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Real Lives

Alfred Stevens – Sculptor

This is the story of how a Dorset house painter became so saturated with the Italian Renaissance, putting it into practice in England, that he is called a ‘descendant’ of Michelangelo himself. Yet he was a modest man.

“Look around you if you would see his memorial” is still said of Sir Christopher Wren, who, as his crowning achievement, rebuilt St.Paul’s Cathedral after the Great Fire of 1666.

If you want to see the memorial to Blandford sculptor Alfred Stevens, you should go to the same place. Wren created the perfect majestic setting for the famous sculptor’s memorial to the Duke of Wellington – the nave of the cathedral is the only place for such a massive construction.

On a visit there in April 2003 I found it coated in white dust, which is understandable as the building is undergoing a facelift expected to last several more years. Thankfully it had not been covered with dust-sheets.

Starting life as a house painter and decorator in his father’s business, art-mad Stevens began a nine-year sojourn in Italy in 1833 at the age of 15, thanks to the patronage of a friendly Dorset clergyman, the Hon. And Rev. Samuel Best, rector of Blandford St.Mary; some people can sense greatness.

There in that sunny land, year after year, he was able to feast his eyes on 14th century paintings and visit Naples, Florence, Pompeii, Capri, Rome and Milan, studying the great painters and the architecture of the land.

It is said that the reversion towards Romanticism which occurred in the 19th century led in the West to an acceptance of conflicting standards and every style and taste, with little regard for skill or talent in the visual arts and literature.

However that may be, the man who was sculptor, painter, decorator, draughtsman, and designer of beer mugs, stoves, lamp posts – and memorials – was to use his Italian experience supremely well for he has even been compared to the greatest artists of the Renaissance suh as Michelangelo. He brought their intuition and skill back to his native land and we have it forever, thanks to a son of Dorset.

Stevens had his own pupils, and much of his work is in the Victoria and Albert Museum in west-central London and is apparent in the construction of the Royal Albert Hall nearby.

Perhaps for many the crowning glory of the great memorial of St. Paul’s is that a Dorset horse was modelled for the equestrian stature of Wellington, mounted in triumph on the battlefield. It was due to such statesmen-soldiers that the United Kingdom is free today and not under a tyrant. No wonder it was called Great Britain… Yet if for nothing else, many Dorset people must have gone to St. Pauls’s to see the horse. Alfred Stevens never forgot his roots.

However, it is only truthful to add that he died before completion of the work and the horse was added later, to his design, topping the whole gargantuan pile. In creating the monument, he also drew upon mediaeval paintings in Salisbury Cathedral, another local touch.

The monument, including 12 Portland marble columns all the way from his native county, was moved from a side chapel to a more dominant position alongside the central aisle and seating of the great nave. This is one of the great buildings of the world.

Wellington was created duke on the surrender of Napoleon and was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Court of France. After Napoleon’s escape from the island of Elba, Wellington conducted his last military campaign, which culminated on the field of Waterloo in June 1815.

Stevens has been pictured as a humble man who missed his chance to be really great, but there are not many whose work is on display to millions every year. It was Waterloo that ‘made’ Alfred Stevens. Starting work on the memorial in 1858, he worked on it for the rest of his life.

The central feature is the bronze of Wellington, with two allegorical groups: Valour triumphing over Cowardice, and Truth pulling out the tongue of Falsehood.

By contrast, there are two Stevens mosaics in the huge dome. He was also responsible for the decorations in and around great buildings in the capital, including the impressive lions on the British Museum railings.

A small carved wooden Gothic tower, modelled by Stevens on the tabernacle at Milton Abbey, was bequeathed to the Dorset County Museum, while Chettle House near Blandford has another example of his work.

One writer says “…his ambition was to give London great art in this Renaissance form.” It is that 30-feet-high monument, the biggest indoor monument that most people have ever seen, showing one of the illustrious heroes of England in his prime, that sticks in the mind.

It contrasts with those Latin-style paintings in the dome, where Steven’s work compliments that of another Dorset man, Sir James Thornhill.

For 17 years, while he worked on his great masterpiece at ground level, his health was failing and he suffered a paralytic stroke in 1872, dying three years later at the comparatively early age of 57. His London studio at Haverstock Hill would see his exacting standards no more. He is buried in Highgate Cemetery, north London, along with many other well-known figures.

Said ‘The Times’ obituary: “He left neither wife, nor children, nor riches. He was insanely devoted to his art.” Most of his personal papers were destroyed by the executor.

Here was a man who might just have gone in an entirely different direction, perhaps a negative one. During the Reform Bill riots in Blandford, he unhorsed a dragoon; he was in the firing line in skirmishes in Italy; ands he visited villages, which were devastated by cholera. He even saw the inside of political cells.

On his return to Britain from Italy he returned to his home town and spent his time on long walks and over the drawing board. A director of the Tate Gallery said of him that he was the most masterly interpreter of the Classic tradition England has seen.


The Ploughman Poet

Thomas Hardy once observed that:  “…here in Dorset, there are so many poets.”  Many of them, however, more deserving of recognition have drifted into the shadows created by the spotlight being on the likes of Barnes and Hardy.

Albert Charles Bailey was born at Osmington in 1859. He was the son of Thomas and Angelina Bailey, being one of eight children. The family was poor and Albert had to teach himself to read and write; growing-up he studied the works of all the literary giants of the time. His first book of poems was published in 1896 and sold very well.

The Bailey family moved from Osmington to Sutton Poyntz. Albert married Mary Cox of Puncknowle in 1886 and we learn from the 1891 census that the couple lived at Prospect Cottage, Preston, with their four children and one of Albert’s sisters, Evangelina. The census  describes Albert as a Poulterer, Egg Dealer and Market Gardener.

Ten years on the family had grown: Albert and Mary then had four sons and three daughters and the census return suggests that his literary work was being recognised: he is described in the 1901  census as an Author and Market Gardener.  However, in 1911 he is again described simply as a Market Gardener but we should not conclude he had abandoned his literary career.

In 1911 he became known as ‘The Ploughman Poet’ following a chance meeting with a special correspondent from a national daily newspaper who was on his way to Dorchester.  The journalist was so impressed with Albert’s work that when he arrived in Dorchester he sought out Thomas Hardy to ask if he knew him. Hardy replied “Yes, I have met him,” and added that had Albert Bailey been born in any county other than Dorset, he would have been acclaimed a prodigy.

Albert died in 1914 at the age of 55.

Dorset: a Woman’s View (Part 2)

Woodbury Hill and Charborough House

Celia Fiennes travelled home by way of Blandford and then headed southwards. She describes how “…we pass Woodbery (Woodbury) Hill eminent for a great Faire that is kept there of all things”. The fair dates from the times of Henry III and was once an important event that extended over several days. This is the Greenhill Fair of Thomas Hardy’s novels. Sir Frederick Treves in his Highways and Byways in Dorset tells us: “Since the time of Henry III, a fair has been held on this hill, commencing on September 18th, near about the festival of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This fair was at one time the most important in the South of England”. Treves was writing at the start of the 20th century, by which time the fair had declined and was reduced to a local event of little importance. In the heyday of the fair it had lasted five days and presented the lord of the manor with an income from tolls and fees totalling £100 a day.

Celia tells us “The road passed by Cherbery (Charborough), the foot of the hill; on the stop stands a pretty seate of Mr Earles my relation, the house is a new built house on the brow of a hill, whence you have large prospects of 20 mile round, you may see Shaftesbury 16 mile off”. Of Charboorough House she comments “…good gardens walled with plenty of fruit, good fish and decoy ponds”. Celia describes the fine entrance hall that “…leads you to a large parlour and drawing room and another parlour for smoakening, all well wanscoated and painted”. General Thomas Earle (or Erle) (1650-1720) fought in William III’s Irish campaigns and later in France and Spain. In times past the Earles held the manor for pouring water on the King’s hands on Easter or Christmas Day.

Another Visit to Dorset

In 1698 Celia Fiennes set off on another journey, which she describes as “My Great Journey to Newcastle and to Cornwall”. Along the way she comes again to Dorset entering the county by way of Chard and Leigh, where again she stays at a property owned by her relation, Mr Henly. It is not clear if this is the same Mr Henly of Colway, Lyme Regis, who she stayed with on her earlier visit to Dorset; the family owned both places at the time. Her next stop must have been a great disappointment for her – she called upon Mr Prideaux of Forde Abbey, which she says is “…a fine old house and well furnish’d but they permit none to see it…So I saw it not. Only drove by it to see my Cozens little girle at nurse”.

She then travelled to “…a little town called Maiden Newton and thence to Dorchester town 6 miles more, all a fine hard gravel way and much on the downs, this is good ground much for sheep: thence I went to Blandford 12 long miles through Piddletown and Milborne and Whitchurch there I staid with my relation Cos’n Collier, Husys and Fussells”. Celia pronounces it “good ground for sheep”. At the time sheep farming was a major activity in Dorset. A century later it was reported there were 800,000 sheep in the county of which 150,000 were sold annually and despatched out of the county.

What an adventurous woman Celia was! She travelled hundreds of miles, although her estimation of distance between places is not always accurate and her journey’s were made easier by the abundance of relations she had all over the country. Her comments about the pleasant prospects, trade and manufacturing, descriptions of buildings, and the sports and recreations of the communities she passed through provide a valuable social history of the time.

At the conclusion of her Journeys Celia urges both ladies and more so gentlemen to travel in their native land and suggests doing so would preserve them from the diseases of the vapours and laziness, and cure the “…evil itch of over valuing foreign parts”.  She had especially strong words for those gentlemen who represent the people in Parliament and she was of the opinion too many of them were ignorant about what was happening outside of the place they represented.  She thought they had a duty to familiarise themselves with what was happening in the rest of the country and should know of the “Genius of the Inhabitants, so as to promote and improve Manufacture and Trade and to encourage all projects tending thereto”.  Celia encourages ladies to take more notice of their neighbours to see how they may help them, especially the poor. This, Celia suggests, would alleviate the boredom and the burden of time spent tediously when not at the card or dice table and, she goes on, the fashions and manners of foreign parts will be less attractive.

Finally she says “…with a hearty wish and recommendation to all, but especially my own sex…to study those things which tends to improve the mind and makes our lives pleasant and comfortable as well as profitable in all the stages and stations of our lives and render suffering and age supportable and death less formidable and a future state more happy”.


Tolpuddle Personalities

The dates for this year’s Tolpuddle Martyrs Festival are the18th to 20th of July. There will be speeches, entertainment and marches, It is a useful and fascinating exercise to look into the personalities of some of the considerable number of people who were in an important way caught up in the drama of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

Methodism, founded on an evangelical basis in the previous century, was in the early 19th. century becoming also a social force for the working class, and it meant everything to George Loveless, a man with a charismatic name and the foremost of the Martyrs. George had a strong character and was persecuted for his faith. He taught himself to read and write and was a lay preacher in the Weymouth circuit. There is no evidence that he mixed politics with his addresses in church, however.

One of a family of 10 surviving children, he was a few inches over five feet, with red whiskers and a strong chin. His wife was from Dewlish, a nearby village. He was 37 on his arrest.

James Loveless, his brother, was 25 and married with two children, Like George, he gave Methodist addresses. Thomas Standfield (44), was again a strong Methodist. James Brine, an Anglican, eventually married Elizabeth, the daughter of Thomas Standfield. John Standfield was, like Brine, only 21. James Hammett, born in 1811, was married three times and was not a Methodist.

It has been said the Celtic strain was visible in the physical characteristics of most of the men.

Fashionable Lord Melbourne, Home Secretary, was educated at Eton, Cambridge and Glasgow University. Earlier in life, he often ended his day at the gaming tables. He had a mentally deficient son. But what concerned him at the time of the Tolpuddle affair was the rise of trade unionism, despite the fact that the unions had been made legal. He had a family connection with Dorset, so was extraordinarily interested in the county.

The magistrate James Frampton, of Moreton House, not far from Tolpuddle, was a member of the upper class, believed in the monarchy, Great Britian, Church and Constitution. He had been to Paris and seen the Revolution at first hand. He was to be laid to rest in his home village at the age of 77.

Edward Legg, who gave evidence of a secret oath being administered, only did so under pressure. He apparently did not go to the meeting intending to become a spy.

So the six were sent out to New South Wales and Tasmania. George Loveless did not want his wife and family brought out, to the “distress and misery of this colony…” On his return to his cottage at Tolpuddle, and before leaving the district for good, he wrote the publication: “The Victims of Whiggery”. Tasmania and the separation from his family had done their worst, but his enthusiasm was undimmed. No doubt about it, here was a real union man, and it is difficult to over-emphasise his importance to the movement in general, and the significance of the annual memorial events at Tolpuddle.

But what of the judge? King William IV knighted Judge Baron Williams shortly after he had sent the Martyrs to the prison ships, and he was appointed to the King’s Bench. He died in 1846 aged 69, at his country seat in Suffolk.



Dorset: a Woman’s View

Celia Fiennes was born on June 9th 1662 in the manor-house at Newton Toney near Salisbury and died in 1741 at the age of 79. She inherited Puritan and Parliamentary sentiments from her parents: her father was Colonel Nathaniel Fiennes who served Cromwell as a member of the Council of State and as Keeper of the Great Seal. Her grandfather, who died the year she was born, was William Fiennes the 1st Viscount Saye and Sele; he had been a staunch Parliamentarian but he was also in favour of negotiating a settlement with the King. He accepted the Restoration in 1660 and was appointed a Privy Councillor to King Charles II.

Celia Fiennes is remembered today largely because of a travelogue she wrote as she toured the country on horseback. Travelling the length and breadth of the country from Hadrian’s Wall to Land’s End and from Yarmouth to Shrewsbury her words were intended for her near relatives but in 1888 Robert Southey and Mrs Emily Griffiths published Celia Fiennes work as: “Through England on a Side Saddle in the Time of William and Mary”.

Poole and Brownsea

In Part 1 of her Journeys (c. 1685-1696) she comes to Dorset from Salisbury and Wilton and on arrival has this to say: “I went to Blandford in Dorsetshire 18 miles through a hare warren and a forest of the kings – (Cranbourne Chase) – Blandford is a pretty neate country town – thence to Merley by Wimborne over a great river called the Stoure by a large arched bridge to a relation’s house, Sir William Constantines – thence to Poole  a little sea-port town 4 miles off where was a very good Minister in the publick church Mr Hardy”.

From Poole, Celia went to Brownsea Island, about which she has this to say: “We went by boate to a little Isle called Brownsea where there is much Copperice made, the stones being found about the Isle in shore in great quantetyes, there is only one house there which is the Governours, besides little fishermens houses, they all being taken up about the Copperice works…This a noted place for lobsters and crabs and shrimps, there I eate some very good”. The Copperice that Celie Fiennes refers to is a sulphate of iron or green vitriol which was used in the dyeing industry and the manufacture of inks.

The Isle of Purbeck

From Merly we went to the Isle of Purbeck. At Warrum (Wareham) we passed over a bridge where the sea flowed in and came by the ruins of Corfe Castle,which stands on a hill yet surrounded by much higher hills that might easily command it, and so in the Civil wars was batter’d down with Granadeers, thence you rise a great ascent of hills called the Linch (Lynch), or rather the ridge, being so for 3 or 4 miles, rideing to Quare (Quar) which was 16 miles from Merly to a relations house Cos’n Colliers”.

From the ridge Celia looked out over the Isle of Purbeck with its “pleasant meadows and woodlands” and she tells us of “many quarys in these hills of that which is called the free stone, from hence they dig it”. She tells us most of the houses on the island are built of stone.

Continuing, she says: “the shores are very rocky all about the island, we went three miles off to Sonidge (Swanage) a sea faire place not very big;… they take up stones by the shores that are so oyly as the poor burn it for fire, and it’s so light a fire it serves as candle too, but it has a strong offensive smell”.

From Swanage she journeyed on to “a place 4 miles off called Sea Cume (Seacombe) where she observes “it being a spring tide”; she saw the “craggy rockes” lashed by the billows of a turbulent sea and heard the caves of that coast reverberate the sound of the waves “like some hall or high arch”. Celia notes that “In this Island are several good houses” and mentions  “At Kingston Sir William Muex (Meux) has a pretty house and att Income (Encombe) Mr. Coliffords, Doonshay (Downshay), Mr Dollings, and 7 miles off Quare  at Tinnum (Tyneham) Lady Lawrences there is a pretty large house but very old timber built”. This place was especially agreeable to Celia and she tells us: “there I eate the best lobsters and crabs being boyled in the sea water and scarce cold, very large and sweet”.

From Tyneham she travelled north-west to Bindon, Piddletrenthide, “…where was a relation Mr Oxenbridge” and then on to Dorchester which “stands on the side of a hill, the river runs below it, the town looks compact and the streets are very neately  pitch’d (paved) and of a good breadth, the Market-lace is spacious, the Church very handsome and full of galleryes”.

Bridport and Lyme Regis

She continued travelling westward until she came to Burport (Bridport). “The ways are stony and very narrow, the town has a steep hill to descend through the whole place: thence to Woolfe(?) to a relations Mr Newbery”. She describes this gentleman as “a man of many whymseys, would keep no women servants, had all the washing, ironing and dairy etc., all performed by men: his house looks like a little village when you come into the yard, so many little buildings apart from each other”. One of these was a “stillatory” (still-house), another a “long building for silk wormes”. But, she says, all was “in a most rude confused manner”.

From Mr Newbery she travelled to another relation, Mr Henlys, at Colway near Lime (Lyme Regis). In her writing Celia Fiennes wrongly places Lyme Regis in Somersetshire. For her the most interesting feature of this “seaport place open to the main ocean” was the “Cobb or Halfe  Moon”.

She observes the residents of the town have to contend with “…so high a bleake sea that to secure the Harbour for shipps they have at a great charge to build a Mold from the town with stone, like a halfe moon, which they call the Cobb, its raised with a high wall and this runns into the sea a good compass, that the Shipps ride safely within it: when the tide is out we may see the foundations of some part of it; that is the tyme they looke over it to see any breach and repair it immediately, else the tide comes with so great violence would soon beate it down”. Celia mentions that the Springtide “does sometimes beate up and wash over the walls of the forte and so runns into the town”.

After taking a step into Somerset she starts her return journey commenting as she often does on the condition of the roads: “From Lime the ways are difficult by reason of the very step hills up and down, and that so successfully as little or no plaine even ground, and full of large smooth pebbles that make the strange horses slip and uneasye to go; the horses of the country are accustomed to it and travel well in the rodes…”


Footnote: George Roberts in his History of Lyme Regis (1823) traces the history of the manor of Colway and says: “It has become the property of the Henly family who lived there in great style for many years. The house was large, and a road between two rows of stately trees, which have been long since cut down, led to the church, to which some affirm there is now a subterraneous passage. The house has gone to decay – some of the ruins are visible at the back of the present farmhouse. No courts are held nor any symbols of a manor preserved”.

To be continued…

William Mabey (1848-1931)

On April 19th 1848 Emmanel and Charlotte Mabey took their second child to St. Mary’s Church at Beaminster to be baptised; the child was named William, after his grandfather, and he was destined to enjoy a long and successful life. In his later years he was a respected member of the Master Builders section of the Bournemouth Chamber of Trade; he built the Solent Cliffs Hotel and the South Western Hotel in Bournemouth and produced most of the furniture for the Grosvenor Hotel in London as well as making carts for London’s Covent Garden Market.

He passed away in 1931 but a few months before he died he recorded his memories of Sutton, the village where he lived as a teenager. He describes a small village hidden away under the Downs with many old houses and an Inn called ‘Springbottom Inn’. Mabey also reminds us that in the time of George III a main road leading to the Downs passed through Sutton and that at the top of the road there was gate right across it; nearby there were some large trees about which it was said people had been hung and quartered there.  He remembered a very old lady living in an ancient house who told him she could remember as a child opening the gate to let the soldiers through.

He also recorded his memories of the murder, in 1862, of Dr. Puckett, who was the Union doctor from Upwey treating a man named Cox for a brain disease, apparently with little success. Cox lived at the bottom of Sutton Knapp.  William Mabey recalled “ haymaking time when we were busy making hay in the field near Chalbury Hill (through which there was a public footpath to Broadwey) Dr. Puckett happened to pass and he told my father he was going to see Cox who was lying ill at Sutton. Dad strongly advised the doctor not to go alone as this man was a dangerous lunatic, but the doctor said he would be alright.”

“Well, about an hour later word came through that the doctor had been murdered and that the man had gone in the direction of Osmington, so we all took our prongs and hurried off to try to catch him. We eventually ran him to earth in the stable of the Plough Inn. My father was the first to arrive and found the door barred, so he called out to Cox to open it. Cox said “who is it?” and my father answered “Mabey.” My father then told him to hurry up and come out and that he would help him, so believing this he came out and was soon made safe.” It seems that Cox had heard that Dr Puckett was recommending he be sent to the asylum at Forsten.

This was a horrific murder. It seems the doctor quickly realised he was in danger and made for the door but Cox jumped up and broke off one of the bed posts. Meanwhile, the doctor on the other side of the door held it shut before running off. Cox, realising he could get out of the cottage chased after the doctor throwing a brickbat at him which hit the doctor on the head. The doctor fell, Cox seized a saw and sawed off the doctor’s foot before sawing off his right hand and head. Cox then went back to the cottage got his clothes and ran off to the Plough Inn at Osmington.

Cox was tried for murder at Dorchester, certified insane and sent to an asylum where he died many years later. William Mabey said: “the murder of Dr. Puckett was a great shock to all the village. I saw the body before it was removed.”

In 1863, a year after the doctor’s murder, William was 15 years of age. He witnessed the public hanging at Dorchester of two men, Preedy and Fooks. (See our article The Prisoner a Padre Befriended, published February 9th 2010 in the Real Lives category.) William says of the event: “About this time two men were hung in Dorchester, being the last to be hanged in public. I went from Sutton to see this, staying at my cousin’s house in Glyde Path Hill where from one of the bedrooms we could see everything quite clearly. I waited the hour and then they were cut down and laid in their coffins. Thousands of people came from all parts to witness the hanging and the meadows near the river were crowded. People even climbing trees so that they would have a good view, It was an awful sight, I should not like to see anything of the sort now.”

William also reported that some enterprising builders had erected a grandstand and sold seats for 2/6d; apparently the stand collapsed under the weight of spectators.

Born at Waterhouse, Bettiscombe, William moved with his parents and siblings to Kingcombe in the parish of Toller Porcorum, from there to Preston with Sutton Poyntz before marrying and settling with his young bride in Melcombe Regis and Weymouth.

Emmanuel Mabey came from the parish of Mapperton and married Charlotte at St. Mary’s Church, Beaminster on July 21st 1845. The couple lived at Waterhouse, Bettiscombe, but by  1861 the family was living at Kingcombe in the parish of Toller Porcorum; the census reveals the family had grown and William had four brothers and two sisters. The youngest child is just six months old and has been named George; further research reveals that Emmanuel and Charlotte’s first born child, also named George, had died early in 1860.

His mother’s maiden name was Elliott and her father claimed relationship with Charlotte Elliott, the poetess. His mother of necessity had a very strong personality, for she had to cope with her husband’s frequent bouts of depression.

John Love of Weymouth

Few pictorial records of the Dorset countryside seem to have been made before the mid 18th century; until then landscape painting had not been taken seriously as an art form. It was around this time that travelling for pleasure or health reasons became fashionable with the upper and middle classes. An important factor as far as south Dorset was concerned – and in particular Weymouth – was the patronage of the Royal Family.

The man who probably did most to promote an interest in art in the area was John Love,  a bookseller and publisher as well as being an accomplished artist. He was said to have been a skinny youth but later in life he confessed to deriving much pleasure from his food, which was apparent for all to see as he weighed a portly twenty-six stone. It was claimed, almost certainly falsely, that at one time he was the heaviest man in England.

As a young man he went to London and studied at the Royal Academy Schools lodging with William Ryland, who had been engraver to the King. But Ryland took a wrong turn in his career and was found guilty of forgery, a crime for which he was executed.

John Love returned to Weymouth where, during the 1780’s and until his death in 1793, he had a shop that incorporated a library and exhibition rooms; it was here that upcoming artists could display their work. Here Love wrote a Guide to Weymouth, which was published in 1788.

In 1790 Weymouth was a very popular resort and Love collaborated with James Fittler, the Court Engraver at the time, to publish a series of twelve prints entitled Love’s Picturesque Views of Weymouth; one set of these was recently offered for sale through a London auction house, fetching £1,200.

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.


Wambrook’s Hero

In the spring of 1855 Simeon Vickery married Sarah Singleton, an event hurried along by the imminent arrival of their first child. By the end of the decade Simeon and Sarah had two sons and two daughters; in all during their time together they had nine children. Their last child, Samuel, was born at Wambrook on the 6th of February 1873. We know from the 1891 census that Simeon Vickery had passed away and all of the children had left home except for 16-year-old Samuel who was employed as an agricultural labourer. He and his mother lived at Bartlett Cottage in Wambrook.

Samuel moved to Dorchester, where in 1893 at the age of 20 he enlisted in the army and did his training at the Dorset Regiment’s Depot at the Dorchester Barracks. He served at home until 1897, when he went to India as part of the annual draft and joined the 1st Battalion of the Dorset Regiment who, at the time, formed part of the Tirah Field Forces. Within weeks Sam Vickery was facing hostile Afridi tribesmen at the North West Frontier.

On the 20th October 1897 he was part of a group attacking the Dargai Heights. Here he displayed great courage while rescuing a comrade; his actions won him the Victoria Cross. The citation reads: “…Private Vickery heroically ran down a rocky mountain slope and brought a wounded soldier back to cover under extremely heavy small arms fire… “  Later in the Waran Valley he became separated from his company and killed three tribesmen who attacked him.

He returned to England for treatment to a chipped bone in his foot and was in the military hospital at Netley near Southampton when Queen Victoria personally presented him with his Victoria Cross. His award was announced in the London Gazette on the 20th of May 1898. When he left hospital the towns of Chard, Dorchester and Cardiff gave him civic receptions. On arriving in Dorchester he was greeted by bands and cheering crowds.

But this was not the end of his military career. Vickery was now a Corporal and was soon off to South Africa with a mounted infantry section to face the Boers. He was captured by the enemy but after four days in captivity he managed to escape and rejoined his unit. He was wounded in the guerrilla war that followed the defeat of the Boers. He retired from the military and joined his mother, a married sister and one of his brothers who had moved from Dorset to Cardiff.

At the outbreak of the First World War he was back in service as a Regular Reservist and served as a Sergeant with the 1st Battalion at Ypres Salient. At the end of the war Sergeant Samuel Vickery V.C. returned to Cardiff, where he died in 1952.

The Dorset parish of Wambrook was transferred to Somerset in 1895.

Gillingham – The Morgan Family

We believe this lady is a member of the Morgan family of Gillingham, many of whom emigrated to New Zealand early in the 19th century. We would welcome any information about her.

We believe this lady is a member of the Morgan family of Gillingham, many of whom emigrated to New Zealand early in the 19th century. We would welcome any information about her.