1896; Tragedy at Upwey mill, Weymouth.

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

As you drive into the meandering village, the houses and buildings snuggle themselves down into a  wooded valley, and in the midst of this stands the tall building of the Upwey mill.

old mill upwey

It’s fed by the river Wey which springs out of the ground a little further up the valley at the famous Upwey Wishing Well.

guide p 8 copy

This stone mill was originally constructed in 1802, replacing an earlier building listed in the  records.

It is also claimed that this mill is the one that famous local author, Thomas Hardy refers to in his novel The Trumpet Major.

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

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

The mill was a bustling business then, owned by local man Alfred Loveless.

In his employ was 40 year old Robert Scutt. He  and his wife Hannah moved to Upwey from Sutton Poyntz when Robert obtained a job working for Alfred. their family were housed in one of the little cottages in Elwell Street.

One Wednesday in August 1896 Robert’s son, 13 year-old George was out playing happily with his best friend Harry Symonds near the mill.

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

The two lads climbed the rickety wooden stairs up to the third floor, noise echoed around the room and white dust filled the air. They could hear the  huge water wheel revolving, water splashing and churning below. The noise of the great cogs and wheels grinding drowned out any sounds from outside.

Having reached the top floor,  curiosity getting the better of little George, he stood on tiptoe and peered over the boards to the rapidly revolving wheel below. Still not able to get a good view, he hauled himself up on the boards to get a better view.

George fascinated, teetered precariously for a moment on the edge, then loosing his balance, his body pitched head first down into the wheel pit. His friend Harry stood in shocked silence at first…then in fear for his friends life he ran down the stairs as fast as he could to get help.

Unknowing of the boys illicit foray inside the mill, George’s father Robert was stood out in the yard chatting, when the wheel suddenly and creakingly ground to a halt.

Fearing that a piece of machinery had failed, he raced into the mill heading for the stairs, worried what had suddenly stopped the wheel working like that.

Here he met a hysterical Harry, who managed to pour out his words, telling him of the horrific disaster had befallen his son.

Robert raced up those stairs and peered frantically over the boards, what met his eyes was a parents worst nightmare, below was the mangled remains of his son jammed in the giant wheel.

A cry of desperation echoed through the building, begging the other men out in the yard to ‘stop the water…stop the water’!

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

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

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

He described in great gruesome detail at the inquest how when he arrived on scene George’s body was already laid on the mill floor, his tattered intestines spread out across the area.

Only one arm remained attached to his torso, his other dismembered limbs lay scattered around.

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

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

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

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

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

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http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/upwey.html (Upwey Local History)

http://www.thedorsetpage.com/locations/Place/U050.htm (The Dorset Page)

http://www.opcdorset.org/Broadwey-Upwey.Files/Broadwey-Upwey.htm (Dorset OPC. Broadway and Upwey)

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