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Winfrith Newburgh

‘Tapper’ Toms (1854 – 1924)

Henry Thomas Toms grew up to be one of life’s characters. He was known as Harry Toms and later in life acquired the nickname of “Tapper”. Some thought he was a little eccentric; certainly he was one of those old-time independently minded individuals with curious ways we rarely see in our villages today.

He was the son of William Toms, a thatcher from West Lulworth who went to Winfrith Newburgh, a neighbouring village to find a wife. He married Mary Roberts at St. Christopher’s church, Winfrith, on the 8th of October 1833.

William took his bride home to Lulworth and on the 25th of May 1834 their first child Henry was baptised at Holy Trinity Church at West Lulworth. A further ten children would follow: John in 1836, Martha in 1837, Mary in 1838, Joseph in 1841, George in 1843, Sarah in 1846, Jane in 1848, Fanny in 1851.  We have not carried out a forensic examination of the family history but it appears the first child Henry and the second child Martha died in infancy and we believe Fanny died aged about 6 years.

Then in 1854 William and Mary had another child they named Henry Thomas. Mary probably thought her days of nursing children were over but she would have been mistaken, because six years later at the age of 45 she again found herself pregnant and in due time a further son, Walter George, arrived. In 1871 Mary Toms then 56 years of age and a widow for these past six years was living in West Lulworth with her sons 16 years-old Henry Thomas and 11 year-old Walter George. Mary passed away in 1880.

Harry Toms worked as a general and sometimes agricultural labourer. It was the custom in those days to lay a neat hedge, but not Harry, who excused his work by saying “I don’t hold wi’ trimming hedge sticks, a good rough hedge ‘ull kip out cows”. Not surprising then, that he was not always fully employed and his work was said to be “average”, perhaps the result of losing his father at a young age before he could learn his father’s trade.

When trimming hedges he always found a walking stick to add to his collection, each stick had a ‘frost’ nail driven into the end of it to prevent slipping. He always used a stick and the noise of the nail on the hard road earned him his nickname – “Tapper”.

He was a man of regular habits and idiosyncrasies. Nightly he would “tap” his way to the Red Lion Inn at Winfrith where he would enjoy some ale and a smoke before setting-off home again, always leaving at 9 p.m. “Tapper”, we are told, never bathed and was often “itchy” and people got used to seeing him rubbing his back against a post. When summer came he would “tap” his way to the sea to wash his shirt, which he would wring out as dry as he could and then put it back on, it was dry by the time he got home. He believed sea water would not give anyone a cold and surprisingly he was always healthy. He told the time by the trains (try doing that today!). People described him as an interesting talker often using words that had long passed out of fashion.

In his later years he was employed on the farm of Mr. George Atwil at Winfrith and he made his home in an empty cow stall. It seems “Tapper” never slept in a bed or ate his meals from a table and he refused both when offered by Mr. Atwil. He would collect his meals from the farmhouse and ate in his cow stall and when he turned-in for the night he would remove his boots and sleep fully clothed covered with old coats in the feeding trough. It seems there was not a woman in Lulworth, Winfrith or Owermoigne who would entertain the prospect of taking  “Tapper” for a husband.

We know “Tapper” was working at Atwil’s farm until at least 1916. When he became too old to work he was taken to the Workhouse at Wareham where he died in 1924. He was described as a “queer looking man, short, wiry, rather humped-backed, with busy eyebrows that overhung his sharp little eyes, and a ginger beard, and he wore a trilby hat with its crown always pushed up”.

William & Hannah Part 3 – Separate Paths

When their eldest son William met with his fatal accident in May 1881 it is almost certain that William and Hannah Cheeseman (by then Chisman) were again living at Winfrith.  They were not however to resettle there immediately and within at most eighteen months they had again moved. 

William was once more hired as a shepherd, this time at Church Knowle on the Purbeck Hills, some eight miles to the west of Winfrith. Two years after the death of young William, Hannah bore her last child, a son, who was born at Church Knowle in 1883.  Hannah was by then aged thirty-five, while William was fifty-five.

It is known that at least one of his sons did not consider William to be a good father.  Indeed there is a suggestion that William was in fact a drunkard. When the Chismans were living at Blacknoll it is very possible that James Hibbs and William’s mother Amelia had been a restraining influence.  However, with their deaths that influence had ended and perhaps the material situation of William and Hannah had simultaneously deteriorated.  The move to Milton Abbas, the return to Winfrith and the further move to Church Knowle indicate a less settled state and family tensions could have been heightened by the death of the eldest son.

After the birth of their last child in 1883 matters clearly worsened.  Did an ageing William resent his younger wife’s energy?  Did a deeper resentment and memory of the circumstances of their marriage irritate him? Was he naturally a drunkard, or was he provoked by circumstances? Was he angered by some element in Hannah’s behaviour?  The questions readily present themselves, but the situation in the Chisman household remains hidden.  There is, however, one certainty:  William and Hannah were to part.
The date and circumstances of their separation are not known.  Perhaps it was after a return from Church Knowle to Blacknoll that Hannah left William, taking the children with her. Perhaps the family had moved to Portway at Winfrith and William had then deserted them.  All that is certain is that at some point before the end of 1890 Hannah found herself installed at Portway Farm with some of her children.  Hannah had become the head of the household and of William there was no sign.

Subsequent events sadly afford no reason for believing that Hannah’s separation from William was without animosity.  If the situation had been such that William had been forced out of the family home it would have been a very difficult episode.  In Victorian England the husband was (and was expected to be) the master of the household.   It is most probable that it was Hannah that had departed.  If so this would reflect her resolve and perhaps William’s condition.  It is possible that Hannah received help from her own brothers, one of whom is believed to have owned land in the vicinity.  (If any help had come from her brother John it would indeed have been an extreme irony.)

Even had she received support, Hannah nonetheless found herself with the responsibilities of a mother, married only in name and without the help of a husband.  Yet the relative positions of Hannah and William had changed and would continue to do so.  Since a disgraced Hannah had returned to Blacknoll some twenty years earlier the wheel had almost turned full circle.  Whatever William’s feelings had been towards Hannah at the time of their marriage, he must at least have seen that marriage as assuring himself of support and comfort in old age.  That was now a hope or expectation shattered.

Portway lies close to Winfrith village as it is approached from Blacknoll.  The beginning of 1891 saw Hannah at Portway Farm, with her eldest daughter Annie, then aged twenty-one, and her three remaining sons, aged fourteen, eleven and seven years.  Her other two daughters had left home, but one was working as a domestic servant at nearby Fossil Farm House.  It is clear that despite the adverse circumstances Hannah was coping.  It is even possible that without William she enjoyed a relative prosperity.  Perhaps at Portway Farm she was indeed a small tenant farmer.

William Chisman’s condition, however, was very different. Now in his sixties, he was probably living at Blacknoll, alone, and possibly finding it increasingly difficult to work to keep himself.  His final years were truly a period of decline. For a person alone, with no means and no family support, employment was imperative.  If through ill-health, unreliability or simply lack of employment William had been unable to work, then his situation was precarious.  It would seem that this was the path that William trod and eventually, unable to support himself, he entered his last haven before the grave.  By at latest the end of 1900 William was a pauper and an inmate of the Union Workhouse, Wareham, the very place where over thirty-five years earlier the seventeen-year-old Hannah Hibbs had given birth to her illegitimate son.

If William’s wife or children knew where he was, it appears there was no contact between them.  If he had not abandoned his family, they had certainly abandoned him.  William died on 23 January 1903.  He was aged seventy-six.  His body was not brought ‘home’ by his family, but was buried in a churchyard near the workhouse.  He had bequeathed his children only his name, Chisman.
Some years earlier Hannah had moved the short distance from Portway Farm to Fossil Farm Cottage.  There in 1901, as head of the household, she and her two youngest sons occupied four rooms.  Her sons were then young adults aged twenty and seventeen.  The elder worked as a ‘farm carter’; the younger as a farm labourer.  At least one of the two youngest Chisman daughters had already married.  Although Annie remained a spinster, she was no longer in the household.

In the next few years Hannah’s two youngest sons married and it seems likely that Hannah went again to live with her daughter, Annie, somewhere in Portway.   Certainly mother and daughter were both resident in Portway at the time of Hannah’s death.  Hannah, born ten years after Queen Victoria had come to the throne, lived on through the Edwardian years, dying just a month before the death of Edward VII.

Hannah died on the 29 March 1910. She was aged sixty-three.  Her death certificate records that she was the ‘widow of William Chisman, Shepherd’. 

Hannah had grown up at Blacknoll and spent much of her married life there.  Then after the brief periods at Milton Abbas and Church Knowle she had returned to Winfrith to settle finally at Portway, at the edge of Winfrith Newburgh village.  At the other end of the village stands the church where Hannah had been christened and married and which had witnessed the christening of all but one of her children.  Fittingly Winfrith churchyard became her final resting place.

Hannah’s grave lies inconspicuous, close by the lych-gate.  It is marked by a modest, but dignified headstone: a silent witness made poignant by knowledge of the life it commemorates.  The stone bears no reference to her husband William.

William and Hannah Part 2 – Marriages of Circumstance

On 13 December 1864, Hannah Hibbs gave birth to a son. The child was named Frank Edwin Hibbs.  The birth took place in the Union Workhouse at Wareham.  The child’s father, Hannah’s own brother, John, had also left the family home, but his circumstances were very different from Hannah’s.  Five months earlier, in July 1864, John had married.

The workhouse had provided a refuge for Hannah, but she could not remain there indefinitely. What was to be become of her and her child and in what manner did Hannah’s situation exercise the mind of her father?  He had lost the benefit of her services in the cottage, but did he want her to return and could he let her do so?   Her absence from home would have been evident to neighbours and the reason apparent.  Moreover, any attempt to conceal the paternity of Hannah’s child would not have prevented speculation among the Blacknoll community.  Yet Hannah was to return to Blacknoll.

The sequence of events that unfolded over the next three years is unclear. However, early in 1867, just two years after the birth of Hannah’s child, the Hibbs’ neighbour Jonathan Cheeseman died, aged seventy-four. Perhaps James Hibbs and the newly-widowed Amelia Cheeseman were already on friendly terms.  Possibly James had confided in Amelia and sought her advice about Hannah.  Whatever the nature of their previous acquaintance, following the death of Jonathan a closer relationship developed between them.  It would not have been unreasonable for James and Amelia, widower and widow, to have sought mutual solace and support.

It is not known whether Hannah had by then returned to Blacknoll, with her child.   However there can be little doubt that she was the subject of discussion between James and Amelia and it is not unlikely that it was Amelia who proposed a remedy to Hannah’s predicament.  Whether Amelia took the initiative or whether the proposal arose in another manner, Hannah’s situation was to be resolved.  She would marry Amelia’s son, William Cheeseman, a bachelor twenty years Hannah’s senior. William had first encountered Hannah as a young girl or at latest when she was just adolescent.  He would have seen her grow into a young woman.

For William the prospect of entering his later years alone, without help or companionship, must have been unwelcome.  Perhaps his nature had prevented his marrying previously; perhaps a lack of opportunity. Yet even had he felt strongly the wish to marry, could he in normal circumstances have contemplated marriage with Hannah or, importantly, she with him?  But circumstances were not normal and Hannah’s feelings towards William and marriage were probably of little account.  Practical considerations would have prevailed.  . 

William and Hannah were married at Winfrith on 6 August 1868.  Hannah was aged twenty and William was forty (though on the marriage certificate claimed to be only thirty-seven).

Their marriage was not the only one to take place in Winfrith church in that summer of 1868.  Exactly one month later, on September 6, Hannah’s father, James, and William’s mother, Amelia, became man and wife.  James was sixty-seven years of age and Amelia was seventy.  The witnesses at the marriage ceremony were their newly-married children, William and Hannah.

William and Hannah set up home at Blacknoll.  Hannah, long used to domestic chores and living in a male household, was perhaps better prepared than William.  The latter now found himself in an entirely new situation as head of a household and with a young wife.  He also found himself with a stepson.  More than that, it was the child of his wife’s brother, a younger man well-known to William and a man whom he would continue to encounter.  Some sense of resentment on William’s part would be understandable.  It is not impossible that this might have reinforced any feeling he harboured that Hannah was indebted to him for having rescued her from her plight.

William Cheeseman began his married life in a less uncertain world than that into which he had been born.  In 1837 the young Victoria had come to the throne and by the second half of the nineteenth century Britain was a confident and prosperous nation.  Not every citizen, however, shared in that prosperity. Life for agricultural workers remained far from idyllic.  Employed as a farm labourer, William would have led a relatively hard working life for poor wages and would have been fortunate if he enjoyed security of employment.  It is possible that the Cheeseman’s situation had been eased if, as seems probable, William’s elderly father-in-law, James Hibbs, owned or rented a little land, which through subletting or exploitation, would have augmented meagre incomes.

In July 1869, within a year of their marriage, William and Hannah had their first child, a daughter, Amelia Annie, known as Annie.   A year later Hannah gave birth to a son.  He took his father’s name, William.  By 1878 a further two daughters and a son were born to the couple.   Surprisingly perhaps the Cheesemans’ younger son was given the name John.  If William had felt antagonism towards Hannah’s brother, would he have allowed his own son’s name to remind him of John Hibbs?   Meanwhile, however, Frank, the child of Hannah and John, had left the Cheeseman home to live with his own father and his stepmother.

Interestingly, in this period the surname of the family was evolving. In the church records the children remained Cheeseman, while in the civil records the family name had become Chisman.

This period also saw the passing of the older generation.   In December 1875 Hannah’s father, James Hibbs, had died and was buried at Winfrith. He was aged seventy-five.  He and Amelia had enjoyed seven years of marriage.  Widowed for a second time, Amelia lived only a further eighteenth months and died in June 1877, aged seventy-eight.  She too was buried at Winfrith.

Then, sometime between the latter part of 1878 and early 1880, William and Hannah moved with their children from Blacknoll to Higher Hewish, in the parish of Milton Abbas. It is possible that the deaths of James and Amelia changed the circumstances of William and Hannah; possibly releasing them from an obligation of care, possibly removing from them the use of land.  At Higher Hewish William took employment as a shepherd and probably received better wages than he was getting at Winfrith.   The family had earlier connections with Milton Abbas, where Jonathan Cheeseman had once worked, and the choice of Higher Hewish was probably determined by the fact that William’s half brother also worked there in that period.

At Milton Abbas in December 1880 Hannah bore another son, George. Any joy at the birth of a further son was to be short lived.  A few months later, in May 1881, the Chisman’s eldest son, William, was killed in an accident in which he was run over by the wheel of a coach.  He was just ten years old.

At that time child mortality through illness or accident was high, but that fact would have been of little comfort to the family.  The children had lost a brother; and Hannah, having just brought a son into the world, saw another taken from her.  William too could not have been indifferent to the death of his eldest son and namesake.
Young William’s fatal accident took place at Winfrith, suggesting that the family had returned there; a suggestion reinforced by the fact that William was once more working as a farm labourer.  It is possible that the Chismans had never intended to stay long at Higher Hewish.  It is equally possible that William had been hired there for a fixed period and that for some reason was not re-engaged.

Whatever circumstance prompted the return to Winfrith, events of the ensuing years would suggest that all was not well in the Chisman household.

To be continued……..

William and Hannah Part One – A Family Affair

Jonathan Cheeseman was an agricultural labourer, sometimes shepherd; a man of little substance. He was born in 1794 in the Dorset village of Litton Cheney, but even before his marriage in 1817 he had embarked on a series of moves from parish to parish in a small area to the east of Dorchester.   It was there, at Tincleton, in the summer of 1821 that Jonathan’s wife died.  His feelings on the loss of his wife after just four years of marriage were threaded with concern.  How could he both work and care for his two young sons left motherless?

Whatever the immediate solution, Jonathan’s situation was relieved when two years later he remarried.  His second wife was Amelia Vincent, some four years younger than Jonathan and aged about twenty-five at the time of their marriage in May 1823.  Within a year Amelia bore Jonathan a daughter.  Four years later, in 1828, Amelia gave birth to a son, William.  Unsurprisingly William would in due course become an agricultural labourer like his father.  He too at times would work as a shepherd.

As the previous century had approached its end many rural communities had begun to lose their stability. Changes in agricultural practices and mechanisation meant that Jonathan had grown up at a time when rural labour was becoming a commodity and agricultural employment increasingly insecure.  This insecurity combined with falling wages, brought social unrest and discontent to the countryside.  Jonathan’s periodic changes of home and employer possibly owed something to his temperament, but almost certainly owed as much to the conditions of his time.

At William’s birth the Cheesemans were living at Piddletown, but shortly afterwards they moved to Tolpuddle, where in 1830 Amelia had a second daughter.   It is not improbable that the family was still in Tolpuddle during the historic events there in 1834 and possibly was acquainted with one or more of the “martyrs” or their families.   Where the Cheesemans lived in the years that immediately followed is not known, only that they were included in the Athelhampton 1851 census, but finally they settled at Blacknoll at Winfrith Newburgh.

Blacknoll lies to the north of Winfrith village, at the edge of what was then a tract of wild heath.   As the land rises towards the modest height of Blacknoll Hill, there is a scattering of cottages, a few forming a row. They housed a close-knit community; several families representing a large proportion of its number.  It was for the most part a community of rural labourers and their families, largely uneducated and poor.  Many of the cottages were small, one-up-one-down dwellings that sometimes housed a family with perhaps half a dozen children.  A few of the Blacknoll families owned or leased small parcels of land, but if the inhabitants of Blacknoll were not in the desperate plight suffered by many people, this was a place untouched by prosperity.  Poverty in the countryside was acute and the produce from a garden or the benefit of additional occasional work could make a critical difference to the household economy.  

Already established at Blacknoll was the family of James and Hannah Hibbs, both of whom had their roots in Winfrith. Like Jonathan Cheeseman, who was his senior by seven years, James Hibbs, was an unschooled agricultural labourer and for the Hibbs, as for the Cheesemans, daily existence was simple and rude.
It was in May 1823 (just forty-eight hours before the marriage of Jonathan and Amelia Cheeseman) that James Hibbs had married Hannah Cox.  Their first child arrived within months of their marriage, but probably died in infancy.  Almost seven years elapsed before the birth of their next known child.  While it is not impossible that James Hibbs had been absent from home for a significant period, it is more probable that in the intervening years there were other children, untraced, who also had died as infants.  However, even if seven years of the marriage had been barren, Hannah then gave birth with a remarkable regularity.  In the years 1830 to 1844, she bore three daughters followed by five sons (one of whom died in 1845 at the age of four).

Then, after over twenty-four years of marriage, Hannah gave birth to her last child.  It was a daughter, who was baptised at Winfrith on 3 October 1847.  The child was given her mother’s name, Hannah.  Sadly the mother did not live to see her new daughter grow out of infancy. At the end of 1849, at the age of forty-three, Hannah, James’ wife, died.  The young Hannah was just two years old.

If initially the task of running the household and of caring for Hannah and the youngest of her brothers fell to one of the elder Hibbs daughters, it was not for long.  By 1851, before Hannah was yet four, her sisters had left home, leaving James Hibbs inhabiting the cottage with his four surviving sons, aged between six and sixteen, and the three-year-old Hannah.  It is difficult to speculate on the situation that prevailed in the Hibbs household and on the conditions under which Hannah spent her childhood.  She received at most a perfunctory education and she remained illiterate (in contrast to her mother, who could at least write her own name).  In these circumstances the freedom of childhood was short for Hannah and she was soon introduced to household chores.

In the next decade two of Hannah’s brothers left home and in 1860 her second-eldest brother died at the age of twenty-two and so by the end of 1860 there were just three persons in the Hibbs cottage, as there were in the Cheeseman household.

Jonathan and Amelia Cheeseman, aged sixty-six and sixty-two respectively, were living with their son William, aged thirty-three, but unmarried.  William was then working as an agricultural labourer.  Nearby the fifty-nine-year-old widower James Hibbs was living with his son, John, aged nineteen and his daughter, Hannah.  Although only fourteen, Hannah had long become accustomed to looking after the house and the two men.  A little over three years later the Hibbs household was to be the setting for an event that would shape not only Hannah’s life, but also that of William Cheeseman.
In the early part of 1864 Hannah, sixteen years old, became pregnant.  For a young woman in Hannah’s social situation her condition would have been as much a matter of practical concern as of shame.  For families living near subsistence level a pregnant daughter and then young mother would not have been welcomed and the child represented an extra burden, another mouth to feed.  The parish too would take an interest.  An unmarried mother and her child could become a drain on the meagre parish chest and an attempt would be made to discover the identity of the father and to ensure that he took responsibility for maintenance.  In many cases, of course, the imminent arrival of a child provoked a marriage (usually with the father if he were in a position to marry).  This solution, however, was not available to young Hannah.  The father of her child was her own brother, John.  At the time he was twenty-one years of age.

What was the relationship that led to Hannah’s pregnancy?  While it is not impossible that the young woman encouraged her brother, or at least did not object to his attentions, it is more likely that John simply forced himself upon her.   It is possible that this was a situation that Hannah had endured or accepted for some years.  However, such speculations are of little value. What was important was the situation and its repercussions.

Hannah was sent to the Union Workhouse at Lady St. Mary, Wareham.  In that institution, isolated from her family and community and among strangers, mostly paupers, some insane, Hannah, then just seventeen years old, awaited the birth of her first child.  Her immediate apprehension was compounded by thoughts of the bleak prospect that lay before her. She had slipped even from her lowly place in society and she would have been aware that many young women in her position would face a future of misery and abuse, always at the mercy of others.  In addition the child she carried was her own brother’s.

What were Hannah’s feelings towards her brother and father?  Did she feel resentment?  Did she feel abandoned?  Whatever her thoughts and feelings, they were at that moment all she possessed.

To be continued…….

Henry Lock – From Winfrith to South Australia

We can only surmise why Henry Lock uprooted his family from the familiar surroundings of the Clay Pitts area of Winfrith Newburgh to embark on a one way, once in a life-time journey to Australia. It was a courageous decision probably driven by the grinding poverty endured by agricultural workers in Dorset in the mid 19th century and aggravated by a measure of religious intolerance. Henry was a follower of Wesley although he married Hannah Riggs and their children were baptised at the parish church, so he may have been a recent convert.

Henry (40); his wife Hannah (nee Riggs) (41) and their six children: William (18); Harriet (16); Mary (14); John (11); Elizabeth (8) and Edith (3) embarked on board the emigrant ship Marion at Plymouth, which weighed anchor at about 7 pm on the 24th of March 1851. On board there were 350 emigrants from all over the United Kingdom; the Lock family were the only passengers from Dorset.

The Marion was a 3-masted wooden emigrant ship of 919 tons built in Quebec in 1850 and under the command of Captain Kissock. The 350 emigrants had endured 128 days at sea and were within hours of reaching Adelaide when the ship struck the outer edge of Troubridge Shoal at about 10 pm on Tuesday 29th of July 1851. This area of the South Australian coast was known to be treacherous but when the Marion hit the reef only a slight fog and a calm sea prevailed. The ship was wrecked but miraculously all of the passengers and crew made land safely.

The shore was only a few miles away but the Captain ordered the long boats to be launched believing they could carry passengers ashore and return for the crew. Even though the long boats had compasses, some of the boats rowed east instead of west so rowing far more than necessary to make landfall.

Some 18 months later Henry wrote to his old friends and neighbours back in Dorset and he was able to tell them that his family “want for nothing” and that they were making a good life for themselves.

William Goodchild wrote to Henry in 1854. That letter has survived and brings sharply into focus how difficult life was for a labouring man living in rural Dorset in the middle of the 19th century. On a personal level William tells his distant friend that he has been in hospital following an accident and reports the birth of an addition to his family: a daughter, and delivers news of new births and the passing of some old friends and how the fledging church is growing. Henry learns of other friends who have departed for the New World and that still more are preparing to follow him to Australia. William reports on the weather and forecasts a better wheat harvest that year.

Below we publish a full transcript of William Goodchild’s letter, which includes mention of many Winfrith families: it is a gold mine of snippets of information for the family historian. References to “Mr Dear Brother” and people being “on trial” should be read in a religious context.

The number of people of European descent living in South Australia in 1836 was virtually zero and by 1851 when Henry Lock and his family arrived, that figure had grown to 65,000 but in that year there was a major exodus of people heading for the goldfields in the neighbouring state of Victoria. We believe Henry and Hannah’s eldest son, William, was amongst them.

A descendant of William Lock has told us that during the following 30 years as many as 75 people connected with the Lock and Riggs families and to Winfrith Newburgh emigrated to the Gawler area of South Australia.

The Letter

Winfrith April 18th 1854
Dear Friend and Brother,
   After a long absence of time I take the pleasure of answering your kind and most welcome letter which I received in the month of August and should have answered your letter before but about that time I met with an accident and cut off my ear with an axe and was in Dorchester Hospital for a month, but thank God I am quite restored and I hope you are all well, as it leaves us all at present.

I should very much like to see you once more and ………(unreadable)…….what I think upon you ….(unreadable)…. if we never meet again on earth my prayer is that we may meet in heaven.
I’m very glad to hear that you were getting on so well in this life for the times are much worse here now than when you left. Bread now is 10 (?pence) per loaf, Butter (?1 shilling ) per pound, Potatoes 16 s to 1£ per sack. Beef and Mutton is 8d per pound but we can hardly remember the taste of it and I sometimes wished that I lived along with you, for you said you do not want of anything and a sovereign is thought no more of than a shilling but thank God our table has been spread in the wilderness and we have had sufficient while others have been destitute. We have had an increase in our family, a daughter now few months old; Grandmother Hibbs is still alive and living with us.

Dear Brother I suppose you will like to hear some of the news of your native village. The state of our society is much the same as when you left. George Ellis, Stephen Simmonds, Fredk. and John Selby and Sally Chaffey are on trial and I hope they will hold fast to the end. Charles Selby has lost 2 children out of 3. Dairyman Andrews is dead killed by his horse with cart – coming home from Lulworth. Mary Brine, Margaret Bishop, John Farr, Mr John Talbot of Burton, Thomas Hooper and Mrs Scott likewise, young John Baker (killed on the railway) and his aunt Rebecca Simmonds is dead. Mrs Kerley and family are all well and has had an invitation from Daniel Wallis to come to America but I do not think he has decided to go. John Pearce is gone there and is doing very well and several more is going from Oraer (Unreadable) now and John Riggs and his family from here. I am very happy to inform you that our Sunday School is re-established and has got from 50 to 60 children and our congregation is much the same as usual, our members are all well and desire to be remembered to you and family. I am also glad to inform you that they have a nice little Chapel at South Down and it was opened last August when there was 300 to tea there. Old Esquire Greg (Cree?)is dead and John Hibbs has got liberty to hold a class meeting at his house.

Dear Brother, I saw your sister Kitty and family this evening and with tears she desired to be kindly remembered to you and said she should like to see you once more but if not she hopes to meet you in heaven, her son Robert’s wife has got a daughter and her daughter Ann, a son and they are all well. You said that Robert Davis would inform us of how you were getting on but he has never returned and his mother has desired me to ask you where you could give any information concerning him and send home when you write next. Thomas Angel has received the ‘plan’ that you sent him and likewise John Allen ‘the letter’ and Henry Burt and John Allen has been trying to emigrate but I cannot tell whether they will succeed or not. Mrs Reader is much the same as usual and has had 2 or 3 newspapers from Australia and I have had 2, and we suppose they came from you. There is much agitation at present concerning the war with Russia, about 10 or 12 has gone from this parish on board a man-of-war. Please to give my kind respects to John Riggs and family and Thomas Allen and tell them that William Toms has sent 4 letters and received 3 and was very glad to hear of their welfare. They are living now at Clay Pits near me, their son Thomas is dead and Henry gone on board a man-of-war. Sarah is at home and very good to her mother and father and Mrs Toms hopes that Elizabeth is a good girl and takes care of herself the last letter they received was on the 6th of April, they intend to write soon, they received what she sent them and very much obliged it was very acceptable, their kind love to all.

Dear Brother, I do not know but what I have told you all the news, we have not had but a few drops of rain these seven weeks, we had a very wet summer last year but I hope we shall have a very prosperous one this year. The wheat is looking very well at the present.  Betsy Allen has had another child and since that it is burnt to death. Joseph Ellis, wife and family are quite well. I never pass by the house which you used to live without thinking of you. I have to inform you that Mrs Atherton is dead and Mr Atherton married again. Miss Caster (Carter?)is dead where my son was stopping.

Now I must conclude wishing you every blessing in this life and in that which is to come and I desire to be kindly remembered to your dear wife and family and hope that they are all decided for the Lord for that will be better than all the gold of Australia and I hope we shall never grow weary in well doing. I should like to hear from you often and please to answer this as soon as you can make it convenient.
So no more at present
From your Friend and Brother
William Marks Goodchild.

June no 11 1854.


Alice Maud Trent (1887-1937)

Alice Maud Trent

Alice Maud Trent

Alice Maud Trent (1887-1937)

Alice Maud Trent with work colleagues 1915

Alice Maud Trent with work colleagues 1915

Alice Maud Trent (1887-1937)

Steven Trent Galbraith with his father Ernest Galbraith photographed June 2002, Purbecks, Dorset.

Steven Trent Galbraith with his father Ernest Galbraith photographed June 2002, Purbecks, Dorset.

Alice Maud Trent (1887-1937)

Alice Maud Trent in the uniform of the Women's Police Volunteers - 1918

Alice Maud Trent in the uniform of the Women's Police Volunteers - 1918

Alice Maud Trent (1887 – 1937)

Keeping Her Memory Alive

The village of Winfrith, with its thatched cottages, shop and old church, lies equidistant from Dorchester and Wareham in the farming county of Dorset. It hasn’t changed much since 1887 when Alice Maud Trent was born there, daughter of an agricultural labourer.

She must often have walked the four miles over the hills to Lulworth Cove, the beautiful circular inlet where the tides come in from the English Channel, and perhaps she dreamed of other lands, for she was to sail the world’s oceans.

Her father was William Trent, one of 14 children born to his father John Trent. The Trent family was a large group established primarily in the parish of Winfrith Newburgh, and especially in the Blacknoll area. William was baptised in 1852 at St. Christopher’s, Winfrith. He married Arabella Baker in 1874. She was also born in 1852 in the same place and baptised at Winfrith, and both were 22 years old when they married.

The couple had 11 children. William and Arabella both died in 1901 within a few weeks of each other from unrelated illnesses, having been born in the same year 48 years before.

Alice Maud was only 14, and had left home and the village. The most probable explanation for her whereabouts being that she was a ‘living in’ servant. The next sighting we have of her is in London where we know that during WWI she was a member of the Women’s Police Volunteers and was seconded to work with the wartime Ministry of Munitions.

She was, according to Steven Trent Galbraith, her grandson, “a very worldly woman” in the sense that at 36 she decided to go to the other side of the globe. During 1923 she worked as an asylum nurse in Australia, while visiting her sister Emma there.

She decided to return to England via the United States so as to call on her other sister, Sarah Kate now married to Henry Burden, in Brigham City in the far west state of Utah. And here a rather astonishing thing now takes place: she meets somehow or other, at the age of 37, with George Galbraith, 73 – and in May of 1924 they are married. George, who was Steven Galbraith’s grandfather, had an exciting life.

The first son born in the United States of Scottish immigrants, at 19 he was working on cattle drives from Texas to Wyoming. But when she said goodbye to Alice Maud in Australia, Emma could have had no idea that her sister would meet up with a former cowboy.

Robert Galbraith and his wife Helen had come across the Atlantic from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, via Liverpool with four children. They settled in Illinois.

George was a perfect candidate for the Wild West. He was to have eight children by his wife Grace, and became foreman of a huge cattle ranch on the Utah-Wyoming border. He lost his wife in 1918 when he was 67, and later took his family to Utah where he made a good living from a fruit farm.

When Alice Maud married George in 1924, one of her children by law was older than she. They had a son, William Trent Galbraith, in 1925: he only lived for two days. Three years later Ernest, Steven’s father, was born when Alice Maud was 40.

The Great Depression now descended on the country. And in 1937, Alice Maud passed away: leaving a twice-married widower aged 86, and Ernest, aged 10. Two years later in 1939, George died leaving Ernest an orphan and the remaining half-brothers and sisters ranging in age from 47 to 61. One of the sisters raised Ernest to adulthood, and from the age of 16 he was going to sea, visiting ports all over the world – perhaps taking his cue from his adventurous mother and aunt.

Steven was given the middle name of Trent to keep alive the memory of the girl from Dorset. And he says today, after considerably digging into his family’s history: “The night before I married Lori, my wife, my Dad pulled me aside and gave me the ring that his father married Alice Trent with. Then, when my son Joshua was born, I named him Joshua Trent Galbraith….”  Steven hopes and expects Joshua will similarly name his first son.

It was back in 1985 that Steven started on his genealogical journey, with very little to go on, one of the family having destroyed all the documents and photographs of Alice Maud that she could find. A few have survived.

We have only the briefest information about the youngest sister Alice Emma Trent, baptised March 10, 1895. She was only six years old when her parents died and it is likely she lived with the eldest child in the family, Rhoda Trent. She had married and was still living in Winfrith. All we know about Alice Emma is that she travelled to Australia where it is believed she married a man named Ernest Cummings and lived in New South Wales.

It is worth saying something about Alice Maud’s sister Sarah Kate. We know she was at home in 1901 when she would have been 16 years old. The next we know of her is that she is in the United States working as a maid in the household of Lord Bryce, the British Ambassador.

She decided to stay in the United States and travelled to Brigham City, on the shores of the Great Salt Lake and surrounded for hundreds of miles by mountains up to 10,000 feet – a vast contrast to the rolling wolds of native Dorset. Here she married Henry Burden. We think there is little doubt she knew him before travelling because he, like her, was from Winfrith.

In June 2002 Steven and Ernest came to Dorset: they met Trent family descendants still living in the area and others travelled to meet them.

Steve related how when a 12 year old boy his Mother had told him how difficult it had been for his father as a youngster and how other family members had “tried so hard to destroy the memory of Alice Maud Trent.”  Steve says “ She and my Dad in a way to keep her memory alive, gave me Trent as a middle name and they asked me if I would like, it would be a nice thing if I did the same if I ever had a son.”

Those few days in Dorset the culmination of years of searching mean Steven has fulfilled a promise he made 36 years ago, when as a 12 year old boy he pledged he would find her and keep her memory alive.

More photographs of Alice Maud Trent and a photograph of Steven Trent Galbraith with his father Ernest taken during their 2002 visit to Dorset, can be found in the gallery section.

Ernest Galbraith passed away on the 28th June 2003.

Photos in the gallery