When Grandma worked in London

When Grandma worked in London

Mollie and Stella in London in the 1920's
Mollie with her friend Stella

My family rarely travelled in the past,  but I knew my Grandmother Mullins (Mary Margaret Bowditch, known as Mollie)  worked in London in the 1920’s having been trained by her Grandmother and then loaded on a train to head to London when she was 14.

I’d often wondered where she had worked and the other day, while looking through the Ancestry Catalogue I spotted the “London Electoral Role”,  and thought “Why not?”  and as luck would have it there was an entry for Mary Margaret Bowditch,  I was doubly lucky as she only made it as she only got the right to vote when the suffrage age for women was dropped in 1928, to match that of men at 21.
That not only gave me an address.  but also her employers, Robert Ernest and Edith Sarah Smith. In 1911 the Smiths had been living in 38 St Gabriels Rd, Blomesbury, Cricklewood, and Robert was shown as an Umbrella manufacturer, tracing him back he was the son of James Smith, an Umbrella and Walking Stick manufacturer originally born in  Bloomsbury, who in 1881 was living in a Farm house on Milkwood Farm, in Woodford Essex. Robert died in Golders Green on the 14 April 1930, in Hayes Crescent Nursing home, but his addresses were given as 31 The Ridgeway and 53 New Oxford Street, as of 2014 “James Smith & Sons” still operates from the same premises on New Oxford Street and it probably looks much as it did in 1929.  Robert left over fifteen thousand pounds in his will,  around one million pounds today.  My Father remembers Molly telling him that she worked as the housekeeper for the Family and she does appear to be the only servant resident in the house, but this of course may only be that any other live-in servants were under 21.
The 1931 Electoral role still shows Molly in Golders Green with Edith along with Kathleen Edith and Marjorie Evelyn Swinstead-Smith (most likely her daughters), but by 1932 a new housekeeper is living at 31 Ridgeway.
The Probate for Edith Sarah in 1951, sees her leaving £5227 18s 3d to Marjorie as the only named beneficiary.
James Smith and Sons Umbrellas
James Smith and Sons Umbrellas
31 Ridgeway,  Golders Green from Google Street View
31 Ridgeway, Golders Green from Google Street View

  1. “London Electoral Register 1931 Hendon, 31 The Ridgeway”.
  2. “London Electoral Register 1929 Hendon, 31 The Ridgeway”.
  3. “RG14 Piece: 7002 Schedule Number: 168 Tregarthen, 38 St Gabriels Rd, Brondesbury, Cricklewood NW Robert Ernest  Smith”.
  4. “RG11; Piece: 1734; Folio: 53; Page: 2 Woodford, Essex Robert E Smith”.
  5. “Ancestry Tree davidthorp1952 Throp 2012”.
  6. “National Probate Calendar 1930 Robert Ernest Smith”.
I am a West Country Girl

I am a West Country Girl

Janes Ancestral Map
Events involving my ancestors over the last 300 years.

When I stand up to speak at conferences or on training days,  I often open with the fact that my Ancestors come from Dorset in the south west of England.  This is not entirely true,  some come from Wiltshire and some from Devon,  but the vast majority come from the south and west of Dorset,  mostly clustered around Bridport and Dorchester.

I always feel I belong to that area, despite having been born and brought up in Somerset when my parents moved up in 1961.  I suspect that because all of their friends remained in Dorset, so childhood weekends often involved returning to Sydling St Nicolas or other of the villages whose names occur regularly in my tree, I feel tied to the place.

I recently plotted all the events of my Ancestors lives (at least the ones I know about) and with the exception of the time my Mother spent at Teacher training college and my paternal grandfather spent in the Dorset regiment,  the dots on the map show all the events going back at least 7 generations on all lines.

So when they are “Who Do You Think You Are”,  I can answer,  “I am a West Country Girl”.



Charles MOORE (1892-1915)

Charles Moore in Uniform

If you search for Charles in my family tree, you will not find him, in fact if he had lived there would be no family tree here at all. Charles Moore was born in Donyatt in Somerset in 1892, the third child and eldest son of William and Bessie Moore.

By the time my story starts William, Bessie and their 9 children are living at Elwell Farm, near Netherbury in Dorset. Charles is courting a girl called Nellie Record who lives in Rampisham around 7 miles away. Nellie Record is a pretty girl, two years younger than Charles the daughter of the local carrier Henry Record.

Charlie cycles over to see Nellie on a regular basis, often sending postcards to let her know he got home safe or to say he will be over in a day or so. The year is 1913.

August 4, 1914 Britain declares war on Germany and Austria-Hungary.

1st September 1914 Charles goes down to Dorchester and signs up to the Dorsetshire Regiment

Over the next few months he moves around the country getting his training. Sending Nellie postcards from all over the UK.

Now a member of the 5th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment, which were attached to the 11th Northern Division, on the 1st July 1915 Charles set sail from Liverpool, bound for Alexandria, and on to Mudros, once all the troops were concentrated on the 28 July 1915, they set sail for Suvla Bay, Gallipoli landing 7 August 1915.

Charles survived the initial landing and attack between the 6th and 9th of August. Along with the rest of the division they dug in just above the beaches on which they had landed.

back of postcard

On his last postcard dated the 20th August 1915 he asked if Nellie could send him paper to write a letter, I do not suppose he ever got it. On the 9 September 1915, he was killed in action in Suvla Bay.

His brother Percy, serving with an artillery regiment continued to write to Nellie through out the war, and Nellie put all the postcards in an album. No letters were ever found, perhaps Nellie destroyed them.

In August 1918 Nellie married James Crabb, 12 years her senior. James and Nellie are my maternal grandparents.

Offsite Links

Grandad Mullins in the Dorset Regiment

My grandfather Mullins was born Albert Jack Mullins on the 25th of February 1906 in Holywell, Frome St Quinton in Dorset. The second son of Henry Charles and Susan Mullins ne Pitcher (Pilcher). Henry was a lineman on the Yeovil to Dorchester line, Whose ancestors had lived in Evershot since at least 1825. If you do not know Holywell, Frome St Quinton and Evershot are close together in the rolling hills north of Dorchester.

Jack, as he was known, grew up in Holywell before joining the army at the grand age of 17 Years 5 Months 26 Days in 1923. Although his army book shows him born in 1906. As a member of the 2nd Battalion Devonshire Regiment (Number 5613417).

His postings 1 were as follows

Home 31.08.23 29.12.24
India 30.12.24 17.03.26
Aden 18.03.26 28.03.27
Home 29.03.27 30.08.30

As can be seen from the dates Jack did 16 months at the regimental depot for his initial period of service before joining the second battalion in India where they had been stationed since 1919 2.


When Jack arrived in India the battalion was serving as a unit of the Viceroys Guard, which consisted of one British infantry battalion, and Indian infantry battalion and a Royal Horse Artillery battery. The battalion had been involved in the fighting around Waziristan, in what is now Pakistan, but by the time Jack arrived its duties were predominately ceremonial, a modicum of training combined with great ceremonial,King’s birthdays, heroic funerals which could have rivaled those of any Moghul Prince and a regular diet of inspections.

The Battalion spent the “cool season” in Delhi (November to February) moving out to Kailana in March or April as the weather became impossible. Single men like Jack stayed for 3 months from March to June, then returned to New Cantonments to be replaced by another party for the next three months.

Kailana is north of Delhi and 7,500 feet above sea level. One officer described it as not unlike the Scottish Highlands wild rhododendrons instead of rowans and once the monsoons started ‘Dark Indian oaks, pines, cedars, wreathed in creepers festooned with roses . . . the ground beneath displaying brambles, violets, ox eye daisies, buttercups, dahlias in a riot of colour’. And, fifty miles away, but looking in the diamond sharp air as if it could be reached in an afternoon’s stroll, the 27,000 feet high peak of Nanda Devi ‘the blessed goddess’ — believed by many travellers to be the most beautiful mountain in the world.


steamer point baracks adenJacks Record Book shows him transferring from India to Aden in March of 1926, which is somewhat strange as the Battalion would appear to have been in Aden since at least June of 1925.

Most travel books mention that the town stands in an extinct volcano surrounded by arid rocks and with an average annual temperature of 86 o c. The heat is damp and steamy. Of the two main centres of troop concentration, Crater and Steamer Point some idea of the delights offered by Aden can be discerned in the suffuse quality of its place names. Steamer Point is to be preferred as it sometimes enjoys a sea breeze. ‘Aden swarms with bugs, they are to be found everywhere’ the intelligence report from the Royal Scots goes on ‘. . . A block of buildings at Crater called “Prickly Heat Alley” provides a liquor and supper bar. The only recreations are fishing and rock climbing men who do this get lost and have to be rescued. Water difficult and strictly rationed. All drinking, cooking and dhobi water is condensed, brackish and unfit for Europeans. Special rations are issued to combat BeriBeri (no cases in the Royal Scots but the Border Regt. had some). Dengue Fever is prevalent; particularly among families Aden is a bad place for families: all who can should go on home to England.’

On a more cheerful note the report ended with the remark that Aden was only a short-stay station and that the next stop was usually Britain.


On the Battalions return to England, the regimental history has little to say other than to state that the battalions health was poor. Jack once told his son Alan that return across the Bay of Biscay was horrendous and once you got to a toilet you stayed with it.

Although the dates are not known at the moment Alan can remember a picture of Jack with the Regiments rugby team and that Jack was always very knowledgeable about the sport.

Jack served for 8 years in England before his discharge.

He was then in the reserves until 30/8/39. He told Alan that he wanted to re-enlist for the duration of the second world war, but his employer said that if he did his family would have to leave their tied cottage. As a protected occupation Jack had no option, but to comply.


1 :Jacks Army Record Book
2 :The Regimental history – The Bloody Eleventh : History of the Devonshire Regiment Volume III 1914-1969 WSP Aggett (Exeter 1995)

James Crabb of Sydling St. Nicholas

James Crabb was born on 11th April 1883 at Loscombe in the parish of Netherbury, to the south of Beaminster in Dorset. His family were farm workers and he, his brother (George) and father (Issac) moved to Sydling St. Nicholas when they were offered the tenancy of South View, a small-holding belonging to Winchester College. This lies to the north of the Sydling, on the left hand side when coming from Maiden Newton. Here they lived in the large house, which with a mill building and some land formed the holding, and a housekeeper was employed to look after the three men.

JamesCrabbWithCartBy 1915, when James was 32 years old, he was running a carrier service to and from Dorchester on Wednesdays and Saturdays, presumably using a horse and van. This served Sydling and Magiston, as well as Grimstone, Stratton and Wreckleford on the main Yeovil to Dorchester road. In town he put in at the Plume of Feathers in Princes Street, an inn used by several carriers. He was in competition with his fellow parishioners (Fred Kellaway* and) Frank Terrell, as well as several other carriers who ran out of Dorchester along the main road to places such as Maiden Newton and Cattistock. Among the latter was a Mr Record of Rampisham who had an old-established service from Rampisham, Cattistock and Maiden Newton and he also used the Plume of Feathers as his Dorchester terminus. * Fred Kellaway is listed as carrier from Sydling to Plume of Feathers until 1915, the year James Crabb first appears. Could the service have passed from one to the other?)

Whether this is significant in what followed is not clear but on 5th August 1918 .lames Crabb, then aged 35, was married at Rampisham Church to 23-year old Nellie Record, daughter of the carrier.

After marriage Nellie at first helped her husband in the business by driving a pony and trap which took passengers to or from the railway station. During the 1920’s two daughters were born to Nellie and Jimmy, Irene (12.8.1921) and Joyce (5.5.1929).

crabbfamilywithbusThe Crabb family business also grew with the horse and van giving way to the first motor vehicle in March, 1923. Registered PR256 this was one of the very popular Model T Fords and it carried a dual purpose van body with windows in the sides and a luggage rack on the roof. Jimmy and Nellie, with their little daughter Irene, proudly stood in front of the new motor to be photographed. With them was a young man called Albie Lovell, who on leaving school had gone to work on the farm for the Crabb family and he became the driver of the motor. Albie was employed by the family for 33 years. (It seems as though Terrells ran a motor for 3 years before Jimmy Crabb changed from horses? see later)

TK33BusJoyceCrabbApprox1934Over the years the first van was replaced by another Ford (TK3338), fitted with a square body painted light blue, with seats for 14 passengers. This gave nearly twenty years service and saw Jimmy Crabb through the Second World War before it had to be replaced. Vehicle were hard to come by in the post war years and it was necessary to take whatever was available.

A Dennis Ace was bought from another old-established operator, House of Hilton. RV6946 had a small protruding snout-like bonnet with small wheels set back, which led to the model being commonly known as “The Flying Pig”. Its body was in poor condition but after some refurbishment it was fit for service.

In the motor age Sydling village was served by two bus services, one run by the Terrell family, the other by the Crabbs. Although in competition, each had their own passenger and did not generally intrude on the other service. Like many villagers Sydling people always used their favoured bus and never ventured on to the rival. On one occasion a young man from away arrived in Dorchester to visit relations in the village. Knowing nothing of the unwritten rules he liked the look of one bus and got on. When he got to his destination he was asked who he had ridden with. On saying, he was told he shouldn’t have, we be ………. (one) and you rode with ………. (the other)

FrontOfBusRV6946On market days the bus started from the Cross Tree, at the bottom of the village, the traditional gathering point. Beforehand Nellie Crabb toured the village taking orders for shopping and errands for those who could not travel. She then acted as conductress on the bus. Loaded with all sorts of livestock, rabbits, poultry, young calves and produce, as well as passengers it went into town twice on Wednesdays, one round trip in the morning, another in the afternoon. On Saturdays it was a similar pattern but an additional journey, catered for those wishing to go the “pictures”.

On market days Mrs Crabb was kept busy in town. First produce and livestock had to be taken to the market and if there were a lot of eggs they had to be taken out of the travelling boxes and placed in the auctioneers own containers. This was time consuming job. When this was complete she went round the shops selecting items for those who had couldn’t get in. Every conceivable item from clothing to foodstuffs, ironmongery to timber was brought back to the village. In the 1920s, when carriers and other traffic thronged the streets of Dorchester, it was decided that something had to be done to ease congestion. A yard in Trinity Street belonging to the Council was made available free of charge to the carriers and most of them, including Crabb’s bus, now used this as a parking ground, although still calling at their traditional inns and at the railway stations to collect items left for delivery.

A bus trip to the seasideIn addition to the regular bus service,outings for villagers, or for the local Sunday Schools and other organisations, were organised to the seaside at Weymouth (usually the first choice), to Bournemouth or to the Military Tattoos held at Tidworth on Salisbury Plain. These rare treats were eagerly anticipated and greatly enjoyed – whatever the weather.

When not needed for passengers, the bus was used on Mr Crabb’s coal round. With seats folded away or removed it was loaded with bags of coal which were carried up cottage paths and tipped into coal houses. Daughter Joyce remembers that Tuesday and Friday nights were bus cleaning nights, when all the family got together to brush the floor and clean the windows, removing all traces of the black dust and ensuring the vehicle was fit to take people.

As mentioned, the other village bus service was run by the Terrell family. Henry Frederick Terrell also farmed some land as well as being involved in transport from as early as 1903. His bought his first bus in 1920, FX5484, a plum coloured 30hp Selden with a body apparently built by Pitfield’s, the Sydling builders, in the City Barn which used to stand on the site of the green. In 1929 this was replaced by a Morris 13-seater (TK2996), painted brown. His son, Frank, took over but sadly he died in 1946 at the early age of 34, but just before his death the business was sold. Crabb’s driver, Albie Lovell, had married a Miss Dubben, whose family had been bakers in Sydling until 1935. They had enough capital to purchase Terrell’s service and so Albie left Crabb’s to become the owner of the other service. (who then drove Crabb’s bus?). Albie was quite a character and always wore gaiters. He is remembered rushing round Dorchester on market days, doing errands and also for the fact that his Commer bus (YD9487), which Mr Terrell had bought from Legg’s of Evershot in 1944, had poor brakes and, as a result, usually ran back into the wall at the parking ground in Trinity Street.

In 1950 Jimmy Crabb died but his wife, Nellie, continued the bus service until 1952. Then the proprietors of both the Sydling firms agreed a sale to Ivor Collins of Pearce & Co. of Cattistock. The new owners merged the two services and extended them to Up Sydling, a hamlet which had never before had a bus service. On Saturdays the Pearce drivers waited at Sydling from half past four, when they arrived with the shopping bus, until 6pm when the picture bus” departed and they usually spent the time having a cup of tea with the Crabb family.

  1. Buses owned by Mr J. Crabb
  2. PR256 Ford van. Bought new 17.3.1923. Withdrawn 1929 Last owned by W. Vandy of Church farm, Batcombe
  3. TK3338 Ford 14-seat bus. Bought from Crabb & Co., Dorchester 23.5.1929 Withdrawn in August 1948.
  4. RV6946 Dennis Ace 20-seater. Ex House of Hilton, 1948. Withdrawn 1952.

To learn more about carriers and buses in Dorset visit www.countrybus.co.uk  & www.countrybus.co.uk/sydling

The Great Fire of Evershot

Evershot. Dreadful fire. Twenty houses destroyed.

From the Western Gazette, Friday 29 September 1865

On Tuesday last, a dreadful fire, which was not extinguished until nearly twenty houses had been destroyed, and more than a hundred people had been rendered homeless, occurred in this little town. Summers Lane is a somewhat narrow thoroughfare leading out of the main street of the village in a southerly direction, towards Cattistock. On Tuesday, at noon, this lane contained several houses, but only one or two detached cottages now remain. It was on the west side of this lane, a few paces from the main street, and at the back of a house occupied by a carpenter named English, that the fire broke out. As far as we could ascertain from personal enquiries on the spot, it was caused by hot ashes placed in a back-house connected with Mr. English’s premises. The flames were discovered about one o’clock, the whole of the house being almost instantly enveloped in them, as if by magic. The neighbouring houses being thatched, and the thatch being as dry as tinder in consequence of the long-continued drought, P.C. Hare, and others who were on the spot immediately, at once saw that the whole of the lower end of the town was in danger and messengers were instantly despatched for the two engines kept at Melbury House. In the meantime, the wind blew the flames and sparks across the narrow thoroughfare, upon the roofs of the barn, slaughterhouse, &c., occupied by Mr. Trenchard, butcher, and these were soon discovered to be on fire. The flames now spread rapidly towards the main street, until the whole of the houses in Summers Lane, with the exception of the one or two detached cottages to which we have before referred, were one mass of fire, and the lane was no longer passable.

Telegraphic messages were now sent to Yeovil for more engines, and to Dorchester for a staff of policemen. The request for the engines reached Mr. Bradley, the Captain of the Yeovil Volunteer Fire Brigade, at a quarter past two, and his engine started in fifteen minutes after its receipt, and reached Evershot in 45 minutes. Before its arrival, however, the wind had changed and driven the flames across the main street, and house after house in this thoroughfare also fell a victim to the flames. At this time, the scene was a grand but dreadful one. Both sides of the street and the lane were masses of fire, both thoroughfares were impassable, the heat was so great that it was impossible to approach any of the burning premises, and it appeared probable that the fire would sweep up both sides of the street, and wipe Evershot out (as a Yankee would say) altogether. It was only by dint of the most strenuous and well-directed exertions of those in charge of one of the Melbury House engines, and of the Yeovil Brigade engine, that this catastrophe was averted, and the fire confined to the lower end of the village.

Two other engines were present a second from Melbury House and the West of England Company’s from Yeovil, but these were less serviceable than the two first named. To attempt to extinguish the fire in the seventeen or eighteen houses in which it was already raging was useless, and the efforts of the firemen were directed to the cutting off of the flames, and thus preventing their further spread up the street. There was an abundant supply of water in a stream, one or two hundred yards distant, or the engines would have been comparatively useless, and the total destruction the of the place inevitable. By keeping the houses next to those which were burning completely saturated with water, the firemen eventually succeeded in checking the progress of the flames, and saving the remainder of the little town.

The following are the names of the persons who were burned out of their houses:

Charles White, labourer; George Brett, tailor; E. Rutley, labourer; T. Frampton, labourer; A. English, carpenter; S. Christopher, butcher; W. Groves, labourer; J. Groves, shepherd; J. Childs, labourer; J. English, labourer; J. Tompkyns [?Tompkins], labourer; J. Groves, gamekeeper; A. Sartin, widow; J. Perrett, cooper; S. Chubb, shopkeeper; J. Edwards, bootmaker; E. Knell, tailor; S. Jessop, labourer. Besides the premises occupied by these persons, one empty house, and the barn, occupied by Mr. Trenchard, butcher, were entirely destroyed.

Those persons who lived in Summers Lane lost nearly the whole of their furniture; but those whose residences were in the main street, having more time to prepare for the reception of the enemy, managed to save the greater part of their property. The whole of the buildings were the property of the Earl of Ilchester, and were uninsured. Mr. Chubb’s stock and furniture were insured to some extent, but his loss will, nevertheless, amount to £100. With these exceptions, none of the property destroyed was, as far as we could ascertain, insured. A body of police soon arrived from Dorchester; and, under Supt. Brown, who happened to be in the village, and Sergeant Vickery, they rendered valuable assistance. We need hardly say that, at such a time as this, everybody turned out, and, without regard to class or station, and with a sublime indifference to dirt and discomfort, did all that could be done to arrest the progress of the flames. Among the most active were Mr. Baskett, solicitor, Mr. Martin, Mr. Baring, the Earl of Ilchester’s steward, the Rev.Greenhill, Mr. Clapcott, and Mr. Forward; and even the Rev. Collins, the clergyman of the parish, and his wife and daughters, were seen handing to each other the buckets of water for the engines. Mr. Clapcott, Mr. Collins, Mr. Martin and others, opened their houses and provided refreshments for all who needed them. One was almost tempted to lose sight for a moment of the crowd that had been rendered homeless, and to feel something like satisfaction that so fine an opportunity had been for once afforded for the working together in one common use, and with one mind and soul, of a whole community. Such a sight is certainly quite as uncommon as the destruction of half a town in a single afternoon.

Although the loss of property was great, no life was lost, nor any personal injury sustained. This being so, the inhabitants have good reason to comfort their souls with that reflection, so full of resignation and true philosophy, “It might have been worse.” We say that no “life” was lost; and when we say this, we are not thinking of human life only. It was reported that some pigs were unintentionally converted into roast pork, but we are happy to say that such was not the case, that the animals in question are still living, and that, whenever they go the way of all swine, they will probably do so in a strictly orthodox manner.

There has not yet been time for any steps to be taken to raise a fund for the relief of the poorer sufferers from this sad affair, but we are greatly mistaken in our estimate of the wealthy inhabitants of Evershot and its neighbourhood if some such steps are not taken shortly. Of the families left houseless, several were allowed to take possession of a large unoccupied house, the property of the Earl of Ilchester, some have gone away to a distance, and the remainder have been taken in temporarily by their neighbours. Our news-agent was burnt out among others, but we cannot refrain from expressing a hope that this circumstance will in no way interfere with the discharge of his duties on Friday. One calamity a week is enough; and it would be sad indeed if, immediately after such a catastrophe as that of Tuesday, the Evershot people should be deprived of their weekly copies of the Western Gazette.

Evershot Extensive Fire

From the Western Flying Post, 3 October 1865

This place was on Tuesday last the scene of one of the most destructive fires it has fallen to our lot to record. Eighteen dwelling-houses, besides a barn and some stalls, were totally destroyed, and but for the exertions of those entrusted with the working of the engines employed in stopping the progress of the flames, there is every reason to believe that property to a much greater amount would have fallen prey to the devouring element. As it is, the loss to the noble owner will, we understand, be considerable, and although many articles were saved, yet the greater proportion of the furniture, &c., belonging to the unfortunate inhabitants was destroyed. A grocer’s stock in trade and some fat pigs are also mentioned as being among the property lost on the occasion. On the breaking out of the fire the engine belonging to the Earl of Ilchester was soon on the spot, and a telegraphic message was sent to Captain Bradley, at Yeovil, requesting the aid of the Brigade. On receipt of the news a muster of the members was soon made, and the brigade drawn by four of Mrs Bulleu’s best horses, with their engine and apparatus, were soon on the scene. On their arrival they at once set to work, and in conjunction with the other engine succeeded in preventing the fire from spreading, and aided by a good supply of water, the fire was pretty well got under by eight o’clock. The engine belonging to the West of England Insurance Company from Yeovil which arrived during the evening, relieved the Brigade, who as soon as they saw no danger of the fire spreading, set off on their return journey, arriving at Yeovil at half-past nine. We are informed that very little of the property was insured. Many conjectures are made as to the origin of the fire, but the cause most generally assigned seems to be that some straw was ignited by wood ashes thrown by one of the tenants on the ground adjoining one of the houses. The thatched roof of one of the dwellings by some means was ignited and the rapid spread of the fire, aided by the wind was the result. This catastrophe has rendered some twenty families houseless.

Evershot The late Fire

From The Dorset County Chronicle, 5 October 1865

We learn that to mitigate the losses of the poor cottagers a subscription has been started, and the youthful Earl of Ilchester, Mrs. Strangways, Mr. Martin and the principal residents are among the subscribers. Eighteen families, living in fourteen houses, have severely felt the ravages of the fire. Their names are as follows: Aubrey English, carpenter (in whose house the fire is supposed to have commenced); Charles White, labourer; George Brett, tailor; Edward Rutley, labourer; Thomas Frampton, labourer; Stephen Christopher, butcher; John Groves, labourer; John Groves, jun., gamekeeper; John English, labourer; James Childs, labourer; John Tompkins (?Tompkyns), labourer; Ann Sartin, widow; John Perrett, cooper; Samuel Chubb, grocer; John Edwards, shoemaker; Esau Knell, tailor; and Samuel Jessop, labourer. In addition to the destruction of the cottages we learn that two stables, two slaughter-houses, a barn, cowshed, and several linhays [a shed or other farm building open in front, usually with a lean-to roof (Shorter OED)] were involved in the conflagration. Mr. Chubb’s stock-in-trade we hear was insured in the West of England Insurance Office; and Mr. Trenchard, butcher, who had property in the outbuildings, was also insured in the same office. The cottagers’ furniture suffered as much from the hasty removal as from the effects of the fire, and we hope the subscription list will be sufficient to recoup them for the loss they have sustained. The total damage is estimated at about £3000.

Evershot The Late Fire.

From the Western Gazette, Friday 6 October 1865

We regret to state that a number of unprincipled people carried off many of the articles rescued from the flames. A correspondent informs us that plunder was the order of the day. Blankets and bedroom carpets which had been saved from the fire disappeared most mysteriously, and the contents of a butt of cider, the property of Mr. S. Christopher, which had been removed to Mr. Knell’s garden for safety, were likewise stolen.We trust that the heartless wretches who took advantage of this great calamity to rob their neighbours may be speedily brought to justice. On Sunday by nine o’clock, the inhabitants of the neighbouring towns and villages began to pour into the place to view the scene of the fire. The street was literally crowded throughout the day, not less than from 600 to 1,000 people being present at one time. In the evening, the church was crowded, many strangers being present in the expectation of hearing the Rev. E. Collins make some reference to the sad event. The rev. gentleman selected his text from the first verse of the 27th chapter of Proverbs:

“For thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” A considerable part of his sermon related to the recent catastrophe, so that those who went to hear his references to the one topic of the week were not disappointed. We are pleased to find that a subscription has been set on foot for the benefit of the poorer sufferers, and that the youthful Earl of Ilchester, Mr. Martin, and other gentlemen in the neighbourhood, have contributed liberally. £70 was raised in two days.

Henry Charles Mullins of Evershot

Harry mullins Photo

Still working at 83, and married 60 years

GWG talks with a rare old worthy of Evershot

Taken from the Dorset Echo Saturday 4th April 1936

Truly, it is no easy matter to get across the chasm of 70 years, yet in this village, nay, on ones very doorstep, stands a historian of repute. He knocks. The door opens.

“Is the schoolmeaster in ?”

“Oh, yes”

Then slowly : “I think he wanted to see I about and thing or two.”

He knew full well I did, but that was his dorset way of drawing to the point.

In he comes, recognises the room. “H’m, now just think, I saw ’em plaster thease room in ’74

“I was born April 26, ’53, my fathers family were bakers, and the parson says there hav been Mullins’ here for generations. Schooling? No, I never went to school; but rattled around with my mother’s people who were masons. At the age if 12 I started work on the Estate as a mortar boy, ands here I do still work. Our first job was on the new offices. We were busy on it when thy rushed down to say the village was all afire.

“We left work, and rushed off up the street to help put it out, but most of old Evershot were burnt down.”

One of the buildings to suffer demolition was the barn, reputed to be the meeting place of Tess and Alec D’Urberville on her return journey through Evershot. (More about the great fire of Evershot)


Harry and Mary Mullins Diamond Wedding PhotoWe were married on April 8 1876 at Yeovil Wesleyan Church, came back to Frome St Quinton. Only last night I said to mother: ‘Do ‘ee mind how we come back in the wold tilted trap?’ She Zed: ‘Shall I ever forget it?’

“Now mind what you be putten down for the missus can read if I can’t! And you’ll look out if it don’t read properly”. I laughed heartily at this treat for Mrs Mullins is, if anything, an even better historian than her happy spouse. We do well to remember that the social life of an early 19th century Dorset village is well known to octogenarians: partly through hearsay from their parents; partly through slowness of change in country life.

Bread and Taters

“How did you get on for food,” said I.

“Food-oh, none too much. Mostly ‘t were bread and taters, ‘n taters ‘n bread. Why 12 zacks were usual crop to carry drew a family till taters a-comed again. Then there was a pig, killed ‘n zalted in. You midden ‘blieve it, but a workman today is a gentleman compared wi’ they days. Now do ‘ee stop a scraten down so much wi’ the pen. Bread was 9d a loaf.

“Clothes. Mostly cord and fustian and readymade boots were just comen in, here and here.”

Club Walken

Quoth Harry :- “Evershot fete were the first Tuesday in June.” Now I knew what these club walkens were like by experience, so asked my old friend if he still possessed a a club members’ pole. “No- they’ve been agone for 50 year.”

Wrong for once, was Harry. Going to my study, I fetched from thence an Evershot “painted pole” given to me by dear old George Pullman. Harry became strangely agitated; recollections brought flashes of light to his eyes. “What! Never. You ain’t a-got ‘oon o’m hev ee ? He must hev a number or a name zumwhere.”

Now it must be owned that stick had not been closely inspected. We two examined its length and there sure enough were two letters in red. “J.H” “Yes ‘t is then, that’s Joe Hill’s.” A gentleman come to I some months ago asking about our wold club and zed he’d gie a pound vor a pole. ‘Ood he part wi’n vor a pound?”

“Not for five,” was my sharp rejoinder. What take money for dear old George Pullman’s Keepsake! the proposition was unthinkable.

Ha’penny Dips

“How did you get on for light? Of course we’ve electric street lamps off the grid now.” This proved another good lead.

“Ha’penny dips – But you cudden buy many o’ they. Ah, we went to bed when t’was dark, and got up when ’twas light.”

Parish Council

Following the passing of the parish councils act by which every village could have a little parliament of its own, Evershot was not slow in coming forward to partake of advantages. An election for councilors was held at Stocklands’s School; Mr Harry Mullins was a candidate and the working men saw to it that he went on “ah hands up.” The parish council duly met for the first time on December 4th, 1894; Councilor Mulllins has retained it through 41 years; and still is a valuable member.

Is it a right of way?
A now disused footpath?
A chalk pit or Two?
Where the lime kilns used two be?
Where the drains were laid? Where each of the four inns used to stand; or where the chandler’s, the threshing barn, where such and such roystering took place := Why ask Harry Mullins, of course; and who dares to contradict?

He can neither read nor write; but bless you he merely turns back the page of his memory and there in chapter, page, number, verse so and so; and off he reels the facts with accuracy begotten of an unfuddled brain.

In lighter vein

“Evershot had a fair, ye know. Twelfth o’ May. Then there was market every Thursday, Barrels, n’ barrels o’ butter. ‘T were wonderful where all come from. Two families, the Chub’ses were coopers; always busy making small barrels, firkins; from ash grown round here. The firkins o’ butter were loaded when sold, on to a dree horse dray, and hauled to Dorchester.” (or did he say “Doddester”?)

Of the grey haired, bearded patriarchs of the soil, and there are many, who closeted with me, have revealed their life’s story; scarcely one but must needs plentifully besprinkle his tales with “cass’ns”; “waddeb’s”; “coosn’s”; “oosn’s”; and such dialectical brevities. But Evershot’s historian used a vocabulary of a polished, New Stone Age type; thereby. one must assume, reflecting the language of a superior sort. Most of his discourse was conveyed in an easy style; it was only when he was really moved at some long past event that his language become definitely dialectical.

The evening was far spent. He rose to take his departure; passed a staircase; paused; halted; looked at it.

“D’ye know, when we were putting that up, I missed the step at the top of a ladder, and come right down. Funny tho’. It didn’t hurt till I got to the bottom!”

So much for Mr Mullins, mortar boy at the age of 12, mortaring still at the age of 83 years, hale and hearty today.

Mrs Mullins keeps active; does all her own housework, reads the papers with the greatest of ease; and is as homely a picture of a dorset great grandmother as you wish to see, as she sits by the open fire of a winter evening, busy plying her needle.

They have 6 children living, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

When Harry died on July 15th 1940 at the age of 87, he and Mary had been married for over 64 years, Mary lived on for less than a year and died in the second qtr of 1941, at the age of 91.