What were your Weymouth ancestors doing in December of 1888?

Christmas is nearly upon us, its that time of year when we think about absent family and friends and especially those no longer here to celebrate with us.


Our long departed ancestors knew how to celebrate Christmas too, albeit sometimes in a very different way, though their life often mirrored ours of today, with the same old trials and tribulations.

Come on in and have a peek at the lives of Weymouth folk of  days gone past.

The year is 1888, it’s the 13th December and young Albert Rolls and his pals were making their way along a packed Weymouth esplanade. It might have been nearly Christmas, but the weather was set fair and the warm sun had brought out the crowds.


In the distance Albert could hear the lively notes of organ music and the raised voices of happy revellers. A big grin spread across his face as he and his pals quickened their pace, pushing through the throng, most of whom seemed to be heading for where the action was.

The Christmas season  always brought a chance to enjoy a bit of fun  away from the drudgery of everyday toil.

Once they neared the  entrance to the pier they could see the steam fair in full swing on the quayside. it looked as if the whole of Weymouth had turned out to attend the festive revelries.

Spiffily dressed stall holders bellowed their gaudy wares, “come buy…come buy” they cried as pretty maids crowded round, purses clutched tightly under their shawls. Dapper dandies stood perusing the assortment of side shows that lined the quay, their sight alighting upon somewhat scandalously dressed women whose dark eyes promised such delicious delights behind those beguiling curtains.

Albert and his mates though, headed straight for the steam rides, whose organs were churning out lively tunes that made toes tap, but even those were almost drowned out by the  screeches of nervous passengers and raucous laughter of dare devil riders.


Their chosen ride slowed to a halt, men, women and children clambered down off their chain slung chairs, some still laughing and chattering happily while a few staggered off looking rather green around the gills.

Albert scrambled onto the nearest chair, he pushed his behind as far back onto the leather seat as he possibly could and held on tightly to the chain, excited but nervous at the same time.

Old tight me loverlies” bellowed the showman, “ere we’s goes.” 

The music started and so the ride began to turn, faster and faster.

As the speed picked up its riders swung out, flying legs splayed above the heads of those watching below. Albert’s mates yelled cheerfully to each other above the din, “look ‘ere Rollsy” cried one daring chap as he casually loosed a hand and held it out sideways, “I be flying like they there birds do.” Albert chuckled to himself, Harry was always such a wag.

Despite almost being horizontal, flying round and round through the air, Albert was beginning to feel quite brave…that was to be the undoing of him!

“Arry” he hollered, “bet you’s can’t do this,” and was on the point of loosening his grip on the straps, when he suddenly slid off the seat and flew, unaided by neither chain nor leather, through the air. Over the heads of stunned watchers he went, arms and legs aflailing, a startled expression on his face. Luckily for the crowd below, but not for Albert, he landed with an almighty crash on solid ground, in a small space void of any possible soft landing material and rolled to an ignominious stop besides a stunned lassie.

Albert never did visit the fair ever again!

(Bridport News 14 Dec 1888)

December of 1888 also witnessed a fairly farcical case held in the borough police court at the town’s Guildhall.


Hauled before Messrs Robens was one Mary Jackson.

But the case before Robens was not quite that clear cut and took a bit of good old fashioned detective work by local Superintendent Vickery to sort out the mess.

He asked for it to be adjourned until a while later.

Mary Jackson it seems wasn’t actually Mary Jackson, she also went by the names of Pemberton, Roberts and Lee and no doubt many more besides.

Mary’s co-conspirator and partner in crime was one George Jackson.

Not her husband at all, although he was married…just not to Mary.

George, a dentist by trade, had apparently deserted his wife and family elsewhere to set off for a life of crime roaming the country with his latest lady love.

Well, come December of 1888 and the Jackson’s arrived in good old sunny Weymouth.

The conniving couple took  advantage of the fair weather, and strolled along the seashore, their thoughts turned towards their next dastardly deed.


The following morning, decked out in her best finery, Mary set out with a purpose, marching determinedly along St Thomas Street. She was heading straight for their next victim, 63-year-old Charles Hibbs, who owned shop premises at no 3 Frederick Place. Charles, along with his wife Susan and their family lived in the elegant Georgian rooms above them.

That fateful day,  behind the pretty bow fronted window, waiting patiently for his next customer, sat Charles. His beady eyes passed carefully over his stock, was it displayed at its best? Maybe he should move that piece over to the wall opposite the window where it would catch the light better. He frowned as he spotted something not quite to his liking. Being ever the perfectionist, he rose from his seat and walked across the room to straighten the offending item. His somewhat rather pretentiously named son, William Bond Edward,  also worked alongside his father, but as of yet, he didn’t yet have his father’s same exacting standards.

Charles was a well know businessman in Weymouth, the walls of his premises were hung with many pieces of valuable artwork.

Charles and William both traded as  fine art dealers.

As he was about to return to his comfortable chair, the shop bell rang. Straightening his shoulders and fixing a smile on his craggy face, Charles turned around to warmly welcome his customer.

Mary smiled sweetly at the dealer, little did he know it was more a smile of satisfaction and determination.

Before her stood her next victim.

The two chatted away while browsing the selection of artwork on offer. Charles advising and Mary nodding.

Having chosen the pieces she deemed suitable for what she wanted, Mary made her excuses and left the premises, leaving behind a very disappointed Charles. He was so sure that he had the sale in the bag…so to speak.

To his surprise, a few days later he received a letter from the lovely Mrs Mary Jackson, she wanted him to post a few pieces of artwork up to her, not just a few, but a dozen! Charles rubbed his hands with glee, he knew he had been right all along, when he first set eyes on the dear lady, he was so sure she was going to be a good customer. Mrs Jackson wanted the parcel to be carefully wrapped and personally addressed to her at Merriott Road in Crewkerne.

Paintings duly despatched, Charles waited.

First he received Mary’s letter to say that they had arrived safely…but then nothing!

Charles wrote again,  this time his missive was returned unopened with the dreaded words penned on its front cover, “gone, no address.”

By now, quite alarmed, Charles made his way to the police station where he reported the facts, but he knew in his heart that he had been well and truly duped by this daring damsel and in all probability would never see her, his money or his painting ever again.

Well, as luck would have it, Mary had been found residing at her Majesty’s pleasure in the Devonport jailhouse. When confronted by Weymouth’s PC Bartlett who had travelled to Devonport to question her, she held up her hands and spilled the beans on the whole kitten caboodle of their crime.

Seemingly the dishonest couple had left behind a trail of deception and debts. Two of Charles’ pictures had been pawned in Exeter during their travels down towards the West Country, and another three sold to a private dealer.

When Mary’s partner in crime, George, was brought to the police house later that day, he had no hesitation in throwing his supposed lady love to the lions. Denying anything to do with obtaining the pictures, though he had to admit to knowing she had received them. Upon his person though was found a selection of pawn tickets from various towns they had passed through. Each one bore a different name, Graham Jackson, Graham Johnson, Annie Jackson, Ellen Jackson…so the list of aliases went on.

This light fingered pair were no lightweights, they were wanted by constabularies all over the place.

Once back stood in the Weymouth dock, the defiant Mary Jackson alias Pemberton, (it turned out that her real name was actually Mary Stedman) was charged with“unlawfully obtaining from Charles Hibbs of St Thomas Street, twelve unframed oil paintings valued at £12 6s”

At the Quarter Sessions the following Spring, Charles Hibbs sat patiently in the courtroom, he wanted to witness this dishonest couple get their just deserts. Imagine his surprise when the couple appeared before the judges, their case was thrown out, apparently it had been his own fault!

The Court Chairman decreed that“Hibbs had sent these twelve pictures to Crekerne without making any enquiries as to the applicant.”


To compound matters even further, the couples crimes, including the theft from a now totally bewildered Charles, were brought before a second court, along with a list of other such cases. Surely they would pay for their trail of crimes this time?

Mary again stated that they had indeed sent for these goods and then pawned them, but, denied receiving the goods with any intention of fraud, “remarking the invoice sent in with the goods stated ‘accounts rendered every six months,’ and at the time they were too poor to meet the account.”

Due to lack of evidence, (apart from a string of pawn tickets in an assortment of names, and a fair number of complaints of their misdoings) the couple were found “not guilty” and released.

(Western Gazette 21 Dec 1888)

Even Weymouth’s famous swans made the news that December.


An article described how “The good people of Weymouth have tried to induce the swans to live in the open sea-in the bay.” But it appears that the feathered flock of around 300 had their own views on such matters.

Despite people feeding them on boiled Indian corn out in the bay to entice them away from their sheltered spot, they kept flying back to Radipole Lake. “They seem to dislike a strong wind” bemoaned one bewildered local.

(Bridport News 14th Dec)

Of course, with a bustling quayside, there’s always a bit of nautical news to be had “At Weymouth on Tuesday, eight seamen belonging to the British barque Mabel, who refused to go to sea on the ground that the vessel was unseaworthy, were each sentenced to 28 days hard labour”

Weymouth harbour

Not much of a Christmas for those fine fellows of the sea then!

(Western Chronicle Fri 14 Dec)

We might think that cruise ships arriving in port is a new phenomenon to this area…but not so.


In December of 1888 the magnificent Queen Marfisa steamed  into Weymouth. She was homeward bound for Southampton after having been on a Mediterranean cruise, one which took in 39 ports over a distance of 5183 miles,(having missed out Africa “on account of the time of the year.”) She had used 50lb of coal per mile steamed at an average speed of 9 knots.

The ships owner,  wealthy Mr George Beer, and his guests had set out from Southampton on May 16th on their epic voyage, calling in many ports along the way such as Gibraltar, Malaga, Valencia, Palma and Naples.

Well, here she was moored in Weymouth for a couple of days. I bet that gave the locals something to gawk at.

(Hants Advertiser 26 Dec)

And of course, what would Christmas be without a good old game of footie?

boys football

Christmas of 1888 saw a football match between Dorset v Devon.

The match for some obscure reason was held at Wareham, much to the disgust of the Devonians, who declared it as an absolutely “absurd place selected for the match.”

They complained that the Devon men had to travel up on the Friday and stop over for the weekend. Going on to point out that the Dorset team consisted of men all who came from the South of the county, and didn’t have to travel far.

In fact the majority of the Dorset team were soldiers from the West Kent Regiment who were stationed here at the time, what with footie being one of their favourite past times.

Kick off was at 3 o’clock.

Now, call me cynical, but from what I know of men and football and a the rare opportunity of a weekend away, it’s not normally something that they would complain about, but then just maybe it was a case of sour grapes because the final result was…

Dorset won 3-2!

We’ll round off with a completely un-Christmassy snippet.

Poor old Mrs Warren had been very busy doing her humungous pile of weekly washing, one which had been added to by visitors who had suddenly arrived unannounced for Christmas.


The  windows and door of her cosy little cottage in Hope Street were completely steamed up, so she decided it might be better if she opened them for a while.

“It might’n be the season of good will to all ee there men, but fo’ us women,” she muttered to herself as she went about her chores, “din’t have no good will season’s, ’tis nothing but work, work,work.”

Having passed the last of the wet linens through the old mangle and draped it over the wooden clothes horse, she moved it in front of the fire, where she hoped that some of it would dry before the day was out.

With that she left the room and settled down in her tiny kitchen to enjoy a quick tipple before she started on the bedroom upstairs.

Whilst she was sat sipping her snifter of sherry and ruminating the woes of women, a gentle breeze fluttered through the windows and front door, ruffling the clothes airing in the room. Then, horror upon horrors, one strong wayward gust saw Mrs Warren’s clothes horse with all her nice clean washing fall forwards onto the fire.

In the back room, the disgruntled housewife was still deep in thought, clutching her glass close to her ample bosom, she sat wondering what it would be like to have someone else to do all the work for you.


It wasn’t until cries of “Fire…fire” awoke this daydreaming dame, startling her from her flights of fancy.

“Heavens above…” she cried, “What’s to do? what do be going on out there?” all whilst rushing down the hallway towards the front door.

Mrs Warren suddenly realised that smoke was oozing from her front room, people were rushing to and fro outside her front door.

When she realised the fire was in HER house…panic set in.

But she needn’t have worried, help was at hand,”a man who was passing extinguished the conflagration by the aid of a few buckets of water.”

Even Weymouth police force arrived with their hose, albeit a bit  late, the fire was already out.

Poor old Mrs Warren woefully surveyed the damage to her front room, the burnt washing, the scorched fire surround and the sea soaked sodden floor.

She certainly wished she had someone else to do her work for her now.

(Western Gazette 28 Dec)

christmas party quiver 1865

I would like to wish one and all A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.


Enjoyed a bit of good old local gossip?

Well my book Nothe Fort and Beyond is now out, available to buy in the Nothe Fort Museum and the Weymouth Museum.

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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 .


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.


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.

quiver 1884

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…

Wyke House hotel. 1

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.


Enjoy reading gossip of old Weymouth and Melcombe Regis and its residents?

Why not read Nothe Fort and Beyond…it’s chocka with tales of residents past, soldiers goings on and their misdeeds and many an image.

Available on Amazon at £9.99

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Who’s a naughty boy then? Victorian prisoners, were they really all bad?.


The Prison Registers contain many intriguing stories within their yellowed  pages, and the faded elegant script tells us of our ancestors past lives.

They are just a tiny snapshot of their life’s story, but can reveal a great deal about the person or the family.

On the very last day of the year 1872, James Benfield, aged 20, was admitted to Dorchester prison.

The Prisoners admissions book gives us a few inklings of what he looked like, but tells us nothing about the man himself. For that you have to dig a little deeper.

James was a seaman, following in the age old family tradition. his Parents William and Mary Ann lived in Lower Lane at Chiswell, Portland which once lay behind the great Chesil Bank, the constant sounds of waves on pebbles his lullaby at night and wake up call in the mornings.


He was only a young lad, but one who had worked hard throughout his early life.

He first signed up to go to sea at the tender age of 13. On the 28th April 1866 James joined his father and brother on his first ever paid voyage as a ships boy on the vessel Myrtle,

it was owned by Weymouth businessman Henry Attwooll, the ship plied its trade between British ports, Portland, London, Hartlepool, Chatham….it was a good grounding for the young lad to learn the skills necessary to help keep him alive in what could be a dangerous job.

Over the years James worked his way up through the crew, and on many different boats that sailed from Weymouth or Portland. It was a life he knew well and lone he loved. Most of his friends and family in the Chiswell community were sea going folks or earnt their living from the sea. They spent time together on the sea, and most of it when back on dry land.


It was during one of those spells on ‘dry’ land that James and his young pals got themselves into a spot of bother. Their time on land wasn’t quite so ‘dry!’

One Thursday in 1872, James and three of his seagoing friends, John Anthony, Henry Peters and Benjamin Pearce had made their way to the Kings Arms Inn on Portland, they fancied wetting their whistles somewhat…only they didn’t just wet them, they almost drowned them! The four lads were more than slightly inebriated, they were rip roaring drunk, and obnoxious drunks at that.

They were physically picking up and shaking all the tables so that the glasses all fell off and smashed on the floor, they were making so much noise and commotion that the other customers in the pub were leaving in disgust. The landlord wasn’t at all happy, he demonstrated with the lads, and told them in no uncertain terms to leave…but they weren’t having any of it. They were enjoying themselves, no one was going to make them leave.

Then along comes Constable Loader, it was his turn to confront the young Victorian version of todays lager louts, he ordered them away to their homes or he would arrest them. Did they heed his warning, did they as heck! John anthony turned round and swung an almighty blow to the coppers face. Then all four lads literally bundled the poor fellow out of the pub and onto the ground outside, watched by a crowd of astonished and frightened women and children the lads proceeded to viciously assaulted the man, they hit him, kicked him as he lay prone on the ground. When more reinforcements  arrived, the lads took flight, they knew they were outnumbered.

But of course, Portland being such a tight knit community as it was, it didn’t take the police long to find the names of the four   miscreants, and they were fairly swiftly rounded up and removed to the local police station where they were locked up until it was time for them to appear before the magistrate.

boy jail

Hence, the 31st December1872 , James found himself, along with his fellow cell mates incarcerated in Dorchester prison for the vicious assault on the police officer, P.C. Loader, which had left him off work for a long time, he had suffered broken ribs and severe bruising all over his body.

John Anthony had got 4 months hard labour as he was considered the ring leader and the one who had struck the first blow, James and the other two lads fared slightly better, they only received three months hard labour.

As 20-year-old James was officially entered into the Prison Records book, his physical description is recorded for all eternity to witness in the far left hand column of the page.

He was described as 5ft 8 1/2 ins tall, had brown hair, dark grey eyes and a the sea going mans usual ruddy complexion. Distinguishing marks were a cut on the centre of his forehead and mole on the left side of his face near his right ear. It appears that his nose was fairly distinctive too…the tip turned up.

Was this the start of a life of crime for James, would this be the beginning of numerous trips in and out of courts and jail?

Not a bit of it.

He did appear in court again in 1880, but that was to summons another sea going Captain named  Smith of the Kingdon of Sweden barque for monies owed him as a pilot working in the local area.

James went on to become a well respected pilot,  in 1890 he was the Master on the Fox, working along side his brother John. The records show a list of the various vessels he skippered over the following years, eventually going on  to work at a steady job for Trinity House as a pilot.


By 1891 James is living in Queens Row over on Portland with his second wife Elizabeth and a stepdaughter, still doing the job he loved, working out at sea for Trinity house.

Sadly things had changed for James by the 1911 census, by then, aged 59, he has lost his wife and home and is living in the the Union Workhouse on Wyke Road, Weymouth. Far away from the sounds and constant views of his beloved sea that he had adored during his lifetime on Portland, though he is still listed as a pilot and seaman, so maybe he was still  able to work on the waters.

Here he died  on the  11th February 1935 at the ripe old age of 82.


History of Chiswell. http://www.chiswellcommunity.org/ccommunity/page.aspx


Some people though took slightly longer to learn the lesson that crime and bad behaviour doesn’t pay.

Such was the case of William John Bilke.

He was the son of William and Mary, a family that lived and worked in Wyke, Dad William was a a boot and shoe mender in the village.

William jnr had opted for a life working on the sea, he was one of the many Wyke  fisherman that plied their trade from the beach.

scattered seed fishermen 2

By the 1871 census William is still living at home with his Mum and sister Mary, his Dad had died and Mum was trying her best to keep the family going by running a carrier business.

But by next year, the  31st Dec 1872, 26-year-old William John Bilke found himself before the courts.

A family row had erupted at home in their little cottage in Wyke, and all over half a crown!

William and his mother had been arguing over the said sum of money, when suddenly William lashed out, hitting his mother. Hearing the awful commotion going on downstairs, his sister Mary raced down to see what was happening and witnessed the blow. Remonstrating with William for such an ungentlemanly act, she suddenly found herself on the receiving end of his wrath when he attacked her, hitting her about the head  with closed fists.

He was taken before the court, but because his family had dropped the charges against him, and it was his first appearance in court, the magistrate only gave him a short sentence, 14 days.

A couple of years later, 1875,  and William was back before the court again, this time for the theft of some bones!

According to the Prisoners Description book, William was a tall lad for the day, 5ft 10 3/4 ins, he had a mop of light brown hair, with dark grey eyes and a fair complexion. On the left side of his lips was an old  scar that looked like a dent, his left hand bore a scar that stretched right across the back of his fingers.

After that he seemed to have managed to keep out of trouble, well, at least from the police and the courts.

In 1881 William finally took the plunge, on the 28th April married  Eliza Hallett, a Somerset lass. But their wedded bliss wasn’t to last long.

wedding q 1877

On the 10th September 1883, aged just 38, Eliza passed away in the Union workhouse, we can only guess why when we look down through the burials for that time. On the opposite page to Eliza is another  death on the 2nd August, Elizabeth Bilke, this was a 4 day old girl, whose sad demise also took place in the Union workhouse.

William tries matrimony again later in 1889, on the  28th April William as a widower aged 46, tied the knot with Mary Frampton, who was also on her second marriage, she was aged 50, and another local born woman of Wyke Regis.


Aged just 50, on the 28th april 1893, death struck once more…William.


Age, or lack of,  was no barrier to being thrown into prison in the Victorian era…if you were found guilty, that was that.

raggedy boy

In 1873 a small lad stood in the dock, he could barely peer over the box, he was aged 10, but appeared to be much younger because of his diminutive stature. Maybe poverty had a role to play in that. He was only 3ft 6 ins tall, he had a fair complexion, sandy coloured hair and sad grey eyes that mirrored his wretched life. His body was too young and fresh to have accumulated those scars and markings that many of the older and more worldly wise men wore with such pride, but he was fairly distinctive because he lacked any hair whatsoever on the sides of his head.

Thomas Bartlett was stood before the judge for stealing a pair of boots in Weymouth.

For his sins he was committed to 1 months hard labour to be followed with 5 years in a reformatory school. Ironic as it may be, he more than likely would have had a better start to his life here.

In the Victorian era, Reformatory schools were fairly progressive in their thinking, the lads were taught self sufficiency, a variety of trades, they were educated, many going on the  a  life in the army or military.

boys at exercise

Maybe it just gave Thomas a chance in life……..



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.




Fun and games in Weymouth town, one long sip and we all fall down! ; 1883

Much like today, the Victorians had their fare share of petty criminals or well know characters around town, those that must just have made the local bobby shake their heads when they come across them yet again.

We might well think that bad behaviour and drunkenness in the streets is a new phenomenon, but believe you me it wasn’t!


This is just a couple of snippets from the  archives of 1883 from the Western Gazette.

The first concerns a certain lady who obviously had a somewhat colourful reputation around town.

Before the Weymouth courts was lady (use the term lightly here) known as Sarah Hansford, though the headlines of the piece referred to her as a “tartar.”

It appears that Sarah liked her drink…only problem was she became, shall we say, rather quarrelsome when in her cups.

Sarah was well known to the local police, and here she was again, up before the courts.

This time she had gone into the Brig Inn which was run by Charles Woodland. It also seems that Charles knew Sarah fairly well, he had thrown her out of his pub many a time, and had tried barring her, refusing to serve her, but this wasn’t going to stop Sarah!

On the day in question, she had  pushed her way into the bar and started to pick up the drinks of the customers and swilling them down her neck as fast as she could…admist a barrage of abuse from the regulars seeing their hard earnt pints vanishing  down someone else’s throat, the landlord, Charles, marched across the floor and tried to push her out of the bar.

Slowly wiping the beer froth from her lips, she turned and stared hard at Charles…he knew he was in trouble!

The bar had gone deathly quiet now, all eyes on the landlord and the “quarrelsome tartar.” Sarah picked up the glass she had been supping from and smashed it down hard on the table, the glass shattering completely, showering everyone with beer and shards of glass.

By now, Charles was liviid, he’d had enough of this argumentative hussy, she wasn’t doing his trade any good at all, grabbing her by the shoulders he  pushed and shoved the struggling Sarah  out of the door. 

Beside herself with rage, Sarah swearing like a trooper, swung round and shattered a pane of glass in the door. She wasn’t too pleased when the bobbies came to remove her either!


Arrested for umpteenth time, Sarah found herself sent to gaol to enjoy a brief spell of sobriety and 14 days hard labour.

Another female found herself dragged before the courts was Elizabeth Jacobs, who was described as an old woman ! In fact Elizabeth was only 57, she lived with her husband Joseph at no 3 Rolls Court, Weymouth, she had been found in the streets, drunk and incapable.

Someone else who obviously couldn’t manage her drink was Elizabeth Sibley, she too had been evicted from a public house for being drunk and abusive, this time by John Daniell who was the landlord of the Nelson Inn. Elizabeth claimed that “drink was driving her mad” She was sent to gaol for seven days.


Our next miscreant was a male, Mark Watts, who was otherwise known as “Garibaldi”

His crime?…He had gone to the local police station to ask for a ticket to the Workhouse for that night, only problem was he was stupid with drink, and it seemed to be a frequent little trick of his, stagger into the police station and ask for a ticket for a bed that night in the workhouse, but because he was drunk, they would pop him in the cells until next morning. Well, now the police were obviously getting fed up and decided enough was enough, and he was hauled before the courts. At which point he promised that this time he would go to the Workhouse…honest gov!


So the next time you wander through Weymouth streets at night, and tut and moan about the drunken state of todays youth just stop and think a moment…do you know what your ancestors were doing?


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.

Weymouth 1857; A heinous crime solved after 50 years.

I’m a great believer in karma, or what goes around, comes around, and that ultimately things will always work themselves out.

Such was the case of a heinous murder that took place in Weymouth during the late Georgian period.

This was an age when Weymouth was an up and coming, lively, gay resort, thanks to visiting Royalty and their entourage of high class followers. The hitherto workaday streets of our little town then bore witness to the rustling sounds of heavy silk  crinolines and the grandness of powdered wigs, coat tails and cravats.

flying kite

Though not quite everyone in Weymouth mixed in such salubrious circles!


Monday 7th May 1792.

“Extract of a letter from Weymouth, dated April 28;

“Thursday a young man, of the name Thomas Lloyd Morgan, and engraver, in company with one Hardy, a farmer, in the neighbourhood, after having spent the evening together, went to a house of ill-fame about eleven at night, and the next morning, about four, the unfortunate Morgan was found murdered on the bridge, with his skull terribly fractured, and many other marks of violence on his body. The coroners inquest brought in their verdict wilful murder by some person or persons unknown. Two women and  a man named Robert Thedham, belonging to the house above-mentioned, were immediately taken into custody, as likewise the farmer with whom he was in company; they were all committed to the county prison to take their trials at the ensuing assizes. Morgan was a native of Leominster, Herefordshire, where he has parents now living in respectable circumstances.”

At the time, this brutal murder brought fear and suspicion into the heart of the local community…who could commit such a deadly deed, were they walking among the streets right now, could it even be a friend or neighbour?

Thomas’s battered and broken body had been found callously dumped by the side of the old wooden town bridge, on the Melcombe Regis side of the harbour, tightly wrapped in a linen sheet.

His grisly remains were discovered by a passing workman, who in the early morning gloom spotted a motionless shape in its makeshift shroud. Curiosity aroused, he cautiously pulled back the edges, only, he wished he hadn’t…revealed was a revolting sight, a bloodied skull staring up at him, one that was almost unrecognisable as human.

As the sun slowly rose in the sky, the soft morning light began to reveal a tell-tale trail of dried blood that led those investigating the murder back over the town bridge and into the old High Street, ending up  near Boot-Lane.

In fact it led them straight to the door of a notorious house of ill repute.

Those persons found inside the den of iniquity were rounded up and transported to the gaol awaiting trial.

Despite the obvious trail of blood from their residence to the discovered body, frustratingly, the lack of any evidence of their actual involvement in the crime meant no one was ever charged with the brutal slaughter of the chap, though not surprisingly, gossip abound for years to follow.

That was until the year 1857, when an old women who lay on her deathbed bared her soul as she prepared to meet her maker. Having carried the knowledge  of her role in the crime for nigh on all her adult life, she finally confessed to her part in the dark deed.

por people house

As she laid nearing death, the words tumbled forth, revealing at last the answers to a 50 year old mystery.

It seems that young Thomas was in town, he was also on the look out for a good time. Accompanied by Hardy, a farmer from Chickerell, the pair made their way to that iniquitous den for an evenings entertainment.

But things that night had gone wrong…horribly wrong.

Fuelled by drink, a fierce argument broke out between in the dwelling between its occupents, and it seems that during this full on fray Thomas received the devastating and fatal blows to his skull.

Realising the seriousness of what had just happened, that they had murdered the young lad, plans were hastily made by the others to dispose of his bloody body. First wrapping it tightly in a linen sheet, under the cover of darkness they stealthily carried it out through the door and loaded it onto the back of Hardy’s horse which was tied up outside.

The guilty parties and their horse with its gruesome bundle  made their way down through the shadowy streets and over the town bridge. Their original plan had been to dispose of the body in the harbour on the Melcombe side, to deflect any suspicion from themselves.

Fate intervened though, in the stillness of the pitch black night, as man, horse and corpse crossed the bridge, they suddenly heard voices  coming from somewhere close by. The group drew to a sudden halt, they panicked, not wanting to be found with their deadly deeds of wrong doings, Thomas’s body was dragged off the horses back and dropped right where they stood, at the end of the bridge.

Beating a hasty retreat to the original scene of the crime they huddled inside the hovel, hurriedly concocting their alibis ready should anyone come knocking, little realising that in the darkness they had left an incriminating trail right back to their very door!

Farmer Hardy had indeed been questioned at the time about the murder, but he had a sound alibi for when it was supposed to have taken place.

During the death-bed confession, even that was revealed for what it was, a clever ruse by a desperate man.

Once all guilty parties had agreed on their stories, Hardy returned home, and on entering his house he simply altered the clock, turning it back by a couple of hours. After retiring to his bedroom, he then summonsed his servant, ordering them to go and check the time for him.

When he appeared before the magistrates, it was pointed out that he couldn’t have possibly been there at the time.

He had the perfect alibi!

As Priscilla Guppy, who was well over the age of 90 by the time of her imminent passing, lay back on her death-bed in the Union Workhouse, she appealed to the Lord God to save her soul, to forgive her for those terrible sins that she had carried with her all her life.

Old Priscilla was the very last survivor of the guilty group that had committed this heinous murder.

She told of how she had mercilessly beat young Thomas over his head with a flat piece of iron, battered him to death. How even as she stood before the bar of justice accused of his very murder, concealed within the filthy, bug infested tangle of her matted hair was the dead mans watch and chain.

She told of how Hardy had become a changed man, the dark deed had made his heart heavy, never again was he happy in his life.

It was even claimed that his trusty horse who had been tasked with carrying the bloodied body to its final resting place on that dark night could never be made to go near the house of ill repute ever again.

letter Civic Society. 1

And what became of the remains of young Thomas Lloyd Morgan?

He was buried in St Mary’s Church yard, and his tomb bore the inscription

“This stone was erected by Public Subscription in remembrance of the cruel murder committed on the body of Lloyd Morgan , who lies here, on the 27th April, aged 22.

Here mingling with my fellow clay,

I wait the awful judgement day,

And there my murderer shall appear,

Although escaped from justice here.”


Maybe Priscilla had read those words many times and thought on to that meeting!

Her mortal remains were laid to rest on the 19th November 1857 in  Wyke Regis churchyard.

letter Civic Society.

As for her soul?…


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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.


Related articles

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.


Related articles

1867; Danger in Portland quarries.

The quarries on Portland are world renown.


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

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

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

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

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

Frederick was a  good old Essex lad.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


The lad was soon put to work in the quarries.

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

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

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

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

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


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

1897; Smugglers on the Great Western Channel Steamer the Ibex.

Weymouth has enjoyed trade with the Channel islands for many decades.

Ships have been plying their trade between the three ports, Weymouth, Jersey, and Gurnsey ever since the the end of the 18thc, transferring anything and everything from tomatoes, potatoes, cut flowers, passengers…oh,  and of course illegal goods!


Many a ships crew member was thwarted in their attempt to earn a bit on the side by smuggling contraband into Weymouth port. Numerous cases of smuggling charges litter the pages of the local papers down through the centuries as crew man tried to outwit Customs officers.

Sometimes they succeeded (those are the ones we don’t know or hear about) but many times the Customs officers were there and waiting!

Such was one case in March of 1897.

The Great Western Channel Steamer, the  Ibex had come into port one Wednesday evening, returning from their voyage to the channel islands.


On board were two crew members, both employed as firemen.

John Honeybon, a 39 year-old Weymouth  man, he was married to Alice, and the family lived at 27, Spring gardens. He was a long serving crew member for the Great Western Steamer Company having sailed on the Aquila, Empress, Victoria and of course, for him, the ill fated Ibex.

The second miscreant crew member was  28 year-old Philip Francis Le Sueuer, a native of Jersey, who had eventually made his home here in Weymouth. he was married to Josephine, (also from Jersey) and they lived at 5 Mountjoy terrace on Chickerell Road with their family.

Having had a tip off, waiting for the boat to dock that evening was 31 year-old Edward Tizard, officer of Customs. Edward lived with his wife Rosa and their family in the terraced house at no. 11 Hope street, from his windows Edward could keep a close eye on the coming and goings of the Channel boats, and the men who worked them.

Working with Edward that night was Patrick Cummins, a 27 year-old fellow officer of Customs.

Once the boat had docked alongside the quay, the 2 Customs officers boarded her, they managed to conceal them selves in the stoke hole, just waiting for their prey to arrive.


And arrive they did…John and Philip, completely unaware of the hidden officers, crept into the black, confined space with their torch and began to feel their way towards the contraband.

Whispering, lest they should be discovered, Philip said softly to John to “get the stuff out”, saying “You get it , and I will keep a look out.” But all the whispering in the world wasn’t going to help them!

As the packets were being stealthily pulled from their hideaway, the 2 officers sprang seemingly out of nowhere…

Patrick managed to grab hold of 3 of the packets of tobacco, an enraged Philip charged him, knocking him completely off his feet, landing rather unceremoniously onto the heap of black coal. Philip Leseuer then managed to throw one of the packets into the blazing boiler, completely destroying the evidence. By now Patrick had wrestled Philip onto the floor, and for a good ten minutes the men struggled one trying to over power the other. Eventually Patrick agreed to get up, and come quietly, he’d had enough!

Edward was having his own battle with John, the other smuggler, like his accomplice, he was desperately trying to throw the goods into the furnace, but Customs officer Edward was having none of it…he kept pushing the door to, only problem was, it was hot, very hot!, burning both his hands.

Finally having overcome both men, when the realisation that they were done for, and not going to escape they gave up the fight, and were handed over to the local P.C. Loveless.

Both men were tried in the Weymouth courts for smuggling, with the bench warning them that it was a serious crime, the maximum they could get was £100 fine or 6 months in prison.

What they actually got was a fine of £5  or 2 months imprisonment if it wasn’t paid!

That of course wasn’t to be the last case of smuggling heard in Weymouth’s courts by a long shot…it’s gone on for centuries, as it always will. As long as boats arrive on our coast, someone, somewhere will try to smuggle something in or out… that the nature of the beast!



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.