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 a proliferation of poodling pedestrians.

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.

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St Nicholas  (the patron saint of sailors) Street, one such through-fare, wends it way from the historic quayside Sailors Return down towards the White Hart at the far end.

It is a  street with a very long history, believed to be a part of the original Medieval town layout ‘Medieval Melcombe was laid out in the form of a grid around four principle north-south streets, St Nicholas, St Thomas, St Mary and Maiden streets. ‘ (Weymouth Historic Character Report)

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      (MAP 1901)

Sadly though, nowadays it 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 my 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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

Hhmmm….

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…

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…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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

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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 entered 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.

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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!

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(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.)

 

 

A Happier Christmas 1862

Well…this is my second attempt at writing a blog about Victorian Weymouth in the build up to the Christmas period.

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I had originally wanted to write one that gave the reader that warm fuzzy glow, the feel-good factor, full of Christmastide cheer, but it had somehow ended up instead laden with the doom and gloom of death, drunkenness and debauchery!

As I frantically scanned the newspapers each successive year for the Christmas period, they seemed to be filled with nothing but peoples misfortunes and misdeeds…but I guess that’s what always sold, and in fact still sells newspapers.

I’ve finally settled on the year 1862, and though it might not be overly full of that golden warm fuzziness I was after, hopefully it contains a bit more of the good old Christmas spirit.

It was the Victorians who really started those traditions that are now firmly established with our present-day Christmas, or rather Queen Victoria’s German born husband, Albert.

Though originally their festive season was far less commercialised than our own, with the arrival of the industrial revolution, it soon burgeoned. Mass produced goods started appearing in the stores and little shops that lined the main shopping areas. Department stores such as T H Williams on St Mary Street filled their windows with all manner of gifts for those you loved, from brightly coloured toys and soft kid gloves, to silver topped walking sticks and dapper hats.

Children from all walks of life must have pressed their runny noses against the cold panes of glass, as they peered in those windows full of glittering promises and dreamed of the possible delights to be unwrapped come Christmas Eve, (that was of course, supposing your family could afford such luxurious.)

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For many children of the town though, it was to be nothing more than an orange and a few nuts.

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People would often spend months before making little gifts for their friends and family.

I can just picture one of my young ancestors curled up on her chair of an afternoon, making the most of the remaining daylight streaming in the window, (here I am perhaps rather idyllically assuming that my ancestors were of the wealthier variety.) She is carefully and lovingly embroidering a delicate linen handkerchief for her dear mother. Her pink rosebud lips pursed in total concentration as the shiny needle continues weaving colourful stitches in and out, the merest of smiles softens her face as she contemplates the expression on her mother’s face come present unwrapping time. Or maybe she’s working a small cloth for her beloved grandmother, one that can be put on her bedside table.

But trade being …well, I guess, trade, they were quick to spot a lucrative market at Christmas time and soon advertisements began to appear in all the local papers.

So it was for the Weymouth shops and businesses.

According to the  Dorset County Chronicles of December 25th 1862.“The Christmas Show of Meat; in accordance with time honoured custom, the butchers of Weymouth made a public display of their provisions for the festivities of Christmastide on Monday evening, and certainly on no former occasion have they exhibited greater liberality and judgement in catering for the tastes of their customers.”

Old Weymouth alone could boast three butchers to supply the hungry population over the harbour.

Thomas Norris with his premises in Salam Place,(which apparently used to be somewhere near Hope Square.)

Then there was 59-year-old  Robert Baunton and his wife Mary Ann who ran the shop along the North Quay. They raised much of their own stock and were frequent winners at the local agriculture shows, a feat that many a true foodie would brag of nowadays.

Last but not least, Benjamin Parson could be found trading his meaty wares on the main High Street.

All would have hung great carcasses of beef , pork and mutton inside and outside their premises, rows upon rows of poultry, geese, duck and chickens would decorate the shop front, all designed to entice in customers.

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Cross the town bridge and enter Melcombe Regis, where you could find butchers galore. In fact if you walked down St Edmund Street, it was virtually wall to wall butchers. This was probably a hangover from when this area around the present day Guildhall was actually a designated market place.

Before the reign of Victoria, outside the old Guildhall once ran a covered walkway for the market traders of the town. When the new Guildhall was opened in 1835 these sellers were then relegated to mere open stalls stood out in the street, but many residents complained that they were noisy, untidy and ruined the the area, consequently a new market hall was built for them in St Mary Street which opened in 1855.

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(Not that the traders appreciated this, they said it was cold and unpopular with their customers.)

Those Victorians out shopping for the festive fare in 1862 could take their pick from the many trading butchers of the time.

Situated right next door to the gaol in St Edmund Street was the premises of Phillip Roberts, he was aided and abetted by his faithful wife Ann and their 20-year-old son William.

Next door you’ll find William Bond and his wife Jane, they are specialising in pork butchery.

Thomas Stickland and wife Christian work the meat counters of the next shop along. Here they “exhibited three serviceable heifers…” Beef wasn’t his only offerings, “He also had at the will of the public several prime down wether sheep…” not only those but also“some choice Portlanders, grazed by himself.” 

Many of the butchers seemed to have raised their own small flocks, especially of the Portland sheep, for the Christmas period.

Then we have Daniel Stocks, master butcher, and Rachel his wife and their assorted brood.

And last but not least, you have the grandaddy of all Weymouth butchers, Edward Baunton (& Sons.) Edward was widowed by the 1861 census, but that’s not a problem as far as his business is concerned, he has his whole family helping him. From his 36-year-old daughter  Jane, his two sons, Edward and John, his teenage grandsons, William and John right down to various live-in butchers assistants, they all worked in this thriving butchers shop.

Christmas, of course,  was their busiest time, and it’s when they really went to town with their displays. Such things were noted in the local papers on the build up to the festive season, including, oddly enough, where their stock had been raised, where it grazed, what awards it won. Brings the true meaning of ‘from hoof to home.’

“The impromptu bower of evergreen over the pavement and the crescent-like form of the show of meat in the interior of the shop, with the display of the honourable trophies personally received by Mr. Braunton snr.,and those awarded to the animals, proved that those who had arranged the display had an eye to effect-anxious to please the eye as the appetite.”

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Turn into St Mary Street and here you’ll find that the men of meat also literally ‘hung together’ so to speak.

Starting off with 40-year-old Alfred Bolt and his wife Margaret at no 60. Even though they were a only small business, “he exhibited some good ox and heifer beef from the herd of Mr. E Pope Esq. of Great Toller…”

Next came John and Susannah Sanders at no 64, this stood next to the bustling Bear Inn. Their son Henry worked alongside his parents. According to the reporter “his show of beef appeared to us the acme of perfection.”

Then there was the Dominy family at no 66. Father George, his wife Mary and their sons John and Henry who worked behind the counter. Even their youngest son, 8-year-old George would have had his chores to do. Living on the premises with them were a bevy of servants and butchers assistants, a busy household for poor old Mary to run and look after. But good old George was a wily trader, he catered for everyone, “His show was alike serviceable to the rich and the poor.”

This family also ran a butchers shop in Park Street, “though perhaps not so well situated for attracting the nobility.”

William Lowman was the last man standing in this line of meat purveyors at no 69. Well, in fact that’s not quite true. William was actually the borough surveyor, it was his wife Sarah who was the trader, a poulterer, (birds to you and me…) and the rest of his family worked alongside their mother, Sarah jnr, Joseph and William.

Those muscly men of the meat trade in St Thomas Street preferred to keep their distance from each other.

Thomas Walters and wife Mary were pork butchers at no 1, and  right down the other end of the street was Henry Billet, and of course his wife Mary another pork butcher at no 52.

That wasn’t all.

Even Maiden Street could boast two butchers, Edward and Eliza Townsend at no 7, and perhaps rather aptly named young kid on the block, Joseph Rabbets at no 18, and of course not forgetting his beautifully named wife Emily Virtue. The young couple must have raised their own flock of lambs for “The Portland sheep were A1, and of his own feeding.”

George Pitman was tucked away in St Albans Row while Frederick Hatton traded at no 4 Bond Street.

Butchers of course weren’t the only shop keepers hoping for a bumper Christmas and the joyous sound, the merry ringing of the cash registers.

Here in 1862, Vincent’s were advertising their festive gifts for the more wealthy Weymouth residents to purchase for their nearest and dearest.

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How about a nice Elkington’s Electro Plated tea service for Mamma? or maybe a set of silver studs for Pappa to wear  with his evening attire?

Vincent’s was still an established business even during my lifetime, and is a shop that I  remember well from my childhood.

As a small mite it seemed an imposing sight.

Great tall glass windows outlined by black shiny immaculate wooden frames, enclosed within this imposing outline stood row upon row of glistening silverware, great silver salvers, elaborately carved tea services, jugs and cups. Below paraded the glittering jewels, flashing for all their worth in the suns rays, beckoning beguiled customers to enter their emporium.

P1010353 Oddly enough, this is also the building where I ended up spending many a happy year working for the fashion retailer Next.

Victorian Christmas’s did have a slightly different format to our modern day version.

Gifts were given out on Christmas Eve. This was the day when all the family gathered together to admire the festive tree, (which due to superstition, was not to be put up before Christmas Eve, for fear of invoking bad luck into the family home. ) This green harbinger of festivities was bedecked with it’s precious ornaments and hung with small treats. Strings of popcorn and brightly coloured cranberries draped from it’s fragrant boughs, candle flames flickered and danced in the gloom of the late afternoon giving the room a magical glow.

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Crackers would be pulled and children performed.

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Christmas day was feasting day, but that was only after the family had attended the church service in the morning. The sound of calling bells rung out across the rooftops of Weymouth,  summonsing everyone to service, and the streets were bustling, filled with families adorned in their best finery.

The wealthy and elite of the town jostled with the servants and shop girls, they all had their own paid for places on the hard wooden pews of St Mary’s or Holy Trinity. The richest in those nearest to the alters and the poorest at the back.

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In those days you paid dearly for the privilege to be nearer to the Almighty.

After filling bellies with fine fares, families would go from house to house, carol singing or packing in more food and drink to their already bursting bellies.

I have just discovered though that for the local shops, Christmas day was just another working day.

That finally explains a scene that I could never understand in Charles Dicken’s Christmas Carol, when Scrooge awoke that cold morning …

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!” “Hallo!” returned the boy. “Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?” Scrooge inquired. “I should hope I did,” replied the lad. “An intelligent boy!” said Scrooge. “A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they”ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there — Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?” “What, the one as big as me?” returned the boy. “What a delightful boy!” said Scrooge. “It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck.” “It’s hanging there now,” replied the boy. “Is it?” said Scrooge. “Go and buy it.” “Walk-er!” exclaimed the boy. “No, no,” said Scrooge, “I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell them to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown.” The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast. “I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s!” whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. “He shan’t know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim.”

Of course…even though it was Christmas day, the butcher’s shop was still open for trade.

Boxing day was a day for charity, for giving, to think of those less fortunate. Hence it’s name. Boxes were made up and inside would be coins or small tokens and these would be distributed to shop staff, servants, deliverymen and the poor.

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Nowadays, we tend to think more of Boxing day as cold meats, pickles and bubble & squeak followed by a trip to the beach, come rain come shine,  to let off steam…well, in our family at least.

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But in 1862, and changes were afoot for the hard-working serving members of staff of the local shops, Boxing day was about to become a holiday.

On the 18th Dec, it was announced in the local papers that “the leading tradesmen in Weymouth have publicly notified their intention of abstaining from business on Friday 26th, the day following Christmas day, in order that their assistants may have an opportunity of visiting their friends.”

Congregations in all the local churches were also busy that year, raising funds for their fellow human beings from the north, who at the time were going through devastating changes, often referred to as the Cotton Famine. A period when the huge cotton mills and associated trades on the northern towns and cities faced a downturn in their fortunes due to world events. Thousands of families suddenly found themselves out of work and facing destitution and starvation.

St John’s collection had raised the grand total of £22 and St Mary’s managed a rousing £17.

Many other events were also being organised in and around the area to help those whose lives had been so harshly turned upside down.

The Manchester Unity of Oddfellows of Weymouth held a well-attended concert at the Assembly Rooms in the Victoria Hotel on the seafront.

So too did the local professor of music, Thomas William Beale, he arranged a concert by his friends and acquaintances, which was held a couple of days later, on Christmas Eve.

All funds raised went towards supporting those less fortunate families in dire need.

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Despite the overload of bad news we are bombarded with nowadays, it’s heartwarming to see that human nature still favours generosity and the willingness to help those in need at times of crises. The recent floods in the northern part of the UK demonstrates this well.

Someone who was very pleased with themselves come that festive period of 1862 was local ship builder and owner, Weymouth born Christopher Besant. At one time they had lived along Hope Quay, near the ship yards where they plied their trade, but had since moved  their family to Longhill Cottage in Wyke Regis.

On a chilly Thursday morning just before Christmas, when the tide was at its highest, Christopher, his wife and family strolled down to the harbour, once there they stood excitedly on the quayside. They were there watching with great pride, the launch of their latest vessel, the 110 ton schooner, Nil Desperandum. She was destined for trading the foreign coastal routes.

But of course, what would the Christmas period be without at least one little snippet of mischievousness?

In court that week, stood before the local judges, Captain Prowse and Alderman Welsford were three young lads, aged between seven and nine years of age, frequent offenders it seems, and rather unflatteringly referred to as ‘street arabs.’

They were there for attempting to fill their own Christmas stockings…by making away with 4 oranges and 3 bread twists. These had been the property of shop keeper Joseph Curtis and his wife Sarah who ran a grocery business in Weymouth High Street.

These ruffian’s parents, weren’t described in any more flattering terms than their children by Superintendent Lidbury, in fact he declared they were ‘worse than the children.’ According to him they had virtually washed their hands of any responsibility for them, these young lads were running the streets and causing no end of problems all hours of the day and night.

The youngest of the three amigos was 7-year-old Edward Denman, son of recently widowed Ann Maria. Ann Maria tried her best to keep her lively family of six in check, but being a single parent and living in poverty, life was so very hard. They were all squeezed into the cramped accommodation of no 3 Franchise Court, (which no longer exists,) the entrance to this little court was squeezed in between no’s 5 and 6 Franchise Street.

Sadly, his life lived virtually running unchecked on the streets meant young Edwards career of crime was only to continue.

Come the Christmas of 1865, and he was hauled before the court again, this time for stealing an umbrella and selling it to a local trader, Mrs Russell, who ran, not surprisingly, an umbrella shop in St Thomas Street.

Even though he was only 11 years of age, for this misdemeanor, Edward was sent to prison,

boy jail

something which has left us a tantalising glimpse of the lad. The admissions book describes him as only 4ft 3″ tall, one wonders whether a lifetime of malnutrition might have had an effect? It goes on to reveal further features of this chappie, he has light brown hair and hazel eyes, his complexion is sallow. At this tender age, his only distinguishing feature is a cut between his eyebrows.

From prison he was sent to a reformatory, the Victorian’s attempts at turning such wayward children away from the downward spiral.

By the age of 21, Edward’s life had changed, he was following in his fathers footsteps in that he sailed the seas, navigating up and down the coast on trading vessels.

One thing that hadn’t changed though was his tendency towards being somewhat light fingered.

Before the court again in 1875, this time for the theft of cigars.

Fully grown, he still only measures, 5ft 4 ins. Now his complexion is being described as ‘swarthy,’ a good old fashioned word that exemplifies the face of someone who spends their days out in the open fresh air, salt laden winds and fierce sunshine.

His sea faring life is literally tattooed on his body, he bears hearts and daggers on his right arm, his left, an anchor and a cropped sword.

Even his face bears witness to a typical mariners lifestyle, that of drink and frequent brawls, with a “cut right corner left eyebrow” and “cut right corner right eye,” his nose “slightly inclined to right,” no doubt the legacy of someone else’s fist meeting it.

The second young chap stood before the court that Christmas week of 1862 was 8-year-old Samuel Vincent, son of George and Mary, and next door neighbour to his partner in crime, Edward.

Unlike Edward though, Vincent does not seem to have continued on the career criminals pathway, he too followed in his fathers footsteps, working as a sawyer, but then joined the army.

Sadly, though his life was now on the straight and narrow, it was also to be short. In 1878, aged only 26, he died while stationed in the barracks at Dorchester.

The final fellow felon of our tale is someone that I had come across before, in fact I had already written about him and his brother in my book about the history of the military on the Nothe.

He was the eldest of the three harbourside amigos.

Meet 10-year-old John William Bendall, (though the papers had mistakenly written him down as Benthall, which took some time to decipher who he actually was!)

John lived just around the corner from his accomplices, at no 8 Franchise Street, along with his Dad, Matthew, and Mum, Mary Ann, and the rest of the brood.

John was another one who fell foul of the law more than a few times, despite spending time in prison and the reformatory.

In 1865 he was incarcerated for the theft of zinc.

In 1867, he was arrested for the theft of iron along with his younger brother Albert,  this is where I came across this family as the theft was from the Nothe fort smithy shop.

These slightly over ripe apples hadn’t fallen far from the tree, their dad Matthew was no stranger to brushes with the law. He was a waterman, but was also apt to be light fingered. Not only that, for some reason he was very unpopular amongst his fellow workers. So much so that in 1888 he even attempted to cut his own throat, part of the reason given was that he was “being so much annoyed by his mates on the quay.”

When these three young ruffians were stood before the court that Christmas week, they were handed out a present that they didn’t expect, and indeed, wouldn’t forget!

Each and every one of them was flogged…receiving twelve agonising lashes of the whip.

And on that cheery note I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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December 1888, Drunks, Domestics and Deaths

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, the Southern Times and the Dorset County Chronicle .

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Revealed within these paragraph-heavy pages of Victorian print  were the scandals and sorrows, misdemeanors 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, their billowing hems sweeping the dirt as they drifted from shop to shop.

letter Civic Society.

A multitude of brightly garbed soldiers mingled with locals, having come from the artillery fort and barracks up on the Nothe, they made the most of time away from the fetid atmosphere of their cramped and cold accommodation.

The harbourside bustling with vessels coming and going, an abundance of sailors taking their chance to enjoy time ashore before they set sail for pastures new.

Weymouth harbour

Some however, took that enjoyment to extremes!

Such was the case of a 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 came across the motionless body of  a man. Thomas shook the man to rouse him, but as he was well and truly in ‘his cups’ he took some rousing. Finally, managing to drag the heavily intoxicated man to his feet and ascertaining his destination, that was,  before he had succumbed to his slovenly slumbers in the street.

Thomas, holding on firmly to the staggering soul, led him down to the quayside, where seemingly the lost 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, he 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 makeshift gangplank was about 15 foot in length, a mere 2 foot in width, and as the tide was exceptionally high that night it rose before them at a crazy angle.

Undeterred, under his alcoholic haze, the drunken sailor  attempted to crawl unsteadily on his 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 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 his dead weight was too much.

With that, the body slid with a splash into the dark waters below.

All hell let loose…man overboard…

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

The thirty-nine year old sailor, Bristol born Charles Tidray, made it alive to local hospital where he was seen to by Dr Carter. A man who did not think much for his chances, he told 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.

It was time to met his maker.

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

His downfall was also alcohol, or rather, the imbibing of excess.

William Bowdidge Hole, a 34-year-old cab driver had been out enjoying his time somewhat with friends in the local hostelry. Having drunk away all his money, he staggered back to his home 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 was riled at her reluctance to hand over the money, thwarted from being able to return to his drinking buddies and buy more beer, he lost his rag and struck out at her, hitting her hard in the mouth.

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Eventually their physical and vocal altercations woke the neighbours, they tried to help the wife  who was under a barrage of flailing fists and vile words from the 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 the hysterical wife fleeing the building, who was being  hotly pursued by her still ranting and raving husband.

Quickly collared by the local bobby, the still 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 got off 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…

Not long after a drunken Charles was slithering off the gangplank and into the water, 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 men scrapping.

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 was yet another who alcohol loosened his mouth and freed his fists…he was about to strike his wife, when the soldier stepped in to stop him. Instead, he turned his wrath and fists on 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 light-fingered, and made away with a piece of Harriets precious jewellery, a gold ring.

When Harriet questioned Sarah as to it’s whereabouts, she at first denied any knowledge, but under the tough 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 problems.

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Shopping in St Mary Street at the turn of the century:Part 1.

Over the next few posts on here I’m going to take you  for a stroll down through old Weymouth town, starting off in St Mary Street.

Our visit will take place at the turn of the century; Queen Victoria’s long reign is about to come to an end with her sad demise and her son Edward takes over the reins, heralding the start of the Edwardian era.

These shops and businesses are the ones that my grandparents would have known well, Grandma Darch would have shopped for her clothes, hats and knee length frilly bloomers in the grand department stores of the day.

The places that Granddad Darch  visited would have been far more of a male domain; the tobacconists where he brought his cigars from, (there was certainly no lack of choice in the Victorian street,) or the pubs that he would have frequented, having a good old chinwag with his fellow businessmen, a flirt with the pretty buxom serving wench.

Some of the names of the longer-standing businesses are even ones that I grew up with as a child in the town.

Fascinated as I am with family history I would so love a time machine. Oh to be able to travel back and see what they saw, smelt what they did as they entered these stores, no sterile layers of packing in those days!

Aromatic teas and coffees, their delicious aromas percolating out in the street, hinting of what great delights lie inside the doorway (something that supermarkets do artificially these days…,) goods sold loose, no matter how large or small an amount, all catered for and carefully wrapped for their customers in newspaper or brown paper bags.

Ripening meat and fowl  inside butchers shops, thick sawdust strewn across the floor,  more well-hung carcasses draped outside covered in fur or feather, flies feasting greedily on their blank, staring eyes.

A shop bell hung above the door, tinkling its greeting as the customer enters, summonsing eager staff from the room behind, quick to pamper to your every wish.

But unfortunately, a Tardis not being readily available to me…I have to go for the next best thing.

A visual reconstruction of those intriguing department stores and quaint small shops that lined the busy streets of Weymouth town. These were the days when individual shop owners ruled the business world, no out of town super stores to entice customers away from the thriving town centre.

By using illustrations from my own collection and some kindly lent to me by fellow Weymouth history buffs I hope to give you a small glimpse of what living in Weymouth would have been like at the turn of the century, who was about, who your grandparents or great grandparents might have shopped with or businesses they might have worked in.

Weymouth library also holds so many fascinating pictures of the town from this era in their Local Studies Centre, some of which I shall be using in future blogs about the streets of Weymouth town.

I  start by standing near the Kings Statue and looking towards the two ends of the main shopping streets, St Mary’s and St Thomas.

According to the on-line document ‘Weymouth Town Centre Conservation Area Character Appraisal’ Weymouth town has a long and extensive history, albeit on a smaller scale  than now,  ‘It is fairly certain that the grid-pattern layout of Melcombe originates from the early-to-mid medieval period, possibly related to the Edwardian charter.’

We’ll walk down St Mary’s first, the house numbers (should ) run consecutively down one side and up the other, but as time passed, some buildings were demolished, a few numbers changed here and there, but where I can I will try to align them with todays premises.

So…make sure your fashionable hat is pinned on tight, your pretty white lace collar sits neatly above your fitted jacket…but please do mind your skirt hems in the dust…they don’t water down these roads as frequently as they should, sand and grit just ruins the hemlines of your garments if you aren’t careful.

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Many of these buildings you see before are two or three stories high,  some of these rooms above the businesses are occupied by lodgers or staff from the shops below., but sometimes  the shop owners themselves live on the premises, the working days are often long and husband and wives, even the children help out when they can.

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The rounded building on the end of St Mary Street to the left of the Kings Statue is known as Statue house.

In the 1901 census 59-year-old Elizabeth Young is in residence here, poor lady, she’s a widow and to keep a roof over her head her occupation is now that of a lodging house keeper. Considering the size of the property she doesn’t have too many lodgers.

A solitary soldier  in residence…34-year-old Fred Cox.

Beneath the somewhat empty rooms of Elizabeths’ is the business of Clarke & Partner, see how their name is emblazoned around the end of the building for all to see, this is the billboard of the Victorian era.

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The business is a partnership between two rather well heeled gentlemen, John George Parker and Albert Augustus Clarke.

John George Parker, who is  53, was from Manchester it is said, and he is an insurance agent amongst many other things.

He lives in a rather nice house called Shamrocks which is out at Upway, along  with his wife, 29-year-old Annie, (we won’t dwell upon  the age gap ladies…suffice to say they seem happy enough.)  They have a young family, Dorothy, Annie and William, all of whom  were born in Weymouth.

Albert Augustus is an auctioneer, his house is that rather nice place,  Lynwood, on Westerhall Road, you must know where I mean ladies. Florence is his wife, she’s also a fair deal younger than him, and they have three lovely children, Mary, Dorothy and Helen.

Albert wasn’t born in Weymouth but Somerset, that’s like so many people in Weymouth now…we are becoming really quite cosmopolitan!

I blame it on the railways myself.

Apparently, so the gossip goes, Albert  had moved to this area as a single man in the 1880’s. Even by then he was already a successful business man, a master builder with a sizeable workforce, he had been a good catch for any female even if I do say so myself.

In 1889 Albert was working  as an auctioneer, but he had the reputation of many finger in many proverbial pies.

It must have been fairly soon after that that the two men amalgamated their businesses and set up shop at Statue House that you see today.

By the way ladies…did you see whose house is up for sale….I had heard some frightful rumours…such a shame

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Here we come across our first conundrum!

The census enumerator lists the residents in order that he follows down the street going from door to door.

1901 starts with Statue house, followed by no’s 1, 2 and then the black Dog at no 3. nowadays these buildings that sit between the Statue House and the small building numbered 1a are rather strangely numbered in the hundreds?

Were buildings demolished here at some stage?

I shall stick to the enumerators route as he was proverbially ‘on the ground’ at the time and entered what was there at on the day.

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Here we are, this is No 1 St Mary Street,  the business premises of Robert Bullen Brown.

In Kelly’s Directory he’s listed as the seller of waterproof goods…but don’t be deceived, he’s so much more than that!

I’ve looked him up on The Jury Lists and it states that he’s a tent and tarpauline manufacturer, and as you can see from the advert below he runs a pretty large company, he owns shops in Dorchester as well as Weymouth.

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Mr Brown doesn’t live above his premises…not surprising really,  I don’t personally know the gentleman myself, but I have heard through the grapevine that well-off Robert and his wife Mary Ann  live at Glebe House in Dorchester.

I’m not sure if he  travels back and forth to work over the Ridgeway every day, but then again he in all probability doesn’t need to.

I think he may have have an assistant who lives locally and opens up shop for him.

Never having the need for tents or tarpaulins myself I’ve not entered his premises yet…but perhaps I could find use for a short piece of rope…

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Ah, now here’s a family I know well, they’re locals don’t you know…you must have at least heard of the Guppy’s surely?

This is No 2a, if you look at the sign in their window it says Messrs J Guppy & co.

This is  where  Thomas John and his wife, Sarah Ann, (they are both in their forties by now,) work, and they live in the rooms above.  They have two adorable children , Thomas William who is 13 and Hilda Marion, she’s only seven, such a sweetie pie.

They are one of my favourite  jewellery shops, I do so love to browse their little trinkets and knick-knacks, Thomas is very  helpful, he always manages to find something special for me to spend my allowance on…

woman girl clock q 1892

Alice Maud Roper lives in with the family too, a very hard worker so Sarah Ann tells me, she likes to help out in the shop sometimes. I’m sure she’ll be with them for a long time to come..not that you can ever tell really! Servants can sometimes be so flighty. (Alice was still living at and working in the shop premises in 1911.)

Thomas used to have a shop in Bond Street but decided it might be busier here in St Mary St, so in 1892 the family moved.

Not that it has been all good here in their new shop.

In the April of 1897 their shop made the headlines of the local papers…it was scandalous really…it was the scene of a rather daring burglary and was the cause of much gossip around town as you can only imagine.

One Friday night, as midnight approached, two men had been lurking suspiciously in the street…up to no good of course!

So the story goes, one of the men smashed a large hole in the window with a rock, or some say his boot, and they both began grabbing handfuls of jewellery and silver goods. The night of the robbery was an extremely windy one, the noise of the breaking glass deadened somewhat.

Unluckily for the thieves there just happened to be two men who were near the Statue, and  did hear something. Though why anyone should be out and about at that time of the night goodness only knows! Anyhow, I digress somewhat, the two men walked towards St Mary Street to investigate where they thought the noise had come from.

The thieves spotted  the approaching men, they were still trying to stuff their ill gotten gains into their pockets, then they turned and fled down the street away from the men.

Luckily someone else  had also heard the noise, two of the patrolling policemen, PC Sweet and PC Burt, both good men, regular church goers, they were walking the beat from St Edmund Street end.

Trapped between the police and the approaching men the wily thieves turned up Bond Street, making haste towards the seafront, but thankfully they were not quick enough, the long arm of the law soon had them collared.

Once the policemen had them under arrest they followed a trail of rings, ink wells and knick knacks  back to Guppys shop front where they found the smashed window.

It turns out that the two men were soldiers of the resident Northumberland Fusiliers, John Sweet and  Michael Tonar. Those soldiers from the Red Barracks always seem to be getting into trouble with the law. The army really should do something about their excessive drinking!

Well, it transpired that both men had planned the burglary not bothering if they got caught, it had been a desperate ruse to get thrown out of the army. I’m sure the army was quick enough to oblige!

(By 1913 Thomas Guppy is  calling himself a dealer in fancy goods.

1915 sees his son Thomas William take over the shop in St Mary Street, Thomas senior by then has new premises in St Edmund Street and is back to dealing in watch repairs and jewellery.

In a 1927 Kelly’s Directory, Thomas junior is listed as a fancy goods dealer, owning both shops still, St Mary Street and St Edmund Street, but the family (as Junior still lived at home with Mum and Dad!) were living in Abbotsbury Road by then.

Thomas John Guppy died on the 3rd May 1936, a fairly wealthy man,  leaving his businesses to his son Thomas and daughter Hilda Marion Lack.)

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Hurry along ladies…it looks like it’s going to rain soon… and I don’t have my umbrella with me

This building is 2b St Mary St and as you can quite clearly see from the shop windows  it is a photography business, a very successful one too,  and has been for some years.

It’s now run by local gentleman Walter Galpin  Cox,  Emily, his wife helps out in the shop. They have a rather large family, but at the moment only Bernice, Emily, Edgar and Daisy are at home with them,  the family of course live above these premises.

Walter was born in Weymouth, but you know children, they like to strike off on their own sometimes, as of course they should. Well,  Walter had moved out of the family home to Bristol of all places!… but there he managed to earn a successful living, thats where he met his wife Emily, and their  children were born.

Around the 1890’s Walter returned home again, his father was ailing by that time, so he took over the running of the family business.

Walters father, Edgar,  had  been one who had invested in the new art of  photography, (many people told him it wouldn’t catch on…but he knew better,) he called his business in St Mary Street  Rembrandt Studio. A man of many talents, Edgar also ran the Weymouth School of Art and Photography.

We have had our portrait taken here a few times now…they take such care over their work, and I have a soft spot for Walter, he’s a  kind fellow…lovely manners.

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I have recently seen some  prints of Edgar’s that he took  back to 1860’s. He was very partial to photographing the ships out in the bay.

This is the one he took of me in my mourning weeds, I wanted something to remember the loss of my dear husband by…

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I can remember Edgar as a young man, before photography had become his main business he had worked as  a carver and gilder.

Now, like me, he is becoming frail and his health is declining…the woes of growing older…

(Edgar died not long after, in 1904.)

Walter  like most young men of today has come up with all manner of new fangled ideas for the business.

He’s even changed the shops name to The Studio Royal! A bit pretentious I think…but then what do I know of such matters as a mere female.

He’s even started to introduce a series of Weymouth postcards known as the ‘Celebrated Series.’

They seem to be very popualr with those dreadful tourists!

Oh how I hark back to the good old days when the visitors here were respectable gentle folk…nowadays it seems to be all noisy children running in and out of the water with their buckets and spades…even the parents have taken to rolling up their trouser legs or skirts and paddling…no decorum whatsoever!…

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Now I know ladies that this isn’t the place that you will know much about…apart from a couple of you whose husbands like to take the occasional tipple…

This is No 3 St Mary, as disreputable as the place is, it  is still a building and business of long standing, and one  with a fascinating history that includes many foul deeds,  murders and tales of smuggling.

This Saxon framed building and its trade dates right back to the 1500’s..it’s a public house known as  The Black Dog.

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At one time in its long, long history it was known as The Dove, allegedly getting its latter name from the fact that when Weymouth started trading with Newfoundland the then landlord gained  posession of the first ever ‘Newfoundland Labrador, ‘ which became a talking point and attracted hundreds of visitors to admire this massive hound.

So I believe, 44- year-old London born Henry William Townsend is mine host at the moment, along with his wife Julia. They have living on the premises with them  3 barmaids, serving wenches…a draw for the customers, or so I’m told.

I, of course, can’t tell you much more about the dreadful place or its inhabitants, so we’ll move swiftly along the street.

(I Wonder if my Grandad ever drank in there and leant on the bar to give the buxom barmaid a sneaky smile?

Check out their website for a potted history.

http://www.blackdogweymouth.com/about-us/)

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Keep up ladies…keep up…Millicent! what on earth are you tittering at?

Here we are, outside the shop of  John Jeanes, a  very striking gentleman indeed, he has just the most wonderful eyes, though one suspects that maybe he is putting on some weight by the way his jacket seems to be gaping open over his middle region!

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Now John is a local man, born in 1841, but he’s not always been a fishmonger, though he is very popular with his female customers.

John was previously a boarding house keeper, he owned one of the rather nice  properties  along Brunswick Terrace, but around 1885 he moved to these premises at no 4 St Mary Street.

Sadly he lost his first wife, but is now married to  Sarah Ann, they have a rather large brood of 9 children;

Their Son Sidney James, who’s aged about 18  I do believe is a budding a photographer, I think that perhaps he works with the Cox family in their studios just a couple of doors down the road, perhaps he even took this stunning portrait of his father.

Leonard Lovell,a bit younger, possible 16, works further up the street, he’s a drapers assistant and then there’s 14-year-old Alfred Baker, he’s a good boy, the apple of his Daddy’s eye,  he works alongside his father in the fish shop.

There are three more grown up children, goodness knows what they do with themselves all day long…Edward Strong, Margaret Ann and Percival Charles, presumably they are still being educated?

(John had retired by the time of the 1911 census, by then he was 70, he and his wife had moved to 17, Trinity Road, along with three of their children who were still living at home with them, the very same Edward, Margaret and Percival who in the 1901 census did not seem to have any occupation!)

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(By 1905 the business at no 4. had changed hands.)

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(It was now the home and workplace of London born Edward Hitch, his wife Mary Ann and their family, Edward’s seen here posing in the doorway of his shop around 1905, he seems to be looking down the street, maybe he’s keeping an eye open for who’s going into his competitors shop.

Edward had set up in direct competition with long-established tobacconist, Walter Travers 3 doors down the road.)

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This is a shop that I believe most of you ladies will have frequented in the past…the Greengrocery business of James Curtis, this shop is  occupying the building of no 5 St Mary Street.

James lives here with his wife Eleanor.

Sad to say the couple don’t have any children of their own…such a shame. But they have kindly taken in their nephew and niece to their home, such a Christian to do.

(James didn’t go on to have  a family of his own until his second marriage in 1908 to Meloina, who was a fair bit younger than him, by the 1911 census the family had grown with the birth of 2 children.

1911 shows James was still living and working as a greengrocer at his shop in St. Mary Street. his nephew, 18-year-old Ernest still by his side.)

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Oh dear…was that a few drop of rain I felt then…I hope it doesn’t start to rain hard, my maid took ages to clean my skirts last time they got muddy from the streets.

This is the shop of a gentleman with a rather magnificent name… Freeman Horniblow. He runs his business under the grand title of The Colonial Meat Company, it occupies no 6 St Mary Street.

two women shop q 1892Freeman is away from home at the moment, his wife Eliza is all very hush hush about why, she surely knows that I wouldn’t gossip about her if she told me.

I fear all is not well maybe in the  marital home.

Her  daughter Ethel is there to keep her company though,  she’s now aged 28 and no sign of a beau..maybe that’s for the best. Ethel is well-educated, she  now works from home as a school mistress. She used to  work as a photographers assistant, not really the sort of profession for a young female…I don’t know, women these days, seem to want it all, careers, money, husbands…(maybe Ethel had been another one that was employed by the Cox photographic studio?)

Her younger sister Eva Ella also lives at home, she’s 24 and  another who works as a school mistress.

Their 19-year-old son Leonard has chose to go down the engineering route, he’s employed as as a fitter at the engineers. Obviously working in a butchers shop is not the life for him, but at least he’s working, which is more than be said for some of these youngsters nowadays!

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We’re nearly there ladies…just a couple more premises and then we can pop into the tea shop and partake in  some light refreshments…I hear they do a lovely range of fancies these days…I do so love my cup of tea served in a proper bone china cup and saucer.

Now, the rich aromas alone would give away what these premises are at no 7…

Here lives Walter William Travers, he’s not local but Kent born, not that we should hold that against the poor fellow.

Walter is a single gentlemen and is a long-established tobacconist by trade.

P1030698

I don’t know this family at all, and I’m not a one for gossip, but his household does contain a bit of  a mystery.

Living with him is local lady Susannah Samways, she’s a widow aged 72,  and is calling herself a cousin. Also living there is another ‘cousin’ 35-year-old Louisa Samways, she is in fact Susannahs daughter.

Here comes the mystery, the last member of the household is little Eric Cecil Samways, a babe of 3 months, who is also mysteriously listed as a ‘cousin’.

(The Mystery was ultimately solved…It looks as if   Eric was the child of Louisas brother, Charles John Samways.)

and there was me thinking poor Louisa had a love child!

(His wife, Amy Olivant, had  died on the 22nd January 1901, one can only assume that she had been a sad statistic, one of the poor women who didn’t survive giving birth.

By the time of the 1911 census the family are just that, ‘cousin’ Louisa  had married shop owner Walter in about 1908, according to the records they had no children.

Where was little Eric by now? Happily he was living back with Dad and his new wife.

Mum Susannah was still living and working with the married couple in the tobacconists.

Walter William died on the 13th november 1929 in Weymouth & District hospital, leaving all his worldly goods to his wife Louisa.)

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This, ladies, is the house of good friends of mine…unfortunately they said they were indisposed today or they would have invited us in for afternoon tea…such a shame.

As you’ll notice no 8 doesn’t appear to have a shop attached to it.

This is the home of the  Arden Misses that being  Georgina and her sister Caroline Rose.

They are both spinsters of a certain age, and are both  living off their own means, not being too indiscreet about it,  they had enough to survive on without having to work for their living.

There used to be a third sister, Mary W,  she was also single, and also wealthy enough to be able to survive on her money alone.

These ladies are certainly wealthy enough to appear on the Electoral Registers, though they are only entitled to vote locally, (no woman was allowed to vote for parliamentary elections until 1918.)

In fact these three dear, well-off acquaintances of mine were the off-spring of wealthy, but sadly now deceased parents, George and Marianne.

Daddy had been a successful attorney, and no 8 St Mary Street had been their family home,  George Arden used to run his solicitors office from here

 

letter Civic Society. 1_2(When 81-year-old Georgina died on the 28th October 1928, she left £8,968 15s 7d to her only surviving sister, Caroline Rose who was still resident at no 8.)

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Last one my dearest friends…I can hear those delicious cakes calling for us…

The Arden sisters certainly wouldn’t have needed to services of this shop next door to them.

The sign that hangs outside of here, no 9,  is such that virtually announces to one and all ‘ ye who enter here are in dire need.’

It is of course the dreaded pawnbrokers!

Snip20140926_12

This is the business of a London chappie, 57-year-old Alfred Sergeant.

He no longer lives above this shop , having done very nicely for himself and his family, they have moved into  a nice home, Ingleside, over in  Rodwell.

His wife  is what one could only politely refer to as a true Liverpudlian, her name is Emma. along with their three rather boisterous children Kate, Herbert and Ethel.

I do believe they have a couple of live-in servants,  someone told me their cook was called  Emma Aston  and their young housemaid Ellen Bumstead. I have no social contact with the family..I’m sure they really wouldn’t be my sort.

There are people living in these premises above the business at no 9, but these rooms are now the abode of  his shop staff.

Head of the busy household is Annie Rose, she is a 47-year-old widow, her thankless task as housekeeper is to keep the single lads watered, fed and under control.

The eldest ‘lad’ is in fact 43, Samuel Burridge who is a  pawnbrokers assistant, as indeed are  the other household residents, Kent born Edgar Weller and Cornish lad   Frederick Philpot.

(Sergeants shop was still on these same premisses in the early 1960’s, Woolworth’s which used to stand the other side of the passageway had purchased the building, hoping to be able to expand their store  losing the lane altogether, but they were denied planning permission.

This building is still a place where money exchanges hands, it is now  the Nationwide Building Society.)

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At last ladies, we have reached the end of this first block of houses and shop premises…time for tea me thinks.

If you look up this  narrow passageway that leads from St Mary Street it will take you to  New Street.

It goes by the name of Blockhouse Lane dating back to the 16th century when it led to the blockhouse fort that originally sat on the sea shore.

At one time during the early 18th c the name had been  changed to Pope’s Passage but reverted to its original name in the 1880’s.

Millicent…Millicent…where are you going?…Wait for me…

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Hope you’ve enjoyed our little stroll.

Part two will continue our amble down the Victorian St Mary Street.

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These photos below show what remains in this small section of the  town of some of the older buildings.

You might not notice anything special walking past the modern day shop fronts, but if you stop and look up, you will see a variety of building styles that bear remnants of grander times.

In this first section it is not always easy to connect the new with the old. Numbers have changed somewhat.

Gladstones the jewellers is now listed as 1a St Mary St.

P1490476

 

Next door, Antonios Cafe is 2a…seems fairly logical, at first!

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One then would assume that Mejusa the next one in line down the street would be …well, it’s not…it’s no.1 of course!

P1490479

 

and Barclays Bank is no.2…

The Black Dog thankfully was no.3…and still is no.3.

The next block of Victorian shop premises were demolished and replaced with the modern, rather soulless looking building of M&S.These are no’s 4-8.

Sports Direct is listed as 8a and 8b. I rather think this was the grand town house of the wealthy Arden family, can’t you just picture the aged spinsters sat at one of the decorative bay windows  literally watching life passing by.

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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.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Weymouth’s St John’s Terrace Gardens.

I know…it’s just outside the Victorian era, but close enough I thought.

rocks album st johns church

St John’s gardens are situated at the end of the long terrace of houses that run along the start of the main Dorchester Road, known as St John’s Terrace, past St John’s church which stands proud at the end of the sea front,  on the opposite side to the  old vicarage.

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I would think that they are possibly the smallest gardens in the area, and probably the majority of people have driven or walked past them time and time again without ever really noticing them. Only when you stop at the road crossing to let pedestrians cross, you might chance to glance to your left, and see them, but may think no more of it.

We would occasionally go in there on our way home from school, which being St John’s primary school, was only at the other end of the terrace.  The school has since been demolished, and now a block of flats stands there (this seems this happens more and more now, demolish one building, and replace with a whole block of flats), not surprisingly these flats were then named as St John’s Court!

Even in those days though, some less than salubrious characters hung around in these gardens, so we would check first to see if it was safe to enter.

As it was such a small park, it never seemed to be somewhere that you would head for with a purpose, just a place that you might stop off in while on your way to other destinations, apart from a few local dog walkers who used it regularly, and it seems still do.

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This small, derelict area at the end of the terrace was donated to the Council by Sir Frederick Johnstone, who had already handed over the larger gardens at Greenhill to the town. Though even the beginnings of Greenhill gardens hadn’t been without its problems, with it’s prior legal battles over ownership of the land.

At the same time as these St John’s gardens were under development and construction, the council were in negotiations with Mr. Young, Sir Johnston’s land agent, with reference to purchasing a further piece of land between the existing Greenhill gardens, and the Sluices at Greenhill. these were to later become the area of the bowling green and the Sluice Gardens, which is where the beach huts and sand and paddling pool now are are.

These gardens were started  during the boom era of the local Corporations providing open spaces for everyone to enjoy. Of course, even more importantly, in growing seaside towns like Weymouth during the Victorian era, where a large source of their income was from visitors (and of course, still is to this day), they wanted to be able to offer beautiful open spaces that would be added attractions for their visitors. Every tourist was hard fought for with all the new sea side resorts springing up along the South coast.

In the minutes of the Garden and Street Committee of Dec 1902 they were discussing as to what to do with the St Johns plot,a small triangle of derelict land that stood at the end of the terrace. It obviously took them a while to come up with anything, because it wasn’t until eleven months later, in the October of the following year that they finally requested the town surveyor to prepare a plan of this piece of land.

A further sub-committee was then appointed to decide what should be done with it.

This sub committee was then, a couple of months later, instructed to call at the surveyors house to discuss the laying out of the land…. either the poor chap was permanently on call, or it was an excuse for a social evening to decide business.

However, during that time, they had obviously managed to come to some sort of a decision between them  because by February of 1904 the surveyor had submitted his plans for the plot to the Gardens Committee, who decreed that the land should now be fenced, and cleared.

When I’ve been reading through the minutes of the various borough meetings, I never cease to wonder at the workings of these committees. Judging by the amount of arguing, wrangling and passing the decisions to others sub committees to make, how on earth any decision ever got taken I’ll never know, in fact, the wonder that anything got done at all!

But get done it did.

Eventually!

Work finally started on the plot in March/April time. First came the  rustic fencing which was erected around the site, it was supplied by a Mr. Riley and had been chosen from an illustrated book that contained all his pattern designs. Weymouth had wanted pattern no 181, this came in at the grand total of £48.17s 9d.

Creating parks and gardens, both public and private, were becoming big business in those days. Quick to jump on the bandwagon, many companies that supplied wrought iron work, garden furniture and other necessities to create stunning gardens bought out illustrated catalogues and pattern books that showed their designs and structures such as bandstands, seating, lighting.

Before they could even begin work, they had to bring in  350 loads of soil which were tipped on the site to build up the levels and then the work could start on the little park beginning with the  narrow pathways being pegged out.

The sub committee who had finally ended up with the task of creating these gardens from scratch and on a shoe string  had been told to work to a budget of £150.00 for the laying out and planting of the gardens.

Luckily for them, major changes were also afoot in one of the Alexandra gardens at the same time, with the thatched shelters being added, and new flowerbeds being cut. So a spot of recycling was in order. The discarded turf, shrubs and flowers were moved to the St Johns gardens. Despite many of them being large mature specimens, and it having been  a hot dry summer, it seems the shrubs managed to survive, and did well.

Once the decisions had finally been made, work seem to have proceeded at a pace, because three months later, in July, the gardens were ready for their grand opening as reported by a local paper.

The following article in the Southern Times dated July 21st 1904, gives a more personal view of the opening of the gardens.

 

                                   OPENING OF ST. JOHN’S TERRACE GARDENS.

                       THE MAYORESS GRACIOUSLY PERFORMS THE CEREMONY

Dorset, Weymouth, St John's Gardens

 

What his Worship (Alderman Groves) in his brief speech aptly described as an “eye sore” has been transformed into a picturesque open space at the northern end of the borough. In the “good old days,” before Weymouth had extended to anything like it’s present proportions the land at the higher end of “ the Front” and extending in a northerly direction was, in winter gales, swept by seas, and on occasions the waters of the Backwater and sea became united. But with the tides of progress such historical associations have been relegated to a by-gone age, and what was formerly known as “The barrows” has given place to bricks and mortar; and a row of houses have taken a firm foundation upon what originally formed nothing but a quagmire. Opposite St John’s church a commanding line of houses was erected and named after the sacred edifice; and at the northern end for many years has been a waste piece of land running parallel with the terrace which has been fittingly characterized as one of the “undesirables” of the “loyal and ancient” “The old order changeth, wielding place to now,” thanks to the generosity of Weymouth’s ground landlord, Sir Frederick Johnstone, Bart. During the Mayoralty of Alderman John Bragg, J.P., the ground in question was offered to the Corporation by Mr. H A L Young, the local agent to the estate, acting on behalf of Sir Fredrick on condition that the Town Council laid out and enclosed it. The munificence of the worthy baronet was immediately accepted, and the thanks of the town were accorded him for his generous gift. The conditions of the contract were set in motion without undue delay, and after the somewhat wearying period of time necessary for filling up and settling had elapsed, what was eventually to be “a thing of beauty and joy for ever” was turned over to the Garden Committee to effect the necessary transformation. With the advent of the ideal shelters in the Alexandra Gardens, which now forms one of the best improvements carried out during late years in Weymouth, mould, turf, shrubs, flowers, &c., consequently had to be removed, and these proved acceptable material for form-inganncleus to work upon. The Garden Committee, with it’s indefatigable Chairman (Alderman T.H. Williams, J.P.) and an able lieutenant in councilor E. C. Watts, together with the co-operation of other members, with commendable promptitude, took the work in hand, with the result that in an incredible period of time the “eye sore” has been converted into a veritable paradise.

Under the direction of the committee, the town’s head-gardener (Mr. Smith) is to be congratulated on the admirable manner in which the St John’s-terrace gardens have been laid out, and the economy, which has resulted to the town, by utilizing material “salved” from the Alexandra Gardens when ruthlessly pulled up for effecting the construction of the shelters.

 The addition of an open space to Melcombe North will not only be warmly welcomed by the inhabitants of that portion of the borough, but will be enhanced in value owing to the picturesque bearing which St John’s-terrace Gardens will lend to the fine avenue of trees bordering either side of the Dorchester-road.

avenue trees dorchester road

Around the triangular piece of garden a rustic fencing has been erected by Mr. Riley, who constructed the garden shelters, and inside bushy shrubs have been planted which apparently have “struck” remarkably well, notwithstanding the dry season. In the centre of the lawn, flower beds have been made, and the plants being now in bloom greatly add to the enchantment. As the autumn approaches trees, shrubs, and plants will be planted and creepers to perfectly cover the black wall of St. John’s terrace, so that in the course of time the appearance of the gardens will be further improved.

Wednesday afternoon, in glorious summer weather, was fixed for the ceremony of opening and dedicating the newly laid out gardens to the benefit of the public. Shortly before three o’clock the Weymouth Season Band entered the grounds, and the gates which are immediately opposite Lindisfarne, the residence of Miss Dansy, were locked by one of the two Town Sergeants who were present in attendance on Weymouth’s Chief Magistrate. Punctual to the hour fixed for the preceedings the Mayoress and Mrs Selby drove up in a brougham and were joined by His Worship, who had been attending a gathering at Sutton Poyntz.

Amongst those interested in watching the ceremony there were to be seen Aldermen Williams, Welsford, Whettam, Bagg, Councillors Dennis, Watts, Gregory, Evans and De Meric, Sir R. N. Howard (Town Clerk), Dr. Jones (Medical Officer of Health), Mr. W. B. Morgan (Borough Surveyor), Mr. W. R. Wallis (Committee Clerk), Sir John and Lady Groves, Colonel Sanders, Mr. and Mrs. H. A. L. Young, Surgeon=Colonel Lloyd Barrow, of Barrowdene, Misses. Groves, Mrs. R. C, Watts, Mrs. Selby, Mrs. W. B. Morgan, Colonel Russell, &c. Immediately outside the gates.             

The MAYOR speaking from his brougham, said; Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a pleasing duty to perform this afternoon, that is to ask my wife, the Mayoress, to open the gates of this new garden. (Applause) For many years past this piece of ground has been a waste and an eyesore to the public. Now, through the liberality of Sir Frederick Johnstone, the Corporation, through the energy of the Gardens Committee, have been able to lay it out as a garden for the service and enjoyment of the residents and visitors. (Applause.) It was during the Mayoralty of my predecessor, Alderman John Bragg, that the fee of the land was conveyed to the Corporation through the kind offices of Sir Frederick’s agents, Mr. Foster and Mr. Young. As recently as the year 1804 this piece of land was washed over by the Backwater, being indeed part of the Backwater. All the houses you see in the neighborhood in a due westerly direction, and in the Park district have been built since that period, and on land reclaimed from the Backwater. This shows that Weymouth has made progress, although perhaps not so fast as some of us may have desired; but I am sure if we can secure open spaces, and lay them out in this way, it will add to the picturesque ness of the town and be a good thing for Weymouth. (Applause.)

gardener watering can 1887

All the shrubs and plants you see have been transplanted from our own Corporation gardens, and, as time goes on, we hope to replace many of them with some of a more ornamental kind. (Applause.) I will now ask the Mayoress to open the grounds. (Applause.)

                                    ……………..

The public either promenaded or were accommodated with chairs, and for an hour, Mr. Howgill’s band discoursed a pleasant selection of music.

I do remember sometimes sitting in these gardens with my Mum as a very small child, probably having a rest while walking to or from town. As I grew older, and began to attend St Johns, I passed by them morning and night, and can vividly remember hiding in there once, too scared to go to school, all because I hadn’t bothered to learn my times tables which we always seemed to have to recite every morning. Some kind soul must have spotted me lurking there, and informed the school, because while I was trying to decide what to do next, a teacher came marching along and hauled me off to stand in front of the headmaster.

 

It wasn’t until I started researching about the parks and gardens that I realised just how much of the Weymouth I know has been built on reclaimed land. I had always heard tales from my Dad of how the sea and the backwater nearly met along the seafront, called the Narrows. If you study old maps of the town, huge areas that we now live, work, play on, were originally marshy lands, or water.

You could and still can often judge the popularity of a resort or the gardens by how often they appeared as postcards, in peoples photos, or mentioned in the newspapers or guidebooks of the era. I have only ever seen two postcards of the St Johns gardens, both taken around the same time, at the start of the gardens life.

Sadly, these days the gardens seem to have a rather neglected feel to them, the grass looks unkempt, the shrubs and roses look as if they have seen better days, whilst the only people there were a couple of ladies were walking their dogs.

LONDON MAGAZINE 11 1904 DOG SHOW

This I would suspect is probably what they are most used for these days, a green space to dog walk, and judging by the amount of dog poo on the grass, not all owners were responsible ones, despite a sign on the gate outside asking people to clear up after themselves. Poor gardener who has to work in this dogs toilets.

The little shelter that sat at the end no longer contains a seat, but from comments made, I suspect that this might be more to do with stopping undesirable people from using the privacy it gave them, from sleeping rough to using and then discarding needles.

The old statue plinths stand there empty, just hinting at a slightly more luxurious past.

 

Such a sad ending for the little gardens that started out with such big hopes.

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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.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

1891; Wyke Regis church receives its new bells

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

I loved to hear them.

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

lady church gravestones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

800px-Church_bell_cutaway…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

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

Weight 4cwt 2qrs, cost £25 4s.

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

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

Weight; 5cwt, cost £28.

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

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

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

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

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

Weight; 6cwt, cost £33 12s.

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

this one was donated by Mrs R Phelips of Weymouth.

Weight; 7 cwt, cost £40 12s.

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

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

Weight; 9 cwt 3qrs, cost £54 12s.

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

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

Weight; 12 cwt 3 qrs, cost £71 8s.

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No 8. (tenor)

“Lord may this bell for ever be

a tuneful voice o’er land and sea,

To call they people unto thee”

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

Weight; 16cwt, cost £89 12s.

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

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

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

children church q 1887

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

The joyous bells could ring out once more in Wyke.

wyke church

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

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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.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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Weymouths beginnings as a sea bathing resort 1750

When ever Weymouth is talked about concerning it’s seaside status,  generally it is said that George III made it what it is today, that’s partly true, but there is a little more to it than that.

Weymouth was becoming popular long before the end of the 18th c.

A certain Bath gentleman, Ralph Allen had purchased a house in the town in 1750. He was a quarry owner from Bath, he also became the Mayor of Bath, but what he is most famous for was his updating of the postal system.

When he became seriously ill, his physician suggested that he should bathe in  the sea waters at Weymouth, so Allen found himself the proud owner of no 2 Trinity Terrace, along the harbourside, this is  where he would stay for  3 months of each year. He must have also been one of the first people in Weymouth to use a bathing machine to ‘take’ his cure. This early advert below is his property about a century and a half later, by then being used as a boarding house.

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Being a wealthy business man and influential in high society,  he attracted many other well connected persons to the town, including, in the year 1758, Royalty. On a Sunday morning in August H.R.H. Prince Edward came ashore in Weymouth  to dine with Ralph Allen. The two men then made their way to the local church later that afternoon where Rev. Mr Shuttleworth gave an ‘excellent’ sermon. The papers state that “On Monday and Tuesday there was so much company from the adjacent parts (by that they meant Melcombe Regis, across the harbour, and what is now the main town of Weymouth), that the town was scarce sufficient to accommodate them.”

It seems that whereever Royalty turned up, so did the crowds!

Weymouth at that point was also a thriving international port.

In 1780 King George’s younger brother the Duke of Gloucester apparently had visited and  liked Weymouth so much that he had a house built here, Gloucester Lodge, on what is now the seafront, but at that stage was open ground. The Duke and Duchess along with their 2 children came to stay at their new residence in June of 1781. Newspapers report in September that same year that their Majesties and the Prince of Wales were due to visit the Duke while he was down in Weymouth.

King George III and his family, upon his physicians advice, also came to Weymouth from 1798 to partake in the sea bathing, about which much has been written, some claiming that he wasn’t here for his health, but purely for political reasons.  http://www.bbc.co.uk/dorset/content/articles/2006/11/09/king_george_feature.shtml

From that time on Weymouth became THE place to be seen in. The titles, rich and the powerful poured in from all points of the kingdom. The papers each week full of lists of the arrivals in town, where they were staying, how long for, the parties and balls that were held. Horse racing held on Lodmoor, which in 1828 the scene was described as ” The surrounding hills commanded a fine Prospect of teh sport, as well as the bay, which produced the scene of the most enlivening and unequalled hilarity”. (not too sure why the ‘hilarity’?)

As time went on, and other resorts became more fashionable and competitive, the type of tourist and daytripper who arrived in the town changed, becoming more families from the middle and working class. So did the type of entertainments that the resort had to offer, childrens rides on the beach, paddle steamers leaving from the harbour to take the trippers along the coast or to Portland. Boarding houses sprung up behind the grand Georgian esplanade.

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Ever since then, Weymouth has been a magnet for those looking for a traditional seaside holiday.

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Long may it stay that way.

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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.
https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

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Reluctant Weymouth voters of 1835

The seeming reluctance of the British nation to take an interest in general politics  is not a new phenomenon!

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In the newspapers of May 1835 covering events at Weymouth is a report of similar apathy for the selected  local MP’s.

During April of 1835 a much planned and publicised dinner was to be uth melcombe held in the town for the voters to meet the two representatives of that year,  Thomas Fowell Buxton(liberal) and William Wharton Burdon(Whig).

But despite the committees numerous efforts to rouse any interest in what should have been a grand ocassion, out of the 600 people who were eligible to vote in the town, only 53 of those could be  persuaded to attend to meal…and they even had to give the tickets away to entice them to the event. Even worse, they had to drag in people from nearby Dorchester to try to make up the numbers, as they were so dire!

In the end only 85 people sat down to a slap up meal with the elected members, who were non too happy at being dragged away from London to be met with such lack of enthusiasm.

Buxton was MP for Weymouth for a total of 19 years (1818-1837), he had a house in Wyke, and Buxton Road is named after him.

William Wharton Burton was a Bridport coal merchant, he only lasted 2 years as our local MP (1835-1837)

http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1820-1832/constituencies/weymouth-and-melcombe-regis

Opening of the new Weymouth town bridge 1824.

Anyone interested in the long history of our town will know about it’s somewhat turbulent beginnings.

The harbour was the dividing line…at times literally the front line of the ‘war zone.’

Weymouth started life as two completely separate  towns very much at odds with each other. Old Weymouth  straggled along the harbourside of the Nothe and part of the Wyke Ridge behind and Melcombe Regis, the dastardly opposition, faced them across the waters.

In a nutshell, these two opposing settlements just did not get on, they fought about harbour dues, who was in charge, in fact absolutely everything and anything. Every so often,(frequently if truth be told,) a complaint would be sent to Queen Elizabeth I about such matters. In the end, so frustrated with the endless bickering  and having to constantly sort them out she decreed that the only way to settle it was for the two to be united.

Two became as one in 1571, the borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, but old scores ran deep, and it took many years for  both sides to be able to work together amicably.

In the local archives are 2 draft documents addressed to the Privy Council dated 1572, they tell of the continuing fierce disputes and how ‘ murder is likely to ensue.’  and so the squabbling went on..and on…

As early as 1575 it was suggested by the visiting local Justices brought in to resolve these matters ‘that a bridge should be erected as a likely help towards agreement.’

Eventually a bridge was constructed, which united the two sides of the harbour.

An excerpt from my well-thumbed copy of Eric Ricketts excellent book, ‘The Buildings of Old Weymouth; Part One,’ describes the historical time line of transport across the harbour, (I can highly recommend the series of books he wrote, you’ll see so much more history in Weymouth buildings that you ever noticed before.)

Erick Ricketts book

Anyway, I digress, back to the town bridge, Eric wrote ‘The first bridge was built in 1597 a timber affair with a central drawbridge “of two reeves.”

Come 1617 and orders for the maintenance of the harbour were drawn up, ‘A ship requiring “one or both leeves (of the drawbridge to be) drawne, is to pay 12d going up, nothing coming down.’‘ Every cart or wain, with iron-bound wheels, crossing the Bridge is to pay 4d.’ 

Eric was an avid and  knowledgable local historian and loved to draw sketches of things that still existed in the area, or indeed many sketches of his interpretation of what had gone before, below is such an illustration taken from his book mentioned above.

Erick Ricketts old town bridgebridge

He goes on to say that “Major repairs or rebuilding took place in 1713 and 1741 but by 1769 the increase in the number of ships moored at Custom House Quay, Melcombe, (between the Royal Oak Inn and the bridge,) was so great that cargoes had to be hoisted with much inconvenience ‘over several other vessels,’ thus it was decided to build the New Bridge on the Chapelhay steps-St Nicholas Street, (Melcombe,) axis and by so doing increase the length of the Melcombe Quay. The new bridge was of timber, the gift to the town by J Tucker Esq. M.P. ““For a visual record of the bridge we must visit our museum and study Uphams picture of it from the Weymouth side.”

(The new Weymouth museum has an excellent display outside on the landing showing the development of the harbour, well worth a visit.)

But it seems that many didn’t like this new positioning of the town bridge, no longer feeding off the main St Thomas Street, consequently come the start of the 19th c and a new bridge was planned, this time returned to its original position, to stand once again where many others had before.

The old wooden bridge had slowly fallen into disrepair, so in 1821 plans were made to build its replacement of stone with a swing section that opened to allow the taller sailing ships to pass through into the backwater area of the harbour.

Events of the previous year, (1820,) might well have had a big influence on that decision, the ‘inhabitants of Dorset’ (i.e. Weymouth,) were being taken to court by no less than the King!

‘The King v The Inhabitants of Dorset.-this was an indictment against the inhabitants of the county of Dorset for not repairing Weymouth Bridge.The defendants pleaded that under the statute of 22 Henry 8, ch 5, the inhabitants of the borough and town corporate of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis ought to repair the bridge, it being within the limits of that towns corporate. Upon the trial, the Inhabitants of Dorset were acquitted. The charge of the repair, which it is understood will be very heavy, is now thrown on the inhabitants of the said town, and will oblige them to apply to Parliament for an act to raise tolls on the bridge, and to increase port dues, in order to maintain the quays and wharfs.’

What were they to do, with little in the town’s coffers, the Corporation had to think laterally, then they came up with a grand scheme to raise the money…ask the general public for it; an add appeared in the papers in April of 1821.

Weymouth town bridge 1821.

They must have raised the necessary money because work  started that August of 1821, and as tradition dictated, the ceremony to lay the first stone was a big affair for the more elite members of the town.‘The foundation stone of the new bridge at Weymouth was laid with Masonic form on Monday last-The Mayor and Corporation assembled at the Guildhall; the friendly societies at their rooms; and the officers and their brethren of the lodges in the province, the R. W. P. G. M. for Essex, and other visitors at the hall, where the Grand Lodge was opened by Wm Williams, esq., M.P. and Provincial Grand Master, in ample form, from whence they proceeded to church, followed by the band of the Guards. The Rev Brother Deason read the service, and the Rev Brother Burgess delivered a most excellent masonic discourse. From the church a most splendid procession, attended by two bands, marched to the end of the Esplanade, and from thence to the spot where the foundation stone was to be laid, where the concourse of people was immense. The craft in the bay were decked with their colours, the rigging of the vessels, the galleries erected, the windows, the house tops, and every eminence likely to afford a view of the ceremony, was taken possession of. The P G M  accompanied by the D. G. M., Parr, his G. S. and T. W.’s, Elliott and Percy, and the other officers of the Grand Lodge, the Mayor and the Architect, the Contractor, and seven operative masons,descended on the pier, the stone was raised, and the G. T.  deposited the Coins and the Plate, on which was a suitable inscription. After a hymn and prayer, the procession returned to their respective places of entertainment.’

Even those ladies attending were dressed in masonic colours for the occasion.

‘At the ceremony of the laying of the foundation stone of the new bridge at Weymouth, all the ladies are to appear in aprons and blue scarfs in compliment to the masonic costume of the gentlemen.’

One might even assume that as the Masons had such a big part to play in the ceremony, so perhaps they did too in funding the scheme.

The building engineer was a Mr. G Moneypenny, Esq. and D Macintosh,Esq. the building contractor, the firm Messrs Fowler and Jones constructed the mechanism that opened the swing bridge.

An update on construction affairs was penned in 1823, ‘ The works of the Weymouth new bridge are advancing rapidly; it is the only construction of the kind in this kingdom-a stone bridge of elliptical arches, with a drawbridge centre, designed upon the principle of that proposed by Perronet, for the River Neva, at St Petersburg, but upon a rather smaller scale. The masonry of the bridge is considered a masterly performance; particularly light for its appearance, yet so very massive and closely united, that the  on the striking of the centre was not observed to settle even a sixteenth of an inch.’

Finally completed by January of 1824, the inhabitants of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis witnessed the grand opening of their new town bridge.

Consequently, early, very early, in fact…4 a.m! on that cold January morning in 1824, the first customer (they still had to pay a toll in those days to cross it, here’s hoping the present day town council don’t pick up on that one ) ventured forth.

The lucky ‘customer’ first over the bridge was a Mr G P Scott in his Magnet coach. He had obviously come well prepared for this grand, momentous occasion, his horses were beautifully bedecked with ribbons and evergreens. I’m not too sure that they were too happy with being covered in their flowing finery as they were described as “high mettled”.

It seems that some people had predicted that the bridge would be a failure, that no animals would be willing to step across the iron central panel, but cross they did. Mr Scott’s gaily bedecked carriage was swiftly followed by two large wagons full of strong beer, these were from Colonel Bower’s Brewery at Dorchester, and thereafter a stream of other traders passed to and fro.

old Weymouth town bridge

Mind you, perhaps some animals were a tad flighty when it came to stepping out on suspect metal surfaces,  in 1825 came this report ‘On Wednesday night as the Rev M Moles, of Ilminster, accompanied by his mother, was driving his carriage over Weymouth Bridge, his horse took fright and galloped off at full speed. Near Gloucester Row the carriage upset and both the lady and the gentleman were severely hurt.’

I wonder if that was before or after he’d paid the toll?

William Pye Weymouth town bridge

The old swing bridge served the town and harbour well for the next century, the central section being widened and altered slightly in 1885 as shown here in William Pye’s print of 1890.

Come 1930 and it was time for a new bridge to be constructed to deal with increased traffic both on land and water.

Snip20150301_30

Nowadays it’s the boats of the pleasure seekers who pass through it’s portals. Crowds line the harbourside in the summer to watch the bascule bridge raise and the procession of vessels enter and leave the harbour.

In the evening constantly changing colours of the lights adorn the parapets, sending a ripple of lights across the water.

P1430247

I wonder what Weymouth next bridge will look like?

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Check out my Pinterest pages for more old views of Weymouth from my collection.

https;//www.pinterest.com/susanhogben/old-views-of-weymouth-dorset/

See below links to more pictures of this bridge on the fascinating Website Weymouth in Old Postcards and Postcards run by Eddie Prowse.

http://www.weymouthinoldpostcards.co.uk/holy%20trinity%20church%201900s.htm