time and time again.

What the sea takes, it returns, be it pebbles, ships, bodies or booty.

Dead Man’s Bay,as it is sometimes referred to (with very good reason !) and especially the area along by the Cove at Chiswell,  also often ends up as the final destination of ships and their cargoes, whether they are the result of Davey Jones pulling them in their entirety to the deep, or simply goods that have been parted company with the vessels transporting them.

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At present the shore is littered with the most recent flotsam to find its way inland…fags! Marlboro’s by the millions

( other brands and varieties are available to purchase !)

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By way of  laying the table for a perfect evenings dining and entertainment, these were soon to be followed onshore by cheese, and the obligatory bottles and bottles of alcohol.

Of course, as news spread fast of this abundance of riches that lay for the taking…the takers arrived thick and fast, and quickly on their heels were the  the police and customs.

But this is  no new phenomenon to those who live close to the sea. The battle between the pickers and the police and customs to outwit each other has gone on for centuries.

Over time the sea has not only swallowed up vessels, people and possessions, but also spewed forth the very same.

In January of 1866 the ultimate treasure was washed in on the tumultuous waves…gold coins.

A couple of weeks after came more golden treasures, of a sort, this time barrels of butter bobbed their way to the beaches along Chesil, followed not long after by great drifts of timber that were being transported from the Baltic.

(January of 1866 was a fairly rough one, in the short period no less than 17 vessels had been driven ashore on Chesil beach in the gales, but most were later recovered)

letter Civic Society. 1

1871 saw a bonanza for the local wreckers, the Adelaide had gone down in a storm with loss of life (a sad story that I’ve covered elsewhere in my blog)  the dreadful dealings of the scavengers made the headlines of many of the national papers, so disgraceful were the scenes of pillaging on the beach. Even so called respectable local businessmen and women were prosecuted for trying to secure many of the goods that had washed ashore. The police and customs men couldn’t cope with the overwhelming tide of humanity that had flocked to the wreck site.

Dead drunk bodies and real dead bodied were carted from the beach, men, women and children!…so much alcohol had been consumed from those casks and bottles that had washed ashore after.

August of 1891 and the drifting debris that came ashore was the body of a man. All that was left of his clothing was a snazzy pair of plaid trousers and a smart pair of spring sided boots,  this was no simple fisherman or sailor who had paid the ultimate price for his trade…this was a toff who maybe should have stayed ashore. But like most things, Neptune returned him to whence he came, just a bit battered and decayed.

He was only one body of the many hundreds who found their coming ashore on Chesil in a manner other than they had originally anticipated.

Later that same year, the Cove played host to another strange cargo …this times candles, hundreds and hundreds of them…

book 7

One wonder’s what on earth nature and Neptune will throw up onto the shores at Chesil next…

 

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

 

The Armada and Chesil beach; December 1876.

Storms are nothing new to us on the South coast, we have lived with them since time immemorial, though this winter’s battering is proving to be some what of a prolonged event! P1460025

World famous Chesil beach  runs from the cove at Chiswell, Portland to West Bay. Facing that immense heritage pebble bank is the locally named Dead Man’s Bay, or Lyme Bay, an aptly named piece of water due to the amount of ship wrecks  that have ended up along this stretch of coastline during the storms over the past centuries. P1460190

Many of those vessels that came to grief in the bay often contained valuable cargoes, and from time to time tantalising bits and pieces would be washed ashore during storms. letter Civic Society.

Such was the case in December of 1876.

Portlanders were frequently found scouring the shores of Chesil, even while the monstrous waves pounded the pebbled shores , they knew this was the time when Neptune spewed forth dead mans riches, an opportunity to drastically change their lives as long as they managed to survive the towering waves. The winter of 1876 had seen tremendous storms, and part of Chesil beach had been washed away revealing seams of blue clay. The scavengers had been busy, and had struck lucky. One eagle eyed Portlander had come across a bar of dirty looking metal wedged in the mud…picking it up, he examined it, he knew that it might be something valuable. It turned out to be a bar of solid silver, weighing in at 3lb 2oz and worth £12.00 (in old money) Certainly a lot more than he could ever hope to earn toiling in the quarries for a few weeks. Apparently these bars were supposed to have come from a couple of the Spanish Armada treasure galleons that had gone down out in the bay. The Portlanders even had a name for these frequently found and  much treasured ingots, they were know locally as “duckey-stones.” letter Civic Society. 1

I wonder what those old Portlanders would have made of such things nowadays, with all the media hype about the severe weather and the question of Health and Safety, warning to stay right away from the coast when storms were forecast.

Mind you, even nowadays some people like to dice with death and walk a fine line with the boiling shores. While sat watching the raging seas at Chesil from the safety of the pebbled groynes I watched a camera man who was obviously determined to get an unforgettable shot of the waves crashing on the shore. He boldly strode  down the beach, equipment in hand, finally stopping right at the waters edge. P1460412

He was going to get the perfect shot come hell or high water… P1460437

Maybe he should have been more careful and kept a closer eye on what was going on around him as he packed away his expensive equipment…. P1460446

He was certainly one very lucky cameraman…he very well could have been another sad statistic.

Oddly enough, just days after I had written this blog, the South coast was struck again by another fierce storm, in the terms of wind strengths, this was the worst of the Winter’s conveyor belt offerings. We went for a wander over next morning to survey the damage, and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked over the railings onto the beach below…the pebbles had vanished!

Virtually every single one of them had been scoured back into the sea!

You can see the depth of pebbles that were removed that night by the depth of the ironwork left exposed beneath the steps. P1460578

Revealed was the blue layer of clay that I had written about (and had wondered about at the time of writing, thinking perhaps that had been an exaggeration… obviously not!) P1460572

Even the massive Chesil Bank itself was revealed to be made of the blue clay, great swathes of it exposed right up to the ridge line. While we were there the Environment agency staff were there surveying the damage, probably wondering how the army who had been drafted in to move the pebbles back into place were going to work their miracles now…what pebbles?

P1460571  

I had always assumed that the Chesil Bank was composed of pebbles, and nothing but pebbles…but now I know different! Don’t worry though, the Portlanders will tell you that what the sea took…the sea will replace, eventually! Might take a while!

 

*****************************************************************************************************************************************************

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

 

1867; Danger in Portland quarries.

The quarries on Portland are world renown.

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They are of  a strange type of brutal beauty, the glare from the white stone is blinding in the bright sunshine, the heat reflects mercilessly from the  calcified remains that makes up the huge slabs that tumble and totter precariously all around.

Ultimately, their beauty belies the ever present danger that resides within, no more so than for those who toiled in them.

The prison on Portland opened in 1848, it was constructed to hold the convicts that were deliberately brought into the area to work as labour in the quarries and on the new breakwaters that the government were constructing for a safe harbour.

This was extremely dangerous work, both for the prisoners who toiled in the government quarries, and the freemen who worked long side them.

One young man, 34-year-old Frederick Goody was about to discover just how dangerous they were.

Frederick was a  good old Essex lad.

He had a very troubled past, and was no stranger to the law. Most of it concerned with theft of food, so we can only surmise that these were the only way he could eat, maybe the family were poverty stricken, and it was a way of life for them…a question of survival.

His crime spree started at a very young age.  On the 18th May 1847 Frederick was hauled before the courts charged with theft, he was lucky that time as he was found not guilty. Already at the tender age of 12 Frederick was marked boy.

By the year 1850, when he was just 15 Frederick was before the courts again. The 9th April saw him stood in the dock along side two other lads, William Drury and Charles Deson. This time the crime was of a more serious nature, the three of them were convicted of breaking and entering a house. The 3 lads had broken into a bakers and stolen a bag of flour…then proceeded to leave an incriminating trail  as they made their way back to their lodgings! Once the police were involved, it didn’t take them long to find and follow the betraying track of grey powder, which led straight to the removed railing… that led them to their house, and the flour that smothered their clothing…they didn’t seem to be the most competent of criminals.

The magistrate decided that the eldest boy William was the ring leader and he got the longest sentence, Frederick and his accomplice were given 6 months.

Frederick was before the courts again in 1856, this time convicted of the theft of items from a house in Halstead. Convicted of Burglary, and having had fallen foul of the law before he received  4 Years Penal Servitude.

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The year 1863 was to be Frederick’s date with fate.

In the October, he was again in court, having been found guilty of stealing 4 ducks and a hen from Mr Green, a farmer in Halstead. Frederick had been caught literally red handed.

As he had stealthily made his way across the fields in the dark, he had the misfortune to stumble across the local bobby, who spotting something unusual about his shape, asked to see what was under his smock… no surprises there, 5 limp, warm bodies of the feathered variety appeared, throats cut.

Nicked!

For that crime Frederick received 7 years penal servitude…and a one way ticket to Portland.

His description taken from his arrival was of an uneducated, illiterate man who knew no scriptures or passages from the bible. Portland was a fairly modern prison for its time, and as part of the mens stay during their term, they received one afternoon a weeks lessons in a classroom. Ironic as it may seem, for many of these boys and men this was their only chance of an education that they had ever had in their harsh lives.

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The lad was soon put to work in the quarries.

The work was hard , though most prisoners tended to take their toil at a more leisurely pace much to the Portlanders disgust, who had to slave away to make enough money to live on.

That didn’t stop Frederick from falling foul of fickle fate though.

As a large  2 ton slab of stone was being slowly tipped by a gang of men, Frederick for some unknown reason walked right under the  slab just as it started its downward path of its descent…that was that…squashed flat as a proverbial pancake!

With numerous broken bones and a head shattered like a battered pumpkin there was no hope of survival for this newly educated man.

Frederick Goodey was buried  on the 3rd April 1867 on Portland.

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

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1862; Portland prison, The Pleasantness of Penal Servitude.

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

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

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

The prison received its first inmates in 1848.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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1824; Weymouth, the Great Storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Down by the harbour, even worse devastation!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God save us all.

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

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

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

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

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