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)

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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,”

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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.

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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.

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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

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…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.

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R.I.P. little man.

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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, Drunks, Domestics and Deaths

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, the Southern Times and the Dorset County Chronicle .

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Revealed within these paragraph-heavy pages of Victorian print  were the scandals and sorrows, misdemeanors 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, their billowing hems sweeping the dirt as they drifted from shop to shop.

letter Civic Society.

A multitude of brightly garbed soldiers mingled with locals, having come from the artillery fort and barracks up on the Nothe, they made the most of time away from the fetid atmosphere of their cramped and cold accommodation.

The harbourside bustling with vessels coming and going, an abundance of sailors taking their chance to enjoy time ashore before they set sail for pastures new.

Weymouth harbour

Some however, took that enjoyment to extremes!

Such was the case of a 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 came across the motionless body of  a man. Thomas shook the man to rouse him, but as he was well and truly in ‘his cups’ he took some rousing. Finally, managing to drag the heavily intoxicated man to his feet and ascertaining his destination, that was,  before he had succumbed to his slovenly slumbers in the street.

Thomas, holding on firmly to the staggering soul, led him down to the quayside, where seemingly the lost 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, he 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 makeshift gangplank was about 15 foot in length, a mere 2 foot in width, and as the tide was exceptionally high that night it rose before them at a crazy angle.

Undeterred, under his alcoholic haze, the drunken sailor  attempted to crawl unsteadily on his 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 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 his dead weight was too much.

With that, the body slid with a splash into the dark waters below.

All hell let loose…man overboard…

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

The thirty-nine year old sailor, Bristol born Charles Tidray, made it alive to local hospital where he was seen to by Dr Carter. A man who did not think much for his chances, he told 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.

It was time to met his maker.

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

His downfall was also alcohol, or rather, the imbibing of excess.

William Bowdidge Hole, a 34-year-old cab driver had been out enjoying his time somewhat with friends in the local hostelry. Having drunk away all his money, he staggered back to his home 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 was riled at her reluctance to hand over the money, thwarted from being able to return to his drinking buddies and buy more beer, he lost his rag and struck out at her, hitting her hard in the mouth.

Wyke House hotel. 1

Eventually their physical and vocal altercations woke the neighbours, they tried to help the wife  who was under a barrage of flailing fists and vile words from the 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 the hysterical wife fleeing the building, who was being  hotly pursued by her still ranting and raving husband.

Quickly collared by the local bobby, the still 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 got off 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…

Not long after a drunken Charles was slithering off the gangplank and into the water, 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 men scrapping.

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 was yet another who alcohol loosened his mouth and freed his fists…he was about to strike his wife, when the soldier stepped in to stop him. Instead, he turned his wrath and fists on 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 light-fingered, and made away with a piece of Harriets precious jewellery, a gold ring.

When Harriet questioned Sarah as to it’s whereabouts, she at first denied any knowledge, but under the tough 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 problems.

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Beating the Bounds; Weymouth Corporation defying fate 1840

Beating the Bounds is an age old custom steeped in history, it can be traced right back to Anglo Saxon times, and is similar in method of the Roman custom of Terminalia.

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It was a time when people would walk the exact same route around the boundary of their parish, usually during Rogation week, (second week before Whitsunday) led by the parish priest and other members of the church and the parish officials. The priest would make blessings at the markers, and pray for a good harvest the coming year, hymns were often sung at various points along the way.

The procession would go from marker to marker, it was a way that the younger members would have fixed in his or her memory where that boundary laid (until they started to change them that is!) Young boys often took green boughs or sticks with them, with which they beat the markers, or in some cases, they themselves became the ‘sticks’ their rumps bumped on the marker stones, or even worse, whipped! Not something that would be easily erased from their memories for a long time…

It might seem a strange ritual, but was vital before maps were commonplace, when disputes over ownership of land might have arisen. if everyone had walked and learnt the boundary markings there was less chance of someone trying to surreptitiously gain an extra yard or two of ground.

It frequently turned into lengthy celebrations of the less christian variety, much to the chagrin of the church.

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Well, in the year 1840 the members of the Weymouth Corporation left the safe confines of their office and set off on their journey.

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Rather unwisely they chose to not  observe closely the age old rituals that had served their ancestors well down through the centuries, the bemused gods looked down and decided that they might just need a lesson in manners!

“WEYMOUTH.- In the perambulations of the boundaries of the borough of Weymouth and Melcombe Regis, the enlightened Corporation have risen above the superstitious notions of former days, and set at defiance the rights and powers of the deities of heathenism, by passing over-sea in a portion of their circuit, without permission of Father Neptune, and proceeding on their course “against the sun,” causing, by the dazzling brightness of their jewels and ruddy faces, the appearance of a new constellation from the sight of which the steeds of Phoebus became restive, and threatened a catastrophe as fatal as that of Phaeton of old, who was hurled by a thunderbolt into the “Po”; but Jupiter, in mercy and pity, waived for the present, his summery vengeance, and taking into consideration their plea of being but ” half seas over,” put a stop to their further proceeding, by summoning “Aquarius” to his assistance, who filled his largest sized ” water pot,” and discharged the contents on their “devoted heads.”

The gods laughed heartily at the issue, and to see an English Corporation fly helter-skelter from a shower of heavy wet Bacchus alone looking desponding, till they promised to invoke him at their evening’s repast.

No future attempt will be so mercifully excused, unless “Charon” be the ferryman, and a contribution, in acknowledgement, made to the “Sons of Neptune.”-By command. Proteus.

The gods certainly rained on their parade!

Postcard of the Beating of the Bounds at the Nothe; http://www.weymouthinoldpostcards.co.uk/beating%20the%20bounds%201909.htm

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Weymouth 1857; A heinous crime solved after 50 years.

I’m a great believer in karma, or what goes around, comes around, and that ultimately things will always work themselves out.

Such was the case of a heinous murder that took place in Weymouth during the late Georgian period.

This was an age when Weymouth was an up and coming, lively, gay resort, thanks to visiting Royalty and their entourage of high class followers. The hitherto workaday streets of our little town then bore witness to the rustling sounds of heavy silk  crinolines and the grandness of powdered wigs, coat tails and cravats.

flying kite

Though not quite everyone in Weymouth mixed in such salubrious circles!

HAMPSHIRE CHRONICLE

Monday 7th May 1792.

“Extract of a letter from Weymouth, dated April 28;

“Thursday a young man, of the name Thomas Lloyd Morgan, and engraver, in company with one Hardy, a farmer, in the neighbourhood, after having spent the evening together, went to a house of ill-fame about eleven at night, and the next morning, about four, the unfortunate Morgan was found murdered on the bridge, with his skull terribly fractured, and many other marks of violence on his body. The coroners inquest brought in their verdict wilful murder by some person or persons unknown. Two women and  a man named Robert Thedham, belonging to the house above-mentioned, were immediately taken into custody, as likewise the farmer with whom he was in company; they were all committed to the county prison to take their trials at the ensuing assizes. Morgan was a native of Leominster, Herefordshire, where he has parents now living in respectable circumstances.”

At the time, this brutal murder brought fear and suspicion into the heart of the local community…who could commit such a deadly deed, were they walking among the streets right now, could it even be a friend or neighbour?

Thomas’s battered and broken body had been found callously dumped by the side of the old wooden town bridge, on the Melcombe Regis side of the harbour, tightly wrapped in a linen sheet.

His grisly remains were discovered by a passing workman, who in the early morning gloom spotted a motionless shape in its makeshift shroud. Curiosity aroused, he cautiously pulled back the edges, only, he wished he hadn’t…revealed was a revolting sight, a bloodied skull staring up at him, one that was almost unrecognisable as human.

As the sun slowly rose in the sky, the soft morning light began to reveal a tell-tale trail of dried blood that led those investigating the murder back over the town bridge and into the old High Street, ending up  near Boot-Lane.

In fact it led them straight to the door of a notorious house of ill repute.

Those persons found inside the den of iniquity were rounded up and transported to the gaol awaiting trial.

Despite the obvious trail of blood from their residence to the discovered body, frustratingly, the lack of any evidence of their actual involvement in the crime meant no one was ever charged with the brutal slaughter of the chap, though not surprisingly, gossip abound for years to follow.

That was until the year 1857, when an old women who lay on her deathbed bared her soul as she prepared to meet her maker. Having carried the knowledge  of her role in the crime for nigh on all her adult life, she finally confessed to her part in the dark deed.

por people house

As she laid nearing death, the words tumbled forth, revealing at last the answers to a 50 year old mystery.

It seems that young Thomas was in town, he was also on the look out for a good time. Accompanied by Hardy, a farmer from Chickerell, the pair made their way to that iniquitous den for an evenings entertainment.

But things that night had gone wrong…horribly wrong.

Fuelled by drink, a fierce argument broke out between in the dwelling between its occupents, and it seems that during this full on fray Thomas received the devastating and fatal blows to his skull.

Realising the seriousness of what had just happened, that they had murdered the young lad, plans were hastily made by the others to dispose of his bloody body. First wrapping it tightly in a linen sheet, under the cover of darkness they stealthily carried it out through the door and loaded it onto the back of Hardy’s horse which was tied up outside.

The guilty parties and their horse with its gruesome bundle  made their way down through the shadowy streets and over the town bridge. Their original plan had been to dispose of the body in the harbour on the Melcombe side, to deflect any suspicion from themselves.

Fate intervened though, in the stillness of the pitch black night, as man, horse and corpse crossed the bridge, they suddenly heard voices  coming from somewhere close by. The group drew to a sudden halt, they panicked, not wanting to be found with their deadly deeds of wrong doings, Thomas’s body was dragged off the horses back and dropped right where they stood, at the end of the bridge.

Beating a hasty retreat to the original scene of the crime they huddled inside the hovel, hurriedly concocting their alibis ready should anyone come knocking, little realising that in the darkness they had left an incriminating trail right back to their very door!

Farmer Hardy had indeed been questioned at the time about the murder, but he had a sound alibi for when it was supposed to have taken place.

During the death-bed confession, even that was revealed for what it was, a clever ruse by a desperate man.

Once all guilty parties had agreed on their stories, Hardy returned home, and on entering his house he simply altered the clock, turning it back by a couple of hours. After retiring to his bedroom, he then summonsed his servant, ordering them to go and check the time for him.

When he appeared before the magistrates, it was pointed out that he couldn’t have possibly been there at the time.

He had the perfect alibi!

As Priscilla Guppy, who was well over the age of 90 by the time of her imminent passing, lay back on her death-bed in the Union Workhouse, she appealed to the Lord God to save her soul, to forgive her for those terrible sins that she had carried with her all her life.

Old Priscilla was the very last survivor of the guilty group that had committed this heinous murder.

She told of how she had mercilessly beat young Thomas over his head with a flat piece of iron, battered him to death. How even as she stood before the bar of justice accused of his very murder, concealed within the filthy, bug infested tangle of her matted hair was the dead mans watch and chain.

She told of how Hardy had become a changed man, the dark deed had made his heart heavy, never again was he happy in his life.

It was even claimed that his trusty horse who had been tasked with carrying the bloodied body to its final resting place on that dark night could never be made to go near the house of ill repute ever again.

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And what became of the remains of young Thomas Lloyd Morgan?

He was buried in St Mary’s Church yard, and his tomb bore the inscription

“This stone was erected by Public Subscription in remembrance of the cruel murder committed on the body of Lloyd Morgan , who lies here, on the 27th April, aged 22.

Here mingling with my fellow clay,

I wait the awful judgement day,

And there my murderer shall appear,

Although escaped from justice here.”

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Maybe Priscilla had read those words many times and thought on to that meeting!

Her mortal remains were laid to rest on the 19th November 1857 in  Wyke Regis churchyard.

letter Civic Society.

As for her soul?…

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Visit my Pinterest page for more views of old Weymouth.

Victorian Lodmoor.

Being down on the South coast, our weather tends to be fairly mild compared to the rest of the country, I’ve lost count of the amount of times that my hubby had phoned me from work in Dorchester, over the Ridgeway, and would gloat that it was snowing there, of course, in Weymouth, it would be raining!

But this years headlines forewarning of a hard winter to come, following on from last years got me thinking when was the last time that the water froze over down here.

I can remember one occasion as a child when the Backwater had frozen right over, and Mum and Dad took me down to skate there, it was packed…my brother even tried to ride his bike on it!….rather stupidly as it happens, as he ended up with one very large bump on his head!

Lodmoor is an area of flat marshy ground on the outskirts of Weymouth.

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It sits right behind the shingle beach at Preston, which in the Victorian era, before the big raised sea wall was built, (pictured below) was all that kept the sea from flooding the ground behind.

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Before, and during the Victorian era, this area was popular for ice skating when the weather was cold enough to freeze over the water that sat there, which seemed to happen fairly frequently during that era. It was the first place people flocked to when the temperature dropped for any length of time. Torch light parades led by bands would lead the way during the evenings, and a ring of blazing torches set around the frozen water gave it a magical appeal.

Articles from the newspaper of the Victorian sets the scene of a cold winter.

“1861 12th Jan

THE WEATHER-

Lodmoor, with it’s vast expanse of ice, had furnished during the last few days the means of many enjoying the invigorating pastime of skating. On Tuesday evening it presented quite a novel appearance, a large number of gentlemen being furnished with torches and other artificial appliances to “throw a light on the subject,” The Rifle Corps, with it’s two bands, attended, and threw a halo of gladness over the scene. A large number of ladies and gentlemen who did not actively participate in the bracing exercises of skating or sliding were well repaid for their walk out by viewing the fairy-like entertainments.”

Again in 1864, the weather was sever enough to freeze the area sufficient for skaters to venture forth.

couple ice skating q 1887

“1864 9th Jan

SIGNS OF THE TIMES-

Lodmoor, on Monday, gave a faint representation of the state of the Thames during the severe winter of 1813-14, it’s surface being covered with indefatigable skaters and by those who practiced the less aristocratic pastime of sliding. All were anxious to make the most of the weather, it’s continuance being uncertain. On the following days  it was well patronized, and free scope given to that species of Freemasonry always noticeable when a meeting of individuals takes place on the ice.”

Once more, In 1867 the temperature reached an all time low, but the locals still managed to get out to enjoy such past times as it would allow;

“1867 17 Jan

DORSET COUNTY CHRONICLE

THE WEATHER

Some years have elapsed since Weymouth has experienced such sever weather as that which has prevailed for the last few days. The thermometer on Sunday and Monday was down to 22 below freezing point, and the continuance of snow on the ground (an unusual thing for Weymouth) attests the inordinate coldness of the temperature. The harbour was also frozen on Monday, which is another indication of the degree of cold. A magnificent sheet of ice was spread over occurred, none, however, attended with serious consequences. Lodmoor, presenting an area that must have rejoiced the hearts of skaters, hundreds of whom took advantage of the occasion. The streets and pavements have been dangerously slippery, and many falls have occurred.”

Some were rather too eager to get on the ice maybe?….

“1871 9th Dec

SKATING MISHAP-During the past week several persons have been skating at Lodmoor, but owing to deficiency of water the sports has not been so good as usual. Tuesday was the first day when the ice was strong enough to bear, but then there was risk attatched to getting on it. Several immersions took place, one “gay young fellow” getting into a dreadful mess, being covered almost from head to foot in black mud. He was in such an awkward position that he was unable to get out until assistance arrived.”

Nowadays, skating wouldn’t be allowed on the area as it has become a valuable Bird Sanctuary, and i’m not too sure that feathered birds would appreciate fellow waders of the two flat footed variety.

P1360602

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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 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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1899; Ding dong dell…Mary’s in the well

The length of Weymouth’s ancient quayside is lined with an eclectic jumble of historic buildings, each one has a thousand stories to tell, they have witnessed fights, lovers, joy, tears, death and birth….the ghostly whispers of so many events lie within their walls, and under their eaves.

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This time, our story starts not in Weymouth, Dorset, but over the border in Somerset.

Mary Ann Williams was not long widowed, about 18 months prior to the incident. After her husband had died, being in no position to be able to support herself, she went back to living with her parents for a while.

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After she had been there for some time Mary Ann decided it might be best to move down to Weymouth, she couldn’t keep relying on her elderly parents for support. In Weymouth she  had an Aunt, Mrs Jeffery  that ran an Inn, maybe she would take her in and give her work.

At the end of January Mary Ann set off on foot on her epic journey.

By day she tramped the roads and lanes heading towards Weymouth, by night she stopped in the nearest town and slept in the local workhouses.

By the Friday, the 3rd February, Mary Ann had finally reached Dorchester, she was nearly there thank goodness, here again she stopped at the workhouse overnight.

The next morning, the Saturday, she was up bright and early, this was going to be a new start for her, gathering up her few measly possessions, and rolling them into a bundle, Mary Ann set off on the road to Weymouth where her Aunt lived, the weather wasn’t kind to her, the rain lashed down, soaking her sparse clothes, the wind was ice cold and cut through her like a knife through butter.

At last, puffing and panting, Mary Ann reached the top of the Ridgeway, and despite the inclement weather, there before her very eyes was surely the most beautiful sight she had ever seen. The stormy clouds had momentarily parted over the sea and the suns golden rays picked out the waves like a thousand dancing lights on its surface. The Isle of Portland stood out proud on the horizon.

This was a good omen as far as Mary Ann was concerned… a fresh start for her.

With a renewed spring in her step Mary Ann strode down the hill and into the town.

Sadly, it didn’t get off to a good start for her though, when she discovered that her Aunt had in fact passed away, so here she was, in a strange town, with no abode, no job and very little money to spare.

Heading first for the police station, which was based in the old Guildhall in those days, she enquired about a ticket for the Workhouse that night, but was told by the sergeant behind the desk that she couldn’t collect one until 6 o’clock that evening.

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With that, Mary Ann decided to head for the nearest pub, which was just around the back of the Guildhall, the Porter’s Arms on the Quayside. She got chatting to the publican’s wife, Mrs Galloway, who feeling sorry for this cold, drowned specimen, lugging all her worldly possessions with her rolled up in an old  blanket, offered to dry her clothes for her, an offer which Mary Ann gladly took up. When she was dry, fed and feeling much better, Mary Ann found herself in the bar enjoying a drink, and started chatting to a local man, William House, a 27-year-old labourer, he brought Mary Ann a drink.

Once they got chatting, and she told him her tale of woe, and how she was going to the workhouse to sleep that night, William said that he could find her a bed at his sister’s house.

Now, I’m not sure if Mary Ann was totally naive, or maybe she didn’t have warning bells ringing in her ears, or maybe she did, and did what it took, but at half past nine that evening, she left the pub alone with William, supposedly on the way to the house of his sister.

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They crossed the town bridge, walked along by the harbour side and towards Boot Hill. Here William wanted to cross some dark fields, but Mary Ann, maybe wising up at last, or having second thoughts, was having none of it. She started to get worried, she wanted to go back, with that, William crossly  said he would take her to the Workhouse then, and the couple turned around and headed back down towards the harbour again… away from the direction of the Workhouse unbeknown to Mary Ann. Once they reached the bottom of the hill, he tried to take her into one of the little courts off of the old High Street, but here he was disturbed by a nosy householder with candle in hand, Charles Pavey, who wanted to know what they were doing there. William’s excuse was that they were being followed by two men, and he was hiding from them.

Thwarted once more, William was getting angry, by the time they had walked across to the harbour again, he grabbed hold of Mary Ann and dragged her onto a large hulk that was moored there, pushing her down a big dark hole, where she landed with a thump on something soft…grain!

Slamming the hatches tight shut behind him, she was left with the words ringing in her ears, that it was a “good enough place for her.”…

For nine days Mary Ann was trapped in this hell hole..

At first, she tried yelling and banging, but no one heard her cries for help, outside a fierce storm was raging, which lasted for days, muffling any sounds from inside the hulk. She tried to stand on the ever shifting grain to force open the hatches with a shovel she had found, but every time Mary Ann climbed the mountain of grain, her weight made her sink back down, the treacherous cargo constantly threatening to swallow her up. In the end, she didn’t know when it was day or night so dark inside the hold was it. With no food and no water, she soon grew weak. She tried to eat the dry grain, and even licked the spade to cool her tongue.

The ship belonged to Mr Thomas John Templeman, a wealthy Weymouth businessman, who was a corn merchant and owned a large  warehouses on the quayside.

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It wasn’t until nine days later that workmen returned to the vessel.

When they opened the hatches, there, curled up on the grain, was the body of Mary Ann, she was still alive… only just!

Her malnourished body was carried to the Workhouse, where she was cared for, and when she had recovered slightly she was able to tell the policeman what had happened to her, and who the guilty party had been.

With that information William House, after being taken to the Workhouse first to be identified by Mary Ann,  was arrested.

In court things didn’t look good for William, his neighbour, Mary Denman of 5 Seymour Street, described how she had watched him sneaking in the window a half past one in the morning, whereas William had said he’d been home by half nine.

The jury found William House guilty of “Intent to cause grievous bodily harm.”

He recieved a sentance of  18 months hard labour.

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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 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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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”.

Image

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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1892; Wyke Working Men’s Club.

A lot of us probably remember going to a working Mens Club of an evening, either with family or friends, or if you weren’t a member, then signing in as a guest to attend  a party or wedding reception. In my case it was the under 18’s disco’s at the Weymouth workies.

The Weymouth one is a typical grand Victorian building , the generous gift of Sir Henry Edwards to working men of Weymouth.

weymouth working mens

 © Copyright Chris Talbot and licensed for reuse under thisCreative Commons Licence

I had never really thought about the name before..it was just a place to go, but these places had a long social history too.

Working men’s clubs were a Victorian institution, they were often generous gifts from philanthropic wealthy residents or regular visitors to the local area..

They did what they said on the tin….designed to  be a place of recreation for the working man, but also a place for education for them and their families. They were run on the line of private clubs, but non-members could enter as guests. They were very often the centre of town or village life, dances, recitals, music even good old bingo. Sometimes if one of the  member was good on the old ivories there would be a sing song in the evening, with the musician paid in a couple of pints placed strategically on the top of the piano for his refreshment.

man looking in door quiver 1896

Many towns, villages and hamlets opened one, sometimes in a village hall, but frequently in a purpose built place.

There Victorian man could find the latest newspapers, periodicals or books to read, a place to sit and relax in the evening after his hard days slog, have a quiet drink with pals. Often they ran educational classes, woodwork, drawing, even classes for the wives, cooking, flower arranging.

The following is taken from the local paper of 1892, and covers the report of the Wyke Working mans club.

The Wyke club had been opened by Reverend Robert Lynes in 1887. There is mention of the Working Mens  Conservative Club before that, so either the word Conservative was dropped from the title, or it was a separate entity.

The Honourable secretary was Mr Thomas Winzar. 42 year-old Thomas was a very busy man, he was not only the village  blacksmith, but he and his wife Frances Lucy and their family, lived in and ran the pub the Fishermans Arms in Wyke.

The caretake of the building, and also manager of the attached coffee shop was 41 year-old James Burbridge. He lived with his wife Mary and daughter Elizabeth on the premises, which sat somewhere between Rose cottage and Markham house (according to the 1891 census route).

This report was from their regular annual meeting in 1892, its mentioned they had been open for 5 years, and going strong.

The Reverent T M Bell was the club chairman that year.

Rev Bell pushed back his chair, and slowly rose, clearing his throat carefully, he proceeded to read out the years accounts to his fellow committee members;

Subscriptions; Hon members; £29.6s

Subscriptions; ordinary members; £12.15s 6d.

Billiard room; £3. 1s 6d.

Miscellanious; £6. 11s 10d.

Expenditure;-

£53.00 0s 6d. inclusive of balance due to the Treasury last year. £9 3s 6d.

Daily and weekly papers; £7 11s 4d.

Caretakers salary; £10.

Coal and wood; £10 19s.

Oil; £6 11s &c.

Showing a small adverse balance, £1 5s 8d.

QUIVER 1888 LIBRARY

A few years after this Wyke expanded quite rapidly when the Whithead torpedo works was built there, (which is where my Dad worked during the war) bringing extra housing and workers, this meant that the social club became very popular, and the number of members jumped.

The men could enjoy a game of billiards, bagtelle, they even had their own skittle alley.

Sadly now, many of the old style clubs are closing, as the senior generation that grew up with them are passing on to the great club in the sky, there are less and less new members.

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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

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

http://www.weymouthinoldpostcards.co.uk/wyke%20square%20circa%201900.htm (views of old Wyke Regis)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/europe/uk/london/8993248/Last-orders-for-the-Working-Mens-Club.html

http://www.clubhistorians.co.uk/

http://www.weymouth-dorset.co.uk/wyke-regis.html

https://www.facebook.com/WeymouthWorkingMensClub  (Weymouth working mens club Facebook page)

1872; Chesil Royal Adelaide shipwreck; part 2. Armageddon.

P1170896

This is the second part of the tale of the sinking of the Royal Adelaide on Chesil beach that happened on the 25th November 1872.

Well, in fact, it’s actually about what happened after…the dreadful scenes that hit the national papers and shook a lot of people.

Despite there being many shipwrecks around the coast over that couple of days due to the fierce gales, only the Adelaide made the national headlines, but for all the wrong reasons.

The loss of the ship was bad enough, so too was  the terrible loss of lives of those who tried to get ashore but sadly failed, however, what sparked the reporters and readers imagination was the unfolding scene of the next morning on Chesil, it was one  of complete devastation and debauchery.

Scattered all along the pebbled banks of the beach was debris from the wreck, parts of the smashed boat, boxes and crates, cargo, clothing, mens women s and children’s, all their personal items, food. There was even the battered body of a thoroughbred horse that had been on board for the long voyage out to Australia, once it had been some passengers pride and joy..not any more.

The entire contents of a humans life was laid before the hundreds of onlookers and scavengers that flocked to the beach in the wake of the wreck.

The wreckers were in there.

Gathering up what ever they could, cargo, goods, personal items, furniture, wood, money….you name it, they grabbed it.

Soldiers and coastguard men had been drafted in to protect the wreck and its contents, but they were overwhelmed by the mass of the human tide that swept down the beach in search of booty. All they could do was to retreat to the road to search people as they came off the Chesil bank, looking for stolen goods.

These in effect now belonged to The Receiver of wrecks, but the way things were going, he wasn’t going to receive a great deal by the time the scavengers had finished picking over the beach.

Extra soldiers and coast guards were drafted in, trying to hastily gather up as much as they could, a race against the human carrion, whatever items could be salvaged were loaded onto carts and and removed to the Customs house in Weymouth.

coastguards boys own paper 1890s

A pig from on board the boat had somehow miraculously survived the storm and managed to swim to shore in the early hours of the morning. Safely on shore, his new found freedom didn’t last long. Spotting the valuable animal, he was quickly captured and thrown over a mans shoulder, who then staggered up the steep slopes of the pebbled beach with his weighty booty. Once on firm ground the satisfied man started to march homewards, pleased with his piece of precious pork.

Only trouble was, the soldiers also spotted him and the squealing pig, he found himself being marched off in a different direction… towards the police station.

Another  local from Wyke was stopped and searched, he was found to have bundles of wet money concealed about his person.

A  Wyke business man and his daughter were arrested for theft. They had come across large bundles of linen handkerchiefs blowing down along the beach. The father had wrapped as many around his body as he could to conceal, the daughter had tucked bundles of them in and around her voluminous clothing.

They nearly escaped with their ill gotten gains only she dropped one of the bundles as they passed an obsevant coastguards.

At Dorchester court, the pair faced the wrath of the local judge.

Charles Edwards, 47, shop owner, baker and grocer of  Wyke,  and his daughter 26-year-old daughter, Mary Jane Edwards, were fined, Dad £20 and the daughter £5.

A decision was taken by the ships owner, they announced that they wouldn’t prosecute, if the stolen goods were returned…it was luck of the draw. Many had tried to get away with their goods, and many did.

Some were even trying to bury their bounty right there on the beach…men were spotted trying to dig large holes in the pebbles to cover large barrels of spirits, something to be retrieved at a later date when the coast was clear..

Something else more sinister was scattered along the beach too that morning.

More bodies…but these were the unconscious bodies of those who had helped themselves to the strong spirits that had been washed ashore in the wooden kegs. Men, women and children lay prone all along  the pebbles, for all intense purposes, dead to the world. Medical help had to be sought as they tried to move the lifeless bodies, many were wet, cold, some were literally near death. The ‘living corpses’ were loaded onto wagons and taken to places of safety, where they were laid out. Many had to be stripped of their sodden clothing and were covered in hot blankets and hot bricks in an effort to revive them.

Some never woke again.

Over the next couple of days inquests were held around the area for those whose life was lost for the love of a free drink.

Weymouth courts; Death by drink, George Neale, 15, West Parade;

boy collapsed street quiver 1865

On Tuesday young George had walked onto Chesil beach with Richard Rolls to see the scene of devastation for themselves. They came across a wooden cask of rum with the head off. George picked up a nearby tin, one that would hold a quart of liqueur, he scooped the rich spirits out of the barrel and downed it in one.

Seeing danger ahead, Richard took the tin away from him, but a group of men drinking nearby passed him a biscuit tin.

Within minutes, young George had downed nearly 3 quarts of strong liqueur.

Not surprisingly he became unconscious.

Richard with the help of a couple of the  realtively sober men and a policeman carried George to Mr Manley’s in Weymouth town where he worked. Mary Jane Andrews had tried desperately to bring him round. George’s father had called doctor Simpson on the Tuesday evening. Later he told him he thought George was getting better, the doctor  prescribed a stimullent emetic, then left for Portland.

He returned at midnight to find boy dead.

Congestion of the brain from alcohol poisoning. “Death from excessive drinking.” (Buried 2nd December Melcombe Regis graveyard)

Inquest at the Royal Victoria Inn, Ferry Bridge, Wyke Regis, 42 year-old Samuel Biles, labourer; Sergeant Gale was on duty on the beach , he had come across 3 men lying apparently dead on beach. The bodies of the  unconscious men were moved to the ‘safety’ of the Fishermans Arms. Having been called in to check the men over, Dr Rhodes arrived to see the victim and another man lying  face down on straw.

Samuel Biles had no pulse. “Death from exessive drinking and exposure to the cold.” (Buried Wyke Regis churchyard November 30th 1872)

Inquest at Cove Inn Chesil, Thomas Strange and George Gilbert; P.C James Bugg found their bodies on the beach on the Wednesday, “Died from exposure to cold, and from having taken an excessive quantity of raw spirits.”

Thomas Strange was a 46 year-old cabinet maker who lived in Walpole street, Weymouth with his wife Sarah and children. (Buried 2nd December 1872, at Melcombe Regis graveyard)

George Gilbert unknown, must have come from further afield, though his death is registered in Weymouth, no record of his burial locally.

Two more men were fined being “dead” drunk on the beach at Weymouth. Chaddock and Mayo,  2 men.doctors bill, fined 5s each and costs.

Thomas A Chaddock, 45 year old quarryman lived at Chisel Portland with wife Jane. He was so cold that they had to strip him and cover him with hot bricks.

John Mayo, 21, stone mason, lived at the Freemasons Arms, Upwey with his parents. both these men were in the employ of  Mr Richard Reynolds, stonemason of Weymouth.

There was one redeeming light in admist all this debauchery.

Thirty one year old Albert Drayton was a coastguard for the Wyke area. On that fateful evening he strived along with many others to rescue as many of the ship wreck survivors as he could.

Having worked tirelessly all through the stormy night in the wet and cold, Albert caught a severe chill.

He lingered for a few days, but during  his delirious periods he kept repeating  “There’s another saved, thank God!”. (Albert sadly lost his fight for life and was buried on the 20th December 1872,  at Wyke Regis graveyard.) He left behind his widow, Jane and baby daughter Mary.

policeman in dock with boy quiver 1891

The tale of the terrible wreck of the Adelaide remains forever in the memory of Dorset folk, but not always for the right reasons.

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http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1540307/Police-to-clamp-down-on-beach-scavengers.html (modern day scavangers further along Chesil beach )

1869; Battery, assault and burial on Weymouth beach!

In 1869 a little incident occurred on the sands, shouldn’t have been a problem really, but it was one that ended up in the national papers much to the local council’s horror!

William Wynn, a well-educated gent from London had been staying in Weymouth with his family for a holiday. They had been down on the beach, minding their own business. It was low tide, the bathing machines were down by the shore, there was lots of room on the sands. William had been playing trap and ball with his young son, when the proprietor of the bathing machines, aptly named Solomon Sly marched up to confront him.

weymouth beach 1892

In no uncertain terms a very irate Sly told Mr. Wynn to leave the beach immediately. Of course, William Wynn wasn’t having that. He declared that the beach was public property, and that Sly had absolutely no authority whatsoever ordering him and his family off. Sly, who had been described as ‘in a very excited mood’, told Mr. Wynn in no uncertain terms that he paid £40 a year, the beach was his!

A feeble half-hearted tussle then followed. Sly pushed Mr. Wynn who fell onto the sand, enraged, he then jumped up and retaliated by hitting Sly over the head with the child’s bat.

The case came to court, but it wasn’t really over the assault. Mr. Wynn, rather cleverly, allegedly had brought the case before the magistrates on the grounds that he wanted it made clear to visitors whether the beach was public property or not. Because, if it wasn’t, then future visitors to Weymouth had a right to know that they had no legal access to the beach. Seeing as those dealing with the case, magistrates and solicitors, were also on the town council, they had to tread very carefully how they responded, especially as the case had aroused a great deal of public interest, and the gallery was full of spectators including reporters. The Mayor at the time, Mr. Tizard, graciously thanked Mr. Wynn for bringing the case on behalf of the public. He assured him that the public had every right for access to the beach.

The council was at that time heavily promoting Weymouth as the perfect family holiday destination, with its superb soft sandy beaches and safe sea bathing.

children buckets beach

They had come to realize that they could no longer rest on their laurels gathered when King George used to visit the seaside resort at the start of the century, and it had become the place to be seen by those in high society. Weymouth was going to have to start attracting persons from certain other classes, which was where the money was to be made. With other sea side resorts now starting to become popular along the South coast, and increased flow of persons from far afield brought in by the developing railways, holiday resorts were having to promote themselves to win their custom.

The visions of future visitors being assaulted, or even worse, banned altogether from the beach was not exactly the family friendly and welcoming image that the council wanted for Weymouth!

That very same year, another unexpected visitor arrived on the sandy beach.

Opposite the Royal library the large, bloated body of a strange animal had been washed in on the tide. Badly decomposed, with its feet missing, the skull and legs stripped of its skin, but from what was left, namely the fur, and its teeth, it had been deduced that it was the remains of a large black bear. Not wishing to offend the sensibilities, (or presumably the nostrils) of the tourists, a large, deep pit was hastily dug in the sands where the body lay, and its remains buried.

I wonder if any of those bones are still down there somewhere?

Anyone digging for lugworms?

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