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Walter Raymond (1852-1931), wrote may popular books and articles for over 30 years, but today, sadly, he is almost forgotten, even in his beloved Somerset.

For sixteen years, Walter Raymond rented a cottage in Withypool, which he named ‘Hazelgrove-Plucknut’ in the many articles he wrote about the Exmoor village for national newspapers and periodicals and in the two much-loved books published in the early years of the last century – The Book of Simple Delights and The Book of Crafts and Character.

The following extract from The Book of Simple Delights, first published in 1906 and which ran for at least four editions, describes the gathering of whortle berries or wurts on the moor above the village on a warm summer day. The village children have just started their summer holidays and with three youngsters the author sets out to harvest some wurts.

‘For the whortleberries – wurts they called them, and even “hurts” – were turning purple-ripe on the moor, and the holidays had begun. Those summer holidays, that began on no fixed date, but were a removable festival, changing according to the season, so that the children might gather the wild harvest of the moorland. There were little more than a score though they made enough noise for a hundred as they ran down the village street.

‘I have an affection for this moorland village street. It is so far away, so quaint so old world.

‘It runs along the hill-side, with little by-ways up the incline, so that the houses stand one behind and above the other. But the squat embattle tower of the old grey church rears higher than them all.

‘Before each cottage is a slanting garden. Ranks of peas and tall scarlet runners, laden at the time with flowers, as well as files of broad beans with black bulging pods left too long without picking, run parallel with the path of flat stones from the front door to the hatch. There are tall hollyhocks, groups of blue monks-hood, and here and there a fuchsia bush, bearing tiny red flowers less than an inch in length.

‘All sorts of creepers clamber over the white-washed fronts and geraniums blind the downstair windows. There is a clothes-line, too, from which, when the air is drying, household clouts and wonderful garments of many hues and sizes flutter gaily in the wind. The faggot pile and dark brown stack of turves stand close by. The smoke that rises out of the chimneys is blue and has no smuts.

Down the valley, merrily humming around rocks and boulders, leaps the silver river; and above the woods and the enclosed fields that skirt its course, both before and behind the village, lies the broad moor where the whortleberries grow.

It is quite a little industry, this picking of wurts, though it lasts only about three weeks. No other fruit possesses so unexpected a flavour. None gives so fine a blend of with the scald-cream, which is one of the most admirable institutions of the neighbourhood. So there is invariably a great demand. And when the crop is small, why, the price goes so much higher. We must all go a-wurting. If not for trade, as a sort of picnic.

‘To Norton Moor we went.

‘We began with a mile of lane. But a glorious lane between walled banks with sheltering beech hedgerows high above. On either hand were bright green ferns and tall purple foxgloves, to which great bumble-bees paid visits, buzzing from flower to flower all up the tapering stem, and silent only went they crept in to drink. Wild strawberries, with deep crimson fruit, sprang from the crevices and hung ripening above the mossy stones. Wild raspberries, too, on Lillipution canes, drawing an ancestry, it may be, from bird-carried seed of a more cultured stock, flourished in profusion,

‘Out of the shady lane, by a narrow pathway up the slope, where bracken grows waist-high after the old heather has been burnt off, we climbed to the ridge of the open breezy moor. Masses of purple heather and the paler-coloured ling were in full flower: and growing amongst them, and intermingled everywhere, was the little dark green myrtle-shaped myrtle-shaped leaf, that half conceals a berry almost the size of a black-currant and covered with a thicker bloom than the wild sloe. Honey-bees were humming on all sides, and butterflies went flitting by in the sun. Upon the brown hill-side of the next ridge, where wild ponies were dotted about and here and there broke the even line against the sky, was passing the dark shadow of an August thundercloud.’

The Western Gazette in its obituary to Walter Raymond on 10 April 1931, wrote that he was; ‘A national writer who wrote about Somerset because he knew and loved the county. He made his readers feel and see the places and people they loved so well. He has been described as theThomas Hardy of Somerset.

Jack Sweet
November 2017

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The following notice was given in Yeovil on 31st May 1870:


NOTICE is hereby given that at a meeting of the Council of the said Borough duly holden at the Town Hall on the 30th day of May it was ordered that no bicycles be used in any street, road or highway within the said Borough and notice is hereby given that any person using any bicycle contrary to the foregoing order will be prosecuted according to law.
Dated this 31st day of May 1870
James Curtis, Mayor

A Day Out
            At the April 1891 meeting of the Yeovil Board of Poor Law Guardians a suggestion by the Workhouse Master that the aged and infirm inmates should be allowed to go out of the Workhouse on a specified day each month was referred to the House Committee for investigation. (The suggestion was subsequently approved)

Street Names
           The Improvement Committee’s recommendation to the Borough Council on 10th April 1893 to adopt the line of two new roads from Huish to West Hendford was adopted. The Committee Chairman stated that the roads would be called ‘Beer Street’ and ‘Orchard Street’ to which one wit remarked that the latter should be changed to ‘Cider Street.’

The Boy Jeans Again
            At the monthly meeting of the Yeovil Board of Poor Law Guardians in October 1895, the Master reported that two brothers named Sidney and John Jeans had played truant from school. They had walked to their home at Martock and were brought back by their sister. The Chairman, Mr. C. Trask, enquired whether this ‘was our old friend, John Jeans’ and the Master confirmed that it was. No further complaints had been received about the boy’s conduct at school. The Master stated that as punishment for the offence John Jeans had been kept in bed for two days, but added that the boy seemed to like such treatment.

The Sewerage Pipes
            Back in the early 1900’s, the Borough Council had a great problem with the quality of the sewerage pipes bought by its Borough Surveyor, and the long running arguments over this question dominated meeting after meeting.
           In the winter of 1902/3, pipes were being laid from the Pen Mill Sewage Works to the town, when a number suddenly collapsed due to defective construction. As a result the battles in the Council Chamber became fiercer and at the March meeting the Mayor, reminded members that there were such things as standing orders and what was their use if councillors would not abide by them. The Mayor added that in future he intended to be more strict with members and hoped that he should not ‘have the misfortune of falling upon them, whether Alderman or anyone else.’
            The Council obviously took no notice of this request because after a two hours debate on the pipes question, it was reported in the Western Gazette that the meeting became very disorderly. The standing orders were readily forgotten, several members were speaking at the same time, and everyone seemed to be very confused. Such was the bewilderment, that Councillor Hayward voted against his own proposition and only realised his mistake after Councillor Bradford shouted ‘Why are you voting against your own resolution? What’s the matter with you!’ Councillor Hayward’s proposal that the defective portions of the sewer should be relaid in concrete was lost by a majority of one, presumably by the vote of its proposer!
            The war would continue for several more years.

Mr Hayward’s Seat
            When newly elected Councillor Mr. A.S. Hayward attended his first meeting of the Borough Council in December 1902, he had the temerity to sit near the top of the table alongside the Borough Officials. The Mayor pointed out to the new councillor that it was the custom of many years that ‘the gentleman last elected should sit at the lower end of the table.’
            Councillor Hayward then took his proper place at the far end of the table.

A New Foreman
            The Borough Council’s Foreman, Mr Hopkins, retired in September 1905 aged 74 after forty years service, and the Council agreed to retain his services for the management of the stables and general garden work for £1 per week.
            It was agreed to appoint a new Foreman at a salary of 35 shillings a week (£1.20) with one shilling (5p) per week extra towards the expense of providing and repairing a bicycle.

            A petition was handed to the Borough Council at its April 1912 meeting signed by residents of Hendford Hill complaining of the inadequate watering of the road as over 100 motor cars passed in one day and there was a continual whirl of dust. The petitioners pointed out that the Council watered the road so far as the railway bridge but it was not often that the water cart went all the way to the top of the Hill. The Borough Surveyor stated that the road was watered as often as any other on the outskirts of the town. He was supported by Councillor Buchanan who considered that the petition was not factual as he had seen the water cart on other parts of the Hill. Several councillors agreed with this observation and apart from acknowledging the petition, no action was taken.

A Night Shelter
            At the Borough Council’s meeting on 10th June 1912, a letter was read from the Commercial Motor Users Association asking for a ‘night shelter for commercial vehicles’ to be provided in the Cattle Market. The enquiry was referred to the Markets Committee for attention.

What no Convenience?
            The Improvement Committee reported to the Borough Council in December 1912 on the use of the old fire station in Vicarage Street as a public lavatory. The Committee recommended against such use on account of the cost and suggested that the building should be let. Alderman Boll protested as he strongly believed there was a need for a ladies public lavatory in the town and he proposed an amendment that the premises be let with the exception of a small corner at the entrance to Silver Street, which could be reserved for a ‘Ladies.’
            Councillor Higdon considered that this would be a waste of public money and the site was unsuitable.. If the Council wanted to provide such a place there was the ideal spot near the spare wall by the Gas Works.
            After further discussion Alderman Boll’s amendment was defeated, the recommendation of the Improvement Committee adopted, and the old fire station was placed on the market for letting.

            The Borough Council was in for a shock at the meeting in July 1922 when a bill for £32 10s. 0d. was presented for providing and fixing two plate glass windows for Messrs Hill and Boll’s showrooms in Princes Street. The windows had been smashed when some Council workmen blew up the roots of a nearby tree without taking the necessary precautions to prevent blast damage. Councillors were more than annoyed to find out that the man in charge of the demolition team had ignored advice on appropriate precautions.

Deadly Flowers
            At the May of the Borough Council in 1923, Councillor Card asked if it would be possible to make a special day to clear flowers from the War Memorial as the old flowers quickly killed the new. The matter was referred to the Improvement Committee for attention.

            At a meeting of the Borough Council in June 1946, in reply to a councillor who asked who was responsible for allowing the ‘junk sale’ in the Council Chamber, the Mayor said that it had been held there as it was the most suitable place. He explained that much of the material was war surplus already at the Council Offices and the ‘junk’ had raised £500. The Mayor stated that the sale would not happen again unless there was another war!

Jack Sweet
August 2017 

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FRONT COVER: Mediieval Buckle, Slade’s Paddock, East Coker. Leslie Brooke

This article came from the Chronicle published April 1988. Pages 34 and 54-55 


Author: R.Brice


YALHS Visit New Library

Author: Brian Gittos


Monday, 7th September 1987, saw the opening of our new and spacious Public Library. I wonder how many of our members remember a former library in the Victoria Hall, South Street (now the Day Centre) opened by Miss K.M.Chaffey, in 1920. The hall was then very different to its present bright and cheerful appearance. It was a dark and gloomy place, or so it seemed to me as a child. Worn, plain wooden stairs led up to a bare room, bare except for the magic of books. Most probably, there were only a 100 or so volumes, but on this first visit to a library, to see shelves of books all waiting for me to choose from which were all free for me to borrow again and again, was just wonderful. Here was endless delight waiting for me to enjoy. My love affair with libraries has continued over the past 60 years.

Strangely, it is said the Carnegie Trustees offered £2,500 in 1903, to establish a free town library but so many arguments, criticism and objections were raised that the offer was withdrawn in 1914. The Victoria Hall housed the library until 1922, when it was moved to the Flax Room above the South Street Fire Station. In 1928 it moved to the newly built premises in King George Street which have just been vacated.

Winter Excursion
YALHS Visit New Library

13th November YEOVIL LIBRARY: Following the opening of Yeovil’s new Library on 7th September 1988 a special invitation was made by Mr.Eric Dove for the Society to visit the new building. This addition to the programme was duly arranged at short notice but nevertheless a large group of members attended this after hours event. After coffee and biscuits on the third floor, Mr.Dove welcomed the visitors and briefly explained the long saga of Yeovil’s attempts to obtain a new library. However, it had materialised at last and Yeovilians could be justly proud of the finest Library in Somerset. Members were invited to explore the Library with staff on hand to explain the function of the different sections.


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           In the last week of August 1939, and the last week of peace for six years, Yeovil and Petters United Football Club held a ‘Yeovil Football Week’ to help pay the £400 loss incurred during the 1938/39 season. The events included a ‘Get Together Smoking Concert’ and a ‘Flannel Dance’ in the Assembly Rooms, Princes Street. However, the highlight of the ‘Week’, was the Friday evening ‘All Stars Variety Concert’ in the Princes Theatre, featuring Crewkerne-born radio and film star, Ralph Reader, and members of his popular Gang Show, including Eric Christmas, George Cameron, Mac at the Piano and the Twizzle Sisters. Also performing were the BBC singer soprano Doris Waller, The Pocock Brothers on piano and cornet, Paddy Ryan with his ukulele and The Boy Step Dancer, Tony Mogg.

           On the 3 September 1939, the day war broke out, regulations were brought in requiring all householders to curtain their windows to prevent any light showing after dark and which could be seen by enemy aircraft flying overhead. The Yeovil Review of September wrote:
‘Just a week ago, Yeovil with its excellent shops, was ablaze with light. Cinemas were well patronised, village fetes and shows were being organised, football clubs were getting into stride, and summer sport and holidays were in full swing, Now all has changed.

‘Yeovil is and must continue blacked out. Quite a number, in fact there are but few now, who will hear the command of the Special Constable on his nightly beat cry “Put those lights out!” But there are still those few. Just a reminder, to those who think this fuss and nonsense is going a bit too far. The safety of the Town with all its thousands of women and children may be jeopardised by a stray light blazing in the sky, forgotten. Here is a phrase taken from the official notice concerning the “Black Out” – “Any person who permits any glimmer of light to escape from his premises so that it can be seen from the outside constitutes a public danger, matches must not be struck in the open air. Any torches used in the open or in those portions of the premises not effectively screened should be properly screened with paper in the lens or a dark blue bulb.” Note – The penalty for offending in any way against the lighting restrictions is a fine of £50 [average weekly wage £5] or three months imprisonment.

‘Special Constables have already reported insufficient and inadequate screening of household lights. It is not sufficient to draw the blind and switch on the electric light. Some streets are well and truly blacked out, at least they appear so from the front, but at the back the tell tale glow through the drawn blinds betrays the presence of living accommodation. One must face the facts. It may be you who are placing the town in danger from enemy aircraft.

‘Now, a word to the cyclist who before many weeks will find his ride home from work means travelling in the dark. You are not exempt from these lighting regulations. Front lights must be diffused by the use of paper if an electric light is used, and they are reminded that red rear lamps properly screened are now compulsory.

‘Motorists, too have been warned. Temporary expedients for headlight screening must be dispensed with, side lamps, rear lamps, reversing and “Stop” lamps must be reduced to their proper dimensions and lights diffused by the use of paper behind the lens. Travel by night will become increasingly more difficult. It will be better to keep the car in the garage at night than hazard a journey in the dark.’

The first Yeovil ‘black out’ fatality was Mr Thomas Turner a 51 year-old painter employed at the new Houndstone army camp. He had been walking along Thorne lane back to the camp when he was knocked down and fatally injured by a lorry being driven with screened headlamps. In recording a verdict of ‘Death by misadventure’ the Coroner suggested that pedestrians should wear something white to make themselves more visible during the present emergency.

           The National Registration Bill being pushed through Parliament immediately following the outbreak of war, had three main purposes:

1. To support and facilitate any National Service arrangements;
2. To provide up-to-date man power and other population statistics to take the place of the 1931 census;
3. Other incidental services such as the preservation of contact between members of families dispersed by evacuation, to facilitate proof of identity.

Everyone would be given an identity card after filling in a questionnaire which would be issued and collected in 65,000 districts and severe penalties would be introduced for breaking the provisions of the Bill when it became law.

           Boy Scouts. All Boy Scouts in Yeovil were asked to wear their uniforms during the day ’To facilitate their identification when their services are required for messenger work etc.’

School boy humour. ‘A number of school boys anxious to do their bit were busy filling sandbags with earth from the garden at the rear of the South Street Baptist Church. Passers by were greatly amused to read the notice they had chalked on a piece of cardboard which they had fastened to the wall. It read “DOWNING STREET, One Way Traffic Only.”

Graveyard humour. ‘In Princes Street could be seen a printed announcement advertising insurance against War Risk. Premiums:- Death only 20/- etc., some humorist scribbled his quota to this, so that it read “Death only, Isn’t that enough.”’

ARP Badges. The Mayor of Yeovil, Alderman Frank Beel, presented Air Raid Precaution (ARP) badges to 33 Town Council workers who had passed a full anti-gas course. The men would form rescue and demolition teams and public services’ rescue squads.

Ban on Sounding Hooters. ‘An Order has been issued under Defence Regulations forbidding anyone to sound within public hearing, a siren, hooter, whistle, rattle, bell, horn or gong except in accordance with directions for air raid warning purposes. The Order does not apply to church bells or normal use of bicycle bells or motor horns.’

A Black Out casualty. Herbert Allot who was employed by the Navy Army and Royal Air Force Institute (NAAFI) at the new Houndstone army camp, was knocked down by a car in the black out on the Sunday evening that war was declared. He was taken to Yeovil hospital with a suspected fractured skull.

The last peace time coach trips. On Sunday 3 September, local coach operators, Barlow, Phillips & Co, had a full day excursion to Bournemouth, half day to Weymouth, an afternoon mystery trip and evening trips to West Bay. I’m sure there was much to talk about on these excursions!

           Immediately the outbreak of war was declared on Sunday morning 3 September, the evening services were brought forward to 6 o’clock, so that the congregations could get home well before dark when it was feared the bombing would start. The fear of poison gas attack was also very great, and the Western Gazette reported that many of the congregation in St John’s Church were carrying their gas masks to services.

           The Western Gazette reported that on Tuesday 5 September, Miss Sophia Wyndham Bates Harbin, the only child of Mrs Bates Harbin and the late Prebendary Bates Harbin, of Newton Surmaville and barrister, Mr Cosmo Windham Cooper Rawlins of Alverstoke, Hampshire, were married in St John’s Church. Owing to the outbreak of war ‘The wedding took place very quietly, a fortnight before the arranged date.’ A small reception was held at Newton Surmaville House for relations and friends.

           By the day war broke, nearly everyone over the age of five years had been issued with a gas mask, but they would not be available for the under 5’s (your contributor included). The reasoning was explained in the Western Gazette on 8 September: ‘Respirators for children under the age of five will not be issued in the No. 6 Area of Somerset at present. This is because of the children’s relative freedom from danger in the unlikely event of the use of poison gas. Respirators are issued to adults for their use when it is essential for them to pass from place to place, at a time when they have been warned that the presence of poison gas in their neighbourhood is suspected. Young children will naturally be kept in the most suitable refuge room, where plans are carried out to make this room gas proof. In the unlikely event of this room becoming damaged, such children can be safely carried in a damp blanket, coat etc., to an alternative place of refuge.’

However, following a great public outcry, by the following week the Gazette reported that: ‘Anti-gas helmets for babies are being produced as fast as the factories can make them and many thousands have already been issued to the most vulnerable areas. Supplies of respirators for small children are being treated on the same lines as babies’ helmets.’

           Immediately war was declared on 3 September, all Yeovil’s schools were closed and the youngsters enjoyed a longer summer holiday. However, as the feared (and expected) Nazi bomber onslaught did not materialise, most everyday living resumed and the schools went back on Monday morning 18 September.

Likewise, the town’s three cinemas shut immediately, but opened again within the week.

           A flavour of impending conflict (and what would become all too real some 14 months later) was given when an exercise was carried out in the town centre late in July 1939. It was reported that; ‘Yeovil was “reduced to ruins” in the recent Air Raid, when hundreds of members of the A.R.P. and other services came into action in the test of the town’s defences that has yet to take place. As ambulances dashed down Middle Street with clanging bells, fire engines sped on their way to “blazing” buildings, rescue parties and decontamination squads got busy, townspeople were given a glimpse of what might happen in a real raid. And amid all this havoc there was one bright spot of comedy to relieve the tension. One ‘casualty’ who thought he had been left lying in the wreckage of one of the main streets forgotten by the rescue squads, after waiting an hour, made a miraculous recovery and disappeared. When the rescue party for that locality did arrive they found a note instead of a casualty. On it was written: “Bled to Death – Gone Home.”

           From the Western Gazette of 8 September 1939: ‘With a few exceptions, Yeovil’s defences are manned by voluntary service personnel. In the event of a “raid” Yeovil’s defence services would be quickly in action.

‘Hundreds of workers are giving up many hours of their spare time in order to do their National Service tasks, special constables, air raid wardens auxiliary firemen &c., taking their allocated hours of duty as a matter of course. This does not mean that Yeovil has all the volunteers required. The auxiliary fire service still requires men and in the east and north wards there is a serious shortage of wardens. At present there are 210 wardens in the borough, whereas the full compliment is 240. Twenty-one warden posts have been manned day and night since the emergency arose, volunteers doing shifts of four hours in every twenty-four.

‘There are about 30 full-time firemen in the borough, consisting of A.F.S. volunteers and regular members of the brigade. Yeovil V.A.D. Somerset/19 is now about 50 strong and first aid posts are being equipped at Preston Close, Hendford School (South Street), Poor Law Institute, Manor Hotel and Hendford Manor. Yeovil Chamber of Trade has decided that until further notice members of the Chamber should close their business premises at 6 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 1 p.m. on Thursday and 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.’ [There was no Sunday opening in 1939]

Jack Sweet
August 2017

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During the early decades of the last century there was social and political unrest across Europe.  In his book From Portreeve to Mayor – The growth of Yeovil  the late L.C. Hayward BA., B.Sc., FCA.,  wrote  –  ‘Fears of popular agitation following the revolutions in Europe in 1830 and the radical movement in England showed itself in the swearing in of 250 Yeovilians as special constables in December and the forming of the Mudford troop of Yeomanry for the protection of property…… Their services were needed during the October riot in Yeovil in 1831.’

            The cause of the  October riot arose from the defeat of William Ponsonby, the Whig Reform candidate, by Lord Ashley in a Dorset Parliamentary  election at Blandford.  There were allegations that Lord Ashley’s  agents had behaved corruptly in the election, and the protests led to rioting  in Blandford and Sherborne.

            Early in the evening of Friday 21 October, some youths and boys assembled in the Borough in Yeovil, shouting ‘Ponsonby and Reform for ever!’ and by nine o’clock, the crowd had increased until several hundred men, women and youths, many liberally refreshed with cider and beer, were milling about.  Suddenly they moved off and for a moment it was thought that the demonstration was over.  However this was wishful thinking  because during the rest of the night and into the early morning a mob rampaged  up and down Princes Street, Kingston and Hendford attacking, and in two cases looting, houses of Lord Ashley’s supporters.

            The initial assault on solicitor, Mr. Edwin Newman’s, house (now the offices of solicitors Clarke, Willmott and Clarke)  smashed all his window panes and then the mob broke through the front door. Despite Mr. Newman threatening the invaders with a loaded pistol, they rampaged through the house  smashing furniture, stealing valuables and ransacking all the rooms.  The solicitor’s wife was pregnant with their third child but with her two other children she was saved from injury by the prompt action of friends who also managed to save many valuable papers from Mr. Newman’s office.

            All the front windows of Mr. Mayo’s  Old Sarum House in Princes Street , were smashed and a few minutes later the mob stormed Mr. Francis Robins’ house in Ram Park (now  Park Road).  After smashing his windows the mob broke into the house and began to destroy furniture, book cases, ornaments and everything they could lay their hands on, including the servants’ clothes.  Articles of furniture and clothing were piled on the lawn and a bonfire lit.

            Other houses attacked were those of Mr. White, Rev. James Hooper’s Hendford Manor, Mr. John Greenham’s Hendford House (now the Manor Hotel), Mr. Edwin Tomkins, Mr. Penny and Mr. Slade, but in these cases the damage was confined to broken windows.

            The fury and size of the mob were too much for the town’s inadequate forces of law and order, who could only stand by and watch the tide of destruction which swept up and down Princes Street and Hendford until four o’clock in the morning.

            At about a quarter past eleven, local magistrate, John Goodford, whose son,  returning from dining at Montacute House had witnessed the tumult  , bravely rode alone into Yeovil and the riot.  During that fearful night, John Goodford  rode about the town, accompanied in due course by several local businessmen,  and his calls for the mob to  go home were partly successful, but whether this was due to Mr Goodford’s exhortations or fatigue, we shall never know.

            During Saturday there was a feeling of general unrest in the town and the Western Flying Post reported that   –  ‘A meeting of inhabitants was held at the Mermaid Inn, when it was resolved that all legal means should be used to prevent a repetition of such disgraceful outrages.’  Several magistrates, including Mr.  John Goodford,  were also present at the meeting in the Mermaid.  By late afternoon the crowds were once again assembling in the Borough and the fear of further rioting was heightened by reports that people were coming in from the surrounding villages.  The magistrates therefore send word summoning the Mudford Troop of Yeomanry cavalry  to re-enforce the  special constables and public officers who had proved incapable of protecting property during Friday’s riot.  At about a quarter to seven, news came to the Mermaid that plans were being made to attack Mr Hooper’s property in Hendford and Mr. Thomas Hoskins, one of the magistrates, read  the Riot Act requiring the crowd to disperse within one hour, failing which action would be taken against them.  Although this  had the effect of quietening the mob  they refused to disperse.

            The Mudford Troop of Yeomanry, commanded by Captain George Harbin, trotted into town and formed up outside the Mermaid but the presence of the part time cavalrymen did little to intimidate the mob.  Only a few days before the Troop had been mustered  –  ‘ for exercise in a field on  Camel Hill, where they went through their evolutions with admirable precision’  –  and afterwards the Troop enjoyed a ‘sumptuous dinner’ at the Sparkford Inn.  Faced with an angry mob of several hundred, the Troop realised that ‘their evolutions’ would be of little use in the narrow High Street, and retired.  It was reported by the Western Flying Post that the Mudford Troop  –  ‘left the town under the idea  that their presence might be the means of bringing together a crowd.’

            During the commotion which followed the departure of the  Yeomanry, several of the mob were arrested  for throwing stones at the Mermaid and  taken inside the Inn.  Determined efforts to release them were resisted  despite the mob trying to break through the doors and pelting the front of the Inn with missiles.

            The Mudford Troop had remained just outside the town, where they were re-enforced by the Martock Troop which had also been called out, commanded by Captain Tatchell.  Both Troops now entered  the town and began to ride up and down the streets which only increased the fury of the mob.  The Yeomanry came under a hail of  stones  and assorted missiles and one of the troopers was knocked from his horse.  The position was becoming critical when at least  six shots were fired, four over the heads of the crowd and two into them.  One of the Yeomanry, a Mr. Cottle accidentally shot himself in the thigh and one of the mob was heard to cryout in pain.  There were claims that Captain Tatchell had given the order to fire but this was subsequently denied and stated that the shots had been fired  without authority.

A Yeovil Riot Jug. Three Jugs are held in the collection at CHAC. Photo courtesy of CHAC

The presence of the Yeomanry probably prevented more  destruction and damage to property but the crowds continued to pose a threat and it was not until a troop of regular cavalry from the 3rd Dragoon Guards trotted into Yeovil on the Sunday morning that the mob finally dispersed.

            The 3rd Dragoon Guards remained in town for a fortnight and special constables patrolled the streets from six to twelve o’clock every night for several months.

            Grateful townspeople presented each member of the Yeomanry with an ornate jug  in recognition of ‘their manly and forbearing character.’  Three of the Riot jugs are in the possession of  South Somerset Cultural and Heritage Access Centre –  they were presented to James Masters, G. Edwards and R. Raymond.

Twenty local men and women appeared at the Somerset Spring Assizes in Taunton in April 1832, charged with riotous assembly , and received sentences  from 6 days to 18 months  –  several were acquitted.

Jack Sweet
April 2017

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The Yeovil Rural District Council at its meeting in June 1908, received a letter from Admiral Baker complaining of the nuisance from the stench of pigs kept by some of his neighbours. The Admiral wrote that although Mr Fish, the Inspector of Nuisances, had agreed on several occasions that his complaint was not exaggerated, the official appeared unwilling or unable to get the nuisance abated. This lack of action had caused the Admiral to write to the Council and with the onset of the hot weather, he was concerned at the possibility of an epidemic illness. He went on to write that the Council appeared to have done nothing to deal with the problem and if the Inspector was unable to cope with the nuisance then the matter should be referred to the Council’s Medical Officer of Health.
     Replying to a question from Colonel H.E. Harbin, the Chairman of the Council, Mr Fish confirmed that there was an occasional smell when the wind was in a certain direction, but it was a matter of opinion whether this amounted to a nuisance.
     Colonel Blake opined that this might be a nuisance at one time and not at another. However he thought the Medical Officer of Health should visit the area and see whether it was a permanent danger to the health of the residents.
     The Reverend Armstrong suggested that the Inspector of Nuisances was showing a greater laxity to the nearness of pig styes to dwelling houses than his predecessor had.
     Mr J.G. Vaux observed that there had been no complaints before Admiral Baker came to live here and this opened up a wide question as the pig styes had been there for generations and they were from 100 to 200 yards away from the Admiral’s house.
     The Council referred the complaint to the Medical Officer of Health and the Works Committee were instructed to visit South Petherton and report back.
     It seems that the problem was cleared up to everyone’s satisfaction because a few months later the Admiral wrote thanking the Council for the action they had taken to abate the nuisance.

Jack  Sweet
April 2017 

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FRONT COVER Fragment of 14th century tile from Somerton. (see item on page 71) L. Brooke

This article came from the Chronicle published November 1988.  Pages 76-78



Leslie Brooke


The following extracts are from recollections of A.J.B.Milborne, written in 1950, when he was living in Canada. He was born at 12 Princes Street, Yeovil, on 23rd August 1888, his father ‘at the time a prosperous tailor’, and his mother ‘ a Londoner who had formerly been a nurse at the Salisbury Infirmary’.

The Milbornes’ ancestors had traditionally always been tailors and drapers, the most noteworthy having been Sir John Milborne, a draper in the reign of Henry the Eighth, and Lord Mayor of London in 1522, A.J.B’s grandfather, a tailor and draper in Princes Street, was born in Yeovil about 1815. He died as the result of a railway accident at Bath, when the Widcombe Bridge collapsed as the result of extra heavy traffic during the celebrations of the centenary of the Bath and West of England Society, in June 1877.

A.J.B.Milborne’s education may be said to have started when he had a governess, named Manley, from Evershot, who was engaged ‘to drum into the head of my sister and into mine, the rudiments of education’. His recollections continue: ‘The earliest memory of my schooldays was taking lessons in reading from Mrs.Monk, the wife of Henry Monk. At that time the Yeovil Grammar School, of which Henry Monk was Headmaster, was in a fairly prosperous condition. There were certainly no less than fifty or sixty boys in attendance.

‘The rival school -Aldrich’s (Aldridge’s), ‘where my father was educated, was then on the downgrade, to be resurrected with the coming of a new Master named Budd (the name was actually Rudd) with more modern ideas. Like so many schools under the English system of private education, these schools last but the lifetime of the proprietor, and by the time I left school, the old school had dropped to but a dozen pupils, the old building on Hendford had been closed and the school was housed in an old building behind St.John’s Church, which from its construction, I believe had formed part of the original ecclesiastical foundation of that parish’. (This was The Chantry, formerly in St.John’s churchyard, adjacent to the tower, and which had once been the chantry chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary without the Church -LEJB). ‘We used to sit on the high wall to eat currant rolls (2d) purchased at Banfield’s in the Borough.

‘I do not recall how old I was when I first went to Monk’s School, but I remember the gravelled yard, because it was hard on the knees if one should fall in playing the usual games, rounders, ‘iacky’ etc. Then there was the open space under the school building where we played when the weather was wet, at the end of which was the “Bog”, an awful six-holer, which stank to high heaven. The School was held in one large room, heated by a wood stove on which pans of water were evaporating. Old Monk nearly always had a drop on the end of his nose, and I imagine we all did, too, though we boys probably used unpolite methods of removing them.

‘Mr.Monk’s daughter, and his son-in-law were the staff, and I think we all got a fair education there, though the curriculum did not contain so many subjects as are taught in primary school today. I still have my old Euclid  – the pons asinorum is still a deep mystery to me. We took French and Latin, and I can still recall snatches of Caesar and Remus and Romulus. Mr.Monk was a grand character, beloved by all his pupils (at least in later life) and I have always felt a pang of regret that I once hit him in the face with an overripe tomato that was intended for one of my fellow pupils. In those days the cane was an important part of the equipment of a schoolmaster, and old Monk used it with vigour. I got it once or twice, and I think it is a pity that is use has disappeared. It instilled respect into the boys for their elders and betters which is non-existent today.

‘I had not been long at school when my father got into the first of his business difficulties, and we had to leave Princes Street and move to No.32 Kingston … My sister had by this time been enrolled as a pupil at Mrs. Nosworthy’s establishment for the education of young ladies, known as Girtin School, and as I was taking lessons from old Nosworthy, a cantankerous fellow, I also was compelled, much against my will, to go to this Girls’ School twice a week to practise under the tutorship of a soured and vinegary spinster named Whittle, who made frequent use of a long pencil upon my knuckles. They had curious ways of teaching music in those days, and I nursed a consuming hatred for these two teachers of music.

‘It was Nosworthy who insisted on the entering into the pages of a little book the hours of practice I spent at the piano, which led me into certain infringements of the moral code… I remember nothing that these two taught me, though I can play pieces of music taught to me by Mr. Bastick in my early teens. This Miss Whittle was not a relative of a Mr.Whittle who, on Saturday nights, used to dispense delightful and mouth-watering confections of his own manufacture in the market-place under the glare of naptha flares, and to whom I paid willing tribute from my penny or tuppenny weekly pocket money… In 1897 we moved to less expensive quarters at No.4 Peter Street. Here my father was close to the Church! (Holy Trinity where he played the organ). He also obtained pupils for the piano and organ…

‘In 1900 my father was again in financial difficulties… and we moved to an old-fashioned house on Market Street. … The change in the family’s fortunes when we moved to Market Street affected me, because mother found she could no longer pay my school fees. I was then a little over 13 years of age. So I left Monk’s School and obtained a job as a proof-reader on the Western Gazette. Mr.Monk was sorry to see me leave school at such an early age, and very kindly undertook to continue my instruction in the evenings, and this arrangement continued for about a year. Then I enrolled as a pupil of the Evening Continuation School at Reckleford, which was under the direction of a man named Perry, and the only thing I can recall about this was that he had smelly feet.

‘Tiring of the piano, I was provided with a violin, and took lessons from a Mr. Ricketts … Being “musically” inclined, however, I, of my own volition, bought a banjo, receiving lessons from an old man named Harrison who lived in Huish, one of our poorer neighbourhoods. The old boy gave me a good grounding and eventually I became a fairly accomplished player to the extent that I was capable of performing in public. I also picked up a few shillings myself in instructing others in the art…

‘My entry into the newspaper world necessitated a knowledge of shorthand and I took lessons from a Mr.V.O.Dover, who was sound instructor in Pitman’s. My knowledge of shorthand was not acquired easily, but my fundamental instruction was sound, and in time I became something of an expert, and was an Evercirculator group member, with membership all over the world, and ready to meet in the public prints any attack upon Pitman’s by the devotees of the other so-called shorthand systems’.

This ends Mr. Milborne’s recollections of his education in Yeovil, though there are other interesting details which may form the subject of notes in subsequent issues. These extracts are from family records loaned by Mr. and Mrs.P.Sampson, of Minehead, who have kindly granted permission for their use in ‘Chronicle’. Mrs.Sampson, who is 85, is a surviving member of the Milborne family of Frome.

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London born, Betty Balfour was a big star of the British silent cinema screens during the 1920s, and was acclaimed as the only British star on the international scene. In 1927, the Daily Mirror named Betty as the country’s most popular star, renowned for her mixture of good humour, cheerful character and sentiment – she was called the ‘Queen of Happiness’

Betty Balfour’s career began in 1920 when at the age of 17 she appeared in the silent film Nothing Matters, but it was in the role of Squibbs, a Cockney flower girl and her adventures, that her career took off and established Betty as a national star. Betty Balfour never attempted to break into the Hollywood scene, but as with many popular stars of the silent cinema, the advent of sound in the late 1920s saw her fade from the screen. The once ‘Queen of Happiness’ died in November 1977, sadly forgotten it seems by all but silent cinema enthusiasts.

The Mayor welcomes Betty Balfour (centre) at the Palace Theatre.

On Tuesday evening, 11 August 1926, Betty Balfour appeared both on the screen in Sqibbs wins the Calcutta Cup and in person on the stage of the Yeovil Palace Theatre. The entrance to the theatre off the Triangle, was packed with fans anxious to catch a glimpse of the diminutive star as she was welcomed by the Mayor, Alderman Jabez Matthews, wearing his chain of office, and accompanied by fellow aldermen and councillors whilst the Town Band played ‘Rule Britannia’.

During the interval in the show, Betty Balfour a spoke to the audience, expressing her delight at being with them and sharing the excitement of the film. Following the entertainment, the mayor and town councillors, were her guests at a ‘social evening’ in the Mermaid Hotel.

The Western Gazette reported that Betty Balfour was working on location for a film called Somebody’s Darling at Martock, Compton Pauncefoot and Minehead, which the producers stated provided rural settings which were ‘something the Americans could not get’.

April 2017 – Jack Sweet


All YALHS talks start at 7:30pm and are held at the Holy Trinity Church & Community Centre, Lysander Road, YEOVIL, BA20 2BU (Non-members Welcome – £2 at the door)

Winter Programme 2017
Fri 6th Oct 17 – Alberto Biolleti – A Soldier of Napoleon and Master Clockmaker of Wincanton
Fri 3rd Nov – Archaeology of Stone Quarrying
Fri 1st Dec – Somerset’s Highway Heritage (change of programme)
Fri 5th Jan 18 – Members’ Evening – all welcome – With a quiz, various talks and light refreshments
Fri 2nd Feb – South Dorset Ridgeway Mapping Project
Fri 2nd Mar – Walter Bagehot – Langport’s Unknown Celebrity
Fri 6th Apr – Lidar – The Imaging of a Hidden Landscape
Fri 4th May – AGM followed by a talk – Brewing in Weymouth

Click >H e r e< for our 2017 Winter Programme – for more details


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