Yohoo, I’m back…..

Hello folks, you have noticed (or more likely not) that I have been missing for a while from my page.

That is because I have been struggling to finish my book and get it into print and with a great deal of help from my long suffering family I finally reached my goal!

Yipee…mentally turns cartwheels

So I can proudly say I am now the published author of Nothe Fort and Beyond.

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Don’t think this is just a book about the military in Weymouth though…which of course it is…but it contains so much more.

Stories of Weymouth and Portland families, tales of the harsh conditions for the convicts and local quarrymen in the Portland dust bowls.

The doings of local bobbies in their fight to keep soldiers and residents on the straight and narrow.

There’s disasters, deaths, murders, suicides, and on somewhat a happier note marriages and love affairs.

Who knows, you might even find one of your relative’s tales within its pages.

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available from Amazon at £9.99.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nothe-Fort-Beyond-Weymouth-Portland/dp/1977592686/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512453469&sr=1-1&keywords=nothe+fort+and+beyond

 

But fear yea not…I have loads of Weymouth tales ready and waiting in the pipeline, I spend an awful lot of time recumbent, day dreaming about local tales of old!

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Worth a Thousand Words?

Kathy Sharp

IMG_8249Once upon a time novels used to be illustrated. My copy of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, which belonged to my late mother-in-law, is a dull little book at a glance – until you open it and find the illustrations. Your feeling for the story – your curiosity – is awakened immediately. Who are these people, and what is their tragic entanglement? It’s an inducement to read on.

I remembered this recently when someone asked me where I saw the future for my writing. I thought long and hard about this. Would I like to sell lots of books? Of course. Win critical praise? Who wouldn’t? But what I’d really like to do is write beautiful stories and have them enhanced by beautiful illustrations.

I’m not talking about graphic novels here – I’m talking about a book containing occasional illustrations to surprise and delight the reader as they turn the…

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Granfer Henry reads the news; Every Day Lives in Weymouth; September 1884.

What I find fascinating about mooching through the old newspapers is not only the sensational crimes and usual misdemeanors that fill the columns of the local papers, but also those mundane snippets that give us every day glimpses of our Victorian ancestors lives.

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In some sense, they really weren’t that much different from us.

Take The Dorset County Chronicle of 11th September 1884.

Just like we do today (well, those of us that still browse the physical pages of print rather than online) your GGG Grandfather Henry might well be sat in his plush, red velvet armchair that late summer’s afternoon, his pince-nez slid down to the tip of his nose as he perused the trials and tribulations of his fellow townsmen.

Would he have nodded in satisfaction when  he read that Reuben Newberry of Upwey  had a great year when it comes to growing his Dahlias.

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Well, of course, he knew old man Reuben was a perfectionist when it came to the floral side of things, after all, he did run Upwey Nurseries alongside his wife Miriam. They often exhibited in the local flower shows and came away with many of the prizes.

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He was also rather good when it came to cultivating families it seems, managing to germinate ten offspring.

Reuben had been showing some remarkably fine specimens of these flowers lately. Those that he had put on display being very much admired.

(Only a couple of years later and 73-year-old Reuben hung up his hose and laid down his dibber, an advert appeared advertising his very desirable and compact nursery and market garden. )

Maybe Granfer Henry’s eyes would catch sight of a name he knew well…that caused him to sigh heavily…’What’s Wheeler been up to now’ he’d muse to himself. ‘Always trying to get himself noticed, that fellow.’

FINE ARTS the headline proclaimed. Specimens of photographic portraits &c. in every style of the art, take by Mr Wheeler of the Vandyke Studio, are now being shown by him.

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The studio was run by Harry Wheeler, a man with fingers in many profitable pies! One of them being photography.

Harry also ran a fine art studio, library and printing press, something that had got him into a spot of bother with the law in 1878. Apparently his press had been churning out defamatory leaflets concerning a certain borough magistrate, Joseph Drew that had hit the streets of Weymouth just before  the municipal elections.

That September day though, the attending reporter waxed lyrical of Harry’s talents. He may well be proud of the work he has turned out, for we doubt whether it is possible for any photographer, either in London or the provinces to show a better collection.

Harry and Mary Marie Wheeler and their veritable brood (must be something the Weymouth waters!) lived along Frederick Place.

When Harry passed to the dark room in the heavens (1895) his fingers in pies scheme had obviously worked their magic because he bequeathed to his wife and son, Frank Augustus Wheeler, dealer in fine arts, the princely sum of £4494 13s 11d.

Granfer would certainly have approved of the more sedate culture to be found in Weymouth’s theatres.

Mr Doryly Carte’s Opera Company were taking to the stage,  performing the fairy opera Iolanthe in the theatre (though it doesn’t actually say which one, for Weymouth had quite a few in those days.) The article claims that It will have splendid scene, effects and be most gorgeously dressed.

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Maybe some of the entertainment on offer wasn’t quite to his taste.

There was even a lengthy report on a Swimming Exhibition by Dr Jennings.

It was supposed to have taken place on the Wednesday, but as per usual fickle mother Nature soon put paid to those plans.

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But brave Dr Jennings, not one to be deterred, set out again on the Thursday, unwilling to disappoint his audience. Although the weather overhead was fine, the air was exceedingly cold, a “north-easter” blowing and the sea was very “loppy”.

About 300 folk had forked out their hard earned sixpenny pier toll to watch this intrepid swimmer take his leave of Weymouth’s pier. Of course, as human nature dictates, there were always those few, about 100 more were in boats and therefore viewed this exhibition for nothing.

Ever the showman, Dr Jennings (who is a well developed man) made his appearance  dressed in an old suit. He then stepped up onto the specially prepared stage and made a great performance of putting on a pair of sturdy boots and lacing them up tightly, then donned a heavy overcoat, taking care to button it up right to his chin..

Jennings clambered down into a waiting boat and to the gasp of his audience, promptly tipped over the side and disappeared under the waves.

Of course, this was all part of his display…for he soon bobbed up to the surface like a fisherman’s cork.

Whilst fighting the tide and the swell, Jennings then proceeded to unbutton and remove his heavily sodden overcoat, followed by a jacket and then his waist coat. As each layer was discarded a great roar went up from the expectant crowd. His underwater striptease show continued with the untying and removal and his boot whilst being tossed around on the choppy surface, then off came his trousers and his shirt until at last he was down to his proper swimming attire.

He then proceeded to give a demonstration of how easy it was for man to float on seawater, reclining in a variety of postures on the troubled waves.

Not content with that, a chair was thrown to him, upon which he sat as if it was in deed on ‘terra firma‘.

All in all a jolly spiffing display.

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Not that Granfer Henry would have been overly impressed with Jennings japes, what he enjoyed most of all was perusing the columns of the naughtier Weymouth residents misdeeds.

Henry he could tut and humph with the best them.

Not much tittle tattle in todays paper he thought.

Only Granfer’s best friend, old John Vincent, who had been hoodwinked by a pretty maid entering his shop. She asked to look at diamond rings then sent John off to retrieve some from the window…and promptly took her leave of the premises, leaving John one sparkler short.

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The pretty maid then popped up in the watchmaker and jewellery shop of Henry Talzner in St Thomas Street. But he was immune to her fresh complexion and fluttering lashes and informed the police she had tried to sell a dodgy ring to him.

Weymouth’s PC Hansford knew his criminals though, he went along to stake out her mothers house in Trinity Road, where he collared her later that night as she returned home.

When questioned about the ring he noticed she was trying to remove something from her finger…something rather large and sparkly.

17-year-old Elizabeth White was convicted of theft and sent to prison for 4 months hard labour.

Maybe reading todays news had been all too much for Granfer Henry!

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Interested in Weymouth military and naval history? Why not pop on over to my other blog Nothe fort and Beyond…
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Book I Nothe Fort and Beyond is now available on Amazon
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nothe-Fort-Beyond-Weymouth-Portland/dp/1977592686/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1512453469&sr=1-1&keywords=nothe+fort+and+beyond

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https://nothefortandbeyond.wordpress.com/blog/
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Looking for Victorian illustrations to use then check out my IStock folder at Getty images for 100’s of these fantastic images.
https://www.istockphoto.com/gb/portfolio/cannasue?excludenudity=true&sort=best

Weymouth’s invasion by the Dorset Rifle Volunteers; 1867.

NOTHE FORT AND BEYOND...

A taster of my book soon to be published The Nothe and Beyond…

Weymouth was about to be invaded. For the first time, in September 1867, it had been chosen as the training venue for the Dorset Battalion of Rifle Volunteers (DRV). This was the ‘citizen’s army’ hastily set up in response to the perceived threat of a French invasion a few years prior. Yet another prestigious event for the town. It would far exceed anything organised for Yeoman’s week. Mayor John Tizard was going to make sure of that. Weymouth was going to welcome the county’s volunteer soldiers with open arms and a whole load of foliage.

The week before the DRV’s arrival was one of frantic activity. Seen as a major scoop, they had to pull out all the stops to make it a memorable one. ‘Around and about and everywhere were emblems of festivity and rejoicing, triumphal…

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Naughty naughty…knocker wrenching.

NOTHE FORT AND BEYOND...

Throughout its history, Weymouth’s Red Barracks and Nothe Fort have seen various troops come and go.

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Some good, some bad, some just plain bored and a few high spirited.

Their boots marched through the town on parades, they wooed and (sometimes) wed the local girls, or maybe snatched a sneaky bit of feminine fun when they could from those who more than willingly obliged, their money filled the inns and beerhouse coffers.

But  for a few of them, their names became immortalised in the columns of the local papers.(Taunton Courier and Western Advertiser 26 Feb 1868)

Such was the case in February of 1868.

                                                                         Knocker Wrenching.

Weymouth folk were being plagued by night time mischief makers, namely the…

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Men of the sea; 1869

Not surprisingly, local folk have always looked to the sea for their favour and fortunes.

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However, old Father Neptune is a fickle master, sometimes he gives us untold riches…but he also has the ability to take those we love.

Such was the sad case in September of 1869.

You and I might think of Greenhill as a place where we dabble our toes when the weather is warm, or somewhere we sit in the pleasant sunshine to enjoy stunning views with a cup of tea or an ice cream. The long shingle beach littered with the last of the sun worshipers and the hardy bathers.

To our ancestors though, Greenhill was very much a workplace.

One September Sunday became a memorable day in Weymouth’s history.

It was when rich pickings entered the bay, a vast shoal of pilchards had been spotted heading for the beach. Of course, despite atrocious conditions, local fishermen did what had to be done, chase the liquid money. ‘During the whole of the day parties of fishermen had been engaged on the beach near Greenhill, in the pilchard fishery.’

But it also harboured tragedy for the fishermen of the town.

The blustery weather certainly wasn’t in their favour that day, ‘the wind which was blowing in very strong gusts from the north-west’ had made for a ‘very sloppy sea.’

Our Victorian ancestors  were out in force that Sunday, partaking in the day of the Lord, dressed warmly to keep out the Autumn chill, little knowing that as they strolled ‘in the presence of hundreds of promenaders, bent on pleasure,’ they were witnesses who  would be  ‘entirely unprepared for the terrible sensation that awaited them.’

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Folks stood along Greenhill common , watching as men dragged their wooden boats and heavy rope nets down the beach and into the water. Time after time they rowed out into the wind swept bay, laying their nets behind them. Having circled round, then began the hard work.  Men heaved and hauled in their cumbersome nets, moving ever closer to shore. The sea literally boiled with thousands of erupting fish, screaming gulls circled above, diving again and again to greedily snatch their fill.

A productive days fishing was on the cards, many a celebration would be enjoyed that night at inns and taverns around town.

About four o’clock that afternoon,‘opposite the house of Mr Trenchard,’ four men clambered into their vessel, ‘a trough, a little flat-bottomed craft.’ They too were going to grab their share of nature’s riches.

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First to climb in was fifty-seven year old William Watch. Despite his good age, William was a strong man and a powerful swimmer. He sometimes worked as a porter, but fishing was in his blood, it  didn’t always pay the bills though.

William lived on Chapelhay Stairs along with his wife Elizabeth and their growing brood.

Fellow fisherman, Samuel Chick, climbed in next, he was a mere youngster at 27. Samuel Charles was the illegitimate son of Eliza Chick. Mother and son lived in Conygar Lane.

Also in the boat was William Chick of West Quay (or John, depending on which newspaper you read!)

The forth man to board that fated vessel was George Watts, a Blandford carpenter, but one who had moved recently to Wyke Regis. During the inquest he was referred to as ‘George ‘Smuggler’ Watts,’  maybe he was a man with a checkered past?

Rowing hard against the winds, the four headed for the tell-tell signs of the rich vein of pilchards, their vessel sat low in the water at the back, weighed down by nets and rope.

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Once they reached their destination, the fishermen hurriedly began to lay their nets. Only problem was, added weight at the rear of the boat made her sink her even lower.

Fate waited patiently in the wings.

With that, a sudden swell swamped their low-lying boat, overturning her and catapulting all four men in choppy seas.

William Watch, Samuel Chick and George Watts tried desperately to right her again.‘Hampered as it is supposed they were, with the ropes or net, they could not manage it properly,  and turned her over three or four times.’  But it was not to be, ‘ at last, exhausted, they sank.’

Back on land, the unfolding tragedy was watched by horrified crowds.

Boats set out from the shore, rowing furiously against the waves in a desperate attempt to reach the floundering men.

One of those boats heading for the upturned vessel contained Sergeant Brine, P.C. Hansford and William Burt.

Old William kept his eyes firmly on the spot where he had witnessed ‘ Watch rising and sinking,’ but once they reached the spot, he was not to be seen, only a  man’s cap being tossed around on the swell. William reached in as far as he safely could and managed to grab hold of someone’s hair. Hauling in the fully clothed, sodden body was difficult, but the men managed and lay it out in the bottom of their boat.

He was still alive, but only just.

This was William Watch.

William Chick, (or  was it John?) had launched himself clear of the tangled nets and rope as their boat overturned, he was found exhausted, frozen, but still clinging onto an oar some way away from the boat. William was hauled ashore by one of the many men who had taken to the waters in a desperate bid to save the drowning fishermen.

By now the upturned fishing boat had righted itself again, but no sign of any of its other crew members. Fears were that they had been trapped by their own heavy nets and ropes which were now dragging the seabed.

Sergeant Brine and P.C. Hansford clambered into the empty vessel. They frantically tried to free the dragging nets,‘but the party found they had but one knife between them.’ It was a slow and arduous task as they cut one rope after another. Far too late to save anyone that was still entangled in the waters below.

William Burt, of a goodly age, but one that hadn’t robbed him of his strength, rowed a semi-conscious William Watch towards the beach. At one stage, Watch rallied slightly and muttered “Oh, Burt,” and he moved his hands and feet,’ but soon after fell silent.

It took old William nearly fifteen minutes to finally reach the shore, where crowds had gathered.

Once on land, Watch’s now motionless body was laid out on the shingle, he was soon stripped of his sodden clothing. Desperate to help, residents of Brunswick Terrace had been busy, they ‘pulled the blankets from their own beds, and hurried down to the beach.’ 

Even Mayor Devenish arrived on scene to take charge, bringing with him stone water bottles and a supply of suitable stimulants.  He ordered that troops be sent to keep the rapidly gathering crowds back from the scene of the tragedy.

Two surgeons from the 51st Regiment arrived, they attempted to help local doctors in their frantic attempts to revive a seemingly lifeless Watch.

For the next two hours, Dr Tizard, Dr Griffin and Dr Rhodes tried all within their means to resuscitate William Watch’s stone cold body, but to no avail.

Back out in the bay, men were still searching for the missing bodies of George Watts and Samuel Chick.

There was not a sign of them.

The inquest on the death of William Watch was held in the Burdon Hotel Tap, where his corpse was laid out for jurors to peruse.

When Superintendent Vickery was questioned by the coroner about William Watch, he rather oddly replied that ‘he believed Watch had left eight or nine children; but Burt made a mystery about that.’

The body of 57-year-old William Watch, (father of an undisclosed number of offspring,)  was laid to rest in Wyke Regis churchyard on the 24th September 1869.

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Three days later, 27-year-old Samuel Chick followed in his friends footsteps, his body having been washed ashore.

He was also buried at Wyke Regis.

There is no further mention of George ‘Smuggler’ Watts. Presumably old Neptune wound his cold tentacles around him and there he stayed.

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Why not check out my ‘Tales from around the Victorian World.’ 

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for all sorts of Victorian snippets.

https://victoriantalesfromaroundtheworld.wordpress.com/2017/01/

 

or if Weymouth’s military history is your cup of tea try Nothe Fort and Beyond…

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https://nothefortandbeyond.wordpress.com/blog/

The Dorset Ooser

Dorset County Museum

This monstrous wooden mask, a bull’s hair and horns mounted on its low brow, was used to scare people at midwinter gatherings. Another was reported at Shillingstone and there may have been many more throughout Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire.  The Rev. William Barnes defines Ooser, oose or wu’se, as ‘a mask…with grim jaws, put on with a cow’s skin to frighten folk. “Wurse” … is a name of the arch-fiend.’

The replica Dorset Ooser mask that hangs in the Writer’s Gallery of the Dorset County Museum was carved by John Byfleet in 1975 for the Wessex Morris Men and is often used in May Day celebrations at Cerne Abbas and in dance performances.  DCM © 2015The replica Dorset Ooser mask that hangs in the Writer’s Gallery of the Dorset County Museum was carved by John Byfleet in 1975 for the Wessex Morris Men and is still used in May Day celebrations at Cerne Abbas and in dance performances. DCM © 2015

From the ‘Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society’ Volume 84, 1962, an article written by the H. S. L. Dewar. entitled ‘The Dorset Ooser

This extraordinary object, portrayed in…

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19th century New Years Eve

This New Year’s Eve musing takes on a slightly different tone.

Maybe not quite so light a subject as I would normally cover, but it’s a subject that I feel strongly about and that I think often gets brushed under the carpet .

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(The words used, though not nowadays politically correct, are ones that were used during the Victorian period. I did struggle to know whether to change them or to keep them, but decided in the end that to stay true to the Victorian values they should stay, after all, they had already been spoken and written so my evading them wouldn’t make them or the subject disappear.)

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New Year’s Eve means many different things to different people.

For some it’s time to pull out all the stops and party long and hard.

For others it’s a time for quiet reflection. A time to assess what has been and gone and that yet to come.

My main New Year’s Eve tales isn’t strictly purely Weymouth and Portland, but no doubt many of it’s recipients were of a local nature. Folk who through no fault of their own, had ended up somewhere they probably never thought they might.

The headlines of the lengthy penned article proclaim

                                                      ‘New Year’s Eve at a Lunatic Asylum.’

It is 31st December of 1866, a reporter from the Sherbourne Journal has been invited to attend the evening’s festivities at the Dorset Lunatic Asylum.

I have rewritten it in my own words but taking quotes from the article.

(This was the newly opened (1863) and much enlarged institute of  what became Herrison Hospital built upon Charlton Downs. A place where my own mother was taken in the 50’s when she suffered deep post natal depression.)

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It is 11 o’clock in the evening, the final night of the year 1866.

I am sat in the great hall of the new Hospital, a place that is generally referred to as the County Lunatic Asylum. I have been invited here to partake in the evening’s festivities along with the staff and inmates.

I suspect there is a hidden agenda perhaps. These great monuments of incarceration have received nothing but bad press in the newspapers recently.

First to enter the hall are the men of the brass band who step up on the stage and take their places. Most are artists who give their time freely, but a couple of the band’s members, so I’m told, are inmates of the asylum, one being an accomplished musician who plays the cornopean.

Then from the side enters another musician, the leader of the band. He is a man who has to be physically carried in on another patient’s back, because of paralysis of his feet he is unable to walk.

So his story goes, he was a sailor, who, whilst on board his ship in the West Indies fell from the rigging and seriously injured his back. Arriving back in Weymouth some time later, he settled there, set up a school and “being a man of good abilities, did very well until until he began to feel the effects of his accident, and it became necessary to send him where, kindly and humanely cared for, he might pass his days in peace.”

Not only did the poor fellow suffer from the unfortunate physical affliction caused by his accident but his mind has ultimately been affected also, “his chief delusion, I understood,was that he was chief heir to some immense estates; beyond that he was harmless.”

Once he is sat comfortably at the front of the band, the man is handed his violin. Hesitantly at first, he passes his bow across the strings a few times, eliciting discordant notes, but as he plays on so the sounds slowly begins to smooth out to more harmonious tones.

Then the double doors to the room swing open and in file the male patients.“some staring vacantly upon the ground, others strutting in with all the swagger of ‘my lord,’ but all looking, clean, happy and contented.”

As they file past, a few turn their heads and nod at us, the guests seated at the front of the auditorium.  Though one rather surly fellow “got behind his attendant’s back, and did what is vulgarly known as taking a sight at me, all the time keeping his face as grave as a parson’s.” I hasten to add, somewhat disconcerted, I do not acknowledge his sour greeting.

Now that the men are seated and settled quietly, it is the turn of the women to enter the hall.

Like their fellow patients, as they pass by, their feminine faces reveal a variety of emotions and merely hint at their mental states. A couple of rather grand ladies make their particularly stately entrances, their full skirts sweeping the floor as they stroll imperiously across the hall to take their seats.

One believed herself to be a grand Duchess, the other no less a person than Her Majesty, the ex-Queen of Spain.

Seated in the front row with us is Dr Symes, the Superintendent in charge of the institute and his family and friends.

Of course, there are the hospital staff present, those men and women who’s duty it is to  care for their charges.

Not “beetle browed men or women with iron wills and arms to match such as the sensation writers of late have rejoiced to put before their readers,” these are “young men and women, neatly and modestly dressed, with good-tempered looking faces, laughing and joking with the rest.”

During the evening’s celebrations, I witness not the “slightest manifestation of violence” the patients behave impeccably,“indeed, the assembly would have set a good example to some where there is supposed to be more sense.”

One or two of the more animated inmates catch my attention and I enquire as to their means of being admitted.

Watching a man who dances in a very queer manner, “always on the hop,”  I ask why he had ended up in the asylum.

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His tale is a sad one.

Life for him, like many of us, had started out so good, full of promise. He married a young, pretty lass and in their first few years they were happy. Then disaster struck the family, “the breath of the seducer coming over this like a cloud, a deserted home and the end-disgrace for the wife; for the husband a lunatic asylum.”

A valuable lesson to be learnt maybe, one never quite knows what life has in store for any of us really.

Another man, small in stature, catches my eye. He enters the room “with an appearance of being thoroughly pleased with himself.”

His thick head of hair is styled in the most elaborate of fashions, “it being parted in the middle, and evidently curled with great care.” Upon his delicately featured face he wears his carefully manicured moustache with great aplomb.

This man of distinction, imaginary or not,  passes through the hall, only stopping briefly while he nods to the chaplain.  Upon that nod, “something was thrown across to him, which he eagerly caught at.” Looking closer I can see the item being a pair of “white kid gloves,” though they are far too large for his delicate hands and of a rather tatty state,“ventilation was amply provided for  by sundry slits and holes.” This does not bother the man at all, in fact “they evidently gave the wearer the greatest satisfaction.”

Once  his hands are firmly ensconced  within his gloves, he is convinced that he is complete in his full evening attire, then “he paraded up and down the room several times in great pomp.”

He passes me several times, and each time he stops before me, he elegantly stretches out one of his feet, keen to reveal his dancing pumps, which he admires himself so greatly, carefully turning his foot from one side to the other to enable a full view of their  styling.

Intrigued, I cross the room to talk to him. First, I take great pains to “complement him on his general appearance.” Something that obviously gives him great pleasure indeed as the widest of smiles stretches across his face.

“Ah” he replies proudly, “we Blandford people can do it.”

With that social exchange having being successfully concluded in his eyes, off he lightly steps to impress some other person.

The music ceases, we are all requested to take our seats while members of the staff and some of the inmates give a musical recital.

Having listened to a series of harmonious renditions from the singers and applauded their valiant efforts, the band strikes up once more.

I am now introduced to my new dance partner, a delightful young lady, “I believe she came from Cerne.”

As we waltz around the dance floor she proceeds to tell me that she is the “Duchess of Sherbourne Castle” and that she owns “various estates around the country.”

Pressing her gently, I remark that the “last time I was there a gentleman named Digby was in possession.”

That phases her not the slightest, with the merest upward tilt of her chin, she simply decrees that the man is merely “an impostor.”

During the evening’s proceedings, this sweet lady takes to the stage and performs a couple of songs and “a sweeter voice I never heard.” So pure and clear was its tone that “it sounded more like a silver bell than anything else I can compare it to.” Her “highest notes were given with an ease and clearness that was astonishing.”

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That reporter from the Sherbourne Journal wrote his sensitively drafted piece about the institution with a positive slant. It was a lengthy article which appeared in it’s shortened version in numerous  local and national papers.

A report created by “The Commissioners in Lunacy” from earlier that year reveals what exactly what and who this hospital served.

(Dorset County Chronicle 28 June 1866)

(I visibly cringe writing some of these words.)

“Three of the inmates suffered from religious monomania and one from over-study. But notwithstanding the large number of patients that have been admitted it appears that there are in this county no less than 12 lunatics, 156 idiots and 13 imbeciles…

 “13 idiots and 9 lunatics in the Weymouth Union.” 

Out of the 397 patients at the start of that year, 41 belonged to the Weymouth Union.

During 1866 the asylum employed 14 attendants, 10 nurses, 3 laundry maids and 3 kitchen maids.

No one was on the wards to supervise patients overnight.

http://www.charltondownvillagehall.info/about-us/our-history/

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On a lighter note, the years end of 1857 was not such a good one for one Weymouth fellow, a certain Mr John Jenkins Rolls. He was employed as the “Inspector of Nuisances.” I say ‘was’ because come the 31st December he suddenly found himself out on his ear!

Now, it wasn’t that good old Mr Rolls hadn’t been doing his work…oh no, in fact the reverse was true. Seemingly “his reports were as voluminous as a Parliamentary Blue Book.”

His role was that of being in control of those unruly Weymouthians and their suspect habits, such as Caroline Norris of Franchise Street, who “kept a pig at the rear of her house,” one which was “in a very dirty state, so as to be a nuisance to several cottagers near.”

Or digging unauthorised holes in the roads, that was the case against builder Stephen Brown. John Rolls had been sent to check  out the sorry state of South Parade, where he came upon “a hole, and the earth thrown in the middle of the street.” Might not have been any H&S in those days, but Rolls, wasn’t standing for it. He brought the case before the courts where he gave evidence to the fact that “There was no fence to prevent anyone falling in it nor any light during the night.”

Blighted by his constant reports of nuisances in the borough, the good old Victorian Weymouth Council employed a very 21st century tactic to dispose of him and his role.

“With the close of this year, the duties of the present Inspector of Nuisances are terminated. The appointment of the Town Surveyor and Inspector of Nuisances-blended into one office-will take place on the 31st inst.”

The author of the article declared that “had his reports been attended to by the Council there would not have been a removable nuisance left in Weymouth.” He then went on to point out that “they were thrown aside by the Council, and the Inspector was looked upon as a troublesome man.”

Upon being asked about the matter, the council replied “We are no respecters of persons; we only wish to see ‘the right man in the right place,”

HHHmmm………….

augusta-place

Never mind, it was only his prestige put out of joint, because John Rolls just returned to running his own successful business, a glover, tea and cigar stockist, situated in Augusta Place where he lived with his wife Ann.

(Dorset County Chronicle 31 Dec 1857)

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If Weymouth’s military history is more you cuppa…pop on over to Nothe Fort and Beyond…

https://nothefortandbeyond.wordpress.com/blog/

A Sorry Tale of Love and Betrayal; 1880.

During my  perusals of various sites and old local newspapers I often come across some intriguing stories.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when I was mooching through the old Police Gazettes, a periodical which gives a fascinating and highly detailed insight into our Victorian ancestors lives and their mishaps or misdemeanors.

Should such a publication be issued nowadays, goodness only knows how many tomes it would run to and just imagine the poor old paper boy trying to shove that through your letter box!

In the said gazette of April 23rd 1880 a sad but unfortunately not rare case was reported.

“A child was left on the door-step of a house in Belgrave-Terrace, Radipole, Weymouth between 9 and 10 pm, on the 19th inst. £2 reward will be paid by Mr Superintendent Vickery to any person who will give such information as will lead to the discovery of the person who placed the child where found;”

The  house receiving the little live bundle was no 3 Belgrave Terrace, the home of 70-year-old Glaswegian lady.

What on earth could an elderly Scottish lady have in connection with a seemingly unwanted child?

(Belgrave Terrace no longer exists, but it was off Dorchester road, somewhere in the Lodmoor Hill area)

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The article goes on to reveal yet more details- “a Male Child five weeks old, fresh complexion, dark hair, blue eyes, large mouth and nose; dressed in two head flannels, a white shirt, three under ditto, a white night dress, a black wool shawl, a white wool jacket, a white wool hood, a white fall, a piece of white gutta percha between a white cloth; these articles are all new. ” 

Obviously the baby had been warmly dressed for its night time doorstep delivery therefore presumably up until then had been well loved and provided for.

“The Child had a ticket placed on its breast, addressed to ‘P. Peck Esquire.’ Also on a piece of paper written -‘Take care of me, I have no mother.-Baby.’ In a bundle, tied up in a black and white Indian silk handkerchief, 3/4 yards square, were five napkins, two shirts trimmed with lace around the sleeves, a nightdress trimmed with lace around the neck and sleeves, a child’s flannel (old), a new mouth piece for child’s bottle, two brushed for cleaning the same, and some new wadding.”

Yet more evidence that someone had obviously adored and cared for this tiny scrap of humanity, so why would they give him up now?

A fairly vivid description of the person deemed guilty of the baby’s abandonment followed in the piece

“Supposed by a young woman, dark complexion, medium height, rather slightly built, speaking with a French or Italian accent; dressed in black dress, black jacket trimmed with black fur, black hat with heavy black fall, carrying a small bag or waterproof done up with straps. she had the appearance of a governess,”

family train station

The police, ( and no doubt those in charge of the parish finances) were eager to apprehend this ‘terrible’ being. They knew she had left via the railway station…but to where?

“£2 reward will be paid to any person who will give such information as will lead to the discovery of the person who placed the Child where found, by Mr Superintendent Vickery, Police Office, Weymouth.-Bow Street, April 23rd.”

But like most sensational stories of the day, there lies a lot more behind the melodramatic newspaper headlines.

Come the 30th April 1880 and the  Western Gazette declares that the good old police had got their man, (or woman as in this case.)

Superintendent Vickery had “Traced her to Waterloo Station, London and then left the Criminal Investigation Department to Apprehend her. this was done a day or two ago, and on Tuesday the woman (who is a German governess named Rasch) was brought to Weymouth. She admits her guilt”

At the start of May, the case was brought before the courts held in Weymouth’s GuildHall.

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Of course, human nature being what it is and has always been, locals jostled for space in the already packed out the courtroom, eager to absorbed every sordid detail of the terrible affair.

The numerous attending reporters jotted down all the juicy bits, well aware that such highly emotive tales sells their papers far better than boring old Council matters and the usual drunks and debtors that normally filled their columns..

One of many reporters following the case, the Bridport News declared that it was a story of “ALLEGED SEDUCTION AND HEARTLESS CONDUCT.”

Before the panel of local judges stood a sorry looking lass, German born Emma Rasch.

With Weymouth solicitor Mr Howard defending her, Emma’s sad story that was revealed before one and all was one that must have occurred numerous times over the centuries.

She had been employed by a gentleman and his wife as a governess at their home, Templecombe House, Templecombe, Somerset. (Oddly enough, I lived there for a short while and used to visit the doctor’s family who lived and had a surgery in that very same house!) Not surprisingly, this family were wealthy land owners.

Originally from Hanover in Germany, Emma was a well educated, well brought up young woman, who was staying with a friend of the family in Templecombe at the time of her employment.

Of course, their two tales of the tragic events differed widely.

Emma claimed that Peter was the father of her child, and that come the November of the previous year, when things were beginning to become too obvious, he paid her off with £50.00 in gold coins. She was told to take herself off to London and find herself some rooms there to have the baby. Off she obediently toddled and duly found a place to live, only problem was, that £50.00 wasn’t going to go very far at London prices, and babies don’t come cheap. Undaunted, Emma had written to Peter asking for support, surely he wouldn’t fail her and their child?

Poor gullible Emma, she wrote not once, not twice, but a whole series of letter to the errant father, by now she was destitute and had absolutely nowhere to turn to.

Finally, in desperation,  she wrote a final letter informing Peter that if she didn’t hear from him then she would take the child to his mother’s as she could no longer care for it.

His mother was the Scottish lady of no 3 Belgrave Terrace, Weymouth, the recipient of the baby bundle that April’s night.

The dye was cast, Emma boarded the waiting train, her journey from London to Weymouth was all too quickly over, a last few precious moments with her child.

train

In court, a tearful Emma vehemently declared that she hadn’t simply abandoned her child, “I did not desert it, as I rang the bell and waited and waited about until the door was opened.”

Having seen her child being safely taken inside and the door closed, a heart broken Emma turned and walked away, her only consolation being that she knew it would be much better off with family who could afford to care for it and love it.

Therein lay the crux of the problem.

For what ever reason, the family didn’t accept any responsibility for the poor child.

A young local girl, Annie Ames, was left to care for the abandoned baby that night and during the next day and a terrible chore befell her later that evening. Annie was made to take the hapless tiny bundle along to the Union Workhouse and handed it over to John Lee, the Weymouth Receiving Officer who took delivery of it.

Baby Rasch was now “chargeable to Weymouth Union,”

Weymouth Workhouse

A terrible crime in the eyes of the law and an offence definitely not taken lightly by those who held close to the town’s purse strings.

There was a certain amount of sympathy for Emma, after all she did what many young gullible girls had done before her, fallen under the spell of her employers false promises.

While she was in Weymouth standing trial she was “being allowed to remain at the house of a policeman under the care of his wife.”

The supposed ‘gentleman’ concerned, not surprisingly denied any knowledge of such events, claiming he didn’t know about the baby until it was placed at his mother’s home, he had never received any of her letters. As far as he knew Emma had simply left to return to Germany to take care of her sick mother.

All that was left to do was for the men of the town who sat in judgement to make their decision.

Who would they believe?

How harsh would their punishment be?

“Emma Rasch, we have come to the conclusion, and it is the only conclusion we can come to, that you have brought yourself within the limits of the law, insomuch that you have deserted your child, so as to leave it chargeable to the Union. The punishment we shall inflict will be of the very slightest description. Upon the consideration that first of all what you did we believe you did for the best of your child under the circumstances, and in consideration that you are a foreigner, the sentence we shall pass on you will be one day’s imprisonment, dating from this morning. you will therefore be discharged at the close of this court.”

With that closing statement the courtroom erupted, loud cheers and clapping echoed around the walls.

Though the spectators were ecstatic with the lenient verdict, Emma walked slowly from the courtroom, her head hung low. She was taken up to Dorchester Gaol and put into a cell where for 24 hours she sat and undoubtedly had time to deeply reflect.

Here she was, an unmarried mother, her child now in the Workhouse, her respectable family back home who possibly didn’t know anything about her ‘crimes’ or even worse, didn’t want to know. For not long after her release Emma packed her trunk and sailed back to Germany

woman over box

…without her son.

The man of the tragic case didn’t get off lightly either, “As Mr Peck left the Guildhall he was hooted by a large crowd and he took refuge in the Golden Lion.”

Good old Weymouth folk, never slow in coming forwards with their views on such matters!

A little footnote to this sorry tale sees the abandoned young child christened at the Holy Trinity church on the 9th May…

Holy Trinity.

…his given name was Victor.

A note hastily scribbled in the side column says it all, “Left at the Union-mother returned to Germany.”

Tragically, little Victor wasn’t destined to make old bones.

He died on October 23rd aged just 8 months and his tiny body was buried in a paupers grave along with others from the union Workhouse, their bones lay congenially in adjoining graves at the Wyke Regis churchyard.

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R.I.P. little man.

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Interested in more old views of Weymouth and Portland, check out my numerous local Pinterest Boards to see how our town once looked when your ancestors strolled its streets, browsed the shops and relaxed.

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.

womn street 1

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.

woman child sleeping

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