A Sorry Tale of Love and Betrayal; 1880.

During my  perusals of various sites and old local newspapers I often come across some intriguing stories.

Such was the case a few weeks ago when I was mooching through the old Police Gazettes, a periodical which gives a fascinating and highly detailed insight into our Victorian ancestors lives and their mishaps or misdemeanors.

Should such a publication be issued nowadays, goodness only knows how many tomes it would run to and just imagine the poor old paper boy trying to shove that through your letter box!

In the said gazette of April 23rd 1880 a sad but unfortunately not rare case was reported.

“A child was left on the door-step of a house in Belgrave-Terrace, Radipole, Weymouth between 9 and 10 pm, on the 19th inst. £2 reward will be paid by Mr Superintendent Vickery to any person who will give such information as will lead to the discovery of the person who placed the child where found;”

The  house receiving the little live bundle was no 3 Belgrave Terrace, the home of 70-year-old Glaswegian lady.

What on earth could an elderly Scottish lady have in connection with a seemingly unwanted child?

(Belgrave Terrace no longer exists, but it was off Dorchester road, somewhere in the Lodmoor Hill area)

guide p3b

The article goes on to reveal yet more details- “a Male Child five weeks old, fresh complexion, dark hair, blue eyes, large mouth and nose; dressed in two head flannels, a white shirt, three under ditto, a white night dress, a black wool shawl, a white wool jacket, a white wool hood, a white fall, a piece of white gutta percha between a white cloth; these articles are all new. ” 

Obviously the baby had been warmly dressed for its night time doorstep delivery therefore presumably up until then had been well loved and provided for.

“The Child had a ticket placed on its breast, addressed to ‘P. Peck Esquire.’ Also on a piece of paper written -‘Take care of me, I have no mother.-Baby.’ In a bundle, tied up in a black and white Indian silk handkerchief, 3/4 yards square, were five napkins, two shirts trimmed with lace around the sleeves, a nightdress trimmed with lace around the neck and sleeves, a child’s flannel (old), a new mouth piece for child’s bottle, two brushed for cleaning the same, and some new wadding.”

Yet more evidence that someone had obviously adored and cared for this tiny scrap of humanity, so why would they give him up now?

A fairly vivid description of the person deemed guilty of the baby’s abandonment followed in the piece

“Supposed by a young woman, dark complexion, medium height, rather slightly built, speaking with a French or Italian accent; dressed in black dress, black jacket trimmed with black fur, black hat with heavy black fall, carrying a small bag or waterproof done up with straps. she had the appearance of a governess,”

family train station

The police, ( and no doubt those in charge of the parish finances) were eager to apprehend this ‘terrible’ being. They knew she had left via the railway station…but to where?

“£2 reward will be paid to any person who will give such information as will lead to the discovery of the person who placed the Child where found, by Mr Superintendent Vickery, Police Office, Weymouth.-Bow Street, April 23rd.”

But like most sensational stories of the day, there lies a lot more behind the melodramatic newspaper headlines.

Come the 30th April 1880 and the  Western Gazette declares that the good old police had got their man, (or woman as in this case.)

Superintendent Vickery had “Traced her to Waterloo Station, London and then left the Criminal Investigation Department to Apprehend her. this was done a day or two ago, and on Tuesday the woman (who is a German governess named Rasch) was brought to Weymouth. She admits her guilt”

At the start of May, the case was brought before the courts held in Weymouth’s GuildHall.


Of course, human nature being what it is and has always been, locals jostled for space in the already packed out the courtroom, eager to absorbed every sordid detail of the terrible affair.

The numerous attending reporters jotted down all the juicy bits, well aware that such highly emotive tales sells their papers far better than boring old Council matters and the usual drunks and debtors that normally filled their columns..

One of many reporters following the case, the Bridport News declared that it was a story of “ALLEGED SEDUCTION AND HEARTLESS CONDUCT.”

Before the panel of local judges stood a sorry looking lass, German born Emma Rasch.

With Weymouth solicitor Mr Howard defending her, Emma’s sad story that was revealed before one and all was one that must have occurred numerous times over the centuries.

She had been employed by a gentleman and his wife as a governess at their home, Templecombe House, Templecombe, Somerset. (Oddly enough, I lived there for a short while and used to visit the doctor’s family who lived and had a surgery in that very same house!) Not surprisingly, this family were wealthy land owners.

Originally from Hanover in Germany, Emma was a well educated, well brought up young woman, who was staying with a friend of the family in Templecombe at the time of her employment.

Of course, their two tales of the tragic events differed widely.

Emma claimed that Peter was the father of her child, and that come the November of the previous year, when things were beginning to become too obvious, he paid her off with £50.00 in gold coins. She was told to take herself off to London and find herself some rooms there to have the baby. Off she obediently toddled and duly found a place to live, only problem was, that £50.00 wasn’t going to go very far at London prices, and babies don’t come cheap. Undaunted, Emma had written to Peter asking for support, surely he wouldn’t fail her and their child?

Poor gullible Emma, she wrote not once, not twice, but a whole series of letter to the errant father, by now she was destitute and had absolutely nowhere to turn to.

Finally, in desperation,  she wrote a final letter informing Peter that if she didn’t hear from him then she would take the child to his mother’s as she could no longer care for it.

His mother was the Scottish lady of no 3 Belgrave Terrace, Weymouth, the recipient of the baby bundle that April’s night.

The dye was cast, Emma boarded the waiting train, her journey from London to Weymouth was all too quickly over, a last few precious moments with her child.


In court, a tearful Emma vehemently declared that she hadn’t simply abandoned her child, “I did not desert it, as I rang the bell and waited and waited about until the door was opened.”

Having seen her child being safely taken inside and the door closed, a heart broken Emma turned and walked away, her only consolation being that she knew it would be much better off with family who could afford to care for it and love it.

Therein lay the crux of the problem.

For what ever reason, the family didn’t accept any responsibility for the poor child.

A young local girl, Annie Ames, was left to care for the abandoned baby that night and during the next day and a terrible chore befell her later that evening. Annie was made to take the hapless tiny bundle along to the Union Workhouse and handed it over to John Lee, the Weymouth Receiving Officer who took delivery of it.

Baby Rasch was now “chargeable to Weymouth Union,”

Weymouth Workhouse

A terrible crime in the eyes of the law and an offence definitely not taken lightly by those who held close to the town’s purse strings.

There was a certain amount of sympathy for Emma, after all she did what many young gullible girls had done before her, fallen under the spell of her employers false promises.

While she was in Weymouth standing trial she was “being allowed to remain at the house of a policeman under the care of his wife.”

The supposed ‘gentleman’ concerned, not surprisingly denied any knowledge of such events, claiming he didn’t know about the baby until it was placed at his mother’s home, he had never received any of her letters. As far as he knew Emma had simply left to return to Germany to take care of her sick mother.

All that was left to do was for the men of the town who sat in judgement to make their decision.

Who would they believe?

How harsh would their punishment be?

“Emma Rasch, we have come to the conclusion, and it is the only conclusion we can come to, that you have brought yourself within the limits of the law, insomuch that you have deserted your child, so as to leave it chargeable to the Union. The punishment we shall inflict will be of the very slightest description. Upon the consideration that first of all what you did we believe you did for the best of your child under the circumstances, and in consideration that you are a foreigner, the sentence we shall pass on you will be one day’s imprisonment, dating from this morning. you will therefore be discharged at the close of this court.”

With that closing statement the courtroom erupted, loud cheers and clapping echoed around the walls.

Though the spectators were ecstatic with the lenient verdict, Emma walked slowly from the courtroom, her head hung low. She was taken up to Dorchester Gaol and put into a cell where for 24 hours she sat and undoubtedly had time to deeply reflect.

Here she was, an unmarried mother, her child now in the Workhouse, her respectable family back home who possibly didn’t know anything about her ‘crimes’ or even worse, didn’t want to know. For not long after her release Emma packed her trunk and sailed back to Germany

woman over box

…without her son.

The man of the tragic case didn’t get off lightly either, “As Mr Peck left the Guildhall he was hooted by a large crowd and he took refuge in the Golden Lion.”

Good old Weymouth folk, never slow in coming forwards with their views on such matters!

A little footnote to this sorry tale sees the abandoned young child christened at the Holy Trinity church on the 9th May…

Holy Trinity.

…his given name was Victor.

A note hastily scribbled in the side column says it all, “Left at the Union-mother returned to Germany.”

Tragically, little Victor wasn’t destined to make old bones.

He died on October 23rd aged just 8 months and his tiny body was buried in a paupers grave along with others from the union Workhouse, their bones lay congenially in adjoining graves at the Wyke Regis churchyard.


R.I.P. little man.


Interested in more old views of Weymouth and Portland, check out my numerous local Pinterest Boards to see how our town once looked when your ancestors strolled its streets, browsed the shops and relaxed.


Love is in the air…Victorian Valentines

Well, as Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, I eagerly await to see what glittering jewels and delicious delights my beloved will present to me  early that morn…(don’t even go there!)Victorian Valentines card

It might surprise you to know that celebrating St Valentine’s Day is nothing new, it has been observed for centuries, apparently made popular by Geoffrey Chaucer during the High Middle Ages.

Even those well-pomandered Georgians were well and truly versed in the art of affairs of the heart. Presenting their paramours with tokens of their undying love, sweet little boxes of confectionary accompanied by beautifully handwritten cards.

But what of our Victorian ancestors?

First let’s start with those lithesome lothario’s of the seven seas.

Portland Roads had been used as a naval base ever since the time of Henry VIII, this sheltered  haven filled with many great sailing ships of the fleet,  and of course on board, their resident sailors, true Romeo’s every one ‘o them.


Is it any wonder then that these  Jolly Jack Tars, with their gals in every port, would be busy scribing romantic messages to (all) those they loved, so much so that in 1871, the Western Gazette reported

“VALENTINE’S DAY-More than ten times as many missives passed through the post office on the 14th as on ordinary days, the sailors of Her Majesty’s Fleet sending three sacks of Cupid’s messages to the Castletown office.”

(pictured below courtesy Pam Oswald)


Then what of those romantics who were to marry on this day of lovers?

Love of course being not just the prerogative of youth.

On Valentine’s Day 1872, 54-year-old widow, William Lovell Zelley waited patiently down the aisle of Weymouth’s Holy Trinity Church for his new wife-to-be.

Holy Trinity.

William, a mariner by trade,  had been a widow for a while, he led a very lonely life, boarding  in a single room down in Hope Street.

But faint heart never won fair lady, William found love a second time and grasped it with both hands. It arrived in the comely form of  Ann Purchase, spinster of the town.

womn street 1

Sadly, despite being nearly 15 years younger than her husband, their life together came to an untimely end when Ann went to meet her maker in 1879 aged just 47.

Here’s hoping that they managed to enjoy their seven years of companionship and happiness.


Another couple tied the knot on Valentine’s Day, many years later, in 1899.

Theirs was also to be a tale of happiness and joy mingled with sadness and grief.

Nellie  was the daughter of Samuel and Susan Stoodley, who in 1891 were running the Railway Arch public House in Town Lane.(modern day Chickerell Road)

Railway arch hotel

Nellie’s beau was Albert Ernest Yeatman, a coppersmith.

But life had already taught Albert that love could be a rocky road indeed.

In April of 1889, he had married 20-year-old Alice Emily Rabbets and the young couple set up their happy household on the North Quay, where they had two their children, Emily Maria (1890) and George Ernest (baptised on the 24th September 1893 at holy Trinity.)

Then heartache struck the family in 1896, when their youngest child, 3-year-old George passed away.

Still reeling from the loss of their precious son, Albert was dealt a second blow the following year.

In 1897, he was away serving with the Territorial army. Alice had been taken ill and needed an operation, from which she seemed to be recovering satisfactorily. Having gone to bed that fateful night in good spirits, young Alice was not to see the dawn.

Now alone with a small child, Albert had to take the heartbreaking decision to give his only remaining child, Emily, over to the care of her Grandmother, Emily Rabbetts, who ran a boarding house along Brunswick Terrace.


By the time of the 1911 census, his daughter Emily had moved away to Wales along with the extended Rabbetts family.

However, in the meantime, Albert was to get a second chance at happiness, he met and fell in love with Nellie Stoodley.

Ten years after he had first tentatively walked down the aisle, Albert was treading those very same steps, were his feelings of joy mingled with sorrowful memories.

On the 14th February 1899 Albert and Nellie exchanged their vows at Holy Trinity.

Time for a fresh start.

Albert set up home with his new wife at no 9 Portland Buildings, (now 15-19 Custom House Quay.) He was running his own business and life was good again, though the sadness still lay deep in his heart, time was slowly softening the wounds.

Then along came the children, but with that joy came unbelievable grief.

Their first child, Susan Nellie Doris was born on the 9th Jan 1900, the little mite only survived a few months, Susan died that summer.

Two years later,  and little Violet Rose Iris arrived.

Oh how those grieving parents must have held their breath, and watched over their precious bundle, only too aware how suddenly and cruelly they could be snatched away.

woman child sleeping

By the time Albert Samuel arrived on the 5th April 1904 their hopes were high, 2-year-old Violet was thriving, surely fate couldn’t be that cruel?

Of course it could!

Albert junior never even made his second birthday.

Perhaps the famous quote from Tennyson’s poem,”In Memorium” just about sums up love.



But of course being Valentines Day we must end on a lighter note.

One young man made a daring robbery on a Weymouth’s jewellers, perhaps he couldn’t afford to buy his beloved the gift she so desired?

From the Western Gazette of February 1881.

Earlier on the Monday evening, a fashionable young man had entered the jewellery store of Mr Thristle in St Thomas Street.  He was there, so he declared, to buy himself some shirt studs. As old Mr Thristle rummaged around in the counters looking for the perfect items for this young gentleman, so the ‘gentleman’ was doing a spot of rummaging too.

While Mr Thristle had been otherwise engaged the young man was tinkering with the shop bell that hung above the door, somehow he managed to jam it so it wouldn’t ring out as a customer entered the store.

Having left the store with no studs, Mr Thristle was left to mourn the loss of a sale to that nice gentleman, but that was life as a merchant, you won some, you lost some.

Little did he know he was about to loose a great deal more!

A little while later the jeweller was busy out the back sorting out his stock, all the while keeping a keen ear open for the shop bell to ring, announcing his next customer.

Only problem was, the bell wasn’t going to ring or ‘announce’ his next customer, because his next customer didn’t want announcing.

The light-fingered ‘gentleman’ had been concealed patiently outside, biding his time. Once the coast was clear, he slipped undetected into the premises and helped himself to a hearty selection of sparkling jewels.

Hopefully your Valentine won’t need to raid the nearest jeweller to  fulfil your wishes,

He’ll deliver you a box of choccies and lots of kisses.

All because…..


(other brands are available…)

“Last Valentine, the day when birds of kind

Their paramours with their chirping find,

I rose early,  just at the break of day,

Before the sun had chased the stars away:

A-field I went, amid the morning dew,

To milk my kine, for so should housewives do;

Thee first I spy’d, and the first swaine we see, 

In spite of fortune, shall our true-love be.”

Victorian Valentines cards                                                               Happy Valentine’s Day





A Happier Weymouth Christmas of 1862…

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

christmas party quiver 1865

My first attempt at writing one that gave the reader a warm fuzzy glow, the feel-good factor, full of Christmastide cheer, 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  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 can be put firmly at the feet of 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 pretty soon burgeoned.

Mass produced goods started appearing in the numerous grand department stores and little shops that lined the main shopping areas and Weymouth could boast many a fine store.

L725-213. MA8; 1905.

L725-213. MA8; 1905.

Good laden stores such as T H Williams & Sons and Robert Talbot’s on St Mary Street…

L725-213. MA 22 1887.

…even a good old Co-operative store, run under the name of Taylor & co, noted particularly for its ‘quality and cheapness.’

L725-213;MA18. 1905. 50 St Mary St.

Further along St Mary’s Street stood the premises of Evans & Morris.

Note the impressive royal crest above their windows and the patriotic flag flying on the rooftop!

L725-213.MA13 1887 St Mary Street.

As Christmas approached their windows would be filled with all manner of glorious 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. (That was of course, supposing their family could afford such luxurious.)


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

But renown for their industriousness, many would spend months before beavering away 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 placed on her bedside table.

But trade being …well, I guess, trade, Victorians 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 old Weymouth side of the harbour.

Trusty 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 21st century 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.


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 pushed out, relegated to mere open stalls in the dusty street.

Not only were the traders unhappy with their lot, many residents complained that they were noisy, untidy and ruined the the area.

Consequently a new market hall was purpose built for them in St Mary Street which opened in 1855.


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

However, those Victorians out shopping in Melcombe Regis for their festive fare in 1862 could still 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’d find William Bond and his wife Jane, like many meat purveyors of the day, 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 their only offerings, “He also had at the will of the public several prime down wether sheep…” last but not least the duo also advertised “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.

Finally, 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.”

Christmas meat shop

Turn into St Mary Street and here you’d 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, Alfred “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 Hotel.


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.


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 it 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.


Crackers would be pulled and children performed.


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 were seated in those nearest to the alters and not surprisingly, the poorest at the back.


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.


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.

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 kept 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, pictured below.

augusta place

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.


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.

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 from the locals?

In court that week, stood before the 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.’

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

The ruffian’s parents certainly  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, these feisty 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 once stood between no’s 5 and 6 Franchise Street.

Sadly, his life lived running virtually 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 that left us a tantalising glimpse of the lad.

The prison admissions book described him as only 4ft 3″ tall, maybe a lifetime of malnutrition might have had that effect?

It goes on to reveal further features of this chappie, light brown hair and hazel eyes, his complexion sallow.

At this tender age, his only distinguishing feature is a cut between his eyebrows.

Once he had completed his hard labour in prison Edward 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.

Following in his fathers footsteps, he sailed the seas, navigating up and down the south 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 measured, 5ft 4 ins.

Now his complexion was described as ‘swarthy,’ a good old fashioned word that exemplified the face of someone who spent their days out in the open fresh air, salt laden winds and fierce sunshine.

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

Even his face bore 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 lasting 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,  next door neighbours 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 worked as a waterman, but was also prone to being somewhat 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 of 1862, 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.



Enjoy  reading about the lives of Weymouth and Portland’s residents in the Victorian era?

Why not grab yourself a copy of…

Nothe fort and Beyond 261 KB

Don’t think this is just a book about the military in Weymouth though…which of course it is…but it contains so much more.

Stories of Weymouth and Portland families, tales of the harsh conditions for the convicts and local quarrymen in the Portland dust bowls.

The doings of local bobbies in their fight to keep soldiers and residents on the straight and narrow.

There’s disasters, deaths, murders, suicides, and on somewhat a happier note marriages and love affairs.

Who knows, you might even find one of your relative’s tales within its pages.

Available from Amazon


December 1888, Weymouth Drunks, Deaths and Domestics

Picture this, it’s the year 1888, it’s December, on the cusp of Christmas and the good folk of Weymouth are going about their everyday business as usual.

For some though, it was not to be a good ending to their year.

Pretty much like todays inhabitant’s of our seaside town, those of the Victorian era liked to peruse the local newspapers of the day, of which I hasten add they had the choice of a fair few, including the Western Gazette, Southern Times and Dorset County Chronicle .


Revealed within these paragraph-heavy pages of Victorian print  were the scandals and sorrows, misdemeanours and miseries of their fellow townsfolk.

Not for them todays instant access to world wide events literally as they happen, the breakneck speed of Facebook spreading local news before the media even have a slight whiff of impending dramas.

These are things that our ancestors couldn’t even begin to imagine possible.

If we browse the columns of their Friday’s Western Gazette, 28th December 1888, we can catch a snippet in their time, when ladies in voluminous skirts bustled through the dusty streets of Weymouth town.

letter Civic Society.Their billowing hems sweeping the dirt as they drifted from shop to shop, all filled with the latest fashions and must have up-to-date gadgets.


Also strolling Weymouth’s streets that festive season were a multitude of brightly garbed soldiers, who mingled with locals, having made their way down from the artillery fort and barracks up on the Nothe.

Eager to make the most of their time away from the fetid atmosphere of their cold and cramped barrack accommodation.

The busy harbourside was bustling with vessels coming and going.

An abundance of sailors were also taking their chance to enjoy time ashore before they set sail for pastures new.

Weymouth harbour

Weymouth at that time was a thriving metropolis.

Some of those enjoying Weymouth’s delights however, took their enjoyment to extremes!

Such was the case of one crew member of the Gilpin who was berthed at the quayside.

Christmas Eve, and Thomas Cook was making his way down from the Nothe.

Having reached the top of Hill’s Lane, he stumbled across the motionless body of  a man. Thomas shook the man to rouse him, but as the seemingly lifeless soul was well and truly in ‘his cups’ he took some rousing.

Finally, managing to drag the heavily intoxicated man to his feet, Thomas set about trying to discover his destination,  before he had succumbed to his slovenly slumbers in the street.

Holding on firmly to the staggering seaman, Thomas led him down to the quayside, where seemingly the befuddled mariner’s vessel was moored.

Alas, her gangplank had been hauled aboard, and the sot had no way of boarding her.

Not to be deterred though, the old soak slurred his solution, he would simply board the nearby vessel instead, the Guide, he knew a crew member on there who would let him kip down.

Thomas was not so sure this was a good idea.

The Guide’s makeshift gangplank was about 15 foot in length, a meagre 2 foot in width, and as the tide was exceptionally high that night it rose before them at a crazy angle.

Undeterred though, confident in his alcoholic haze, the drunken sailor  attempted to crawl unsteadily on hands and knees along the narrow wooden walkway, with Thomas following closely behind, desperately trying to hold onto his coat tails.

Mid passage, the alcohol won out, and the by now unconscious drunk rolled onto his back, precariously perched over the water.

A frantic Thomas called out for help, at which point a crew member poked his head out, and seeing the dire situation, he attempted to grab hold of the mans wrist to pull him up the gangplank.

But the slumbering sot’s dead weight was too much.

With that, his body slithered with a splash into the freezing waters below.

All hell let loose…man overboard

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

The thirty-nine year old sailor, Bristol born Charles Tidray, made it alive to Weymouth’s local hospital where he was seen to by Dr Carter.

quiver 1884

A man who did not think much of this sodden sailor’s chances.

He informed Matron on his way out that he did not think the man would ‘live through the night.’

Nor did he.

At 4 o’clock that Christmas morning, Charles was stood at the pearly gates, his sins before him.

Time to met his maker.


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

His downfall was also alcohol.

William Bowdidge Hole, a 34-year-old cab driver had been out enjoying his time somewhat to excess with friends in the local hostelry.

Having drunk away all his money, he staggered back to his abode in Trinity Street, to replenish his pockets.

His long-suffering wife, Emm, (perhaps not that long suffering, seeing as they had only married earlier that year,) wasn’t having any of it though.

Emm was desperate to keep hold of what little money she had.

It was needed to keep a roof over their heads and food in their mouths, not simply swilled down his throat.

William, riled at her reluctance to hand over the money and thwarted from being able to return to his drinking buddies to buy more beer, lost his rag and struck out at her, hitting her hard in the mouth.

A domestic ensued…

Wyke House hotel. 1

Eventually their physical and vocal altercations woke the neighbours, who tried to help Emm, she was coming under a barrage of flailing fists and vile words from her enraged husband.

By now the police had also appeared on scene, in the form of one P.C. Henry Kaile.

As he approached the house, he was confronted by a hysterical Emm fleeing the building, being  hotly pursued out into the road by her still ranting husband.

Swiftly collared by the local bobby, the much protesting William was whisked off to cool his heels in the local cells, from whence he was hauled next morning to stand before the judge.

For his sins, ‘being drunk and riotous,’ William Hole was sent to prison for one month.

(William was obviously very partial to his beer, a couple of years later, 1891, and he was before the judge again, for being ‘drunk whilst in charge of a horse and carriage.’

This time he escaped with a 5s fine, but was warned that if he appeared before them again, he would lose his license.)

It certainly must have been pretty lively over the water in old Weymouth around Christmas time that year…

Holy Trinity.

Not long after a drunken Charles had slithered off the gangplank into the cold waters, a fight broke out in Hope Quay.

In the early hours of Christmas morning P.C. Groves, probably fresh from dealing with the fiasco of fishing out the sodden sailor, came across two scrapping men.

It involved a certain Henry Hunt, stated to be a costermonger, and Frederick Boakes, a private in the West Kent Regiment.

Both men were hauled off to the cells.

Henry for being drunk and disorderly and Frederick for fighting.

But all was not quite what it at first seemed.

By the time the two fiercely protesting men had been incarcerated, the soldier, with his story backed up by his comrades, revealed that in fact he had been the hero of the night.

Recently wed Henry, yet another who alcohol loosened his mouth and freed his fists…was about to strike his wife, when a nearby soldier stepped in to stop him.

Incensed, Henry turned his wrath and fists on the interefering private Frederick, and the two ended up scrapping on the ground, at which point P.C Groves came across them.

Once his story had been corroborated, the gallant soldier was released and sent on his way.


Our final tale of tittle tattle from the tabloids of December 1888 doesn’t involve one drop of alcohol, or even a raised fist.

At one time, the Steam Packet Inn used to stand by the quayside, near the Devonshire buildings.

In 1888 it was being run by German born musician, Joseph Duscherer, and his wife Harriet.

They had just taken on a new servant girl, Rachel Smith, to help in the busy hostelry.

maid service 1887

Unfortunately, Rachel was prone to being a tad light-fingered, and made away with a piece of Harriets precious jewellery, a fine gold ring.

When Harriet questioned Sarah as to it’s whereabouts, she at first denied any knowledge, but under the later, much tougher interrogation of P.C. William Read, she soon cracked.

Sarah revealed that she had swopped the stolen ring for another, so a constable was dispatched to the home of Mrs Wellman in Upwey, where he found the missing article upon her finger.

For her sins, the slippery servant was given the choice of paying a 5 shilling fine or spending 7 days behind bars.

As poor Sarah had no money, she had no choice…she was ‘removed below.’

So you see…things don’t really change much do they…different era, different clothes, different papers, different people…same old headlines same old problems.


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

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

Available on Amazon at £9.99

Nothe fort and Beyond 261 KB


The Portland Shooting 1898.

Right throughout the whole of time certain laws of the human universe remained constant.

One of those being that no amount of wealth, social standing and prosperity could ever guarantee happiness.

So it was for one Weymouth hard working family.

William and Martha Lumley owned and ran an established, well respected Weymouth business. They were the proud owners of the Lumley confectioners and bakers at no 25 St Mary Street.


The couple had moved down to Weymouth not long after their marriage and set up shop in the pretty, popular and  bustling seaside resort.

Over the intervening years, along came their  only 2 children, William Gifford Lumley (b.1872.) and Annie Louisa Lumley (b.1873.)

As they grew up in Weymouth their parents had tried to instil in them good Christian morals and the importance of a strong work ethic.

letter Civic Society.

When they got older, the children worked in the busy confectionary shop along side their parents, and their two Aunties, Annie and Polly Gifford who lived with the family.

William junior, not surprisingly, learnt the bakery and confectionary trade at his fathers side, after all, he would be heir to this successful business later in life.

However life didn’t always go quite to plan, and sometimes children didn’t always turn out how their parents had envisaged.

William junior not only worked hard, he liked to play hard too…mighty hard!

He was to be found frequently out cavorting in the local hostelries with his pals,

letter Civic Society. 2

but what started out as simple fun with friends in the pubs around town turned into a devilish raging demon that would not only mar his life, but that of those around him.

On the 5th January 1894, 22-year-old William stood nervously waiting at the alter of St Mary’s church, his proud parents sat in the packed congregation and watched as their son was soon to become  a man, a husband, a provider for his wife and family to be.

They must have given a sigh of relief  too, now he was to be settled, there would be no more drunken nights out, no more humiliation of his numerous misdemeanours around town, time at last for him to settle down.

Down the church aisle came a shy young girl, 21-year-old Elizabeth Catherine Hodder. Holding her arm firmly and feeling immense pride that his baby was about to be wed  was her father, Joseph Scriven Hodder, a Portland businessman, a farmer and contractor who lived in Reforne, Portland.

As she positioned herself nervously before the alter and quietly whispered her wedding vows to William, Elizabeth  didn’t quite realise what sort of life she was about to enter into.

Over the next couple of years life seemed to amble along for the young couple, William worked alongside his father in the family business, and they had two children, Hilda Mary born 9th March 1895 and Reginald Gifford born 21st April 1897. At this stage they were living at no 1 Rodwell Terrace in Weymouth.

All was not well in the Lumley household though…in fact it was far from well, for poor Elizabeth it was sheer hell!

Marriage had not dimmed Williams liking for drink one iota, in fact, by now, he was fast becoming an out and out alcoholic, not only that, he was the worst of drunks… a violent bully and extremely manipulative. Elizabeth was often on the receiving end of his frequent drunken rages. Behind closed doors she was threatened, beaten, abused and her life was nothing but utter misery.

letter Civic Society.

Then the family had moved over to Portland where William ran his own confectionary business.

At least now Elizabeth had family and friends around her, she might not have revealed to them of her life of abusive hell living with William,  but they would have suspected, small signs of his nasty character revealed as his drinking became steadily worse.

It all came to a drunken and disastrous head in the December of 1898.

No longer able to stand the physical and emotional abuse from William, on Thursday the 1st December, a desperate Elizabeth took  courage, gathered up the two young children and fled to the nearby home of her sister and  husband.

Running a popular butchers shop on the island, Elizabeth’s sister, Ann Helena and her husband William Albert Henry Scriven, had heard the rumours about William. They knew he drank, and drank to excess, by now things had got so dire that he was under the care of Dr Colmer.

What they hadn’t realised was how just violent he could get when in one of his drunken rages.

Without any hesitation they took the frightened Elizabeth and her bewildered children in, they would make sure  they were kept safe.

When William had staggered home that evening and realised that his family had fled he was seething, he would make them pay…Elizabeth and her meddling relations.

The gossip in the Scriven’s butchers shop next day, Friday, was rife.

William Lumley it seems had just upped and sold all his goods…could it be that he was going to do a runner?  Was it really going to be that easy?

Could Elizabeth and her children live life peacefully at last?

William Gifford Lumley was not going to disappear quietly, he was about to go on one huge bender, and while doing so, as his rage only increased, he began plotting his revenge.

For William Bridle of 4 Carters Cottages, Park Street, Weymouth, that Saturday morning of the 3rd December had started like any other. Bridle worked on and off as a licensed porter, he found work where ever he could.

That morning while touting for business, Bridle had bumped into William Lumley outside of the Clifton Hotel, which stood right opposite the train station in Weymouth. Arrangements were made between the two men for Bridle to accompany William to Bath…all expenses paid and a guinea on top. Bridle couldn’t believe his luck. this was going to be easy money, and a jolly to Bath thrown in for free.

Once the two men had arrived in Bath, Lumley set off on his non-stop round of drinking. Most of their evenings while there was spent living it up in the Lyric Music Hall, but any nearby pub or bar would do…..after all a drink was a drink!

men pub

Sunday the 4th, found the two men in a cab heading towards Wellow, just outside Bath, where they spent the entire day supping in a public house.

On the Monday, Lumley hired a cab to drive them to the nearby Viaduct Hotel, again it was a day of non-stop drinking, and the pair retuned to Bath that evening when they headed for bright lights and music of the Lyric..

Tuesday the 6th took on more somewhat  sinister tones.

The two men headed for Bristol, at first it seemed quite innocuous, a pleasant visit to the Zoological Gardens.

Then Lumley headed for the city where he began to drink heavily and plot the downfall of those who had thwarted him.

His first port of call was to a pawnbrokers on Dighton Street, where shop assistant John Burns served him. Lumley told him he was off travelling the globe, he was going to Nepal and he needed a gun. Not suspecting anything amiss, (well, he had no reason to really,) John sold him a six chambered revolver for 15s.

Next stop was a hairdressers, that of Thomas Deacon, who knew him well. Here, Lumley, well in his cups by now started to rave about how his wife had left him, how he missed his son, he became more and more distressed and his voice more strident.

A rather alarmed Thomas was becoming extremely worried. He tried to calm Lumley down, told him to go back home but to no avail.  Lumley was only just getting into his stride, he excitedly declared “No, I shall shoot him.”

Now Thomas was really concerned, looking anxiously around at his much bemused customers who were following this unfolding drama with great relish. “Don’t talk nonsense.” he sternly told Lumley. At which point Lumley started to withdraw the revolver from his pocket, “I shall, I have the revolver with me.” Thomas told him in no uncertain terms to put it away, he didn’t want to see it.

Finally, he managed to get the drunk and angry Lumley out of his shop, wiping the sweat off his brown, he turned to his customers and declared that the man was just jesting.

Thomas Deacon didn’t inform the police!

Later that night, about 7.15p.m. Lumley and Bridle were both drinking at the Lyric Music Hall, when they were approached by a smartly dressed man, this was Charles Dunford, a Detective Inspector. He was there to serve a summons upon Lumley, Elizabeth and her family had invoked the  Married Women’s (Summary Jurisdiction) Act, but they had also invoked even greater anger in Lumley, but he hid it well.

Lumley of course, never willing to take any blame for his situation, firmly passed the buck of his misfortunes to others, “All this strife and unpleasantness is through my brother-in-laws and my wife’s friends coming to the house so much.” He declared calmly, “the best thing I can do now is go back home and see my wife.”

A sentiment that the policeman agreed with, little realising that behind the apparent calm exterior lay a seething anger and a deadly means of revenge. .

The two men returned to Weymouth later that night on the boat train.

The morning of Wednesday the 7th, the train drew into the station, and from there Bridle and Lumley went to Wyke to the house of Mr Edward Cripps, a naval pensioner, who lived on Portland Road.

In the afternoon Mr Cripps drove them in a covered wagon over to Portland.

class photo 34

Lumley went to the Castle Hotel to begin his days drinking and Bridle travelled back to Weymouth to tell his wife he wouldn’t be sleeping at home that night.

He next saw Lumley again at Wyke later that day, where he was told that Lumley was going back to Portland and that Bridle was to stay at Cripp’s house in Wyke until he came back.

Another man who bumped into Lumley that day while he was in the Wyke Hotel, was Samuel Diment, a labourer. He had come across him outside pub about three in the afternoon. Having fuelled up with hard spirits and unleashing his wrath to anyone who would listen he had accosted Diment, then he pulled the loaded revolver from his coat pocket brandishing it in front of the bemused mans face, telling the rather shocked chap that he was going to Portland to shoot Mr Scriven and Mr Hodder and his two children.

Here was another person who did nothing…when questioned about his actions, or rather, lack of, at the trial, Diment simply replied  claiming that “the man as a stranger to him.”

In the evening, James Edward Burbridge a cab proprietor of Wyke was hired to take a very drunk and festering Lumley back over to Portland.

In the meantime, Elizabeths brother-in-law, William had made his way to the Prince Alfred pub, which was just a couple of hundred yards down the road from his house. He was looking forwards to a quiet drink and a chinwag with friends.

Only problem was, not long after his arrival, in staggered Lumley.

Laura Comben, daughter of the landlord of the Prince Alfred gave her evidence of the exchange between the two men at the trial.

According to her testimony Lumley had said ” Hello Will, I am not bad friends with you if I am am with the rest.” and then promptly offered to buy him a drink but William  refused and turned his back to him. Undeterred, Lumley carried on “I want to see my boy.” he demanded. “Is it likely?” asked William. Taking on a menacing tone the errant father asked “who is going to prevent me from seeing my boy?”

At this point William Scriven left the pub to return home, he sensed trouble ahead and wanted the women and children safely upstairs out of harms way.

Within a few minutes came a loud hammering on the door, by now William Scriven had armed himself with a stout walking stick, and his son Albert with heavy poker.

Lumley called out to William to open the door.

When door was opened Lumley rushed at William and fired. “Take that.” he screamed. Williams face was scorched and  blackened by the gun firing. The two men grappled for control of the revolver during which time three more shots were fired. A close fired fifth shot saw flames from the guns muzzle burn Williams arm.

The still waiting cab driver, James Burbridge, heard the 5 shots fired, and within minutes Lumley had jumped into his carriage yelling “Drive home as fast as you can.” Not sure what had happened or wanting to argue with someone who was possibly armed and dangerous, he did as he was told.

But at least he did have the gumption to visit the police station next morning to report the incident.

Arriving back at the home of Edward Cripps where the two men were staying, Lumley stumbled into the room of Bridle and announced that he had been to Portland “and had been having a lark.” According to Bridle’s statement he appeared  highly amused and kept laughing out loudly if not somewhat hysterically.

On awaking next morning Lumley told Cripps and his wife, “I have frightened him.” then he asked Cripps to to go and see his father, to see if he could get £250 so he could leave the country.

Cripps wife said “you have not killed anyone, or they would be after you before now.” With those reassuring words ringing in his ears, Lumley staggered off to the nearest hostelry.

Lumley wasn’t be a free man for much longer though, he arrested at the Wyke Hotel  by Police Sergeant Ricketts charged with shooting William Albert Henry Scriven.

While he was being held in a private room at the hotel awaiting transferral to the police station he spoke with P.C Elliott “Let me know the worst. Is Scriven dead?” Upon hearing that Scriven was very much alive and kicking he replied “I am very glad he is not dead. I popped a couple at him and three on myself. It is all through Scriven that I am in this trouble, but you have releived my mind of a good deal. I should not have cared if I had killed myself.” But still he held the belief that his troubles lay in the laps of others, not himself.“It’s all Scriven’s wife’s fault, she is the cause of all the bother. I fired two shots at Scriven and three at myself, but they missed.”

The days of non-stop drinking had left their effects, according to the attending police officer, when arrested,  the defendant appeared bordering on “delirium tremens.”

In 1899, on the 18th January, William Gifford Lumley stood trial at the Dorset Quarter Sessions.

harmsworth vol 2&3 1

His council claimed that William Lumley had only intended to frighten Scriven, not kill him, several witnesses were brought to attested to the fact that he was a crack shot, and had he wanted him dead, he would have no problem in doing so.

However, many stood in the witness box and lay before the courts damming evidence of Williams losing fight against the demon drink.

Randolph William Board, his brother-in-law, husband of his own sister, Annie, stated he not only drank to excess but he  was also extremely fond of bullying and frightening people, including his wife and his own mother. In the past he had pretended to commit suicide with a knife, but was careful enough not to seriously harm himself. On another occasion he had thrown himself over the bannisters, laying still on the floor pretending he was dead.

Lumley’s accomplice on the drunken fueled trip to Bristol, William Bridle, was hauled before the magistrates, and received a grilling as to the weekends events. He claimed he was hired to act as servant ( at this point there was a great deal of laughter in court, one suspects that maybe he was most likely nothing more than a drinking buddy,) and he was there to take care of Lumley.

Bridle stated that Lumley had been heavily drinking all the time he was in Bath, and at night time he was delirious. The judge told him rather scathingly that “you don’t seem to have done this man much good.”

Elizabeth took to the stand, and amongst other incriminating details she told of the occasion when her husband had come home drunk the previous August and threatened her with a revolver.  Telling him to not be silly, and put the gun away, Lumley had fired a shot narrowly missing her, going through the window instead.

In the November he had accused her of taking something of his, despite her frantic denials, he had calmly stood in front of her slowly sharpening a  knife declaring that was going to kill her and their servant.

Lumley’s Doctor, Dr Colmer told how he had treated him for alcoholism over the years, he was a habitual drunk.

Dr Good who worked at the County jail told how the day after he was arrested, he was “delirious tremens” very bad. Basically, Lumley was suffering from the DT’s. It had made him dangerous for warders to approach, he was overpowered eventually and placed in a cell.

His solicitor asked that he could be tried under the New Innebriate Act, but the judge made a ruling that it wasn’t possible, there was nothing set in place for those who needed help yet such as an Inebriates Home.

William Gifford Lumley was found guilty of serious assault, the charge of attempted murder had been dropped. He was given 5 years hard labour and found himself incarcerated in Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight.

prison london magazine

But sadly, that wasn’t to be the end of William and Elizabeths story.

For whatever reason, upon his release from prison in 1904, William had wheeled his way back into the family home with Elizabeth and children. Now they were living at no 30 Kings Road in Reading, far away from the safety of Elizabeths family and friends.

Had prison cured him of his wicked ways?

Had it as heck!

For the next couple of years Elizabeth endured a life of utter misery and terror.

When she finally saw the writing on the wall, and had realised that if she didn’t escape this man, she would be lying in a morgue slab somewhere, Elizabeth moved back to live at 5 St Georges Estate Portland.

Finally, in 1906, she cited William in a divorce, accusing him of cruelty towards her and of having numerous affairs.

A list of horrific attacks are listed within the divorce papers including one that took place when in a drunken rage he had locked her into her room, forced her down onto the bed, seized her by the neck, and was squeezing the very life out of her. Luckily for Elizabeth the door was kicked open by her relative, Thomas Hodder of Trinity Terrace, Weymouth, and Lumley was thrown out.

By the time of the 1911 census, William Gifford Lumley was back in Weymouth again living with Alfred George Parker and his family, at 26 Horsford Street, Weymouth

Elizabeth Catherine had moved out of harms way to Bath with her two teenage children, presumably, to avoid the shame of a divorce she lists herself on the 1911 census as widowed.

Later in 1911, on the  1st June William Lumley departs on the Royal Edward from Bristol to Quebec Canada. He was off to start a new life for himself.

One hopes that he had conquered his demons by now, and that his new life was a much happier and more peaceful one.

Our final view of William is in 1914, three years later, when the Great War blights the globe.

Aged 40, he signs up at the Vancouver enlistment office to the Canadian army on the  4th Dec 1914 for the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

The only two pages of his war records give us a tantalising glimpse at last of the man himself.

He’s 5ft 10″ tall, with a fair complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair. Rather oddly, his second toe is completely missing on his left foot…maybe his shot hadn’t always been as accurate as he bragged?

William states he’s single, a widower. His next-of-kin is his son Reginald Gifford Lumley who is still living in the old family home, 1 Rodwell Terrace, Weymouth.

Maybe he had been able to build bridges with his children over the years.


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.



Cycling on the Weymouth Esplanade…nothing’s new under the sun!

Ever since the Georgian era the beautiful curve of Weymouth Esplanade was the place to be seen.


This grand gravelled walk, defined on one side by the sea wall and the other by its reknown line of white Portland stone posts and chains was where people from all walks of life like to promenade of a daytime or evening.

Later, a set of ramps were built that led down from the Esplanade that enabled easy access for horse and rider or horse and carriage onto  the beach.

Man and horse shared the space quite happily.


But  time and technology moved on up through the years, all was not well with those Victorian promenaders who liked to partake in a stroll and enjoy the virtues of the fresh sea breezes….and not all of those new fangled Victorian inventions were fully appreciated.


In recent times, there has  been many heated debates about cyclists and those on various modes of transport with wheels of varying styles and degrees in size using the busy Esplanade alongside pedestrians.

It seems that the two opposing fractions seem to be unable to get along  with each other.

Those promenading on foot complain about having to dodge those ‘inconsiderate’ persons who whizz past on their sets of wheels, whatever they may be, bike, blades or scooters.

Those on their small-wheeled transport ask why they too shouldn’t be able to travel freely and in relative safety ‘off road,’ 

But it seems this problem is not just a 21st or even 20th century one.

Even back in Victorian times those same old, same old arguments were being had…and not just for riding on the pavements!.

In August of 1873 a piece was penned in the Southern Times berating the nuisance of these new fangled machines.

‘1873 9 Aug



We have been requested to draw the attention of the authorities of the town to the great annoyance caused both to visitors and residents through bicycles being allowed on the Esplanade- a state of things not only occasioning inconvenience and obstruction, but positively becoming a dangerous nuisance.

Some time since we recollect hearing the Mayor give the Superintendent of police strict orders to prohibit bicycles being driven on the esplanade, but somehow or other this seems to have been forgotten.

It would be also well if the police were to prevent the furious manner in which some of the riders drive their machine through the public thoroughfares of the town, to the great danger of any one who happens to be in their way. It was only a few weeks since that four or five bicycles were being driven up the front as hard as the rider could propel them, when a poor boy, who happened to be in the road, was knocked down by one of them, the bycle going right over his back.

Fortunately, the lad was not much hurt, but when an officer who witnessed the affair, remonstrated with one of the party, he was soundly abused for his trouble.

The police summons people for furiously driving, and they would be only discharging their duty if they similarly served those who in order to show off their abilities, rush so recklessly through the streets.’


                            It also seems that even the good old Victorian Bobby had to put up with his share of abuse!



Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not 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.

Fishing for trouble, Weymouth quayside 1887.


Weymouth harbour early morning is a beautiful tranquil place, with only the local fishermen busy on board their vessels getting ready to set out to sea, but as the day picks up, so the harbourside begins to fill with boats of all shapes and sizes and  people, some working  and those out enjoying themselves.

So it was during the Victorian era.

Since time immemorial the harbourside has been like a magnet to many, especially children, summertime and the quayside walls plays host to the many fidgety bottoms perched along there, with lines a myriad of lines dangling in the water ready for that big catch.

The Victorian children were no different.

Also running along Weymouth’s harbourside is a railway track, this carried the goods wagons right from pier on the quayside to its final destination or later on the Jersey boat trains that carried hundreds of passengers depositing them virtually at the gangplank of their chosen vessel.


Living in Weymouth you became accustomed to dodging the metal tracks in the road surface, or even the great trains themselves as they slowly trundled along at a walking pace making their way through the busy street, a man in front waving his flag warning folks of oncoming railway traffic. Not that you could miss them, their wheels ominously creaking and grinding along, metal against metal as they slowly rolled towards their destination.


During the Victorian era , further back in the harbour, along Commercial Road, the train line ran between the rows of terraced houses and the old quay wall, now an area of the Backwater which has since been filled in and built on.

When the railway came to town in the mid Victorian era, so did the men who worked them. Such was the family of the Jones’s.

Newly weds Charles James and his wife Clara Isabella had moved to Weymouth, Charles was working as an engine driver on the London and South Western Railway. The family lived in a little terraced house at no 8 Bath Street, a short side road that originally ran out onto the quayside. Their family grew over the years, Dad was in a steady job, he earnt a decent wage. The kids grew up with the entire harbour area as their playground, they had no fear of the water.

JUVENILE MAG 1889 dolly in water

Life had it’s usual ups and downs for the family, but all in all they were happy.

That was until one fateful day in 1887.

One Wednesday morning late in July, the youngest son of the family, Arthur James, who was only 4-years of age had wandered the short few steps down to the harbourside completely alone. Armed with a simple stick and a bit of string, a piece of stale bread swung on the end as he tottered along the road towards the quay wall.

Laying down on his tummy, he peered into the murky waters below as he dropped his make-do fishing line down, he was after some crabs. His little chubby legs stretched out behind him as he reached over the old wall.

Concentrating so hard on his attempts to catch that elusive crab the little lad didn’t hear or see the danger approaching him…and neither did the driver of the train!

Arthur’s legs were laid right across the outside railway line…within seconds the metal wheels of the great steam train had passed over Arthur’s little wayward limbs, severing them both completely!

His heart rending screams brought people out from their houses, only to be confronted by a nightmare scene, the two severed legs lay in between the tracks, and blood poured from his gaping stumps.

He was bundled up in blankets and rushed immediately to the local hospital, but there was nothing to be done…Arthur died not long after.

policeman in dock with boy quiver 1891

On the 25th July 1887, what remained of the tiny body of 4-year-old Arthur James Jones was lowered into his last resting place in Melcombe Regis graveyard.



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.

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

boy jail

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

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

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

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

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

Not a bit of it.

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

Such was the case of William John Bilke.

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

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

scattered seed fishermen 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

wedding q 1877

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

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


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


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

raggedy boy

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

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

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

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

boys at exercise

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



Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics.
I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy…
Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection.




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.


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.


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.

Eric R map

(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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.”


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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?


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.



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.)


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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?


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


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


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.

The sea takes… and the sea gives back


With the steady stream of violent storms that has hit the South coast over the past couple on months it has been fascinating to see how the immense power of the ebb and flow of the extreme tides and currents affect the shores.

The last storm to hit the South Coast, rather fetchingly named the St Valentine’s Day Storm, completely stripped the beach in the Cove of it’s pebbles…thousands of tons of those world famous objects washed out to sea,


and with nothing but a bed of sand and blue clay left behind, littered here and there with a few rusted relics of past shipwrecks..


But already the pebbles are slowly returning to their resting place on shore again, many locals will tell you that it’s happened time and time again.

What the sea takes, it returns, be it pebbles, ships, bodies or booty.

Dead Man’s Bay,as it is sometimes referred to (with very good reason !) and especially the area along by the Cove at Chiswell,  also often ends up as the final destination of ships and their cargoes, whether they are the result of Davey Jones pulling them in their entirety to the deep, or simply goods that have been parted company with the vessels transporting them.


At present the shore is littered with the most recent flotsam to find its way inland…fags! Marlboro’s by the millions

( other brands and varieties are available to purchase !)


By way of  laying the table for a perfect evenings dining and entertainment, these were soon to be followed onshore by cheese, and the obligatory bottles and bottles of alcohol.

Of course, as news spread fast of this abundance of riches that lay for the taking…the takers arrived thick and fast, and quickly on their heels were the  the police and customs.

But this is  no new phenomenon to those who live close to the sea. The battle between the pickers and the police and customs to outwit each other has gone on for centuries.

Over time the sea has not only swallowed up vessels, people and possessions, but also spewed forth the very same.

In January of 1866 the ultimate treasure was washed in on the tumultuous waves…gold coins.

A couple of weeks after came more golden treasures, of a sort, this time barrels of butter bobbed their way to the beaches along Chesil, followed not long after by great drifts of timber that were being transported from the Baltic.

(January of 1866 was a fairly rough one, in the short period no less than 17 vessels had been driven ashore on Chesil beach in the gales, but most were later recovered)

letter Civic Society. 1

1871 saw a bonanza for the local wreckers, the Adelaide had gone down in a storm with loss of life (a sad story that I’ve covered elsewhere in my blog)  the dreadful dealings of the scavengers made the headlines of many of the national papers, so disgraceful were the scenes of pillaging on the beach. Even so called respectable local businessmen and women were prosecuted for trying to secure many of the goods that had washed ashore. The police and customs men couldn’t cope with the overwhelming tide of humanity that had flocked to the wreck site.

Dead drunk bodies and real dead bodied were carted from the beach, men, women and children!…so much alcohol had been consumed from those casks and bottles that had washed ashore after.

August of 1891 and the drifting debris that came ashore was the body of a man. All that was left of his clothing was a snazzy pair of plaid trousers and a smart pair of spring sided boots,  this was no simple fisherman or sailor who had paid the ultimate price for his trade…this was a toff who maybe should have stayed ashore. But like most things, Neptune returned him to whence he came, just a bit battered and decayed.

He was only one body of the many hundreds who found their coming ashore on Chesil in a manner other than they had originally anticipated.

Later that same year, the Cove played host to another strange cargo …this times candles, hundreds and hundreds of them…

book 7

One wonder’s what on earth nature and Neptune will throw up onto the shores at Chesil next…



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.