All posts by woods4thetrees

I research and create bespoke house and family histories; presented as lavishly illustrated, usually leather-bound, "heirloom" documents.

Victorian Extravaganzas at The Shelley Theatre, Boscombe

“Scenery, Machinery & Decorations”

Shelley Theatre Rear view Theatre website Aug 2012
Shelley Theatre 2012 –

On 27th December 1851, a report in the Illustrated London News, headed “Private Theatricals”, stated that “on the 18th inst.” Sir Percy and Lady Shelley had “…opened their pretty little private theatre, at Boscombe…” to the surrounding nobility and gentry. The evening’s entertainment, at what is now called The Shelley Theatre , included The Gentleman over the Way, “a translation from the French, by Percy Shelley” and an “extravaganza” called Candaules, King of the Sardes,  co-written by Sir Percy and Hon. Grantley Berkeley. All of the “scenery, machinery and decorations” had been “painted and arranged” by Sir Percy.

“Beautifully Lighted with Gas”

Sir Percy Shelley
Sir Percy Shelley

The London Evening Standard reported on 5th February 1856 that, during the previous week, the vicinity of Christchurch had been “enlivened by a series of theatrical performances”, both at the home of Colonel and Mrs Waugh on “Branksea Island” and also at “Boscombe House“, the mansion of Sir Percy and Lady Shelley. One of the plays performed at Boscombe, The Wreck Ashore, was said to be a “serious business for any private company to attempt”. The latest extravaganza by Sir Percy, entitled A Comedy of Terrors, was “much in the usual fashion – all scenery, traps, changes and dress, not much to act, but a good deal to look at…” The theatre itself was described as “the most complete thing of the sort attached to any of the residences of the nobility and gentry in the kingdom”. It had a green room and dressing room and was “beautifully lighted with gas”. After each evenings’ entertainment, members of the audience were treated to a “splendid supper” at the mansion.

Amateur & Charitable Performances

1885 Illus Sporting & Dram News 7 February Cast List
Cast List for “Time Will Tell” by Mr Herbert Gardner – Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 7th February 1885

In the spring of 1867, “amateur theatricals” were being performed on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings “with much success”. It was noted that Sir Percy had composed most of the music for the productions. Many of the performances were given in aid of charity: in January and February 1872, money was raised for the building fund of the National Sanitorium, Bournemouth.

Sir Percy started building another theatre in 1879, close to his town house in Chelsea and opposite the studio of the artist, James Whistler. According to the Durham County Advertiser, the stage at Chelsea was going to be “fitted up with all those improved mechanical appliances so conspicuous at Boscombe”. Also, as at Boscombe, the Chelsea theatre was intended to be devoted chiefly to amateur and charitable performances.

Plays by Mr Herbert Gardner

1881 Our Bitterest Foe Programme 4 April Shoreditch
Extract from Shoreditch Theatre Programme for “Our Bitterest Foe”

At the end of January 1885, Sir Percy Shelley once again re-opened his private theatre, for a season of four nights. And again, much was made of the “scenery, machinery and mechanical effects”. The play itself, Mr Herbert Gardner‘s “excellent comedy”, Time Will Tell was given an enthusiastic write-up in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. The stage management and “the finish of the performance” were highly praised. The troupe were favourably compared with the renowned amateur dramatic group: The Old Stagers and The Windsor Strollers. Mention was also made of Gardner’s earlier, much celebrated play, Our Bitterest Foe, which had been premiered previously at Boscombe and had gone on to enjoy “three distinct runs” on the London stage.

“No More Enthusiastic Supporter of the stage…”

In an obituary to Sir Percy Shelley, after his death on November 5th 1889, the Yorkshire Post said that “in the whole ranks of the leisured classes there was no more enthusiastic supporter of the stage than he”.

Go along to The Shelley Theatre to see what’s happening right now at this wonderful historic theatre.

Contact Steph Woods to commission a History of your Home or Building: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated and leather-bound. Read Steph’s other blog posts at Woods for the Trees Blog


The Chine Hotel, Boscombe – Sun, Sea & the Stage in the late 1930s

Stars of Boscombe Pier & Hippodrome

During the late 1930s, The Chine Hotel was marketed very positively by the “Resident Proprietor”, Mr James Millar, especially in theatrical newspapers, such as The Sphere, The Era and The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. The hotel was much favoured by actors and theatre companies, who dined and stayed at the hotel when they were performing at Boscombe Pier or The Boscombe Hippodrome (now the O2 Academy).

A Culinary Virtuoso

The Sphere 21st March 1936

Many of the ads themselves were theatrical. In 1936, The Sphere carried an advertisement headed “Good Living”, which painted a very romantic and appealing pen picture of the hotel’s ambience: “A glass of sherry and a cigarette before dinner…good company and conversation…colourful, comfortable surroundings and then dinner prepared by a culinary virtuoso. Such is a sample of life at the Chine Hotel.”

One of the Sunniest Hotels...

The Sphere 26th June 1937

The hotel advertised in two very different publications in the summer of 1937: The Sphere (on 26th June) and The Yorkshire Post (on 2nd July). The words are the same. Both describe The Chine Hotel as “one of the sunniest hotels on the South Coast…” but the layout changes the message. The long, lazy style and wavy lines in The Sphere give a much more “laid-back” feel that was presumably more appealing to the less traditional, more artistic set!

A Hotel for Every Season

The Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer 15th October 1937

The Chine Hotel was promoted as the ideal place to stay in every season, especially to people who lived in the colder climes of Scotland and the North East of England: “The Chine maintains at all times of the year a reputation for good food…”. On 3rd September 1937, The Scotsman encouraged readers to take an “Autumn Holiday” at The Chine Hotel with its “four acres of terraced gardens which lead direct to the water’s edge and the Undercliff Drive“. The “Winter?” advertisement in The Yorkshire Post of 15th October  1937 used single-word sentences to confidently extol the luxuries and pleasures to be found at The Chine Hotel and to sell it as the perfect antidote to winter.

Bournemouth’s 1,001 Entertainments

The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 2nd December 1938

The more dignified ad and article in The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News of 2nd December 1938 seem to echo the less carefree national mood at a time when increasingly sinister events were taking place on the continent. The hotel is described by Mr Ashley Courtenay as “A Home from Home…” and the emphasis is on the consistency and quality of its food and wine, the long service of the staff, the splendid situation and its accessibility. The ad highlights “Bournemouth’s 1,001 entertainments”.

The Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News 2nd December 1938

A more upbeat style is back in February and March of 1939, when a repeated advertisement in The Scotsman is eager to persuade those north of the border that “It will be nice to get into a warm and sunny climate again”.

Visit The Chine Hotel to experience a gorgeous piece of Boscombe’s history first-hand.

Contact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Hotel: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated and leather-bound. Read Steph’s other blog posts at Woods for the Trees Blog



Fred Tozer – A Determined Boscombe Schoolboy

The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)
The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)

Frederick William Tozer was born on 28th June 1885 in Liskeard, Cornwall, the third son of George Tozer, Superintendent of a Life Insurance Agent and his wife Ellen, who were originally from Plympton in Devon. George’s occupation was Superintendent of a Life Insurance Agent. Shortly after Fred was born, his family moved to Bournemouth and, on 5th April 1891 when the census was taken, they were living at No.1 Eaton Villas in Christchurch Road. Fred, then aged 5, was recorded in the census as a Scholar, as were his two elder brothers Ernest, aged 9, and Walter, aged 7, and his younger brother, Claude, aged 4. However, he was probably not attending the Boscombe British School at this time.

Boscombe British Schools Log Book Entries for June 1893 (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)
Boscombe British Schools Log Book Entries for June 1893 (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)

On 15th June 1893, when Fred was 7 years old, the Log Book of Boscombe British Schools recorded that “a little boy named Fred Tozer had been brought to school some time ago by his brother”. The Headmaster, William Jones, initially put Fred into Standard II and asked the class teacher, Miss Tickner, to report back after a few days on what he could do. After being assessed by both Miss Tickner and Mr Jones, Fred was found to be “backward in Reading and Spelling” and he was told he would have to go down to Standard I.

Some of the boys at Boscombe British Schools in the 1890s (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)
Some of the boys at Boscombe British Schools in the 1890s (By kind permission of Dorset History Centre)

Young Fred became very upset; he cried and “declined to go”. Mr Jones asked his brother to leave him at the Infants’ School; however, Fred was determined and continued to turn up at his usual desk in Miss Tickner’s class. Mr Jones told him once again to go down to the lower class, but Fred cried so much and promised to be such a good boy that Mr Jones told the teacher to “enter his name on the Register and let him remain”.

The Sailor's Rest, Fowey, Cornwall
The Sailor’s Rest, Fowey, Cornwall

In 1901, Fred and his elder brothers were still living with their parents at 1 Eaton Villas. Ernest, aged 19,  was working as a “Chemist’s Shopman”and Walter, aged 17, was a “Chemist’s Apprentice” but no occupation was entered for Fred himself, now aged 15. However, by 2nd April 1911, Fred had become a “Mariner/Mercantile”. In the census of that date, he was a boarder at the Sailor’s Rest in Fowey, Cornwall; he was aged 25 and single.

Fast forward to September 1939 and we find Fred, aged 54 and still a “Merchant Seaman”, living with his wife, Ethel, at 29 London Fields West Side in Hackney. However, after all his seafaring, it turns out that in his later years, Fred returned to Bournemouth, where he died, aged 83 at the end of 1968.

Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)
Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

Read more about The Old School House here and read other blog posts hereContact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Family: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated then leather-bound. Also, do check out Co-Working at The Old School House; also the Bournemouth 2026 Trust and the present-day charitable work of the BFSS.

The Kings Arms, Christchurch between 1914 and 1939

Fishing, Theatricals & Fascinating Guests!

The King’s Arms, Christchurch At Night

The Kings Arms Hotel in Castle Street, Christchurch, is a Grade II Listed building. The oldest part was built in the 18th century on the site of an 17th century inn. The larger part of the hotel was built in 1800 and opened by Mr & Mrs Thomas Humby in 1803. It is fabulously situated opposite the Norman “Constable’s House” and The Kings Arms Bowling Green and close to both Christchurch Quay and the town centre. In this blog, I have focused on the years 1914 to 1939. During this period, the hotel was noted for its excellent fishing and favoured by the theatrical profession; it was also the preferred local venue for auction sales, annual society dinners and wedding receptions. And in September 1939, it had some rather intriguing guests!

Excellent Fishing

Advertisement in The Era 7th January 1920

On New Year’s Day of 1914, the Leeds Mercury reported “the capture of a gigantic chub of 8 lb 4 oz” just before Christmas of 1913. The “huge fish” was caught by Mr G. F. Smith, of Putney in part of the Avon River, described as “the water attached to The King’s Arms Hotel. Six years later, in January 1920, The King’s Arms was being advertised in The Era and The Stage as “An Ideal retreat for members of [the] Theatrical Profession desiring rest and comfort, combined with good fare”. Once again, the hotel was recommended for “excellent fishing”.

Auction Sales

Right from the early 19th century, The King’s Arms Hotel was the place to hold local auction sales of land and property as well as of household, commercial and agricultural goods. In 1923, the Hampshire Advertiser carried an advertisement for one of its regular auction sales, which was to be held on 27th June by order of the Executors of Peter Derham Esq. The property for sale was a marine residence known as “The Bungalow” at Mudeford, set in two and a half acres of “Attractive Grounds…With tennis lawn, flower and kitchen gardens and paddock.” The auctioneers were Messrs. Hewitt and Co. of Lymington and Mr Grahame Spencer of Ringwood.

Hotel Bedroom at The King’s Arms

“Borrowed” a Humber Bicycle

In December 1930, William F. J. Coffey of Belle Vue, Old Milton Road, New Milton, an ex-naval man with “a very good discharge character” appeared in court on two counts of theft, the first being a jewellery robbery in Dorchester, the second being the theft of a bicycle from Harold Smith, who had left it in the yard of the Duke of Wellington Inn at Christchurch. Coffey told P. C. Perkins at New Milton that he had “borrowed a Humber bicycle” from the yard man at The King’s Arms. Coffey changed his story in court, saying that there was bicycle belonging to him at the hotel. He and his accomplice in the first theft, were sent to gaol by the Dorchester bench.

Chef Desired Change

On 6th June 1934, an advertisement was placed in the Gloucestershire Echo by the Chef at The King’s Arms; it said that he had thirty-two years experience and was “a first class man” with “highest references, successful record”. He was seeking a new position because he “desire[d] change”.

The King’s Arms Hotel, Christchurch in the 1939 Register

1939 Snapshot – Management and Staff

A National Register of the population was taken on 29th September 1939 and this records that the Hotel Manager at that date was Sidney Barber, aged 38, who lived at the hotel with his wife, Winifred. There are “open” listings for eight members of staff who were resident at the hotel on that date: head waiter, Stuart Osbourne-Easson; waiter, Alain Ferruci; second chef, Alan Whittle; porter and yard man, Arthur Alfred King; kitchen porter, Edgar Mason; “Pantry Man”, Charles E. McDonald; “Hotel Dispenser”, Kathleen O’Brien; and chambermaid, Ethel Gateley.

1939 Snapshot – Hotel Guests: Military Men

Among the hotel guests on the Register were two electrical draughtsmen, four young physicists and an Army officer, who may all have been working nearby on the same experimental military project at the start of World War II. The two electrical draughtsmen were Herbert Fawcett and Dennis Mettrick. The physicists were: Geoffrey E. F. Fertel, Robert Latham, Albert Ernest Kempton and William S. Elliott. Both Albert Kempton and Robert Latham (possibly also Fertel and Elliott) had been students of Ernest Rutherford and, in around 1937, they had worked with him at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University on the construction of a new type of particle accelerator called a cyclotron.

The Army officer staying at the hotel was Captain (later Brigadier) Alexander Meister Anstruther, who was to become, in 1940, part of “Churchill’s Secret Army”, the Special Operations Executive. He also became a Companion of the Order of the Bath in the Coronation Honours of 1952.

Advertisement in The Sphere, 26th June 1937

There were various experimental research stations in the vicinity of Christchurch during the Second World War, notably the Military Experimental Engineering Establishment (MEXE), which developed and erected the first prototype Bailey bridge. However, the gentlemen staying at The King’s Arms Hotel were probably attached to the Air Defence Experimental Establishment (ADEE), which had been hastily relocated to Christchurch from Biggin Hill just after war was declared in August 1939. The ADEE, later renamed the Air Defence Research and Development Establishment (ADRDE), was concerned with research into gun sound ranging and acoustics and, since 1936, it had also been carrying out radar research. ADEE developed a radio location system, initially for coastal artillery and  later for detection of low-flying aircraft.

The King’s Arms Hotel, circa 1955

1939 Snapshot – Hotel Guests: Yorkshire Bakers

There were two guests at The King’s Arms Hotel, who were well known for a very different reason. They were 62-year-old Mrs Jessie Hagenbach, “Retired Company Director”, and her son Charles Edward Hagenbach, who was a “Doctor and Medical Practitioner”. Jessie was the widow of Swiss-born “Confectioner and Caterer”, Charles August Hagenbach. The Wakefield-based bakers, Charles Hagenbach and Sons, was one of Yorkshire’s biggest bakery businesses with nearly forty shops and restaurants in the county. Charles Edward’s younger brother, Arnold (who died aged 100 in 2005!), took over the business from his father in 1929 and he continued in that role until he sold the business to Allied Bakeries in 1957.

Visit The King’s Arms Hotel to experience a charming piece of Christchurch’s history first-hand.

Contact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Hotel: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated and leather-bound. Read Steph’s other blog posts at Woods for the Trees Blog

The Royal Exeter Hotel, Bournemouth – 1930 to 1943

The period between 1930 and 1943 was an eventful one for The Royal Exeter Hotel. “Highlights” included a meeting of the International Football Association and a daring robbery! And the National Register of 1939 gives a fascinating snapshot of the hotel residents just after the outbreak of war. 

International Football Association

The Royal Exeter Hotel, Bournemouth

On the weekend of 14th/15th June 1930, the Board of the International Football Association held its annual meeting at The Royal Exeter Hotel, with participants coming from Great Britain and Ireland; also France and Germany. The Saturday meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, was held in private and presided over by Mr W. Pickford of Bournemouth, senior vice-president of the English F. A. Afterwards, the Football Association entertained delegates to lunch at the hotel and later, they were the guests of Mr and Mrs Pickford for tea at Mount Pleasant, Pokesdown.

The programme for the Sunday was a motor drive through Dorset to Weymouth for lunch and to Shaftesbury for tea. Much of the business was conducted informally, with one of the topics under discussion being the contentious matter of part-time payments to players; another presumably being the upcoming England-Wales match (5-0 to England) that would be hosted, in February 1931, by Bournemouth & Boscombe Football Club at its Dean Court ground.

“The Masquerading Robber”

Western Gazette, 8th January 1932

The Royal Exeter Hotel was in the news again on 8th January 1932, when The Western Gazette carried a story entitled, “The Masquerading Robber” about “four daring robberies” of over £400 worth of jewellery and money from hotels. The robberies were carried out by two men: Harry Creighton-Bird and James Maloney. Harry Bird, the shorter of the two, was masquerading in women’s clothes when he was arrested at The Royal Exeter Hotel on Boxing Day of 1931. He was also charged with attempting to shoot P.C. Lyne with an automatic pistol whilst being questioned at the police station.

In the weeks prior to the incident at The Royal Exeter Hotel, the pair had already carried out robberies at the nearby Vale Royal Hotel, Highcliffe Hotel and The Grand Hotel at Lyndhurst. However, Harry had already attracted too much attention at The Highcliffe Hotel  on 13th November, by wearing a red skirt, leopard skin coat and dark red felt hat!

Suspicions were first aroused at The Royal Exeter Hotel on Boxing Day when Harry Bird used the hotel lavatory and Fred Brown, one of the hotel porters, instructed another porter, Ivor Thomas, to discreetly observe the “lady”. As Ivor Thomas passed Room 27 on the second floor, he saw Mr Bird coming out of the room backwards and bidding “Good afternoon” to “some imaginary person in the room”. The thief was holding a case, which was later found to contain nineteen rings and other jewellery, valued at £100, the property of 80-year-old widow, Mrs Hannah Sarah Holyoak of Leicester.

Royal Exeter Hotel bedroom

Ivor Thomas showed Harry Bird to the lift and then rushed down the stairs to raise the alarm. The other porter, Fred Brown, challenged the robber when he came out of the lift and he and the hotel manager took him to a private office; detaining him until the police arrived. Bird’s partner in crime, James Maloney, was discovered a little later in an Essex saloon car that was parked 200 yards from the hotel. Inside the car, police found two suitcases of men’s and women’s clothes.

At the police station, Harry Bird said repeatedly, “Freedom is everything to me”and when asked in court why he drew his revolver, he explained that he had intended to shoot himself.

The Cox Family

Savoy Hotel, Torquay, 1920s or 30s

The proprietor of The Royal Exeter Hotel in 1930 was William Arthur Cox. He had previously worked at The Grand Hotel in Trafalgar Square; where he was Assistant Manager in the 1890s and General Manager by 1901. He and his wife Violet Minnie, had taken over at The Royal Exeter Hotel after Henry Newlyn died in 1912.  William was also Chairman & Managing Director of the Exeter Hotel Co. Ltd and proprietor of The Savoy Hotel, Torquay. In 1932, William and Violet were living in a spacious Victorian villa called Marionbaree at 20 Dean Park Road, Bournemouth and William’s 54-year-old son, Hubert Henry was now manager of The Royal Exeter Hotel. William Cox died on 30th September 1932, leaving property with a gross value of £36,267.

A “Snapshot” in September 1939

On September 29th, just after the outbreak of war, a National Enumeration Register was compiled, providing a “snapshot” of The Royal Exeter Hotel and its residents on that date. William Cox’s widow, Violet was listed as Hotel Director, whilst her step-son Hubert was still Hotel Manager and living at the hotel with his wife, Edith. There were at least nineteen members of staff living on the premises, including  a receptionist, a cashier, kitchen staff and porters, a lengthsman, a doorkeeper, a housekeeper, five chambermaids and a page boy!

The Royal Exeter Hotel in the 1939 Register

There were twenty-one guests staying at the hotel including:

  • Wilkie Calvert of St. James’s, unmarried and aged 58, “Travelling Director Supplies”;
  • Clara A. Conradi, spinster aged 75, who inherited £5,000 from her employer in 1930;
  • Anne E. Wood, solicitor’s widow aged 83, from Walton-on-Thames;
  • Adolphe Tanburn, aged 77, a dealer in precious stones;
  • Sisters, Alice and Margaret Dollar, aged 60 and 55, of Private Means; and
  • Divorcee, Gabrielle De-Clerck, aged 32.

Hotel Sold in 1943

Western Gazette, 17th September 1943

On 17th September 1943, the Western Gazette reported that The Royal Exeter Hotel had been sold for “an undisclosed figure”. The Cox family had “conducted the hotel” for over 30 years.At the time of the sale, the visitor’s book contained the names of the Empress of Austria, who stayed at the hotel with her daughter in 1888, the Dowager Duchess of Saxony, who visited in 1905 and the singer, Adelina Patti.

Visit The Royal Exeter Hotel to experience a wonderful piece of Bournemouth’s history first-hand.

Contact Steph Woods to commission a History of your Hotel: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated and leather-bound. Read Steph’s other blog posts at Woods for the Trees Blog

The Old School House, Boscombe, Bournemouth

Boscombe British and Foreign School

The Old School House, Boscombe (Photo by Guy Wood)

Currently enjoying a new lease of life as a fantastic co-working space for creative small businesses, The Old School House, in Gladstone Mews, Gladstone Road, Boscombe, Bournemouth, was originally built, in the neo-Gothic style, as The Boscombe British and Foreign School. The earliest part of the building is Grade II Listed and dates back to 1878, when the foundation stone was laid by Sir Percy Florence Shelley, Frederick Moser and others on 21st August.

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, of Boscombe Manor, was the son of poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of the Gothic novel, Frankenstein.

Blue Plaque at Old School House
Blue Plaque at Old School House

The British and Foreign School Society (BFSS) was formed to carry on the work of a young Quaker named Joseph Lancaster, who founded his first school in Southwark in 1798  to provide education for “the industrious classes”. Joseph Lancaster introduced a system of “mutual and self-instruction”, which included rewards as well as punishment and a non-denominational approach to religious education. When the Education Census of 1851 was taken, there were 514 British Schools in the UK and the movement also spread overseas.

The Education Act of 1870 established a new system of locally funded boards to build and manage schools. There were objections to the local rates being proposed and, in Boscombe as well as elsewhere, schools fought to keep their autonomy for as long as possible by seeking voluntary contributions. Eventually, however, the resources of the BFSS were diverted to teacher training and the building of teacher training colleges, with the schools themselves being absorbed into the new system.

In 1876, a Royal Commission recommended that education be made compulsory to put a stop to the use of child labour; however it took many more years for full school attendance to come about, even though it was made compulsory for five- to ten-year-olds in 1880.

Gladstone Road & Boscombe British School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

The British and Foreign School at Boscombe was therefore built at a time when a great deal of energy was being devoted to improving both educational provision and the lot of children generally. Boscombe was growing rapidly during this period and the school attached to the Church of St Clements was over-subscribed. The new British and Foreign School in Gladstone Road was opened in 1879 and it consisted of two rooms, the larger one to the south being for older children.

An enthusiastic supporter of the school was Alderman Henry Curtis Stockley of “Essendene, Christchurch Road, Boscombe”, who was school treasurer. In June 1895, an appeal was made in the press for funds to provide extra accommodation and the school was extended to the south a number of times between 1895 and 1903, when it became a council school.

Boscombe County Primary School (Bournemouth Library Heritage Zone)

The building continued to be used as a school until the 1960s, after which it became a children’s theatre and, in the 1990s, it was used for adult education.

Contact Steph Woods to commission a History of your House or Family: fully researched and referenced, written and illustrated then leather-bound. Do check out Co-Working at The Old School House; also the Bournemouth 2026 Trust and the present-day charitable work of the BFSS.

The Blue Jay, “Practical Joker”

"The blue jay" - Hampshire Advertiser 16th November 1892
“The blue jay” – Hampshire Advertiser 16th November 1892

I spotted a jay on my icy walk this morning so I was intrigued to read what the local paper had to say about the bird.

I think the Boscombe jays are rather more reserved than those that “a bird fancier” observed in Toronto in 1892! If only today’s newspapers were as entertaining!

You will often find “old news” in House and Family Histories by Woods for the Trees! Contact Steph if you would like to commission a history of your house or family.

Mr William Bally of Bath, Upholsterer

1807 Bally & Bartrum Bath Chronicle 15 OctMr William Bally was born in around 1769 in the county of Somerset and he went into business as an upholsterer. In the first half of the 19th century, he was living and working in the city of Bath. He took on an apprentice, Thomas Peacock, in 1801.

William was in a business partnership with Benjamin Bartrum. The firm of Bally and Bartrum carried on a number of varied business activities from their upholstery warehouse at 10 Milsom Street. They were described as: “Upholsterers, Cabinet-Makers, Auctioneers, Undertakers, and House-Agents”!

1822 Bally Bartrum Ptnrship London Gaz Iss 17836 p 1196 20 JulBally & Bartrum regularly placed advertisements for auction sales in the Bath Chronicle, until their partnership was dissolved by mutual consent on 25th March 1822. On 13th May 1824, an advertisement appeared in the Bath Chronicle for a house to let at 19 Gay Street. Interested parties were to apply to the house agent or to Mr Bally of Sion-Hill. William Bally continued to work on his own account well into the 1840s.

1806 Marr Ann Wm Bally Upholsterer Bath Chronicle 5 JunWilliam married Matilda Payne at St. George’s, Hanover Square in London in June 1806; however, it is not known whether they had any children. On census night, 6th June 1841, William Bally, aged 70, who by then was of independent means, was living with his wife, Matilda, aged 55 at their home on Sion Hill. Also living with them were Elizabeth Payne, a relative of Matilda’s, aged 60, also of independent means; and James Payne, aged 14. They had three servants living in: John Sheppard, aged 45; Eliza England, aged 30 and Martha Manning, aged 25.

Mr William Bally died at his residence on Sion Hill, on 21st December 1848 at the age of 79.

Read more Bath stories here. Or if you would like to find out about your ancestors’ lives, contact Steph at Woods for the Trees.

The Greenmans of Dauntsey, Wiltshire

Map of Greenmans Lane, Dauntsey, 1910
Map of Greenmans Lane, Dauntsey, 1910

There were 18 people named Greenman resident in Dauntsey on census night of 1841. At least one member of the family, David Greenman, had owned land in Dauntsey since 1798 or earlier; other Greenmans occupied land owned by Mordaunt Fenwick, who at that time was the principal landowner in Dauntsey.

Several members of the Greenman family were substantial farmers. In the 1841 census, David Greenman was described as a “Yeoman” and his farm was called “Middle Green Farm”. He was still farming in 1851 at the age of 81, at which time, he was living at Great Dairy Farm with his wife Mary, aged 61,  farming 100 acres and employing 3 labourers.

Land Tax Assessment for Dauntsey, 1811
Land Tax Assessment for Dauntsey, 1811

John Greenman, aged 41 in 1841, employed 5 labourers and one boy at Good Munday’s Farm, where he lived with his wife, Jane, aged 48, and son, Elijah. In 1847, John Greenman was also recorded as “Occupier” of Evergreen Farm.

Meanwhile, Thomas Greenman was a farmer of 37 acres and a “butter-carrier”.  He lived with his wife, Ann, at Lower Park Farm, where he employed one labourer.

Thomas and Ann had a daughter, Susannah, who was born in Dauntsey on 6 November 1827. In the spring of 1841, when she was 13, she was employed as a servant by Grocer, Ann Heath who was 60 years of age. Susannah was living with Ann and probably worked both as a “domestic” and in the shop.

Cottages for Sale at 26 to 29 Dauntsey, 1913
Cottages for Sale at 26 to 29 Dauntsey, 1913

Susannah married Abraham Skull  in 1850 and they went, initially, to live in the neighbouring hamlet of Swallett, Christian Malford. By 1861, they had moved back to Dauntsey Parish and were living at the “Letter Office”. Abraham worked as an agricultural labourer and Susannah, aged 33, was “Worker of the Post Office”. They now had a son, Francis, aged 9, and two younger daughters.

In 1871, Susannah and Abraham were still at the “Post Office”. Susannah was now described as Postmistress and Abraham was a Gardener; their son, Francis was still living at home and he was described as “Under Gardener”; daughter, Alice, was an unemployed “General Servant”; also at home was their 8-year-old son, Frederick, who was a “Scholar”.

Strangely, there is no mention of a Post Office in Kelly’s Directory of 1875; the entry says, “Letters through Chippenham. The nearest money order office is Malmesbury”.

By 1881, Susannah was no longer Postmistress. Her husband, Abraham, had taken over as Postmaster and his son, Frederick was Assistant Postmaster. In around 1890, the local Post Office service was transferred to the village shop. However, Susannah and Abraham continued to live at “No. 25 Dauntsey” and in 1901, Abraham, aged 79, was still working, probably as a semi-retired bailiff or gardener. Susannah Skull, nee Greenman, died at the age of 80 in 1908 and her husband died at the age of 87 in 1909.

The 1911 census records that there was only one person with the surname Greenman still living in Dauntsey: 76-year-old widow and pensioner Ann Greenman of Dauntsey Wharf. She was living with her daughter-in-law and her grandson, who was a coal haulier. The Greenman name had, however, been passed on to the grandson as his middle name; he was named Joseph Greenman Burgess.

Read more about Dauntsey and other Wiltshire families in the New Year. If you would like to discover your own family stories, please contact Steph Woods.

A History of Dauntsey House – Part 2

Mr Brassey & the Footman Thief

1913 Sale Particulars for Dauntsey House
1913 Sale Particulars for Dauntsey House

In 1918, Dauntsey House and Park were purchased by Lieut. Col. Edgar Hugh Brassey, nephew of Lord Brassey, who had served in the 1st Life Guards since 1899 when he was 21, and was wounded in France in 1914. The house had no doubt fallen into disrepair since 1906 and probably earlier. It was in 1906 that Lady Meux had decided to sell her estates, which included Dauntsey Park; and the property changed hands a few times before Mr Brassey settled there after the war.

During the summer of 1921, and whilst Mr Brassey was away for a few days, repairs were carried out to his bedroom. On July 13th, 1921, the Lieut. Col. had employed a footman named Charles Ernest Albert, who did not stay long at Dauntsey Park and left on August 31st to take up a new position with the Chester-Masters at The Firs in Poulton.

At some point, Mr Brassey noticed that a number of items with a total value of £25 7s 6d had disappeared from his bedroom, including a coral and gold necklace, a carriage clock and barometer and two coats with a great deal of other clothing. However, it was not until three weeks after the footman had left Mr Brassey’s employment, that the thief was apprehended. At 4.30pm on Monday, September 19th, Charles Ernest Albert suddenly left the Poulton home of the Chester-Masters, taking a quantity of jewelry and clothing with him and the police were called.

Police Sergeant Hastings discovered that Mr Albert had sent luggage ahead to Fairford Railway Station, before he spotted and arrested the footman in Bridge Street, Fairford. 21-year-old Charles Albert had papers on him stating that he had been in a Reserve Cavalry Regiment for “3 years and 334 days” and he was thought to have been of previously good behaviour. However, it may just have been the first time he had been caught! Charles immediately owned up to the robberies and was tried and convicted by the magistrates at Fairford Police Court. He was sentenced to 6 months’ hard labour.

Read more about the families and people who lived at Dauntsey House in Part 3 coming soon. If you would like to discover your own family stories, please contact Steph Woods.