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.


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

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Drunks, deaths and dirty deeds 1869.

When you stroll  through the streets of Weymouth, do you ever gaze up at the at the old windows and mansards of these historic buildings and wonder what silent spectres peer through their bubbled panes or pondered the scenes they may have witnessed during their long existence.

Version 2

The lives of our ancestors past, of their families, neighbours and friends, love and marriage, the feuds and fights, good deeds and misdemeanours, are for time immemorial  embedded within these aged walls and windows.

History books may tell you the stark facts and the dates, but newspapers tell you the gossip, they flesh out the dry and dusty bare bones.

Imagine this, it’s the summer of 1869 and your ancestor’s walking through town  minding their own business when they suddenly come across a scene that could only be described as one right out of the Medieval era.

A tattily dressed wizened old man set tight in the town wooden stocks, he’s surrounded by crowds of rowdy onlookers, who take immense pleasure in jeering and mocking him.


This tattered scrap of humanity is George Rendall, a ‘victim of intemperance’ a man described as a vagrant.

His crime was to be found drunk and asleep on a seat along Weymouth’s esplanade. He impounded his wrong doings by also failing to pay the ‘drunkards crown.’

In all probability, he didn’t have two pennies to rub together anyway.

His punishment?

To spend six long hours exposed to the vicious torments of one and all while held fast ‘in the wood.’

The Victorian reporter was horrified. He asked how in these so-called enlightened times such a thing could be witnessed. Declaring that ‘To degrade a man is not the way to mend him.’

Only a couple of years later, the use of confining men or women in stocks was banned, though I rather suspect that there may still be those who would like to bring back these wooden vices for some of todays miscreants.


That same week, in a crescent tucked away behind the grand esplanade buildings, one household experienced such horrors as no parent ever should.

At no 1 Crescent Court lived 39-year-old Ester Fox and her children.

Ester was still mourning the loss of her husband, John, whom she had buried only a few months earlier.

She was trying to survive as best she could, but it was so hard, with a young family to care for and no man to bring in a steady wage.

Come one Sunday evening that July of 1869 and Esther was absent from the family home. Left in charge of her young brood was the eldest son. But kids will be kids, and one small mite, 2-year-old Joseph Charles, was up to mischief. He might have only been a toddler but he was hell bent on creating havoc. Unattended, Joseph managed to reach the box of matches that had beckoned him so temptingly with their lure of a flickering flame.

Sadly, the inevitable happened.

matches 1

Having at last lit the match he stared mesmerised as it’s vivid  colours danced and twitched before his eyes. As the flame glowed brightly, Joseph dropped the burning stick, alas it fell instantly catching light to his thread bare garments.

Before he knew it, like poor old Harriet in the Victorian moralistic tale, he was immersed in a ball of fire.matches 2

His terrified screams brought help…but too late.

Despite the best medical advice from a Mr Griffin, the poor little mite died in agony the following morning.

On the 21st July, a distraught Esther and her family followed the tiny corpse of their cherished Joseph to Melcombe Regis cemetery, where he was laid to rest like his father only months before.


Not surprisingly, this bustling area surrounding the quayside and backwater witnessed many a misfortune.

William Pye Weymouth town bridge

Local butcher, John Yearsley of Richmond Terrace, (now King Street)…

Version 2 …had the mishap of not only losing his valuable heavy wooden delivery cart that he traded from, but also the poor horse it was attached to at the time.

They both disappeared over the side of the quay.

Hasten to add, the unlucky horse did not survive.


Young Peter Arnett fared slightly better, he somehow found himself floundering in the backwater but thankfully was rescued by a passerby just before he gasped his last


Of course, what would the news reporting be without it’s usual list of drunk and disorderly?

raggedly children

July of 1869 had it’s usual list of miscreants.

William Honeybun fined 5s, found ‘drunk and incapable’ on the North Quayside on a Monday morning.


Alfred Bland was ‘drunk and riotous’!…early one Saturday morning and his antics did not amuse the residents of Horsford Street.

He opted for 7 days hard labour rather than pay the fine.


Thomas Haughton, described rather unflatteringly as an ‘old man‘ was also accused of being ‘drunk and riotous,‘ He became rather ‘riotous’ after being refused another drink by the landlady of the Park Hotel.


Fined 5s.


Diners as well as drinkers fell foul of the laws.

Susan Hamilton and Margaret Mooney entered the premises of Jane Pollard one morning and asked her for ‘five pennyworth of baked mackerel and a penny cake.’

But having ravenously devoured their tasty feast right down to the last few morsels and licked their fingers, the two women then attempted to vacate her premises without handing over payment.

Plucky Jane wasn’t having any of it.

She tried to stop them from leaving the shop, but the two women just pushed past her, giving her a mouthful of verbal abuse in the process.

Jane wasn’t giving up, she followed them down the street, not only did their vile verbal abuse continue but now they were lobbing stones at the determined lass.

Of course, this commotion attracted a great deal of attention and it wasn’t long before the local bobbies arrived on scene.

The pair of pilfering females were swiftly arrested and hauled off to the town’s jail.

They were both ordered to leave and never set foot across Weymouth’s boundary ever again.


It wasn’t all doom and gloom though, Weymouth enjoyed good things too…in a manner.

man boys cricket

A friendly cricket match took place at Chafie’s Lake between the Weymouth Athletics team and the Portland eleven, though perhaps all didn’t go quite according to plan.

During the rather one sided match, (in favour of the Athletics) whilst both running for the ball, a Mr Dominy and Mr Fooks collided heavily on the pitch, both men receiving serious injuries.

Must have been bad (or maybe a bad bet)…a gentleman watching the game from the sidelines fainted!


Enjoying catching up on the Victorian gossip from Weymouth and Portland? Why not peruse the pages of Nothe Fort and Beyond. It’s filled to the gunnels with tales of military men and their dealing with the locals. Murders, marriages and mysteries…

Now available from the Nothe Fort Museum and Weymouth Museum.

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Or available from Amazon at £9.99



Check out my Pinterest Board for more fascinating views of old Weymouth.

The Victorian Weymouth College….ghosts and gowns

There are certain buildings in and around Weymouth which I have passed on so many occasions in my lifetime that they just become yet another invisible part of the scenery, you no longer really see them…not properly.

One such grandiose building stood down towards the bottom end of Dorchester Road, an imposing building which towered tall behind its surrounding stone wall.

I had sometimes wondered at its imposing style, but never really knew what it had originally been built for.

avenue trees dorchester road

I only knew of it as the Teacher Training College where two of my sisters went.

In later years my son also did his art 6th form there and many a time I would attend art exhibitions in the little chapel on the site.

After a little bit of digging I came across a copy of the book written in 1901 by G S Falkner entitled “The History of Weymouth College,” a book which relays it’s origins and long history with the town.

Every now and again I’ll add extracts from the book which gives a first hand view of what this area of the new college in the 1860/70’s was like.

In the mid Victorian era, much of this area of Dorchester Road was open land, free of any significant buildings, in fact, part of it was the old Greenhill Common.

This land was owned by wealthy Sir Frederick Johnston, who seemed to possess vast tracts of Weymouth,(and was the man who certain Weymouth residents had a court dispute with over the ownership of Greenhill Common when the Greenhill gardens were built there.)

The main plot was leased in 1864 and plans were drawn up for the building of a new Weymouth Grammar School. (later renamed the Weymouth College.)

The  architect chosen for the job was to be  George Rackstrow Crickmay, a man  who designed and oversaw the construction of many of Weymouth’s distinctive civic buildings such as the sadly long gone beautiful old Sidney Hall.

They were a family firm of architects who had not long since moved to their new premises in St Thomas Street,(1858.)

In February of 1864 the foundations were laid for Weymouth’s new Grammar School.

By the summer of that same year the building work was complete…the Victorians certainly didn’t hang around!

rocks album radipole lake

Pupils didn’t enter the new school until after the Christmas term when on the 8th February 1865 the boys filed into the big schoolroom to participative in a prayer meeting to bless their new home and for many it was to be their home, as many of the pupils were boarders.

“Just outside Big School, on this floor, was the ‘Class Room,’ as now, with capacious cupboards on one side. It opened into the Tower Room, as now, but the swing door outside communicated with the private part of the house. On the ground floor was the dining hall, shorter than now, with only one door, one fireplace, and two side windows. Behind the Hall were the box room, cloakroom and Day-boys lavatory. From the entrance hall a passage led past these rooms and thence by a flagged, roofed corridor, open on the right hand, to the lavatories and playground.

boys in dorm

At the top of the first flight of stone stairs, and continuing in the same direction, was a short flight of wooden stairs, as now, which led past the bathroom and convalescence room, and, at the end of the passage , to a small sick-room, looking across the fields to Lodmoor. In the upper stories were three large dormitories, a masters room, and, down the passage, a changing-room, with a dozen basins set in slabs of slate, and other smaller dormitories. Communicating with the Hall was the Master’s Common Room and, through the swing door, the Headmaster’s study, the private apartments and stairs, the kitchens, the back stairs, the pantry and cognate offices.”

Weymouth Grammar School

Behind the school buildings it was still farm land and common as seen here in the old photo from the period, it mentions a couple of names that might still ring bells with a few of Weymouth’s more stately residents, Radipole Farm and ‘Nangles.’

“Mr Wadsworth was tenant of the local farm and lived in the farmhouse(Radipole Farm,) since known as Nangles and ‘Radipole Villa,’ but now used as temporary Science Laboratory and Carpenters shop. The house was approached by a farm track, which may be traced along the lower boundary of the Chapel grounds and over which have been built Moffat house and the hospital, running down to small farm cottages almost on Lodmoor, where the pigs were tended.”

“Along the Dorchester Road was a farmyard shut off from the public gaze by a stone wall, with a lean-to thatched roof and shelter for cows. this wall is in existence today, though some years ago it was moved a yard or more further back from the road. The farmer kindly allowed the boys to use his land, extending from the farm track to the Preston Road, for games, the lower or rougher part, which was decidedly billowy, for football, and the smoother portion, in the neighbourhood of St John’s Church, for cricket.”

Weymouth Grammar School 2

Sports and leading a good clean healthy life style was all part of the Victorian school boys day…healthy mind, healthy body.

“School football was played sometimes in front of the pavilion, sometimes along the potato patch, sometimes on the barrack field,( old Hanovarian barracks,) and sometimes by the timber pound (now the Great Western Railway Yard), along the Backwater.”

boys football

Other forms of outdoor recreation were often indulged in…

“…the great paper-chases of the ‘seventies’ became a feature of the School life; we never used to think of anything of twelve or fifteen miles. It must be repeated that shorts at this time were unknown, and only a very few could sport a flannel shirt”

Of course, corporal punishment was very much on the cards for those young boys who dared to flout the strict rules…

“Punishment, like holidays, was dealt out with no niggard hand in the form of severe floggings on the back with the cane. The headmaster was subject to sudden fits of temper, and discipline was then as fitful as an April day.”

Even the distinctive uniform only added to the boys misery…

“On Sundays top-hats were de rigueur for everybody and black coats for seniors, while ‘Eatons’ were compulsory for small fry. The top-hats were a cause of offence to the town boys, who used to waylay the College boys of a dark night on their way to christ Church.They had a regular slogan: ‘Drums up, Monkeys under!’ and continued with their insulting behaviour…”

“On Sundays boys attended morning and evening service at St Mary’s and marched to and fro via the Esplanade, which proceeding precipitated further town-and-gown rows and again led to fisticuffs.”

The school was popular with those who could afford to send their children, in its heyday back in the 1870’s it held 80 odd pupils, many parents sent their darling little Alfred’s and Johnny’s  because it was by the seaside which at the time advertised the benefits of sea bathing and the strengthening of one’s weak constitution.

” In the summer term we were allowed to bathe under the surveillance of a master, who sat on the beach just below Greenhill. There was no gardens in those dyas. No instruction in swimming was given; no bathing-dress was considered necessary.”


In the winter the boys would flock onto Lodmoor to skate when the weather permitted it.(which seemed to be fairly frequent in those days of pre-global warming)

boys skating

Come 1891 and further buildings had been added to the school site as seen here in the photo below.

Weymouth Grammar School 1891

The school could even boast of their own resident ghost in the building, the sound of a pair of heavy boots being thrown onto the floor in the study room would happen every night regular as clockwork. Come 10 o’clock the mysterious sound could be heard from one end to end of the room to the other, but no one ever found its source.

Even as late as the start of the 20th c students inhabited the range buildings, shown here in an early postcard, boys of the Junior School enjoying a tennis match in the sunshine.

Weymouth College Junior School

The old building continued to serve Weymouth over the following years, becoming the Teacher Training College, then a 6th Form College.

Later, when education no longer had a use for these grand old buildings  due to the erection of their modern new premises behind, they  became unused and unloved. Left empty and deserted, time soon began taking its toll on the grand Victorian facade with its elegant tall windows boarded up.

Thankfully, someone had the vision of what it could become once again, a lasting testimony to Victorian design and craftsmanship, the foresight to save it from demolition, the whole original Victorian school site was turned into flats.

But I wonder if that old ghost still launches his boots into the corner of his room every night, or if the sound of a small top-hatted boy’s footsteps running can be heard as he flees the wrath of his irate Headmasters cane?



Below are two postcards from the taken between the two WW’s of Weymouth College boys practising their drill on the sports gound.

soldier boys1

soldier boys2

Interested in Weymouth’s history? Then check out my numerous Pinterest Pages of old views of Weymouth.


Who’s for a Fancy Dress New Years Eve Ball ? 2014 or 1882 no matter…in Weymouth town it’s always been one big party!

From the title of my blog, you may or may not have guessed that I am lucky enough live in Weymouth, Dorset.

I am extremely biased about my home town…o.k., so maybe it’s not perfect, but where is at the moment with the dire economic state of affairs.

I could never live anywhere else, we have so much to appreciate here, stunning scenery, beautiful beaches, historic harbourside….the list of advantages goes on and on.

But one thing that I have always thoroughly enjoyed about living here was the huge New Years Eve celebrations…it just has to be the best ever.


Weymouth  on this occasion turns into one almighty ginormous all-encompassing fancy dress town. Everyone but everyone turns out in full blown costume, from superheroes to celebrities, animals to cartoon characters and all manner of fantastic and clever disguises in between.


There are numerous pubs and clubs to visit, live music on the seafront to get toes tapping, it really is the best place to be to enjoy a lively atmosphere and great fun.

Even the police cars used to go through the town with their somewhat unusual sirens…aka ice cream chimes! (Not so sure they’d be allowed to do that now.)

So popular as a destination for revelry has it become that it’s even made it to the top of the party list in Europe.


You might not think so, but even our Victorian ancestors knew how to celebrate New Year in style.

Come the end of 1882 and a Grand Fancy Dress Ball was held in the Assembly Rooms of the Royal Hotel that sits on the Esplanade, (the bow fronted building seen below in this old print.)

book 5

‘The ballroom was very tastefully bedecked with flags, banners, and a variety of devices in evergreens, and presented a very pretty appearance from the manner i which it was illuminated through globes of coloured glass.’

The reporter goes on to describe the glittering scene that  evening in the ballroom.

‘A large proportion of the gentlemen wore the uniforms of either the army or the navy, whilst others appeared in Windsor uniform, and among the fancy dresses were those of various historical and other characters. Among the costumes assumed by the ladies were those of peasants of various nationalities, gipsies, fish girls of different countries, Shakespearian and other poetical characters, “snowflakes,” “frost,” “snow” “vivandiere,” “rose-bud,” “Grecian lady,” “Diana, the huntress queen,””Mary Queen of Scotts,” “Nancy Lee,” “butterfly,” &c.’


An extremely thorough list follows the report naming all the dancers and their costumes, it’s a veritable who’s who of the local gentry and wealthier tradesmen of the town.

Many of those attending were military or naval officers and their families who were stationed in the area, (Weymouth being a busy naval port and military post at the time.)

There were even those ambassadors who manned the numerous foreign consoles that once lined the old quayside, a glimpse into the past of the towns importance due to vast trade with the wide world.

A few were visitors who came to town specifically for the evenings grand event, (just like the revellers of today.)

Young Miss Stanley Scott made her appearance dressed as Winter, Miss Hoey a Sicilian tambourine girl, her sister Annie came disguised as a Maltese fish girl, Mama Hoey decked herself out as Autumn.


A certain Mr Armstrong was very bold, he was dressed as a man from the future. (one can only envisage what he wore…how he portrayed the future.)

Mr Wilson rather fancied himself as a South American gaucho….

Even celebrities of the day were mimicked…Miss Florence Armstrong arrived garbed as her heroine, popular authoress and illustrator of the day, Kate Greenaway.

Another famous fictional character tickled the fancy of young Miss Callaghan, she arrived dressed from head to dainty paws as Puss in Boots, her father William rather fancied himself as the Pirate King…

Mr Kinneer Hancock decided to slum it for the evening, he rather condescendingly donned the garb of ‘An every day young man.’

Entertaining the happy revellers at the ball was Mr J Robinson’s band from Dorchester with an assortment of lively airs, their sweet music sent even the sternest of men’s toes a tapping.

During the intervals in the dancing a singing quadrille amused the party goers with their cheerful ditties.

Seems like Weymouth was the party town of the South coast, the place to be, even as far back as the 19th century.


And on that cheerful note I’d like to wish all my family, friends and readers a very Happy and Healthy New Year, and may next year bring you  many smiles and much laughter. 


Who stole the Christmas dinner?…Weymouth 1862.

Well…that time of year is almost upon us again, when everyone scurries around filling their baskets and trollies with a seemingly bizarre amount of food and goodies.


Perhaps it’ll be a good time to take a peek back into history, see what sort of Weymouth our ancestors were living in, the everyday lives of the townsfolk preparing for their Christmas.

The Victorian Christmas might not have been quite as overly commercial  as our present day one, but it was when the beginnings of what we now know as Christmas festivities began. This came about  mainly thanks to Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert who dragged a bloomin’ great tree into their home, (well, I don’t suppose he actually did the dragging,)

Our ancestors, like us, lived, loved, laughed and lost over this festive period.

According to the newspaper reports penned over this season of good will life had it’s ups and down in the town then as it still does now.

Some folk had managed to get themselves into mischief, some business men had lost their living…one person even lost their Christmas dinner!

The Festive season of 1862 saw the streets of Weymouth filled with a sudden influx of soldiers. Sappers in their bright uniforms proudly paraded along the promenade and mingled with the shoppers in the busy streets and lanes of the town.

These were the  men of the 26th corps of Royal Engineers who arrived here under the command of their Captain,  Percy Smith, and his trusty Lieutenant, A A Jopp. They were about to embark upon a massive building project, that of the Nothe fort and the Coastal Defences over on Portland.

Marsh & Wright bathing tents 3

For the high and mighty of the area,  Luce’s Royal Hotel, facing the esplanade, held their popular annual Christmas Ball, of course resident military and naval officers came top on the list of invites.


book 5

It was a time for members of the local business community to get together for this glittering soiree. This is  when wives and daughters would  primp and preen, decked out in their latest finery and fripperies purchased from some of Weymouth’s many department stores,

L725-213. MA8; 1905.

L725-213. MA8; 1905.

Gossiping behind their feathered fans, fluttering their lashes at the attending officers in their magnificent uniforms. The men standing confident in their dinner suits, legs apart, hands behind backs, discussing the latest money making schemes or practising their political manoeuvres for next years committees.

However, there would be two  local business men and their families missing from that nights spectacular event, Henry Groves and Edwin Elias Brooking.

The first was thirty-seven-year old Henry who lived with his wife Sarah and their children, Sarah, Henry, Frederick and Olivia at no 10  Petticoat Lane (todays St Alban Street.)

His family ran a grocery, bakery and provisions merchants  business.

I say ran, because coming up to Christmas, it had gone into receivership, they were about to loose absolutely everything.

Within a couple of years Henry had picked himself up, dusted himself off and was up and running again as a general dealer, by this time the family had moved to no 4 New Town Place, ( as yet to discover where this was in old Weymouth, according to the census returns it ran off of Gordon Row at one time…answers on a postcard please.)

The second local  well to do family about to face hardship this festive season was Edwin Elias Brooking, he resided at Victoria Villa with his wife Mary Ann and their  somewhat large brood, Sarah Ann, Emma, Edwin, Mary Ann, Eliza Ellen, Edith Ellen and George Frederick.

This family wasn’t originally from the area, they had only moved to Weymouth in the last 4 year period, it was where their youngest son George Frederick was born.

Edwin was a builder, in all probability he had moved here because of the work opportunities that arose from the vast ongoing building project of the coastal defences, particularly the Nothe.

However, the year 1862  saw work stopped at the Nothe fort due to certain events overseas, the American Civil War, (long story…and which will be explained in my forthcoming book about the Nothe.) Orders had arrived in town from on high, the Committee of Defence had sent a telegram for all private contractors to down tools.

When work finally restarted at the beginning of 1863 it was to be by the hands and skills of the recently arrived Royal Engineers.

The closing of the work site must have been the death knell to Edwin’s vision of lucrative contracts and immense wealth. He suddenly found himself without a job and struggling to make ends meet. The dreaded threat of bankruptcy hung over their heads during the Christmas period, they were about to loose everything, even their furniture which had been valued..£148.

Edwin just about managed to scrape a living together in Weymouth until 1865, when he gave up and the family left town, they moved lock stock, ladders  and builders barrel to Bermondsey in Surrey.

Someone slightly lower down the social scale and in all probability would never have been allowed anywhere near the hallowed doors of the grand Christmas Ball at Luce’s was Benjamin Ireland.

Benjamin was 46-year-old dealer, or ‘huckster’ as he was charmingly referred to in the papers. (A huckster being an itinerant trader.)

In 1861 he was temporarily residing with his wife, Jane, and their fair sized brood of boys and girls, Sarah, Jane, Henry, Benjamin, Francis, Julia, Rosa and finally Joseph,  in Maiden Street.

Come late December and Benjamin climbed on the proverbial Christmas wagon, never one to miss a trick, he found himself a stash of holly and was tramping the streets of the town with his old rickety wooden cart containing the prickly loot.

(It was considered very unlucky not to have holly in the house over this season…the prickles stopped witches and warlocks from being able to enter your house, of course.)

The Victorians decked their houses out with a ton of evergreens, including holly, ivy and mistletoe, this harks way way back to the pagan era and celebrating the ending of winter and the coming of Spring.

quIVER 1892 man lady decorating with wreaths

Someone else who never missed a trick was bright-eyed little 7-year-old Thomas Brooks, beloved son of local tailor George and his Mum Elizabeth from Waterloo cottage. Having espied the man and his horse and cart passing by, full of holly covered in irresistible bright red berries, he followed closely behind. As the old cart jolted along on the rough roads, so bits and pieces fell of the back. Thomas was in like  a shot, gathering up the escaping berries as they rolled down the road.

Spotting the cheeky young entrepreneur gathering up his blood red booty, Benjamin took umbrage. He ran to the back of the cart and raised his whip in the air, with one almighty swipe he lashed little Thomas across his face and back.

Benjamin Ireland found himself stood before the local magistrates charged with assault…for his quick temper and even quicker whip hand he was fined 1 shilling.

The last person to find himself in court over the Christmas period was one Richard Wentford, ( though I suspect that the court reported transcribed his name incorrectly!)

Richard Wentford was an officer in the mounted section of the Coast Guard, he was being charged with an assault upon Susan Attwooll who lived with her mother Elizabeth and siblings in a cottage at East Row up on Chapelhay.  Dad being a sailor was away at sea at the time of the incident.

Susan, aged 22, was at home on her own that lunchtime on Christmas day when a sudden hammering on the door startled her and in burst one almighty angry man. An irate, or should I say extremely irate, Richard confronted the quivering Susan. He was past fuming, he was besides himself with rage, a stream of vile filth erupted from his mouth.

According to him, her younger brother, James, had nicked his bloody prize chicken! Raising his deep menacing voice in uncontrollable anger he threatened that “he would strip her in pieces.” His vile words kept on spewing forth, ( including  many unrepeatable expletives,) He declared that “he would take the very womanhood out of her,” pointing out that “He was no d…..fool, and Weymouth people would not find a Barber in him.” Just to make his point he upped the threats, “He was a devil, and had devil’s work to do, and would be the devil to her.”

Stood outside their house on that Christmas day was John Stone, a builder from Portland, (no surprises there then with that name.) He had seen the irate Richard march up the path and burst into the house, according to him all he could hear then was “language that was of the most disgusting character.”

Local policeman, P.C. Mahone arrived on scene and tried to calm things down, he ended up physically pushing the still angry and verbally abusive Richard out of the house, later telling the court that yes, the “Defendant was in a passion.”

It was also revealed in court that the man’s Christmas fowl was found soon afterwards, ( but a bit like the Monty Python’s infamous parrot sketch…this was bird was dead, dead, dead,) at which point he returned to the Susan’s home. Having calmed down by now and realising that in all probability she had been ignorant of the facts, he had come to “humbly begged her pardon.”

As it so happens, it had been Susan’s younger brother who had done the dirty deed, James, aged 11, had lobbed a stone at the bird and killed it according to witnesses in court. (One can only ponder over whether it had been an accident or a deliberate attempt to gather in Christmas dinner!)

One of James’ mates, George Doel, was called into the dock to snitch, (sorry, give evidence,) on his pal. When the lad was questioned by the prosecuting council, Mr Tizard, if he knew the nature of an oath, his good old Mum rushed forward, “No Sir” she shouted, (she wasn’t going to have her son in trouble for telling lies .) But George told the truth, yes his mate James had thrown the stone that killed the bird and then carried it off.

His honest evidence, Mr Tizard rather unkindly remarked, “placed him in a higher educational position than that assigned by his mother.”

For his belligerent outburst that christmas day Richard Wentford was fined 5 shillings and bound over to keep the peace for 6 moths.

christmas party quiver 1865

Just to finish our Christmas tales for Weymouth of 1862 I’ll throw in a weather report, (we Brits sure do love our weather!)

That year there was no Jack frost covering the sea side scenery with glitter and light, or snow falling to the children’s delight, instead the winds howled and the rains lashed and according to the papers;


The wind indulged in numerous vagaries, and the prevailing fashion of dress with the ladies gave it scope for its fantastic display. We hear of one young lady who, as a salt would say, “carried too much sail,” she was obliged to be “towed” over the Bridge uniting Melcombe Regis with Weymouth.”

the harbour Weymouth II





The travellers troubles……

One thing that I really enjoy about the ramblings in my blog is that I never quite know in what direction they’ll take me next.

I love the fact that I often have people contacted me from all over the world, some saying that I’ve written about a long lost ancestor of theirs or about a place they once lived, often these messages are accompanied by photos or personal snippets to go along with the tales.

Well, recently a lady got in touch with me with some interesting information about her husbands ancestors, who way back used to be Romany gypsies, but they had settled down in Weymouth around the turn of the century.

With her husbands permission, (thought I’d better check that first just in case!) this blog will tell a little of their fascinating story.



Not knowing a great deal about the history of the Romany travelling community I decided to do a little digging first, and it was riveting the history our South West area has with the genuine travelling people.


LRM02 The james family at Puddletown in 1899


(Picture kindly supplied by the Lyme Regis Museum; the James(or possibly Jones,) family camped at  Puddletown.)

I clearly recall from my childhood the swarthy skinned gypsy women when they used to be in town with their baskets of heather hawking in the street, my mum would always buy a bunch and stick it in a little pot on the windowsill convinced that it brought good luck.

Or the weather-worn men travelling men who would congregate at the Dorchester market for the animal sales days, crooked hazel stick in hand, their intelligent eyes fastened onto the horses for sale.

Anyway, I digress somewhat…back to the tale.

This story concerns the James family who ended up living in the row of stone cottages four doors down from the public house that is now called the New Inn at Littlemoor.

The father, Thomas,(actually christened Andrew Thomas,) was born in Shirley, Hampshire around 1855, his wife, Martha, was a cousin, she had been born at Tolpuddle or Blandford around the same time. (It is hard to sometimes pin down their exact place of birth because they travelled so often between places, and frequently their supposed birthplace changed from census to census.) They both grew up knowing a hard life on the road, travelling the lanes of the Victorian countryside in their wagons or vardos with their families and they would pitch in a group where ever they arrived that day.

In the 1871 census we find an unmarried Thomas pitched on Kinson Common, Dorset along with his parents, Dennis and Laura and with many others of the extended family. (Kinson was and still has a connection with the gipsy community.)

Within the next few years Thomas had married cousin Martha and a succession of children arrived, Louisa, Dennis, Andrew, Caroline, Laura, Leonard and Vardlow, their assorted places of birth in Dorset proof of their continued travelling life style.

By the time of the 1891 census the family were encamped on the village green at Fordington, in the vardo next to them was Thomas’s aged parents, the enumerator listing them as travellers.

LRM01 The James family at Puddletown in the 1890s


(Picture courtesy of Lyme Regis Museum.)

By the time their last child, a daughter named Elsie arrived in 1895, the family had left the road behind them, they had moved into a little stone built cottage in Littlemoor.

They might have given up  travelling the highways and byways of Dorset and Hampshire in their vardo but they hadn’t given up completely on the lifestyle.

The 1901 census enumerator lists them both as hawkers, ( he still describes them as gipsies in brackets in the occupation column.) Thomas and Martha’s sons were already in steady work, they were employed  in the nearby farms or in the building trades,  but Mum and Dad were reluctant to let go of their old traditions. They might well have been confined by the four solid walls of their cottage but every day they travelled forth far and wide to hawk their various wares in the towns and villages around.

Life must have been very interesting for their close neighbours, this colourful couple  and their lively antics causing no end of delicious gossip over those stone garden walls.

Living in the same terrace as the James’s were their next door neighbours, George and Jane Guppy on one side with their two young daughters and on the other side were Isaac and Mary Powell and their family of 3 boys and a girl.

Around the same time the family moved in so appeared in the newspapers one of many frequent sensational stories of their somewhat dubious doings.

On a Tuesday, the 24th September 1895, Thomas and Martha stepped outside into the fresh morning air, they were on their way into Weymouth where Martha would ply her trade up and down the streets of the town, with her trusty old wicker basket slung on her arm, Martha would be selling what she could to bring in a much-needed penny or two to the household.

But this was going to be no ordinary day for either of them…one would end up seriously injured, and the other behind locked doors.

The couple waited on the platform for the train at Upwey station, boarded it and made for Weymouth.

Once in town, Thomas headed for the nearest watering hole while Martha went about her business.

womn street

After tramping the streets around town for a few hours and come lunch time, Martha went to meet Thomas at the public house where he had installed himself for the duration. He was not in a good mood it seems,  he demanded of Martha some of her hard-earned coins from her mornings travels, but she far was too slow in handing them over for his liking.

With that an irate Thomas raised his stick and beat her over the head with it.

By the time the  somewhat well-inebriated couple had finished for the day in Weymouth they staggered their way back to the  station where they boarded the 3.30 train on their way  back to Upwey.

Also in their carriage  was Thomas’ mother, Laura James, who by all accounts was not in any less-inebriated  state than the other two.

What happened on that fateful train journey appeared as sensational headlines in the papers a couple of days later.

‘Western Gazette 27 September 1895; A WOMAN FOUND INSENSIBLE.’

According to the lengthy news report, Edward Hansford a GWR packer had been busy working on the line between Lawton Bridge and Two Mile Copse on that Tuesday afternoon when he came across  the seemingly  lifeless body of a woman lying besides the line .

The guard on the GW train that had left Weymouth at 3.32 had also reported seeing a woman fall out of the moving train onto the line.

On reaching Upwey, the guard informed the station master, 42-year-old Mr Richard Harry Dyke, who then proceeded back down the line and found the still form  and a flustered Mr Hansford attending it.

But the limp form wasn’t completely lifeless, a strange gurgling noise was emitting from it, the station master quickly turned her over and a thick stream of congealed blood drained from her mouth. Richard Dyke had literally saved her life. The victim, which was our Martha, had been virtually drowning on the blood pouring from a large wound on her head into her mouth.

By now, a flustered Thomas had  arrived on scene, having jumped from the train before it had even pulled into Upwey station, he had raced all the way back down the track to where his wife Martha laid, unconscious, battered, bruised and bloodied.

When he was asked what happened, Thomas quickly muttered that  his wife had had said something about going to Southampton, and that was that, she was out the door before he could do anything!

Martha’s  pale and limp form was placed upon a hastily fetched wicker hurdle and the concerned parties then conveyed it to her house at Littlemoor, which was about a mile away.

You can only imagine the neighbours surprise when they saw the gang of men and their strange baggage coming along the road and make their way into the cottage.

Chins must have wagged for Britain.

Dr Pridham was sent for.

Things didn’t look too good for Martha.

For the next four hours she didn’t stir, she was totally out of it, deeply unconscious .

Of course, before long the long arm of the law were knocking on the James’ door, Segeant Legg and P.C. Carter entered the cottage.

Carter sternly confronted the still drink-befuddled and  flustered Thomas, “James, I wish to see your wife.”

Thomas could do very little else but allow them entry, he sulkily replied “All right, she is upstairs.”

They climbed the narrow, creaky wooden stairs up to the bedroom where Martha was laid, she was being being tended to by one of her neighbours, Catherine, from the Guppy family next door.

woman in sick bed



Martha, having at last regained conciousness, managed to give her statement to the policeman, she was accusing her wayward husband of virtually beating out of the carriage door. “I, Marth James, saith I am the wife of Thomas James and reside with him at Littlemoor. We get our living by hawking. On tuesday the 24th Sep, I and my husband went to Weymouth. I hawked while he walked about. He asked me for some money while we were there, and because I would not give him some at once he struck me across the head with a stick. We came back to Upwey by the 3.30 p.m. train. Mrs Dennis James, my husband’s mother, got into the same carraige with us. As soon as we were in the carriage my husband began abusing me, and struck me down on the seat. I stood up, and he struck me again up against the door, and by some means it opened. I know I did not open it. I do not remember anything more until I found myself home in bed.”

Being unable to read or write, when she’d finished Martha slowly and painfully  raised her head from her bed and signed her damning statement with a simple cross.

Thomas was then summonsed to the bedroom where his battered wife laid before him, the charges were read out to him by P.C. Carter, “You wife has made a statement respecting you, which I have taken down, and which I will read to you.”

When  Carter had read out the charges to Thomas, his reply,  not surprisingly, was a complete denial,  in a very coarse manner he snapped “Then I must say it is a lie then”

But of course, there was only one place he was going, that was heading for the nearest lock-up. A fiercely protesting Thomas was led out of the cottage door by the two policemen.

However, when the case finally came before the local courts not everything was quite as it had at first seemed.

Evidence was produced that put doubt on Martha’s story and showed Thomas in a slightly better light, (not that beating his wife over the head with a stick could ever be described as ‘better.’)

The attending doctor at the time of the incident, Dr Pridham,  said when he went to visit Martha at her home, she was indeed deeply unconscious but he rather thought a lot of that was down to  Martha having imbibed far too much drink that day.

In the carriage next to the fiercely feuding James family had been three servants on their way back from Weymouth, they were also heading for the Upwey station.

One of them, Elizabeth Lane, was a  servant in Nottington House. She had seen something, which she took to be a coat, fall out past their carriage window. Curiosity getting the better of her, Elizabeth got up, looked out of window and saw the door of the next carriage open and someone stood at door waving their hand and shouting.

maid service 1887


Mary Woodrow, a second servant also from the adjoining carriage added her statement. All three had heard a right old commotion going on from that carriage, someone had been having one hell of an argument.

Thomas’ mother’s statement was read out in court, not that it had much validity, she couldn’t appear in person that day because she was too intoxicated!

According to her written words Martha had opened door herself and sat down on the floor, rolled back then fell out the door. Just to sort of statement you might expect from a mother trying to protect her precious son from a serious charge of attempted murder…that is were it not for corroborating evidence from an independent source.

Probably the most damning evidence of all as far as Martha was concerned was that of 32-year-old James Bulley, the brakesman in charge of train. He claimed that he had seen a hand projecting out from the carriage window, it then turning the handle of the door, at which point the door opened and a woman jumped from the train.

Then Martha herself took to the stand, relaying her version of those days events.

She said about 1 o’clock that fateful day she had gone to an underground public house by the Quay where she had met her husband Thomas. He asked her for money but because she hadn’t been quick enough in handing it over, he’d lost his temper and proceeded to bash her over the head with his stick, at this point she grabbed the coins out of her pocket and chucked them at him.

Not overly pleased with his wife’s contrary actions, he had growled between his gritted teeth that “He would swing for her.”

Instead, he threw her basket at her and sent her on her way to earn some more money, but Martha’s lucky heather obviously wasn’t up to its magical scratch that day, her good luck had run out…she didn’t earn a further penny.

The couple met again later at the station, Martha penniless and Thomas in a bad mood. Once they had climbed into their carriage, an irate Thomas had pushed her down hard into the seat, yelling at his weary wife“Sit down there.” An aggrieved Martha demanded to know what was wrong, “You have been quarreling with me all day;what is the matter with you?”

train 7 english illustrated magazine 3 london magazine_2

She recalled the violent row in the carriage, and Thomas attacking her again and again with his stick, but very little else until she awoke and found herself back in her own home feeling battered and bruised and very sorry for herself.

When she woke in her bed, Thomas had brought her up a strong drink of rum and beer which she pushed away saying she couldn’t face drinking it. With that Thomas’ anger erupted again, he shoved her hard in the chest and according to Martha he shouted at her that ” he wished he had picked me up dead.”

Martha also told the magistrates that Thomas used to beat her often with his stick which  sometimes causing her  to go into fits.

When she was questioned about the possibility of her having leapt from the train of her own free will, (fuelled by alcoholic stupor,) supposedly to go and see her missing daughter, she quickly and vehemently denied that.

Martha claimed she didn’t even know if her daughter was in Southampton, she had walked out of  the family home about 12 months ago…in fact, so unbothered by her sudden disappearance was she that she had almost forgotten her by now!

The case of Grievous Bodily Harm against Martha by her husband was considered serious enough to be referred up to the Dorset County Assizes.

When the County Court sat at their next session, they went through the list of cases to be heard. Arriving upon the James’ case, it was decided in their infinite wisdom that there was insufficient evidence to bring it before the courts.

Yes, Thomas had not been the most affable of men where his wife was concerned, but there was very little evidence to prove that he had in fact deliberately attempted to harm her by throwing her out of the moving carriage.

In fact the evidence of the guardsman pointed to the contrary. Consequently the serious charges of Grievous Bodily Harm upon Martha by Thomas were discharged. He was a free man…for now!

But poor old Martha’s woes weren’t to end there. Only a few months later and she was at the receiving end of Thomas’s alcohol fuelled anger again.

One evening in the June of 1896 she had retired to her bed. For whatever reason a drunken and angry Thomas had burst into the room and set about her in a vicious manner. He lunged at her, squeezing his hands tightly around her throat, nearly throttling the very life out of her. His hot, fetid breath in her face as he declared he would do for her and that he would swing for her “in the same way as two men had swung on Tuesday morning.” 

Finally managing to break from Thomas’ grasp and make her escape, Martha hurriedly barricaded herself in the next bedroom.

The following morning, while Thomas still slept, she slipped out of her cottage and made her way to the nearest police station, she couldn’t put up with this much more. A very determined Martha was going to make her errant husband pay for his misdeeds.

So once again, Thomas found himself arrested, thrown into jail and then hauled before the magistrates charged with violent assault and the attempted murder of his wife.

This time he didn’t escape so lightly, for his sins he was sentenced to one month prison with hard labour.

Mind you, Martha wasn’t exactly whiter than white, she too had encountered the courts wrath on a few occasions.

True to traditional gipsy folklore she pedalled her wares wherever the road took her, selling bunches of heather for good luck or telling fortunes to the unsuspecting females who hung on her every word.



In September of 1891 she was before the police courts in Salisbury charged with stealing a silver brooch of the value of 2s, the property of Louisa Bragg of 8 Egerton Place, Windsor Road, Fisherton.

Martha had knocked on the door of the house and offered the woman some of the  wares from her trusty basket.

When the lady refused to buy anything from her, Martha then induced her to part with a few random old unwanted items, a brooch, jacket, pillow case and other bits and pieces of clothing, with the promise that she could foretell her fortune.

Getting well into her story-telling stride Martha declared that she was one of the mysterious and select Seven Sisters, she held such strong powers that she  could work her magical charm on the lady’s wedding ring, promising her that she would be happy for ever after.

All the good lady had to do was to place a simple glass of water on the mantle-shelf and if she got up at 4 o’clock in the morning and peered into it she would see the features of her husband.

The magistrate, not surprisingly, was not quite so taken in with Martha’s mystical powers, or worried by any hideous hexes she may inflict upon him, he committed her to 6 weeks in prison.

In December of 1915 Martha found herself before the Weymouth courts again. This time accused of “Telling Fake fortunes and Selling Dragon’s Blood.”

Martha, now in her 60’s, was still up to her old tricks.

She was in the habit of going into the seed shop of Mr Courtenay in Bond Street to purchase bits and pieces. A young girl who worked behind the counter had suddenly found herself under Martha’s steely gaze and was soon pulled into Martha’s mystical world of spells and magic.

After a few months of listening to Martha’s mutterings for which she paid dearly, the frightened girl had confessed her fears to the shop keeper and the police informed.

On her next visit, the shop bell rang out as Martha made her way into the store, the young assistant was waiting nervously behind the counter, she was beginning to feel very silly now having been taken in all this time.

Martha purchased her goods and turned her attention to the young girl. “How is your young man? You are looking better.” 

Then looking around carefully to see who was listening she sidled up to the girl and whispered “You have got a silver coin in your pocket?” the girl nodded, a sixpence she admitted, “That will do, hand it to me” Martha brusquely replied.

Once the coin had been handed over, Martha spat on girls hand and passed the silver coin over it. With that ‘magical charm’ not only came the promise of a long and happy marriage to her beau but also the great delights of her own prosperous business to look forwards to.

Her parting shot to the girl as she left the shop was, “God Almighty bless you and good luck.”

She might not have been quite so quick to bless the assistant had she known that a certain P.C. Pitman was concealed inside the shop to witness this exchange of money and ‘magic.’

Hauled before the magistrates Martha’s once mysterious magical methods were revealed for all and sundry to hear, bringing forth a great deal of mirth and laughter from those disbelievers attending the lively session.

The shop assistant revealed that she had only handed over her money because she was so scared of her, what the gipsy would do to her if she didn’t give her the silver when asked for, she didn’t want no bad luck in her life. So far, over the last few weeks, she had given Martha nearly a sovereign of her hard earned money.

No wonder Martha was a frequent visitor to the shop, it had become a very lucrative stop.

The girl continued her tale of woe. She said that at one stage Martha had handed her a tiny, (but very expensive…“half a crown that cost me!”) bottle containing a strange red liquid. Dragon’s Blood Martha firmly assured her, with great powers.

The girl was told to tip just three drops of this magical blood onto a piece of paper  when it was a new moon, which she did… and when it was a full moon she was given instructions to burn it.

Those listening to the young girl as she carefully explained the spell couldn’t contain their mirth.

When asked if she had indeed “had good luck ever since?” she innocently replied “I do not know, I did not burn the paper.” 

Even the Magistrates Clerk couldn’t resist gently mocking the witness “She did not complete the process, so that was not giving the charm a fair chance,” which brought forth peals of laughter.

When it was Martha’s turn to stand in the box, she of course had a perfectly logical explanation for everything.

It was purely out of the kindness of her own sweet heart that she had told  the young girl about her beau coming back to marry her, it was just to keep the her happy.

The same way that the money the girl handed her was only from kindness, she had freely given it to her for a drink…nothing at all to do with fortune telling.

As for the Dragon’s Blood?…she knew nothing about that, hadn’t even seen it before!

Martha received a proverbial slap on the wrist, a fine and a dire warning that if she appeared in the courts again she would find herself in serious trouble.

I doubt whether either old Thomas or Martha could have completely given up on their gipsy roots, their old way of life. So ingrained in their family history from centuries of a life on the road and the stories told from generation to generation.

Martha passed away  in 1924 and Thomas followed in 1931, both are buried at St Nicholas church Broadwey.

So a way of travelling life passes into history, a few tales of these colourful old characters of the open road all that remains of their fascinating story. *********************************************************************** Pictures of the James, (or possible Jones,) family while on the road kindly leant by the Lyme Regis Museum Archives.

http://www.lymeregismuseum.co.uk/research-papers/ethnic-minorities-in-dorset?start=7 *********************************************************************** Writing a book, blog, short stories or your own family history, then why not make them jump off the page, bring them to life with historical graphics. I have a huge collection that cover illustrations from numerous Victorian articles about travel, prisons, children’s homes, poverty, philanthropy… Check out my Etsy site for Victorian illustrations, many more, including local ones being added all the time from my own personal collection. https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/VictorianGraphics?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Trouble and strife…I’ve done for me wife! Weymouth 1895

On a beautiful clear but chilly Monday in January of 1895 a terrible scene took place on the normally peaceful Weymouth esplanade, one that shocked those out enjoying an afternoon strolling in the  crisp days sunshine.

Early that morning two persons ‘of a certain class,’ (according to the magistrate,) had boarded the train from their home town of Springbourne, just outside Bournemouth, they were heading for the delights of Weymouth.

The couple were 63-year-old John Pearce, (alias Leonard Cooper,) a rag and bone man and his lady companion, Sarah Avariss.

Having lived together for 5 years they were in effect common law man and wife, but this was a couple that knew a great deal of domestic violence and anger…

Wyke House hotel. 1

and both were more than partial to downing a few drinks.

Not surprisingly, John had already been before the courts many a time over the years for his drunken behaviour and mistreating his ‘wife.’ He’d also spent  time incarcerated for various misdemeanours, but love knew no bounds, Sarah, ever faithful, wrote to him while he was behind bars, professing her undying love.

That fateful January morning in 1895, their drinking had started early, way before they had even boarded their train.

According to Sarah’s own statement given in court, ‘They had whiskey before they started-two noggins each at Springbourne. They brought two with them in bottles in the trains, and had three in the public-house over the bridge at Weymouth, the name of which she did not know. She did not feel the effect of the drink until she got outside.’

Things were just fine and dandy at first, John and Sarah were fast becoming enveloped in that warm alcoholic glow, the one that also has a dark side, just waiting in the wings for a multitude of horrors to be released when fate steps in.

They had found themselves a nice warm and cosy pub just across the town bridge, it had a welcoming crackling fire and the atmosphere inside was jolly.

holy trinity and old town bridgeAs the steady stream of strong drink began to really take hold of the couple, fun and affection turned to fights and discord.

When the couple finally left the warmth of the hostelry, (one would assume that they had been asked to leave by mine host,) they staggered their way through the town, trying to find somewhere else that would serve them a drink, but to no avail.

Already well in their cups, they were turned away from pub after pub.

John and Sarah, by now feeling very cold and hungry, brought themselves something to eat, armed with a loaf of bread and cold meats, they walked the streets of the town, John cutting the meal up with his pen knife.

Things were rapidly turning sour between the two…no money left in their pockets, no way to get any more drink, no where to go to get warm.

It was only going to go one way!

A furious argument broke out between John and Sarah, one which was witnessed with shock and horror by many who were also strolling the shops in St Thomas Street that day.

Two of those bystanders who were keeping an eye on the warring couple was 50-year-old local man,  James Lowther, a painter, who lived in Wellington Place with his wife and family, and his male companion Chiddock ( or Jarrett, depending on which newspaper report you read!)

As the still fiercely bickering John and Sarah reached the Gloucester Hotel, Lowther and his companion were not far behind still closely observing the fractious pair.

By this time Sarah had had enough, shoving the rest of her uneaten lunch in her pocket, she stormed off, (as best as a drunk can,) and  staggered her way down the seafront towards St John’s Church.

By the time she’d  reached Brunswick Terrace,  John had caught up with her again…and so the vicious row continued.

Sarah, at the end of her by now somewhat short tether, told her quarrelsome lover in no uncertain terms ‘to go about his business as she wanted no more to do with him.’


With that cold dismissal ringing in his ears, an already furious John was tipped over the edge, he put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a knife…and ran it straight into her neck!

letter Civic Society.

Sarah clutched her hand to the wound, blood was pouring between her fingers and soaking into her clothes, she staggered across the road  uttering over and over ‘Oh, you have done it!’

Luckily for Sarah the two curious men had followed the quarrelsome couple along the esplanade.

Chiddock ran across the road and shoved John to the ground. With the help of his companion, James Lowther, they quickly disarmed the attacker. Then roughly pulling him to his feet again, one either side holding tightly to his arms, John was told that he was well and truly apprehended, ‘My man, I shall take you into custody.’

All the fight had left John’s body, he simply replied ‘ All right, my boy; I will give myself up. I have done it, and it is a bad job.’

Someone else on the spot that day who was quick to react to the horrific and bloody scene, was young Ramsay  Arbuthnot.

Sixteen-year-old Ramsay was visiting Weymouth at the time, he had relatives in the local area. Ramsay, or George Ramsay to give him his full name, was the grandson of Robert Bentley Buckle, who had been the rector at Upwey.

Ramsay whipped his handkerchief from his pocket and placed it over the gaping wound in Sarah’s neck, but still the blood kept squirting through. He shouted to the shocked bystanders for more cloths to press over the wound.

At last he managed to stem the flow of blood, by this time Dr Carter had arrived on scene and between them they moved Sarah to the nearby home of a Mrs East. Here the good doctor performed life-saving surgery on Sarah, he first had to enlarge the hole in her neck to be able to reach the bleeding vessels inside to tie them off before he could stitch up the gaping wound. Once he was satisfied that her life was no longer in danger, a cab was hailed and Sarah was moved to the Royal Hospital where she was cared for by Mr du Boulay over the next few days.

The quick thinking and swift actions of young Ramsay and Dr Carter had  saved Sarah’s life, without their intervention she would have literally bled out in mere minutes on Weymouth’s finely gravelled promenade.

The attacker, John, was handed over to P.C. Burt at Weymouth police station, which in those days was within the Guildhall in town. When he was searched several more sharply honed knives were found within his clothing, but very little else.

Still under the influence of alcohol John seemed to show no remorse for what he had done, in fact at one stage he commented quite coldly that ‘it was done in temper, but I meant to do for her.’

When the investigating officer, Detective Day, remarked about the attempted murder weapon, the knife, being razor sharp, John replied rather ominously that he had ‘sharpened it for the purpose.’

John found himself hauled before the local magistrates next day, but as Sarah was not well enough to attend court, he was remanded in Dorchester gaol for a further week.

This John was a very different character, he was sober and in a reflective mood, stating that ‘he was very much obliged to the doctors for saving the woman’s life, for they had not only saved her but him too.’

By the time a contrite John Pearce stood trial at the Dorset County Assizes in the June charged with the attempted murder of his lover, Sarah had already forgiven him.

Like so many victims of domestic abuse throughout time, her evidence changed to deflect the blame away from him and towards herself.

In court Sarah tried to explain away the situation by saying ‘ I did not see him come up. He was cutting his food, and when he got hold of me by my shoulder I turned round, and that is how it was done, I suppose. But I did not feel it. I think he was getting hold of me here (pointing to the collar of her dress) and I gave a turn and did not see anything in his hand. He had cut my food before then.’

John was found guilty and given 12 months imprisonment with hard labour.

The judge had not only taken into account the fact that he had been blind drunk at the time of the attack, but also that ‘punishment to the prisoner would to a certain extent be punishment to her.’

Before he was led away back down the steps to the cells below to start his sentence he asked to be able to speak to his beloved Sarah, he hoped with all his heart that she would wait for him.



As they say…love is blind!


Shopping in St Mary Street at the turn of the century:Part 2.

It’s an usually hot and sunny autumns day on Weymouth esplanade and Mrs Vearee Nozee is busy gathering together her flock of female friends.

They are off for another little jolly, a short stroll to peruse a few more of the shops in St Mary St.

The gaggle of giggling ladies  make their way down through the narrow Blockhouse Lane towards the town. At the bottom they  stop, looking around for their mother hen who is bringing up the rear, trying to chivvy malingering Millicent along.


Well ladies, here we are again, ready to start the next part of our perambulations of the towns shops here in St Mary St.

I do hope you all have your parasols at the ready, we really don’t want any sunburnt faces now do we… not at all comely to be looking as if you work in the fields.

The first shop we see here on the corner of the lane is no.10, and  is now the premises of James George Tinson.

J G Tinson

I don’t know too much about this family apart from they have two small children, Vera and baby Cyril James. (They had another daughter Dorothea Mary in 1902.)

Dad James runs the family grocery business along with the help of his wife Alice Victoria, (she used to be one of the Weymouth Ferry family.) Alice is advertising in the papers at the moment for a general servant to help about the home and shop, if anyone of you should happen to know of a suitable young girl looking for such a position please let me know and I’ll pass on her details to the family. (In fact Alice Tinson rather frequently placed adverts for young girls to act general servants over the years…maybe she never found quite what she was looking for…or maybe was a hard task master!)

So I’m told, James moved to Weymouth in about 1891, and was at first lodging in rooms in St Leonards Road, that was when he started working as a mere grocers boy.

James has only recently taken over this business and the family live above the shop.

Oh look, that must be little Vera peeping out from behind the curtains upstairs…Millicent!…please stop waving your parasol at her like that…you’ll frighten the little miss.

These premises originally used to be that of Robert William Reynolds & co; and a very nice shop it was too, they laid claim to the fact that they were trading by special appointment to HRH the Prince of Wales, they were wine, spirit, porter & pale ale merchants.

As one of my male companions tells me they were also sole stockists of the famous Bass, Allsopp and Guinness alcoholic beverages, much loved by the gentlemen.

I prefer partaking in a petite sip of porter myself…only every once in a while of course!

Someone told me that James first started trading in his own grocery shop in St Alban St and when these premises in St Mary St became available in 1900, he moved his family and business here.

Robert William Reynolds who had previously owned this successful wine merchants comes from a very long-established Weymouth family, their lineage go back centuries in this town.

Robert and his family, who are very good friends of mine,  are now living in a rather grand house, Hillside, in St Leonards Road.

He is  very much a pillar of the community, acting as  church warden in Wyke Regis. ( https://susanhogben.wordpress.com/tag/faircross/ ) he  also holds the responsible post of the National schools manager for the Wyke Regis area.

Maybe Reynolds wine merchants was where James first started out as a grocers boy when he  arrived in Weymouth.

Poor old James Tinson wasn’t destined to make old bones, he died on the 12th October 1905 aged just 38, leaving a will, and all his worldly goods to his young wife Alice, who was left to bring up their young family alone.

Alice moved into 13 Trinity Road, where she set up home with her widowed father, Alfred James Ferry, an undertaker.

She continued to run a greengrocers from this address until her death.


Come along ladies…now, the next shop I expect that quite a few of you will have frequented this business over time, they do exquisite furnishings for the home.

I simply adore the new Liberty prints they have in stock, I might well get my little man to re-cover my chaise lounge with one of them.

For those  ladies new to the area, this is Hallett & Sons, perhaps they might have even transported all your precious worldly possessions when you moved to Weymouth.

The business is run by William Tamsett Hallett, he must be well into his 60’s by now, a town stalwart and magistrate to boot.


The Hallett family no longer live above the shop premises, having come up in the world, quite rightly, they moved to one of the larger private residences, Ingleside, in Stavordale Road.

The business was originally started by his father, Edwin Owen Hallett way back in the 1850’s. Having done well they expanded their shop to no’s 11 and 12.

Edwin the elder started out life as a simple cabinet maker, but by diligence, hard work and moving with the times, his business grew until it became what you ladies see here before you today

This poor family hasn’t been without its tragedies though!

William’s brother, Edwin Owen the younger, led a very successful life.

He joined the Royal Navy at a young age, he was another one that worked hard, making his way up through the ranks.

In 1868 Edwin married local girl Agnes Maunders .

Edwin was so well respected by his superiors that he was actually chosen to serve on the Royal yacht, Osborne, no less.  His mother was almost insufferable when he was selected to man the royal yacht, it was Edwin this and Edwin that, he could do no wrong in her eyes, (but there was a small incident while serving on her that marred his unblemished record.)

When he left the navy his career positively blossomed, Edwin joined the White Star company and worked for their Australian fleet, eventually becoming commodore. You can only imagine how his parents harked on non-stop about that turn of events to all and sundry!

Unfortunately, despite all his parents persistent boasting of his accomplishments, all was not well within the Hallett household , wealth and social standing does not always bring happiness with it ladies.

Edwin frequently suffered from black moods, and on one fateful day in June of 1895 it all became too much for him. Having recently discharged himself from Haslar hospital where he was undergoing treatment and despite being kept under close house watch, he managed to secrete a knife into his room, where he was found the next morning in the most gruesome manner by the poor little serving girl…he was laid out across his bed with his throat cut.

It was shocking!…so sad, a man of such promise, it completely devastated the whole family, and their friends…well, in fact the whole town.

Who would ever think that such dark deeds went on behind such well-heeled doors.

Of course, only adding to their shame and heartbreak, when his body was laid to rest on the 10th June, it had to be in unconsecrated ground because of the particular circumstances, you didn’t hear his family make quite so much about that little fact!

( A fascinating read about the naval life of Edwin’s time at sea and details of his death. http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/forums/white-star-officials-officers-etc/25502-news-1895-suicide-capt-hallett.html )

Edwin’s surviving brother, William, was sole beneficiary to his fathers will. Edwin Owen senior, died only a couple of years later, leaving the business and everything to him.

Anyway…let us leave the melancholy behind us ladies, it’s far too nice a day to be maudlin.

Living in the accommodation above the shop premises now is William and Alice Coussens with their 23-year-old daughter, also named  Alice, they are fairly new  to the town, but seem very nice and polite whenever you go in.

In fact young Alice was showing me the latest brochures from London and was wittering on about some of these new fangled designs coming in…I’m sure they’ll never catch on.

William is the acting manager of the shop, but both mother and daughter help out from time to time when they get busy.

Business owner, William Hallett, died on the 23 Nov 1914 leaving a fairly considerable sum of money to both of his son-in-laws. Richard John Hardy, husband of his daughter Margeretta Sara, Richard was the manager of a match factory.

His second son-in-law, Irish born Thomas Bunting, who was Mabel Annie’s husband,  ran a private school in Grovesnor House, Weymouth.


Oh, mind your step Millicent…please do look where you are walking. You nearly trod in that great steaming pile of  doooh dahs, I do so wish these cab driver would clear up after their horses! I ruined a pair of my best brocade shoes last week stepping in a mound…eeeugh!

Here we are ladies, stood before the grand department store of Cornish born Mr John Geach Rowe.

His business has been in the town since 1864, but has grown over time until his shop now takes up the premises of no’s 13-16 St Mary St.

This is another gentleman who moved to our busy little sea-side town and made a great success for himself and his family. Similar to many of the other canny shop owners the family started out living above the premises, but moved out to far more suitable lodging when their finances permitted.

Like fellow shop keeper Robert Reynolds, John Rowe and his wife Emma are staunch christians and in 1891 so generously donated one of the eight new bells  now hung in the Wyke church.

By 1891 John and  Emma had moved to a very grand house, Trelawney, up at Bincleaves, along with their two delightful daughters, Emma Elizabeth and Alice Clay.

Within the aisles of this store you can buy the most exquisite and up to date costumes and millinery and their beautiful silk fabrics are just to die for. They also boast the most comprehensive baby linen warehouse around, friends of mine say that the little dresses are simply divine.

His shop staff are all accommodated in the premises you see above, they are under the eagle eye of housekeeper 64-year-old Helen Pinney, I hear she can be a real dragon at times, but quite rightly so, she keeps the staff under a tight rein. Some of these young shop girls can be so flighty…slyly batting their lashes at any man who accompanies his wife in the store. They even have a staff of domestic servants and cooks to keep them fed and watered…what ever is this world coming to when lowly shop assistants need servants to care for them?

Do you know, not a single one of those shop workers comes from Weymouth? John has brought his staff in from all over the country. His principle dressmaker is from London, of course, she is used to working with the latest fabrics and designs. The head milliner comes from Coventry, which is all very well and good, she certainly knows her feathers from her fancies …but you sometimes have a job to understand what the woman’s saying!

Like so many of our wealthier residents and business men in town, John holds many positions of trust on various boards and committees, he has even recently been made a borough magistrate.

By the 1911 census  John Rowe  had moved into another large and stylish Cornish named dwelling, Polmeund, in Rodwell Road, along with  Emma and their 2 children.

A few years later and part of his grand emporium was eventually taken over  by  Miss Nora or Nellie Russell, (no’s  13 & 14 St Mary Street.)…Nora lived above the premises of no 13.

Like many of those pesky family ancestors, when you try to trace them back through time, they seem to like to change their names, such was the case with Nora who went missing in the censuses. An Ellen Russell was at no 13 in the 1911 census. Nora had been born in 1857 at Sithney in Cornwall but was in fact christened as Ellen Russell, though she sometimes could be found as Nora or Nellie!

Maybe there was a Cornish family connection there with the Rowe family.


 …and no 15 became the premises of Garratt Jones, Tailors & Outfitters.

This was Ernest Garratt Jones, Welsh born and a single man who had swiftly worked his way up through the drapery trade  until he finally owned this fair sized department store in Weymouth, surprisingly he was only in his early 20’s at the time of opening his store, not bad going for the son of a National school master.

In 1901, at the time when our lovely ladies are stood admiring the shop front,  he had been living and working in London as a lowly hosier’s assistant.

By the 1911 census Ernest was still working as a tailor, but was he still running the shop?

Living on the premises was the Le Bretton family from Jersey, husband and wife, John and Mary, and their children, all listed as working as tailors and dressmakers from home.

Maybe Ernest’s voyage into the business world hadn’t lasted so very long after all.



Come along ladies…Millicent!…please act with some decorum as befits a lady of your class, stop making eyes at that soldier boy…you silly woman!

Here we are at no 17, this is the chemist shop of the Cole family, it used to be run by Walter Thomas Cole & Son.

(it was a family business name that remained in the town until my lifetime.)

Walter Thomas originally founded his druggists shop in Weymouth around the late 1840’s, the couple had moved here from Hampshire. Walter had met his wife while he was working as a chemist in Weymouth, and they were wed back in Andover in April of 1847.  He and his wife Martha, brought up their family living above the premises. Walter worked behind the counter until the middle of the 1870’s, when his son, Walter Benjamin Cole, took up the reigns of the family business after his father retirement.

When Walter was still alive he gave me a clipping from the Dorset County Chronicle dated 1866. It was a time in his life that he was so proud of, I think he must have brought most of the newspaper copies up and gave one to each of his best customers. I have it still tucked safely in my purse…where is it…ah, here we are…I’ll read it out to you ladies, you might find it very interesting, if you study the building as I read it to you, see if you can spot a few the finer details.

“STREET IMPROVEMENTS. The recently completed alterations at no 17 St Mary-street, by Mr Cole, chemist, are one of the greatest street improvements the town has witnessed for some time-indeed it is generally acknowledged that the front is one of the handsomest in Weymouth, although we can boast of better specimens of shop architecture than many other places in Dorsetshire. Mr Cole’s architect was Mr G R Crickmay, who has certainly produced a very tasteful plan, which the builder, Mr Dodson, has carried out in most satisfactory manner. The building has a rather novel element about it, being much enriched with the beautiful stone carvings of Mr Grassby, of Dorchester, whose skill in that line we had recently occasion to notice in connection with Wool Church. Mr Grassby has in this instance produced two splendid heads of Avicenna and Paracelsus, the founders of the medical science. They are acknowledged by all to be admirable instances of freehand carving, while the foliage and other ornaments that surround them, though of the most elaborate nature, are chiseled with masterly delicacy and freedom. In all respects, however, the building had been carried out most satisfactorily, reflecting credit on the architect, the builder, and enterprise of the proprietor.”

Walter was such a gentleman, he used to while away the time by telling us lovely stories all about his life working in the shop, some of them quite funny really.

It’s a shame, every one is rush, rush, rush these days, no time to stand and chatter any more.

He once told us how in the September of 1879 the shop had a rather surprising visitor…not one that you would normally expect to be waiting for service at a chemists counter.  A man had been driving his cow down through St Mary St when it suddenly bolted straight for the chemist shop’s doorway…pushed its way inside, after having a look around and deciding that he couldn’t quite see what he wanted on the shelves…it headed for the back door and made its way out into the back garden where it’s red faced keeper finally caught up with it.

Thankfully one doesn’t see too many cattle being herded through the streets nowadays, but the donkeys, well…that’s another matter altogether!

The elderly couple happily lived out the rest of their retirement at no. 7 York Buildings.

(An advert from a paper of the 1860’s shows Coles as stockists of the famous Horniman’s Pure Teas….at bargain prices of course. They managed to get the address wrong too!)


Walter Thomas sadly passed away in 1893, sorely missed by his loyal patrons, he was of a good age though, 73.

Martha, joined him couple of years later.

Son, Walter Benjamin, his wife Mary and their family now live above the shop, they have three delightful, well-cultured and very intelligent boys, Masters Percival Pasley, William Parmiter and Arthur Bertram.

The family are all very musically talented, at the New Years gathering in the Congregational Church, Mary and two of her sons,  Percival and William  played for us as a trio, on the piano, violin, and ‘cello, it was a very pleasant evening all round.

By 1911 Walter and Mary had moved out of the living accommodation above no 17 St Mary St to live in Ullswater Road, at a house named Lyndsmere. but they still owned the shop premises  along with various other properties around Weymouth.

Their three sons had flown the nest and done very well for themselves.

 Arthur Bertram Cole was married and had moved to Cheshire where he was trading as a chartered accountant.

Percival Pasley Cole was working as a surgeon  in London.

 William Parmiter Cole had followed in the family footsteps and was in business as a chemist and opticians in Herne bay, Kent.

The shop in St Mary St was now where  the Bullock family were in residence, Henry and Emily, their baby daughter Nancy,  shop assistants and house staff. They were running a photographic dealership and opticians. 

Walter Benjamin Cole died in 1927 at the ripe old age of 78 and was buried at Radipole church. The particularly meticulous records kept by the rector of the day, W J G Hobson, shows that Walter was buried at a ‘double depth,’ presumably leaving room for his wife to follow him into the ground when her time finally came to meet her maker.


Here we are ladies, the final premises of todays perambulations. It’s nearly time for some lunch…where shall we dine out today?

I’m sure that those of you new to the town will notice, Weymouth is such a thriving metropolis that it can boast many delightful department stores, and this is such a one.

Here are the very grand premises of Welsh born Thomas Henry Williams & Sons. (Where the Midlands Bank now stands.)

T H Williams & Son St Mary St

Again, like so many of our shop keepers, the Williams family moved here in the early 1860’s, and have quite become trusty pillars of the community.

Before they moved here from Chepstow and took over these premises, Thomas Henry was working long hours as a travelling salesman, out on the road at all times of the day and night, with long stretches away from home and his wife Harriet and their young son, David.

He might not have started out in a very reputable job, but the man has certainly worked his way up the social scale.

This is where my own dressmaker purchases most of her fabrics and accessories, I couldn’t possible do without her, she knows me so well, and my little idiosyncrasies.

As with most up and coming families they started out above the shop itself, where they lived at first cheek by jowl with their staff…I’m not sure that I could endure that myself.

By 1891 the family had moved to more fitting surroundings of 3 Augusta Place.

Son Thomas is still living and working in Weymouth, I think he’ll be taking over his fathers business before long. He has just been made a Justice of the Peace.

Brother David is now living in London with his Swedish wife, Signe. I do believe that Harriet and daughter Evelyn are up there visiting the couple at this very moment.

But as fate often dictates, success is often only skin deep.

By 1903 the family assume many responsible positions in Weymouth society.

Sons, Thomas Williams and David Henry Williams were made magistrates, Thomas was also the returning officer for Wyke Regis. Herbert Scott Williams, a physician, was the treasurer for the Weymouth Union, dealing with the workhouse.

By the time of the 1911 census, parents Thomas and Harriets entry on their census form reveals heartache for a family. they had 6 children,( 7 actually, but one died at or not long after birth,) they had done the unthinkable, what every parent dreads, survived three of them.


Ladies, that concludes our little tour of some of the shops of St Mary’s St, now we’ll find a nice cool tea room to partake in a spot of luncheon.

Millicent…Millicent…please don’t run, I know you’re hungry. Oh for goodness sakes, that silly woman could test the patience of a saint!


A large portion of this section of St Mary St was demolished and been rebuilt since Mrs Nozee and her friends were stood before the delectable sights of the 1901 shops.

Again, it can be hard to match exactly the numbers of the buildings as so much has changed.

It’s not until you reach todays no. 16, which I believe was the building of Mr Garratt Jones store, (listed as 15 in 1901,) that you can see the original buildings above the modern shop fronts, you can just make out the five same windows above his shop name in his advert.


According to Eric Rickett’s book, The Buildings of Old Weymouth, Part Two, the red brick building above todays Boots opticians and the Phones 4 U premises was once ” the tall brick front of an important double fronted residence which once graced this busy section of the town. It had a raised ground floor, stone dressings and fine classical entrance. “ he has drawn fascinating a reconstruction of what the original grand building had once looked like.

Oh to be able to travel back  and see the street as it was in those times.


The HSBC bank of the corner replaced the delightful Victorian Victorian building that housed T H Williams store. According to Eric Ricketts that was purpose built in the the early 1920’s and is now a listed building.


Here are a few adverts from my own collection of the Weymouth Rag Mag of the 1930’s, depicting shops from this section of St Mary St, a few which might jog the memories of some of the more mature Weymouthians.

redlands camp 5

riga shop st mary st

lovells st mary st

H P Hapgood sports clothing st mary st

Hallett & Sons st mary st

Hope you enjoyed our little stroll with Mrs Nozee and her female companions in St Mary St.

Look out for the next part of the ladies perambulations through old Weymouth town.


Many thanks goes to the Weymouth Library for the permission to use some of their archives and illustrations collection.

If you’re interested in local or family history, take the time to go and have a mooch in there, it’s absolutely fascinating what snippets you unearth as you rummage through their drawers, you might even come across one of your your ancestors.

I even found an old letter written by my Dad to the Echo dating back to the 50’s…

I understand that the copyright laws for the use of images is 70 years after the death of the owner. I have tried to identify the artist/photographer of the illustrations that I have used where possible, if I have innocently used an image that is still within the owners copyright I apologise unreservedly.


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.


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.