Victorian St Nicholas Street: Weymouth

Numerous narrow streets  tuck themselves away in and around Weymouth town.

Ones that we often don’t pay much attention to.

Maybe sometimes  travelling their length merely to  avoid any excess holiday traffic or that proliferation of poodling summertimepedestrians.

They are merely a  means of getting from A to B as quickly as possible, never a place to stop and admire  the few remains of their once historic and elaborate architecture.


One of those is St Nicholas Street which runs from the Sailor’s Return on the harbourside down to where the White Hart still stands.

Weymouth, or Melcome Regis to be precise was built on a Medieval grid, which still exists to the present day..


      (MAP 1901)

Sadly though, nowadays St Nicholas Street is a mere shadow of it’s former self.

Very little remains of any original buildings, much of this area having been cleared of it’s intimate closes, terraced houses and even a compact burial ground.

This area has been continually razed and redeveloped over the years, not least by the Germans in a devastating air raid in April 1942.

However, I have many memories of wandering down here as a child on my way to a Saturday date with my hairy four legged friends.

First I would pass  great steel rolling doors from whence strange sounds would echo. (Sorry…pun intended!) These doors concealed the back of the chamber like Echo printing room. When they were rolled open you could stand and watch as the massive rolls of paper tumbled, rumbled and rattled their way through the press, the aroma of hot ink and paper wafting through the air.


Further down towards the harbour stood the remains of an old archway, once a grand entrance to Weymouth’s New Concert Hall and theatre.

There it stood, a few eroded bricks and carved stones.

Towards its end, it was forlornly propped up with two timbers, stood at the edge of what is now the bowling car park.

It’s crumbling ruins merely hinting at it’s former glitzy life.


Sadly, even that last theatrical portal was demolished, and now those passing it’s long since buried foundations have no inkling that great gaiety and comedic capers once took place within it’s stone walls.

Fine dandies and gaily dressed ladies alighted their carriages to cross its threshold, arriving in excitement to watch the latest productions, or as one of Weymouth’s older resident’s once described it as ‘ many of the performances given were of the blood and thunder type…’

A few paces more and on the right hand side we arrived at a large set of heavy wooden doors, only that sweet aroma of dung that pervaded the delicate nostrils gave a clue as to what delicious delights lay inside…stables, run by Joyce Pitman.


From here we would emerge with our mounts, clatter and chatter our way through the busy streets towards the beach where horse and rider could enjoy a canter along the firm sands as the tide went out.

In all probability these stables were left  over from the Victorian era, maybe the Crown Hotel opposite, or one of the other hostelries that dotted this street, complete with resident ostlers to look after horse and carriage.

But now step even further, back in time, to the 19th century and you’ll find that old St Nicholas Street was once a hive of activity…positively buzzing with  punters and patrons, saucy sailors and sexy sinners.

This narrow, twisty street certainly witnessed life in all its glory.

To add a bit of confusion to the matter there were actually two St Nicholas Streets, one in old Weymouth leading up to St Nicholas church atop the hill and this one on Melcombe Regis side.

This often flummoxed those who visited  our Victorian ancestors. Weymouth’s St Nicholas Street was renamed Chapelhay Street in 1872. (The Bumper Book Of Weymouth; Maureen Attwooll.)

Now lets take a little peek at St Nicholas Street of old Melcombe Regis starting around the 1860’s,  lets see who’s about this busy thoroughfare.

(The Victorian house numbers no longer relate to todays.)

During the second half of the 19th century you can find mention of five public houses  at this end of the street, their closeness to the bustling quayside made it ideal for thirsty workers and sailors to pop in for light, (or maybe not so light) liquid refreshments.


Literally at the harbour edge (no 56) stood the Sailor’s Return, (as it still stands, maybe not now quite so close to the edge).

Mine hosts in 1861 were James and Sarah Ferry with their assorted offspring and a couple of lodgers.

The Ferry household had lived in St Nicholas Street for most of their married lives. James started out work as a wheelwright, but by 1842 the couple were running the Sailor’s Return.  (Pigot’s Directory 1842) which was a mere beer house at the time, meaning they weren’t licensed to sell spirits of any sorts.

In later years, 1872, James and his fellow publicans made an application to the Licensing Board to be able to remain open until 12 midnight. They claimed that because of the late arrival of the boat trains and the ‘inconvenience to which members of the friendly societies who held their meetings at the Inns were subjected to in being obliged to quit the houses before they had transacted all their business.’ they were in unfair competitions with those club-houses who didn’t come under such strict licensing laws.

Their plea fell on deaf ears…the Bench were going to stick firmly to the letter of the Law, though I suspect that the after hours drinking still went on, just behind locked doors.

By 1875 James had left the pub and lived further down the street with his son, by now  a widow.


Move on up to no 42, here you’d find the Welcome Home, which in 1859 was under the ownership of James Flower a brewer and beer seller. A man who ultimately became one of fairly considerable wealth.(1859 Post Office Directory.)

During the Victorian era the Government tried to curb the problem of excess drinking of spirits and in their infinite wisdom deemed it would solve matters if Joe Bloggs could pay a small license fee, enabling him to brew beer and sell it literally from his own front room.

Surely, these oh so wise leaders of ours thought, it would encourage the poor working class folk to only drink the weaker beer and leave the spirits alone.

(Think that was another grand scheme that didn’t quite pan out…a bit like today’s 24 hour licensing!)

Wily old James Flower’s brewing operation went from strength to strength, ultimately he became known as a brewer and  gave up running the small time operation from his home.

By 1861, taking over the Welcome Home beer house, was  John Gillingham along with his wife Eliza and their daughter, 18 year old Sarah.

Only a few years earlier, 1856, the Gillingham family had suffered a terrible tragedy.

John, a whitesmith by trade, had been enjoying some free time with Eliza and 12-year-old Sarah. they were bobbing about in a boat on the Backwater.


John, also taking this opportunity to partake in a spot of sport,  carried with him his loaded fowling piece. He had just pulled into the side of the lake to allow Eliza and Sarah to clamber out of the boat.

That’s when disaster struck.

Somehow, the loaded gun resting in the bottom suddenly discharged its contents. Unfortunately young Sarah stood next to the boat received its full blast at close range.

The local papers, relishing such gruesome details, declared that her life was in imminent danger, describing how her  flesh lay tattered and the bones in her arm totally shattered. 

Sarah survived, but unfortunately her arm did not.

In the end it had to be amputated.

Interestingly, the 1861 census shows 18-year-old Sarah living at the Welcome Home along with her parents, where she is listed as being a student.

A student of what I wonder?

Toddle along to no 46, here stood the Fox Inn run by Henry and Mary Hayman and their veritable brood.

Also living on the premises were a couple of servants, Alfred Whittle, an ostler, and a few boarders,  including a couple of licensed hawkers, (travelling salesmen as we knew them in my day.)

Good old Henry was seemingly a ‘veteran sportsman’ as reported in the Frome Times of May 1861, he supplied the pigeons for a ‘pigeon match’ (what ever that was, one suspects it wasn’t much of a sporting event for the poor pigeons) which took place in the Small Field near the Gas House.

The Haymen family were also to play a role in a tragic accident in 1866.

A certain well to do Mr Scattergood had recently brought a new thoroughbred horse from Mr Hurdle, but that horse came with a serious warning.

‘It was a kicker.’

He was told in no uncertain terms to ‘Never use the horse without a breeching strap and kicking harness’.

After pondering a while and concerned that maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to sell on this somewhat feisty horse, Hurdle even suggested he took it back again.

Scattergood was having none of it. It was a fine looking beast, a spirited nag and he wanted it.

A couple of days later Scattergood made his way along St Nicholas Street, heading for the Fox Inn. Over a few drinks at the bar, an agreement was made with  landlord Henry Hayman, he would borrow Henry’s dog cart.

When Scattergood set out next day in horse and cart, sat along side him was Henry’s son, ten-year-old Charles


Unfortunately Scattergood had completely ignoring Hurdle’s warning words about harnessing his frisky equine fellow.

Big mistake!

Stopping at the Ferry Bridge Inn for a few bevvies, the rather proud owner of his fine new filly, bumped into local baker, Thomas Hann, the two men returned inside to continue their drinking.

Young Charles was left stood outside in charge of the horse and cart.

Later, the two men exited the drinking hole, they agreed to ‘travel’ on to Portland together.

Once man, horse and cart had pulled out onto Chesil Beach road, Scattergood turned round and hollered to the following baker. According to his passenger, little Charles, he  shouted ‘Come on I’ll show you the way to gallop.’ With that he whipped his horse which took off down the road as if the very devil was after it.

With ears laid back and the bit literally between its teeth, there was no stopping it.

Scattergood tried desperately  pulling on the reins, but to little avail. Hooves thundered, wooden wheels spun, grit and pebbles flew.  A terrified Charles was hanging on to the carts sides for grim death.

Galloping unchecked into Victoria Square, disaster was only seconds away.

Then the inevitable happened, horse, cart and passengers teetered to one side. On feeling the pressure of the cart’s shaft against her flank, the already panicked horse reared in fright, toppling over one and all.

A mass of shattered wood, stripped skin and broken limbs scattered the square.

Scattergood had paid a high price for his filly in fine fettle.

His own death.

Thankfully, though thoroughly battered and bruised, young Charles survived to tell his tale.

Also appearing before the inquest court was baker Hann. He insisted that no wager had been at the pub that day over their beers, that they honestly hadn’t been pitting horse against horse by racing along Chesil Beach Road.


Now, The Fox Inn must have been a sizeable premise because at the end of 1861, a bankruptcy sale took place in the Fox Inn Yard. It was large enough to contain 30 odd cart horses, a few  more nags,an assortment of carts and carriages, a couple of cows, and lots of odds and sods…


…all the worldly effects of one Henry Lowman Dennis, a local carrier who has seized the opportunity of contracting for the Government breakwater works in hopes that it would make their fortune.

It didn’t !

Henry’s son, Joseph, makes a plea in the courts that the cows seized as his father’s chattels and which were up for sale, were in fact his, he had paid for them, not his father.

Maybe he won his claim, because by 1863 it was reported in the Dorset County Chronicle that a Richard Dench had been apprehended on the town bridge with a bag slung over his shoulder. In it it were a number of items that were later found to be missing from the stores of butcher,  Lowman of St Nicholas Street.


Arriving at no 51, here stood the Crown Tap, a small bar room tucked away around the back of the grand Crown Hotel premises. This was run by 51-year-old John Jeanes and his wife Harriet.

By 1867 John and Harriet had become mine hosts of the Bird-in-Hand, which was in fact the newly refurbished Crown Tap.

A couple of years earlier, in 1865, they had applied for and were granted a spirits license. The happy couple had been rubbing their hands with glee, they had realised they were sitting on a positive gold mine.

Their hostelry was situated very near the Methodist Congregational Chapel (in between no’s 61 and 62) opposite.

Lucky for them, come 1865 and no longer did the pious and holy  (and in all probability tee-total) enter these portals, instead it was more the merry and those looking for a spot of fun and lively entertainment.

It had became the Theatre Royal or sometimes referred to as the New Music Hall.


(Weymouth Library have a fantastic collection of genuine advertising bills for the old theatres, going right back to George III’s time.)

The Theatre Royal of Monday October 7th 1867 proudly boasts of a ‘Laughable Farce’ revealing a tragic love story concerning ‘Weymouth Sands.’

It pronounces Mr Rosiere as playing the character of jolly old Adolphus Pilkington.

Beautiful but somewhat dippy Carnation Curlycrop was of course played by non other than a male actor.  Mr Harrowby would don his voluminous fashionable gowns, slap on his gaudy stage make up, pull on his luxurious curly wig, and enter stage left to a rapturous applause from the expectant audience.

The theatre played host to national and international actors and singers, musicians and comedians, it provided entertainment for everyone and seats at prices to suit all.


The theatre also kindly informs its patrons that ‘their carriages may be ordered at 10.30.’

Oh to be able to witness those grand carriages arriving in line, the sound of their horse’s impatient hooves echoing  between the buildings, that chomping of the bit as they stand and wait, the creak of the carriage springs as their posh portly patrons  clamber aboard.

The theatre continued up until 1888, when it finally shut it’s doors and was taken over by Cosens & Co.


The goldmine of the grape, the Bird-in Hand, seemingly flourished until March of 1876 when frequent adverts began appearing  in the papers for potential tenants for the ‘newly erected beerhouse known as The Bird-In-Hand’ which  was only up for rent because of ‘illness of the tenant.’

A little later in time and the local papers and census of 1871 also refer to a Greyhound Inn of St Nicholas Street, run by George Cox Forse and his wife Mary Ann.

(Though Maureen Attwooll in her book refers to it as in St Thomas Street.)

Maybe like the Crown further down the road, the building went through from one street to the other, had two separate entrances and two separate bars? Perhaps the toffs sauntered in via St Thomas Street and the working man slunk in through the back door.

Gregarious landlord George certainly seemed a character and was no stranger to appearing before the bench.

Before taking over the Greyhound Inn the couple ran the Royal Engineers Beershop in Prospect Place. Many a time George appeared before the magistrate for various licensing charges, normally due to selling beer ‘during prohibited hours’

At the start of 1868, George was once again hauled before the court, this time fined for selling spirits without a license.

On Christmas Day in 1868, it was wife Mary Ann who found herself in trouble. For once she was on the right side of the law, that afternoon she was faced with a more than somewhat inebriated customer, Joseph Bressedd, a pioneer of the 51st regiment who’d staggered down from the Red Barracks.

Fearing trouble was on the cards, Mary Ann refused to serve him drink.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t go down too well with  a well oiled Joseph.

First he lashed out at Mary Ann, then still not content, the pickled pioneer began picking up patron’s drinks, necking back their contents and  smashing the glasses on the floor.

Things got no better at the Greyhound!

Another somewhat seemingly nefarious character took over the running of the Greyhound Inn. 

Sure did sound a lively spot.

But am I doing the poor fellow a disservice?

On January 3rd 1876 this report appeared in the Police Gazette.


I have yet to find proof of a William Baggs as landlord of the Greyhound Inn at any time, despite looking through Ancestry records, Historical Directories and the British Newspapers online, nor any mention of a court case that matches exactly these details.

I cannot even work out which William Baggs this would have been, there are a few tenuous links, but no proof…so there I’ll have to leave it, not wanting to cast aspersions on some innocent fellow.

Maybe one of my followers who enjoys a right old mystery would like to get their teeth into this one.

Fill your boots!


(Found this quaint old relic on one of the back walls…can’t you just picture a Victorian coachman hopping down off his carriage to ring for M’Lady.)


If you’ve enjoyed a spot of good old Victorian Weymouth tittle tattle why not grab a copy of my book Nothe Fort and Beyond. It’s full of gossip about the military men and their doings in the town.

There’s lots of local families mentioned and loads of their misdeeds and misfortunes.

It is now available from the Nothe Fort Museum and the Weymouth Museum

Nothe fort and Beyond 261 KB

Also available on Amazon at £9.99.


Lennox Street; 1915

Taken from the Weymouth website that covers the Park district.

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

Weymouth’s harbour area; Brewers Quay

If there’s one area that I love to mooch around  in Weymouth, it is the area around a spot named Brewer’s Quay for rather obvious reasons, if properly named, it’s Hope Square.

This area has a lot of history, not least that it was where the breweries in the past chucked out that distinctive cooked hops aroma from their tall chimneys..It is said that brewing had taken place in this area in one form or another ever since 1252.


The large Devenish Brewery buildings  once housed the workers who saw to the fermentation process, many living in the small houses and cottages that surround the area.


Once its life as a brewery was finished in 1985, it became an indoor shopping area, and the Time-walk, one of Weymouth’s top attractions for tourists, and the local museum. you could even have a tour of the old brewing areas, see an old steam engine working, gaze at the gleaming vats that once held the liquid gold.

Then some bright spark decided that it was ripe for development in time for the 2012 Sailing Olympics…all the businesses were turfed out, Time Walk and Museum shut…and that was that!

During the Olympics, when visitors flocked to this area on their way up to the Nothe, this big edifice stood empty and very much deserted!


But the pubs and restaurants around the square filled the area with tables and chairs, music and song, dancing and jiving, the area came alive again…


The old brewery has been opened again now, filled with antique shops, bric a brac centres and crafts, it’s lovely for a mooch on a cold Sunday’s afternoon, and a spot of lunch in one of the numerous surrounding eateries.


We’re still waiting for the museum to be relocated back there…how on earth can a town like Weymouth, with so much history be without a museum? It’s complete madness!


Across the way was the Groves Brewery, this too no longer serves its original purpose, now it houses people in their luxury apartments.


Take a meander to the other side of the square, just behind the Devenish buildings is the old stable blocks where the great dray horses were kept. They would plod along the streets, carts packed with the giant wooden kegs that were ready to be dropped down the hatches that opened up in the ground to the cellars below the pubs. Always a fearsome sight to a small child, the heat and strange smells that rose from these black holes in the pavements always whispered of evil spirits and dark places where children could be locked away…


Now instead of hooves on cobbles and  sweet smelling straw in mangers,  they contain holiday lets and sweet dreams of lazy sunny days to be enjoyed.


How I long to raise my face skyward and smell that strange but sweet and sickly smell again…


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

1838; Shipwreck at Osmington, smugglers and coastguard men.

Life at sea has always been hazardous, natures fickle whims, and mans unpredictability has always caused dramas and deaths.

For those whose livelihoods depended on the sea, and those who relied on the open water as their means of transport, they literally took their life in their hands every time they entered a boat.

Nowadays we have the luxury of the Lifeboat services, still entirely voluntary….but with the benefits of super fast technology and engineering, lives are saved. However, before the voluntary service was started, there were still men prepared to risk their lives to save others, people who they had never met, never knew, it didn’t matter, someone was in trouble, and without a thought for their own safety they would endeavour to save some poor soul from the deep grave.

History tends to portray people as black or white, whereas the the reality is somewhere in between, good people do bad things and bad people do good things. Such is the following story from the papers of 1838 concerning a certain notorious local family from Osmington mills (check out the links below to view the past history of their families exploits)

Way back through history Britain has had to defend her shores, from invaders, marauders, and of course, the ever present  smugglers.

In 1831 The Coastguard Service was set up, an amalgamation of various services that were used to watch our shores, at this stage it employed 6,700 men.


Stations were set up around the coastline, which included housing for the men of the service, they would be commanded by an Officer, ex-Navy. what’s more these men would be frequently moved from posting to posting, it did no good for them to become friendly with the locals, the very people that they were supposed to be watching out for while indulging in their illicit past times of smuggling.

Tradition was that no love was lost between the revenue men and the locals, one side trying to out thwart the other, but when needs must , they pulled together.

A coastguard station sat at the cliff edge of Osmington Mills, and in 1838 it was under the command of Lieut. Inskip.R.N, working under him were Robert Lambard, Jason Grainger and William Hall among others.

On Saturday, the 28th april two fishermen from Kimmeridge, just along the coast had sailed over to the fishing port of Weymouth to purchase some items, mostly gear for their trade. Later that evening, about 8 0’clock, they set off in the boat for home. The weather had picked up by then, the wind was approaching gale force,  whipping the sea up across the bay.

As the two fisherman made their way back towards Kimmeridge, they found themselves being pushed uncontrollably by the strong tide and high winds perilously close towards the crashing waves on the rocky shore at Osmington Mills, they were in serious trouble, unable to control their boat and heading for disaster.

One of the coastguard men who was stood on watch that stormy evening spotted the struggling men and called for assistance. A boat was quickly launched from the shore and headed out through the surf towards the stricken vessel.


Four more local men  that evening also watched the dire plight of the fishermen unfolding. Realising the the coastguard men needed help, and without a thought for their own lives, they climbed onto the rocky shore under the cliffs amidst the swell of the waves, then waded out into the raging water taking with them ropes and equipment towards the damaged the struggling men and, by now, sinking boat.

Between the coastguards and the locals they finally managed to drag one of the men to safety, but the other had become so enmeshed in the lines on their boat nothing could be done for him, his body went down with the wreck.

Those 4 local men were 57 year old Emanuel Charles, landlord of the local Inn, now more aptly named Smugglers Inn , he was supposedly the leader of the smugglers along this stretch of the the coast. Only a couple of years previous he had been charged with assault on a coastguard. (check out the links below to read the long and fascinating history of this family)

Henry Charles, his 20 year old son, James Charles, another member of this notorious family, who had also come before the courts, this time for theft, and Rob Seward, a cousin who was well and truly woven into the family firm of illicit trade, two of the Seward family members jailed the year previous for smuggling..

So despite their hated and distrust for each other, when another human being was in trouble, neither side thought twice about risking their lives to help one another.

It appears that even the jury who sat at the inquest were so impressed with the 4 local mens actions, that they donated their fees to them.


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.

************************************************************************************************************************************** (Osmington Mills history including the Charles family involvement with smuggling)  (More history of the Charles family and their exploits on the excellent site) (brief history of the coastguard service)

1886; Guy Fawkes night on Portland leads to riots!

The forbidding Verne citadel stands atop of Portland, built originally as part of Lord Palmerston’s coastal defences. Nowadays it hold prisoners serving their sentence for crimes to the community, but in the Victorian era it contained the might  of the military.


The soldier’s billeted within those strong walls came and went, some companies had better reputations than others, some were downright lethal!

In November of 1886, the 1st Dorset were based in the fort. Normally not a problem, but their ranks had recently been greatly swelled by means of a recruiting drive, attracting men who wanted to take the Kings(or rather Queens) shilling. Now the army in those days was renown for not always attracting the best of characters, many of the men who joined, joined for all the wrong reasons, getting away from family, capture by police, or as a means of escaping poverty and a life of crime from slum areas. Such was the case with a group of men that had recently joined the Dorset’s, they were charmingly referred to as ‘London roughs.’

One Monday night in November, as was usual the Portland folk held their annual Guy Fawkes carnival. A light hearted event, enjoyed by young and old alike, a chance for a some gentle fun and much needed relief from every day worries, perhaps a tad of mischief thrown in the mix by  youngsters.Image

This year was to be very different!

Events took a sinister turn…

A number of the soldiers from the Verne had turned up to watch the procession wind its way up through the streets, but some of them had more than a bit of mischief in mind. They loosened their stiff belts and started whipping the folks walking in the parade.

The Portlanders let this go…but resentment was simmering on the island.

A couple of nights later a group of soldiers entered a pub on the island where they came across some of the local lads who were still smarting from the disrespect their island folk had been shown at the parade. Inevitably a fight broke out between the two groups. This animosity spilled over between locals and soldiers over the next couple of days, scuffles would break out when ever the two fractions met in the street.

That was, until one fateful evening later that week.

A mob of about 200 of the unruly soldiers made their way to the Heights, and from here they took possession of the road. Pelting any  locals who dared to pass by with stones and rocks.

Word was sent to the Verne of the marauding soldiers escapades, and a piquet was gathered to deal with the serious situation. Only problem was, it made matters worse!

As the column of men came down the incline, marched at the double,  many of the younger ones broke rank, and charged down the hill brandishing their bayonets at anyone who happened to be passing by. The out of control mob then went on the rampage, breaking doors and windows as they went.

Next night life on the island was no better, the rioting began yet again. This time the wayward soldiers turned their attention to the local blacksmith’s shop, smashing his premises to smithereens. The womenfolk feared for their very safety. By now many of the enraged Portland men had gathered to put a stop to the out of control soldiers, incensed that ordinary folk, their friends and family,  were too scared to venture forth.

As the renegade soldiers realised that the hardy Portland men were on the prowl, out for their blood, they  tried to sneak round the back of Easton square, but not without leaving their trail of destruction and hurt behind as they retreated towards the safety of their barracks. Any lone males they encountered they attacked…careful not to engage any groups. That was, until they neared the Verne itself, here they found themselves confronted by a group of ‘lusty young Portlanders’ waiting for them.

Revenge was so sweet!

As the soldiers received their just deserts at the hands of the islanders, their howls of pain rent the air, bringing  from the Fort a rescue party, with a view to reining the brawling men in. Blocking the road, barring the Portlanders route to the retreating soldiers, the islanders were incensed…they hadn’t extracted their revenge yet. Trying to push their way through the solid line of men straddling the road, they were to face the wrath of the military, many ending up with bayonet wounds for their troubles.

Fearing further troubles on the island between the two fractious groups, the men were confined inside  the barracks.

it was decided that removal of the Dorset’s altogether was the only safe option, and the only way that life could return to normal on the island.

Image (pictures of the Verne as a fort)


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

1896; Tragedy at Upwey mill, Weymouth.

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

As you drive into the meandering village, the houses and buildings nestle themselves down into a  wooded valley, and in the middle of this is where the tall building of the Upwey mill sits, fed by the river Wey which springs out of the ground a little further up the valley at the famous Upwey Wishing Well.


The stone mill was originally constructed in 1802, replacing an earlier building that was listed in the  records. It is also claimed that this mill is the one that famous local author, Thomas Hardy wrote about in his novel The Trumpet Major.

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

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

The mill was a busy place then. Owned by local man Alfred Loveless, and in his employ was 40 year old Robert Scutt, a  miller who had been born in Sutton Poyntz, a village on the other side of Weymouth. Robert and his wife Hannah moved to Upwey when Robert obtained a job working for Alfred, they lived with their family in one of the cottages in Elwell Street.

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


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

The two lads climbed the rickety wooden stairs up to the third floor, noise and dust echoed around the room, they could hear the  huge water wheel turning the giant cogs and machinery, water splashing and churning below. Curiosity getting the better of little George he stood on tiptoe and peered over the boards to the rapidly revolving wheel below. Pulling himself up on the boards to get a better view, he teetered for a moment on the edge, then loosing his balance, his body pitched head first down towards the wheel pit. His friend Harry just stood in shocked silence at first…then in fear for his friends life he ran down the stairs as fast as he could to get help.

George’s father, Robert was stood down below in the yard at the time, when the wheel suddenly ceased to work…all very odd. He hastily raced into the mill, and headed for the stairs, worried which piece of the machinery had failed to stop the wheel working like that.

Here he met a hysterical Harry, who managed to tell him of the horrific disaster had happened to his son. Robert raced up those stairs and peered frantically over the boards, what met his eyes was a parents worst nightmare, below was the mangled remains of his son jammed in the giant wheel.

Shouting in desperation to the other men out in the yard to ‘stop the water…stop the water’!

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

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

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

He describes how George’s body was laid on the mill floor, his intestines spread out across the area. He only had one arm still attached to his torso, the other dismembered limbs lay scattered around.

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

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

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


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

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


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.

************************************************************************************************************************************** (Upwey Local History) (The Dorset Page) (Dorset OPC. Broadway and Upwey)

Weymouth 1873; Rub a dub dub, 3 men (not) in a tub….

Well, o.k. maybe the title is a bit lighthearted for such a tragedy, but when I read that it allegedly concerned 3 butchers assistants that the misfortune had befallen, a visual image immediately flashed in my mind of the popular nursery rhyme. Just put that down to my extremely warped sense of humour which seems to bubble to the surface when ever black moments arise, (Sorry Mum that I got a fit of the giggles at your funeral..but you’ll know precisely why, and would have joined in I’m certain!)

I digress, back to the tale;

One bright and sunny May morning in 1873 a group of 4 young lads decided that the day was too nice to waste, they wanted a bit of excitement.

At that time the Great Eastern was moored in Portland Roads, she was here fueling up for her trip to America laying cables across the ocean floor. (Might write a bit more of her connection with Weymouth another time) To those that don’t know, she was a total legend in her own right. Launched in 1858 she was way before her time, towering over other ships,  nothing even came close to her size wise until 40 odd years later in 1899. She was designed by the famous engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, he had envisioned this levanthian of a liner which could transport 4,000 passengers at a time on transalantic trips, but  right from her maiden voyage she had led a fated life.


The 4 lads had heard that they had been letting people on board to view this iconic ship, they didn’t want to miss that opportunity.

Just turned 11 0’clock on that fateful Sunday morning, John Beaumont, a butchers assistant, made his way with 2 of his friends, 19-year-old Mark Stickland and 22-year-old Charles Rogers to Mr Baunton’s slaughter house, where they collected 23-year-old Charles Wilmott.

The 4 lads made their way down to the quayside, calling in at the home of Edward Tizard, a widow  who lived on down on Hope Quay with his 3 young daughters, he was a local pilot, but he also hired out boats. Edward was out that day, had he been present when the young lads came a knocking, and being a knowlegable sailor, he might well have thought twice about the 4 lads, unexperienced oarsmen,  taking out his boat. Who ever answered the door to the lads had no such qualms though, and with the grand sum of 6d for the hire of the boat being exchanged, the lads were ready and eager to set off on their adventures.

With 2 of the lads at the oars they set course for the Great Eastern, but were disappointed when they were refused permission to board her. Undaunted, they rowed to wards the Achilles, which was also moored in the Roads, where they were allowed aboard for a short time.

With a real thirst on them now, once they had disembarked from the Achilles, the lads set course for Portland. On reaching the shore, the first place they headed for was the Castle Inn, where they order  2 quart jugs  of beer. Having enjoyed their thirst quenching tipple, they rose and started to make their way back down to their boat, only they set eyes on 18-year-old Joseph James Torpey, a local lad, and a crew member of the Achilles. (probably why they gone on board her in the first place)

Joseph asked if they would mind rowing him back to his boat, the lads readily agreed. He also told them that they had more chance of getting on board of the Great Eastern if they tried a bit later in the afternoon, so the group of 5 young lads thought that they should kill a bit more time before setting off. With that, they headed for the nearest pub, the Portland Roads Inn. They settled down a enjoy their  glass of beer and a natter , feeling peckish the lads ordered a snack, six penny worth of biscuits (guess that’d be their equivalent to today’s pint o’beer and a packet of crisps please!)

Having chewed the cud for a while, the lads set off in their boat to try their luck again at the Great Eastern. the two Charles’s were at the oars this time.


Half way across the Roads, disaster struck, one of the tholes  (the part that the oar rotates on) broke,  after picking himself up off the floor of the boat, Charles Rogers stood up with the intention of replacing the broken part…only he made a grave error of judgement!

Whereas the boys had been evenly spaced around the craft before, Rogers stepped to one side, making it perilously low in the water, and with that the boat tipped over!

Having been thrown into the water, the lads were reaching out to try and grasp the side of the, by now righted boat, only trouble was, they were all in their sheer panic hauling on the same side.

John and Joseph, both able to swim, moved away from the boat to give the others a better chance of being able to haul themselves back in, only it didn’t quite work like that. With their combined weights still on one side, the craft flipped right over. By now, John was unconscious in the water, but young James turned round to see the stricken faces of his 3 friends disappear under the water, never to emerge again.

Both  John and James were rescued from the water, and rather ironically taken aboard the Great Eastern where they were cared for.

Over the following days the bodies of the 3 lads were eventually recovered, and another 3 families had to watch their child being lowered into the cold ground.

Charles Wilmott was buried on Portland  the 24th May.

Mark Strickland was also buried on Portland, 9th June.

The final lad to be found was Charles Rogers, whose body was interred on the 17th june at Melcombe Regis.

As a little end note, the media of the time was no different to today’s…they loved sensational stories, and the young often came in for some undeserved flack. Many of the national reports on the incident claimed that the lads were inebriated, larking about in the boat, whereas the facts that came out from the inquest showed this was far from the truth.


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

1865; Portland…keeping it in the family.

I know that Portland is not technically an island, (the Chesil causeway connects it to Weymouth), but it’s treated as such in many respects, not least that the folks on the island (I.m sure that being a proud race, they won’t mind me saying) have a long history of being fairly insular!


When a new Directory of Dorset was issued in 1865, it showed some figures to hold up that statement.

Apparently there were a total of 196  people or companies listed in the directory for the island,( not being on the overlarge size!) and of those 21 (nearly a ninth in total !) bore the name Pearce. Four of those with the same christian name John.

Comben was another frequent Portland name, being a mere fifteen of those…which included 4 Williams.

Next came Stone….they could boast 10 with that surname…3 Benjamins and 3 Williams!

Eight people had the surname White…another 4 Williams!

Some of the less common surnames were Flew (7), Scriven’s (5) and Benjamin(3)

One wonders how when the islanders were talking to one another about someone else did they know which person it was they were discussing?

It is said that when the Portland Artillery Corps was set up with a total of 60 men volunteering, of those 15 answered to the name Pearce!

That must have made for a great deal of confusion on the parade ground when the sergeant in charge barked an order for Pearce!.


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

Weymouth 1866. A cruel life for Victorian beach donkeys

The little donkeys on Weymouth beach are an iconic image.


Small children (and many adults) love to see them, stroke them, and if they’re lucky, have a ride, as I did myself as a child many moons ago.

It used to be a common sight in Weymouth to see the string of donkeys being led through the busy town towards the beach ready for their days work, the Downton name being synonymous with equine beach fun for nearly a century, until John Dowton’s retirement in 2000.

For 5 long years after that, not a single tiny hoof print was to be seen on the sands, parents and the kids would stare forlornly at the empty spot where the donkeys had once stood.

In 2005, Maggie Aldridge started up the donkey rides again in exactly the same spot where generations before had stood patiently for their turn to climb onto the little work fellows back.’s-donkeys/

The donkeys on Weymouth sands are well cared for and much loved, they have their own umberellas for shade, a proper lunch break, lots of cuddles and snacks.

But life hadn’t always been kind to these gentle souls of the sands.

In the Victorian local papers were numerous cases of cruelty by the owners and many of the young lads who used to  be in charge of the rides on the beach.

One of the cases in 1866 concerned 14 year old Samuel Vincent, who was hauled before the local magistrates for cruelly mistreating a donkey.
Young Samuel lived with his family at no 4 Franchaise Court, which was just off Franchaise street .
donkeys weymouth
Local police Inspector, Superintendant Lidbury had been stood on the esplande opposite the Gloucester hotel (this is where the donkeys were originally positioned  until numerous complaints about the smell from them made the council move them further down the beach near the pier, where they still are to this day).
weymouth donkeys and beach
After having received a complaint about the way the young lads treated the donkeys in their care, the Inspector had been stood watching young  Samuel leading a  group of 4 donkeys along the beach with little girls riding them.
donkeys on the beach
One of the donkey’s was dragging his heels  that day,  lagging behind the rest of the group.
The lad, carrying a large stick with him, was seen repeatedly beating the donkey on it’s hocks as hard as he could.
That still not achieving what he wanted, he then proceeded to pick up large pebbles from the beach, throwing them at the donkeys legs, hitting them hard, causing the donkey to go lame.
It seems that this wasn’t the first time Samuel had been observed beating the donkeys, nor was it just Samuel who was guilty of doing so.
Many of other boys who worked for the donkey proprietor were guilty of cruelty towards these gentle beasts of the sands and found themselves hauled before the courts.
The proprietor  himself had been warned numerous times  about the cases of cruelty observed towards his herd of little donkeys.
Even the goats which were used to pull the carts along the promenade didn’t escape the beatings.
weymouth donkeys 1920
Samuel Vincent was fined 20s for his cruelty,  if he didn’t pay his fine  he would be in line for a 14 day stretch inside.
Thankfully nowadays these gentle  beach donkeys lives are far more regulated, and the majority are well cared for and well loved by those who own or work with them.
Volunteers 1906 2_2
 Long may the traditional seaside last and the little gentle souls of the sands with it.
*****************************************************************************************************************************************************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.**************************************************************************************************************************************