Granfer Henry reads the news; Every Day Lives in Weymouth; September 1884.

What I find fascinating about mooching through the old newspapers is not only the sensational crimes and usual misdemeanors that fill the columns of the local papers, but also those mundane snippets that give us every day glimpses of our Victorian ancestors lives.

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In some sense, they really weren’t that much different from us.

Take The Dorset County Chronicle of 11th September 1884.

Just like we do today (well, those of us that still browse the physical pages of print rather than online) your GGG Grandfather Henry might well be sat in his plush, red velvet armchair that late summer’s afternoon, his pince-nez slid down to the tip of his nose as he perused the trials and tribulations of his fellow townsmen.

Would he have nodded in satisfaction when  he read that Reuben Newberry of Upwey  had a great year when it comes to growing his Dahlias.

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Well, of course, he knew old man Reuben was a perfectionist when it came to the floral side of things, after all, he did run Upwey Nurseries alongside his wife Miriam. They often exhibited in the local flower shows and came away with many of the prizes.

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He was also rather good when it came to cultivating families it seems, managing to germinate ten offspring.

Reuben had been showing some remarkably fine specimens of these flowers lately. Those that he had put on display being very much admired.

(Only a couple of years later and 73-year-old Reuben hung up his hose and laid down his dibber, an advert appeared advertising his very desirable and compact nursery and market garden. )

Maybe Granfer Henry’s eyes would catch sight of a name he knew well…that caused him to sigh heavily…’What’s Wheeler been up to now’ he’d muse to himself. ‘Always trying to get himself noticed, that fellow.’

FINE ARTS the headline proclaimed. Specimens of photographic portraits &c. in every style of the art, take by Mr Wheeler of the Vandyke Studio, are now being shown by him.

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The studio was run by Harry Wheeler, a man with fingers in many profitable pies! One of them being photography.

Harry also ran a fine art studio, library and printing press, something that had got him into a spot of bother with the law in 1878. Apparently his press had been churning out defamatory leaflets concerning a certain borough magistrate, Joseph Drew that had hit the streets of Weymouth just before  the municipal elections.

That September day though, the attending reporter waxed lyrical of Harry’s talents. He may well be proud of the work he has turned out, for we doubt whether it is possible for any photographer, either in London or the provinces to show a better collection.

Harry and Mary Marie Wheeler and their veritable brood (must be something the Weymouth waters!) lived along Frederick Place.

When Harry passed to the dark room in the heavens (1895) his fingers in pies scheme had obviously worked their magic because he bequeathed to his wife and son, Frank Augustus Wheeler, dealer in fine arts, the princely sum of £4494 13s 11d.

Granfer would certainly have approved of the more sedate culture to be found in Weymouth’s theatres.

Mr Doryly Carte’s Opera Company were taking to the stage,  performing the fairy opera Iolanthe in the theatre (though it doesn’t actually say which one, for Weymouth had quite a few in those days.) The article claims that It will have splendid scene, effects and be most gorgeously dressed.

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Maybe some of the entertainment on offer wasn’t quite to his taste.

There was even a lengthy report on a Swimming Exhibition by Dr Jennings.

It was supposed to have taken place on the Wednesday, but as per usual fickle mother Nature soon put paid to those plans.

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But brave Dr Jennings, not one to be deterred, set out again on the Thursday, unwilling to disappoint his audience. Although the weather overhead was fine, the air was exceedingly cold, a “north-easter” blowing and the sea was very “loppy”.

About 300 folk had forked out their hard earned sixpenny pier toll to watch this intrepid swimmer take his leave of Weymouth’s pier. Of course, as human nature dictates, there were always those few, about 100 more were in boats and therefore viewed this exhibition for nothing.

Ever the showman, Dr Jennings (who is a well developed man) made his appearance  dressed in an old suit. He then stepped up onto the specially prepared stage and made a great performance of putting on a pair of sturdy boots and lacing them up tightly, then donned a heavy overcoat, taking care to button it up right to his chin..

Jennings clambered down into a waiting boat and to the gasp of his audience, promptly tipped over the side and disappeared under the waves.

Of course, this was all part of his display…for he soon bobbed up to the surface like a fisherman’s cork.

Whilst fighting the tide and the swell, Jennings then proceeded to unbutton and remove his heavily sodden overcoat, followed by a jacket and then his waist coat. As each layer was discarded a great roar went up from the expectant crowd. His underwater striptease show continued with the untying and removal and his boot whilst being tossed around on the choppy surface, then off came his trousers and his shirt until at last he was down to his proper swimming attire.

He then proceeded to give a demonstration of how easy it was for man to float on seawater, reclining in a variety of postures on the troubled waves.

Not content with that, a chair was thrown to him, upon which he sat as if it was in deed on ‘terra firma‘.

All in all a jolly spiffing display.

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Not that Granfer Henry would have been overly impressed with Jennings japes, what he enjoyed most of all was perusing the columns of the naughtier Weymouth residents misdeeds.

Henry he could tut and humph with the best them.

Not much tittle tattle in todays paper he thought.

Only Granfer’s best friend, old John Vincent, who had been hoodwinked by a pretty maid entering his shop. She asked to look at diamond rings then sent John off to retrieve some from the window…and promptly took her leave of the premises, leaving John one sparkler short.

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The pretty maid then popped up in the watchmaker and jewellery shop of Henry Talzner in St Thomas Street. But he was immune to her fresh complexion and fluttering lashes and informed the police she had tried to sell a dodgy ring to him.

Weymouth’s PC Hansford knew his criminals though, he went along to stake out her mothers house in Trinity Road, where he collared her later that night as she returned home.

When questioned about the ring he noticed she was trying to remove something from her finger…something rather large and sparkly.

17-year-old Elizabeth White was convicted of theft and sent to prison for 4 months hard labour.

Maybe reading todays news had been all too much for Granfer Henry!

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Interested in Weymouth military and naval history? Why not pop on over to my other blog Nothe fort and Beyond…

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https://nothefortandbeyond.wordpress.com/blog/

A Happier Christmas 1862

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it was for the Weymouth shops and businesses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That wasn’t all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

As a small mite it seemed an imposing sight.

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

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

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

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

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Crackers would be pulled and children performed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was the eldest of the three harbourside amigos.

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

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

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

In 1865 he was incarcerated for the theft of zinc.

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

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

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

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

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

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1899; Thwarted love…never cross a woman!

In the April of 1899 a case came before the Under-Sheriff’s Court at Dorchester.

It concerned a breach of promise, that was back in the day when people declared themselves engaged…it really meant something! Not like the business of today where it seems to be a question of how many engagement rings they can accumulate.

This was between Frank William Dodd and Eva Rosina Case.

The case had already been before the High Court, where it was decided that Frank did had a case to answer, this court was to decide how much damages he should pay the fair lady for his breech of promise and her broken heart!

The young(ish) lady in question was Eva Rosina Case, she had been born in Weymouth, 1870 to John and Susan,  middle class Weymouth folk. Daddy owned his own business, a furniture retailer, and house agent. The family lived at Belle Vue, a very nice district indeed. Twenty eight year old Eva was a highly educated young woman, she helped in her father’s business, looking after the books. Her solicitor in court described her as “eminently fitted to be the wife of Mr Frank Dodd, or any gentlemen whatever his position.”

Eva in other words was a good catch for a gentleman!

The young, or maybe not quite so young man, was 34-year old Frank William Dodd.

Frank worked at the Whiteheads Torpedo Works, in fact he not only worked there, he was the work’s manager. A position of great trust and with a good outlook. He had previously worked for the company at Fiume in Austria, where they had been based before opening the works in Weymouth, he was well educated, spoke numerous languages.

Frank had first gone into Eva’s fathers shop to buy furniture in the June of 1895…Eva had caught his eye. Over the next few days Frank returned time and time to the shop on the pretext of buying more items, his house was fast filling up!…what he really wanted though was Eva.

Now Eva liked the chap, but it didn’t do to be too forward, she was a respectable and sensible lady, Eva made him wait a while before she would finally agree to “walk out with him”.

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At first they would take pleasant, romantic strolls in the summers evening light, nothing too serious.

But, things changed, on the 22nd September, Frank got down on one knee and asked for her hand in marriage…he was desperate to claim Eva as his own true love.

She wasn’t quite so sure though, as much as she liked the chap, he was perfectly respectable, had good prospects, was a gentleman, he would be prefect marriage material for her…just not yet, it was far too soon.

In October, Franks sister came over to visit him, the two girls met and got on well, this bode well for Frank.

He asked Eva again to marry him, he had already got permission from her Mother, this time Eva agreed quite willingly, yes…this was the man for her. In 1895 the couple were engaged.

Things weren’t all sweetness and light though as far as Eva was concerned, by April of next year, all her friends were enquiring of her where her engagement ring was. Eva was beginning to wonder that too, so she wrote to Frank asking him why he hadn’t brought her one…being put on the spot, Frank had no choice but to go and purchase his fiance (not a word you hear often these days) the ring. They went together and purchased the ring from an old well established Weymouth jewellers in town, a shop that I can vividly recall from my childhood, as the shop front was a shiny jet black, and the windows were filled with gleaming silver objects, the top shelf lined with huge shining trophies.

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At the end of 1896 Frank was promoted to works manager, this gave him a good salary £364 a year, not only that, but also a house. Things were looking good for the couple. They saw each other often. his parents came over and met Eva and her family, they were very happy with his choice, he had chosen well, a girl that befitted his station in life.

A little later things started to go wrong. Frank discovered that Eva had distant relatives who lived at Wyke, members of the Hannay family, nothing wrong with them, they were perfectly respectable people. Their son it seems worked at the Torpedo works, but for some reason Frank took umbrage at this. He felt that it might affect his chances of promotion.

At this point, Frank fell out with Eva, claiming that she had not disclosed her relationship to this family…and why should she? She hardly knew them.

Things soured further between the couple, with contact only being made by now via the post and letters.

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Was Frank maybe looking for an easy way out of this relationship?

In the March of 1898 Eva received a letter from Frank

“Dear Eva,-Your letter of Monday last to which you ask me to reply is not very clear. It seems to impute to me a meaning which I have never expressed. Having had your repeated assurance you had no relations up here (Wyke) I consider I was fully entitled to complain when I ascertained the real state of the case. It would be under certain circumstances a serious hinderance to ne professionally, particularly if I remain here.”

Goodness only knows what Franks problem was…was it people who live at Wyke, or this chap in particular?

Eva’s solicitor suspected that now Frank had, in his eyes, gone up in the world, he no longer saw Eva as quite such a good catch…the bounder was getting above himself!

Letters went back and forth between the couple…he seemed to be trying his best to upset Eva. Was he trying to get her to call off the engagement?

Now, things were getting serious, and a desperate Frank wrote again

” I see no hope of any real reconsiliation between us, and therefore I consider that I am fully entitled to be released from my engagement to you, as there are several matters already discussed, and some in which I was considerable misled. (Back to the old Wyke rellies again!) I am sorry I have to insist upon my rights in this way, but I am certain that it will be best in the long run.”

There, we have it…Frank does want to end his relationship with Eva, he was looking for a cowards way out, trying to make her finish the relationship.

Eva was having none of it!

“Dear Frank,-I received your letter, and in reply think it quite time that I insisted upon my rights. I do not feel disposed to release you from your long engagement, as your plea of my deception is wholly imaginative.”

Frank totally ignored this letter…maybe he was panicking, realising that being taken to court for a breech of promise wouldn’t look too good on his C.V.

Eva wrote a second, sterner letter, this time spelling it out in no uncertain terms what would happen if Frank continued on this course of action;

” Dear Frank,-As you have totally ignored me for the last two months, and not yet acknowledged my letter, I have to ask you whether you propose to carry out your promise to marry me or not. If I do not receive any answer I shall conclude that you do not, and shall place the matter in my solicitor’s hands.”

He had to reply now;

“I would never have entered into any engagement had I known the facts, and I asked you to release me when I knew them. Even could I believe that there had been no willing deception, the  bare withholding of facts which you must have known, and which were of the first importance to me, would be quite unjustifiable, and  such a line of conduct would not be countenanced in an ordinary business transaction.”

The pomposity and cold heartedness just oozes out of this fellow…

He ended the letter with a chilling phrase;

“I will not prolong the correspondence, and shall consider myself absolutely free.”

Poor Eva, I think at this point she realised that it was no longer any point trying to keep hold of this man,

“You have caused me so much pain and suffering, and I shall never be happy until everything is made clear. You must remember that you were the informant of the ‘all important fact’ which you are ever ready to bring forward. As regards your asking for release, I cannot remember your doing so; but now I see, had I not been blind, what your variations of conduct during the latter part of last year menat. If you mean what you say in the letter it is plain that you misled me…The attitude I take up is that of any honourable woman, that of defending myself against that which unjust and causes injury.”

With that terse response ringing warning bells well and clearly in Franks ears, Eva handed the matter over to her solicitor, and a course of correspondence started between the two men.

Frank’s first reply to the solicitors opening letter rather gets the measure of the man!

“Re my former engagement to Miss Case, I have no intention of marrying Miss Case, and have told her so most implicitly on many occasions during the past 12 months. The engagement was commenced at the express desire written or otherwise, of Miss Case herself, and was the direct result of serious misrepresentation on her part.”

Frank was certainly no gentleman………..

“I cannot conceive how she can have been put to any expense in the matter, and it will be my unpleasant duty to resist any claim arising out of it under that or any other head.”

This obviously gave the errant fiance a great deal to chew over….he tried another tack…writing again to Eva

“If you would come out and see me we might put matters between us on a happier basis.”

Good old Eva wasn’t having him calling the shots, if he wanted to meet with her, he was going to have to come and meet her, not summons her like a lapdog to his abode!

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The two did meet, but the report gives no inkling of their conversation apart from the reply that Frank wrote to Eva after the reconciliation meeting.

“I am prepared to leave Weymouth at once or marry you at any time in January next which you may name. Let me implore you not to ask me to marry you unless you think we can be happy together.”

Later he wrote

“Dear Eva,- I am very happy that we succeeded in putting things on a more satisfactory basis, and feel sure that they will continue so. I should never have pushed matters so far had I not been misinformed by outsiders,(touch of the old Jeremy Kyle here!) and so been inclined to take this serious view of matters, which have now vanished.”

So, all seemed fine on the romance front, but was it? Eva realised she was getting on somewhat, she desperately wanted to be settled, in a little home of her own, and starting a family, she loved children.

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They were supposed to be getting married in the January, and by the end of November, Eva is writing again to Frank to ask when the wedding was going to be. Her friends and family were asking if they had set the date…and it seems that Franks hadn’t tied himself down yet to one.

The Frank went away at Christmas, without leaving a forwarding address for Eva to contact him…was he getting cold feet a second time?

Even when he returned to work after Christmas, he still did not go to see Eva…she ended up having to write to him again, but his reply was that he was far too busy, and not at all well.

He then dropped the bombshell, he didn’t want to marry her.

There we have it in a nutshell…Frank had changed his mind, he couldn’t go through with the marriage, no matter the consequences, whether he’d be taken to court, and his good name besmirched.

His offhand, cold and callous disregard for Eva’s feeling had cost him the grand total of £350…no mean total in that day and age.

Not that it was of much consolation to poor old Eva, all she had wanted was to marry and settle down.

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Eva never married..she died in Weymouth a spinster in 1951.

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

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1891; Wyke Regis church receives its new bells

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

I loved to hear them.

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

lady church gravestones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weight 4cwt 2qrs, cost £25 4s.

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

Weight; 5cwt, cost £28.

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

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

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

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

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

Weight; 6cwt, cost £33 12s.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

this one was donated by Mrs R Phelips of Weymouth.

Weight; 7 cwt, cost £40 12s.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

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

Weight; 9 cwt 3qrs, cost £54 12s.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

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

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

Weight; 12 cwt 3 qrs, cost £71 8s.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

No 8. (tenor)

“Lord may this bell for ever be

a tuneful voice o’er land and sea,

To call they people unto thee”

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

Weight; 16cwt, cost £89 12s.

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

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

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

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

children church q 1887

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

The joyous bells could ring out once more in Wyke.

wyke church

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

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

**************************************************************************************************************************************

Related articles