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William Knapp 1698-1768

William Knapp was born in 1698 at Wareham and died at Poole, where he was buried on September 26th 1768. He was a shoemaker and for 39 years he was the Parish Clerk for Poole, where he is known to have played an instrument and been a member of the Church Choir. In 1753 he published a book of hymn and psalm tunes titled Church Melody, that included the tune “Wareham“, which has been included in many hymn books over the years and is his most recognisable work.

Church Melody was reprinted several times and included a reprinting of An Imploration to the King of Kings, written by Charles I while a prisoner in Carisbrooke Castle in 1648. The book is beautifully engraved.   He also published another book containing a set of new psalms and anthems for church occasions, including one that commemorates the fire that engulfed Blandford in 1731. This book is dedicated to John Saintloe Esq., of Little Fontmill who is addressed as one who appreciated and practised divine music.  In this second book Knapp includes the tune ‘Langton’, which he claims as his own work but which was written some 180 years earlier by Tallis, who contributed it to Archbishop Parker’s Psalmster.

In the index we find that our Dorset-bred composer dedicated almost all his hymn and psalm tunes to the towns and villages of his native county.


Poole: Then and Now in Colour

See review of this book in the Poole and Book Review Categories

See review of this book in the Poole and Book Review Categories

Poole: Then and Now


Poole: Then & Now in Colour

“A poor fisher village” was how the ancient borough of Poole was described in bygone days. Doubtless so it once was, but today it is considered a place of beauty in which to live, work, play and, crucially, as a resort and vibrant cross-channel port. Its harbour lacked the depth to allow Poole ever to develop as a commercial container port like Southampton, yet it is a breath-taking statistical fact that only Sydney Harbour is larger among the natural harbours of the world. So we can be thankful that Poole has escaped the fate of those other ports and is instead noted for its absence of oppressive over-development and the attraction of its heathland and wildlife across the water.

Of course, over the decades there have been great changes. Now, for the first time, archive photographs and modern colour plates have been wedded to illustrate these changes in Poole’s development in a new hardback publication: Poole – Then & Now. It is the work of local historians Frank Henson and Ian Andrews who, cleverly juxtaposing the old and the new, have presented time-comparisons for 46 locations around the town. Each consecutive double-page spread features one of these locations. Each of the sites as it was is reproduced as a sepia print to preserve the period atmosphere, with the modern view inset or set alongside for comparison. Around each pair of illustrations a brief summary explanation of the history of the location has been set. In many instances common landmarks have disappeared (or become obscured) as old buildings have been demolished, others built. Other views, however, show little change or at least are still recognisable. For instance, it is interesting to compare the degree of change noticeable in the photos of Ashley Cross (pages 48/49) with those of Flag Farm on pages 56&57.  

But behind this publication a wealth of meticulous detective work has been undertaken. For it, Henson and Andrews explored Poole’s changing face, rediscovering monuments, landmarks and buildings thought to have been lost forever. Ian Andrews drew on his experience as a Town Clerk and Chief Executive Officer of the town’s Borough Council – besides serving as Poole’s Borough Archivist and founding several organisations. He is currently President of the Society of Poole Men. For many years a resident of Poole, Frank Henson’s interest is as a member of the Society of Poole Men; he too is a former Borough Councillor and also gives illustrated talks on the history of the area.

The book is 17cm by 24cm and about 1cm thick. There are 95 pages of pictures and text with magenta headings and sub-headings. After brief notes about the acknowledgements and authors a one page introduction leads into the main section of the book.

Poole Then & Now is published by the History Press ( as part of its Then & Now series aiming to create pictorial records for local people with a passion for delving into and re-discovering their local history.

It is £12.99. There is a photo of the book cover in the gallery area.

Aspects of Purbeck – The Roman-British Potteries

Around the south shore of Poole Harbour there are saltings, mudflats across which the native marsh grass Spartina townsendii has well-established roots. The grass has been reclaiming the salt marsh since the early 1900’s, but has also been helping to re-conceal evidence of what was happening here almost nineteen centuries before: the highly significant vestiges of the pottery industry the Romano-Britons were engaged in at the time.

The Romans were quick to realise the exceptional quality of the Tertiary ball clay, which underlies much of Purbeck, and which ever since has played a major role in making the Isle one of the key sources of the raw material for ceramics now exported all over the world. Although the Durotriges, the Iron Age Celtic inhabitants of Dorset, were themselves producing pottery for local use using clay from seams in the London Clay, it was the Romans who effectively commandeered the industry, turning it to their advantage in the production of superior fine table and other wares for local, regional and even national and Empire markets.

In 1972 archaeologists were stunned to learn that cookware pottery unearthed during the excavations along Hadrians Wall had come from one of the Poole Harbour pottery sites. That the clay employed in their manufacture could only have come from Dorset was conclusively proved when David Peacock, a Southampton University geologist, conducted a heavy metal analysis of the clay in the pots. Until then, it had been assumed that the Hadrianic wares were locally produced; such a far-flung trade route had never been suspected. It was this revelation that bears witness to the efficiency of the Roman system of distribution and points to a centralised store or centre within Purbeck for supplying the Roman civil aristocracy and army.

Such dating evidence clearly points to these potteries having been worked by native Britons during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, but then were abandoned when the potters moved to the more lucrative environment of a larger and more sophisticated pottery industry then emerging in the upland valleys of the New Forest, an area centred on the present villages of Farnham, Verwood and Alice Holt. After the full emergence of this New Forest industry by the end of the 2nd century, the potteries in Purbeck virtually ceased production until their revival during the 18th century industrial revolution.

Clays were collected on the heath and taken to a string of workshops organised on cottage industry lines along the shore of Poole Harbour, where individual craftsmen potters had their wheels and kilns. Two such kilns have been relocated a short way south of Shipstal Point on the edge of the saltings and old shore, but a number of other archaeological excavations have thrown up others. Not far north of Nutcrack Lane near Redcliffe Farm the kiln sites of other potters using wheels have been found. The presence of discarded fragments of pots at this and other sites – sometimes in large quantities – were a sure sign of a kiln below ground. These were wasters: the substandard or misfired pots rejected by the potters and smashed on a heap, which was later scattered upon abandonment of the site. The remains of what was probably a potter’s hut have been excavated at Fitzworth Point on the Frome at Stoborough. Kilns have also been re-discovered on Fitzworth Heath and on Cleavel Point (the west spit of Newton Bay) beside safe harbour beaches. But the largest concentration of kilns – over thirty – has been discovered at Bestwells Farm, between Wareham and Poole Harbour.

In 1952 a walker in Nutcrack Lane near Stoborough noticed that a number of molehills along the wayside had numerous sherds of ancient-looking pottery scattered over their surfaces. Subsequent excavation of the site unearthed a vat of puddled chalk four feet in diameter by two feet deep, with a clay lining, a central plug-hole at the bottom and five other holes in the rim. A cindery residue at the bottom contained a considerable number of sherds, pointing to the feature being a 1st century potter’s pit for puddling clay. With extreme care archaeologists lifted the basin-shaped vessel and conveyed it to the County Museum in Dorchester, where it remained on indefinite display under glass for a number of years. Unfortunately the vessel broke up during an attempt to remove it to another part of the museum in 1970, the strain evidently proving too much for its fragility and advanced age!

The native pottery style produced by these potteries is what is known as Durotrigian or Dorset Black Burnished Ware. Typically the vessels are wide bowls, urns or other forms in a hard sandy or gritty fabric and a black or grey burnishing (polishing with a pebble before firing) to produce a highly reflective surface. The Iron Age pottery (known as BB1) was usually black all over, indicating heavy reduction during firing. A variety of clays may have been used, oxides being added to colour them. The pots may have an iron rich slip or slurry finish to cover the gritty fabric. The pre-Roman Durotrigian potters could produce highly competent hand-made wares fired in bonfires or clamps. Many vessel forms used by the Romans belonged to types used on prehistoric Dorset farms, but others show that the Purbeck potters imitated continental (Belgaic) styles brought to Britain by the new colonisers, who employed the natives to supply pottery for their army.

Pottery produced on the wheel, which the Romans introduced, typically left horizontal throwing grooves on the inner side, whereas the hand-made wares of the Durotrigians often show finger marks on the insides. One problem of the potters technique, which is not fully understood is how they obtained the marked colour contrast between black and the grey surfaces, and furthermore, how the black is always well-burnished, while the grey surfaces are a dull matt and often show tool-marks.

The sites of the pits from which the clay was dug are often betrayed by mounds and depressions of extraction, small-blackened depressions indicating the former position of kilns. The kilns near the harbour shore in Purbeck were purposely sited so that the finished wares could easily be shipped from the production site without the need for any overland transportation. They are now over one hundred yards from the high water mark, but in Roman times were evidently much closer to the tidal margin of the harbour. At that time the sea level was higher or the land lower, but the tidal regression from the harbour has left behind the salt marsh we see today.

Then the mud flats were reclaimed by the Spartina grass and one of the country’s oldest industries was lost to history for centuries to come.

Caroline Jane Cousins (1837-1927)

One of the Last Knocker-Uppers!

The idea of an Alarm Clock has been around for a long time but it was not until 1908 that a reasonably reliable device came onto the market at a price a working man could afford. This brought with it the demise of the Knockers-Uppers, a profession that finally died out in Dorset soon after the end of World War I.

This is the story of Caroline Jane Cousins, a lady who, in her twilight years managed to make a living as a Knocker-Upper in Poole; more specifically from the Quay to the Gas Works which took in Lagland Street, Thames Street, Stand Street, Taylor’s Buildings, Emerson Road and the High Street. For three pennies a week she would come around and wake up workers from their slumbers by tapping on the bedroom window. For most of her clients this would mean a really early morning call as work in most of the factories in Poole started at 6am.

In winter she would start her rounds well before daybreak, dressed in a black dress, white apron and shawl, all topped off with a white bonnet. She had a lantern and a long pole which she used to tap the windows with. She also had a whistle with which she could hail the police if anyone attempted to assault her.

She became known as ‘Granny Cousins,’ though by all accounts she was not the family woman this form of address implies, at least in her later years. Indeed, when one of her sons, Solomon, lost both his legs in an accident she took it quite philosophically and apparently showed little sign of grief when he died; neither does she appear to have had much contact with her children and grandchildren in her later years.

Recalling the days when she lived in the country was something she liked to do. Those were times when necessity meant she had to make a meal go a long way and this was her top tip: “You put yer piece o’bacon in pot and then when he’ve a-cooked a bit, put in yer cabbage, then whack up yer dough enough for the family and put he in on top. Tha’s Skiver Cake,  that is, an’ good for’ee, too. But, don’ee drow away the water ‘tis biled in. You drink that there an’ twill keep away all manner o’ diseases.”

She was the daughter of Benjamin and Sarah (Lovell) Bartlett and baptised at St. Mary’s church, Morden, on New Year’s Day 1837.  Her parents were both from close-by Lytchett Matravers and they married there on the 14th of June 1820.  Her mother died aged 49 and was buried on the 12th of August 1847at St.Mary’s, Morden. The census taken in 1851 records Caroline with her father, older unmarried sister Diana, and one-month-old niece Elizabeth, living at Sherford, Morden. In 1861 Caroline is lodging with Isaac and Martha Lovell at White Field, Morden; she is described as a nurse and house servant.

She married Joseph Cousins in the early months of 1863. Joseph was older than her by 34-years and after her marriage she more often than not appears in records as Jane. As far as we can tell Caroline and Joseph had four boys and two girls. In 1871 Joseph then 69 years of age and Caroline just 35 years could be found at 3, Horse Pond Cottages, East Morden, with them their children: Benjamin, Thomas and Louisa. (There are indications of another child born early in 1865. He was named Owen but we haven’t been able to establish were he was in 1871 and 1881.)

Joseph Cousins died in 1880 leaving Caroline in desperate circumstances. She was forced to move into the Union Workhouse at Wareham, taking sons Thomas and Soloman and daughter Dinah Fanny with her.

By 1891 Caroline had removed herself from the workhouse and was living at Scaplins Yard, Salisbury Street, in the St. James parish of Poole. With her is her daughter Dinah and sons Solomon and Owen, who is now married to Rosena Ellen (Gallop); they married towards the end of 1887. Owen was a bricklayer’s labourer.

In the years between 1891 and 1901 Caroline became detached from her children and was living at 1, West Street, St James, Poole, where she was employed as a housekeeper to a widower, James Arnold, a bricklayer.  The 1911 census records her at 24 Skinner Street a boarder with William Efemy, a fisherman.

We think her time as a Knocker-Upper started around 1901and continued until just after the end of World War I when she retired and also gave up working at the local twine factory. She was described as a strange old woman who didn’t wear her heart on her sleeve and had a way of talking at great-length to no one in particular, staring straight ahead as she did so.

After her retirement she joined the Salvation Army, a cause she remained faithful to until her death in 1927. She received no old-age pension and she was looked after by the parish. Having no home of her own she showed no signs of self-pity and lived in the humble lodgings she had acquired with a friend. She had enjoyed good health for most of her life, something she put down to always drinking the water she cooked her vegetables in.

Inevitably her strength started to fail her. She was taken to the local infirmary where she died aged 89. She possessed a battered alarm clock, which had no doubt accompanied her on her morning rounds. But she deserves to be remembered not only for her unusual occupation but because of her determination to get on with life despite all the hardship it threw at her.



Vanessa Marshall writes: Her daughter Fanny Dinah Cousins married Edward Martin Effemy in 1893 at St James’ Church, Poole and Granny Cousins attended the marriage. The had a total of eight children, including: Mary Fanny Caroline and James Effemy in 1904. Mary’s middle names were after her mother and grandmother. Unfortunately Fanny Dinah died in 1905, when Mary was only 14 months old.

Mary and her elder sister were fostered out, but Mary knew her grandmother Granny Cousins well. Furthermore, Granny Cousins was living with a distant relative of Martin Effemy’s – William Effemy (sic) in 1911. The sad thing was that Granny Cousins outlived all her children, but she knew her Effemy grandchildren.

Her granddaughter, Mary, went on to marry Robert William Frederick Bessant (whose own mother was also an Effemy and their first daughter – Mary Ann Diana Jane was born at Poole in 1932 – the Diana Jane part of her name being a tribute to her grandmother and great grandmother. Mary Bessant is my husband’s mother.

(Granny Cousins was not as detached from her family in her later years, as our article suggests. Ed.)

The Lady Who Wouldn’t Drown

At the beginning of the 19th century Wareham and Poole were linked by a ferry route across Poole Harbour. One source of information about this run could be said to be the annals of its disasters. One such tragedy can be read about in a broadsheet printed in Poole by J. Moore after word reached the paper of the sinking of the Wareham ferry in the harbour on Thursday, 2nd of October 1806, in which 13 people including two under twenty years of age were drowned.

The 2nd of October 1806 was a stormy day of high wind, fog and rain. The ferry had departed from Wareham between five and six o’clock deeply laden with ten women and two men as passengers; the ferry’s owner Mr. Gillingham; and two boatmen, William Turner and Charles White, making 15 aboard in all. Between six and seven o’clock, after it was already dark, a fog had descended and a strong wind ahead blew hard upon the starboard side, causing the ferry to run aground across the channel just as the vessel entered the Wareham River at first and last boom.

The passengers then crowded towards the mast and rigging, while the men got aloft, but the boat sunk within a few minutes. The current, running against the sails, drove all under water, forcing those who had climbed the mast for safety to plunge into the harbour.

But only Mr. Everett was able to escape. However, he noticed that Mrs White was floundering in the water beside him. Clutching the young woman, he attempted to swim to the nearest shore with her – 100 yards from the Purbeck side – but the heavy coat she was wearing forced him to let go of her. Just then an oar floated nearby. Everett caught it and lay Mrs White upon it, using it as a kind of crude life raft. After battling the waves for one-and-a-half hours the two were washed ashore.

Following a rest, Everett made for the nearest house to summon assistance, only to be snubbed by uncooperative occupants. He then walked the two-and-a-half miles into Wareham, where he was able to get help. At Wareham a Captain Bartlett “immediately hastened with everything necessary” and brought Mrs White to his own home. Mrs White soon made a full recovery from her ordeal and was re-united with her joyous husband and children at Church Knowle.

The original broadsheet reporting this accident was in the possession of the Barnes Family of Poole, as Jane Barnes, 33 at the time and presumably a relation, was one of those who lost their lives when the ferry sunk. Charles White, the boatman who also drowned, is buried at Wareham in a grave in which his wife Elizabeth and daughter Mary were later interred.

The thirteen who were drowned were:
William Gillingham (52); William Oxford (37); William Turner (52); Charles White Jr. (33); Elizabeth Pindar (27); Betty Brown (39); Amelia Randall (19); Edith Randall (24); Elizabeth Mintern (38); Elizabeth Forster (27); Mary New (33); Jane Barnes (33), and Sophia Dorey (19).

Princess Victoria’s Tour of Dorset

July 1833. Fourteen years before the first railway tracks are to be laid in Dorset, travel is by horsepower or by sea and at Weymouth the population is in festive mood, excited at the prospect of greeting a 14-year-old Princess who will one day be Queen. It was the start of a royal tour to acquaint the people of Dorset and Devon with the woman who one day would rule over the greatest empire the world had ever seen.

Guns were fired as her yacht appeared off St. Alban’s Point and as the ship dropped anchor off the Esplanade buildings and the royal party came ashore in the royal barge, Royal Salutes were fired

Princess Victoria’s home was Kensington Palace, but Norris Castle on the Isle of Wight was her summer base. Accompanied by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, the yacht “Emerald” was towed by a naval steam packet from Portsmouth. With the Princess was her adored King Charles spaniel “Dashy”. The Duchess was “dreadfully” sea-sick on the journey along the south coast, according to Victoria’s diary, which she kept assiduously throughout and which is today preserved at Windsor Castle.

The townspeople of Weymouth turned out and greeted their royal highnesses as illustrious visitors.  It seemed the whole population was proceeding from the King George III statue to the Quay. God Save the King was played as the royal party mounted the King’s Stairs used by King George III on his frequent holidays in the resort; they were then driven in carriages to the Royal Hotel facing the beach.

The following day after an official reception the princess and duchess travelled in a carriage to Melbury House in north Dorset to be entertained there by the Earl of Ilchester.  They were accompanied out of town by many of the inhabitants and a detachment of Lt.Col. Frampton’s Troop of Dorsetshire Yeomanry. Every prominent building in Dorchester was decorated with flowers, and there were flags waving and the sound of bells and cannons as horses were changed en route to Maiden Newton and Melbury, where according to Victoria’s diary they arrived at about 5 p.m.

A visit to Sherborne Castle had been suggested but did not take place. While at Melbury their royal highnesses ascended a tower and had the shapes of their feet cut on the leads. They enjoyed the park, the lake, the great house, and the church.

After a two-night stay the party was on the road again at 9.15 a.m. on August 1 to be “enthusiastically received” at Beaminster, where there were arches of flowers across the road. The carriage passed through the recently opened Russell Tunnel. The Dorset County Chronicle told of “spontaneous outbursts of enthusiasm” being received everywhere the royal party went.  This was at a time when there was pressure for a republic; it was the period of the Reform Act and agricultural disputes, which in a few months would become illuminated as several agricultural labourers from a small Dorset parish would emerge to become those Dorset heroes forever remembered as the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

At Bridport the ‘royals’ were given a hearty reception by the inhabitants but, according to Hine’s History of Beaminster, were angry that they were “not received by the Mayor and Corporation”.  Then onto Charmouth and Lyme Regis, where there were triumphal arches – and where the “Emerald” was waiting. Every boat in port was filled with paying spectators. Here, in 1685, the Duke of Monmouth landed to lead a revolt against King James II. Mayor John Hussey, in his public address, noted that the princess’s visit was taking place on the anniversary of the Protestant Succession to the throne.

Here, as she boarded the yacht, Princes Victoria was reunited with Dashy her dog. Sailing to Torquay, she remarked on the beautiful coastline and cliffs but both she and her mother were sick on approaching Torquay. From there, after an overnight hotel stay it was off by sea to Plymouth for several days in Devon.

On August 7 an informal return trip was made by coach, changing horses at six places including Bridport and Dorchester, with a military escort from Winfrith to Wareham and Swanage. Passing Corfe Castle, the princess noted in her diary some of the climactic events in history that had taken place there. The reception at Swanage was unforgettable for the young princess, and she must have been sorry to leave Dorset as she embarked with her mother on the “Emerald” for “dear Norris.”

It had been close on six weeks of strenuous activity since they left London. The ‘Royal Progress’ was one of a number leading up to the crowning of Queen Victoria. When that happened, exactly five years after her tour of Dorset, the county must have been proud to have been part of the grand design.. In Sturminster Newton, Gillingham, Cerne Abbas, Sydling, and Evershot, there were demonstrations of loyalty on the occasion of the “beloved Queen’s” coronation, but most of all perhaps in those communities the Queen had visited as a girl. Celebratory dinners were held in Ilchester and Lyme Regis, and at Dorchester there was a ball and much merriment at the King’s Arms and a gathering at the Antelope Hotel and a band wound its way around the streets.

Residents of an almshouse in South Street were regaled with roast beef, plum pudding and beer. At Weymouth, meanwhile, all the shipping in the Bay and Portland Roads was gaily attired and there was a procession along the Esplanade. Along the coast at Poole no less than 2,000 Sunday school children gathered for a “substantial dinner”, while vessels at Bridport Harbour were dressed overall.

Victoria, who first learned of her destiny at the age of 10, moved into Buckingham Palace. Her marriage to Albert was to come. She served as queen until 1901, becoming Empress of India in 1876, creating a new ceremonial style of monarchy, with social rather than political emphasis, and thus preserving it, and giving her name to a whole new age of modernism and expansion.

Notes: Extract from Dorchester’s Municipal Records relating to this story:

1833: Aug 2nd. Locket, for ringing on occasion of the Duchess of Kent and the Princess Victoria passing thro’ Dorchester (Per order of the Mayor) £1.0s.0d.

Paid Oliver, Churchwarden of The Holy Trinity (Per order of the Mayor) expenses incurred on the above occasion £1.17s.0d.

Christmas 1890 – Railway Disaster

Standing at the controls of his Somerset & Dorset train’s engine, driver Frank Cribb was tired. A Bournemouth man with sixteen years work experience on the railway, Cribb had been on duty since 5.10 a.m. that morning of Tuesday, 23rd December 1890, driving the engine of a regular Bournemouth to Bath service. Now he was approaching Broadstone station at 5.20 p.m., nearing the end of yet another return run from Bath and a gruelling shift of over twelve hours. The train’s engine, which was fitted with Westinghouse vacuum brakes, accordingly maintained a steady speed, and although noted for pulling into stations fast, had always stopped in time – at least, it always had up to then.

In the front carriage behind the engine’s tender, sisters Sarah and Elizabeth Worthington were sitting in a spirit of buoyant anticipation, looking forward to the days ahead. The two women were on their way to spend the festive season at the home of Edith Lowe, with whom they had become friends when Miss Lowe was teaching at a school in Birmingham; now she was living in Poole and in post as Principal of the town’s British Girl’s School.

The Worthingtons were nearing their destination after a journey in which they had travelled down from Birmingham to join the SWR line at Mangotsfield near Bristol; from here another engine took the Bournemouth carriages to Bath, where the sisters caught the S&D connecting service for Bournemouth. They were pleasantly tired, but in their excitement Sarah and Elizabeth were blissfully unaware that within minutes they would be keeping an appointment with destiny.

Frank Cribb was approaching Broadstone station on the single track from Baillie Gate (or Western Curve,) a safety improvement for the line opened just five years earlier in 1885 to eliminate a hazardous reversing manoeuvre for Bath trains joining the L&SWR line to Bournemouth at Wimborne. Standing beside Cribb fireman Edward White suddenly cried out “Whoa mate – there’s something in front!” Dead ahead on the down line stood another engine with tender in the way of their train, but it was too late to avoid a collision.

The Worthington sisters and the other passengers in the forward carriage were then jolted out of their seats by the tremendous recoil force of over 140 tons of train ramming the stationary Wimborne engine. The rear wheels of its tender were knocked off as the tender was compressed concertina-fashion, sending the engine hurtling back down the gradient towards Poole, ripping up the track as it went. The engine with Cribb and White inside came to a halt 55 yards on at Broadstone station with the tender’s four foot diameter wheels wedged beneath it and skewed across the track from platform to platform. The collision’s magnitude was such that the tender’s buffer was later found 40 yards away in a garden! The engine’s boiler was displaced 11 inches backwards; the sound of the crash could be heard two miles away.

Thrown back by the shock of the impact the Worthington sisters and their fellow passengers had sustained horrific injuries. Sarah sustained facial contusions and abrasions, a broken leg and was in shock – but at least she would live; her 33-year-old younger sister Elizabeth however, was not so fortunate. She too suffered head injuries, but also with whiplash injury that had broken her neck, killing her instantly.

Outside the shattered front carriage it was dark, cold and snow lay on the ground. The conditions made rescue difficult and it took some time for emergency service teams to tear frantically through the wreckage. Victims had to be carried to safety on broken doors pressed into use as stretchers. Two other ladies in the first compartment were taken to the nearby Railway Hotel suffering fractures, cuts, concussions, bruising and severe shock. The hotel’s owners did all they could to help the doctors staying the night to tend the wounded. A breakdown train from Dorchester and a steam crane from Northam were sent to the accident site. An emergency team of 200 men had to work through the night to relay 200 yards of damaged track and restore normal service by 8 a.m. the following morning for the seventy-five trains that used the line daily.

Finding the cause of the collision and derailment at Broadstone then fell to the ensuing inquest, which opened at the Railway Hotel on Boxing Day. William Squires, the driver of the light engine, had been stopped at a signal before Broadstone station, but after a two or three minute wait had moved on when he saw the red signal change to green. As he passed the signal box, signalman Walter Gosney yelled out to him to stop. Squire’s fireman applied the brakes as soon as he realised that Cribbs’ Bath train was approaching from behind; Squires closed the regulator, but was then thrown back when the passenger train struck his tender. The fireman then jumped from the cab, leaving the driver to be pushed in his engine 300 more yards along the track before stopping.

Squires, the inquest heard, had been a railwayman for 15 years, yet had only 18months driving experience. On the day of the crash he had clocked-on at 6.25 a.m. for a tiring day of shunting, and hauling the Wimborne to Bournemouth afternoon passenger service. He would not return to Bournemouth West to clock-off until 7.20 p.m., by which time he would have worked a 13-hour day. But not all the culpability for the tragedy rested upon Squires’ shoulders. The competence of Walter Gosney was also brought into question when it emerged that at the time of the accident a railway carpenter was visiting him in the signal box, prompting the implication that the signalman may have been distracted, though it was certain that he had not been drinking.

The Wimborne engine was later than usual in arriving and when it stopped Gosney set the signals for the Bath train to come through. When Squires’ engine began moving forward however, Gosney then called out after him to stop and then had to re-set all the signals to danger, though this came too late to prevent a collision.

It took the inquest jury just ten minutes to reach a verdict of culpable negligence on the part of Squires and his fireman and a sentence of manslaughter for the death of Elizabeth Worthington. The two men were then sent up to appear before Wimborne magistrates, who then acquitted the fireman on the grounds that he was not responsible for driving the engine. This acquittal was confirmed at Dorchester assizes in February.

The majority of the evidence then rested upon the driver and his response to the signals. But the presiding judge, Mr Justice Coleridge, started the proceedings by questioning and then rejecting the testimony of the police officer who witnessed, at the inquest, the reported identification of the dead passenger as Miss Worthington. The judge had found no formal proof as offered by the treasury and did not know the deceased was Miss Worthington. Accordingly, Coleridge directed the jury to find Squires not guilty, as if proof was wanting. William Squires then left a court in uproar as a free man.

A week later a report on the accident was issued by the Board of Trade. It stated that it was impossible to avoid the conclusion that the down-line signal was passed at danger by the light engine, and that Squires probably only looked at the junction signal and, seeing it wasn’t on, neglected to check the nearby line signal. Gosney had done his duty in stopping the light engine; as it transpired it would have been better had he not done so! The overall conclusion was that the driver, and to a lesser degree the fireman, was responsible for the county’s worst railway accident after being on duty for 11 hours without a break.

The enquiry passed the signal operations as generally satisfactory, though human error apart, it was thought undesirable and unsafe that the Bath and Wimborne lines to Poole then had to share just one home signal. In future they would each have their own signal.

One can only imagine how Edith Lowe must have felt upon hearing of the disaster and its aftermath, after expectantly waiting up at home in Poole for two friends that fate had determined would never arrive. Of course, it was meant to be a joyous time of merriment. Instead, in the days following that dark and awful snow-bound night over a century ago the school headmistress fell ill with post-traumatic stress, her nerves shattered by an event that left so many maimed and two over-worked railwaymen bearing the stigma of professional misconduct for the rest of their lives.

Dorset – Smugglers Coast

The south coast of England in particular has had a long tradition of smuggling, especially where there are many coves or inlets ideal for concealing contraband. Devon and Cornwall are particularly well endowed in this regard, but Dorset has hardly been less important as a focus for the trade. The life of Isaac Gulliver, the ‘smuggler’s king’ of Dorset, has been covered in a biographic feature on the site, here I am considering the more general look at smuggling and what motivated people to become involved in its illegal operations.

Usually thought of as a male preserve, what may at first surprise many people is the extent to which women were also involved. Some of these would have been smugglers wives, though this is not invariably the case. Dorset, in the heyday of smuggling, was of course a very rural and sparsely populated county, with much agrarian poverty. The business of importing goods, usually liquor, from cross-channel boats under the cover of darkness in order to flout excise regulations was a lucrative sideline that impoverished families living within a few miles of the coast would find too great a temptation to overlook.

The register for Dorchester Gaol 1782-1853 lists the names and occupations of no fewer than 64 women convicted of various smuggling related offences. Twenty one of these (32%) were from Portland alone, while just six resided in Weymouth, five in Bridport, three in Bere Regis and two in Lyme Regis. The parishes of another nine are not recorded. Wool and Woolbridge, Preston, Pulham, Sutton Poyntz, Langton Matravers, Marnhull, Morecombelake, Beaminster, Bradpole, Broadwindsor, Buckland Ripers, Charmouth, Chetnole, Chickerell, Corfe, Dorchester and Kington Magna account for the remaining sixteen.

Three notable examples are Charlotte Drake of Bridport and Ann Maidment, a Bridport buttoner, who both assaulted and obstructed excise officers, and Mary Applin of Langton, who committed an excise offence. Martha Lumb of Weymouth was sentenced to three months hard labour in 1822 for smuggling, while Catherine Winter, a Weymouth seamstress, served an 18-day sentence in 1844 for smuggling at the age of 70!

But regardless of the sex of the offender, for the populace as a whole, smuggling was generally considered an honourable trade. The customs officers or the “King’s Men” were responsible for ensuring that contraband was impounded and fines levied. At Poole the problem of smuggling was so rampant and the customs men so understaffed and overworked that Dragoons had to be deployed to assist them as early as 1723. Typically the customs officers were brave and resourceful with a strict code of conduct; so that names were never banded about and nothing ever put in writing.

Poole was especially ideal for smuggling operations because of the exceptional size and highly indented nature of its harbour, the second largest natural harbour in the world. Goods were disembarked into inlet hideaways at Hamworthy and then transported by waggoners to Bristol via Blandford. Furthermore, goods could be offloaded on the south Purbeck coast and hauled overland to be temporarily laid up in the deep inlets such as those at Arne or the Goathorn Peninsula for later distribution to Poole markets without the smugglers having to risk detection by passing through the harbour mouth. Longfleet and Parkstone farmers constructed secret tunnels down to the water’s edge for bringing goods ashore.

After 1759 the volume of smuggled goods passing through Poole significantly increased, though raised vigilance on the part of the Preventatives gradually brought this down. The Commissioners of Customs based in London frequently requested reports on the amount of smuggling going on in the Poole area.

Although landings and disembarkation operations took place from Lyme Regis to Christchurch, the coast from Portland westwards to Lyme attracted special attention. This was because most of the coast is occupied by the Chesil Bank, a shingle spit enclosing a lagoon (the Fleet) which was a convenient storage-sink to hold casks (“tubs”) for collection at a more appropriate time. One memorable incident took place in 1762 when a Cornish vessel was broken up on the Chesil in a winter storm and its cargo washed into the sea. There then followed a desperate attempt by Weymouth citizens to salvage what tubs of liquor they could before the customs house officers could reach them! In the end the citizens claimed 26 tubs to the revenue’s 10; another ten were cast out to sea but recovered the next day.

Probably the greatest hideout and smugglers haunt along this coast was Lulworth Castle, the seat of the Weld family, but which had a connection with smuggling throughout the 18th century from 1719 onwards. In 1719 revenue officers from Weymouth raided the castle and the entire Lulworth area. It has been said that maids working at the castle would routinely warn smugglers when the customs men were in the vicinity by showing a light at a window to indicate when it was safe to come in, but also act as a bearing. The gangs at Lulworth could comprise as many as 100 disguised and heavily armed men, who used Mupe Rocks as the disembarkation point, but the deep ravines and inlets along the coast west of Kimmeridge were also ideal for concealing kegs. A gap in the cliffs at Worbarrow Bay was a special favourite and tubs were raised to the top of Gad Cliff, and brought ashore at Arish Mell and for storage at Tyneham Church.

On a knoll near the coast between West Bexington and Puncknowle there still stands an unusual monument. This is The Lookout, a square building constructed as a signal-station for the Fensibles, but which may also have been used by Isaac Gulliver, who used the Bexingtons, Swyre and Burton Bradstock as landing sites after 1776.

Lyme Regis has had an especially long smuggling history extending back at least as far as the 16th century, when certain merchants were suspected of smuggling bullion out of the country by sea. In 1576 a revenue man called Ralph Lane was sent to Lyme with a deputy bearing a warrant to search ships alleged to be involved in the operations. His arrival however, provoked a riot during which the warrant was seized and Lane’s deputy was thrown into the sea. From Lyme contraband was traditionally floated up the Buddle River, often under the noses of the Preventives, who were frequently understaffed and restrained by bureaucratic regulations. Booty offloaded onto the Cobb could not be inspected until it had been carried half a mile to the Cobb Gate. Lyme is believed to be the birthplace of Warren Lisle, a customs officer who at 17 was appointed Patent Searcher at Poole and who made his first seizure of a cargo from a small vessel in Portland Harbour in 1724.

Weymouth was central to excise operations for the sea, but the town’s revenue officials had a long and shameful history of ineptitude and corruption. Enter George Whelplay, who in the 16th century failed to make any headway in countering popular local support for smuggling. Originally a London haberdasher, Whelplay came to Dorset to try his fortune as a public informer, and as such could claim a fifty per cent commission on each fine he imposed upon those he caught, but in 1538 he incurred the wrath of smugglers and fellow customs officers alike when he exceeded his remit. Whelplay twice stumbled on a cargo of horses being illegally shipped to France, but instead of coming to his assistance in rounding up the French boats the officials joined a gang of merchants and attacked him.

Around 1830 smuggling reached a climax in the Weymouth area, where, it is said; tunnels were constructed from the harbour to merchant’s houses and even to the residence of King George III. The leading figure in smuggling to be connected with Weymouth was Pierre Latour, otherwise known as French Peter, who functioned as a prominent gang-leader in the town. In Wyke Regis churchyard there is a grave of one William Lewis, a smuggler shot dead by a revenue officer on board the schooner Pigmy.

In conclusion, anyone who has anything to do with Dorset will know of Thomas Hardy, the well-known novelist-poet. Less well known is that Hardy was an authority on smuggling – and not without good reason. His birthplace cottage at Highter Bockhampton was actually a capacious safehouse for smuggled contraband that could accommodate up to 80 casks of brandy. “But this isn’tall.” When a child, Hardy was regaled with smuggling stories from his grandfather and his own father had a manservant who was actually involved in the trade. The Bockhampton cottage lay on the smugglers route between Osmington Mills and their markets in Sherborne and Yeovil.