December 1888, Weymouth Drunks, Deaths and Domestics

Picture this, it’s the year 1888, it’s December, on the cusp of Christmas and the good folk of Weymouth are going about their everyday business as usual.

For some though, it was not to be a good ending to their year.

Pretty much like todays inhabitant’s of our seaside town, those of the Victorian era liked to peruse the local newspapers of the day, of which I hasten add they had the choice of a fair few, including the Western Gazette, Southern Times and Dorset County Chronicle .

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Revealed within these paragraph-heavy pages of Victorian print  were the scandals and sorrows, misdemeanours and miseries of their fellow townsfolk.

Not for them todays instant access to world wide events literally as they happen, the breakneck speed of Facebook spreading local news before the media even have a slight whiff of impending dramas.

These are things that our ancestors couldn’t even begin to imagine possible.

If we browse the columns of their Friday’s Western Gazette, 28th December 1888, we can catch a snippet in their time, when ladies in voluminous skirts bustled through the dusty streets of Weymouth town.

letter Civic Society.Their billowing hems sweeping the dirt as they drifted from shop to shop, all filled with the latest fashions and must have up-to-date gadgets.

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Also strolling Weymouth’s streets that festive season were a multitude of brightly garbed soldiers, who mingled with locals, having made their way down from the artillery fort and barracks up on the Nothe.

Eager to make the most of their time away from the fetid atmosphere of their cold and cramped barrack accommodation.

The busy harbourside was bustling with vessels coming and going.

An abundance of sailors were also taking their chance to enjoy time ashore before they set sail for pastures new.

Weymouth harbour

Weymouth at that time was a thriving metropolis.

Some of those enjoying Weymouth’s delights however, took their enjoyment to extremes!

Such was the case of one crew member of the Gilpin who was berthed at the quayside.

Christmas Eve, and Thomas Cook was making his way down from the Nothe.

Having reached the top of Hill’s Lane, he stumbled across the motionless body of  a man. Thomas shook the man to rouse him, but as the seemingly lifeless soul was well and truly in ‘his cups’ he took some rousing.

Finally, managing to drag the heavily intoxicated man to his feet, Thomas set about trying to discover his destination,  before he had succumbed to his slovenly slumbers in the street.

Holding on firmly to the staggering seaman, Thomas led him down to the quayside, where seemingly the befuddled mariner’s vessel was moored.

Alas, her gangplank had been hauled aboard, and the sot had no way of boarding her.

Not to be deterred though, the old soak slurred his solution, he would simply board the nearby vessel instead, the Guide, he knew a crew member on there who would let him kip down.

Thomas was not so sure this was a good idea.

The Guide’s makeshift gangplank was about 15 foot in length, a meagre 2 foot in width, and as the tide was exceptionally high that night it rose before them at a crazy angle.

Undeterred though, confident in his alcoholic haze, the drunken sailor  attempted to crawl unsteadily on hands and knees along the narrow wooden walkway, with Thomas following closely behind, desperately trying to hold onto his coat tails.

Mid passage, the alcohol won out, and the by now unconscious drunk rolled onto his back, precariously perched over the water.

A frantic Thomas called out for help, at which point a crew member poked his head out, and seeing the dire situation, he attempted to grab hold of the mans wrist to pull him up the gangplank.

But the slumbering sot’s dead weight was too much.

With that, his body slithered with a splash into the freezing waters below.

All hell let loose…man overboard

Eventually his limp form was pulled from the dark waters, unconscious, but still breathing…just.

The thirty-nine year old sailor, Bristol born Charles Tidray, made it alive to Weymouth’s local hospital where he was seen to by Dr Carter.

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A man who did not think much of this sodden sailor’s chances.

He informed Matron on his way out that he did not think the man would ‘live through the night.’

Nor did he.

At 4 o’clock that Christmas morning, Charles was stood at the pearly gates, his sins before him.

Time to met his maker.

***

Another miscreant was stood with his sins before him  that December period, though this time, thankfully he was only stood before the local judge.

His downfall was also alcohol.

William Bowdidge Hole, a 34-year-old cab driver had been out enjoying his time somewhat to excess with friends in the local hostelry.

Having drunk away all his money, he staggered back to his abode in Trinity Street, to replenish his pockets.

His long-suffering wife, Emm, (perhaps not that long suffering, seeing as they had only married earlier that year,) wasn’t having any of it though.

Emm was desperate to keep hold of what little money she had.

It was needed to keep a roof over their heads and food in their mouths, not simply swilled down his throat.

William, riled at her reluctance to hand over the money and thwarted from being able to return to his drinking buddies to buy more beer, lost his rag and struck out at her, hitting her hard in the mouth.

A domestic ensued…

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Eventually their physical and vocal altercations woke the neighbours, who tried to help Emm, she was coming under a barrage of flailing fists and vile words from her enraged husband.

By now the police had also appeared on scene, in the form of one P.C. Henry Kaile.

As he approached the house, he was confronted by a hysterical Emm fleeing the building, being  hotly pursued out into the road by her still ranting husband.

Swiftly collared by the local bobby, the much protesting William was whisked off to cool his heels in the local cells, from whence he was hauled next morning to stand before the judge.

For his sins, ‘being drunk and riotous,’ William Hole was sent to prison for one month.

(William was obviously very partial to his beer, a couple of years later, 1891, and he was before the judge again, for being ‘drunk whilst in charge of a horse and carriage.’

This time he escaped with a 5s fine, but was warned that if he appeared before them again, he would lose his license.)

It certainly must have been pretty lively over the water in old Weymouth around Christmas time that year…

Holy Trinity.

Not long after a drunken Charles had slithered off the gangplank into the cold waters, a fight broke out in Hope Quay.

In the early hours of Christmas morning P.C. Groves, probably fresh from dealing with the fiasco of fishing out the sodden sailor, came across two scrapping men.

It involved a certain Henry Hunt, stated to be a costermonger, and Frederick Boakes, a private in the West Kent Regiment.

Both men were hauled off to the cells.

Henry for being drunk and disorderly and Frederick for fighting.

But all was not quite what it at first seemed.

By the time the two fiercely protesting men had been incarcerated, the soldier, with his story backed up by his comrades, revealed that in fact he had been the hero of the night.

Recently wed Henry, yet another who alcohol loosened his mouth and freed his fists…was about to strike his wife, when a nearby soldier stepped in to stop him.

Incensed, Henry turned his wrath and fists on the interefering private Frederick, and the two ended up scrapping on the ground, at which point P.C Groves came across them.

Once his story had been corroborated, the gallant soldier was released and sent on his way.

***

Our final tale of tittle tattle from the tabloids of December 1888 doesn’t involve one drop of alcohol, or even a raised fist.

At one time, the Steam Packet Inn used to stand by the quayside, near the Devonshire buildings.

In 1888 it was being run by German born musician, Joseph Duscherer, and his wife Harriet.

They had just taken on a new servant girl, Rachel Smith, to help in the busy hostelry.

maid service 1887

Unfortunately, Rachel was prone to being a tad light-fingered, and made away with a piece of Harriets precious jewellery, a fine gold ring.

When Harriet questioned Sarah as to it’s whereabouts, she at first denied any knowledge, but under the later, much tougher interrogation of P.C. William Read, she soon cracked.

Sarah revealed that she had swopped the stolen ring for another, so a constable was dispatched to the home of Mrs Wellman in Upwey, where he found the missing article upon her finger.

For her sins, the slippery servant was given the choice of paying a 5 shilling fine or spending 7 days behind bars.

As poor Sarah had no money, she had no choice…she was ‘removed below.’

So you see…things don’t really change much do they…different era, different clothes, different papers, different people…same old headlines same old problems.

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1896; Tragedy at Upwey mill, Weymouth.

One of the prettiest little villages on the outskirts of Weymouth is Upwey.

As you drive into the meandering village, the houses and buildings snuggle themselves down into a  wooded valley, and in the midst of this stands the tall building of the Upwey mill.

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It’s fed by the river Wey which springs out of the ground a little further up the valley at the famous Upwey Wishing Well.

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This stone mill was originally constructed in 1802, replacing an earlier building listed in the  records.

It is also claimed that this mill is the one that famous local author, Thomas Hardy refers to in his novel The Trumpet Major.

This beautiful little valley personifies peace and tranquility, not much to break the silence apart from nature, birds singing in the woods above and the babbling river

But in 1896 that peace was shattered with heart rending howls of despair.

The mill was a bustling business then, owned by local man Alfred Loveless.

In his employ was 40 year old Robert Scutt. He  and his wife Hannah moved to Upwey from Sutton Poyntz when Robert obtained a job working for Alfred. their family were housed in one of the little cottages in Elwell Street.

One Wednesday in August 1896 Robert’s son, 13 year-old George was out playing happily with his best friend Harry Symonds near the mill.

The two lads, becoming bored with playing outside, entered the mill, and went to explore. Now, they had already been shooed out of the mill a couple of weeks previous by the owner, this was no place for children! But, boys, being, well… I guess, boys, their sense of adventure overruled the fear of being caught and punished.

The two lads climbed the rickety wooden stairs up to the third floor, noise echoed around the room and white dust filled the air. They could hear the  huge water wheel revolving, water splashing and churning below. The noise of the great cogs and wheels grinding drowned out any sounds from outside.

Having reached the top floor,  curiosity getting the better of little George, he stood on tiptoe and peered over the boards to the rapidly revolving wheel below. Still not able to get a good view, he hauled himself up on the boards to get a better view.

George fascinated, teetered precariously for a moment on the edge, then loosing his balance, his body pitched head first down into the wheel pit. His friend Harry stood in shocked silence at first…then in fear for his friends life he ran down the stairs as fast as he could to get help.

Unknowing of the boys illicit foray inside the mill, George’s father Robert was stood out in the yard chatting, when the wheel suddenly and creakingly ground to a halt.

Fearing that a piece of machinery had failed, he raced into the mill heading for the stairs, worried what had suddenly stopped the wheel working like that.

Here he met a hysterical Harry, who managed to pour out his words, telling him of the horrific disaster had befallen his son.

Robert raced up those stairs and peered frantically over the boards, what met his eyes was a parents worst nightmare, below was the mangled remains of his son jammed in the giant wheel.

A cry of desperation echoed through the building, begging the other men out in the yard to ‘stop the water…stop the water’!

But to no avail, the shocking damage had already been done!

One of his fellow workmates appeared by his side, and the two men clambered down to retrieve what remained of George’s broken body.

By the time that the local doctor arrived on the scene,  Dr Pridham, there was obviously nothing he could do to help.

He described in great gruesome detail at the inquest how when he arrived on scene George’s body was already laid on the mill floor, his tattered intestines spread out across the area.

Only one arm remained attached to his torso, his other dismembered limbs lay scattered around.

How does any human being cope with something like that, let alone a parent?

At the inquest held at The Mill house, a verdict of “Death by misadventure ” was given.

Robert and Hannah buried the remains of their son George in the little church yard in Upwey on the 23rd August.

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Their lives would never be the same again…how could they?

It must have had a traumatic impact on the mill owners life too, by the time of the next census he has changed businesses altogether, working in the lime and stone industry, no mention of mills at all.

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http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/upwey.html (Upwey Local History)

http://www.thedorsetpage.com/locations/Place/U050.htm (The Dorset Page)

http://www.opcdorset.org/Broadwey-Upwey.Files/Broadwey-Upwey.htm (Dorset OPC. Broadway and Upwey)