Maps: their untold stories

Drawn from seven centuries of maps of places around the globe held in The National Archives, Maps: their untold stories offers a fascinating and unusual journey through the world of maps.

Hear from the authors as they explain who made these maps, why they were made and what they tell us about the politics of the time. Mapmakers range from a native American and a Maori priest to Captain Cook and George Washington. Subject matter includes London before the Great Fire, a map of Czechoslovakia that Hitler gave to Neville Chamberlain, beautifully hand-drawn estate maps, battle plans from the First World War and earlier conflicts, and perhaps the earliest depiction of Santa Claus on a map. After the talk the authors will be signing copies of their book at our onsite bookshop.

Rose Mitchell and Andrew Janes are specialist map archivists at The National Archives and have many years of experience in advising the public on maps and related records. They have written and spoken about a broad range of map-related topics based on the rich holdings at The National Archives, from the use of maps in sixteenth century law courts to the Second World bomb census survey.

from The National Archives Podcast Series

Further memories of legendary hall

WE’VE always got more time and space for memories of the Sidney Hall in Weymouth.

from Dorset Echo | Looking Back

Take a glimpse into the past at history group’s event

‘WINFRITH: Glimpses of the Past’, is the subject of the next meeting of the Friends of Crossways Library’s local history group tonight at 7.30pm.

from Dorset Echo | Looking Back

Tribute to long serving teacher at Holy Trinity School

IN LIGHT of the recent articles we’ve published on the temporary use of the Sidney Hall as a school after Holy Trinity School in Weymouth was damaged by a landmine, today we’re paying tribute to one of the school’s longest serving teachers.

from Dorset Echo | Looking Back

Hot air balloons and carrier pigeons: how a unique correspondance took place through siege of Paris 1870-71

A UNIQUE correspondence carried out with the aid of hot air balloons and carrier pigeons tells the story of an Englishman’s life in besieged Paris.

from Bournemouth Echo | Echoes

Help identify former American soliders

WAR veteran John Bowditch has shared these photos with Looking Back of a trip to France earlier this year.

from Dorset Echo | Looking Back

Even more Sidney Hall school day memories

LITTLE did we know the reaction we would get when we started asking for your memories of the Sidney Hall in Weymouth.

from Dorset Echo | Looking Back

A Day Out at Blandford

It’s been called England’s finest Georgian rural market town. The streets around the Market Square are very much as they were rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1731 that started in a tallow chandler’s. I quaffed a cider on the site: it’s now the King’s Arms, just off Salisbury Road, 100 yards from the square. Only 150 yards further on, the Ryves Almshouses escaped the fire because the roof was tile instead of thatch. The building was just less than 50 years old at the time of the conflagration: rebuilding of the town took around 40 years.

In Salisbury Road over a cycle shop is an inscription in memory of Alfred Stevens who created the impressive memorial to the Duke of Wellington in St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Visit Archived Articles Section and click on ‘Alfred Stevens – Painter and Sculptor.’ Pub. July 2003. Ed.) Nearby, at the entrance to the United Reformed Church, men were converting into flats a butcher’s and a printer’s, evidence of the fast increasing population. People must like Blandford.

After a generous pot of tea in the friendly Half Crown Café, I crossed the Market place to talk to Police Constable Liz Spicer, who patrols the town with a purposeful stride. “I like getting out and talking to people” she told me. But in this Georgian show place, down the road from Bryanstone School with its grand entrance arch and drive, on this day she was talking to magazine sellers, beggars and drifters, of whom I saw less than half a dozen all day.

Well, every town has had beggars and rough sleepers over the centuries. At the end of the afternoon I nearly became one myself, when my Editor was late turning up! In this connection, one of the inscriptions chiselled in professional manner into the kerbs and pavements says: “We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Well, that’s nice to know. The Rogers family are thought to have contributed to the earlier 15th century church. They owned much of Blandford and were Stewards there for hundreds of years.

Another inscription relating to the Bastard family name and a “careless tallow chandler” I would rather not repeat. It was the founders of the famous Blandford School of Architects, John and William Bastard, who rebuilt the church and Town Hall after the fire, which incidentally followed another in 1713. Only primitive ‘fire engines’ were available.

What dominates the town centre as it is on an island of high ground is this parish church of Saints Peter and Paul. Much of its contents survived from earlier times. And in the museum opposite are archaeological finds from a garden dig, which pre-date the church: they go back to the 17th century. Here is a scrap of paper with the draft wording in John Bastard’s own hand for his fire memorial of 1760, the arched construction in one corner of the churchyard. The Bastard family home is said to be nearby.

The museum has pictures of the railway station demolished in the late 1960’s and of “Blandford Forum”, the apple-green express passenger locomotive of the “West Country” class. Happy days! Unusually, there are also stone cuttings from buildings and pavements in the town and a large case entitled “Victorian Blandford.” In charge of the museum when I had a look around was a conversational Jewish lady who told me, on inquiry, that she escaped to Britain as a girl in 1938 from Vienna.

In the Close beyond and uphill from the church is one of the few buildings which survived the fire – the Old House – and the handsome Post Office and helpful library. Around the corner in Dorset Street I took a photograph of the one-time home of an honorary freeman of the borough. He was Jack Counter, who won the Victoria Cross in France in the First World War. If the Bastards were two of Blandford’s 18th century heroes, Jack Counter was one to bring honour to the town in the twentieth. His home is now Dorset House.

The Great Fire caused the deaths of 13 people and 480 families were made homeless. That is a measure of the disaster, which came upon a town, which by the previous century had become an important stage on the Exeter to London coach route. Someone has said: “The location of the town…has made it a natural centre since mediaeval times.”

Approaching it you look down on it lying in a broad valley between the grand rolling chalk downs, which have proved excellent for military exercises, and is why the headquarters of the Royal Corps of Signals is found here and has an excellent museum of its own, tracing the history of military communications.

Once there were cottage industries, making bone lace, buttons and gloves. Today sees expanding light industries, but the town actually depends on its shops and businesses.

Despite the existence of an eastern bypass, opened nearly 20 years ago, there is a constant stream of traffic through the town all day at around 10 m.p.h. which makes crossing the road hard for pedestrians, and this is where the crossings come into their own. A local motorist told me that it’s simply quicker to drive through the town, which stands the reasoning for bypasses on its head.

I asked which way to the river, was directed down a side road and was soon there. What a wonderful sward of grass, with a millstream running through it. And there was the Stour, much covered with green duckweed. Downstream the meadows were once the park of Lord Portman’s Bryanstone House, now a public school, as we have seen. No development is allowed here.

I approached the handsome suspension bridge leading to Blandford St. Mary village and its brewery, which rises up, as all breweries seem to, like some bizarre continental castle with distinctive chimney and smell of malt and hops. About 100 tonnes of barley are trucked in every week, and hops come from Kent or Worcestershire, and even Bavaria. Some 450 people work here, and at full pressure 57,000 cans or 18,000 bottles can be filled every hour. When you think that beer sales are falling as drinkers get older, this factory needs to make the most of its quality products. In fact, soft drinks are also produced, and actually account for 55 per cent of total volume.

Before leaving Blandford, the visitor should not miss the Crown Hotel and the Greyhouse and Red Lion buildings. The Great Dorset Steam fair, held near the town for the greater part of a week in the late summer or early autumn, brings crowds to visit the greatest show of its kind not only in the land but in the world, with around 100 fair organs and probably the greatest working display of steam traction and stationary engines anywhere.

In an entirely different sphere is the restored St. Leonard Chapel, a leper hospice in the 13th century as originally built, and which has apparently not been used as a chapel since 1760.

It was in the later mediaeval period that Blandford Forum, as it is generally known, developed as one of the major market towns in eastern Dorset. All through history it has been an important crossing-point of the Stour, at first by ford. Here the main roads from Poole to Shaftesbury and Salisbury to Dorchester meet. In 40 year the population has grown from 3,000 to around 9,000 – a staggering rise. People obviously like the place.

At the end of the day, from its restaurants, bistros, pubs and cafes, I chose a takeaway opposite the parish church and went home with a huge burger, salad and French fries. A cool late September breeze was blowing as we climbed the downs and distanced ourselves from Blandford and in an hour it was quite dark over the Dorset hills.


This article was first published on our earlier site in November 2003

from Dorset Ancestors

William Barnes

Outside St. Peter’s Church in Dorchester there stands a statue to a bearded, venerable looking old man in a frock coat. The monument is to keep alive in the minds of Dorset men and women the memory of a phenomenal fellow Dorset man born over 200 years ago. He was William Barnes, a figure who’s achievements would be remarkable by today’s standards, but are made even more so by the fact that he was a farmers boy who came from a humble and wholly rural background. And he became a most learned individual in an age when a large proportion of the population was illiterate.

Barnes was born in a cottage in Bagber, a community in the Blackmoor Vale country near Lydlinch in 1801. After an elementary schooling that ended when he was 13, Barnes acquired a position as a solicitor’s clerk. Scholarly by nature, he read widely during these years, gaining some informal tuition from friendly clergymen with the aim of training to become a teacher. This career he embarked upon in 1823 when he went to teach at a small school near the church at Mere in Wiltshire.

In 1831, after becoming Head of the Mere Chantry School, he wrote a series of articles for a publication called Hones Yearbook, that included one about a certain custom called Lent-Crocking. This originated as a Roman Catholic tradition where people would go around in an evening throwing crockery sherds at front doors.

Following his marriage to a woman called Julie Miles and the births of some of his six children William moved his family back to Dorset and settled in Dorchester to run a school in the town. During these years his devoted wife slipped easily into the role of acting as his business manager so that Barnes could study for a ten-year Bachelor of Divinity degree. In 1848 he was ordained minister of the Church of England, going on to become a mature graduate of St. John’s college, Cambridge in 1850.

During the years Barnes’ Dorchester school was open it became noted for the unusually high number of pupils for its size who became great men of renown. Not least among these was the famous surgeon and writer Sir Frederick Treves, who fondly recalled the austere figure in black sitting like some grim inquisitor in the high chair, who gave him as his first lesson in dictation the sentence “logic is the right use of exact reasoning.”

Sadly, Julia died from breast cancer in 1852, after which time the school declined, eventually closing in 1862 when Barnes was appointed Rector of Winterbourne Came (or simply Came) that year. He would remain in this ecumenical position until his death 24 years later.

Like Thomas Hardy, William Barnes was bodily feeble and sickly as a child. But as so often is found in those of a feeble constitution, they possess an intellectual prowess, that more than makes up for physical inadequacy. Barnes was a polymath in the most extreme sense of the word. He mastered 65 languages including Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Welsh, and oriental languages. He wrote ‘A Philological Grammar,’ which compared over 60 languages, and early on became a poet, publishing three anthologies of verse in the Dorset dialect between 1844 and 1866. In these works Barnes always felt closer to the purer Anglo-Saxon English than to its later forms. Indeed, he spent most of his life campaigning against classical and foreign influences he felt were contaminating the language.

But the Rector of Came was just as interested in Modern English, and his verses in this form are often rich in nostalgic rural idyll. Examples of these are ‘Mothers Dreams; the Storm Wind; Musings; Evening and Maidens, and The Wife A-lost.’

Barnes was also a prolific feature article journalist, musician, artist, and lecturer. For instance, he wrote articles for many years for ‘The Gentlemen’s Magazine’ about Dorset history, customs, and the origins of the English language. He wrote pamphlets and articles on the social conditions of the poor, and a philosophy of education was also published. Barnes wrote industrially on technical, scientific and artistic subjects. He toured Wessex, taking pleasure in delivering talks and readings on all manner of subjects well into his 80’s.

The coming of the railways found in Barnes another new interest. The laying of track naturally created cuttings where bedrock was often exposed in the sides. These deep cuttings fired his imagination and fostered a new interest in geology. But like many other natives of a county particularly rich in the vestiges of prehistoric habitation, the Rector was also knowledgeable about archaeology. Doubtless the enormous scope of his interests largely accounted for his popularity.

For the long 34 years of his widower-hood William was a fascinating and stimulating father to his children, who were a great credit to him. During these years the pace of life slowed at the Rectory, where the children of the writer Llewellyn Powys often went for tea. In his youth Thomas Hardy too, was a constant friend and visitor. It was Powys however, who was just one of the people to sum up Barnes’ genius when he wrote: “no-one, not even Hardy, can conjure up more surely the picture of a sweltering hayfield at the time of the Feast of St. Barnabas.”

Barnes once told Edmund Gosse that no critic would have daunted him. He regarded writing as a “refreshment of mind as is music to a man who may play an instrument alone” (Barnes learned to play four instruments.) But George Saintbury, a Hampshire acquaintance, was too wary of offending Barnes’ many admirers to be overly critical of the Rector’s poetry; he simply described it as “domestic, gentle and pastoral.” E.M. Forster said of William Barnes that “to read him is to enter a friendly cottage where a family party was in full swing.” To the Dorset publisher Newman Flower he was a quaint clerk in holy orders, going around Dorchester in black stockings, Quaker garb and a broad-brimmed hat.

What these writers saw in Barnes was a bard of exceptional standing who contrived successfully to portray the joy of simple country life. Yet Barnes’ life was a struggle in some ways. Early in his teaching career he experienced major disappointment when being passed over for the position of Headmaster at Dorchester Grammar School. He was not the kind of un-ambitious character of “woodlands flow’ry gleaded” suggested in one of his hundreds of verses. Rather, he was an over-earnest man following serious past-times and improving with every shining hour. In no small measure it was these traits which bought him his fame as England’s greatest dialect poet and his phenomenal linguistic skill.

His legacy is a portrait of the agrarian life and dialect of Dorset, an idiom of speech, which almost died out by his day. The directness and simplicity of his writing hide a learnedness and an ear for the music of dialect speech, which has never been surpassed. The Gloucestershire composer Ralph Vaughan Williams set his poem ‘Linden Lea’ to music.

One achievement of his last years was to become a founder of the Dorset Field Club. This became the steering body for the future establishment of the Dorset County Museum. It is appropriate therefore that Barnes should now stand in effigy outside St. Peter’s at Dorchester, and barely 50 yards from the institution he was partly responsible for bringing to birth. He also served as joint secretary of the Museum for some years.

In 1886 a visitor to Barnes at the Rectory found him on his deathbed. Clad in a red robe like a Cardinal, he died no less picturesquely than he had lived, a spectacle, which made his visitor liking him to a dying pope. He lies beneath a memorial cross in the churchyard of St. Peter’s at Winterbourne Came. A second edition of his ‘Glossary of the Dorset Dialect’ was re-printed that year which included the word ‘tutty’ to mean a posy.

It was October when he died, but devout schoolchildren could still find enough flowers to throw into his open grave.



from Dorset Ancestors

Things that happen when you’ve grown up in the countryside

Originally posted on haveyouheardthelatest:

1. Whichever small, unassuming,  unknown town you’re from you refer to it as the Shire on social media. “Back to the Shire this weekend”. “Who’s around in the Shire tonight”. Like Bilbo and Frodo before, you’re aware that there are bigger, scarier places out there than your little hometown.

2. And as NO-ONE (unless they’re actually from your town and the eight surrounding villages) has heard of where you live you have to pick the nearest big city when explaining where you’re from. Even if you’ve never been there and it’s over 45mins away and not actually in the same county. When they still don’t know you just sigh and tell them to google map it.

3. And then people always respond by naming a place that sounds similar but is completely different. FYI Devon and Dorset are DIFFERENT COUNTIES. Good for you that your Gran lives in Torquay that has zero relevance to me being from Dorset…

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