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/

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Men of the sea; 1869

Not surprisingly, local folk have always looked to the sea for their favour and fortunes.

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However, old Father Neptune is a fickle master, sometimes he gives us untold riches…but he also has the ability to take those we love.

Such was the sad case in September of 1869.

You and I might think of Greenhill as a place where we dabble our toes when the weather is warm, or somewhere we sit in the pleasant sunshine to enjoy stunning views with a cup of tea or an ice cream. The long shingle beach littered with the last of the sun worshipers and the hardy bathers.

To our ancestors though, Greenhill was very much a workplace.

One September Sunday became a memorable day in Weymouth’s history.

It was when rich pickings entered the bay, a vast shoal of pilchards had been spotted heading for the beach. Of course, despite atrocious conditions, local fishermen did what had to be done, chase the liquid money. ‘During the whole of the day parties of fishermen had been engaged on the beach near Greenhill, in the pilchard fishery.’

But it also harboured tragedy for the fishermen of the town.

The blustery weather certainly wasn’t in their favour that day, ‘the wind which was blowing in very strong gusts from the north-west’ had made for a ‘very sloppy sea.’

Our Victorian ancestors  were out in force that Sunday, partaking in the day of the Lord, dressed warmly to keep out the Autumn chill, little knowing that as they strolled ‘in the presence of hundreds of promenaders, bent on pleasure,’ they were witnesses who  would be  ‘entirely unprepared for the terrible sensation that awaited them.’

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Folks stood along Greenhill common , watching as men dragged their wooden boats and heavy rope nets down the beach and into the water. Time after time they rowed out into the wind swept bay, laying their nets behind them. Having circled round, then began the hard work.  Men heaved and hauled in their cumbersome nets, moving ever closer to shore. The sea literally boiled with thousands of erupting fish, screaming gulls circled above, diving again and again to greedily snatch their fill.

A productive days fishing was on the cards, many a celebration would be enjoyed that night at inns and taverns around town.

About four o’clock that afternoon,‘opposite the house of Mr Trenchard,’ four men clambered into their vessel, ‘a trough, a little flat-bottomed craft.’ They too were going to grab their share of nature’s riches.

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First to climb in was fifty-seven year old William Watch. Despite his good age, William was a strong man and a powerful swimmer. He sometimes worked as a porter, but fishing was in his blood, it  didn’t always pay the bills though.

William lived on Chapelhay Stairs along with his wife Elizabeth and their growing brood.

Fellow fisherman, Samuel Chick, climbed in next, he was a mere youngster at 27. Samuel Charles was the illegitimate son of Eliza Chick. Mother and son lived in Conygar Lane.

Also in the boat was William Chick of West Quay (or John, depending on which newspaper you read!)

The forth man to board that fated vessel was George Watts, a Blandford carpenter, but one who had moved recently to Wyke Regis. During the inquest he was referred to as ‘George ‘Smuggler’ Watts,’  maybe he was a man with a checkered past?

Rowing hard against the winds, the four headed for the tell-tell signs of the rich vein of pilchards, their vessel sat low in the water at the back, weighed down by nets and rope.

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Once they reached their destination, the fishermen hurriedly began to lay their nets. Only problem was, added weight at the rear of the boat made her sink her even lower.

Fate waited patiently in the wings.

With that, a sudden swell swamped their low-lying boat, overturning her and catapulting all four men in choppy seas.

William Watch, Samuel Chick and George Watts tried desperately to right her again.‘Hampered as it is supposed they were, with the ropes or net, they could not manage it properly,  and turned her over three or four times.’  But it was not to be, ‘ at last, exhausted, they sank.’

Back on land, the unfolding tragedy was watched by horrified crowds.

Boats set out from the shore, rowing furiously against the waves in a desperate attempt to reach the floundering men.

One of those boats heading for the upturned vessel contained Sergeant Brine, P.C. Hansford and William Burt.

Old William kept his eyes firmly on the spot where he had witnessed ‘ Watch rising and sinking,’ but once they reached the spot, he was not to be seen, only a  man’s cap being tossed around on the swell. William reached in as far as he safely could and managed to grab hold of someone’s hair. Hauling in the fully clothed, sodden body was difficult, but the men managed and lay it out in the bottom of their boat.

He was still alive, but only just.

This was William Watch.

William Chick, (or  was it John?) had launched himself clear of the tangled nets and rope as their boat overturned, he was found exhausted, frozen, but still clinging onto an oar some way away from the boat. William was hauled ashore by one of the many men who had taken to the waters in a desperate bid to save the drowning fishermen.

By now the upturned fishing boat had righted itself again, but no sign of any of its other crew members. Fears were that they had been trapped by their own heavy nets and ropes which were now dragging the seabed.

Sergeant Brine and P.C. Hansford clambered into the empty vessel. They frantically tried to free the dragging nets,‘but the party found they had but one knife between them.’ It was a slow and arduous task as they cut one rope after another. Far too late to save anyone that was still entangled in the waters below.

William Burt, of a goodly age, but one that hadn’t robbed him of his strength, rowed a semi-conscious William Watch towards the beach. At one stage, Watch rallied slightly and muttered “Oh, Burt,” and he moved his hands and feet,’ but soon after fell silent.

It took old William nearly fifteen minutes to finally reach the shore, where crowds had gathered.

Once on land, Watch’s now motionless body was laid out on the shingle, he was soon stripped of his sodden clothing. Desperate to help, residents of Brunswick Terrace had been busy, they ‘pulled the blankets from their own beds, and hurried down to the beach.’ 

Even Mayor Devenish arrived on scene to take charge, bringing with him stone water bottles and a supply of suitable stimulants.  He ordered that troops be sent to keep the rapidly gathering crowds back from the scene of the tragedy.

Two surgeons from the 51st Regiment arrived, they attempted to help local doctors in their frantic attempts to revive a seemingly lifeless Watch.

For the next two hours, Dr Tizard, Dr Griffin and Dr Rhodes tried all within their means to resuscitate William Watch’s stone cold body, but to no avail.

Back out in the bay, men were still searching for the missing bodies of George Watts and Samuel Chick.

There was not a sign of them.

The inquest on the death of William Watch was held in the Burdon Hotel Tap, where his corpse was laid out for jurors to peruse.

When Superintendent Vickery was questioned by the coroner about William Watch, he rather oddly replied that ‘he believed Watch had left eight or nine children; but Burt made a mystery about that.’

The body of 57-year-old William Watch, (father of an undisclosed number of offspring,)  was laid to rest in Wyke Regis churchyard on the 24th September 1869.

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Three days later, 27-year-old Samuel Chick followed in his friends footsteps, his body having been washed ashore.

He was also buried at Wyke Regis.

There is no further mention of George ‘Smuggler’ Watts. Presumably old Neptune wound his cold tentacles around him and there he stayed.

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Why not check out my ‘Tales from around the Victorian World.’ 

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for all sorts of Victorian snippets.

https://victoriantalesfromaroundtheworld.wordpress.com/2017/01/

 

or if Weymouth’s military history is your cup of tea try Nothe Fort and Beyond…

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

19th century New Years Eve

This New Year’s Eve musing takes on a slightly different tone.

Maybe not quite so light a subject as I would normally cover, but it’s a subject that I feel strongly about and that I think often gets brushed under the carpet .

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(The words used, though not nowadays politically correct, are ones that were used during the Victorian period. I did struggle to know whether to change them or to keep them, but decided in the end that to stay true to the Victorian values they should stay, after all, they had already been spoken and written so my evading them wouldn’t make them or the subject disappear.)

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New Year’s Eve means many different things to different people.

For some it’s time to pull out all the stops and party long and hard.

For others it’s a time for quiet reflection. A time to assess what has been and gone and that yet to come.

My main New Year’s Eve tales isn’t strictly purely Weymouth and Portland, but no doubt many of it’s recipients were of a local nature. Folk who through no fault of their own, had ended up somewhere they probably never thought they might.

The headlines of the lengthy penned article proclaim

                                                      ‘New Year’s Eve at a Lunatic Asylum.’

It is 31st December of 1866, a reporter from the Sherbourne Journal has been invited to attend the evening’s festivities at the Dorset Lunatic Asylum.

I have rewritten it in my own words but taking quotes from the article.

(This was the newly opened (1863) and much enlarged institute of  what became Herrison Hospital built upon Charlton Downs. A place where my own mother was taken in the 50’s when she suffered deep post natal depression.)

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It is 11 o’clock in the evening, the final night of the year 1866.

I am sat in the great hall of the new Hospital, a place that is generally referred to as the County Lunatic Asylum. I have been invited here to partake in the evening’s festivities along with the staff and inmates.

I suspect there is a hidden agenda perhaps. These great monuments of incarceration have received nothing but bad press in the newspapers recently.

First to enter the hall are the men of the brass band who step up on the stage and take their places. Most are artists who give their time freely, but a couple of the band’s members, so I’m told, are inmates of the asylum, one being an accomplished musician who plays the cornopean.

Then from the side enters another musician, the leader of the band. He is a man who has to be physically carried in on another patient’s back, because of paralysis of his feet he is unable to walk.

So his story goes, he was a sailor, who, whilst on board his ship in the West Indies fell from the rigging and seriously injured his back. Arriving back in Weymouth some time later, he settled there, set up a school and “being a man of good abilities, did very well until until he began to feel the effects of his accident, and it became necessary to send him where, kindly and humanely cared for, he might pass his days in peace.”

Not only did the poor fellow suffer from the unfortunate physical affliction caused by his accident but his mind has ultimately been affected also, “his chief delusion, I understood,was that he was chief heir to some immense estates; beyond that he was harmless.”

Once he is sat comfortably at the front of the band, the man is handed his violin. Hesitantly at first, he passes his bow across the strings a few times, eliciting discordant notes, but as he plays on so the sounds slowly begins to smooth out to more harmonious tones.

Then the double doors to the room swing open and in file the male patients.“some staring vacantly upon the ground, others strutting in with all the swagger of ‘my lord,’ but all looking, clean, happy and contented.”

As they file past, a few turn their heads and nod at us, the guests seated at the front of the auditorium.  Though one rather surly fellow “got behind his attendant’s back, and did what is vulgarly known as taking a sight at me, all the time keeping his face as grave as a parson’s.” I hasten to add, somewhat disconcerted, I do not acknowledge his sour greeting.

Now that the men are seated and settled quietly, it is the turn of the women to enter the hall.

Like their fellow patients, as they pass by, their feminine faces reveal a variety of emotions and merely hint at their mental states. A couple of rather grand ladies make their particularly stately entrances, their full skirts sweeping the floor as they stroll imperiously across the hall to take their seats.

One believed herself to be a grand Duchess, the other no less a person than Her Majesty, the ex-Queen of Spain.

Seated in the front row with us is Dr Symes, the Superintendent in charge of the institute and his family and friends.

Of course, there are the hospital staff present, those men and women who’s duty it is to  care for their charges.

Not “beetle browed men or women with iron wills and arms to match such as the sensation writers of late have rejoiced to put before their readers,” these are “young men and women, neatly and modestly dressed, with good-tempered looking faces, laughing and joking with the rest.”

During the evening’s celebrations, I witness not the “slightest manifestation of violence” the patients behave impeccably,“indeed, the assembly would have set a good example to some where there is supposed to be more sense.”

One or two of the more animated inmates catch my attention and I enquire as to their means of being admitted.

Watching a man who dances in a very queer manner, “always on the hop,”  I ask why he had ended up in the asylum.

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His tale is a sad one.

Life for him, like many of us, had started out so good, full of promise. He married a young, pretty lass and in their first few years they were happy. Then disaster struck the family, “the breath of the seducer coming over this like a cloud, a deserted home and the end-disgrace for the wife; for the husband a lunatic asylum.”

A valuable lesson to be learnt maybe, one never quite knows what life has in store for any of us really.

Another man, small in stature, catches my eye. He enters the room “with an appearance of being thoroughly pleased with himself.”

His thick head of hair is styled in the most elaborate of fashions, “it being parted in the middle, and evidently curled with great care.” Upon his delicately featured face he wears his carefully manicured moustache with great aplomb.

This man of distinction, imaginary or not,  passes through the hall, only stopping briefly while he nods to the chaplain.  Upon that nod, “something was thrown across to him, which he eagerly caught at.” Looking closer I can see the item being a pair of “white kid gloves,” though they are far too large for his delicate hands and of a rather tatty state,“ventilation was amply provided for  by sundry slits and holes.” This does not bother the man at all, in fact “they evidently gave the wearer the greatest satisfaction.”

Once  his hands are firmly ensconced  within his gloves, he is convinced that he is complete in his full evening attire, then “he paraded up and down the room several times in great pomp.”

He passes me several times, and each time he stops before me, he elegantly stretches out one of his feet, keen to reveal his dancing pumps, which he admires himself so greatly, carefully turning his foot from one side to the other to enable a full view of their  styling.

Intrigued, I cross the room to talk to him. First, I take great pains to “complement him on his general appearance.” Something that obviously gives him great pleasure indeed as the widest of smiles stretches across his face.

“Ah” he replies proudly, “we Blandford people can do it.”

With that social exchange having being successfully concluded in his eyes, off he lightly steps to impress some other person.

The music ceases, we are all requested to take our seats while members of the staff and some of the inmates give a musical recital.

Having listened to a series of harmonious renditions from the singers and applauded their valiant efforts, the band strikes up once more.

I am now introduced to my new dance partner, a delightful young lady, “I believe she came from Cerne.”

As we waltz around the dance floor she proceeds to tell me that she is the “Duchess of Sherbourne Castle” and that she owns “various estates around the country.”

Pressing her gently, I remark that the “last time I was there a gentleman named Digby was in possession.”

That phases her not the slightest, with the merest upward tilt of her chin, she simply decrees that the man is merely “an impostor.”

During the evening’s proceedings, this sweet lady takes to the stage and performs a couple of songs and “a sweeter voice I never heard.” So pure and clear was its tone that “it sounded more like a silver bell than anything else I can compare it to.” Her “highest notes were given with an ease and clearness that was astonishing.”

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That reporter from the Sherbourne Journal wrote his sensitively drafted piece about the institution with a positive slant. It was a lengthy article which appeared in it’s shortened version in numerous  local and national papers.

A report created by “The Commissioners in Lunacy” from earlier that year reveals what exactly what and who this hospital served.

(Dorset County Chronicle 28 June 1866)

(I visibly cringe writing some of these words.)

“Three of the inmates suffered from religious monomania and one from over-study. But notwithstanding the large number of patients that have been admitted it appears that there are in this county no less than 12 lunatics, 156 idiots and 13 imbeciles…

 “13 idiots and 9 lunatics in the Weymouth Union.” 

Out of the 397 patients at the start of that year, 41 belonged to the Weymouth Union.

During 1866 the asylum employed 14 attendants, 10 nurses, 3 laundry maids and 3 kitchen maids.

No one was on the wards to supervise patients overnight.

http://www.charltondownvillagehall.info/about-us/our-history/

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On a lighter note, the years end of 1857 was not such a good one for one Weymouth fellow, a certain Mr John Jenkins Rolls. He was employed as the “Inspector of Nuisances.” I say ‘was’ because come the 31st December he suddenly found himself out on his ear!

Now, it wasn’t that good old Mr Rolls hadn’t been doing his work…oh no, in fact the reverse was true. Seemingly “his reports were as voluminous as a Parliamentary Blue Book.”

His role was that of being in control of those unruly Weymouthians and their suspect habits, such as Caroline Norris of Franchise Street, who “kept a pig at the rear of her house,” one which was “in a very dirty state, so as to be a nuisance to several cottagers near.”

Or digging unauthorised holes in the roads, that was the case against builder Stephen Brown. John Rolls had been sent to check  out the sorry state of South Parade, where he came upon “a hole, and the earth thrown in the middle of the street.” Might not have been any H&S in those days, but Rolls, wasn’t standing for it. He brought the case before the courts where he gave evidence to the fact that “There was no fence to prevent anyone falling in it nor any light during the night.”

Blighted by his constant reports of nuisances in the borough, the good old Victorian Weymouth Council employed a very 21st century tactic to dispose of him and his role.

“With the close of this year, the duties of the present Inspector of Nuisances are terminated. The appointment of the Town Surveyor and Inspector of Nuisances-blended into one office-will take place on the 31st inst.”

The author of the article declared that “had his reports been attended to by the Council there would not have been a removable nuisance left in Weymouth.” He then went on to point out that “they were thrown aside by the Council, and the Inspector was looked upon as a troublesome man.”

Upon being asked about the matter, the council replied “We are no respecters of persons; we only wish to see ‘the right man in the right place,”

HHHmmm………….

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Never mind, it was only his prestige put out of joint, because John Rolls just returned to running his own successful business, a glover, tea and cigar stockist, situated in Augusta Place where he lived with his wife Ann.

(Dorset County Chronicle 31 Dec 1857)

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If Weymouth’s military history is more you cuppa…pop on over to Nothe Fort and Beyond…

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

What were your Weymouth ancestors doing in December of 1888?

Christmas is nearly upon us, its that time of year when we think about absent family and friends and especially those no longer here to celebrate with us.

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Our long departed ancestors knew how to celebrate Christmas too, albeit sometimes in a very different way, their life often mirrored ours of today, with the same old trials and tribulations.

Come on in and have a peek at the lives of Weymouth folk of  days gone past.

The year is 1888, it’s the 13th December and young Albert Rolls and his pals were making their way along a packed Weymouth esplanade. It might have been nearly Christmas, but the weather was set fair and the warm sun had brought out the crowds.

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In the distance Albert could hear the lively notes of organ music and the raised voices of happy revellers. A big grin spread across his face as he and his pals quickened their pace, pushing through the throng, most of whom seemed to be heading for where the action was.

The Christmas season  always brought a chance to enjoy a bit of fun  away from the drudgery of everyday toil.

Once they neared the  entrance to the pier they could see the steam fair in full swing on the quayside. it looked as if the whole of Weymouth had turned out to attend the festive revelries. Spiffily dressed stall holders bellowed their gaudy wares, “come buy…come buy” they cried as pretty maids crowded round, purses clutched tightly under their shawls. Dapper dandies stood perusing the assortment of side shows that lined the quay, their sight alighting upon somewhat scandalously dressed women whose dark eyes promised such delicious delights behind those beguiling curtains.

Albert and his mates though, headed straight for the steam rides, whose organs were churning out lively tunes that made toes tap, but even those were almost drowned out by the  screeches of nervous passengers and raucous laughter of dare devil riders.

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Their chosen ride slowed to a halt, men, women and children clambered down off their chain slung chairs, some still laughing and chattering happily while a few staggered off looking rather green around the gills.

Albert scrambled onto the nearest chair, he pushed his behind as far back onto the leather seat as he possibly could and held on tightly to the chain, excited but nervous at the same time.

Old tight me loverlies” bellowed the showman, “ere we’s goes.” 

The music started and so the ride began to turn, faster and faster. As the speed picked up its riders swung out, flying legs splayed above the heads of those watching below. Albert’s mates yelled cheerfully to each other above the din, “look ‘ere Rollsy” cried one daring chap as he casually loosed a hand and held it out sideways, “I be flying like they there birds do.” Albert chuckled to himself, Harry was always such a wag.

Despite almost being horizontal, flying round and round through the air, Albert was beginning to feel quite brave…and that was to be the undoing of him.

“Arry” he hollered, “bet you’s can’t do this,” and was on the point of loosening his grip on the straps, when he suddenly slid off the seat and flew, unaided by neither chain nor leather, through the air. Over the heads of stunned watchers he went, arms and legs aflailing, a startled expression on his face. Luckily for the crowd below, but not for Albert, he landed with an almighty crash on solid ground, in a small space void of any possible soft landing material and rolled to an ignominious stop besides a stunned lassie.

Albert never did visit the fair ever again!

(Bridport News 14 Dec 1888)

December of 1888 also witnessed a fairly farcical case held in the borough police court at the town’s Guildhall.

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Hauled before Messrs Robens was one Mary Jackson.

But the case before Robens was not quite that clear cut and took a bit of good old fashioned detective work by local Superintendent Vickery to sort out the mess.

He asked for it to be adjourned until a while later.

Mary Jackson it seems wasn’t actually Mary Jackson, she also went by the names of Pemberton, Roberts and Lee and no doubt many more besides.

Mary’s co-conspirator and partner in crime was one George Jackson. Not her husband at all, although he was married, just not to Mary.

George, a dentist by trade, had apparently deserted his wife and family elsewhere to set off for a life of crime roaming the country with his latest lady love.

Well, come December of 1888 and the Jackson’s arrived in good old sunny Weymouth.

The conniving couple took  advantage of the fair weather, and strolled along the seashore, their thoughts turned towards their next dastardly deed.

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The following morning, decked out in her best finery, Mary set out with a purpose, marching determinedly along St Thomas Street. She was heading straight for their next victim, 63-year-old Charles Hibbs, who owned shop premises at no 3 Frederick Place. Charles, along with his wife Susan and their family lived in the elegant Georgian rooms above them.

That fateful day,  behind the pretty bow fronted window, waiting patiently for his next customer, sat Charles. His beady eyes passed carefully over his stock, was it displayed at its best? Maybe he should move that piece over to the wall opposite the window where it would catch the light better. He frowned as he spotted something not quite to his liking. Being ever the perfectionist, he rose from his seat and walked across the room to straighten the offending item. His somewhat rather pretentiously named son, William Bond Edward,  also worked alongside his father, but as of yet,he didn’t yet have his father’s same exacting standards.

Charles was a well know businessman in Weymouth, the walls of his premises were hung with many pieces of valuable artwork.

Charles and William both traded as  fine art dealers.

As he was about to return to his comfortable chair, the shop bell rang. Straightening his shoulders and fixing a smile on his craggy face, Charles turned around to confront his customer.

Mary smiled sweetly at the dealer, little did he know it was more a smile of satisfaction and determination.

Before her stood her next victim.

The two chatted away while browsing the selection of artwork on offer. Charles advising and Mary nodding.

Having chosen the pieces she deemed suitable for what she wanted, Mary made her excuses and left the premises, leaving behind a very disappointed Charles. He was so sure that he had the sale in the bag…so to speak.

To his surprise, a few days later he received a letter from the lovely Mrs Mary Jackson, she wanted him to post a few pieces of artwork up to her, not just a few, but a dozen! Charles rubbed his hands with glee, he knew he had been right all along, when he first set eyes on the dear lady, he was so sure she was going to be a good customer. Mrs Jackson wanted the parcel to be carefully wrapped and personally addressed to her at Merriott Road in Crewkerne.

Paintings duly despatched, Charles waited.

First he received Mary’s letter to say that they had arrived safely…but then nothing!

Charles wrote again,  this time his missive was returned unopened with the dreaded words penned on its front cover, “gone, no address.”

By now, quite alarmed, Charles made his way to the police station where he reported the facts, but he knew in his heart that he had been well and truly duped by this damsel and in all probability would never see her, his money or his painting ever again.

Well, as luck would have it, Mary had been found residing at her Majesty’s pleasure in the Devonport jailhouse. When confronted by Weymouth’s PC Bartlett who had travelled to Devonport to question her, she held up her hands and spilled the beans on the whole kitten caboodle of their crime.

Seemingly the dishonest couple had left behind a trail of deception and debts. Two of Charles’ pictures had been pawned in Exeter during their travels down towards the West Country , and another three sold to a private dealer.

When Mary’s partner in crime, George, was brought to the police house later that day, he had no hesitation in throwing his supposed lady love to the lions. Denying anything to do with obtaining the pictures, though he had to admit to knowing she had received them. Upon his person though was found a selection of pawn tickets from various towns they had passed through. Each one bore a different name, Graham Jackson, Graham Johnson, Annie Jackson, Ellen Jackson…so the list of aliases went on.

This light fingered pair were no lightweights, they were wanted by constabularies all over the place.

Once back stood in the Weymouth dock, the defiant Mary Jackson alias Pemberton, (it turned out that her real name was actually Mary Stedman,)was charged with“unlawfully obtaining from Charles Hibbs of St Thomas Street, twelve unframed oil paintings valued at £12 6s”

At the Quarter Sessions the following Spring, Charles Hibbs sat patiently in the courtroom, he wanted to witness this dishonest couple get their just deserts. Imagine his surprise when the couple appeared before the judges, their case was thrown out, apparently it had been his own fault!  The Court Chairman decreed that“Hibbs had sent these twelve pictures to Crekerne without making any enquiries as to the applicant.”

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To compound matters even further, the couples crimes, including the theft from a now totally bewildered Charles, were brought before a second court, along with a list of other such cases. Surely they would pay for their trail of crimes this time?

Mary again stated that they had indeed sent for these goods and then pawned them, but, denied receiving the goods with any intention of fraud, “remarking the invoice sent in with the goods stated ‘accounts rendered every six months,’ and at the time they were too poor to meet the account.”

Due to lack of evidence, (apart from a string of pawn tickets in an assortment of names, and a fair number of complaints of their misdoings) the couple were found “not guilty” and released.

(Western Gazette 21 Dec 1888)

Even Weymouth’s famous swans made the news that December.

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An article described how “The good people of Weymouth have tried to induce the swans to live in the open sea-in the bay.” But it appears that the feathered flock of around 300 had their own views on such matters. Despite people feeding them on boiled Indian corn out in the bay to entice them away from their sheltered spot, they kept flying back to Radipole Lake. “They seem to dislike a strong wind” bemoaned one bewildered local.

(Bridport News 14th Dec)

Of course, with a bustling quayside, there’s always a bit of nautical news to be had “At Weymouth on Tuesday, eight seamen belonging to the British barque Mabel, who refused to go to sea on the ground that the vessel was unseaworthy, were each sentenced to 28 days hard labour”

Weymouth harbour

Not much of a Christmas for those fine fellows of the sea then!

(Western Chronicle Fri 14 Dec)

We might think that cruise ships arriving in port is a new phenomenon to this area…but not so.

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In December of 1888 the magnificent Queen Marfisa steamed  into Weymouth. She was homeward bound for Southampton after having been on a Mediterranean cruise, one which took in 39 ports over a distance of 5183 miles,(having missed out Africa “on account of the time of the year.”) She had used 50lb of coal per mile steamed at an average speed of 9 knots.

The ships owner,  wealthy Mr George Beer, and his guests had set out from Southampton on May 16th on their epic voyage, calling in many ports along the way such as Gibraltar, Malaga, Valencia, Palma and Naples.

Well, here she was moored in Weymouth for a couple of days. I bet that gave the locals something to gawk at.

(Hants Advertiser 26 Dec)

And of course, what would Christmas be without a good old game of footie?

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Christmas of 1888 saw a football match between Dorset v Devon.

The match for some obscure reason was held at Wareham, much to the disgust of the Devonians, who declared it as an absolutely “absurd place selected for the match.”

They complained that the Devon men had to travel up on the Friday and stop over for the weekend. Going on to point out that the Dorset team consisted of men all who came from the South of the county, and didn’t have to travel far.

In fact the majority of the Dorset team were soldiers from the West Kent Regiment who were stationed here at the time, what with footie being one of their favourite past times.

Kick off was at 3 o’clock.

Now, call me cynical, but from what I know of men and football and a the rare opportunity of a weekend away, it’s not normally something that they would complain about, but then just maybe it was a case of sour grapes because the final result was…

Dorset won 3-2!

We’ll round off with a completely un-Christmassy snippet.

Poor old Mrs Warren had been very busy doing her humungous pile of weekly washing, one which had been added to by visitors who had suddenly arrived unannounced for Christmas.

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The  windows and door of her cosy little cottage in Hope Street were completely steamed up, so she decided it might be better if she opened them for a while.

“It might’n be the season of good will to all ee there men, but fo’ us women,” she muttered to herself as she went about her chores, “din’t have no good will season’s, ’tis nothing but work, work,work.”

Having passed the last of the wet linens through the old mangle and draped it over the wooden clothes horse, she moved it in front of the fire, where she hoped that some of it would dry before the day was out.

With that she left the room and settled down in her tiny kitchen to enjoy a quick tipple before she started on the bedroom upstairs.

Whilst she was sat sipping her snifter of sherry and ruminating the woes of women, a gentle breeze fluttered through the windows and front door, ruffling the clothes airing in the room. Then, horror upon horrors, one strong wayward gust saw Mrs Warren’s clothes horse with all her nice clean washing fall forwards onto the fire.

In the back room, the disgruntled housewife was still deep in thought, clutching her glass close to her ample bosom, she sat wondering what it would be like to have someone else to do all the work for you.

LONDON MAGAZINE 11 1906 LADY CHAIR

It wasn’t until cries of “Fire…fire” awoke the daydreaming dame, startling her from her flights of fancy.

“Heavens above…” she cried, “What’s to do? what do be going on out there?” all whilst rushing down the hallway towards the front door.

Mrs Warren suddenly realised that smoke was oozing from her front room, people were rushing to and fro outside her front door.

She realised the fire was in HER house…panic set in.

But she needn’t have worried, help was at hand,”a man who was passing extinguished the conflagration by the aid of a few buckets of water.”

Even Weymouth police force arrived with their hose, albeit a bit  late, the fire was already out.

Poor old Mrs Warren woefully surveyed the damage to her front room, the burnt washing, the scorched fire surround and the sea soaked sodden floor.

She certainly wished she had someone else to do her work for her now.

(Western Gazette 28 Dec)

christmas party quiver 1865

I would like to wish one and all A Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

 

 

Victorian St Nicholas Street: Weymouth

Numerous narrow streets  tuck themselves away in and around Weymouth town.

Ones that we often don’t pay much attention to. Maybe sometimes  travelling their length merely to  avoid any excess holiday traffic or a proliferation of poodling pedestrians.

They are merely a  means of getting from A to B as quickly as possible, never a place to stop and admire  the few remains of their once historic and elaborate architecture.

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St Nicholas  (the patron saint of sailors) Street, one such through-fare, wends it way from the historic quayside Sailors Return down towards the White Hart at the far end.

It is a  street with a very long history, believed to be a part of the original Medieval town layout ‘Medieval Melcombe was laid out in the form of a grid around four principle north-south streets, St Nicholas, St Thomas, St Mary and Maiden streets. ‘ (Weymouth Historic Character Report)

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      (MAP 1901)

Sadly though, nowadays it is a mere shadow of it’s former self. Very little remains of any original buildings, much of this area having been cleared of it’s intimate closes, terraced houses and even a  compact burial ground.

This area has been continually razed and redeveloped over the years, not least by the Germans in a devastating air raid in April 1942.

However, I have many memories of wandering down here as a child on my way to my Saturday date with my hairy four legged friends.

First I would pass  great steel rolling doors from whence strange sounds would echo. (Sorry…pun intended!) These concealed the back of the chamber like Echo printing room. When they were rolled open you could stand and watch as the massive rolls of paper tumbled, rumbled and rattled their way through the press, the aroma of hot ink and paper wafting through the air.

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Further down towards the harbour stood the remains of an old archway, once a grand entrance to Weymouth’s New Concert Hall and theatre.

There it stood, a few eroded bricks and carved stones.

Towards its end, it was forlornly propped up with two timbers, stood at the edge of what is now the bowling car park. It’s crumbling ruins merely hinting at it’s former glitzy life.

t-english-illustrated-magazine-1892-1

Sadly, even that last theatrical portal was demolished, and now those passing it’s long since buried foundations have no inkling that great gaiety and comedic capers once took place within it’s stone walls. Fine dandies and gaily dressed ladies alighted their carriages to cross its threshold, arriving in excitement to watch the latest productions, or as one of Weymouth’s older resident’s once described it as ‘ many of the performances given were of the blood and thunder type…’

A few paces more and on the right hand side we arrived at a large set of heavy wooden doors, only that sweet aroma of dung that pervaded the delicate nostrils gave a clue as to what delicious delights lay inside…stables, run by Joyce Pitman.

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From here we would emerge with our mounts, clatter and chatter our way through the busy streets towards the beach where horse and rider could enjoy a canter along the firm sands as the tide went out.

In all probability these stables were left  over from the Victorian era, maybe the Crown Hotel opposite, or one of the other hostelries that dotted this street, complete with resident ostlers to look after horse and carriage.

But now step even further, back in time, to the 19th century and you’ll find that old St Nicholas Street was once a hive of activity…positively buzzing with  punters and patrons, saucy sailors and sexy sinners.

This narrow, twisty street certainly witnessed life in all its glory.

To add a bit of confusion to the matter there were actually two St Nicholas Streets, one in old Weymouth leading up to St Nicholas church atop the hill and this one on Melcombe Regis side. This often flummoxed those who visited  our Victorian ancestors. Weymouth’s St Nicholas Street was renamed Chapelhay Street in 1872. (The Bumper Book Of Weymouth; Maureen Attwooll.)

Now lets take a little peek at St Nicholas Street of old Melcombe Regis starting around the 1860’s,  lets see who’s about this busy thoroughfare.

(The Victorian house numbers no longer relate to todays.)

During the second half of the 19th century you can find mention of five public houses  at this end of the street, their closeness to the bustling quayside made it ideal for thirsty workers and sailors to pop in for light, (or maybe not so light) liquid refreshments.

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Literally at the harbour edge (no 56) stood the Sailor’s Return, (as it still stands, maybe not now quite so close to the edge.)

Mine hosts in 1861 were James and Sarah Ferry with their assorted offspring and a couple of lodgers.

The Ferry household had lived in St Nicholas Street for most of their married lives. James started out work as a wheelwright, but by 1842 the couple were running the Sailor’s Return.  (Pigot’s Directory 1842) which was a mere beer house at the time, meaning they weren’t licensed to sell spirits of any sorts.

In later years, 1872, James and his fellow publicans made an application to the Licensing Board to be able to remain open until 12 midnight. They claimed that because of the late arrival of the boat trains and the ‘inconvenience to which members of the friendly societies who held their meetings at the Inns were subjected to in being obliged to quit the houses before they had transacted all their business.’ they were in unfair competitions with those club-houses who didn’t come under such strict licensing laws.

Their plea fell on deaf ears…the Bench were going to stick firmly to the letter of the Law, though I suspect that the after hours drinking still went on, just behind locked doors..

By 1875 James had left the pub and lived further down the street with his son, by now  a widow.

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Move on up to no 42, here you’d find the Welcome Home, which in 1859 was under the ownership of James Flower a brewer and beer seller. A man who ultimately became one of fairly considerable wealth.(1859 Post Office Directory.)

During the Victorian era the Government tried to curb the problem of excess drinking of spirits and in their infinite wisdom deemed it would solve matters if Joe Bloggs could pay a small license fee, enabling him to brew beer and sell it literally from his own front room. Surely, these oh so wise leaders of ours thought, it would encourage the poor working class folk to only drink the weaker beer and leave the spirits alone.

(Think that was another grand scheme that didn’t quite pan out…a bit like today’s 24 hour licensing!)

Wily old James Flower’s brewing operation went from strength to strength, ultimately he became known as a brewer and  gave up running the small time operation from his home.

By 1861, taking over the Welcome Home beer house, was  John Gillingham along with his wife Eliza and their daughter, 18 year old Sarah.

Only a few years earlier, 1856, the Gillingham family had suffered a terrible tragedy.

John, a whitesmith by trade, had been enjoying some free time with Eliza and 12-year-old Sarah. they were bobbing about in a boat on the Backwater.

boy-girl-child-boat-1887

John, also taking this opportunity to partake in a spot of sport,  carried with him his loaded fowling piece. He had just pulled into the side of the lake to allow Eliza and Sarah to clamber out of the boat.

That’s when disaster struck.

Somehow, the loaded gun resting in the bottom suddenly discharged its contents. Unfortunately young Sarah stood next to the boat received its full blast at close range.

The local papers, relishing such gruesome details, declared that her life was in imminent danger, describing how her  flesh lay tattered and the bones in her arm totally shattered. 

Sarah survived, but unfortunately her arm did not. In the end it had to be amputated.

Interestingly, the 1861 census shows 18-year-old Sarah living at the Welcome Home along with her parents, where she is listed as being a student. A student of what I wonder?

Toddle along to no 46, here stood the Fox Inn run by Henry and Mary Hayman and their veritable brood.

Also living on the premises were a couple of servants, Alfred Whittle, an ostler, and a few boarders,  including a couple of licensed hawkers, (travelling salesmen as we knew them in my day.)

Good old Henry was seemingly a ‘veteran sportsman’ as reported in the Frome Times of May 1861, he supplied the pigeons for a ‘pigeon match’ (what ever that was, one suspects it wasn’t much of a sporting event for the poor pigeons) which took place in the Small Field near the Gas House.

The Haymen family were also to play a role in a tragic accident in 1866.

A certain well to do Mr Scattergood had recently brought a new thoroughbred horse from Mr Hurdle, but that horse came with a serious warning.

‘It was a kicker.’

He was told in no uncertain terms to ‘Never use the horse without a breeching strap and kicking harness’.

After pondering a while and concerned that maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea to sell on this somewhat feisty horse, Hurdle even suggested he took it back again.

Scattergood was having none of it. It was a fine looking beast, a spirited nag and he wanted it.

A couple of days later Scattergood made his way along St Nicholas Street, heading for the Fox Inn. Over a few drinks at the bar, an agreement was made with  landlord Henry Hayman, he would borrow Henry’s dog cart.

When Scattergood set out next day in horse and cart, sat along side him was Henry’s son, ten-year-old Charles

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Unfortunately Scattergood had completely ignoring Hurdle’s warning words about harnessing his frisky equine fellow.

Big mistake!

Stopping at the Ferry Bridge Inn for a few bevvies, the rather proud owner of his fine new filly, bumped into local baker, Thomas Hann, the two men returned inside to continue their drinking.

Young Charles was left stood outside in charge of the horse and cart.

Later, the two men exited the drinking hole, they agreed to ‘travel’ on to Portland together.

Once man, horse and cart had pulled out onto Chesil Beach road, Scattergood turned round and hollered to the following baker. According to his passenger, little Charles, he  shouted ‘Come on I’ll show you the way to gallop.’ With that he whipped his horse which took off down the road as if the very devil was after it.

With ears laid back and the bit literally between its teeth, there was no stopping it.

Scattergood tried desperately  pulling on the reins, but to little avail. Hooves thundered, wooden wheels spun, grit and pebbles flew.  A terrified Charles was hanging on to the carts sides for grim death.

Galloping unchecked into Victoria Square, disaster was only seconds away.

Then the inevitable happened, horse, cart and passengers teetered to one side. On feeling the pressure of the cart’s shaft against her flank, the already panicked horse reared in fright, toppling over one and all.

A mass of shattered wood, stripped skin and broken limbs scattered the square.

Scattergood had paid a high price for his filly in fine fettle. His own death.

Thankfully, though thoroughly battered and bruised, young Charles survived to tell his tale.

Also appearing before the inquest court was baker Hann. He insisted that no wager had been at the pub that day over their beers, that they honestly hadn’t been pitting horse against horse by racing along Chesil Beach Road.

Hhmmm….

Now, The Fox Inn must have been a sizeable premise because at the end of 1861, a bankruptcy sale took place in the Fox Inn Yard. It was large enough to contain 30 odd cart horses, a few  more nags,an assortment of carts and carriages, a couple of cows, and lots of odds and sods…

1861-dec-12-dorset-county-chronicle

…all the worldly effects of one Henry Lowman Dennis, a local carrier who has seized the opportunity of contracting for the Government breakwater works in hopes that it would make their fortune.

It didn’t !

Henry’s son, Joseph, makes a plea in the courts that the cows seized as his father’s chattels and which were up for sale, were in fact his, he had paid for them, not his father.

Maybe he won his claim, because by 1863 it was reported in the Dorset County Chronicle that a Richard Dench had been apprehended on the town bridge with a bag slung over his shoulder. In it it were a number of items that were later found to be missing from the stores of butcher,  Lowman of St Nicholas Street.

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Arriving at no 51, here stood the Crown Tap, a small bar room tucked away around the back of the grand Crown Hotel premises. This was run by 51-year-old John Jeanes and his wife Harriet.

By 1867 John and Harriet had become mine hosts of the Bird-in-Hand, which was in fact the newly refurbished Crown Tap.

A couple of years earlier, in 1865, they had applied for and were granted a spirits license. The happy couple had been rubbing their hands with glee, they had realised they were sitting on a positive gold mine.

Their hostelry was situated very near the Methodist Congregational Chapel (in between no’s 61 and 62) opposite. Lucky for them, come 1865 and no longer did the pious and holy  (and in all probability tee-total) enter these portals, instead it was more the merry and those looking for a spot of fun and lively entertainment.

It had became the Theatre Royal or sometimes referred to as the New Music Hall.

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(Weymouth Library have a fantastic collection of genuine advertising bills for the old theatres, going right back to George III’s time.)

The Theatre Royal of Monday October 7th 1867 proudly boasts of a ‘Laughable Farce’ revealing a tragic love story concerning ‘Weymouth Sands.’

It pronounces Mr Rosiere as playing the character of jolly old Adolphus Pilkington.

Beautiful but somewhat dippy Carnation Curlycrop was of course played by non other than a male actor.  Mr Harrowby would don his voluminous fashionable gowns, slap on his gaudy stage make up, pull on his luxurious curly wig, and enter stage left to a rapturous applause from the expectant audience.

The theatre played host to national and international actors and singers, musicians and comedians, it provided entertainment for everyone and seats at prices to suit all.

lady-on-stage

The theatre also kindly informs its patrons that ‘their carriages may be ordered at 10.30.’

Oh to be able to witness those grand carriages arriving in line, the sound of their horse’s impatient hooves echoing  between the buildings, that chomping of the bit as they stand and wait, the creak of the carriage springs as their posh portly patrons  clamber aboard.

The theatre continued up until 1888, when it finally shut it’s doors and was taken over by Cosens & Co.

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The goldmine of the grape, the Bird-in Hand, seemingly flourished until March of 1876 when frequent adverts began appearing  in the papers for potential tenants for the ‘newly erected beerhouse known as The Bird-In-Hand’ which  was only up for rent because of ‘illness of the tenant.’

A little later in time and the local papers and census of 1871 also refer to a Greyhound Inn of St Nicholas Street, run by George Cox Forse and his wife Mary Ann.

(Though Maureen Attwooll in her book refers to it as in St Thomas Street.)

Maybe like the Crown further down the road, the building went through from one street to the other, had two separate entrances and two separate bars? Perhaps the toffs entered via St Thomas Street and the working man slunk in through the back door.

Gregarious landlord George certainly seemed a character and was no stranger to appearing before the bench.

Before taking over the Greyhound Inn the couple ran the Royal Engineers Beershop in Prospect Place. Many a time George appeared before the magistrate for various licensing charges, normally due to selling beer ‘during prohibited hours’

At the start of 1868, George was once again hauled before the court, this time fined for selling spirits without a license.

On Christmas Day in 1868, it was wife Mary Ann who found herself in trouble. For once she was on the right side of the law, that afternoon she was faced with a more than somewhat inebriated customer, Joseph Bressedd, a pioneer of the 51st regiment who’d staggered down from the Red Barracks.

Fearing trouble was on the cards, Mary Ann refused to serve him drink.

Not surprisingly, that didn’t go down too well with  a well oiled Joseph. First he lashed out at Mary Ann, then still not content, the pickled pioneer began picking up patron’s drinks, necking back their contents and  smashing the glasses on the floor.

Things got no better at the Greyhound!

Another somewhat seemingly nefarious character took over the running of the Greyhound Inn. 

Sure did sound a lively spot.

But am I doing the poor fellow a disservice?

On January 3rd 1876 this report appeared in the Police Gazette.

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I have yet to find proof of a William Baggs as landlord of the Greyhound Inn at any time, despite looking through Ancestry records, Historical Directories and the British Newspapers online, nor any mention of a court case that matches exactly these details.

I cannot even work out which William Baggs this would have been, there are a few tenuous links, but no proof…so there I’ll have to leave it, not wanting to cast aspersions on some innocent fellow.

Maybe one of my followers who enjoys a right old mystery would like to get their teeth into this one.

Fill your boots!

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(Found this quaint old relic on one of the back walls…can’t you just picture a Victorian coachman hopping down off his carriage to ring for M’Lady.)

 

 

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,”

family train station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

Love is in the air…Victorian Valentines

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

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

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

But what of our Victorian ancestors?

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

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

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

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

(pictured below courtesy Pam Oswald)

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

Love of course being not just the prerogative of youth.

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

Holy Trinity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railway arch hotel

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

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

In April of 1889, he had married 20-year-old Alice Emily Rabbets and the young couple set up their happy household on the North Quay, where they had two their children, Emily Maria (1890) and George Earnest (1897).

Then heartache struck the family in 1896, when their youngest child, 2-year-old George passed away.

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

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

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

BRUNSWICK TERRACE 1910

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

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

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

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

Time for a fresh start.

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

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

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

Two years later,  and little Violet Rose Iris arrived.

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

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

Of course it could!

Albert junior never even made his first birthday.

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

 

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

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

From the Western Gazette of February 1881.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All because…..

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(other brands are available…)

“Last Valentine, the day when birds of kind

Their paramours with their chirping find,

I rose early,  just at the break of day,

Before the sun had chased the stars away:

A-field I went, amid the morning dew,

To milk my kine, for so should housewives do;

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

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

Victorian Valentines cards                                                               Happy Valentine’s Day

 

 

 

 

Ringing in the New Year Victorian style

Well…that’s yet another year year done and dusted.

My old Mum always used to say the older you get, the faster they go, and true to her oh so wise, (but often infuriating at the time,) words, the older I’m getting, the faster they’re bloody well going.

In fact they’ve now almost hit warp speed!

New Year’s Eve is upon us and tonight for some, it’ll be a time of feasting, fun and frivolity, maybe a drop of drinking and dancing, hopefully joy for those undisclosed delights to yet come and a few shed tears for those we’ve sadly left behind.

Don’t make the mistake though of thinking that your Victorian ancestors were all straight-laced and poe faced when it came to New Year’s celebrations. Religion and charity might have played a big role in their lives, but they certainly knew how to party too when push came to shove, as my last years blog on this festive night shows only too well

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Well, this year I’m on a slightly different tack, grabbing at small snippets of New Years Eve news from different years.

There were some fractions of Weymouth’s population who didn’t need the excuse of New Years Eve to create mayhem and mischief.

Come 31st December 1864 and a certain “Market House Arab” was causing the sellers problems in the town’s market hall.

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There was no shutting up shop at 5.30 in those days, traders traded well into the night, even on such a night. (Might well have had something to do with the tradition of making sure you had money in your pocket on the first day of the New Year, for if you didn’t it foretold a year of poverty and misery.)

Fourteen-year-old Henry Charles and his pesky pals had “infested the market-house” with their high jinks, the police superintendent declared that “the boys were annoying everyone who passed by or through the market-house.” He even declared that  things had got so bad that “unless something was done in the matter he feared  the market-house would have to be closed.”

two shoe shine lads

On that particular evening Henry and his cunning crew had entered the market on the pretense of buying some apples, but they were fully intent on making mischief whilst there. Henry suddenly snatched up a massive turnip from the nearby veg stall and launched it at a passing “poor dog,” but missed it by a mile. Instead, the offending turnip landed with an almighty thump on the toes of an unsuspecting passing Mr Crocker.

For his sins Henry Charles’s night of revelry was brought to an abrupt end, as the Weymouth church bells rang the New Year in, he was stuck behind prison bars. (Here’s hoping that the old Victorian superstition that what ever you were doing at midnight would be a fore runner to your years fortunes didn’t come true.)

The same column that revealed Charles’s misdemeanors also gave us a glimpse into the world of Weymouth’s maritime history.

On the 31st December the returns for the UK’s Pilots were issued.

Weymouth and Portland of 1863 could boast a total 11 licensed pilots who worked from the bustling quaysides, their job was to bring in or escort out vessels from the working ports of both Weymouth and Portland Roads.

Each man had to pay a princely sum of two guineas for his license and 6d in the pound for any monies earnt. Their vessels flew a distinctive white and red flag to identify to incoming vessels that they were licensed to board them and provide safe passage should they need it.

boats by side

The Lookout for the Weymouth men was up on the Nothe, it was their regular haunt, where in the summer they’d lie out on the grassy bank, squinting eyes firmly fixed on the horizon, or come bad weather, shelter inside a wooden hut built from an old boat, looking glass to eye, waiting and watching for any approaching vessels coming into view.

For those eleven men of the local waters, knowledge was everything, tides, drifts, sandbanks and currents. They might have only been working around the shores of our relatively sheltered and safe bay, but their life could often be very dangerous.

Something William Smith aged 48 knew only too well. Married to Susan and living with their family along Cove Row, at no 5, it would not have been unusual for William to return home bearing the marks of someone else’s fists or impression of their boots. Such was the case in January of 1867 when he had tried to board an incoming Italian brig,  he was viciously set upon by the crewmen and sent packing with more than just a flea in his ear.

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Just around the corner from William, at no 9 Hope Quay, lived 46-year-old Edward Tizard and his wife Bathsheba and their family.  These pilots often found themselves not only facing personal conflict when trying to do their jobs, but frequently had to contend with conflict in the courts also, when disputes were fought over fees, or the right to board vessels. Something which could become a bit of a minefield considering many who sailed into our waters spoke no English at all, and all the hand gestures in the world could not convey monetary transactions, or so they claimed afterwards.

Pilot John Perks aged 42 lived in Hope Street, he too was a family man, along with his wife Mary Ann, they had a veritable brood. His story shows how precarious a life could be for those plying these shores for their trade.

In 1857 John had almost lost his life along with two other pilots, the tale of which I told in ‘Maritime Mishaps and Mayhem of 1857.

Come 1862, and work was hard to come by, trade was slow for the local pilots. In desperation John had set to sea in his vessel, the Eliza, along with his crew. They had been at sea for two days and a night, frantically looking for any sign of sails of approaching vessels to their port, hoping to catch any trade before his competitors. So exhausted did they become that they all eventually fell into a deep sleep, at which point the drifting boat grounded herself out on the dangerous Weymouth sands. Having lost both anchors and seriously damaged her hull, poor old John and his crew faced the indignity of being rescued by his fellow pilots and local coastguards. A plea was then placed in the local papers for donations to help “As Perks is a poor man with a large family, a subscription has been made by several gentlemen to enable him to repair his boat and pursue his usual avocations.”

Fellow pilot, Thomas Way, was a true blue Portlander, at the age of 44 Thomas, his wife Isabela along with their brood lived in the little village of Chiswell tucked in just behind the mighty Chesil beach, .

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Thomas supplemented his sometimes paltry and intermittent income by labouring on the Breakwater, money was hard earnt and an income from any means vital to keep kith and kin together.

The previous year had seen Thomas giving evidence in court about the tragic death of one of his fellow Portlanders, 36-year-old fisherman, Richard Attwooll.

One cold, squally Wednesday morning in November, Richard and a friend, William Lano, had gone out in their boat, they were fishing near the relative safety of the new Breakwater.

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A sudden squall hit their vessel sideways and with the swell, thrust it up onto a metal pipe sticking out of the Breakwater structure. The boat tipped, launching both men into the freezing rough waters. Richard clung desperately to the pipe, but the constant pounding of the waves was dragging him down, his precious hold was slowly loosening until at last his frozen fingers let go, unable to swim, Richard’s head simply  sank below the waves.

His fellow fisherman William could swim, but even then it was hard going battling the choppy seas, until he at last managed to grab hold of one of the piles, hanging on for dear life, waiting and praying that he could find the energy to haul himself out onto the stones.

Thomas Way had been at work on the Breakwater that day and witnessed the disaster unfolding before him. Unable to help either man all he could do was to help search for the body of Richard Attwooll when old Neptune decided he had no more use for it.

In fact it was only a quarter of an hour later that his mortal remains were thrown up onto the rocks, where Thomas came across him. According to Thomas’s testimony, Richard’s hands were still warm to the touch, but there were no other signs of life.

For finding the body, Thomas Way was awarded the customary 5s fee, but like most close knit sea-faring communities, without hesitation, he handed it over to Richard’s grieving widow.

Thomas wasn’t the only pilot in the Way family, so too was his younger brother Edward. Also like his brother, Edward and his brood lived in Chiswell.

Though these men were highly experienced mariners and used to any amount of high seas and storms that nature could throw at them, even they weren’t immune to the immense damage she could wrought.

In the February of 1866 one the the Way’s pilot boats broke loose from her moorings during a fierce storm and ended up stranded up on the rocks of the breakwater. There was nothing they could do but watch in dismay, once the tide receded the pounding waves literally smashed their boat to nothing more than mere matchsticks.

letter Civic Society. 1

William Smith was one of the longest working pilots in the port, he also owned one of the larger cutters working as a pilots ship, the Palestine. But that’s not surprising really because he also traded as a ships broker. The Smith family were another one of the mariners group who lived close together in this harbourside area of Hope Square.

So too did pilot Edward Chaddock and his burgeoning family, as part of this tight knit community, just along Cove Row, and fellow pilot, 44-year-old William Grant lived just around the corner on Hope Quay.

George Pulsford, (pictured below from an Ancestry public tree,) at 47, was one of the older men working the pilot boats, he was born, and along with his family, still lived in Lyme Regis, just along the coast.

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I guess even in those days it was often a case of commuting to work, albeit via boat.

The final two qualified pilots plying their trade along our coastline that year were 33-year-old William Hallett, another Lyme Regis man  and 39-year-old Thomas Beale.

Next in our New Years Eve tales, we come to a slightly more traditional and heart warming event.

The year 1872, a year which had been a year full of memorable events. It was the wettest one on record…ever! (Not matched again until 2012.) It’s the year when the very first FA Cup final was played at the Oval, and  a meteorite suddenly emerged from out of space and struck the Earth. Closer to home, the Royal Adelaide sank off Chesil beach with the loss of 7 lives,

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and locals celebrated the completion of the Portland Breakwater.

For the poor of Weymouth, at least their New Year’s Eve was going to be heralded in with a jolly good feast…that is for those who could claim to be over the age of 60, and I bet a few might well have added on a year or two to their age for the occasion.

Nigh on 200 Victorian Weymouth and Melcombe Regis OAP’s found themselves being seated and served by a bevvy of local bigwigs, their friends and families. What was their festive feast ? “an excellent dinner of beef and pudding,” all washed down with a “supply of good beer” courtesy of Messrs Devenish & Co.

woman men supper 1887

Amongst the feasting crowd that night was 91-year-old John Atkins, a retired mariner who resided at no 18 Petticoat Lane (present day St Alban Street,) along with his 50-year-old son Samuel and family.

Presiding over the proceedings was the town Mayor, Mr J Robertson, his first deed of the night was to wield his knives and carve the first of many turkeys.

After dinner was done and dusted and the last dram drunk, the Mayor then “suitable and affectionately addressed the  assembly,” not only did he ordain to magnanimously shower them with words of good tidings and kindness but on their way out they were “presented with 6d each.”

None of this would have been possible without the organisation, hard work and persistent cajoling of the town’s wealthier patrons by one William Thomas Page, the man whose job it was to collect the poor rates and later sat on the board of Guardians of the Weymouth Union or workhouse.

And finally, it was good news for some to start their new year.

Early on first morn of the New Year of 1862 saw a vessel arrive in Weymouth port, for one group of sea faring men it meant their new year was heralded in with great cheer and much rubbing of hands with glee.

On the eve of the years changing, a ghost ship was found mysteriously drifting on the tide out in the Channel, not a single soul to be found on board, but what terrible misfortune could have possibly befallen her crew? Was this some form of witchery that could make men vanish into thin air, or an attack by mysterious vengeful sea creatures, luring the sailors  into the depths with their soulful songs?

The ghost ship was the brig Lavonia, still fully laden with the coals that she had collected from Llanelly, Wales, all under command of the ship’s master Mr Huelin, a Jersey man.

They had set sail that fateful final day of of 1861, bound for Dieppe, when just after midnight, and having gone for some unknown reason somewhat off course, the vessel struck rocks off St Alban’s Head, and here it became firmly grounded. Inside the stricken boat the waters began rising fast, at which point, “fearing her sliding off the rock into deep water, the captain  resolved on quitting her, and, leaving the wheel to the eccentic goddess Fortune, took to the boat, all landing safely at Kimmeridge Coastguard station.”

The Lavonia did indeed later slide off the rocks, but not into the deep as her captain had feared but to sail on out into the bay.

ships

A little later that morning another coal vessel heading from the Welsh coast towards Dieppe came across her and brought her into port. The crew of the steamer Harp couldn’t have been more pleased with their lucrative salvage…it meant a jolly good start to their new year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of this years tales, maybe even met a few of your ancestors, learnt something of their lives in our own Victorian Weymouth and Portland.

Wishing you all a very Happy  and Healthy New Year.

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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.

christmas party quiver 1865

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.”

Christmas meat shop

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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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.

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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.

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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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