What were your Weymouth ancestors doing in December of 1888?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once they neared the  entrance to the pier they could see the steam fair in full swing on the quayside. it looked as if the whole of Weymouth had turned out to attend the festive revelries. Spiffily dressed stall holders bellowed their gaudy wares, “come buy…come buy” they cried as pretty maids crowded round, purses clutched tightly under their shawls. Dapper dandies stood perusing the assortment of side shows that lined the quay, their sight alighting upon somewhat scandalously dressed women whose dark eyes promised such delicious delights behind those beguiling curtains.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Albert never did visit the fair ever again!

(Bridport News 14 Dec 1888)

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

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Hauled before Messrs Robens was one Mary Jackson.

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

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

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

Mary’s co-conspirator and partner in crime was one George Jackson. Not her husband at all, although he was married, just not to Mary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles and William both traded as  fine art dealers.

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

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

Before her stood her next victim.

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

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

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

Paintings duly despatched, Charles waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Quarter Sessions the following Spring, Charles Hibbs sat patiently in the courtroom, he wanted to witness this dishonest couple get their just deserts. Imagine his surprise when the couple appeared before the judges, their case was thrown out, apparently it had been his own fault!  The Court Chairman decreed that“Hibbs had sent these twelve pictures to Crekerne without making any enquiries as to the applicant.”

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

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

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

(Western Gazette 21 Dec 1888)

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

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An article described how “The good people of Weymouth have tried to induce the swans to live in the open sea-in the bay.” But it appears that the feathered flock of around 300 had their own views on such matters. Despite people feeding them on boiled Indian corn out in the bay to entice them away from their sheltered spot, they kept flying back to Radipole Lake. “They seem to dislike a strong wind” bemoaned one bewildered local.

(Bridport News 14th Dec)

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

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

(Western Chronicle Fri 14 Dec)

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

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

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

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

(Hants Advertiser 26 Dec)

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

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

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

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

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

Kick off was at 3 o’clock.

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

Dorset won 3-2!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LONDON MAGAZINE 11 1906 LADY CHAIR

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

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

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

She realised the fire was in HER house…panic set in.

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

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

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

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

(Western Gazette 28 Dec)

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

 

 

Old Weymouth High Street; life in the 1850’s.

I just love rummaging through ancient newspapers, dusty old books and random records, catching snapshots of the lives of those who lived in our area.

One district of Weymouth that is undergoing major redevelopment at the moment is along the quayside of the inner harbour.

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In the past, this North Quay and back harbour  was the place where the everyday working boats moored up, with their wooden hulls, elegant tall masts, yards of rope rigging  and heavy canvas sails the order of the day.

But times have changed and it is now a place of pleasure and relaxation, a popular marina, where some of the Weymouth working boats, and of course those fancy sleek cruisers and modern day yachts moor to the extensive web of pontoons that criss cross the waters.

Thankfully, many of those ugly, modernist municipal buildings that indolently sprawl along its waterfront are at last being done away with, the beating heart of Weymouth is slowly transforming yet again.

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Whereas before the fire station and  the soulless, grey concrete council offices held these prime sites, plans are afoot to reintroduce more sympathetic housing to front the water. Something that will hopefully nestle in more comfortably with the historic, eclectic jumble  of cottages and buildings further down the road. (As of the writing the first section of the rebuild is still well and truly under wraps…so time will tell!)

This part of the old original Weymouth could boast many ancient and interesting buildings, from grand Tudor houses to Georgian villas, such treasures that were simply swept away in the name of progress, despite ferocious opposition and campaigning by many.

This is also where the old High Street stood, a remnant from way, way back in time when Weymouth and Melcombe Regis were once two bitterly opposing and separate towns across the harbour, and fierce, sometimes deadly, conflict was very much the order of the day.

This narrow street had witnessed so much history, from the sounds of fierce conflict, deadly musket fire, fleeing soldiers and the site of much bloodshed and death, when Weymouth became heavily embroiled in the Civil War.

Later it took a heavy pounding during WWII as German bombers did their best to blow Weymouth harbour to smithereens.

High Street Weymouth.

Large sections of the old High street were severely damaged during  these frequent air raids.

Who knows what other long forgotten history is lurking deep in the ground beneath this modern day tarmac and concrete.

I can recall as a child wandering through the remnants of these bombed out buildings, mesmerised by the remaining walls, some with wallpaper hanging off, once cosy and intimate bedroom fire places open to the world, the ubiquitous Budlleja sprouting, softening the harsh lines of destruction. Many locals of a certain age will tell tales of these tumble down ruins as their childhood adventure playground.

Later this whole section of the old High Street and waterfront buildings were swept away as part of the slum clearances, first turned into a temporary carpark and taken over by the council for their new offices.

Demolition of old Weymouth.

Thankfully, a few concerned locals took the time to grab photos and copious notes of these buildings before they were demolished, not least famous Weymouth historian Eric Ricketts, much of which he talks about in his book ‘The Buildings of Old Weymouth; Part One.’ It’s a set of books that I can’t recommend highly enough for those interested in Weymouth’s checkered history.

As time passes and those folks with their memories of the old town, it’s characters, traditions and history take their place at the Pearly Gates, so many small, personal details  of old Weymouth gets lost forever.

Luckily  we can still catch little glimpses of the families who once lived here from the old census records, Post Office directories and poll books, some of those native families still live in the area, some moved on as fortunes dictate.

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(Eric Rickett’s map of the area from “The Buildings of Old Weymouth; Part One.’)

What follows is a snap shot of some of those people who were born, lived, loved and worked in the old High Street of the 1850’s.

I have added numbers to those that were listed, but between 1850 and 1860 these were changed…unless everyone in the street suddenly upped sticks and moved house in the street, a bit like musical properties.

Let’s gird our loins and go for a nostalgic stroll through time and the street of old Weymouth town.

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Holy Trinity.

We stop first at no 10 High Street, here lives 45-year-old Charles Buck, he is a coal merchant.

Love and matrimony came late to Charles, at the ripe old age of 40 he finds himself waiting nervously at the alter of Holy Trinity church for his bride to be. On Christmas day of 1851, Rebecca Tompkins makes her way down the aisle towards her beloved, man and wife were set for a long and happy future in a place they both loved. Sadly though, their marriage didn’t last for long, on the 11th November 1857, the hard working coal man, Charles, passed away, leaving a bereft Rebecca to carry on alone.

Carry on she certainly did, still residing in the High Street, one can only assume that the coal business had been fairly healthy and she had been left reasonably well off as she was listed as a home owner and of independent means.

Rebecca died in 1891 at the age of 69.

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Moving on to the house of no 13, here we find a newly married couple, Charles Hibbs and his wife Susan (nee Bond). Charles is earning his living as a plumber and glazier. Having worked hard and built up a thriving business, the couple up sticks and move across the water by the 1861 census to larger premises in St Thomas Street.

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No 15 is known as Longhill, the home of wealthy widow, Mrs Phillis Horsford, a grand dame who has reached the ripe old age of 72. She was married to Joseph Horsford Esquire for many years, an extremely  affluent and influential business man and councillor in and around town. Joseph died in 1850 leaving his wife more than comfortably off.

Phillis now lives in her opulent home alone, barring her servants, a sure sign that she was certainly no pauper, and perhaps demonstrates that parts of the old High Street undoubtedly had some very desirable residences indeed.

A little while later, at the start of 1856, and Phillis breathes her last. In her will, besides many other items of value, she leaves to her only grandson her ‘silver salver and six silver forks.’

The rest of her estate is put up for auction, no doubt many of her curious neighbours and acquaintances took this opportunity to have a wander through her house and poke through what was once her precious belongings.

An advert placed in the local paper gives a tantalising peep into her world of accumulated wealth.

Paintings adorn her walls, many by acclaimed artists such as Thorne, Collier  and even Gainsborough.

The grand rooms are filled with sumptuous furniture, precious items such as an ornately carved sofa, richly gilded and covered in striking silk satin, an item that once belonged to no less than George III himself when he resided in Gloucester Lodge, the contents of which were auctioned off in 1853.

Josephs extensive library is being sold off too, including ‘a large number of works suitable for an attorney’s library,’ something which gives us a clue into the Master Horsford’s working and social world and the source of his wealth.

But death favours no one, rich or poor, at the end of the day, no matter how wealthy they may have been, how high they flew in society’s social circles…they all end up in a 6 foot hole in the ground.

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A little further down the road and we arrive at  the home of Joseph Balson and his wife Sarah who live at no 18. Sarah was a bit of a cougar!…She was 44, nine years older than her husband.

The pair run their own grocery business, one of the many bustling little shops that serve this area.

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Next door, at no 19, lives Edward Bartlett, an ex-employee of the HM Coastguard Service, a life spent pursuing smugglers and pirates on the seas around our coastline, he’s a retired Captain of a revenue cutter. Edward married Grace White Stanford on the 27th August 1850, this was love second time around for both of them.

Not surprisingly, the couple have chosen to set up home near to the waters edge, a mariner never likes to venture very far from those sights, sounds and scents that remind him of a life on the sea.

Edward dies in 1856 at the age of 75, but during his lifetime he has obviously acquired a very good standard of living, including, it seems, a healthy stock of liquer.

In his Last Will and Testament he leaves the majority of it to his wife and her daughter Susannah. besides a considerable amount of money he goes on to declare that “I give and bequeath to  my wife the said Grace White Bartlett absolutely all the household goods and furniture pictures, prints, books, plate silver,….. glass, wines, liqueurs and provisions, watches, chains,….and effects which shall at my death be in and about the dwelling house or the outbuildings  and premises  wherefore I now reside being no 19 High Street Weymouth…”He also leaves Grace  his “premises situate in Wellington Place, Weymouth.”

By the time of the next census, 1861, Grace, still resident in the High Street, living with her is her unmarried daughter Susannah, who earns her own living as a “teacher of music and dance.”

Grace is rather grandly referred to as a “landed proprietress.”

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At no 20 lives Mrs Charlotte Bussell, wife of John, a local seaman who’s more often than not away from home.

That’s not a problem for Charlotte, she is an independent woman who earns her own living as a straw hat maker. Her beautiful bonnets and colourful chapeaux adorn the heads of many a fashionable lady walking the streets of Weymouth, but Charlotte is only too aware that she needs to keep up with the latest fashions. With the invention of mass produced hat pins women were moving away from the all-encompassing fabric bonnets and taking up wearing jaunty little straw hats perched at an angle to show off and flatter their features.

Come the summer months and Charlotte’s nimble fingers are kept occupied, what with the arrival of the Dorset Yeomen, the yachting regattas, horse racing at Lodmoor, Weymouth’s social season means every lady needs to look her best.

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Even in 1871, at the ripe old age of 73, Charlotte is still busy plying her trade as a hat maker to the women of the town.

It’s not until 1876 that Charlotte hangs up her ribbons and bows, drapes her final bit of lace, and lays down her feathers, her final hat finished.

She was buried in Wyke Regis churchyard at the age of 81.

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Next door to Charlotte’s shop, (at no 21) resides Mrs Mary  H Comben, whats more fascinating, a Comben that has escaped from the isle of Portland?(You have to be local to get that one!)

Mary is another widow having reached the ripe old age of 76. She too is wealthy enough to be living off her own means and is lucky enough to have a retinue of  servants in the house. (There must surely be something in this sea bathing malarky and fresh air theory, for Weymouth can certainly boast many persons of a good age.)

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A retired Master mariner lives in the next dwelling along, at no 22. This is 86-year-old  William Langrish, with him is his wife of 54 years, Grace Fowler, (nee Flew,) the couple were married at Wyke church way back in 1797.

Sadly, they are not destined to live out their lives in their home of many years. William and Grace, no longer in the first flush of youth reluctantly move away from Weymouth and all her comforting beauty to live with one of their sons in dusty old London, and here they both die, far away from the soothing sounds and smells of the sea.

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Again, we jump a few numbers to reach no 38. This is the home of George Notley and his wife Agnes along with their rather extensive brood. George was an incomer (as were many of the other residents much to my surprise, Victorians moved around as much as todays population.)

George started out life in Haydon, but moved his business to Weymouth. A wise man goes where there’s money to be made, and with the coming of the railways, Weymouth was thriving as a popular seaside resort. George was kept busy as the local baker and corn dealer.

The couple trade successfully in High Street until George’s death in 1877, but stoic Agnes carries on with the family business, working as a baker alongside other members of her family.

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Another incomer to the area is 54-year-old Samuel Penny (a Sherbourne lad) who is installed at the address of no 42 High Street. Samuel is another shop keeper, but this time, he’s not just an ordinary  grocer, he deals in speciality wines and spirits keeping the cut glass decanters of the men of the town well topped up. Oh, and besides that he stocks a few rather odd items too…as we can see from his advert of 1847.

Lump salt probably isn’t that strange an item to find in a grocers…but 20 tons of manure, I wonder where he stored and displayed that?

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Living and working along side him in their bustling store is his wife Kezia and their children, everyone had a role to play right down to the youngest.

The Penny’s have been successfully trading here for a long time, they have lived and traded in this street for at least 15 years,  another family that mingle with those of the more wealthy Weymouth residents in the street.

Samuel died in 1870 and his widow Kezia followed soon after in 1872.

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Next door to them (43) lives a family I know a little bit about because one of their sons crops up in a piece of my previous research.

They are the Tomkins family, Robert and Eliza and their children. Dad Robert trades as a shoe maker, but his son, Joseph Russel Tomkins, was destined for higher things. He started out life as a lowly carpenter, but went on to become a builder with his own business through hard work and diligence.  Joseph  became an eminent Weymouth fellow and reached the great heights in his career as a Judge, then he moved his family to London. But Joseph never lost his love for his place of birth, he became a member of the Society of Dorset Men and wrote many an articles for them. (this is an actual likeness of Joseph in his twilight years.)

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We find another bakery shop  at no 48, this time run by Robert and Catherine Cox, they are both of a good age, 67 and 63 respectively. By the time of the 1861 census they have moved their business over onto Portland where they are now running their bakery in Easton.

Robert by now is 75!

In the 1800’s there is no safety net of state help or a pension to look forwards to, if you didn’t have a pot of money put by for your old age, you relied on family to look after you, that or you literally worked until you dropped. For the less fortunate, some found themselves ensconced in the last place the’d ever want to be, the dreaded workhouse, separated from loved ones, with the only way out being feet first in a wooden box!

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No 36 is a house of multiple occupancy…and a mystery.

One of its tenants is twenty-six year-old William Henry Latty who elegantly coiffs the hair of  the Weymouth elite.

By 1851, despite his tender age, William it seems has 2 children under the age of 2, two-year-old Jane Susannah and her baby brother, 6-month-old William… and not a single sign of a wife.

Living with him, but listed  as his housekeeper, is Amelia Escott along with her 4-year-old son George.

Both are on the census as unmarried.

In fact Jane Susannah (who is in fact an Escott not a Latty) was christened in 1848 over in Melcombe Regis, she is actually the daughter of Amelia Escott…‘a single woman.’

Later, in 1850, little William is also christened over in Melcombe Regis, far away from prying eyes and gossip maybe? his parents of course are William and Amelia.

William and Amelia  finally decide to make their relationship legal, maybe there are good reasons why they couldn’t do so before. The couple are married in 1856, but their certificate also reveals some facts. William claims to be a bachelor, and Amelia a spinster.

Come the next census and the family are all living together along with quite a few additional siblings. The couple are still running the hairdressers in the High Street, but now son George is training at his fathers side.

By 1901 the couple have moved and set up shop near Birmingham, a far cry from the softly spoken folk of Weymouth town, but they  are soon lured back to their native home, and safely ensconced in Melbourne House in Lennox Street.

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John Sergeant, 53, a married school master lives in the house adjoining, at no 49.

John is a pillar of the community, he not only runs a school in the nearby Town Hall, but he has also been an assistant overseer for the parish for many years and recently  appointed as collector of the poor rates.

Despite all the outward appearance of respectability, in May of 1855 the High Street is agog with horror and scandal concerning poor old John.

An unsuspecting lodger in his house awoke one morning, and on coming downstairs discovers the front door wide open and the doorstep covered in blood. Upon entering the closet he finds yet more blood splattered around the walls and floors, lying in amongst the congealing blood there is a tarnished knife. Fearing the worst he calls out for his wife and then dashes off to get help. Having gathered a large search party, they then proceeds to look for the injured victim.

A trail of bloody footsteps lead them first down through the garden, but this soon peters out…where should they look next?

By now everyone in the area is searching for John…or his body.

Suddenly someone espies dark tell tale hand prints smeared across and down the harbour wall, so the desperate hunt moves down to the harbour. As the waters slowly lower with the outgoing tide, it doesn’t take long to spot the still blood soaked footprints in the exposed mud, they are heading straight for the deep water channel, about 30 yards from the wall.

Men spend the next few hours dragging the waters for a body, but to no avail. Nothing or nobody is found. It’s not until later that afternoon that the corpse of John Sergeant is discovered laying in the mud, washed on the incoming tide a mile further upstream from where he first entered the water.

His body is removed to the Albert Hotel, where it is held for his inquest.

As per usual, the eager Victorian reporter describes the gruesome scene in all its full glory, “the Jury proceeded to view the body, which was placed in the bowling-alley, and presented a most ghastly spectacle, the front of the dress being saturated with blood, which had flowed from a deep wound in the throat of about three inches in length, the edges being jagged and mangled in a manner that showed the desperate earnestness with which the unfortunate man had set about his self-destruction.” 

What ever reasons lay behind John’s impulsive decision to end his life, we will never know. His somewhat erratic actions over the two week period before his untimely death had led to a close friend recommending to his wife that he should see a doctor, but he didn’t.

Consequently, John took his dark secrets with him, to his unhallowed grave.

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At no 59 live William and Catherine Dennis along with their family.

William is employed to keep an eye on those pesky traders around town, forever trying to diddle their customers, to line their own pockets, he is an Inspector of Weights and Measures.

You might well imagine that people aren’t too bothered about such things in the Victorian times, but there have been standards, statutes  and laws for Weights and Measures for well over a 1000 years.

In the markets of the 1850’s a 4 1/2 lb loaf is now selling for on average 6 1/2d to 7d, but the wily bakers often try every means in the book to squeeze more profit out of their wares. A tad underweight on each loaf maybe? Perhaps, but they can do far worse…and frequently did, sometimes going as far as to cut the flour with other less salubrious and  often downright dangerous ingredients.

family girl sickbed quiver 1865

In the bakers flour you could find many suspect ingredients, plaster of paris, bean flour, chalk, or even worse, alum, which was frequently used to whiten the bread, but it was also a substance which could have lethal effects on the digestive system, particularly dangerous and sometimes even deadly for young children and the elderly.

I hope that bakers Robert and Catherine Cox just down the road were on their guard…and not trying to diddle, (or poison,) their customers.

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Next port of call is the Boot, one of Weymouth’s oldest pubs, and a part of the old original High Street that still remains.

Not surprisingly it has a long and fascinating history, with many tales to tell of smugglers and preventative men, sailors and merchants, spectres of long ago walk these rooms, beguiling modern day ghost hunters

The Boot

In 1855 it is being run by 51-year-old George Gulliver and his wife, Ann. The couple have been hosts for a many years, they were  there in the 1851 census and are still there in the 1861 census.

One of the few remaining buildings from Weymouth old High Street, this atmospheric pub is still as popular as ever today, it even holds the dubious title of the most haunted pub in the area with many ghostly goings on,  many a ghoul gliding through its historic rooms.

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Their neighbours are Charles and Elizabeth Denning, at no 64. The couple run the greengrocers and beerhouse and have done so in this street for the past 15 odd years.

Like most people who run a successful business, there is always someone who tries to take advantage. Such was the case in 1850, when one of Charles’ employees helped himself to 24 shillings. Having been caught in the act and stood before the magistrate, William Hawkins suddenly found himself bound for pastures anew…his sentence? transportation.

A few years on and Charles falls foul of the wily Hawkins family again. In 1863, pipe maker and persistent petty pilferer, Daniel Hawkins, comes before the courts up on a charge of obtaining goods by false pretences, that being a loaf of bread, a piece of pork, some cheese, and six eggs. Despite this being his umpteenth appearance before the magistrates, his fate is certainly less harsh than that of his predecessor, he received 3 months hard labour.

Charles lost his wife of 20 years, Elizabeth, in 1863, but with the help of his family he maintained the shop until his death in 1875.

The year after his death, his once thriving business goes into liquidation.

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Moving along to the premises of no 92 High Street, here we find a recently married young couple, 26-year-old Edward Samways and his wife Martha . Edward started out life in nearby New Town Place, that is until his marriage, then the couple set up home together in the High Street where Edward plies his trade as a cordwainer or shoemaker.

He also works as a letter carrier, I guess his established profession alone wasn’t enough to keep the wolves from the family door.

Image

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A later edition to the street, but one that might be remembered by old Weymouthians is the Fishermans Arms. It once stood   at the east end of the street towards Trinity church. In all probability this quaint building started out life in the 18th c as a pretty Georgian town house, a home to one of Weymouth’s merchants or wealthier residents.

Fishermans Arms

Thankfully there is another remnant of the  High Street still standing and that is the old Town Hall which all credit due to an enthusiastic band of volunteers has undergone a complete revival over the past few years.

Hopefully Weymouth will continue to give rise to folks interested in her long history and love for her old buildings, people who will fight to preserve what’s left and teach others to appreciate it, because as we have so often learnt from the past mistakes, once it’s gone…it’s gone!

Old Town Hall Weymouth

That’s the end of our little virtual stroll, who knows, maybe you spotted one of your ancestor’s there?

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For more old views of Weymouth check out my Pinterest page.

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

History of the area of old Weymouth. http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/oldweymouth.html

Potted history of the Boot Inn. http://news.bbc.co.uk/dna/place-lancashire/plain/A25323527

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I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
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