Victorian Lodmoor.

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

“1861 12th Jan


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

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

couple ice skating q 1887

“1864 9th Jan


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

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

“1867 17 Jan



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

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

“1871 9th Dec

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

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



Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.



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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

He recieved a sentance of  18 months hard labour.


Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.


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1899; Thwarted love…never cross a woman!

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

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

This was between Frank William Dodd and Eva Rosina Case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

In the March of 1898 Eva received a letter from Frank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eva was having none of it!

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

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

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

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

He had to reply now;

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

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

He ended the letter with a chilling phrase;

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank was certainly no gentleman………..

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

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

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

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


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

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

Later he wrote

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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1889; Girl held against her will at Broadwey?

With all the media reports on the news recently concerning the shocking story of the 3 women imprisoned as slaves, Weymouth had it’s own version of the sorry tale back in 1889.

Sarah Guy was born in 1865 into a less than ideal and loving family home.

Her Dad John was a violent drunk, and her Mum Sophy was a woman who had been cowed down by life and her dire circumstances. Most of the time the family lived in dire poverty.

They lived in New Street, with the Dad working, when he was sober enough, as a Wheelchair man, they would ply their trade along the esplanade, pushing invalids in the large wicker chairs.

4 times weymouth

As the facts of the case were revealed over the weeks, we can catch a glimpse into their world. Sarah had obviously turned to prostitution to support herself, a case of when needs must. By the time she was 23 she already had an illegitimate child,  who had been removed into the care of the Union Workhouse.


It wasn’t unusual for young Sarah her to come ‘home’ and find her few clothes that she possessed had been pawned so that her Dad could buy drink, or no furniture left in the house and her Dad in his cups. He would often strike young Sarah, viciously lashing out at her if she didn’t give him any money. She began bringing men back to the house, who would give her Dad money to go any buy beer. One man in particular became a regular visitor, a chap by the name of Frederick Burt. He was a cab owner, and had stables in Broadwey where he kept his carriage and horses.

Frederick it was said was a married man, but he lived separately from his wife.

In the July of 1888 Sarah just vanished!

Her Dad John says he had approached Frederick Burt numerous times and asked him if he has seen his daughter, but his answer had always been no, that he thought she had run off to London. At one instance Frederick even told her father that he wouldn’t be surprised if the Ripper had got her!

Whether the Dad had even bothered to try and find her we’ll never know the truth. Probably the only thing that had annoyed him was that without her in the house selling her scraggy body…he received no beer money from her punters.

For weeks no one saw anything of Sarah… that passed into months…maybe she really had run away?

That was until one day in 1889.

On the 14th March, 1889, late one night, Annie Martin, the family cook in the home of Dr and Mrs Brown was clearing up the kitchen,

the light was on, the blinds pulled up. Suddenly, a frantic knocking on the door startled her, she looked out into the dark but couldn’t quite make out who it was. Scared, she ran up stairs to get her Mistress, both women came down and got the shock of their lives.

There, in the kitchen, huddled in a chair was a dirty, half starved girl, her eyes bulging out of her sockets from fear, crying “Burty will kill me! Oh! Burty will kill me!”, an  iron bar clenched in her hand…was this an escaped lunatic?

What should they do?

The girl was muttering over and over that the man called Burt, and others wanted to do for her…

The cook was quickly dispatched next door to where Colonel Tapper Carter lived. He would know what to do. But even he was flummoxed by this sorry piece of what had once been a human being, she was hardly recognisable as one one, curled in a tiny ball, muttering of murder and other foul deeds. She would tell them to “Hush…listen..” and kept repeating the names Miller and Baker.

Still believing the slip of a girl to be an escaped lunatic, the Colonel and his maid, Isabella Cruikshank,  led her gently next door, where she was bathed, given clean clothes and put into bed. She kept repeating the chilling words “murder” to Isabella, who just took them to be the product of a troubled mind. she had tried to feed her some food for Sarah had told her that she hadn’t eaten in days, but every time she tried to eat or drink, she brought it back up again.

Back in the doctor’s household, things seemed to have quietened down, but then Annie the cook looked out of the kitchen window, only to see Frederick Burt creeping around at the bottom of their garden, he appeared to be searching in the bushes and hedges for something. What was the man doing, was he mixed up with this.

By now the police in the guise of Sergeant Joshua Rackham had arrived at the Colonels house, he was summonsed back to the Doctor’s house, and after going out to talk to Burt, he cuffed the man, and took him in for trespassing on the Doctor’s land. The deranged girl had told him a story about being held prisoner, and a conversation she had overheard, men talking in the stable, she had crept to door,“I have got her there, and I must get rid of her.”

They needed to sort this mess out, what on earth had been going on?

At the end of March 1889, at the  County Petty Sessional Court, Dorchester, Frederick Burt was accused of having held the missing girl Sarah Guy captive against her will. She apparently had been held in a dirty, dark shed next to his stables,  it measured 10ft x 5ft x 4ft tall, with very little in it bar a box, and a couple of sacks.

Sarah had allegedly been held here against her will for nearly nine months, too scared to try and escape because Frederick had threatened what dire things would happen to her of she tried.

Frederick Burt was brought before the courts, he stayed partly hidden in the jury box, the court full of mainly women who made no attempt to hide their feelings of anger towards the disgusting man.

The problem was Sarah was too ill to attend court herself.

Burt was summonsed for “unlawfully imprisoning Sarah Guy”.

It was decided that the case should be adjourned on the grounds that she was not well enough to give her evidence, Burt maintained his innocence, he said she was his sweetheart, he was only protecting her from her vicious father

But he was accused of having locked her up in a small shed, subjected her to such brutal ill-treatment as to derrange her intellect.suffering acute consumption.

A letter was read out from Dr Simpson.

“Gloucester Row, Weymouth,

22nd March.

I hearby certify that Sarah Guy, now an inmate of the Weymouth Workhouse, is not in a condition to appear as a witness at Dorchester to-morrow. Her mental condition, which was clear and lucid on Sunday last, has undergone a considearble change during the current week; and she is unable now to return satisfactory answers to any queations put to her, or to make and coherent ststement. Under these circumstances it is my intention to arrange for her removal to the County Asylum, where, I trust, under special treatment, she may recover sufficiently to attend at Dorchester; and, if not, the opinion as to her future sanity will have been reported on by those most competant to judge of it.-


The case was adjourned until April 6th.

Burt was given bail and bound over to the sum of £50, with his brother George as security.

Frederick left left the Dorchester court, but a large angry crowd had gathered outside, the  hostile mob booing and hitting him as he passed along Trinity Street and Princes Street on his way back to the railway station. Four policeman had accompanied him, they too were on the receiving end of the crowds displeasure at this monster being able to walk free. By the time they’d reached the gates of the London & South Western Railway Station yard, so intense was the hallooing and violence towards Burt, that the police decided that it might be better of they took him into the safety of the County Police Station. From here he made his escape over the back wall and back to his home.

Frederick was brought back into the courts to face charges, but Sarah’s condition hadn’t improved, in fact, if anything she was worse. The solicitor for the defendant said that it was unfair on his client, the newspapers had cause great ill feeling towards his client. They should either charge him or let him go. As Sarah was unable to appear in court to accuse Frederick of the heinous crimes it was with great regret that the Bench decided to dismiss the case.


Once again a large and angry mob had gathered outside the courtroom waiting for this man who had allegedly got off scott free with the brutal kidnapping and imprisonment in inhumane conditions of Sarah Guy. A young girl who was now loosing her mind due to  of his heartless and cruel actions, and because she couldn’t give evidence…he was being freed!

They hinted at a further case that might be brought should things change…and they did.


When another case came to court again in the May of 1889, this time held at the New Asylum in Charminster, circumstances had changed dramatically, it was the inquest into her death..

Being severely malnourished, and also ill from consumption, Sarah had died in the May in the Asylum.

An inquest had been held into her death. The juror’s, made up of locals from the near by village were led in to view the emaciated body of Sarah.

One of the nurses at the Asylum, Julia Boyd, gave evidence, she  told of her frequent conversations with Sarah, who had admitted to living a wicked life, but she never spoke of being kept captive or being starved of food. The doctor who had attended her claimed that she was extremely emaciated, had advanced lung disease (consumption) and that she wasn’t very often lucid, was always afraid, and refused to sleep with out a light. He also said that despite their best care, Sarah had just faded away, unconscious for the last few hours before her happy release.

At the post mortem, done by Dr Mc Donald and accompanied by the Weymouth man, Dr Lush they couldn’t really answer many of the questions that the jurors were keen to ask.

Her body was extremely emaciated, but he had seen worse. There were no bruises or discolouration of the skin showing violence. Sarah’s cadaver had no body fat what so ever, both upper lobes of her lungs were severely diseased, containing cavities, not air. The lower parts of her lungs were also diseased. Her liver was enlarged and fatty. On examining the skull, the brain looked very pale, indicating a lack of blood circulation to it, this was caused by her advanced state of illness because of the consumption.

The jury asked if her being confined in a dark and dirty room for months on end could have contributed to this, but the doctor said it was hard to tell.

It was decided that the case should be adjourned until all the evidence could be brought before the jurors, who had also wanted to visit the place where she had supposedly been kept captive for the last few months of her life.


At the second inquest, a Mr Maw attended on behalf of the deceased Sarah, he was there from  the National Vigilance Society.

According to her father John, when questioned, Sarah was prone to running off, coming and going as she wanted. No she wasn’t a prostitute, Frederick might have stopped at the family house, but he slept in a separate bedroom from her. No he didn’t pawn her items for drink, anyway, he was now teetotal! He had asked after her when she went missing, he had asked Burt numerous times if he knew where she was…but no, he never went to Burt’s place of business to see if she was there. The last time he had asked Burt if he knew where she was, was the week Sarah had reappeared, Burt had told him “No, there’s something very strange about it.” then said “I cannot stay now, dad, as I’m ordered; I will see you by and by.” at which he drove off. Apparently when the two men met again on the sea front later that day, Frederick told Sarah’s father that she was definitely in London.

He claimed he wasn’t a bad father, and couldn’t understand why the police had kept coming round their house. Yes, he had drank a bit, but wasn’t that normal for working men? He didn’t beat her, sometimes he just ‘blowed her up!’

There had been an incident last summer before she had vanished for months when he had gone to Burt’s place to find his daughter there, he told her to come home, but Frederick had said to Sarah “What do you want to go with him for? He will knock you about again.” Sarah had returned home with her father that time, but vanished again soon after.

Once on the stand Frederick Burt claimed that Sarah was his sweetheart. They both went to his shed adjoining his stables at Broadway, Sarah went willingly, not wanting to go back home to her fathers house.  He had taken her there to keep her safe from her father. He had given her  a ring, despite the fact that he was already married! Sarah stayed willingly in the shed, she had wanted to be locked in at night to keep her safe.

He gave a statement;” I live at Broadwey, and am occupier of stables and premises there. Have known the deceased about two years. She was living with her father, and had a child aged 12 months. I used to go with her from time to time at her fathers house, and have been there when other men have come for a simiar purpose. Have been there stopping in the house for three weeks or a month together, and her father was  aware of the relations between us, and has been in the same room. He had given the father money for beer abd food sometimes when he had been with the deceased. He remembered an occasion about a year ago returning with her to her fathers house and finding him beastly drunk. He was often in that condition. He asked her for money, and because she had none to give him he was about to assault her, when witness prevented him, and took her away. She asked him to take her to the stables; and he allowed her to go and sleep for four or five nights in the carriage at the coach-house. That was the first time she had stayed there. After that time she would come there and stay for a day or two; and he would go and stay with her at her fathers house. Witness stayed there with her every night during the Yeomanry week in her fathers house, and he was present. Whenever he slept in the house he slept with the deceased, and the father knew it. He pawned her boots and clothes, and witness gave a woman named Davis the money to go and buy her a new pair. A few days afterwards he met her in the street, and she said that her father had been taken up for drunkenness, and she had no food or money; and she wanted to come back to the stable. She stayed about a fortnight, and on one morning-witness believed it was the morning he left gaol-her father came and fetched her away, saying he wanted her to go and fetch her child and mother out of the Union.

women in lodging house

The deceased asked witness if she should go or stay, and he told her t please herself. She went, and that same evening she saw witness and asked him about trying to hire a room, because her father had broken up the home and sold it for drink. He offered her money to get a bed, but she said she would rather come away with witness to the stable. She slept in the carriage by night, and lived in the shed by day. She came there on and off until the end of August, and then she came permanently; and witness spent each night with her until January last, when his brothers persuaded him to sleep at home. Each day he always left the key of the coach-house with her, and she frequently got herself ready, and, after locking up the coach-house, put the key under the door, and went into town in broad daylight, and in the evening. Witness and her were together in the town on the night of the Town regatta. She had always remained of her own free will.”

But the prosecution pointed out that he had  padlocked the door from outside. Though he had given her food, she had no bed, no change of clothes, she was completely naked when her undergarments washed.

The case was yet again adjourned !


During the next day the case resumed  when much confusing and conflicting evidence was given.

The maid who worked in the house and garden of the Doctor that the cabman’s shed had backed onto claimed that she had never heard anyone in there, and she would have heard any voices easily when hanging out her washing. The children played in the garden, they had mentioned nothing untoward.

Yet, on another night, the servants bedroom window had been open as it was hot, they had heard some womans voice shout out “murder,” going to the window to listen, they noticed Burt’s stable light kept going on and off,  twice more they heard the same cry, but then it had gone quiet. For what ever reason, the women went back to bed and asleep, only telling their mistress of the strange occurrence the following morning.

When Sarah had been at the house in the care of the Colonel, the maid, Isabella Cruikshank, had tried to remove the rags curled in her hair, but it was so dirty and matted that she couldn’t get them out. She told her of overhearing the men plot to kill her …that is why she had escaped and run for help.

Despite all this damning evidence as to her captivity,  back came the surprising verdict that it was “death from natural causes.” 

Because the doctor couldn’t say how long she had been suffering from consumption, and couldn’t just say that it was her imprisonment that had caused it, there was no alternnate verdict.

Frederick Burt walked away scott free,


As an end note, the next year, on the 2nd March,  little Henry Guy aged 4 was christened at Holy Trinity church, his mother Sarah Guy…deceased.


So, what I wonder, was the truth?

The only certain thing was that young Sarah seemed to have been abused by everyone in her short life…maybe she was better off where she was.


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.


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1895 Wheeling and dealing ……..

The governments advice for people to get on their bikes and look for work is not a new sentiment.

Even during the Victorian period people moved freely around the country following the work, such was the story of one northern family.

In the 1860’s Enoch and Mary Ann Birkin had been living in their local area, Leicester, Dad Enoch was working in industry, as a steel riveter. Mary Ann was a  woman with a strong arm, she worked as a woodcutter, earning a few extra pennies where she could  walking the streets with her basket selling firewood  door to door.

At some stage, their fortunes changed, work was hard to come by, and the family ended up in the Union workhouse.

By the early 1870’s they had moved down to Weymouth. They now lived in the High Street Weymouth, at no 4. Enoch had learnt a new trade, or maybe had even returned to an old one. He was a boot and shoe maker, with a business of his own, their lives were rather precariously on the up again.

Living with them were their children, one of those being George Alfred who had been born while the family had still lived in Leicester.

Well, young George managed to find himself bits and pieces of work here and there, every penny was needed to keep the family’s head above water…but sometimes it was a struggle. Mary Ann was back to chopping wood and hawking it around the streets.

As often happened when times are hard, George aged 15 got himself into a spot of bother. In 1993 he was before the courts accused of stealing a bunch of grapes. For his sins he was locked up and given a short sharp sentence, 7 days hard labour. Maybe that would sort the young lad out, help keep him on the straight and narrow.

But, it wasn’t to be, a couple of years later he was up before the magistrates again.


One of his many jobs was acting as a delivery boy for Messrs Dennis and Sons, drapers of 16, St Edmund Street. He came and went from the shop, delivering goods, and running errands. Unfortunately, the chance of easy pickings in the busy little shop was the undoing of George.

A certain amount of stock started to go missing, 2 expensive cardigan jackets, a whole roll of silk velvet fabric, some smaller pieces of silk fabric and velvet. Suspicions aroused, the shop keeper, Alfred Dennis called in the police, who visited another place where George often worked … the pawnshop!

This was the business of a Mr. Sergeant. It appears that when they searched the premises they found some of the silk pieces and one of the jackets.

George admitted to stealing the silk, but of course, he denied any further involvement with the disappearance of the goods.

Not satisfied, and certainly not believing the lad, Inspector Stickland along with Sergeant Detective Day went along to the family house…and of course it doesn’t surprise them that concealed in a locked box, the key of which Mary Ann had possession of, was the piece of the expensive velvet fabric. Mary Ann denied it was stolen, she replied when questioned that she had brought it to trim one of her dresses. When the fabric was taken to the shop owner, he confirmed that it was in fact the missing fabric.

George was remanded in the cells, and once he’d been confronted about the discovery, he admitted that he had stolen it and given it to his mother for safe keeping.


On the 23rd September 1895 Mary Ann went along to the courts to support her son as he was hauled up before the judge, to her complete surprise she suddenly found herself in the dock along side  him, being charged with receiving stolen property.

George, not surprisingly, was found guilty and  charged ; “Within 6 months last past, felinously stealing 1 cardigan jacket, 8 1/2 yards of velvet, and 2 pieces of silk, of the value of £1 9s, the property of Alfred Dennis at Weymouth.”

He was given 1 months hard labour.

Mum’s fate quickly followed, she was also found guilty;  “Within 6 months last past, at Weymouth, feloniously receiving from George Alfred Birkin,  1 cardigan jacket, 8 1/2 yards of velvet, and two smaller lengths of velvet, the property of Alfred Dennis, she well knowing the same to have been feloniously stolen.”

Mary Ann’s role in the theft got her 2 months hard labour.

There’s a rather poignant police photograph of George in the Dorset Gaols Admissions book, with his hands held up before him his face side on to the camera as his likeness was captured for all eternity…only a few months later that was all that was left of him, George was dead.


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.


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1891; Wyke Regis church receives its new bells

There is a sound you don’t hear very often these days, the ringing of church bells.

I loved to hear them.

At one time their merry peel would call villagers to worship on Sundays, ring out joyfully at wedding ceremonies, or the solemn death knell  rung to mourn a person passing.

lady church gravestones

In the Victorian era the church played a very large part in the community, it was the heart of the village. Here people would meet and greet, marry and bury loved ones. children would learn the stories of Jesus at their almost obligatory Sunday schools, while Mum and Dad enjoyed a Sunday afternoon to themselves.

In May of 1891 the parish church at Wyke Regis received their sparkling set of 8 new bells.

A replacement floor of solid oak beams had been laid on which the new bell frame and cage stood, the old one was becoming perilous according to the Bell committee. The work in the tower was done by a Mr Joseph Bishop.

Joseph was a local builder, he lived in Bay Tree Cottage along with his wife Mena, and their teenage son Joseph James.

Messrs Taylor and Co of Loughborough, a specialist firm, had been entrusted with the bells themselves.

They also took the opportunity to install a chiming apparatus (Ellacombe’s) for times when the bell ringers weren’t available. This was a scheme whereby it only took one person to ring them. Instead of the bells swinging right round on their frames as with individual bell ringers, with this system, each bell had a hammer that would tap the side of individual bells. Each hammer had a rope that came down through the ceiling and was connected to a frame below, the rope stayed taut, and was rung by the rope being pulled towards the solitary ringer.

Many churches employed this sytem as it solved the problem of unruly bell ringers!

Each of the bells had been ‘sponsored’ and contained a dedication upon it .


No 1. (treble) “John G and Emma Rowe. Thanks giving 1891.”

Weight 4cwt 2qrs, cost £25 4s.

John  and Emma Rowe were wealthy merchants in Melcombe Regis. They owned premises 13, 14, 15, 16, St Mary Street, where they ran a silk milliner & costumier business that employed 57 local women.


No 2. “In loving memory Mabel Vincent of Faircross, 1891.”

Weight; 5cwt, cost £28.

Mabel was the daughter of John Beale and Frances (Fanny) Mary Vincent who lived in the big house Faircross. They owned Vincent’s jeweller in St Mary Street.

Mabel died on the 1st April in 1885 aged 17, she was in Brussels at the time, her body was brought home and buried in Melcombe Regis churchyard on the 6th April.

I can recall Vincent’s jewellery shop well as a child, outside was painted black and always had huge decorative silver cups and trophies on display in the windows. Years later I worked in that same shop for over 15 years when it was Next clothing retailer.

Mr Vincent discovered a 14th Century stone
plinth that may be a part of a cross used by visiting friars who
used to preach at fairs – Faircross? This stone is still on the
site, although his house has since been pulled down and replaced
with flats.


No 3. “Peace be within Thy Walls. 1891”

Weight; 6cwt, cost £33 12s.


No 4. “Bless ye the Lord, praise Him, and magnify Him for ever. 1891.”

this one was donated by Mrs R Phelips of Weymouth.

Weight; 7 cwt, cost £40 12s.


No 5. “Give thanks to God, 1614, 1617, 1728, 1891.”

The dates inscribed on this bell were the dates that the bells had previously been cast.

Weight; 9 cwt 3qrs, cost £54 12s.


No 6. “The women of Wyke gave me, 1891.”


No 7. “Given by the Rev Frederick Tufnell, M.A., in memory of his wife, Margaret Tufnell, who died 1888. ‘Oh ye spirits of and souls of the Rightious, bless ye the Lord; praise Him and magnify Him for ever. 1891.”

Weight; 12 cwt 3 qrs, cost £71 8s.


No 8. (tenor)

“Lord may this bell for ever be

a tuneful voice o’er land and sea,

To call they people unto thee”

T.M Bell-Salter, curate; J.G; Rowe and R.W. Reynolds, churchwardens, 1891.”

Weight; 16cwt, cost £89 12s.

Cornish born John Rowe was another wealthy business man who lived with his wife Emma on Bincleaves in  a large house, Trelawney. They were drapers.

Robert William Reynolds lived at Hillside in Wyke Regis. They were also wealthy merchants, this time dealing in wine and spirits.


In addition to the cost of the bells was an extra £219 for the additional fittings needed to make the bell tower complete. Frame work, ropes, clappers, chiming apparatus and the bel carriage. But they did get the money back from the money from the metal of the old bell, £ 101 5s 4d.

children church q 1887

Like most ceremonies during the Victorian era, the village went to town (so to speak) A dedication service was held on the Friday at 5 30 in the afternoon performed by the Bishop of the diocese. Afterwards the villagers made their way to the lawn in front of Wyke House where a grand afternoon tea was laid on for everyone to enjoy.

The joyous bells could ring out once more in Wyke.

wyke church

© Copyright Basher Eyre and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


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.


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1872; Chesil Royal Adelaide shipwreck; part 2. Armageddon.


This is the second part of the tale of the sinking of the Royal Adelaide on Chesil beach that happened on the 25th November 1872.

Well, in fact, it’s actually about what happened after…the dreadful scenes that hit the national papers and shook a lot of people.

Despite there being many shipwrecks around the coast over that couple of days due to the fierce gales, only the Adelaide made the national headlines, but for all the wrong reasons.

The loss of the ship was bad enough, so too was  the terrible loss of lives of those who tried to get ashore but sadly failed, however, what sparked the reporters and readers imagination was the unfolding scene of the next morning on Chesil, it was one  of complete devastation and debauchery.

Scattered all along the pebbled banks of the beach was debris from the wreck, parts of the smashed boat, boxes and crates, cargo, clothing, mens women s and children’s, all their personal items, food. There was even the battered body of a thoroughbred horse that had been on board for the long voyage out to Australia, once it had been some passengers pride and joy..not any more.

The entire contents of a humans life was laid before the hundreds of onlookers and scavengers that flocked to the beach in the wake of the wreck.

The wreckers were in there.

Gathering up what ever they could, cargo, goods, personal items, furniture, wood, money….you name it, they grabbed it.

Soldiers and coastguard men had been drafted in to protect the wreck and its contents, but they were overwhelmed by the mass of the human tide that swept down the beach in search of booty. All they could do was to retreat to the road to search people as they came off the Chesil bank, looking for stolen goods.

These in effect now belonged to The Receiver of wrecks, but the way things were going, he wasn’t going to receive a great deal by the time the scavengers had finished picking over the beach.

Extra soldiers and coast guards were drafted in, trying to hastily gather up as much as they could, a race against the human carrion, whatever items could be salvaged were loaded onto carts and and removed to the Customs house in Weymouth.

coastguards boys own paper 1890s

A pig from on board the boat had somehow miraculously survived the storm and managed to swim to shore in the early hours of the morning. Safely on shore, his new found freedom didn’t last long. Spotting the valuable animal, he was quickly captured and thrown over a mans shoulder, who then staggered up the steep slopes of the pebbled beach with his weighty booty. Once on firm ground the satisfied man started to march homewards, pleased with his piece of precious pork.

Only trouble was, the soldiers also spotted him and the squealing pig, he found himself being marched off in a different direction… towards the police station.

Another  local from Wyke was stopped and searched, he was found to have bundles of wet money concealed about his person.

A  Wyke business man and his daughter were arrested for theft. They had come across large bundles of linen handkerchiefs blowing down along the beach. The father had wrapped as many around his body as he could to conceal, the daughter had tucked bundles of them in and around her voluminous clothing.

They nearly escaped with their ill gotten gains only she dropped one of the bundles as they passed an obsevant coastguards.

At Dorchester court, the pair faced the wrath of the local judge.

Charles Edwards, 47, shop owner, baker and grocer of  Wyke,  and his daughter 26-year-old daughter, Mary Jane Edwards, were fined, Dad £20 and the daughter £5.

A decision was taken by the ships owner, they announced that they wouldn’t prosecute, if the stolen goods were returned…it was luck of the draw. Many had tried to get away with their goods, and many did.

Some were even trying to bury their bounty right there on the beach…men were spotted trying to dig large holes in the pebbles to cover large barrels of spirits, something to be retrieved at a later date when the coast was clear..

Something else more sinister was scattered along the beach too that morning.

More bodies…but these were the unconscious bodies of those who had helped themselves to the strong spirits that had been washed ashore in the wooden kegs. Men, women and children lay prone all along  the pebbles, for all intense purposes, dead to the world. Medical help had to be sought as they tried to move the lifeless bodies, many were wet, cold, some were literally near death. The ‘living corpses’ were loaded onto wagons and taken to places of safety, where they were laid out. Many had to be stripped of their sodden clothing and were covered in hot blankets and hot bricks in an effort to revive them.

Some never woke again.

Over the next couple of days inquests were held around the area for those whose life was lost for the love of a free drink.

Weymouth courts; Death by drink, George Neale, 15, West Parade;

boy collapsed street quiver 1865

On Tuesday young George had walked onto Chesil beach with Richard Rolls to see the scene of devastation for themselves. They came across a wooden cask of rum with the head off. George picked up a nearby tin, one that would hold a quart of liqueur, he scooped the rich spirits out of the barrel and downed it in one.

Seeing danger ahead, Richard took the tin away from him, but a group of men drinking nearby passed him a biscuit tin.

Within minutes, young George had downed nearly 3 quarts of strong liqueur.

Not surprisingly he became unconscious.

Richard with the help of a couple of the  realtively sober men and a policeman carried George to Mr Manley’s in Weymouth town where he worked. Mary Jane Andrews had tried desperately to bring him round. George’s father had called doctor Simpson on the Tuesday evening. Later he told him he thought George was getting better, the doctor  prescribed a stimullent emetic, then left for Portland.

He returned at midnight to find boy dead.

Congestion of the brain from alcohol poisoning. “Death from excessive drinking.” (Buried 2nd December Melcombe Regis graveyard)

Inquest at the Royal Victoria Inn, Ferry Bridge, Wyke Regis, 42 year-old Samuel Biles, labourer; Sergeant Gale was on duty on the beach , he had come across 3 men lying apparently dead on beach. The bodies of the  unconscious men were moved to the ‘safety’ of the Fishermans Arms. Having been called in to check the men over, Dr Rhodes arrived to see the victim and another man lying  face down on straw.

Samuel Biles had no pulse. “Death from exessive drinking and exposure to the cold.” (Buried Wyke Regis churchyard November 30th 1872)

Inquest at Cove Inn Chesil, Thomas Strange and George Gilbert; P.C James Bugg found their bodies on the beach on the Wednesday, “Died from exposure to cold, and from having taken an excessive quantity of raw spirits.”

Thomas Strange was a 46 year-old cabinet maker who lived in Walpole street, Weymouth with his wife Sarah and children. (Buried 2nd December 1872, at Melcombe Regis graveyard)

George Gilbert unknown, must have come from further afield, though his death is registered in Weymouth, no record of his burial locally.

Two more men were fined being “dead” drunk on the beach at Weymouth. Chaddock and Mayo,  2 men.doctors bill, fined 5s each and costs.

Thomas A Chaddock, 45 year old quarryman lived at Chisel Portland with wife Jane. He was so cold that they had to strip him and cover him with hot bricks.

John Mayo, 21, stone mason, lived at the Freemasons Arms, Upwey with his parents. both these men were in the employ of  Mr Richard Reynolds, stonemason of Weymouth.

There was one redeeming light in admist all this debauchery.

Thirty one year old Albert Drayton was a coastguard for the Wyke area. On that fateful evening he strived along with many others to rescue as many of the ship wreck survivors as he could.

Having worked tirelessly all through the stormy night in the wet and cold, Albert caught a severe chill.

He lingered for a few days, but during  his delirious periods he kept repeating  “There’s another saved, thank God!”. (Albert sadly lost his fight for life and was buried on the 20th December 1872,  at Wyke Regis graveyard.) He left behind his widow, Jane and baby daughter Mary.

policeman in dock with boy quiver 1891

The tale of the terrible wreck of the Adelaide remains forever in the memory of Dorset folk, but not always for the right reasons.


************************************************************************************************************************************** (modern day scavangers further along Chesil beach )

1869; Battery, assault and burial on Weymouth beach!

In 1869 a little incident occurred on the sands, shouldn’t have been a problem really, but it was one that ended up in the national papers much to the local council’s horror!

William Wynn, a well-educated gent from London had been staying in Weymouth with his family for a holiday. They had been down on the beach, minding their own business. It was low tide, the bathing machines were down by the shore, there was lots of room on the sands. William had been playing trap and ball with his young son, when the proprietor of the bathing machines, aptly named Solomon Sly marched up to confront him.

weymouth beach 1892

In no uncertain terms a very irate Sly told Mr. Wynn to leave the beach immediately. Of course, William Wynn wasn’t having that. He declared that the beach was public property, and that Sly had absolutely no authority whatsoever ordering him and his family off. Sly, who had been described as ‘in a very excited mood’, told Mr. Wynn in no uncertain terms that he paid £40 a year, the beach was his!

A feeble half-hearted tussle then followed. Sly pushed Mr. Wynn who fell onto the sand, enraged, he then jumped up and retaliated by hitting Sly over the head with the child’s bat.

The case came to court, but it wasn’t really over the assault. Mr. Wynn, rather cleverly, allegedly had brought the case before the magistrates on the grounds that he wanted it made clear to visitors whether the beach was public property or not. Because, if it wasn’t, then future visitors to Weymouth had a right to know that they had no legal access to the beach. Seeing as those dealing with the case, magistrates and solicitors, were also on the town council, they had to tread very carefully how they responded, especially as the case had aroused a great deal of public interest, and the gallery was full of spectators including reporters. The Mayor at the time, Mr. Tizard, graciously thanked Mr. Wynn for bringing the case on behalf of the public. He assured him that the public had every right for access to the beach.

The council was at that time heavily promoting Weymouth as the perfect family holiday destination, with its superb soft sandy beaches and safe sea bathing.

children buckets beach

They had come to realize that they could no longer rest on their laurels gathered when King George used to visit the seaside resort at the start of the century, and it had become the place to be seen by those in high society. Weymouth was going to have to start attracting persons from certain other classes, which was where the money was to be made. With other sea side resorts now starting to become popular along the South coast, and increased flow of persons from far afield brought in by the developing railways, holiday resorts were having to promote themselves to win their custom.

The visions of future visitors being assaulted, or even worse, banned altogether from the beach was not exactly the family friendly and welcoming image that the council wanted for Weymouth!

That very same year, another unexpected visitor arrived on the sandy beach.

Opposite the Royal library the large, bloated body of a strange animal had been washed in on the tide. Badly decomposed, with its feet missing, the skull and legs stripped of its skin, but from what was left, namely the fur, and its teeth, it had been deduced that it was the remains of a large black bear. Not wishing to offend the sensibilities, (or presumably the nostrils) of the tourists, a large, deep pit was hastily dug in the sands where the body lay, and its remains buried.

I wonder if any of those bones are still down there somewhere?

Anyone digging for lugworms?


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


Related articles

1868, Weymouth mayor in court!

We are going through a bad recession at the moment (as if I had to tell you that!) and when things get tough financial wise, somethings have to go.

Such is the present day council’s dilemma…what to cut, what to keep.

Well, it appears to have been the  old harbour area and piers that seems to be the brunt of many of the cost cutting exercises over the past few years.


The pleasure pier is literally on it’s last  wonky, wooden legs and if it has to be demolished for safety reason, I’m not so sure that it will ever be replaced.

Such was the problem that the town council had back in the Victorian era.

They were desperately trying to provide attractions to bring the tourists in, other seaside resorts along the coast were beginning to become popular, and it was a case of fighting for the customers. and juggling the finances.


Weymouth prior to this had nothing but a plain old rickety stone/rubble pier, so after furious debating it was decided to splash out on a new wooden pier. One of great beauty and elegance, it’s style was graceful and curving, with a rotunda constructed at the end where bands would play.

When it opened it was an instant hit.

Dances were held on its wooden boards, up to 2,00 people stepping the light fantastic out across the waters while glowing gas lamps completed the magic in the summers’s night air.

Musical recitals drew large crowds, resident military bands would play alongside the local town boys. There was entertainment galore to keep those vital visitors amused.

There was even facilities for swimmers at the end, changing rooms, steps, a dip off the end was par for the course for many of the hardy health fanatics. Sea bathing still promoted as the be-all in cures for so many ailments.

In fact, it was almost perfect…almost!

Only one problem.

Come June 1868 and the poor old town Mayor, Mr. Tizard was hauled before the courts, not just the local one either, he appeared before the Courts of Exchequer for non-payment of a bill by the corporation.

Weymouth’s nice new posh, shiny, all-singing, all-dancing pier had been constructed and finished a few years earlier by the appointed Contractor, Mr. Payne.

The whole kitten caboodle had cost Weymouth town £11,700.

The Corporation managed to pay some of the bill, but just couldn’t raise the last £3,500.

That was why they, namely the Mayor, were being taken to court by the contractor. It seems that they had hoped to raise the last amount of money by mortgaging the pier rates, but had not been able to do so.

There were no funds left in the kitty to pay the man!


But at least for now it was a pleasant spot for folks to sit and watch the soldiers toiling on the completion of the Nothe fort opposite and the comings and goings of the bustling harbour and the picturesque bay.

Indeed, they would have witnessed something very unusual that summer.

A shoal of 30 odd porpoises had graced the area with their presence, swimming alongside the Portland steamers as they made their way from the pier on her way to the island and back, much to the amusement of the passengers on board.

Sadly,  it seems that one of the porpoises made the mistake of returning a month later to the safety of the harbour. Victorians being, well I guess, Victorians, loved anything rare and unusual.

Only trouble was they had a propensity to shoot them!

Rare birds, animals, and unfortunately this hapless porpoise.

One more specimen for their collection.


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


Related articles

1861; Tightrope walker at Belfield Park, Weymouth.

In the Victorian era, there was actually a little known park in Weymouth.

It was part of the grand Belfield estate, a 13 acre site, mainly parkland that surrounded a magnificent house that was built approx 1780’s for the Buxton family.


In the 1860’s part of this estate was opened for public use, complete with rose and fruit gardens, it used to come under the care of one Robert Tinker Hawkins, a gentleman who owned a nurseries in Weymouth, and was instrumental in he setting up of the New (alexander) gardens in Weymouth, though there is little or no mention of his part in the events.

In 1861 a great event was held in town.

One Monday afternoon in October, at 2.55 a train drew into Weymouth station, it carried a mega variety star of the times. None other than Charles Blondin, who was a very famous tightrope walker, renown worldwide for his daring escapades, not least for being the first person ever to cross the Niagra Falls on a tightrope, which he performed in 1859.

The same year he appeared in Weymouth, he was also to perform his tricks at the famous Crystal Palace, Dublin and many other large cities.

Folks of all classes traveled from far and wide to see this legend perform his magic in the rose gardens, this was something not to be missed, a chance to see the great man himself, he had performed before royalty!


.The papers claimed that there were nearly 10,000 people who had turned up to watch him perform his death defying antics, it remarked upon however, rather scathingly that many of the spectators were stood outside of the paying area!

A rope had been erected that was 300 foot long and supposedly 60 foot off the ground…but again, the reporter seemed less than impressed, and declared that it was nowhere near this height!

Blondin started his performance by a simple stroll from one end of the rope to the other, his step keeping perfect time to the band who had been employed to accompany him. Then he started to up the anti as they say, by performing a few summersaults along the walk, lying on his back, hanging by one hand, standing on one foot…he certainly knew how to work the crowds!

Then came the part that the audience loved…his head was bandaged, and a sack thrown over…completely blindfolded he made his faltering way across the rope, teetering here and there, of course, this elicited loud cries and gasps from the watchers below, thoroughly enjoying every faltering step he took.


His  finale was to walk the rope, carrying  a man upon his back, a trick he was well renown for.

Admist rioutous applause from the spectators below, Blondin climbed down the ladder, took his bow…and he was off!


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.

************************************************************************************************************************************** (Biography of Chevalier Blondin)